October's Pub of the Month
Navigation — Heaton Norris, Stockport

Thursday, 25 October 2018

1 Manchester Road, Heaton Norris, Stockport SK4 1TY Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for October 2018 has been won by the Navigation, Heaton Norris, writes Jim Flynn.

The Navigation is the only Stockport pub owned by Congleton’s Beartown Brewery and, is next to Nelstrops Flour Mill on Lancashire Hill roundabout and was built to service both the workers from the flour mill and the bargees on the Stockport branch of the Ashton Canal, which closed in the late 1950s. The central bar of the pub services both the lounge, in which daily newspapers are provided, and the vault which has a pool table. There are TVs and a jukebox but none are intrusive and conversation is always to the fore in this friendly, very down-to-earth pub.

In times gone by, the Navigation was managed by Manchester United's goalkeeper Alex Stepney but Beartown bought the pub in December 2001 and for the last 10 years, almost to the day of our presentation, Barry and Debbie Harvey have run the pub with distinction, attracting a very loyal band of regulars who you will often see stepping behind the bar to work.

Over the years Barry has worked very hard on his beers but at times he has not been helped by the fluctuating fortunes of the brewery. Now, however, Beartown is owned by another Congleton brewery, Manning Brewers, and after significant improvements the beer is of the highest quality. Barry nearly always has three or more beers from Beartown and Mannings available along with Holts Bitter, and occasionally Holts Mild, and all at very affordable prices.

This is a great opportunity to try these beers, which are rare for Stockport, in what is a highly welcoming and very accessible pub. So join us in presenting the Pub of the Month award to Barry, Debbie and their staff on Thursday 25 October. I’m sure this will be a really great night as we will also celebrating their decade at the helm!

September's Pub of the Month
Bakers Vaults — Market Place, Stockport

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Market Place, Stockport SK1 1ES Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for September is the Bakers Vaults on Stockport Market Place. Margaret O’Brien has paid a visit.

The Bakers has been a well-known name on the local pub scene for many years now and for some considerable time had a reputation as a venue for live music. Just over four years ago Robinsons gave it a major makeover and in July 2014 it reopened with a fresh new look to make it brighter and more welcoming.

Since then it’s been run by Luke Morgan and his team who have worked tirelessly to provide a friendly, top-quality pub for people to enjoy. It's certainly worked as the Bakers is frequently bustling with drinkers - no doubt attracted by no fewer than 10 cask ales on handpump. Five of the beers are from the Robinsons range and five are guests - although Titanic Brewery's Plum Porter is a permanent fixture. In addition Weston's Old Rosie cider is also available.

There is also a range of gins - a nod to the pub's history as something of a gin palace dating back as far as 1775. A recently introduced feature is a number of chalkboards that detail some of the pub’s history.

Food comprises a small but pleasantly filling menu of gourmet hotdogs and burgers and some delicious fried sides. The battered gherkins and spam fritters are amazing!

In keeping with the pub's long-time reputation as a music venue, local and regional, and top quality, bands are showcased every Sunday from 3-6pm, playing anything from jazz and blues to folk-rock and country.

At the front of the pub, on the market place, is a pop-up beer garden where you can enjoy a drink, a bite to eat and just watch the world go by.

The Bakers really does have something for everyone and appeals to a wide crowd. Join us when we present this award on the evening of Thursday 20 September from 8.00pm. This will also mark the formal start of Stockport Beer Week so a double celebration will on the cards.

August's Pub of the Month
Sidings — Broom Lane in Levenshulme

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Broom Lane, Levenshulme M19 3WU Map

The pub of the month winner for August is the Sidings on Broom Lane in Levenshulme. Margaret O'Brien dropped in and tells you why it won.

The Sidings, tucked away on Broom Lane, is one of the Levenshulme's newer pubs, having been built in 1987 and opening just in time for Christmas that year. Since that time it has had two major refurbishments, in 2002 and 2013, and has now settled into its role as a popular and thriving community local.

There are three rooms, a lounge, snug and large vault complete with pool table and dart board. Needless to say the Sidings is also home to various darts and pool teams. To the rear of the pub is an excellent heated outdoor area and beer garden. The latter is the pride and joy of manager Sandra Booth and is always well tended.

Sandra has been running this Holt's house for 17 years, and in fact received a Pub of the Month award back in 2004. This award is in recognition of her continuing hard work at the pub. This includes a very active programme of events including a monthly tribute night and a quiz every Wednesday. Sandra also pays tribute to the pub's former DJ and quiz master Eddie, who sadly died last January having put in a huge amount of work for the pub.

The one cask beer is Holts Bitter, and this is always well-kept pint. Plenty are likely to be enjoyed on the evening of Thursday 23 August when we present this well-deserved award to Sandra. The Sidings is only a short walk from Stockport Road and the 192 bus.

July's Pub of the Month — Midland Hotel
Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris

Thursday, 26 July 2018

19 Wellington Road North, SK4 1HJ Map

Once, before the viaduct was built, the railway terminated at Heaton Norris Station and passengers were transported by horse-drawn vehicle across the Mersey Valley to join the line on the other side. The 19th century Midland Hotel is part of this rich history and John Sutcliffe describes the pub as it is today and why we consider it to be a worthy Pub of the Month for July.

The Midland Hotel was taken over by Mark Hayter about seven years ago and is an independent free house, having previously been owned by Enterprise Inns. Mark has removed the 1970s alterations so that there is now a pleasant interior having three inter-connecting rooms with the bar on the left having a new uPVC window but in the original style.

The pub was originally built in 1834 and pre-dates the viaduct. Nothing from this time remains in the interior but you can see plenty of Art Nouveau tiling from a late 19th century refurbishment which lines the entrance corridor and part of the back room.

It is a good community public house with three darts teams and a loyal crowd of regulars. Nevertheless about a year ago this was a pub under threat of demolition. A new road is being constructed under the arches of the viaduct to relieve pressure on Georges Road with its low railway bridge. Compulsory purchase was considered as the traffic engineers wanted to make room for a bicycle lane that required two metres taking off the front of the building. This was opposed by CAMRA and other local bodies. Luckily the local councillors agreed and the pub was saved.

Mark works hard to keep his beers in superb form. JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale is a regular with three other guest ales, often including beers rarely seen in the area. There is one bag-in-the-box cider throughout the year with more in the summer months. Prices are modest.

We are pleased to celebrate the continuing excellence of this establishment that provides a home for Pepper the black and white pussycat, often seen in the bar.

The presentation will take place on Thursday 26 July so come and join us from 8.00pm. The pub is on the main A6 so is well served by public transport.

June's Pub of the Month
Griffin on Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey

Thursday, 28 June 2018

552 Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport SK4 3AJ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for June is the Griffin on Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey. Jim Flynn paid a visit and explains why it won.

The Griffin is something of a local institution but, and this is familiar refrain, it's had its ups and downs in recent years. It's certainly on an up at the moment though following the arrival of new licensee Sinead Hunt. This is Sinead's first pub, although she's been with Holts, including a spell as assistant manager of the Spread Eagle in Chorlton, since she started work.

Growing up in Withington, Sinead was familiar with the Griffin and knew it was a good pub with plenty of potential so, having successfully applied to run it, she took over last October. She says it was hard work at first but, now settled in, she is getting good feedback and trade is definitely on the up. If the quality of the beer is testimony to that.

The cask range comprises Holt's Bitter, Mild and Chorlton Pale Ale from the Holts-owned Horse & Jockey in Chorlton. The new chocolate stout from Holts has also been available. The Mild, reintroduced on cask by Sinead, is selling particularly well (“it's going down a treat” she tells us).

There's no food at the moment although this may well appear once a planned refurbishment, which will involve a general refresh of the decor and furnishings, has taken place.

There is however a quiz night on Thursdays and Sinead is also looking to start a darts team - so if you are interested in that why not drop in and have a word? On Saturday nights there's a DJ, which sometime includes karaoke. There are occasional acoustic nights in the week and Sinead is also looking to get some regular entertainment for Friday nights, too.

"You can't beat a happy pub" Sinead says and that certainly seems to be a recipe for success here. Yes, the Griffin is definitely on the up and well deserving of our Pub of the Month Award. Join us on the evening of 28 June when we make the presentation.

The pub is well-served by public transport – buses 23A, 370 and 42 are among the many services that will drop you close by.

May's Pub of the Month
Red Lion on Stockport Road in Cheadle

Thursday, 24 May 2018

83 Stockport Road, Cheadle, Stockport SK8 2AJ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for May is the Red Lion on Stockport Road in Cheadle. Darren Berry is a fan and explains why it won.

Originally a Bell & Co pub, the Red Lion was acquired by Robinsons in 1949. For some years Robinsons leased the pub and during this time it was extended and refurbished, both internally and externally. While it's now essentially open-plan the rambling interior still has plenty of cosy corners and separate areas and as such it is a popular community local.

Now run by Chris Reding and his hardworking team, the Red Lion is traditional in style with dark wooden panelling throughout. Toby jugs, old bottles and photos and the traditional fittings all add character. There are a few cosy little seating areas off the main room with welcoming open fires enjoyed by all in the winter months. A large patio area is located alongside the pub with additional heating for those cooler nights.

The beer range consists of three regulars, Dizzy Blonde, Unicorn and Wizard plus the Robinsons seasonal - all are well kept and very popular. Food is served seven days a week, with a carvery available on Sundays. The Red Lion hosts a weekly quiz there's live music three or four times a year. It's one of those pubs that seems to do everything well.

So why not join the local CAMRA branch, along with Chris and the team, to celebrate the award on Thursday 24 May and see for yourself why the Red Lion has been voted Pub of the Month?

Buses 11, 11A, 309, 310 and 312 currently will drop you off close to the pub.

April's Pub of the Month
Victoria on Wilmslow Road in Withington

Thursday, 26 April 2018

438 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester M20 3BW Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for April 2018 has been won by to the Victoria on Wilmslow Road in Withington, writes Jim Flynn.

This very busy, late 19th century pub with its period exterior and etched windows has been a Hydes house for 114 years. Over time the pub was opened out but the most recent refurbishment almost created separate rooms again, giving the pub a more intimate feel. At the rear is an attractive outdoor beer patio.

The excellence of any pub is measured by the quality of its fare and the warmth of the welcome. On these points the Victoria scores extremely highly under the guidance of Alyson and Paul Mitchell who arrived in late 2012. However, along with the excellence of the beer, the overriding feature of the pub is the remarkably friendly atmosphere they and their staff have created.

Their efforts have ensured that this is a pub which is very much at the heart of its community, attracting an eclectic mix of customers including families, pensioners, locals and more mature students. They hold quiz nights on Thursdays, have a DJ on Fridays and live bands on Saturdays. The Victoria won Hydes' Best Cask Cellar of the Year 2017, with seven different excellent cask ales at all times including beers from the Hydes portfolio and four or more guest beers, along with four traditional ciders. On a Monday to Thursday all cask beers are 10% off, with 1863 just £1.99 a pint on those days, so all bodes well for the presentation night.

Please join us in making the Pub of the Month Award to Alyson, Paul and their staff on Thursday, 26 April when, I'm sure, a really great night will be enjoyed by all. Don't miss it!

The pub is on one of the UK's busiest bus routes with, amongst others, the 41, 42, 43, 142 and 143 from the city centre and 42 from Stockport and 42A from Reddish and the Heatons passing the door.

March's Pub of the Month
Flying Coach on London Road in Hazel Grove

Thursday 22 March 2018

120 London Road, Hazel Grove, Stockport SK7 4DJ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for March is the Flying Coach on London Road in Hazel Grove. Bob Stukins is a fan and explains why it won.

The Flying Coach, formerly known as the Cock, is on the A6 very near to the ASDA supermarket in Hazel Grove. It is a pub that has been transformed , thanks in the main to Eddie Leigh and Ed Hampson (pictured below) who are passionate about their approach in how to run a pub.

In a chat with Eddie, he told me his vision was to make everyone welcome and to make people feel at home as if they were in their own front room. The starting point for any good pub is to look after the products that it sells, and I have to say that not only is the beer quality excellent (Robinsons at its best) but this extends to the food which includes a range of excellent pizzas.

The refurbishment of the pub, carried out by Robinsons, transformed the place and is a credit to all involved. The first noticeable thing is how light and airy the décor is whilst retaining the feel of a multi-room establishment, even though most of it is open plan. I was struck by how relaxing it was and even though the pub is situated so close to the busy A6, you just don't notice the road's proximity.

Entertainment is a regular feature with quizzes, open mic nights and, once a month, disco nights from Alan the Soleman, a local DJ. The pub caters for all tastes and is also dog-friendly. There is a really well designed, relaxing outdoor drinking area to the rear of the building - ideal for a drink on summer evenings.

It is refreshing in this day and age to come across a pub where you are not just treated as a source of revenue for the owners, but are truly made to feel welcome. The Flying Coach is one such pub that does this. Come and join us for the presentation which will be made on the evening of Thursday 22 March. The 192 bus will drop you close by.

February's Pub of the Month
James Watts on High Street in Cheadle

Thursday 22 February 2018

13 High Street, Cheadle, Stockport SK8 1AX Map

The Pub of the Month winner for February is the James Watts on High Street in Cheadle. Stuart Ballantyne tells you all about it.

Last year Hydes acknowledged that the Old Star had become somewhat tired and set about to transform the pub. It is now much more cask beer orientated, selling up to seven, two of which are usually from the Hydes stable. It also now sells a large range of European and world bottled beers with strengths typically ranging from 4.5% to 8.5% ABV.

Whilst the James Watts is primarily a beer pub it also sells a range of gins and wines which have increased its appeal to a different and wider clientele. Add to this the all-day food menu and you have a winning formula.

But none of this could have been achieved without the right person in charge. Landlady Liz Bennett took over the pub in February last year and its success has been guaranteed ever since. Existing staff Paul, Linda and Sairah were retained to provide a welcome continuity and friendliness for regular customers. The yellow lighting, traditional décour and distinctly different drinking areas gives the pub a warm and welcoming feel that is most appealing.

The James Watts has a safe and relaxing environment for its customers. Although the pub has not yet been open in its current guise for a year, its customers have already raised several hundred pounds for the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.

With reduced beer prices on Mondays and discounts for CAMRA members on Thursdays, a good deal is not difficult to find. So why not join us and the regulars on Thursday 22 February to present the Pub of the Month award to Liz and her staff?

January's Pub of the Month
Vale Cottage on Kirk Street in Gorton

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Kirk Street, Gorton, Manchester M18 8UE Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for January is the Vale Cottage on Kirk Street in Gorton. Dave Hanson is a regular visitor and explains why it won.

