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Beer from the hills

Dave Bishop takes a trip to Glossop to sample an award-winning local ale

Published on November 29th 2007.


Beer from the hills

A little bird told us that the best beer around at the moment is Wren’s Nest bitter from Glossop microbrewery Howard Town.

The hoppy, straw-coloured ale was voted Supreme Champion in this year’s Society of Independent Brewers Awards, and actor John Henshaw, the Early Doors star who currently fronts the telly adverts for the Post Office, is one of its converts.

So when we heard that the stuff was being dished out for free, along with lots of locally produced cheeses, at a beer tasting in Hayfield this week, we winged it over to the High Peak hills faster than you could say pull me another one.

Wren’s Nest was lined up alongside Howard Town’s other ales – Bleaklow, Monk’s Gold, Dinting Aches and Glott’s Hop (all names, if you haven’t guessed already, inspired by local landmarks) – in the function room at the majestic Royal Hotel, which nestles in the shadow of Kinder Scout.Convention has it, at these sort of things, that you start with the weakest first, so I sampled the Bleaklow at 3.8%, which was easy on the palate and tame enough to down without too much fear of falling over by the fifth pint.

Ian Wardle, a cask-ale fanatic and the landlord of the Plough in Heaton Moor, gave it his seal of approval, but with a twinkle in his eye, told fellow publican Gary Willis, from the Bull’s Head in Hazel Grove, that there was better to come."Just wait till you taste the Wren’s Nest," he insisted. "Oh boy."

But next up in strength is Monk’s Gold, so with due devotion to the blessed hop, the assembled imbibers downed the precious liquid without the urge for a spot of Gregorian chanting.

"Nice, very nice," eulogized Gary, by now getting a real taste for the Howard Town wares.

Could we soon see Monk’s Gold in the Bull’s Head? Certainly the sophisticated flavour would help to move the pub away from the Wifebeater hell of Stella Artois. Since taking over, Gary has introduced more cask ale while at the same time attempting to de-scally the place (the Bull’s Head used to be only one notch up from a reprobates’ youth club).

"Definitely," said Gary, who is originally from Durham, and is a Newcastle United fan – don’t even go there about Sam Allardyce - and has worked in pubs all over the country after training as a chef.

Reserve judgment, we all urged again, till the Wren’s Nest. Geoff Byram, the inscrutable landlord of the Woodend Tavern in Mossley – another haven for fine real ales – lead the case for the cask champion.

He baulked at my comparison of Wren’s Nest to the ubiquitous Timothy Taylor Landlord. "God it’s much better than that stuff," he said dismissively of the Yorkshire ale that Madonna apparently loves.

And Gary had to concur – well his satisfied silence spoke volumes, until he had to agree with Ian Wardle that it really did hit the mark.

Anthony Meynell, from the Duke of York in Romiley, who had trekked – yes trekked, with a rucksack, no less – 10 miles to make the tasting, was more loquacious in his praise. Well Anthony could talk for Britain on the merits of real ale and anything else that flies in the face of fakery.

"This is the best of the lot," he insisted, before regaling us with tales of drunken escapades after drinking Old Tom and cursing the lack of fresh food in some pubs (unlike the Duke of York, which is famous for its Mediterranean menu).

By this time the assembled drinkers had forgotten about beer-tasting etiquette and were sampling the ales in random order, even helping themselves behind the bar.

I had some of the Dinting Arches, at 4.5% a maltier version of Wren’s Nest with a kick like a baby ostrich, and I didn’t quite make the Glott’s Hop – not out choice, more out of confusion caused by inebriation.

Luckily, I’d booked a cab back, but Anthony faced the prospect of a 10-mile return walk, not all of it in a straight line. But that’s Wren’s Nest for you – it inspires acts above and beyond the call of beer duties.

Howard Town bitter is available at free houses throughout the north west. The brewery also produces a seasonal, darker ale called Robin’s Nest – ideal for Christmas tipples. Places to try Wren’s Nest regularly are the Plough in Heaton Moor (which opens after a refurb on December 13), the Stalybridge Bar and Buffet at Stalybridge Station, the White House in Littleborough and the King’s Arms in Salford.

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Old Glossop's WarlordNovember 29th 2007.

The brewery is in Old Glossop not Glossop.It is well run and very appreciated by locals, especially on it annual open day!!!!!It's beers as described above are excellent and well appreciated.

Paul of www.realalenet.co.ukNovember 29th 2007.

There is a chocolate flake missing from the picture above. Icecream in a pint glass, a novel idea !

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Agreed, a right dump

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Who remembers The King? Now that was a pub, before the NQ was the NQ. No hipsters in there.

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