Pub visits this week 3
Locations Manchester, Sheffield
Stay with us, reader, for this week we discover a higher mode of drunkenness, and the pub takes us into the sublime.
But first, the winner of our grand ‘Drink Beer and Carry On’ T-shirt competition is Mr A Hartley of Rotherham, South Yorkshire! Congratulations, sir, and thanks to all those who entered – we’ll be in touch soon with your discount code for the Ales by Mail online shop.
This week I’ve contrived to stay out of the pub until Friday. I’m back in the recording studio in Manchester, working on my band‘s debut single. Or at least I am until nine o’clock, at which point our booking ends and we have little option but to seek out refreshment in the Cottonopolis. There’s talk of heading up to the home of the Marble Brewery (my friend Dan, who recommended the sublime Coopers Tavern, says it’s his favourite pub anywhere).
But the Lass o’ Gowrie wins out again – mostly for its handy location, though there’s nothing wrong with the service, and the ale is cracking. The Bank Top Brewery has an awful website and terrible, misogynistic names and pump clip designs for some of its beers – but its Dark Mild and (cringe) Gold Digger are superb. Towering waves of complex deliciousness roll and break exquisitely across the palate. The people of Manchester hum about their night-time business, while two of us band members, a producer and a sound engineer chat over the day’s work, and three pints each go down very quickly and easily indeed.
Back in Sheffield on Saturday, we engineer a night out in two good pubs not far from home. There are friends and bandmates (who are also friends), and my brother and his girlfriend (who we met last week in Birmingham) are visiting for the weekend. My girlfriend and I form a tag team, so that she goes out for the first half of the night while I stay home with our son, then comes home and slaps my hand and I go out for the rest of it. Readers who are parents and can’t always get a babysitter: this is recommended!
The Closed Shop is the first of tonight’s venues. Nodding cheekily from across the road at the Hallamshire House, it’s usually a studenty sort of place – nowhere near those godawful chain bars, mind you; it’s far more innocent and early 90s than that. Right now, of course, the studes are back home, so we don’t feel quite as old here as we otherwise would. At half ten or so we take off to the Princess Royal, there to bask in its friendly welcome, fine local beers and lovely, cosy extended licensing hours.
I can’t speak for the masses, but when there’s no last orders hanging over my head like a Damoclean sword I drink differently. I drink smarter. I listen to my body instead of watching the clock. And it’s a different, far superior kind of intoxication that’s achieved this way. It makes you glow instead of making you glower. It lifts you into the clouds instead of pulling you down in the dumps.
And the light, clean texture of Five Rivers and Pale Rider makes me happy. And all our talk makes me happy, and the crazy coincidences we discover fill me with wonder. (Just two degrees of separation between people meeting for the first time include a millionaire hairdresser in Hong Kong.) And the instant rapport between my brother and his girlfriend and some of my best friends makes me happy. It’s a heart-warming thing when people who you love meet each other and really hit it off. And the pub must be the finest place of all for something like this to happen.