The Vale Cottage is often described as “the country pub in the city” but a better moniker would be the country pub absorbed by the city. Its roots can be traced back to a beer house in the 17th century, when Gorton was a pretty village an hour by horse and cart from Manchester. The route is supposedly an old salt road and passed the front door on Croft Bank. It's made up from three country cottages, with low ceilings and dark wooden beams still visible in the bar (please duck if over 6ft tall). A quote from some five years ago said, “The place has only had four landlords in a hundred years.” There have been a few changes since Enterprise Inns sold the pub, but Geoff McCabe returned in April 2017 and has already put his stamp on the Vale, even having a beer festival late September.

On the beer front, Timothy Taylor's Landlord, one of the Witches from Moorhouse's and a third guest are always in excellent condition. These are complemented by straightforward but handsomely portioned, keenly priced and beautifully presented home-made food. Such is the demand, the kitchen is currently being extended.

Amiable chat and gossip rule most of the time, with staff knowing many customers by name. Several groups meet there and the pub has its own darts team, but beware, they certainly have home advantage. The Champions Choice board is standard size and number layout, but has very thin double and trebles rings akin to a Manchester log end. If you come from God's Own Country (Yorkshire) it will be easy as their board is similar, except without the trebles! If you really must watch football on the telly, a screen is available, tucked away in the back room. On two nights of the week, Tuesday and Thursday, there is a quiz, so if you are coming along to the presentation on Tuesday 23 January bring along those ‘little grey cells'.

Finding this hidden gem can be tricky as it only really reveals itself over winter when the leaves fall off the trees. If stood on Hyde Road at the end of Far Lane (by the Waggon & Horses) look towards the Gorton Butterfly Garden (honest!) and the lights of the Vale Cottage should be visible through the trees. There is a useful pedestrian cutthrough (not shown on Google) running over Gore Brook straight to the front door. A number of buses can get you there, from some surprising areas, 203 and 7 from Stockport; 201, 204, 205 and 206 from Manchester; 169 from West Didsbury and 53 from Salford or Cheetham Hill. Ryder Brow station is not far away either.

December's Pub of the Month
18 Ladybrook, Fir Road, Bramhall

Thursday 28 December 2017

18 Fir Road, Bramhall, SK7 2NP Map

The Pub of the Month winner for December is the very large Ladybrook on Fir Road in Bramhall. Lawrence Devaney is a fan and explains why it's a deserving winner.

The Ladybrook is a traditional pub built to meet demand from a growing suburbia in the 1930s. Since current landlady Tracy Robinson took it over in November 2015, she has transformed the beer selection and connected with her customers on several levels, delivering the concept of a community pub.

Both Tracy and owners Greene King should be applauded for the 11 cask beer options available at this Cask Marque Pub of which three are usually from Greene King's own stable. Tracy looks for guidance from SIBA to inform her choice of cask ales, and, if not unique, the Ladybrook is special in frequently having two dark beers available even in the summer. The choice of beers is attracting a growing number of regulars whose own preferences Tracy is happy to reflect in the beers on offer. Expect to see Titanic, Rudgate and several more micro – breweries represented. There's a 10% CAMRA discount on cask beers so a pint comes in under £3. There is a selection of good keg beers and lagers available, as are speciality gins and rums.

There's a well laid out open bar area with a central space and two side wings. Both décor and layout were updated 2½ years ago whilst still retaining a traditional feel. Mixed table and seating options in the three loosely distinct sections provide comfort for drinkers and diners. The menu offers a good selection of quality meals with special deal options available. The Ladybrook is a popular football pub (not to everyone's delight) but one of the wings provides for a quieter area on match days. A completely separate 'vault' at the back has a pool table and its own bar.

Very importantly, the pub has welcomed various social gatherings and interest groups including an orchestra and a chess club, and is currently leading a campaign raising funds for a local street-based defibrillator. Join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award to Tracy and staff on Thursday night, 28 December. The pub is on the 378 bus route and is a three-minute walk from the Bramhall Green roundabout stop.

November's Pub of the Month
Reasons To Be Cheerful, 228 Fog Lane, Burnage

Thursday 23 November 2017

228 Fog Lane, Burnage M20 6EL Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for November is Reasons To Be Cheerful, a new micropub on 228 Fog Lane in Burnage. Margaret O'Brien interviewed Elena Rowe, one of the owners, and her reply really sums up why it won.

"We have been blown away by winning awards before we've been open a year, winning CAMRA Pub of the Month especially, because we love cask ale and we're obsessed with making sure it's kept well. We hope that winning those awards reflects how hard we've been working to make Reasons To Be Cheerful a great place to drink really great quality beer!

"We're completely independent, and that was one of the most important things to us when we were setting up. We're family owned and run, now with one other member of staff. Also, importantly, our lines are not tied to any suppliers or breweries so our selection is constantly changing and we are always on the lookout for new things. The diversity and quality of the beer is really important to us because that is what we like to see when we go to other pubs and bars. We were inspired by places like the Magnet, Café Beermoth and Heaton Hops. We looked at cafes and cosy coffee shops and living rooms to get something that didn't look or feel like a typical bar or micropub.

"I also want to mention how important the community aspect of it is to us. When we set up we knew we wanted to create a community hub, somewhere where everyone would feel welcome, and it's a pleasure to see that happen.

"We feel like we don't just run a bar. We make an effort to get to know our customers and provide a friendly, personal service. We want to make sure there is lots of buzz and energy about the bar and always something different going on here to attract new people and keep those we know coming back.

"We absolutely love running Reasons To Be Cheerful; every day is different but always a pleasure. We have made new friends and have been blown away by how supportive and friendly the people of Burnage and Didsbury are."

This is a very welcome addition to the South Manchester pub scene, in an area where pubs are thin on the ground. The award will be presented on Thursday 23 November from 8.00pm. Reasons to be Cheerful is close to Burnage Station and the 50 bus route.

October's Pub of the Month
Crown, Vale Close, Heaton Mersey

Thursday 26 October 2017

6 Vale Close, Heaton Mersey, Stockport SK4 3DS Map

By way of a contrast the Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for October is the Crown on Vale Close in Heaton Mersey. Peter Butler put the pub forward and here tells us why he's a fan.

A whitewashed, detached pub set in a conservation area, the Crown is one of the oldest pubs in Stockport, dating back some 400 years. Robinsons bought the pub in 1912 and it remains in their ownership today. For the past 10 years it has been run by experienced licensee Tom Gibbons (pictured below right), who had previously spent 30 years in the trade as a relief licensee. His sure and steady hand is very apparent at this well-run pub.

It is set back from the busy Didsbury Road and looks to have no front door – the entrance is round the side on the picturesque Vale Close, and in the summer months is resplendent with flowers and hanging baskets. Inside there's very much a country pub feel with a bar area to the right, nicely split up into two smaller areas, while to the left is a larger lounge-cum-dining room. Food is available every lunchtime (except Saturdays) but isn't allowed to dominate. The Crown is very much a pub with food and not the other way round.

Obviously there have been alterations over the years the pub retains its traditional feel with wooden beams and pew-style seating. The whole effect is cosy and welcoming.

On the bar there are four Robinsons' beers available – Wizard, Dizzy Blonde, Unicorn and the current seasonal. Quality is invariably high. All four will be enjoyed on the presentation night, Thursday 26 October, so do come and join us when we present Tom with his award.

The Crown is well served by buses – numbers 42, 42A, 23, 23A and 370 will drop you almost outside.

September's Pub of the Month
Petersgate Tap, 19a St Petersgate, Stockport

Thursday 21 September 2017

19a St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for September is the Petersgate Tap on St Petersgate in Stockport town centre. Dave Pennington tells you why.

A most welcome addition to the town centre's real ale scene, the Petersgate Tap, run by Alan and Chris Gent (pictured below), opened late September last year in the premises of an old betting shop and has been dispensing a wide variety of well-kept beers and ciders ever since.

Set on two floors, downstairs is a modern, minimalist, continental-style room with the bar on the left-hand side and recycled oak-topped tables amongst the seating. A growing display of artwork adds to the atmosphere and a variety of beer magazines is available to browse as you drink. Upstairs is a function room with table seating and comfortable settees.

Six handpumps are on the bar with Hawkshead's Windermere Pale being the house beer. A further five ever-changing beers from local, regional and national micro-breweries are available (regulars are from the premier league of modern cask breweries such as Titanic, Dark Star, Thornbridge and Abbeydale) with one or two pumps usually reserved for a stout or porter. In addition, there are four keg fonts including one dedicated for Hawkshead Lakeland lager. A recently introduced loyalty card scheme rewards nine purchased pints with a free tenth – this applies to both cask and keg beers.

A cider fridge containing three or four ciders and perries on rotation sits alongside an excellent selection of bottled and canned beers from around the world. A wide range of gins and wines is also available.

Recent successful innovations have been "pop-up" kitchens and live music including "open mic" nights.

The Petersgate Tap has been a welcome addition to the "Stockport Old Town" beer and pub scene bringing even more choice and variety to the area. We hope that you will be able to join us on Thursday 21 September from 8pm when we present this well-deserved award to Alan and Chris. The pub is on Petersgate at the junction with Etchells Street in the town centre.

August's Pub of the Month
Grove Alehouse, Hazel Grove, Stockport

Thursday 24 August 2017

145 London Road, Hazel Grove, Stockport SK7 4HH Map

The Pub of the Month for August is the Grove Alehouse at 145 London Road in Hazel Grove. John Clarke has been to visit.

Hazel Grove's first, and so far only, micropub opened its doors in December 2015 since when it has made steady progress in bringing additional variety to the local beer range. This has been a project by Kevin and Tina Clarke (no relation!) who had previously run the nearby Bird in Hand. Together with their son they carried out the work themselves using a good deal of recycled timber for many of the fittings (although the quality of the finish is such that you'd never know).

For many years the premises were well known as an outlet for Tittertons butchers although it was latterly a computer shop. Being a former shop, the size of the place is as modest as a good-sized living room. The layout is L-shaped with a bar in the right-hand quarter. A fixed-bench seat is along one side of the pub, while six tables and accompanying chairs make up the total furniture in there (albeit there are some barstools too). Beyond the bar, a corridor gives access to the toilet, and also a door to the smoking area out at the rear.

Five handpumps adorn the front of the bar, and boldly face the window enabling the customer to see the cask offering before anything else. They try and have a stout, a hoppy beer, and something less hoppy from a single brewer as much as choice will allow. As with many places these days, flights of third measures of three different ales can be bought. Three real ciders are also available.

During its relatively short life the Grove Alehouse has built up a loyal following of regulars and established its place in the local community. Join us on Thursday 24 August when we present this well-deserved award to Kevin and Tina. The pub is on the main road and is well-served by the 192 bus.

July's Pub of the Month
Church Inn - Cheadle Hulme, Stockport

Thursday 27 July 2017

90 Ravenoak Road, Cheadle Hulme, Stockport SK99 9NZ Map

John Sutcliffe writes that the Pub of the Month award for July 2017 will be given to the Church Inn, 90 Ravenoak Road in Cheadle Hulme.

This charming old pub has been in the Bromley family for about 40 years and is currently run by general ganager Ed Bromley – the third generation to be involved. The Church is noted for good food, with tried and tested favourites throughout the menu, but with an ever changing range of specials, served until 9.00pm. But of course it's not just about food.

The quality of the Robinsons beers is equally high with Unicorn, Dizzy Blonde, Wizard and one other changing beer from the range available. In the winter months a small cask of Old Tom can also be seen on the bar. The comfortable, oak panelled lounge bar and rear restaurant room have real fires in winter. There is also a well-used vault where the darts, dominoes and crib are often played. The building is unspoiled though small but good changes have been made like refurbishing the toilets and improvements to the garden.

There is plenty of room inside, a covered area with large screen TV at the rear and an extensive beer garden for if the weather is fine. There is a large car park on the opposite side of the roundabout at the junction with Ack Lane West and Church Road.

Our congratulations go to the Ed, his family and staff who maintain a very high standard of quality. We hope that you will join us on 27 July from 8.00pm; the presentation should take place around 9.00pm. Bus 313 runs hourly and returns to Stockport after 23.40. The 42B runs from Manchester via Parrs Wood, Didsbury (until 19.30 only). The pub is also a 15 minute walk from Cheadle Hulme Railway Station.

June's Pub of the Month
The Crown - Heaton Moor, Stockport

Thursday 29 June 2017

98-100 Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport SK4 4NZ Map

The Pub of the Month for June is the Crown on Heaton Moor Road. Dave Carter is a regular and here extols its virtues.

Since the turn of this century Heaton Moor has become quite an area for drinking and eating with new café-bars and a micropub opening at regular intervals during this time. However three pubs have remained constant. Two have gone down the food/drinks route but one, the Crown, has remained what it always has been, a local.

Entering the Crown the first thing you see in front of you see is a window. This gives you a chance to see any friends who may, or may not, be in the main bar. It also gives wives a chance to see recalcitrant husbands - or so the story goes. This window also takes the eyes off the door to the right which hides the pub's hidden gem: a snug room to which the word "bijou" fits perfectly. Completing the pub's layout are two further rooms, one a games/tap room and the other a smaller room off the main bar. Outside is a newly refurbished beer garden providing an excellent area for a summer's drink with B-B-Qs a regular occurrence.

Presiding over the Crown is mine host, Tony Robinson. Tony has been in the pub trade for over twelve years, the last two as leaseholder of the Crown. He is determined to keep the pub as a typical local. Decoration is kept to a tasteful minimum and the TVs in the pub are only on speaker when there are major sporting events taking place. The Crown has six handpumps dispensing generics such as Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and Greene King Speckled Hen, two permanent beers, Acorn's Barnsley Bitter and Salopian's Oracle, and two pumps rotating local brews. Tony has been awarded Cask Marque accreditation for the last three years, testimony to his well kept beer and lines.

So come along to this well run local on Thursday 29 June at 8.00pm for the presentation where Tony and his staff promise you a warm welcome. The pub is a short five minute walk from the A6 along Heaton Moor Road and slightly less from Heaton Chapel railway station. The 42A bus stops nearby.

May's Pub of the Month
The Hope Inn - Heaton Norris, Stockport

Thursday 25th May 2017

118 Wellington Rood North, Heaton Norris, Stockport SK4 2LL Map

The Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for May 2017 has been awarded to the Hope Inn, Wellington Rood North, Heaton Norris, writes Jim Flynn.

When the moribund Hope was bought by Martin and Samantha Wood in late 2012 so desperate was it that many thought they had committed financial suicide. How wrong these doubters were because with their transformation of the pub into a modern, easy on the eye pub for a relaxing drink, married with a range of excellent beers (it's a regular entry in the Good Beer Guide) the couple have hit on a winning formula. They have now successfully used at their second pub, the Spring Gardens in Marple Bridge.

There are two rooms, to left the vault, with a small games room to the rear, and a comfortable lounge with raised-seating area to the right. Throughout the décor is modern, but nevertheless warming, with attractive polished wood floors and brewery memorabilia on the walls.

