South Cheshire News

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Alsager and around


Crewe's News


Middlewich and area news


Nantwich and surrounding areas


Sandbach and surroundings

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South Cheshire Pub News

RURAL TRAVELS

It's always a pleasure delivering copies of Out Inn Cheshire out in South Cheshire and I especially enjoy visiting the rural pubs in the western part of our branch area.

Of course there's the renowned Bhurtpore (our 2005 Pub of the Year) but there are plenty of other really good pubs that are well worth visiting - some for the beer, some for the food, some for both. The Good Beer Guide listed Thatch at Faddiley (pictured) comes into the 'both' category. It's a real family business (or more of a dynasty); Jan and Tony, daughter Chloe and husband Ashley have been at the pub since July 2003 and with the arrival of baby Ed. Followed 15 months later by Eve, there are now three generations under the one thatch. There are always at least four beers on (including ones from Tim Taylor's, Weetwood, Archers, Storm, Moorhouse's and Titanic) and excellent food served daily from noon until 9.30 pm.

Cutting through the country lanes behind Faddiley, you'll come to the Nag's Head at Haughton - a very popular eating spot in deepest, rural Cheshire. A more imaginative range of beers would turn it into a real gem (so call in and tell Debbie and Rory).

Next port of call is the Yew Tree at Spurstow , which licensees Katie and Steve really seem to have turned round. They're selling nearly 80 gallons of Theakston's Bitter a week - mainly to the local farming community. Tim Taylor's Landlord should be re-appearing soon, plus guest ales.

Another Nag's Head comes next - this one in the middle of Bunbury - and Adnams Best and Black Sheep are the regular beers. Leslie and Howard have been the licensees for fourteen years! I'm sure they'd be more than happy to see some new faces.

Through the village to the excellent Dysart Arms (Good Beer Guide listed) which features regularly on this website. Liz and Darren have been there for six years and were the last recipients of our Rural Pub of the Year award. Ably assisted by Sam, they offer an interesting range of beers; OK they're at Chester/Brunning & Price prices, but there's always happy hour.
[The other B&P pub in our area is the amazingly transformed Combermere Arms at Burleydam and since it re-opened only about nine months ago, Jon and his team have established a really good reputation.]

My final stop on this OIC run is the Traveller's Rest at Alpraham - still the quintessential, traditional (in the true sense), country pub. Call in, step back in time, relax and enjoy.

National Pubs Week in South Cheshire

The week kicked off in style on Saturday 19th February with the presentation of South Cheshire Pub of the Year 2005 to the Bhurtpore Inn, Aston, near Nantwich. This worthy winner features ten Real Ales, generally from smaller breweries, real
cider, Belgian beers on draught, and an extensive selection of bottled Belgian beers. When you add in the excellent food and attractive rural setting, you can see why we chose this as Pub of the Year, and we all spent a very pleasant afternoon trying our best to sample as many beers as possible.
Our next visit was an impromptu sortie on the Tuesday to the Bear's Paw, Warmingham, where Real Ales were on special offer for the whole of National Pubs Week at only £1 a pint. Our pint of Copper Dragon was especially good, and some of our group returned on the Friday for more of the same.
Wednesday brought a social and Good Beer Guide meeting in the Black Lion, Nantwich, another excellent free house in the area. Weetwood and Titanic beers are always on offer here (plus a real cider), and are always in good condition, and a warm welcome is assured.
On Thursday, some hardy souls took on a pub crawl of Winterley and Wheelock in the bitter cold. This started with a pint in the Forester's, where Timothy Taylor Landlord seemed to have replaced the normal Weetwood beer; Tetley Mild and Bitter also being on offer. There was just time left for a quick half of Greene King IPA in the nearby Hollybush (rescued from the threat of closure last year) before catching the bus into Wheelock.
Here we started at the Nag's Head, where three beers are always on - Boddingtons plus two guests. On this
occasion, these were Archers Golden and Caledonian Deuchars IPA (we just had to stay to try both, as they were in such good nick!). Our penultimate port of call was the comfortable Hyde's house in the dip in the road, the Cheshire Cheese, where we had a pint of the reliable Hyde's Bitter. Finally, we made it to the Commercial Inn (and realised what a long week it had already been) where Woodlands IPA, from the new brewery in Wrenbury, was on. This intensely bitter brew will delight those who prefer a beer in this style (a proper IPA), and complemented the Thwaites bitter and Boddingtons in this unaltered pub.
Some visits were also carried out on the Friday and Saturday by those with extra staying power, and hopefully the profile of pubs in South Cheshire and nationwide will have been raised by the week's activities - if you don't get out to the pub much, you really ought to try it more often!

