Sunday, 19 February 2017

Love of a lifetime

In my last post about Robinson’s reminiscences, I speculated that Robinson’s Unicorn, formerly Best Bitter, was possibly the beer I’d drunk most of in my lifetime. There’s no way I can know for certain, but the contenders are fairly limited.

Until the age of about 25, it was undoubtedly Greenall’s “Local” Bitter. I grew up in Greenall Whitley Land and, even when away at university, this was the beer I drank most often when home for weekends and holidays. Although widely derided, it was, when well kept, a good pint.

However, at the age of 25, I moved to the Stockport area, where I have now permanently settled. Robinson’s were the dominant pub owners and, as a bitter drinker, Unicorn was usually my beer of choice. Over the years, I’ve drunk shedloads of the stuff, both at CAMRA events and on my private pub visits. On the other hand, when it’s available, I now tend to prefer Wizard in Robbies’ pubs.

But there’s another contender – Hydes Original. My local pub for thirty-odd years has been a Hydes pub, and I’ve certainly got through loads of it in there. At one time it was my regular Sunday lunchtime haunt. In general pubgoing, Robinsons certainly beat Hydes, but my local may have swung the balance. I rarely venture in there any more, though, as it’s impossible to avoid one or other of TV football and reserved dining tables. If neither of those figured, I could probably tolerate the piped music.

And, coming up on the rails, there’s a challenger from the broad acres of Yorkshire in the form of Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter. In terms of lifetime achievement, it’s still well down the pecking order, but I’d say over the past few years I’ve certainly had more of that than any other beer. If I maintain similar drinking habits over the next decade, it will probably take the prize.

So how about you? Or does your drinking life consist of drinking so many one-offs that it’s impossible to contemplate which may have been the most frequent?

27 comments:

  1. You're a lucky man Mudge, I've had more Greene King IPA than anything else. Nothing wrong with a well kept pint of IPA, but...
    Looking back over the last year I've clearly had more Titanic Plum Porter than anything else (only 8 GBG pubs),with OBB second.
    MT

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    1. In my time in Cambridge I drank a lot of GK IPA. In the late 70s/early 80s it was unrecognisable from the bland thin product of today, and a revelation to those of us raised on the keg bitters of the big 6 and, for those of a certain vintage, the wonderfully named Devenish Cornish.

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  2. From when i could first get into pubs when 16 it was Shipstones, Kimberley and Home Ales,Shipstones was always the favourite and all pubs visited on a regular basis in Nottingham were Shippos tied houses,so that is probably the most i have ever drunk of any beer up to 1991.
    If in the Nottingham area now it is probably Castle Rock Harvest Pale which tops the list,with Nottingham EPA the second but well behind.

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  3. Great question Mudgie. On this side of the ocean a lot of us start by extolling the virtues of endless variety. The longer I drink beer, not meaning in one sitting, the more I lean towards drinking less varieties. I think you kind of realize there is no beer nirvana to be found. I loved being in Stockport for five nights and being able to have Unicorn and OBB multiple times and in multiple pubs. Always interesting to see how the time of day and what came previously affects how the same beer tastes. The pub and the conversation become more important than the beer in the end.

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  4. I am a fellow North-westerner so it`s Hydes, Holts, Robbies, Lees, Jennings, (& ex-Thwaites) all the way for me. Only take the Microbrewery wares when none of the above are on the bar. The best of these being Moorhouses and Bank Top I suppose..

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    1. Don't know how old you are, but do you not remember Tetley Bitter??

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    2. I do remember Tetley Bitter, and still drink it Banks`s style.

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    3. Not the same surely?
      When I worked at the Warrington brewery we still had 300 pubs in Liverpool; I dread to think how many have bitten the dust.

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    4. I was brought up, near Leeds, drinking Tetley's bitter brewed locally. One of the two great shocks to my system when I moved to Manchester as a student in 1966 was finding just how inferior the Warrington product was. (The other, before you ask, was the travesty that passed for fish and chip shops)

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    5. Things were very different by the late 80s.😉

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    6. Not the same indeed Malcolm. And as David C says, neither was the original Tetley`s from the Warrington Tetley`s. Is it not par for the course that when one brewery takes over/shuts another, then carries on brewing the former brewery`s beers they are never the same ? Witness the recent Banks`s Wainwright for instance. I can definitely taste a difference to the Thwaites Wainwright, no matter how subtle..

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  5. From age 18, the first two years were Thwaites' Mild, then 25 years of their bitter. Nowadays never go that pub (Rose & Crown, Bebington}. Default beer now is Brimstage Trappers' Hat.