The Hope offers 11 cask ales, usually six of which are brewed at its very own micro-brewery in the basement. The name 'Fool Hardy Ales' is a reference to the past history of the Hope which started life as a Hardys' Crown Ales house as is shown by the mosaic signage along the top of the pub. Martin describes his beer as 'cracking beer that sells itself' and such is demand he has taken on an assistant brewer, Katie Bromley. Also regularly on the bar is a beer from Bury's Outstanding Brewery along with changing ales from breweries across the country, foreign draught and bottled beers and a real cider.

So effective was the transformation that the Hope won the Stockport and South Manchester Pub of the Year award for 2014 but now we thought that it was high time that the continuing excellence and growth of the pub was recognised again. So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Martin, Samantha and their staff on Thursday, 25 May when, I am sure, a great night and great beer will be enjoyed by all.

The pub is on the 192 and 22 bus routes and less than half a mile from Stockport town centre.

April's Pub of the Month
The Blue Bell - Levenshulme, Manchester

Thursday 27th April 2017

170 Barlow Road, Levenshulme , Manchester, M19 3HF Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for April is the Blue Bell on Barlow Road in Levenshulme. Margaret O'Brien has been along.

The Blue Bell is an imposing pub tucked away a short walk from the A6, in Levenshulme. While Levenshulme is slowly recovering from its "real ale desert" role, the Blue Bell has been a cask ale outlet for some years now with well-kept Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter on handpump.

The pub is managed by Mark and Mary Dunn, who has worked for the Samuel Smiths for well over 20 years now. Not all Sam Smith's pubs sell cask beer and that was the case with the Blue Bell until Mark pushed the company to install cask beer seven years ago.

The pub itself is very smart, having undergone one of Sam Smiths classy refurbishments a few years back. On the right is a spacious vault and to the left three additional rooms - a large lounge with parquet wraps itself around the bar counter and off this is a smaller carpeted lounge and also a small snug.

It's really at the heart of the community with a variety of groups using the pub. Events are held to raise funds for community projects to improve local sites and walkways, there are other regular events, a quiz night, a knitting club and trips out. There's always a warm welcome from Mark, Mary and their staff.

This well deserved award will be presented on the night of Thursday 27 April. We hope to see a good crowd along to celebrate the success of a pub in an area where so many others have failed. It's easy to get to on the 192 - just walk down Cromwell Grove to its junction with Barlow Road and the pub is there on your right.

March's Pub of the Month
The Gateway - East Didsbury, Manchester

Thursday 23rd March 2017

882 Wilmslow Road, Manchester Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for March 2017 will be presented to the Gateway, East Didsbury. Jim Flynn tells you all about it.

Sited at the junction of Kingsway and Wilmslow Road, this large inter-wars roadhouse was struggling and so in mid-2011 Hydes Brewery sold it to Wetherspoons. However, all did not go well as the public saw insufficient reasons to cross the road from the leisure complex opposite. Indeed, for a while despite the obvious investment in new carpets, half-height wooden panelling, improved toilet facilities, exterior lighting and new kitchen facilities it looked like they might have bought a pup. However, they had an ace up their sleeve in the form of manager Kevin Muldoon.

Since he arrived, the public has responded and the pub is now vibrant and highly popular. It is often said by critics that many Wetherspoons do not feel like proper pubs but whatever the truth in this argument that can never be levelled against the Gateway under Kevin's tutelage. Both beer quality and service are excellent and like all good licensees Kevin knows his customers and his customers know him; this most definitely is a proper pub with a proper pub licensee! As a result, it is not just perceived as a prelude to a trip across the road to the cinema or bowling but as a destination in its own right.

Kevin is very interested in his beers and stocks many from local up-and-coming breweries and such is the quality that the pub has been a regular in the Good Beer Guide since 2014. The house beer is from Brightside and a good real cider is always available.

So why not join us when the Pub of the Month Award will be presented to Kevin and his hard-working staff on Thursday, 23rd March from 8pm onwards. Don't miss it!

The pub is on one of the UK's busiest bus corridors with amongst others the 50, 142, 42, 42A, 42B, 45 and 142 from the city centre, 42, 370, 23 and 23A from Stockport, 42A from Reddish and the Heatons, 44 and 130 from Cheadle and beyond, finally the 42B from Bramhall and Woodford. Rail services on the Piccadilly/Airport line stop at East Didsbury and East Didsbury Metrolink stop is also close by.

February's Pub of the Month
The Mounting Stone - Stockport

Thursday 23rd February 2017

8 Woodford Road, Bramhall, Stockport, SK7 1JJ Map

The Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for February 2017 is the Mounting Stone in Bramhall Village. John Sutcliffe has followed the history from the first proposal and tells the story.

Bob and Mary Ellis and Andrew O'Shea, having been successful with the Chiverton Tap in Cheadle Hulme, decided to open a similar micro-pub in Bramhall. It is only one shop front wide but goes back quite far and is on two floors, having a basement drinking area that gives a view of the cellar, below the ground floor bar area. There is also a small outdoor seating area at the rear. The pub is on the site of a blacksmiths or farriers. The stone referred to was for mounting horses and is still to be found further up the road towards Woodford. Craftsmen's tools on the timber boarded walls provide an interesting interior theme and hint at the history of the site.

Drinks are from local suppliers as far as possible. With six well-kept real ales, two from Bollington Brewery and four others, one of which is usually a stout or porter, there is always an excellent choice but there are also keg beers, an extensive range of wines and spirits, and a real draught cider. Andrew and his wife's cousin Dan came from the Chiverton in June 2016 and are aided by a team of young, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff who always give a friendly welcome. They sell pies but customers are invited to bring in their own food. Another innovative service is offered on a telephone app: 'Deliveroo' who will, for a modest charge, deliver food or alcohol to your door, including draught beers in two- or four- pint containers.

So come along on 23rd February from 8.00 p.m. onward for the presentation around 9.00 p.m.

The Mounting Stone is at 8 Woodford Road, SK7 2JJ just beyond the traffic island. Telephone 0161 439 7563. It is 10 minute walk from Bramhall Station along Bramhall Lane South and buses from Cheadle/Cheadle Hulme and Stockport will drop you in Bramhall Village.

January's Pub of the Month
Remedy Bar and Brewhouse - Stockport

T U E S D A Y 31st January 2017

10-11 Market Place, Stockport, SK1 1EW Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for January 2017 is the Remedy Bar and Brewhouse on Stockport's Market Place.

Owned by Simon Wells and managed by Neil Butes, Remedy Bar and Brewhouse is a welcome addition to Stockport's reviving Old Town area. It's a stylish conversion of two modern shop units in the historic Market Place which has bedded in well since it opened almost a year ago.

The bar is at the rear but part of the former dividing wall between the units remains in situ to break up the quite large interior and so prevent everything being that bit too open-plan. The decor is loosely steampunk-inspired with exposed pipes and ducts, mix-and-match furniture, and bare light bulbs. The floor around the bar is an eye-catching mosaic made of one penny coins.

Simon is also co-owner of a brewery installation business so Remedy also acts as a showcase for the smaller pub breweries that his firm will install. The small 200-litre kit can be seen behind a glass wall and while brewing has so far been irregular this is expected to step up with the arrival of a permanent brewer in the near future. At the moment there is a changing range of half a dozen cask beers supplemented by some interesting kegs and bottles. As you might expect there is also an impressive food offer to soak up all that beer.

Join us on Tuesday 31st from 8pm onwards when we present this well-deserved award. Please note the change from the usual Thursday as this month the presentation has been moved to avoid clashing with the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival.

December's Pub of the Month - Crown
Great Moor, Stockport

Thursday 29th December 2016

416 Buxton Road, Great Moor, Stockport SK2 7JQ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for December 2016 is the Crown in Great Moor. Jim Beeson is a regular there.

There has been a pub on this site on the A6 since the old days of coaching, when there were stables for the coach horses at the back. Stockport Council has recognised its iconic status by including an image of the pub on the location signs at the Northern and Southern boundaries of Great Moor.

It has enjoyed a succession of good licensees over the years, the names Pete Flaherty, Diane and Francis McDonald (who obtained the Pub of the Month award in 2005), and Dennis Davies come to mind. The pub is currently in the safe hands of Mark Taylor, who together with his partner Sharon has been running it for the last three years.

Mark has continued and enhanced the reputation of the Crown as a first-rate community pub which can be relied on to provide a good range of beers. Live sport from Sky Sports and BT Sport is available, and high quality karaoke and live music are a regular feature at weekends. Darts and pool are available in a separate sports room, and the pub is regularly booked for family events such as birthdays. The upstairs function room is available for other events, and is a regular venue for CAMRA Branch Meetings.

The most noticeable change since Mark took over is the increased visibility of the cask beer range. The original five handpumps have increased to six, and have been re-arranged so that they now occupy the most prominent place on the bar, leaving one in no doubt as to which cask beers are available. Normally there are never less than four handpumps in action, the current "core" range being Unicorn, Wizard, Cumbria Way, and the Seasonal, while Double Hop has recently also been regularly available. All six pumps can be in action at busy times. Most importantly, the beer quality is also impressive, to the extent that the Crown has qualified as a Robinsons "Perfect Pint Zone", and proudly displays a banner proclaiming this over the front door.

You can sample these excellent beers on the Presentation Night on Thursday 29th December, which promises to be a great night!

November's Pub of the Month - Ye Olde Cock
Didsbury, Manchester

Thursday 24th November 2016

848 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 2RN Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for November 2016 has been won by Ye Olde Cock on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury. Stuart Ballantyne explains why it won.

Over the last few years there has been a quiet revolution happening at the Olde Cock. In Manchester Metropolitan University's infinite wisdom it decided to close the student halls of residences that surround the pub. The result was a collapse in trade. So what do you do? The answer is that you employ a knight in shining armour to build up the trade again.

Enter Tony Wadeson, a licensee on a mission. Tony set about introducing quality cask conditioned ales. He revamped the food menu by introducing a great range of dishes together with some unusual one-off snacks. Does anyone fancy the beer jelly or a dish from the beer and meat menu? He employs quality chefs and has a team of cellar staff to ensure that the beer that is served is always in the very best of condition. Tony has made sure that the people he employs are friendly and customer focused ensuring that customers return to the Olde Cock over and over again.

In difficult economic times some pubs have been struggling. Not so the Old Cock which has seen a steady year-on-year growth in sales over the last five years with cask beer sales growing by more than 50%. On that basis the beer served must be good otherwise people would not drink it. With up to six cask beers and at least three craft keg beers on sale where can you possibly go wrong?

Tony and his staff have put in a huge amount of effort to support and grow the trade of the pub in very challenging circumstances. Quality has remained high throughout and so it is fitting that their efforts are rewarded. So why not join the CAMRA group and the regulars at the Olde Cock for the presentation evening? The Pub of the Month award will be presented to Tony and his team on Thursday 24th November. If you are a CAMRA member don't forget to show your membership card to receive a discount on the price of your beer. If you are not a CAMRA member have you considered joining?

October's Pub of the Month - The Blossoms
Heaviley, Stockport

Thursday 27th October 2016

2 Buxton Road, Heaviley, Stockport SK2 6NU   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for October 2016 has been won by the Blossoms on Buxton Road, HeavileyStockport SK2 6NU  (Map). Jim Flynn has been along.

It could be said that at this time the Blossoms doesn't need any more publicity. The local indie band named after the pub topped the official album charts over the summer and the pub was in the papers for selling a unique beer named after the band's first successful single, 'Charlemagne'. However, never let it be said that CAMRA is jumping on the bandwagon, Geraint 'Jerry' Evans and his team thoroughly deserve the accolade of Pub of the Month.

This historic 18th century coaching house (there is reputedly an escape tunnel leading from Bramall Hall to the pub) was designated by Robinsons as one of their 'Ale Shrines' after its makeover in 2012 and it now sells almost the full range of Robinsons cask beers including Old Tom all the year around (Charlemagne may have been discontinued by the time of the presentation). There was always the danger however that being designated as such might result in an elitist focus on the beer but as well as keeping all his beers in top condition Jerry has ensured that the longstanding welcoming, community nature of the pub has not only been maintained but really enhanced. From lunchtime meals to quiz nights to knitting circles to music sessions the pub has it all and Jerry must be applauded for the achievement.

Stopfordian Jerry has, as he puts it 'progressed through the ranks' at the Blossoms from bar staff to assistant manager to landlord in November 2014 and his commitment and dedication to the pub is there for all to see. So to join us to celebrate the award to this colourful character (at the time of writing his hair is all colours of the rainbow!) and his staff on Thursday, 27th October when I'm sure there will be great beer and a warm welcome.

The pub is on the 192 bus route down the A6 and the 309/310/378 routes down Bramhall Lane, so there is absolutely no excuse to miss this night!

September's Pub of the Month - The Railway
Heaton Norris, Stockport

Thursday 22nd September 2016

74 - 76 Wellington Road North SK4 1HF   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for September 2016 is the Railway on Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris (map). John Clarke explains why it won.

The Railway has had various owners over the years. Both Wilsons and Greenall Whitley have vanished into history. Punch Taverns may be still with us but has been beset by well-documented difficulties. One way out of those difficulties was to sell off numerous pubs - and one of those was the Railway which was purchased by Ray and Pam Ford. Since then it's not looked back.

Now a true free house the Railway has Holt's Bitter as its permanent beer and this is accompanied by up to four changing guests. Very often these are new and unusual finds for the area as Ray has developed a talent for sourcing obscure beers from around the country. The pub's place in the national Good Beer Guide testifies to the quality of the beer.

But the Railway has more strings to its bow then just beer (important though that it). There's its enviable reputation for live music for one thing. Live jazz is a speciality but this is supplemented by other live music nights and the rockabilly weekends have seen the pub drunk dry of draught beers and lagers. The bulging trophy shelf also pays tribute to successes of the large number of teams based here. There's a pool team, a quiz team and no fewer than six darts teams (including two in the Super League).

The pub is also undergoing extensive building work, mainly concentrated upstairs where years of neglect under previous owners are being put right. Downstairs there are three well-appointed rooms - at the back is a substantial games room while at the front are two comfortable lounges with that on the right often used for darts and music.

This well deserved award will be presented on Thursday 22nd September and will effectively launch Stockport Beer Week. Come and join CAMRA for what will be a great night out.

August's Pub of the Month - The White Hart,
Cheadle, Stockport

Thursday Thursday 25th August 2016

High Street, Cheadle, SK8 1PX   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for August 2016 is the White Hart in Cheadle (map). Alan Gent and Matthew Thompson are fans.

The White Hart stands proudly at one end of Cheadle High Street, next to St Mary's church, representing the historic - and iconic - heart of the village. It was originally a coaching inn, but few would argue with the fact that the pub's heyday was as a Boddingtons's pub, when it was well nigh impossible to get through the door on a Friday or a Saturday night- and that was selling one beer, not 14!