Alsager and around

The Globe, Scholar Green, is back to form, with Marstons Bitter and Pedigree on. Whilst in that area, the Horseshoe, Lawton Heath, could be worth a visit - it has Bass, Tetley and three good guests on offer.

A branch trip to Alsager stumbled on a good pint of Museum ‘Not Only but Also’ (brewed in tribute to the late Dudley Moore) at the Horseshoe, Lawton Heath, but found uninspiring beers at the Yeoman, Alsager, (Courage Directors and Flowers Original). At least the nearby Mere was up to its usual high standards though. Alsager Golf Club has hand pumped Bass plus a guest on the bar, and the Salamanca, Smallwood (closed a while back) had two Slaters beers and Highgate Special on when visited. It is heartening to note that the Little Man, Wettenhall is using lined glasses, so a full pint is guaranteed, and wheelchair access has been added.

Crewe's News

Recently, the Three Lamps, Hill Street, [Union Pubco, part of W&D] next to the market, was yet again under new management. No real ale there yet. There are rumours that this may soon change.

The Prince of Wales, [West Street], seems to have settled on Old Speckled Hen and Pedigree as the regular real ales, with 6X alternating.

The Duke of Bridgewater [Burtonwood], Wistaston Road, has been totally internally refurbished and spruced up externally, and the ventilation considerably improved. It was thought locally that it was to close because of the long time non-use. It appears that it will now take advantage of the weekend Nantwich Road-Mill Street-Edleston Road-Crewe town centre drinking circuit. Work continues: the exterior has been repainted, new pub sign plus accoutrements, and a pool table has been installed. Toilets refurbished, open plan, and free beer to the first 100 people at the grand reopening in March. Hand pumps are to be seen on the bar amidst the rough and the smooth dispensers.

The Crown, Robinson's, [Earle Street, next to Crewe Municipal Buildings], continues to sell Old Tom during the winter months. It still sells at a very sensible price compared with some other outlets. Enigma was a recent seasonal beer from the brewery as was Double Hop which was popular as a guest.

The Borough Arms [Earle Street Bridge] has been selling an incredible range of real ales, naturally. There were some really nice winter ales, carefully spaced a week or so apart, to give the connoisseur a chance to sample these delights. Among the ones I remember (!) were Holden's Old, Abbeydale Black Mass, Enville Total Insanity, Phoenix Golden Glow, and Wobbly Bob. Also notable recently was Marston's Old Empire Ale, which had the classic Marston's taste, which seems to have all but disappeared from the nationally marketed Pedigree. A good attempt at an India Pale Ale, in my opinion. Concerning Belgian beers on tap, there was a very rare sighting of La Quenasse, a very pleasant pilsner from Belgium. Soon to arrive will be Het Anker Winter Bok and Anker Blonde. On the horizon is Chimay White, also known as cinq cents, at a strength of 8% abv. All these in addition to the five Belgian beers normally on tap. Very difficult to leave this establishment, with its charming bar persons.

The British Lion, Nantwich Road, continues to give drinkers a range of guest beers, probably the best pub to visit on the Nantwich Road. Heligan Honey beer was a recent and pleasant addition. I presume that the honey used came from hives in or adjacent to the now famous "Lost Gardens of Heligan".