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  6. "drinking so many one-offs that it’s impossible to contemplate"

    Basically this, particularly over the past decade. The vast majority of beers I've tried, I've had exactly one pint of. Which is twice as much as most tickers drink!

    But I suspect that overall the leader is either Young's Ordinary from when I was growing up, or GK IPA from my two years living in a GK pub. There'll be some odd things that I drank a lot in the 90s high up on the list too - wouldn't be surprised if Hop Back Summer Lightning was in the top five even though I've not had a pint of that for years. Possibly even something like Whitbread Abroad Cooper.

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  7. In my lifetime (caskwise) it's almost certainly Sam Smiths OBB, though admittedly more of an economically-driven choice than anything else (especially in my London years). Landlord probably a distant second.

    Away from cask, it will definitely be Guinness on draught. From a tin or bottle - who knows?

    What is certain is that I don't really drink any of the above any more. Thankfully so much more good stuff is available these days on all dispense methods, and most of my drinking is done in central Manchester - so a decent pint of Marble or Blackjack is never far away. No such luck in my two locals though, both of which are Hydes pubs - not a brewery I've ever enjoyed.

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  8. At the start of my pub career it was Boddingtons Bitter. Most of my locals were Boddies pubs and I loved it. Robinsons Bitter was always a close second in those days, with Guinness being my choice if there was no Boddies or Robbies. Not many free houses back then!

    Since the demise of both Boddies pubs and their beer, and the rise of free houses, it has been much more varied and with a lot of one-offs. I rarely touch Boddies now - it just isn't the same; and Guinness is nowadays always served too cold. Robbies' bitter (Unicorn and Wizard) are still favourites, though I prefer freehouses where I'll invariably go for a dark mild, porter or stout.

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  9. I was at college near Warrington, the heart of Greenall Whitley land, and very few of us thought much of it. We'd sometimes catch a train for a few stops to drink Boddington's Bitter, then well worth having, but my favourite beer was Higson's Bitter, brewed in Toxteth. Boddington;s took over Higson's, which wasn't a problem in itself, but it made the combined company attractive to takeover by Whitbread. Higson's was quickly closed, Boddies soon after, and both beers were brewed elsewhere, with no real effort made to match the flavour of the originals.

    It's interesting how tastes differ: I don't rate Robinson's beer highly at all.

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    1. Greenall's was awful stuff! A very beautiful pub near me, the Elizabethan in Stockport, used to be Greenalls and it made the pub a blind spot for me. Thankfully now it's a Lees pub.

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  10. The only beer I drank when I was underage that I still drink today is Becks Lager. Not sure if the volume or spend makes it the top one though. It's also a beer I have drank in almost every country I have visited. It's like a Heineken type beer, available almost everywhere. I suspect it will still be around when I am as old as you and I suspect I will still neck the occasional one then.

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  11. Wadworth, Harveys, Bathams, and Holdens for me.

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  12. I reckon the beer I have drunk the most is Salopian Shropshire Gold. For 8 years it was a fixture in our local pub which used to sell that and one rotating guest, usually either from Salopian or Stonehouse in Oswestry.

    We've now moved up to Cheshire and our local has no regular beers at all, the handpumps change every time we drop in. That's great for trying new beers but sometimes you do want something reliable that you know and trust.

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    1. Very fair point. Most sensible pubs will have regular beers on half their hand pumps; expect Mudgie to wax lyrical on the tendency in parts of Cheshire to equate bewildering choice with good management.

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    2. Well, if you're a specialist beer pub, fair enough, but if you're a mainstream pub it just puts people off drinking cask if they're confronted with a row of beers they've never heard of before.

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    3. What is a "mainstream pub"? If you're not trying to attract the more enthusiastic beer drinkers, who are you trying to attract?

      Its a serious question - the days where a pub could just be "a normal mainstream pub" with no particularly compelling offer to attract in the punters are long gone.

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    4. I would have thought this was bleeding obvious. The Nursery is a mainstream pub, the Magnet is a specialist beer pub. As I don't live in Cambridge I can't proffer examples local to you.

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    5. The Nursery website makes a particular feature of its food menu, which is also featured on the pub sign, (2 meals for £6.95) so is it a food-led pub? It has a bowling green attached, a dart board in the public bar, with a branded tyre, which suggests the presence of a darts team, and a big screen for tv sports, so is it a community/sports focused pub? It looks a decent pub, actually.

      The point is, there is no one "mainstream" pub - every pub has to have to offer something other than just chairs, tables and mediocre beer.

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  13. Probably Theakstons Old Peculier, in my case. But only because when I was a student the beer buyer at the union bar had a thing for it, and had a cask on the go most of the time.

    These days, there's so many new ones coming through, I rarely have two pints of the same thing....

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