Since then the pub has had a chequered life, passing through the hands of a succession of owners, often of little benefit, to either the pub or its clientele. Now, however, the most recent transfer of ownership from the now defunct Spirit Group to (whisper it) Greene King, seems to be reaping benefits. Greene King undertook a sympathetic makeover, keeping the dark wood panelling and fireplaces, but introducing a clean, fresh look with new floor coverings, some bright tiling, and new furniture There are televisions, but usually with the sound turned down and it's possible to find a seat where they can't be seen if sport isn't your thing.

Food features throughout the day, but the biggest - and best - change has been on the beer front Although two beers on the bar must always be Greene King, the remaining four can be guest beers, most of which are drawn from the SIBA list. When we called in, this included two from Brightside Brewery and, praise be, a very drinkable Tetley Bitter. There is also a house beer brewed by Greene King. There's a nod to the current craft boom with Hop13 and Punk IPA on keg fonts and a small selection of craft beer (Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn, Meantime, BrewDog) and Belgian beer in the fridge.

So, plenty to enjoy, why not pop down on Thursday 25th and show your appreciation to Matt Jones and his team. Buses 11, 11A, 310, 309 and X57 will all drop you nearby.

July's Pub of the Month - The Moortop

Thursday Thursday 28th July2016

172 Heaton Moor Road, Stockport SK4 4DU   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for July 2016 has been won by the Moortop on Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor (map). Sue Lightfoot explains why it won.

The Moortop was taken over by Steve Pilling - of Damson, Heaton Mersey and Media City, and the Dockyard brand - in July 2015. Until then, real ale was non-existent in this part of the Heatons. The lines were sorted out and decent beer put on, the three pumps being increased to five over time, with the possibility of another in due course.

Tied to Greene King, the Moortop has a best bitter as staple - called Moor Top- and at 3.9% it is a pleasant session ale. The pub's policy with the other pumps is to promote and support Manchester and Stockport beers as well as those from 'outside'. The management and staff are proud of the cellar and have worked hard to ensure beer quality and choice. A flight of thirds is £4 and tasters are readily offered.

Gradually food was introduced and the menu, served from 12 noon until 8.00pm, has expanded. The pies and pizzas are made in-house and are of very good quality, as are the burgers, platters and salads. A very reasonably-priced Sunday lunch is available and there are offers -two pizzas for £10, or a free pint for Dad on Father's Day, for example. A new head chef has recently been appointed and we await developments with interest.

The interior is spacious and comfortable and the pub is dog-friendly, while outside there is a comfortable seating area. Often there is live music at the weekend and there is a weekly quiz night.

Fans of Social Media can find the Moortop on Twitter and Facebook; comments are welcomed as there is a real commitment to making this pub the best in the area. Join us on the evening of Thursday 28th July when we present this well-deserved awad.

You'll find the pub opposite the Savoy Cinema and it can be reached by buses 22, 42A, 84 and 197.

June's Pub of the Month - Heaton Hops, Heaton Chapel

Thursday 30th June 2016

7 School Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport SK4 5DE   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for June 2016 has been won by Heaton Hops on School Lane in Heaton Chapel (map) writes Jim Flynn.

It could be said that this award has been late in coming as Heaton Hops has already won City Life Greater Manchester Best Pub award for 2015, but we in CAMRA like to be sure that a new venture has legs before we award a gong. Perhaps here, though, we were somewhat tardy given the stellar success of this bar opened by Damien O'Shea (the 'Aleman') and his partner Charlotte in April last year. They clearly knew the area was ready for such an innovative project having run a stall selling their interesting range of bottled beers at the monthly Heaton Moor market and found a great thirst for new beers. These bottled beers are still very much part of their business.

Heaton Hops, based in converted shop premises with just two small rooms (the second is downstairs) and an outside drinking area, is an intimate but hospitable place to have a drink. Along with the bottled beers from the UK and around the world there are two changing cask beers, traditional cider and keg beers. The aim is to promote local beers as far as possible although not to the exclusion of high quality products from around the country. CAMRA members are especially welcome with a 10% discount offered on all purchases.

To say that the place has captured the imagination of local drinkers is an understatement with the place packed out almost every night (don't go on Mondays though as it's shut). Get there early to join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Damian, Charlotte and their staff on Thursday 30th June when I'm sure there will be great beer and a convivial welcome.

The pub is on the 329 and 84 bus routes, the 192 stops nearby and Heaton Chapel train station is only 5 or 6 minutes away, so there is no excuse to miss the night.

May's Pub of the Month - Wine & Wallop, West Didsbury

Thursday 26th May 2016

Wine & Wallop on Lapwing Lane in West Didsbury map

The Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for May 2016 is Wine & Wallop on Lapwing Lane in West Didsbury (map). Margaret O'Brien is a fan…

This comfortable conversion of a former Blockbuster store opened in September 2014 as a new venture by Justin Parkinson, owner of Folk Café Bar on Burton Road. It is run on a day to basis by Dan English and Guy Potter.

Wine & Wallop is perhaps aimed at a more mature audience than Folk and seems designed for the leisurely appreciation of the range of ales and wines on offer. It is spread over two floors with the upper floor being one for relaxation on one of the sofas while you take in the easy-going atmosphere. There is also a mezzanine balcony where you can gaze down on the proceedings below.

Downstairs on the ground floor you'll find the bar which is notably well stocked with wines as well as featuring an impressive 13 handpumps. In the 18 months or so since opening the customers have really taken to the cask beers and there are usually eight available with an emphasis on local producers such as Brewsmith and Brightside. CAMRA members get a discount of 40p a pint, too.

There are also plans to establish their own brewery and indeed joint manager Guy has already test brewed some beers at Brightside Brewery in Bury.

There's no hot food but plates of cheese, pâté and charcuterie are available to accompany your drinks.

The West Didsbury beer scene has really taken off in the past year of so but Wine & Wallop was arguably one of the pioneers and continues to be run with passion and enthusiasm. Join us when we celebrate this success on Thursday 26th May from 8.00pm. It's a short walk from several bus routes (23, 23A, 41) and is across the road from West Didsbury Metrolink stop.

April's Pub of the Month - Fred's Ale House, Levenshulme

Thursday st April 2016

Sun & Castle, on Middle Hillgate, Stockport   Map

The Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for April 2016 is Fred's Ale House on Stockport Road in Levenshulme (map). Margaret O'Brien is a fan…

For a long time real ale was thin on the ground in Levenshulme – many pubs closed down and few of those that remained offered anything but keg beers. That was particularly the case with those pubs on the main road that divides this inner city village into two.

Fred's Ale House, which opened at the end of January last year, bucked that dismal trend and from the start offered a choice of cask beers – and traditional cider as well. There are no fewer than six cask beers available with Thwaites Wainwright the regular and five changing guests. There's real commitment to cask here with a special £2 per pint promotion on selected ales from noon until 4.00pm Monday to Wednesday and from noon until close on Thursdays. CAMRA members get a 30p discount, too.

Fred's operates over three floors and hosts numerous events including live music, quiz nights, comedy nights and there's even a board games competition on Sundays. Not only that, but the bar also operates as an art gallery, often displaying the works of local artists. If you want a bite to eat then Fred's offers pies (from Life of Pie), panini, sandwiches, cakes and pastries. Coffee comes from the Ancoats Coffee Company and is first class.

All of this is overseen by manager Mike Nuttall and his staff who work hard to make sure all of their customers, both old and new, get a warm welcome. Join us when we present our award on the evening of Thursday 20th April. The pub is near the junction of Albert Road so it's just a short walk from Levenshulme Station and of course Stockport Road is well served by the 192 bus.

March's Pub of the Month - The Sun & Castle, Hillgate, Stockport

Thursday 31st March 2016

Sun & Castle, on Middle Hillgate, Stockport   Map

The Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for March 2016 is the Sun & Castle, on Middle Hillgate, Stockport (map). Opening Times Editor John Clarke dropped in.

Landlady Veronica Bell (known to everyone as Ronnie) says that her pub is something of a contrast between inside and out. She's right. From the outside it can look a little forbidding - not helped by the very shabby sign which owners Joseph Holt really ought to do something about - but walk through the doors and you're in a warm and friendly local.

Holts haven't always owned the Sun & Castle, for many years it was a Tetley pub, and for a lot of those sold no cask beer. Holts are also responsible for replacing most of the original inter-war fittings with a mock Victorian interior and for once this really seems to fit the bill with pride of place going to a spectacular 1890s bar back.

So what you have now is a warm interior with lots of dark wood plus red, brown and cream fixtures and fittings adding up to a classic "traditional pub" feel. To the right is a cosy lounge and behind that bigger rambling room complete with a small stage. To the left is a spacious and well used vault.

Ronnie and her husband Harry have been there on and off for most of the last 16 years. Four years ago she retired and was tempted back for six weeks - and it still there! She has been in the trade for over 30 years and seems to have spent most of those on Hillgate as before coming to the Sun & Castle she had lengthy spells at the now closed Golden Lion and Pack Horse. Harry looks after the cellar - the cask beers are Holts Bitter and the current seasonal - to such good effect that he's entered in this year's Best Kept Cellar competition being run by Holts.

So come and join us on the evening Thursday 31st when we present Ronnie, Harry - and their hardworking staff - with this very well deserved award.

February's Pub of the Month - The Chiverton Tap, Cheadle Hulme

Thursday 25th February 2016

8 Mellor Road, Cheadle Hulme, Stockport SK8 5AU   Map

The Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for February 2016 is The Chiverton Tap. John Sutcliffe, who has lived for over 70 years in Cheadle Hulme, describes this interesting new development in the village, on Mellor Road (map).

The Chiverton Tap was opened in May 2015 by like minded local residents who are passionate about their real cask beer, draught cider, perry and good bottled beers and wines. The three partners Bob Ellis, Mary Ellis and Andrew O'Shea, aimed to offer warm hospitality coupled with high quality drinks and simple bar snacks in convivial surroundings. Undoubtedly they have been enormously successful in achieving their stated aim of welcoming customers, inviting them to share some good times and create fond memories.

The original proprietor of the building was Arthur Chiverton whose name is in the mosaic step at the central doorway into the pub. The premises has been many things down the years but was originally a drapers and milliners, and this theme has been carried through the interior décor. As you sit and relax you constantly notice some new, slightly quirky feature. There is a large, vertical yellow tape measure near the shop window. This motif is continued in the shelf edges behind the bar that are edged with standard size, white dressmaker's tapes. Note also the light fittings over the bar and elsewhere in the room, formed from bottles with the bases removed. The front of bar has recessed displays of old cotton reels and items associated with the drapery trade.

Furniture is an eclectic mix of dissimilar chairs and tables from all periods from the 1930s through to the 1980s. There is a booth enclosing an area, while other parts of the room have a variety of groupings so that there is the traditional feature of intimate and semi-private spaces but overlapping in a friendly way that allows for easy intermingling if desired. A blackboard gives information about the beers on offer, usually six on handpumps. A notice at the end of the bar offers Titterton's pies with mustard or chutney.

So why not squeeze in on Thursday, 25th of February, when the presentation will be made. We normally gather from around 8.00pm in the evening, with the presentation about 9.00pm. Mellor Road is opposite the front of the railway station. The 313 and X57 buses stop on Station Road or the train takes five minutes from Stockport.

January's Pub of the Month - Grove, Clayton

Thursday 28th January

652 Ashton New Road, Clayton, Manchester, M11 4SQ   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for January 2016 has been won by the Grove, Ashton New Road in Clayton (map). Jim Flynn reports.

If, in these days of micro pubs and multi-beer ale shrines, you are not sure what a genuine street corner community local looks like, and why such pubs are so important to the fabric of many communities, you need look no further than the Grove in Clayton. This classic multi-roomed Holts pub, oozing with history (note the war memorial on the wall) is an oasis in a pub and cask beer desert; it's nearly two miles from the city centre and this is the first pub you will come across! The licensee, Sandra Billings has worked diligently to enhance the community spirit in the pub and her efforts are clearly paying off as it is very much at the heart of social life for many in Clayton. Sandra has been behind the bar in pubs from Sheffield to Middleton and her experience certainly shines through.

Towering over Clayton is Manchester City's Etihad Stadium complex and while the Grove is a great watering hole for cask beer loving fans on match days Sandra is very keen to ensure that fans of both all teams and none are welcome. On one of the walls of the vault is a football montage with badges from numerous teams from across the country (disappointingly nothing from Port Vale...) {Webmaster: This was corrected in time for the presentation!} and in the newly renovated outside drinking area there are City and United walls.

The all-important beers are Holts Bitter and the seasonal and Sandra ensures these are on good form. So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Sandra and her staff on Thursday, 28th January when I'm sure we will all be given a real East Manchester welcome by these very friendly people.

The pub is on the 216, 217, 231 bus routes (the 53 also stops nearby) but your best mode of transport may well be by tram as the pub is very conveniently next door to Clayton Hall tram stop on Ashton Metrolink line from Piccadilly.

Webmaster - read more about the Grove in 1984 (page 8) and 2004 (page 9) of the July 2004 back issure of Opening Times.

December's Pub of the Month - Governors House, Cheadle Hulme

Tuesday 29th December

43 Ravenoak Road, Cheadle Hulme, Stockport SK8 7EQ   Map

The Stockport and South Manchester Branch of CAMRA has voted the Governors House, 43 Ravenoak Road, Cheadle Hulme, Stockport SK8 7EQ as its Pub of the Month for December 2015. Local Cheadle Hulme Ale Person and long-time resident Chris Walkden reports.

The Governors House premises date from 1882; originally called the Ravenoak Hotel, the name was changed to the Oakley Manor in the 1980s. In 1998, Nottingham brewery Hardys & Hansons bought the place, renamed it and converted it to a cosy, multi-room modern pub with cask ale. In 2006, the brewery was taken over by Greene King and it became part of their sprawling estate. For the next eight years, the place trundled along under a number of managers, flirting with guest beers from time to time.

Enter new managers Liam and Michaela Ward in October 2014, fresh from running a wine bar in Knutsford. Liam immediately spotted an opportunity to improve the cask offering to give a wider range of styles and tastes, so three additional handpumps were installed, meaning eight good quality beers are now on offer at busy times. Beers are sourced from the SIBA list and several local breweries' products will be found on the bar; in fact Cryptic have now started to supply their Tip of the Tongue bitter as a regular. Greene King offerings often include their experimental one-off beers.

Liam is grateful for the advice and assistance that has come from other GK pubs such as the Taps in Lytham and the Freshfield in Formby. To promote local breweries, a regular meet the brewer evening has been introduced on the first Wednesday of each month and a beer festival was held during National Cask Ale Week. This pro-cask policy has paid off, bringing in many new faces, and cask sales are up over 50% in the last 12 months. Good value food is served all day and nine en-suite bedrooms are available.