The Eight Farmers, Parker's Road, after its refurbishment is still very much open plan, but with plenty of seating. Big screen TV catering for the sporty types. The real beers available were Marston's bitter and Banks bitter, both in excellent condition. Good to see in a sea of smooth.

The Rising Sun, Wistaston [Middlewich Road], is CAMRA Pub of the Year for South Cheshire . Since taking over the pub two years ago, Peter has transformed it from a "usual suspects" [6X, Courage, Boddingtons, etc] Scotco outlet, into a pub where the drinker has a real choice (Up to eight real ales at any one time). As a bonus this pub may have up to three real ciders on tap. If you have not been there recently, do give it a try. Good ales, and good food too. And do keep an eye out for the beer festivals at the same venue.

The Monkey in West Street is under new ownership following its sale by Slaters. Reports are good, with as many as five cask beers available, including some Slaters.

The Crown, Crewe, had Robinsons Snowdon selling well, and the Fox at Elworth, has had Titanic on.

A welcome addition to Crewe is Beartown Black Bear mild in the Kings Arms, opposite the Borough Arms, itself still selling an excellent range of good quality real ales, Belgian beers and cider.

The Borough Arms, Earle St., Crewe, (the recipient of the South Cheshire CAMRA Pub of the Year 2002 award) is establishing a good reputation for quality and choice following a successful opening period at the turn of the year. A cider and perry have been available, and the Belgian draught beers are proving to be very popular. It boasts an excellent range of Real Ales: up to 8 at a time, with a rapid turnover ensuring high quality. One hand pump dispenses Boddies at £1.40 a pint, while the other seven feature an ever-changing range of cask ales from independent brewers. Porters, Milds and Stouts have appeared alongside the golden brews. Traditional cider is in prospect. The choice of Belgian bottled and draught beers is enormous too!
Situated actually on the bridge, it used to be the Orient Express. It is owned by Alan Hinde, formerly of the Albion, so could have no better pedigree. Alan tells us that trade is going very well, and that once the accommodation has been sorted out, he has plans to open a restaurant by the end of the summer and a small brewing operation next year. We wish him well with this venture, and look forward to hearing more. The Borough managed the distinction of 1000 guest beers during 2001 and currently sports more draught Belgian beers than most bars in Belgium itself (so the landlord informs us - the Editor has declined to fund a trip to verify this fact).

Middlewich and area news

The Narrowboat has a decent forthcoming guest ales list displayed.

Robinson's Boar's Head in Middlewich has music every Saturday, licensee Liz tells us, with a Folk jam session on the second Saturday of each month. She is toying with the idea of stocking seasonal offerings from Robbies.

Our local correspondent went into the Kinderton Arms, having seen a poster advertising cask ale. It is on the A533 by the canal between Middlewich and Sandbach. Previously it had Tetley bitter then Julie Waring took over last August. A new hand pump has been installed and a monthly changing beer is now available. Marstons Pedigree and Caledonian Deuchars have appeared. Keen and friendly bar staff and a sympathetically restored pub.

Convert in Warmingham
Hidden in the country lanes between Crewe and Middlewich, the village of Warmingham has been looking up recently. The reason is the village pub, the Bears Paw, has new managers, and they are putting new interest into the pub. For many years this large village pub was a 'Beefeater' restaurant with a selection of beers you would only drink under extreme duress. It was then sold into private ownership, and has had a number of different managers. A new manager was required, and the owner asked Sarah to take over. She had been in the business for a number of years, and was then manager of the Limes in Sandbach. The arrangement was that she would manage the pub, whilst partner Nick continued his job as a paramedic.

However, after about six months it became obvious that this was unsatisfactory, and Nick was needed at the pub. Talking to him you soon get the impression this was not a difficult decision for Nick to make. As he says, "it means I can play around in the cellar most of the day", and he soon started to experiment with the beer range. He has tried beers from a number of small breweries and they have been well received by the customers. The policy will be to stock Boddington Bitter as the regular beer, then keep a constantly changing range of guest beers from smaller breweries, one a session beer, the other a stronger brew. The only problem he sees with this is that, since poor public transport mean most of his customers arrive by car, maintaining turnover of the stronger beer could be difficult. So its up to you the customer; if you want the premium beer to succeed, find yourself a driver, visit the Bears Paw and drink it.

