Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Changing Times

To mark thirty years being editor of it, John Clarke has just scanned and circulated the May 1988 issue of Opening Times, the magazine of the Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA branch which he's also now the chairman and I'm a member of.

John is planning to write a longer piece for the next issue of Opening Times about the anniversary, but I'd just like to pick out a few things that caught my eye when reading it.

In pub news, the Crown Inn on Heaton Lane, Stockport, had just been refurbished by Boddington's, and the toilets moved inside from the backyard which was about to be turned into a beer garden with close-up views of the famous railway viaduct that spans the building. As well as Boddington's, beers available included ones from Higson's and the Oldham Brewery which Boddingtons then owned (none of those three breweries now exists). The Crown is now a multi-handpump (and multi-award-winning) freehouse and the backyard beer garden hosts regular live music.

The "ABC" Stagger of twelve pubs in the Ardwick, Brunswick and Chorlton-on-Medlock districts just south of Manchester city centre which the branch had just completed and is reported on in the May 1988 issue would now be impossible as all but one of them has since been closed and/or demolished, and the Wilson's mild and bitter which most of them served is no longer brewed either, the brewery in Newton Heath, north Manchester, having been taken over by Webster's of Halifax in 1986, who moved production there before shutting themselves a decade later.

The Pub of the Month, the Church Inn, Cheadle Hulme, retains its cosy three-room structure and is still tenanted by the same family who had it in 1988. As well as Robinson's Best Bitter, now called Unicorn, it still serves equally well-kept cask ales from the Stockport brewery of that name, although not the Best Mild it did back then which, after several name changes, was finally discontinued by Robinson's a few years ago. It had also just started serving meals - now a major part of its trade - but not on Sundays, which is probably now its busiest day for food. The Church was a well-deserved winner of another of our Pub of the Month awards last summer.

Although some of the contributors to the magazine are sadly no longer with us, it's pleasing to see some familiar names in its pages who are still, I'm happy to say, active members of the branch.




Sunday, 1 April 2018

April sours

Ahead of the CAMRA AGM in Coventry at the end of this month, plans are apparently already being put into place for a successor organisation which will split off from the main body of the campaign should the controversial and divisive Revitalisation proposals to extend the organisation's remit beyond cask-conditioned real ale to other so-called "quality beers" be adopted by that gathering.

The new splinter group, which will no doubt present itself as being the legitimate continuation of the original campaign should that body slip into heresy, has been given the provisional name of the Campaign for Real Ullage Deposit, emphasising the technical differences which have led to this potential schism in the British beer-drinking world.

A meeting took place last week at a pub somewhere in the so-called "Bass triangle" between Burton, Derby and Leek to sketch out plans for the new group, with several beer bloggers apparently being provisionally offered places on its soon to be formed national executive which will, should the split occur, be chosen by popular acclamation in the public bar of the same pub rather than the traditional, if somewhat unpredictable, method of annual elections held amongst the membership.

Moves are also afoot for a beer festival to launch the new group, pencilled in for this time next year at the venue which is then expected to become its permanent home, the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, although contract negotiations have reportedly yet to resolve the issue of whether drinkers will be allowed to use the tunnels beneath the stands to access the bars in the middle rather than having to cross the track with their pint. A dummy edition of a new monthly publication, with the working title "Brew Believer", has been mocked up, although there are no plans for a website or any other online presence and communications with the new group's HQ, location yet to be decided, but definitely north of the contentious East Midlands "sparkler divide", will be by post only, with all previously-held email addresses deleted for security reasons.

Reports that the new body has approached the Society of St. Pius X, the Steam Railway Preservation Society and the Campaign for Real Cheese to act as advisory consultants on the new project have yet to be confirmed.