So why not come and join the celebrations with Liam, Michaela, Sam, Jamie and the 15-strong team on Tuesday 29th December from 8pm? What better way to beat those post-Christmas blues - and get your Winter Warmer Wander sticker too! The 313 bus from Stockport and X57 from East Didsbury will drop you outside (but check the Christmas timetable) or it's only a 10 minute walk from Cheadle Hulme railway station. You never know, you might enjoy yourself so much that you stay the night!

November's Pub of the Month - The Crown, Cheadle

Thursday 26th November 2015

81 High Street, Cheadle, Stockport SK8 1AA   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for November is the Crown, 81 High Street, Cheadle. Stuart Ballantyne reports.

This month the Pub of the Month award goes to one of the best local pubs in the area, the Crown Inn on Cheadle High Street. The Crown sells up to seven hand pulled beers, which include offerings from Hydes' Beer Studio and two guests which have recently included beers from Batemans, Jennings, Adnams and Wychwood. The beers sold are always in excellent condition which is down to both attention to detail in the cellar and a regular turnover. Good value lunches are also served every day apart from Mondays.

The Crown has the outside appearance of a small shop, however inside the pub opens out at the back into a larger 'L shaped' lounge with a pleasant smoking area outside. The pub is spotlessly clean and is decorated with subdued Victorian style lighting and plenty of mahogany period furnishings. Around the walls are some fascinating photographs of Victorian Cheadle and the surrounding area.

The person behind the success of the Crown is Karen Williams who has now been the licensee there for ten years; eight as a tenant and two as a manager. So successful has her tenure become that turnover has steadily increased with some customers travelling some distance to be regulars (one man travels all the way from Denton to frequent the Crown).

The Crown Inn is a warm and welcoming pub that sells a range of good local and national beers in a clean, friendly and safe environment. What better excuse do you need to join Karen and the local CAMRA group to celebrate with us the presentation of the Pub of the Month award to Karen and her staff? The presentation will take place on Thursday 26th November from about 8:00pm.

October's Pub of the Month - The Railway

Thursday 22nd October 2015

1 Auenue Street, Portwood, Stockport SK1 2BZ (Map)

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for October is the Railway on Avenue Street, Portwood. Mike Gilroy goes there a lot.

Since 2008 Sue and Vince Mathers have been working hard to keep the Railway on the map. Between them and their team of knowledgeable bar staff they have done a great job.

The Railway is situated opposite The Peel Centre on Portwood and looks like an average street corner pub (and as our picture shows there is currently no name outside). However, upon entering it is apparent this is not the case.

On the bar there are ten hand pulled ales permanently available from breweries such as Outstanding, Moorhouses, Rossendale and Thornbridge to name but a few. In addition there's a rotating guest mild and an additional is available at the weekend. With an array of German, Belgian and other world beers available by the bottle and on draught there is something for everyone. A real cider and perry can always be found (via Merrylegs), along with a great choice of bottled cider. Indeed, the Railway is Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA branch's cider pub of the year (and not for the first time).

The pub has a warm and friendly atmosphere and can get very busy at times - it has the feel of, and indeed is, a proper community local. The bar billiards table is well used and is great fun. There is a model railway that runs above the bar, if you ask Sue or Vince nicely enough they may start it up for you to see. On every other Sunday there's a pub quiz and there are regular music nights and acoustic jam sessions. Notices around the pub say who is playing and when.

In the past Sue and Vince have held several successful beer festivals and cider festivals, while tutored cider tastings are starting to become a feature on the pub's calendar.

So why not come and join Sue, Vince and the staff on Thursday 22nd October when we present this latest addition to the Railway's award collection.

September's Pub of the Month - The Spinning Top

Thursday 24th September 2015

20 Wellington Road South, Stockport SK4 1AA   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for July is the Spinning Top on Wellington Road South in the town centre. John Clarke paid a visit.

Occupying part of the Garrick Theatre building, the Spinning Top is one of Stockport's newest bars. It's also one of the most appealing as what is essentially one large room exudes a particular warmth and character. For many years these premises have been occupied by a variety of restaurants, of varying degrees of quality, but it's newest, and arguably best, incarnation is the project of Mike Swann and Duncan Lanser who opened for business in September last year.

It's comfortably furnished with sofas and low tables at the front (great for people watching on the road outside) while there are more conventional tables and chairs elsewhere. At one end there's a small stage area which is used for popular live music nights and the weekly comedy club. On two of the walls is some striking three-dimensional artwork by local artist Rob Shaw which adds to the appeal.

Mike acts a mine host and being a Devon man has made sure that alongside the beers, traditional cider (and sometimes perry) is available too (he was born opposite a famous cider pub in Newton Abbot). As for the beers - well there are three cask ales on handpump (including a house beer from Tatton Brewery), with an emphasis on local brews, the occasional craft keg and a very interesting selection of bottled beers. It's a well thought out selection with something for everyone.

Home-made food is available all day and includes pub staples, sandwiches, home-made soup and cakes. Soft drinks, tea and coffee are readily available too. The presentation will be made on the evening of Thursday 24th and this event will also mark the public launch of Stockport Beer Week. Everyone is welcome to join our celebrations.

August's Pub of the Month - The Beer Shop

Thursday 27th August 2015

13 Kingsleigh Road, Heaton Mersey Stockport SK4 3QF   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for August is the Beer Shop on 13 Kingsleigh Road, Heaton Mersey. John Clarke paid a visit.

Dean Hilton has been, running the Beer Shop on Kingsleigh Road since November 2011. His background is in IT but as he moved into retirement he sought something that would not only occupy his time but could be combined with his long-time interest in good beer. He's been a member of CAMRA since the early 1970s, although his interest in beer doesn't stop with the UK.

However the Beer Shop has turned into more than a full-time hobby. While it's situated in a row of shops in a tucked away position the business is thriving with a 30 per cent year on year increase in sales.

A one room affair, with a bar at the back, shelves of bottles to the left and fridges to the right, the Beer Shop is a convivial place to have a drink. The red walls add a warm touch and there's plenty of seating (pus a big screen TV for major events). Cask beer is a major feature with between four and six available (and the useful website at www.ukbeershop.com will keep you up to date with what is on tap). These can either be drunk on site or taken away in three, five, ten and twenty litre bag-in-box containers.

While the cask beers are mainly local-ish, the bottled range features not only local offerings but also those from further afield in the UK as well as choice offerings from overseas. There is a notably good range from the two great European brewing nations of Belgium and Germany (including sour lambics from the former and smoked ales from the latter), while craft beers from the USA also feature.

The Beer Shop isn't in a location where good beer is thick on the ground - it's something of an oasis in the desert so come and join us on Thursday 27th August when we present this well deserved award. Buses 22 and 197 will drop you nearby from both the Stockport and Manchester directions.

July's Pub of the Month - The Old Monkey

Thursday 23rd July 2015

90-92 Portland Street, Manchester M1 4GX   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for July is the Old Monkey on Portland Street in Manchester city centre. Mark McConachie paid a visit.

The Old Monkey was brewer Joseph Holt's first ever new-build house in the city. Built on the site of the Queens Arms beer house, it opened in 1993 to great acclaim. The current success of the pub is down to licensee, Stacy Saunders who arrived in early 2014 after a stint at the Ape & Apple. She is a woman with great ideas that have been brought to fruition in the pub; her friendliness, bubbly personality and charm really come through.

Set on two floors where the downstairs is seldom anything less than abuzz with custom and is definitely the main engine of trade it is popular with tourists who venture here from their nearby hotels. There is fixed seating round the edges of the room, but this is mostly a standing drinking area. Meanwhile upstairs has its own bar, and serves food and drink in a more relaxed, comfortable and intimate environment. The upstairs windows provide you with great views of the bustle of the Princess Street junction. On the first Wednesday of the month, the upstairs room hosts comedians sourced by the Trapdoor Comedy Club; these events cost roughly £3 advance or £5 on the door per ticket. On the first Monday of each month it also hosts "Mope music evening", this is described as three hours of musical misery.

Food is served every day when a menu of home-made dishes is the staple fare. Being a Holt's house, it serves their Bitter, IPA, Two Hoots, plus the hard-to-find Mild, alongside a guest beer (these change once a week), and the seasonal beers from Bootleg Brewing Co (brewed at the Holt's-owned Horse & Jockey, Chorlton-cum-Hardy) change with availability. The Monkey operates a loyalty card scheme (buy eight pints, get the ninth one free) in conjunction with the other two Holt's houses in the city - Ape & Apple, and Crown & Anchor, plus the Railway, Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury.

You are welcome to attend the presentation night Thursday 23rd July (from 8pm), and see Stacy and staff receive this much-deserved award.

June's Pub of the Month - Ye Olde Vic

Thursday 25th June 2015

1 Chatham Street, Edgeley Stockport SK3 9ED   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for June is Ye Olde Vic on the corner of King Street West and Chatham Street in Edgeley. Graham Privett went along.

A pub of genuine character, managed by a genuine character of a landlord (Steve Brannan), ably supported and complemented by his long-term partner Jo together with a fiercely loyal band of regulars, many of whom help run the pub and are very knowledgeable regarding the ales on offer.

Six hand-pulls offer an ever-changing selection of ales from brewers both near and far, plus real cider. Whilst the emphasis tends to be on lighter hoppy beers, darker ales have recently become more evident, including the very popular Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild. The ale quality is right up there with the very best in our region. No wonder Steve is celebrating 16 consecutive years in the national Good Beer Guide.

The Olde Vic is a genuine hidden gem of Stockport. Unique. The sort of place I love to stumble upon when I'm following Stockport County across the UK. I typically drop in about a quarter to Thursday - yes, time really does seem to go slower once you're inside (I mean 6pm Wednesday, by the way). It's a veritable Aladdin's cave, with a vast array of hats, bizarre equipment from days gone by, games, musical instruments, scientific apparatus, books and baffling puzzles, which Steve is more than happy to demonstrate, particularly to newcomers.

The emphasis is very much on good conversation and witty banter sometimes veering off at random tangents for no logical reason. However, if this isn't your thing, then simply immerse yourself in the quiet sanctuary that Vic can offer - let time slow down (or even stop) in front of the open fire, or whilst taking in the pump-clip covered ceiling.

You're all welcome to attend the presentation night Thursday 25th June (from 8pm) to check out what you've been missing. Steve and Jo are kindly providing some gruel and fusty bread to mark the occasion, so gird yourselves!

May's Pub of the Month - The Kenilworth

Tuesday   26th May 2015

Cheadle Road, Cheadle Hulme SK8 5DX   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for May is the Kenilworth on Cheadle Road in Cheadle Hulme. Jim Flynn reports.

This large, open plan 1930s pub is often overlooked, being away from the main drag on the way out of Cheadle Hulme towards Cheadle, It has an emphasis on pub games, quizzes, occasional karaoke, football on TV and quality, good value food. So the fact that the Kenilworth also serves quality cask beers, often from local micros, can go unnoticed by some perhaps less perceptive CAMRA members. This is a mistake because landlord John Powell knows how to run a good pub and there are usually three well-kept cask ales from which to choose. As a result this ultra-friendly hostelry is absolutely thriving!

John and Annette have been at the pub for 14 years. Originally John was the manager but latterly he has leased the pub from Spirit who themselves have a long term lease from a property company (the machinations of big business!!). Having reintroduced real ale into the pub he is passionate about his cask beers and often has beers from Mobberley Ales (one of the brewers lives nearby and is a pub regular). This year John jumped at the chance to join Mild Magic such is his enthusiasm.

So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to John, Annette and their staff on Tuesday, 26th May (NB note the change from the normal date due to the Stockport Beer and Cider Festival) when I am sure we will all be made royally welcome by these very friendly people. Come along for a great night as we congratulate them on an outstanding job well done!

X57/157 buses from Manchester to Woodford, which go through Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle and East Didsbury go past the door and the 369 from Stockport stops just a couple of minutes away at the junction of Cheadle Road and Turves Road. Cheadle Hulme station is less than 10 minutes walk away.

April's Pub of the Month - The Baker's Vaults

Thursday 28 April 2015

Market Place, Stockport, SK1 1ES   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for April is the Bakers Vaults in Stockport's Market Place reports Brendon Hall.

In the seven months since it has opened the Baker's Vaults has grown to be quite a fixture on the Stockport real ale scene. The pub has grown from strength to strength, bringing drinkers and life back to one of Stockport's most picturesque areas, the old Market Place. Under the guidance of Robinsons Brewery the pub underwent a huge transformation to make it much brighter and more welcoming (a little known fact is that the bar is made up of doors salvaged from the recently closed Stockport pub institution, the Tiviot). The transformation appears to have worked; the pub is generally bustling with drinkers most nights of the week, no mean feat in Stockport on a wet Tuesday night in January!

With a nod to it's heritage the Baker's has placed a large emphasis on hosting live music, with dedicated Blues nights on Tuesday evenings and Soul/Jazz afternoons each Sunday. What better way to spend a Sunday than with a pint, some live music and a snack from the pub's own range of gourmet hotdogs?

The beer selection doesn't disappoint - unusually for a Robinson's pub there are four hand-pumps for guest ales, supplied by Stoke on Trent's Titanic Brewery. Cider drinkers are catered for too, with Weston's Old Rosie on permanently. It's rare indeed to see Robbies beers and guests co-existing together, a feat only seen elsewhere at the Castle Hotel on Oldham Street in Manchester (it isn't a coincidence that both are run by the same owners). Quality of beer is also good, the pub having recently received a Cask Marque accreditation.

Looking at the bigger picture, the new-look Baker's Vaults has brought life back to Stockport Market Place. Anything that attracts both regular pub-goers and newer younger drinkers back into the heart of their town for a night out must be a good thing. It is hoped that the rise in the number of drinkers will spread to other pubs in the local area and give Stockport Town Centre the kick-start it has long needed.

March's Pub of the Month - The Boar's Head

Thursday 26th March 2015

2 Vernon St (Market Square), Stockport, SK1 1TY   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for March is the Boar's Head on Stockport's Market Place. Dave Sharpe reports.

There is very little argument when I say the Boar's Head in the Market Place is Stockport's busiest lunchtime boozer – given there is no food available.

This Sam Smith's house was first mentioned in the town's history in 1824. It was rebuilt in 1880 and back in 1921 it was a Bass house. It cam into the ownership of Tadcaster's Samuel Smith's in the late 1960s when the acquired a small local pub chain. For the last six years it has been in the capable hands of Sue and Terry Wild, supported by, Sue tells me, the best staff you could wish for. Prior to taking on the Boar's Head Sue and Terry ran the now-closed Greyhound in Edgeley for five years.

It has had several refurbishments, the last in 2013, which have seen the restoration of something approaching the original multi-room layout. On entering the bar faces you with a lobby running down to the left. A small open area to the right leads to the corner room and there are two small rooms facing the bar. Carry on past the bar and round the corner you enter a large “function room” with its own bar.