Another indication of Nick's enthusiasm for beer is the award of the Cask Marque, a quality assurance certification. Nick reports an increasing interest in the new beers he stocks, and a steady increase in turnover.

The Bears Paw also has a chef keen to make his mark, and, as well as a varied menu regularly available in the bar and restaurant, various special event are in the pipeline. One is to produce a beer based menu. For good weather a garden is available at the rear. The Bears Paw also has a large function room and six en-suite bedrooms for overnight stays. Nick and Sarah also feel its important to be involved in the village social life, supporting the annual fete and other events. The pub has an informative web site at 'thebearspaw.co.uk'

Nantwich and surrounding areas

The Swan, Wybunbury is South Cheshire Rural Pub of 2002.

The Vine, 42, Hospital Street, Nantwich has been owned by Hydes for several years and has been re-furbished to a high standard. Lesley and Frank Clayton have improved the beer quality and they been accredited with the Cask Marque. They have 3 Hydes products on sale: Bitter, Jekyll's Gold and a rotating seasonal craft ale. The Vine no longer stocks Hydes mild (sadly it seems due to low sales). The other Hydes beers have been on good form when sampled of late. They hope to add a fourth external brand, and if anyone has any favourites they are invited to contact the Vine and let them know. Live music was always popular and they will be having different acts on every Tuesday. Food is also served at the Vine, every lunch time and Wed to Sat evenings. Booking is recommended.

The Little Man, Wettenhall is using lined glasses. Two Weetwood beers were spotted at the Foresters, Winterley recently.

The Globe, Audlem Rd., Nantwich has replaced Pedigree and Greenalls with John Smiths and Cains. The latter brewery has now been purchased and will continue brewing.

My correspondent can heartily recommend the Oddfellows Arms,Canalside Pub of 2002, Welsh Row (direction of Chester, 150 yds beyond River Weaver), in Nantwich. "Local ale fans swore by the Burtonwood's Bitter. Guests were Hobgoblin and Marlow's Rebellion Smuggler (which was nectar). Traditional cosy unspoilt pub- landlord and locals so friendly I found myself refusing one for the road- they said there's a long garden out at the back. Burtonwood has just been granted planning permission to virtually double the size of the bar area. Currently a sign in the window proudly proclaims "Smoking allowed throughout". Hopefully the extensions will allow part of the bar to be designated a non-smoking zone? And perhaps a quiet area, too, during the live music evenings?"

A second Weetwood beer was spotted at the Foresters, Winterley (adding to the Old Dog). Also on the canalside, the Romping Donkey, Hassall Green replaced the Thwaites Bitter with Bass (due to the popularity of Bass with Potteries visitors), and also stocks Tetley bitter. There is entertainment on Thursdays and Sundays at the Donkey.

Meanwhile, the Lamb Hotel in nearby Hospital Street, Nantwich continues to decay, having been closed for two years. Plans are in hand to convert the upper floors to private apartments, leaving just a downstairs bar. However, the proposed developer has warned that parts of the building have structural problems and it may need to be partly demolished and rebuilt. As it's such a historic building, these suggestions are somewhat worrying. J.D.Wetherspoon, who have a good reputation for sympathetic development of landmark buildings, have expressed an interest in buying the it, but could not match the price offered by the developers.

Further afield, the Bridge, Audlem had much improved beer quality on one visit (still Banks’s Original, Marstons Bitter and Pedigree) and the Red Lion at Wybunbury is recommended, having a keen young landlord doing Greenalls Bitter, Bass and a guest (excellent Paradise Dabbers was sampled).