Sam Smith's in Tadcaster was established and it Yorkshire's oldest brewery. They still brew in traditional “Yorkshire squares” and deliver their draught beer in wooden barrels – they still employ their own cooper. Old Brewery Bitter is the only cask ale at this Good Beer Guide listed pub and they get through three 36-gallon barrels of it each week so, as you can imagine, it's always in good condition. Don't take my word for it – come and join us for an enjoyable social evening on Thursday 26th March.

February's Pub of the Month - The Midway

Thursday 26th February 2015

263 Newbridge Lane, Portwood, Stockport SK1 2NX   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for February is the Midway on Newbridge Lane, Portwood. Margaret O'Brien has been along.

In the dim and distant past the Midway was one of Stockport's few free houses, and certainly the only one within striking distance of the town centre (how times change!). Today it's owned by Enterprise Inns – and demonstrates that pub company ownership does not necessarily mean doom and gloom. Indeed the Midway thrives.

The lease is held by Paul and Pauline Treanor who have been there for 16 years now and in that time they have made the pub very much their own. For the past five and a half years they have been assisted by general manager Rob Denny. Rob has previous experience at local pubs like the Elizabethan, Heaton Moor, and the Hinds Head, Heaton Chapel. Apart from his all round experience, Rob is a keen beer man and he has worked to improve the Midway's cask beer offer.

There are usually four cask beers available sourced from Enterprise Inns and sometimes the SIBA Direct Delivery scheme. Taylor's Golden Best (with is either a light mild or a pale ale depending on your taste) is usually there, along with beers from the likes of Theakston's and Moorhouses. Rob's dedication to his task ensures that quality is always top notch.

The Midway was refurbished in June last year and looks very smart in a modern-traditional style. There's a dining area at the back of the pub but while there's a major food operation here throughout the day, those who just want a drink a very welcome. In summer the leafy outside drinking area, which belies the pubs urban location, is an attractive spot to enjoy a beer or two.

Already the winner of other awards – the Stockport Pub Guide Pub of the Year, Stockport's Best Sunday Lunch 2011, and a regional finalist in the City Life Pub of the Year – the Midway can now add our Pub of the Month Award to the list. The presentation will be made on the evening of Thursday 26th February. Come and join us when we celebrate this very successful pub.

January's Pub of the Month - The Royal Oak

Tuesday 20th January 2015

114 Cross Lane, Gorton, Manchester M18 8NZ   Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for January is the Royal Oak on Cross Lane in Gorton. Dave Hanson has been along.

The Royal Oak is a good example of that much endangered, and often overlooked, pub – a back street boozer which is the heart of its community.

Many years ago the Royal Oak was owned by Boddington's, from whence it passed eventually into the hands of Punch Taverns. Some five or so years ago the pub entered a period of changing landlords resulting in opening and closing on an almost monthly basis (or so it felt). Eventually the pub was closed and metal shutters went up all around. “That is it” we all feared, because in the current financial climate a boarded up pub rarely reopens in its former role.

Along came the management team who also own the Strawberry Duck in Clayton. They were looking for another outlet and took on the Royal Oak. After some six to nine months of renovation the pub re-opened with the steady hands of Les Park and Lyn Crossthwaite at the helm. As soon as the doors opened locals returned. Now there is always something going on with darts and domino teams (both ladies and mens), karaoke, open mic evenings and frequent live entertainment plus of course lively gossip and banter.

Real ale sales have been built up such that two-and-a-half handpulls can be supported. “How many?” I hear you say. Sharp's Doombar and Tetley's Dark Mild are the two permanents. The third accommodates rotating guest ales, often from Lancaster Brewery, on occasions as demand dictates.

The Royal Oak is not only about beer, but the locals and their community. You are always made to feel welcome, so why not come along around 8pm on Tuesday (note change of day) 20th January and experience the atmosphere.

Being a back street local, the Royal Oak is hidden from view “in the back streets” unless you know where to look. Busses 168, 169 and 171 pass the door. The 203 (plus 201 and 204 from Manchester) will drop you on Hyde Road from where it is a short walk.

December's Pub of the Month - The Davenport Arms

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Chester Road, Woodford, Stockport SK Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for December 2014 has been won by the Davenport Arms on Chester Road, Woodford, often referred to by its nickname of the Thief's Neck.

Situated at the extreme south of the territory of Stockport MBC, it's one of only two identifiably "country" pubs in the branch area. Outwardly it's a farmhouse-style building of mellow red brick, dating back to the early part of the 19th century, with a pair of gables flanking the central door. The interior comprises a number of small, cosy rooms warmed by real fires in winter, while in summer the outside is decked by floral hanging baskets. There are extensive outside drinking areas at both front and rear.

The licence has been held for 83 years by five generations of the Hallworth family, which must now be a unique achievement in the area. The current licensee is Yvonne Hallworth, who succeeded her late father John, and is ably assisted by her sister Alison Nixon running the kitchen, and bar/cellarman Mike Swann.

In the early part of 2014 Robinson's carried out a major refurbishment which made the pub smarter and broadened its appeal while still retaining its rambling, multi-roomed character. It was good to see the classic Farmer's Weekly posters of British horses, livestock and working dogs being kept in the tap room, while the lives of the staff were made easier by replacing the old cramped bar with a more roomy and well-arranged one. There's more emphasis on food, with an extensive menu including a special selection of "bar tapas", plus daily specials, but it remains very much a hub of the community and is used by a wide cross-section of customers.

It has featured in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide for 28 consecutive years, now the longest continuous period in the branch area. The beer range is Robinson's 1892, Dizzy Blonde, Unicorn and Trooper, plus the current seasonal beer and the possibility of Old Tom in the winter months.

So why not break up the monotony of the gap between Christmas and New Year and join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Yvonne and her team on Tuesday 30 December when I'm sure a great night will be enjoyed by all.

November's Pub of the Month - The Fletcher Moss

Thursday 27 November 2014

1 William Street, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6RQ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for November 2014 goes to the Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury Map. Stuart Ballantyne tells you why.

The Fletcher Moss is now run by Jane and Martin Devlin who are no strangers to Didsbury. A few years ago they ran the Royal Oak before moving to the Four in Hand in West Didsbury. But it was the draw of running a traditional locals pub that drove Jane and Martin to apply for the vacancy at the Fletcher Moss.

Prior to the recent arrival of the Metrolink tram the pub could easily be missed by visitors to Didsbury as it is tucked away on a side street off the busy Wilmslow Road. It was the arrival of Metrolink that prompted Hydes Brewery , together with Jane and Martin, to make changes to the pub. Out went the tiny car park and in came a beautiful garden and outdoor drinking area. Internally the pub was remodelled to create distinct, cosy, separate drinking areas. An over 25's policy was introduced . Then Martin got to work in the cellar and on the beer. He is fastidious about his beer, frequently getting up as early as 6am to ensure that the beer that he sells is always of the highest quality.

All these efforts have worked wonders. Hydes cannot believe how well the beers are selling in the Fletcher Moss. So well in fact that, by the time that you read this, two more hand pumps will have been installed. It had been expected that the cost of the refurbishment would take five years to cover itself but only taken ten months such has been the increase in trade. No wonder Hydes recently presented Jane and Martin with their "Managers of the Year" award.

The Fletcher Moss is not a food led pub. It's a locals led pub that by listening to its regulars and offering great beer in a clean and friendly environment has reaped dividends. And if all that is not enough you could always visit the Fletcher Moss to admire Jane's collection of over 100 porcelain tea pots which are displayed around the pub.

So why not join us for the Pub of the Month presentation to Jane and Martin on Thursday 27th November when the pub is likely to be very busy.

October's Pub of the Month - The Hinds Head

Thursday 23 October 2014

Manchester Road, Heaton Chapel, Stockport SK4 2RB Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for October 2014 has been won by the Hinds Head, Manchester Road, Heaton Chapel, Stockport Map writes Jim Flynn

Although the Hinds Head is an upmarket establishment with excellent food it is still very much a real and friendly community pub.

Built over 20 years ago on the site of the Poco-a-Poco club it gives you the impression of having been around longer. Set in its own grounds with one of the best and most popular pub gardens in the local area the whole feel of the Hinds Head as you approach is of a country pub. Although relatively open plan inside there are enough distinct areas with nooks and crannies to allow those who want to feel secluded to do so if they wish.

In the 1990s the pub was taken to the heights by the late great Alan Preston but after he retired it declined, mainly due to lack of investment. The pub was then taken over by Stuart Kirkham and a local band of entrepreneurs in 2006 and it moved back upmarket with considerable success. In December 2013 a local couple, Colin and Janine Edwards, took over the lease. Although they were new to the trade they were fast learners and the pub has gone from strength to strength; on the food front there are specialist nights and a number of special price initiatives and there are now occasional music nights too. The service is top notch and they have recently been awarded a Certificate of Excellence Award for 2014 by Trip Advisor as a result.

The beer range is excellent with the house beer Jennings Cumberland Ale normally accompanied by two or three guest beers, one of which is normally Taylors Landlord. Earlier this year they joined Mild Magic with excellent Taylors Golden Best available throughout and they have now not only joined the Winter Warmer Wander but are providing a meal for four as one of our star prizes.

So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Colin, Janine and their staff on Thursday, 23rd October when, I am sure, a great night will be enjoyed by all as we congratulate them on an excellent job well done!

The pub is on the 328 bus route from Edgeley and the centre of Stockport or only 2 minutes walk from the A6 down Denby Lane or 5 minutes down Manchester Road from the 42A bus route from Reddish, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Didsbury etc.

September's Pub of the Month - The Midland

Thursday 25 September 2014

19 Wellington Road North, Stockport SK4 1HJ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for September 2014 has been won by the Midland on Wellington Road North, Stockport. Map. John Clarke reports.

The Midland is another local example of a thriving free house that escaped pub company ownership. Moving from Whitbread to Enterprise Inns it was purchased by Mark Hayter in July last year (prior to that he had been the pub's tenant for two years).

The most notable change has been in the beer range, although Mark has cleverly adopted the course of evolution rather than revolution. So the semi- regular beer, Greene King IPA, has been joined by up to four guest ales - generally speaking the number increases towards the weekend. By largely keeping to the style of beers his regulars enjoy Mark also ensures the new beers enjoy healthy sales and so remain in good shape while they are available.

There's no food available at the moment but live entertainment does feature with a live band performing every other Friday. There are two darts teams based here - a Premier League men's team plays on Tuesdays while Wednesday nights see matches in the Stockport & District women's league.

The pubs itself has been knocked around a bit over the years but still keeps much of its multi-roomed feel with three distinct areas. There's also some impressive tile work surviving from former times. The atmosphere is one of genuine local, although one where the casual visitor is made welcome.

This is a success story that deserves celebration and it will get that when our award is presented on Thursday 25 September. However this will be more than a celebration - it will be a show of support. As we have reported, there is a planned road scheme which in its present form will involved the demolition of the pub (a cycle path will go through the front). It is still early days and we hope that these ridiculous and destructive proposals can be amended. A good turnout on the night will show that the pub's friends and supporters mean business.

August's Pub of the Month - The Cocked Hat

Thursday 28 August 2014

2 Market Place, Stockport SK1-1EW Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for August 2014 has been awarded to the Cocked Hat, Market Place, Stockport. Map. Graham Privett reports.

It's fair to say that this pub had a pretty chequered history as the Pack Horse, so Gemma Gordon and Richard Maw freely admit that they wondered what they were letting themselves in for when they were installed as licensees by the recently formed AtWill Pubs, who acquired the empty tavern and reopened it as the Cocked Hat last year.

The ambition was to create a real pub for real people, serving real ale and real food. Even the music is real, with "proper musicians" performing every Friday and Saturday. Following considerable sprucing up, helping to create a homely and welcoming atmosphere, six hand pulls take centre stage on the bar.

There are now two permanent ales, AtWill's own Cock & Sup-it and Trappers Hat from Brimstage (from the Wirral). The four guest ales are typically from micros within a 30-mile radius of Chester. All ales are £2.30 a pint until 6.30pm Monday to Friday and if the one you choose runs out whilst being served, you get a free pint! There are also helpful blackboards with tasting notes to help you choose the right ale for you.

Roy (of Swan With Two Necks fame) is now resident chef, serving what he describes as "meals your Granny would give you in her kitchen", before adding "it's all about the gravy". These traditional home-cooked meals are available for a fiver (£9 for 2) 11am - 4pm Monday to Saturday, with traditional Sunday roasts also available until 4pm.

Gemma and Richard (who Chairs Pub Watch) have big plans for the future, including expanding the real ale range to eight, the introduction of real cider and perry, and creating an outside drinking area at the rear.

The Cocked Hat is just behind Stockport's famous indoor market, with the front door facing the main entrance into St. Mary's church. Join us when we make this well deserve award on Thursday 28th.

July's Pub of the Month - The Crown

Thursday 24 July 2014

154 Heaton Lane, Stockport SK4 1AR Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for July 2014 has been awarded to the Crown, Heaton Lane, Stockporty. Dave Platt reports.

When the Crown receives its Pub of the Month Award on Thursday 24th July it will be a bitter sweet occasion. While CAMRA will rightly be celebrating the pub's continuing success, one significant person will be missing. Tracy Mullen, partner of licensee Steve Alexander and the pub's landlady sadly passed away last month. Tracy was proud to be called the pub's landlady and she will be sadly missed by everyone. We will be raising a glass to her memory on the night.

The Crown, meanwhile, carries on as a thriving and bustling cask ale flagship. It is already a multiple award winner having one local and regional Pub of the Year titles. It was also a National Pub of the Year runner-up - no mean feat that.

It would be easy to rest on your laurels with a track record like that. The Crown however goes from strength to strength. There are now up to 16 ever changing cask beers (with always a stout/porter and a mild available) alongside up to three real ciders. The pub is also a regular outlet for beers from the new Stockport Brewing Co, based just across the road. Quality is top notch and the pub is a Good Beer Guide regular.

The pub itself, while having undergone some alterations over the years, still retains much of its Victorian layout and fittings with four rooms radiating off a central drinking lobby. There's a Thursday quiz, live entertainment (local bands are showcased on Saturday nights), an excellent beer garden, folk nights on Tuesday and Sunday - and on Saturday afternoons a ukulele band performs. At lunchtimes pub grub is available and at other times rather fine pork pies and sausage rolls can be had.

In short the Crown ticks almost every box you can think of. It's one of the cask ale flagships that are now putting Stockport on the national beer enthusiasts' map. Join us as we mark this success on 24th June - the pub is easy to reach being just a few minutes' walk from Stockport rail and bus stations.

June's Pub of the Month - The Nursery

Thursday 26 June 2014

258 Green Lane, Heaton Norris, Stockport, SK4 2NA Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for June 2014 has been awarded to the Nursery, Green Lane, Heaton Norris. Jim Flynn reports.

Over the years there have been accolades galore for the Nursery. With its classic unspoilt structure and decor, wonderful light oak panelling, delightful windows decorated with horticultural images and well-manicured bowling green to the rear. However in 2013 the pub fell on relatively hard times with the very sudden and unexpected departure of the long standing licensee whose family had overseen the pub for decades and taken it to the pinnacle with 30 years in the Good Beer Guide and the award of National Pub of the Year in 2001. Sadly following this upheaval customers drifted away as rumours abounded.

The Nursery however is not a pub to be kept down and November brought in a new highly experienced licensee, Brendan Adderley who had previously done sterling work at High Grove for 13 years. Brendan has laboured tirelessly to return the excellence of the beer and food plus the warmth of the welcome. Once again, despite being tucked away down the cobbled Green Lane, the Nursery is attracting customers from miles around encouraged by the friendliness of the staff, the excellence of the food and the quality of the Hydes beers and guest ales.

If anything the beer range has improved with Hydes Original, Manchester Finest, 1863 and Owd Oak (yes that's two milds!) together with beers from their Beer Studio and new Lowry ranges. In addition there is always between two and four guest beers available. The lunches are also to be recommended, being available six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday. Altogether a pub well worth a visit and very soon Hydes are promising a sensitive spruce up without adversely affecting the fabulous fabric and ambiance of the place.

June could not be a better month for a Pub of the Month at the Nursery as with good weather you will be able to sit outside and maybe even watch a bowls match being fought out on the luscious green in front of you while sampling the excellent fare on offer. So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the return to grace of an old favourite and make the award to Brendan and his staff on Thursday, 26th June when, I am sure, a great night will be enjoyed by all.

The pub is less than 10 minutes from the main 192 bus route (walk down Bowerfold Lane or Heaton Lane), 10 minutes from the 84 and 197 routes in Heaton Moor and the 22 stops within a ¼ mile of the door. Don't miss it!

May's Pub of the Month - The John Millington

Thursday 22 May 2014

67 Station Rd, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle, Cheshire SK8 7AA Map

This month Stuart Ballantyne tells you about the John Millington in Cheadle Hulme, which receives May's Pub of the Month award from the Stockport & South Manchester branch of CAMRA.

In 2004 Hyde's Brewery opened their fourth Heritage Inn in Cheadle Hulme; a £1m restoration of the 1683 Grade II listed Millington Hall. Built originally as the home for Alderman John Millington, the conversion has been done sympathetically retaining the old Cheshire brick work and many period features such as the large original fireplace and surviving arched windows and doorways. The John Millington has a multi-room layout, and despite its antiquity the conversion has managed to introduce a lightness and airiness into the pub that its former resident would not recognize

Since last year it has been run by CAMRA members Matt and Amy Comerford who arrived with an impressive track record with Hydes, most recently at the Hare & Hounds in Marple. They are keen beer people and while there is an impressive food operation at the John Millington the pub also desreves recognition for the great range of cask beers sold there.

Up to 10 cask beers are sold and the pub also holds regular in-house beer festivals. Since Matt and Amy took over cask sales have increased by 50% which is testimony to their cellar skills. Matt tells me the beer all receive at least seven days conditioning before going on sale - and if you drop in on Mondays you'll also get 50p off a pint of cask beer. Traditional cider is also sold on handpump.

All in all the John Millington is a great community pub popular with all ages. There is an excellent range of well-kept cask beers and prices are keen for the area. What's not to like? Join us for the presentation on the evening of 22 May when a great night is in prospect.

The pub is easily accessible by public transport, too. It's within walking distance of Cheadle Hulme station and buses 157, 313 and X57 will drop you close by.

April's Pub of the Month - The Bulls Head, Manchester

Thursday 24th April 2014

84 London Rd, Manchester M1 2PN Map

This month Karen Wainwright tells you about the Bulls Head in Piccadilly, which receives April's Pub of the Month award from the Stockport & South Manchester branch of CAMRA.

A striking Victorian street corner pub opposite the main taxi rank at Piccadilly Station, the Bull's Head has long been a popular watering hole for locals, students and train passenger alike. It has survived the Blitz, 1970s developers and even the best efforts of a bus to demolish it. The interior is simple with one large, tapering, open plan room with a raised seating area at the front and a semi-circular bar on the back wall. Polished floorboards and an eclectic collection of tables, chairs and sofas break up the lines of the walls. The welcome is second to none. This is one of those sorts of pubs where you can strike up conversation with patrons and staff instantly. You feel part of a community, even if you only visit once.

Paula Wilkinson had worked behind the bar for many years and always yearned to be the licensee. When Keith Willam retired, he recommended Paula to Marstons as his successor so in September 2012 she took the helm. The Bulls Head was already a success story, so Paula built on that success. She added an extra handpump making six cask ales available. These all come from the Marstons beer list with Jennings Cumberland Ale, Marstons Sunbeam, Ringwood Boondoggle and alternating Banks's Mild and Jennings Sneck Lifter as regular beers. The other two pumps are any other beer that the Marstons tie permits. All beers are always served in the best of condition and tested by Paula herself who states "I never used to like beer - now real ale is all I drink". Paula has added yet another handpump. This one is for serving real cider, for which there is no brewery tie and she has a free hand in choosing it.

The award will be made on Thursday, 24th April 2014 from 8.00 pm. Come along and find out for your self what makes a really good local in the heart of a city. Piccadilly Rail Station is opposite and bus routes 192 201, 203/4/5/6/7 and 219 regularly serve the area.

March's Pub of the Month - The Navigation

Thursday 27th March 2014

1 Manchester Road, Heaton Norris, Stockport SK4 1TY Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month award for March 2014 is to be awarded to the Navigation at the top of Lancashire Hill, Heaton Norris. Stuart Ballantyne has been to visit.

The pub has been run for over five years now by Barry Harvey and his partner Deborah. Beartown is a small independent brewery based in Congleton with only a handful of pubs. In Greater Manchester it runs the Cheshire Ring in Hyde and the Navigation in Stockport. Over the last ten years the Navigation has had a chequered history with several changes of management - or at least that was the case until stability returned to the pub under the stewardship of Barry and Deborah.

Barry has kept his prices down in the pub by absorbing price increases himself because he feels that imposing such price increases on his customers at this time would kill the pub's trade. In these credit crunch times that is a remarkable achievement and demonstrates a commitment to the pub and the pub's valued regulars.

Since taking over the pub Barry has increased the number of regular Beartown cask beers sold from three to five and introduced a guest beer. He regularly now sells Beartown Bearskinful, Kodiak Gold, Best Bitter, Bear Ass and Bruins Ruin plus a guest beer which is often Holt's Bitter. This growth has occurred because Barry keeps ‘a damn good pint' and it is despite the pub's unpromising location with little or no passing trade. This shows just how hard Barry and Deborah have worked to make the Navigation such a success.

Originally very much a ‘Blues' pub, the Navigation is now jointly popular with both City and United fans. The pub boasts both enthusiastic darts and pool teams that play in local leagues making the Navigation a true all-round community local. In the summer months (if we ever get one) the pub has an outside beer garden at the back which is very popular.

So why not join the local CAMRA group for the presentation of the pub of the month award on the evening of Thursday 27th March 2014 when a great night will be experienced by all those in attendance?

February's Pub of the Month - The Armoury

Thursday 27th February 2014

31 Shaw Heath, Stockport SK3 8BD Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month award for February 2014 is to be awarded to the Armoury, Shaw Heath, Stockport, writes John Clarke.

This is a survivor. In recent years most of its neighbouring pubs have closed but the Armoury soldiers on. In fact it is a thriving community local with a substantial band of loyal regulars.

Landlady Sheila Barlow tells us "It feels like a homely village pub. I love the pub, the customers, everything." She's not wrong. The pub seems to glow with warmth, all helped by a very impressive refurbishment carried out by Robinsons about three years ago. The traditional vault is particularly impressive and work is ongoing with more etched windows planned along with a refit of the lounge which has new seat coverings and blinds.

Some historic features were retained not least the etched glass panels on the interior doors which testify to the pub's previous ownership by the old Bell's Brewery. You can spot these on the doors to the downstairs rooms and also the upstairs darts-cum-meeting room. The Armoury is something of a local hub for darts lovers and hosts no less that 11 teams who play in all local leagues including the Super League. The well stocked trophy cabinet in the vault testifies to their success here. There's also a quiz team and a number of clubs and societies meet at the pub and at the back is the sun trap of a beer garden.

Beers are from Robinsons with 1892, Dizzy Blonde, Unicorn, Trooper and the current seasonal all impeccably kept. Not for nothing has the pub featured in recent editions of the nations Good Beer Guide.

Join us as we celebrate the enduring appeal of this classic community local when the Pub of the Month award is presented on the evening of Thursday 27th February. The pub is close to Stockport Station and a short walk from the A6 which is well served with buses. Edgeley buses will drop you close by.

January's Pub of the Month - The Magnet

Thursday 30th January 2014

51 Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris, Stockport SK4 1HJ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month award for January 2014 is to be awarded to The Magnet on Wellington Road North, writes John Sutcliffe.

This Northern side of Stockport has over the last few years become something of a beer drinkers' Mecca where within a distance of less than a mile there is a choice of 30 interesting beers, in five or six superb traditional pubs. The Magnet was the first of these and remains a centre for choice and quality.

Built in 1840 the Magnet has retained its original name for 175 years. It was totally revitalised and reopened in November 2009 and has since then won an armful of CAMRA awards. It still retains the team of Lesley, Lee, Sarah and Roy, ably supported by friendly and knowledgeable staff. This year will see the Magnet become the town's second brew-pub when the brewery currently being built at the back of the pub comes on line.

Boasting 13 handpumps for beer and another for draught cider, the range is complemented by a large number of foreign bottled beers. These mostly appear on the main bar in a bustling vault to the left, leading to a lower pool room. To the right are a series of rooms separated by arched openings served by a smaller bar counter. These lead through to a covered smoking area with a wooden staircase to the upstairs beer terrace and function room.

There is a chosen charity, Kidneys for Life at MINT (Manchester Institute for Nephrology and Transplantation). This charity is based at Manchester Royal Infirmary and funds raised helps renal patients from all over the region. So far the Magnet has raised thousands of pounds through donations, cheese nights and the sale of pump clips. Unusually a string quartet performed in the late autumn.

The award will be presented on Thursday, 30th January 2014, so please join us from 8.00 until 11.30 p.m.

There is a very frequent 192 bus service along the A6 Wellington Road with the railway station about 20 minutes walk and the bus station 15 minutes walk.

December's Pub of the Month - The Red Bull

Friday 27th December 2013

14 Middle Hillgate, Stockport, SK1 3AY Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for December 2013 has been won by the Red Bull on Hillgate, Stockport, writes Dave Platt.

Long a local favourite, the Red Bull was given a new lease of life in 2008 when it was given a massive investment by Robinsons, whose brewery is just down the road and who regard this as something of a flagship.

It took a while before the pub was let but it's now in the hands of Karen and Aimie who have really put it on the map. The investment saw the pub extended into a neighbouring building and the cramped internal layout revised. It is to Robinsons' credit that despite theses major changes the pub's character was maintained, and arguably enhanced.

There is a major food offering now and this includes everything from a light lunch or a bowl of chips through to a full on three course meal. The Sunday carvery is also very well regarded. The pub also offers accommodation with four individually designed rooms which have garnered rave reviews online. There are quiz nights and live entertainment features regularly.

But what about the beer? As you may imagine, there a full range of Robinsons beers available and quality is top notch (the pub is sufficiently busy to maintain turnover). Plenty will be enjoyed on the presentation night on Friday 27 December. The pub is easy to get to, being just a short walk from the A6 which is wells served by buses.

November's Pub of the Month - The Gateway

Thursday 28th November 2013

882 Wilmslow Road, East Didsbury, Manchester, M20 5PG Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for November 2013 has been awarded to the Gateway, East Didbury, writes Jim Flynn

Sited at the junction of Kingsway and Wilmslow Road, this large inter wars roadhouse was struggling by the early part of this decade. In mid-2011 Hydes sold the Gateway to J.D. Wetherspoons but all did not go well following the re-opening as they clearly hadn't got it right. With their standard low prices curtailed the public saw no reason to cross the road from the leisure complex opposite. Indeed for a while despite the obvious investment in new carpets, improved toilet facilities, exterior lighting and new kitchen facilities it looked like the usually surefooted Wetherspoons had got it wrong. However along with a reversion to their normal pricing structure they had an ace up their sleeve in the form of a new manager Kevin Muldoon.

Kev had previously worked at the Waterhouse and the Seven Stars in the city centre and in the 18 months he has been at the Gateway there has been a remarkable improvement in both quality and service despite the fact that this is his first pub management position. The public have responded in their numbers and the pub is now vibrant and highly popular. Kev was previously responsible for the cellar in the Waterhouse and his influence has come to the fore here as not only has the Gateway become an entry in the new 2014 Good Beer Guide for the first time in many a long year but over the time of his tenure cask ale sales has doubled.

There is a focus on regional beers directly supplied direct from the brewers with half a dozen guest ales (plus normally Old Rosie cider) as well as the usual Wetherspoons' Abbott and Ruddles and a house beer from Hawkshead, 'Gateway to the Lakes'. The pub also runs "brewer of the month" featuring the products of one particular brewery.

So why not join the local CAMRA branch on Thursday 28 November when the award will be presented to Kev and his hard working staff when a really great night will be enjoyed by all. Don't miss it!

The pub is on one of the UK's busiest bus routes with amongst others the 50, 142, 42, 42a, 45a from the city centre, 42, 370, 23A from Stockport, 84 from Reddish and the Heatons and 44, X57 and 130 from Cheadle and southwards stopping nearby. Trains from Piccadilly to the Airport stop at East Didsbury and the newly opened East Didsbury Metrolink stop is close by.

October's Pub of the Month - The Hope Inn

Thursday 24th October 2013

118 Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris, Stockport SK4 2LL Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for September is the Hope on Wellington Road North, writes Margaret O'Brien.

Occupying a prominent site on the A6 just north of Stockport town centre, the Hope Inn for many years offered little of interest to local beer drinkers. The Hardy's Crown Ales boldly advertised along the top of the pub has long since ceased to be brewed.

However since February this year, the pub has been re-born as the town's latest free house and Hardy's beers are also back in a way. This transformation is down to Martin Wood and Samantha Halfyard who bought the pub last December. They promptly closed it down and started a complete overhaul.

The pub is now a comfortably appointed two-roomer with a "vault room" to the left, with leather fixed seating and a bare board floor, and to the right a comfortably appointed lounge. The emphasis is on good beer with 10 handpumps on the bar dispensing a range of cask ales and a traditional cider. These are complemented by draught foreign beers and a range of bottled beers from Europe and the USA. The bottled beer list has recently been overhauled and expanded to 75 beers.

Of particular interest though is the in-house brewery producing the pub's own range of Fool Hardy Ales (Martin couldn't find out who owned the rights to the Hardy's Crown name). The brewery produces three regular beers and a range of seasonal and one-off specials which are already making an impact at both the pub and on their occasional forays into the free trade.