Winter pub surveying tours have included Audlem, where the Lord Combermere was found to be stocking Theakston Cool Cask and Black Sheep Bitter. Of the other Audlem pubs, the Shroppie Fly (Boddingtons and Wadworth 6X) was also visited, together with the Bridge, which offered Banks Original and Marston’s Bitter and Pedigree. This visit finished off at Wybunbury with Old Speckled Hen at the Red Lion and the excellent full range of Jennings beers at the Swan.

Bunbury; the Dysart Arms, [Brunning & Price] at the junction of Bowe's Gate Road and Wyche Road, recent winner of the South Cheshire Branch's rural pub award, continues to stock a decent range of real ales. On a recent cycling visit, the available beers were Taylors Landlord, Theakstons XB, Outlaw ,and Salopian Golden Thread.
The Nags Head on Vicarage Lane is worth a visit too. On a recent visit it had Adnams Best Bitter and Black Sheep Bitter on handpump.

Burleydam; the Combermere Arms, Brunning & Price, Pub of the Year 2001[opposite junction of Dodd's Green Lane and the A525 Whitchurch Road] was undergoing major refurbishment, both internal and external in early March. It looks like the existing entrance [sometimes known as the kamikaze exit] on the A525 will go, along with the steps leading up to it. There is a local story, documented in print, that in the 18th century, an "unquiet spirit" that had been a nuisance to the local drinkers, was finally persuaded into a corked bottle and subsequently "interred" in those steps. So, anyone finding an apparently empty, but corked, bottle there-DO NOT OPEN IT!!!
The new entrance will be in what is, at time of writing, the yard. Not sure what will happen to the red sandstone mounting block.

Faddiley; the Thatch, on the Wrexham Road, west from Nantwich. Straight-forward to find, and worth the journey. It is a welcoming free house run by Tony and Jan, with added family help. It offers an excellent range of ever-changing guest beers, with Archers being among the most requested locally. Up to six real ales are available in summer, with a smaller range in winter/spring.
A real fire and good food complete the scene. I was extremely reluctant to leave.

Spurstow; the Yew Tree [once known as the Crewe Arms, because it belonged to the Earl], at the junction of Long Lane and Bunbury Lane, Spurstow, southwest of Bunbury. [Grid reference 564573] Very pleasantly surprised by the changes since my last visit. What was once a rather an unprepossessing public house is now a welcoming and cosy place. Felt quite at ease. I was impressed to see, on one of the three real ale pumps, Lees. Not a beer I would normally expect to find in south Cheshire. I was really impressed by its condition- full marks here to the cellarmanship. The other two beers were Taylor Landlord and Theakston XB. What was also pleasant, to my ears at least, was the background music; quiet Spanish music, a tonic for the soul. The pub is part of Honeycombe Leisure, of Preston. It is managed very effectively by Lopez and Hayley. Not too difficult to find and worth the effort. Went back again a fortnight later- it is still worth a visit.

Sandbach and surroundings

Sandbach Survey

For a small town, Sandbach still has its fair share of pubs (15), with a concentration in the historic town centre. The 1998 Out Inn Cheshire Pub Guide showed 14 of these to be selling real ale. Sadly this has fallen to 11, with the George, Old Hall Hotel, and Wheatsheaf following the Lion in losing their hand-pumps.

We start in the cobbled market square with its ancient Saxon crosses and three pubs. The thatched Black Bear, modern inside, has added Tetley Imperial to its range of Marston's Pedigree and Tetley bitter.
At the head of the square are two Robinson's houses. (Five Robbie's pubs, all selling the real stuff, are dotted throughout the town, and show that real mild is alive and well in South Cheshire.) These pubs have reasonably unspoilt interiors, providing a welcome relief from the brasher Pub-Co owned houses which court the circuit-drinking crowds. Both pubs stock Best Bitter and Hatters Mild, the Market Tavern doing so via electric pumps (still real ale). At the head of the square, the enterprising landlady at the Crown has converted one room to non-smoking and plans more extraction by the bar to make a pleasanter atmosphere in which to sup her reliable ales.

Just behind the square is the striking black and white timbered Lower Chequer Inn, dating from 1570. This sports the widest range of beers in Sandbach: four cask conditioned ales being normally on offer, regularly Jennings Cumberland and the other three varying (Black Sheep and Youngs beers amongst others recently).

Across at the Commons, the Military Arms still displays its Greenalls livery and sells Flowers Original and a guest beer alongside the Greenalls Bitter. Pedigree and Jennings Cumberland have been on offer of late.

On the Crewe Road opposite the Boys' School there have changes afoot at the Cricketers, where this former Burtonwood pub has been sold to a Pubco. The interior has been opened up and the central corridor removed, brightening the place up, and a decent pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord was sampled a few weeks back. On other visits real ale was unavailable pending deliveries, but the signs are promising.

Burtonwood Brewery does still retain a presence in Sandbach, owning a genuine street-corner local, the Ring O' Bells in Wells Street, where a good pint of Burtonwood bitter was had in front of a welcoming fire this spring.

At the edge of the town, on the Hill (A533 to Alsager) is the Sandpiper (Robinsons), a stand alone building with less of a town-centre feel to it, dispensing good quality Bitter and Hatters Mild on our last visit.

The same beers are stocked at the Swan and Chequers, back in the Town at Hightown (this is not meant to be followed as a crawl unless you're fit!), but the Iron Grey on the Middlewich Road has stopped selling the Mild due to a fall in demand. Fortunately, though, this has been replaced by another Robinson's beer, currently Old Stockport bitter, and a seasonal beer or one from the Hartleys range on the third hand-pump; all of good quality on our visits. The drinker is assured of a full pint here, as lined glasses are always used.

There is a final mention for the Limes, tucked away behind its own bowling green in the quaintly-named Sweet Tooth Lane. This mainly food oriented pub has just changed hands, and was selling Tetley Bitter, Boddingtons, and Old Speckled Hen beforehand.

So, Real Ale is extensively on offer in Sandbach, and although exceptional pints were fairly rare on our surveys, so were poor ones. It's certainly a good place for a pub crawl, and we'd be interested to hear others' views!

Down the road, the Commercial has up to three guest beers of good quality available throughout the week, an expansion from the previous Thursday-only guest beer night.

Wheelock; This village, situated between Sandbach and Crewe, is definitely worth a detour for real ale drinking. One great advantage is that it is easily accessible from Crewe [or Sandbach and points East to Congleton] by public transport and the last bus home is at a sensible time [after last orders]. Buses 33 and 37 to Winsford, and the 38 which goes to Congleton and Macclesfield.

The Nags Head, at the junction of A534-Crewe Road and Mill Lane, should, by the time you read this, have a third hand pump on the bar to cope with the rising demand for real ale. In addition to the revamped Boddingtons, recent guest beers have been Titanic Iceberg and Premium, Phoenix Arizona, and Nethergate Best. Excellent value food as well.

Hydes' Cheshire Cheese, on the canal bridge had good quality Bitter, plus the stronger Jekyll's Gold.
Tucked away in Game Street, opposite the Cheese is the Commercial. Boddingtons and Thwaites are the staple beers plus two constantly changing guests. The pub is on the National Inventory list, [ex Birkenhead Brewery interior] and also has a full size snooker table in the games room.

The local branch of CAMRA has surveyed the South Eastern edge of Cheshire (all this in the interests of research, naturally), starting at the Royal Oak, Rode Heath, where it was good to see that the Titanic Premium was still on. This was followed by an unscheduled stop at the Globe (a little-altered boozer with Banks and Marstons Beers) and a climb to the Cheshire View, Mow Cop. A good pint of Marston Bitter and Pedigree was had here, between rounds of the pub’s quiz, and even in the dark, the panorama from the car-park was spectacular. The tour finished up in the picturesque White Lion at Barthomley, supping Burtonwood Bitter and sitting on the ancient (and rather hard) settles.

 
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