So, the Hope is not only a revitalised pub but has also given birth to Stockport's fourth brewery. In recognition of this superb transformation join us when we present this well deserved award on Thursday 24th from about 8.00pm.

Setember's Pub of the Month - The Blossoms

Thursday 26th September 2013

2 Buxton Road, Heaviley, Stockport, SK2 6NU Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for September is The Blossoms Hotel on the corner of Buxton Road and Bramhall Lane, writes Alex Keenleyside.

The award corresponds to the one year anniversary that landlord John Goodhew took over the tenancy of this flagship Robinson's pub and reflects the hard work and achievement of himself and his staff over this period.

This recently refurbished pub has three newly furnished rooms retaining the best of the previous features like bench seating and bringing in a new updated décor of interest to casual drinkers and pub historians alike. The first of the front rooms boasts many details of the now defunct Bells Brewery, which sat on nearby Hempshaw Lane, from share certificates, posters and old newspaper articles. The next front room has an impressive display of pewter tankards against a backdrop of wallpaper designed with images of Robinson's bottled beers. The back room has many interesting photos of old Stockport and the brewery.

The pub hosts many events of interest to the local community, and at the time of publication will have enjoyed an acoustic performance by Tom Hingley, former singer with the Inspiral Carpets.

But it is the welcoming community feel, good food and an extensive range of beers that stand out in this Robinsons Pub. The pub has six cask ales on offer from the Robinsons range in addition to a comprehensive craft beer menu of bottled beers from America, Belgium and Germany. If you are having difficulty choosing the pub offers three third of a pint tasters for the same price of a pint. The food menu has many pub classics and a Sunday roast all cooked fresh in the kitchen by John himself.

All worth joining us for the presentation of the award on Thursday 26th September with the additional celebration of John's one year anniversary.

August's Pub of the Month - Swan With Two Necks

Thursday 22nd of August 2013

36 Prince's Street, Town Centre, Stockport, SK1 1RY Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for August 2013 has been awarded to the Swan With Two Necks, 36 Prince's Street, Town Centre, Stockport, SK1 1RY.

This lively Robinsons house is one of a few local pubs to feature on CAMRA's National Inventory of Heritage Pubs - a record of just 270 or pubs remaining nationally with more or less unspoiled interiors. The Swan With Two Necks was rebuilt in 1926 and apart from the loss of some fixed seating in the front room has remained pretty much untouched since then.

Click for larger photo To the left of entrance is the panelled vault and ahead is a classic northern drinking lobby. Further on is a superb smoke room with a Tudor-style fireplace and oak panelling which has a notably warm and comfortable feel. Some say it is one of the best pub rooms in town. At the back is another small room and outside is a secluded drinking area for the summer months. Many of the fixtures and fittings also date from the 1920s. Unsurprisingly it is a Grade II listed building - one of the very few inter-wars pubs to be protected in this way.

This is no fusty museum piece though. Pam and Tremayne "Trigger" Dean took over in 2008 and have made this a bustling town centre local with a loyal band of regulars. They have also made great use of the pub's location by creating a pavement cafe style drinking area to the front. Good value meals which are available from 12 noon until 3.00pm Tuesday to Saturday.

Pam and Trigger are keen to showcase as many Robinsons' beers as they can while maintaining quality through turnover. Dark 1892 (still a rare find), Dizzy Blonde, Unicorn, Trooper and Old Tom are regulars and Robinsons' seasonal beers sometimes feature too. Quality has earned the pub a place in the 2013 Good Beer Guide.

This very well deserved award will be presented on Thursday 22nd August when a great night is promised. Call in and join us as we celebrate with Pam and Trigger.

July's Pub of the Month - Victoria Hotel

Thursday 25th of July 2013

438 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester, M20 3BW Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for July 2013 has been awarded to the Victoria, Wilmslow Road, Withington, writes Jim Flynn.

This late 19th century pub with its period exterior and etched windows has been a Hydes house for almost 110 years now. Click for larger photo Although over the years the pub has been opened out the most recent tasteful and sensitive refurbishment has created distinct drinking areas that almost create separate rooms again giving the place a more intimate feel. At the rear of the pub there is an attractive outdoor beer patio where you can enjoy a cool beer in the sunshine.

However any pub is more than just its structure and decor. Its excellence is measured by the quality of its fare and the warmth of the welcome. On all these points the Victoria scores extremely highly under the guidance of its relatively new licensees, Alyson Spibey and Paul Mitchell who arrived in late 2012. Although they have only been in the trade for three years (previously they worked for Samuel Smiths in Chester and in Edinburgh) they have really demonstrated a passion for real ale and an ability to create a real friendly atmosphere.

Paul and Alyson's labours have ensured that the Victoria is very much a pub at the heart of its community with an eclectic mix of customers including families, pensioners, locals and more mature students. However it is with the beer that the two have really excelled with nine different cask ales at all times from across the Hydes portfolio and three or more guest beers always in excellent form. On a Monday and Thursday all casks beers are just £2.35 a pint all day so all goes well for the presentation night, Thursday 25th July 2013.

The pub is on one of the UK's busiest bus routes with amongst others the 41, 42, 43, 142 and 143 from the city centre and 42 from Stockport passing the door and other routes dropping close by including the 84 from Reddish and the Heatons.

June's Pub of the Month - The Blue Bell

Thursday Thursday 27 June 2013

170 Barlow Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester, M19 3HF ‎Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for June is the Blue Bell on Barlow Road in Levenshulme. Margaret O'Brien has been along.

The Blue Bell is an imposing pub tucked away a short walk from the A6, in Levenshulme. Now, over the years Levenshulme has become something of a real ale desert and the Blue Bell is one of just two remaining cask ale pubs selling well kept Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter.

The pub Click for larger photo is managed by Mark Dunn, who has worked for the Samuel Smiths for over 20 years now. Not all Sam Smith's puns ell cask beer and that was the case with the Blue Bell until Mark pushed the company to install cask beer five years ago.

The pub itself is very smart, having undergone one of Sam Smiths classy refurbishments a few years ago. On the right is a spacious vault and to the left three additional rooms – a large lounge with parquet wraps itself around the bar counter and off this is a smaller carpeted lounge and also a small snug.

It's really at the heart of the community with a variety of groups using the pub. Events are held to raise funds for community projects to improve local sites and walkways, there are other regular events, a quiz night and trips out. There's always a warm welcome from Mark and is wife and their staff.

This well deserved award will be presented on the night of Thursday 27 June. We hope to see a good crowd along to celebrate the success of a pub in an area where so many others seem to be failing. It's easy to get to on the 192 – just walk down Cromwell Grove to its junction with Barlow Road and the pub is there on your right.

May's Pub of the Month - The Fairway

Thursday, May 23rd 2013

137 Higher Hillgate, Stockport, SK1 3HR Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for May 2013 has been won by the Fairway on Hillgate in Stockport.

Stuart and Emma Driver took on the former Robinson's house, (the Flying Dutchman) and re-opened it in October 2012 after a thorough refurbishment. Stuart has had pubs in the past including the New Inn at Castleton (Rochdale), Copperfields Bar / Southlands Hotel in Adswood, and most recently the Dog & Partridge at Great Moor. Seeing how being a tenant of a pub company or brewer could be so expensive, he decided to purchase the Flying Dutchman to enable him to have full control over costs, beer choice and such.

For people Click for larger photo familiar with the old Dutchman, the layout of the new pub will seem fairly similar, but Stuart assures us that under the surface a great deal of change has taken place - indeed there are entirely new toilets, a new kitchen, new fitted and upholstered bench seating, new décor and lighting, plus an upgraded outside smoking / drinking area. All of the glazing has been changed too, and the cellar facilities upgraded.

Six handpulls serve a constantly changing array of beers, with those from local micros featuring prominently. Obviously, trade determines how the beer range fares because with success the range and variety will grow. Trade and customer satisfaction has been so good that over 70 different beers have now been served in the first six months. Good food is another feature of the pub's success; meal times are 12-2 Tuesday to Friday; 12-4 Saturday; and 12-6 on Sundays. There is also live entertainment every Saturday night.

You may ask why the name change to Fairway? Well, although Stuart does enjoy a game of golf (driver; fairway, geddit?), that is not the reason for the name. His father suggested Fair Play, but that was deemed unsuitable, so Fairway was chosen instead. A new name for a pub given a fresh start.

This promises to be a good night, so come and join us for the celebration on Thursday, May 23rd from 8pm. The Fairway is at 137 Higher Hillgate, Stockport SK1 3HR. Buses 358 and 383 stop outside, whilst buses on the nearby A6 include 192, 199 and 378.

April's Pub of the Month - Sun in September

Thursday 25th April 2013

588 Burnage Lane, Manchester, M19 1NA Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for April 2013 has been won by the Sun in September, Burnage Lane, Burnage.

With a passing resemblance to an Alpine villa, the Sun in September seems somewhat incongruous in Burnage. Perhaps more at home in Switzerland or Austria, the impressive grounds to the front with mature trees and well-tended lawns lead you to the entrance. Click for larger photo The reasons are contained in the history of the building. It was built in 1847 as a family home by Elizabeth Watts, the local landowner's daughter, modelled on the chalets she saw during her honeymoon in the Alps.

Time has move on and it is now of course a Sam Smiths pub. Many older readers will remember when they strangely gave it an Indian Raj theme but thankfully following a more recent refurbishment much of the original house is now open to be seen and the pub is definitely all the better for it. A large amount of the credit for this is down to the current licensees Carole and Alan Taylor who have nurtured the pub with care and attention for 20 years. In these days of pub closures and rapid turnover of licensees in the trade it is great to be able to acknowledge and reward their amazing fortitude and zeal which has continued to ensure that the Sun in September is a highly successful and respected close knit community pub.

Whatever time you go in the place buzzes with conversation and in the evenings it can get really busy. It is simply a really great pub and the level of custom reflects this. Equally good is the one cask ale, Old Brewery Bitter, Sam Smiths only cask beer, which is always on fine form and of course being Sam Smiths at a very affordable price!

So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Carole, Alan and their staff on Thursday, 25th April when, I am sure, a great night will be enjoyed by all. Take this opportunity to find out why their large band of loyal regulars so rate this pub and if you get a chance have a chat to Carole about the pub history, she has a fascinating tale to tell.

March's Pub of the Month - The Wilfred Wood

Thursday 28th March 2013

204 London Rd, Hazel Grove SK7 4DF Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for March is the Wilfred Wood on London Road in Hazel Grove, writes Alex Keenleyside.

Opening towards the end of 2010 this relatively new pub build in a converted office block has quickly become a firm favourite with the people of Hazel Grove and established itself as one of the most popular pubs of the area. It is not difficult to understand why as the pub does all the simple things well. Good beer, friendly service & reasonable prices in a smart modern environment.

As a Wetherspoons pub it offers Ruddles & Abbott Ale as its permanent cask offerings as well as an ever changing choice of 3 guest ales from microbreweries, regionals & nationals. The Wetherspoons chain founded in 1979 began supporting cask ale when it was unfashionable to do so, and the business is now the largest single supporter of microbreweries in the UK, making it a welcome addition to the area and expanding choice for customers. The pubs hold regular meet the brewer events which can offer and interesting insight into brewing whilst sampling a range of beers from a local micro. Details of these can be found at the left hand side of the bar area.

The pub is open from 6am with a breakfast offering with the regular food menu starting at midday. The usual Wetherspoons menu and steak, curry & sunday clubs are on offer and served with a smile to a fine standard.

The pub is named after a local resident of the area, Wilfred Wood, a recipient of the Victoria Cross, for action on the Italian front against the Austro-Hungarian forces in the First World War. In the battle of Vittorio Veneto whilst serving in the 10th Battalion of the The Northumberland Fusiliers a young 21 year old Wilfred displayed conspicuous valour, initiative and gallantry in the face of intense rifle and machine-gun fire.

A pub that does the simple things well, good cask beer kept well, tasty food, all at reasonable prices in a convivial, smart and friendly atmosphere. It is certainly worth coming along to celebrate the pubs achievement as we present the award on Thursday 28th March.

February's Pub of the Month - The Railway

Thursday 28 February 2013

74-76 Wellington Rd N, Stockport SK4 1HF Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for February 2013 is the Railway, Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris. John Clarke went along.

When Ray and Pam Ford took over the Railway, just a short walk uphill from Stockport Town Centre (there is a bus stop close by for the less agile) it was a pretty ordinary Punch Taverns leased pub selling a pretty ordinary selection of cask beers.

While Click for larger photo the pub remained tied to Punch there was not a lot they could do about that. However Punch's financial difficulties resulted in a fire sale of their pub stock and three and a half years ago the couple were able to buy the pub free of tie. It's fair to say that since then it's not looked back.

The Railway has comfortably settled into the local pub scene, quietly making a name for itself with the quality of the live entertainment it offers. No tuneless karaoke here – instead there is top rated live jazz every weekend and this has now been supplemented with a rock'n'roll night on Mondays.

The beer range has now settled too. Holts Bitter is always on sale - always good to have a familiar name of the bar - and this is supplemented by four ever changing guest beers, often from local micros (Ray has been a great supporter of the new Ringway and Privateer breweries) and some from further afield. Quality is spot on with the pub appearing in the 2013 Good Beer Guide.

Ray and Pam have already been rewarded for their efforts with a previous Pub of the Month and Pub of the Year award. However their continuing hard work taking the pub forward makes them worthy winners a second time around.

This very well deserved award will be presented on Thursday 28 February when an excellent night out is in prospect. The pub is easy to get to being on the 192 bus route. From the south Manchester area bus number 22 will also drop you off nearby.

January's Pub of the Month - Waterloo

Tuesday 22nd January 2013

220 Waterloo Road, Stockport, SK1 3BD Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for January 2013 has been awarded to the Waterloo, Waterloo Road, Stockport, writes Dave Sharpe.

For those who don't know this older part of Stockport, the Waterloo pub is about 50 yards down the hill on Waterloo Road from its junction with Middle Hillgate, situated on the corner of Canal Street and facing Hopes Carr. It lies betwixt two 'historical' sites. Diagonally over to the left was the late Strawberry Studios where many famous groups, Click for larger photo bands and singers made their first recordings. Over to the right is the memorial site to the 72 people who lost their lives in the plane crash in June 1967.

Now you know where you are get yourself into this Robinsons house and meet Linda and her staff and experience a warm and friendly atmosphere. There are records of buildings on this site in 1781. The first mention of the Waterloo was in 1878. Bells Brewery took it over in 1891 and in 1949 Robinsons took over Bells. The current pub is a combination of a corner shop, pub and cottage. It now consists of three rooms with a central bar dispensing from hand pulls Robinson's Unicorn and 1892 better known to the older imbiber as Mild. Food is served at lunchtimes. Entering the door on the right takes you into the lounge which runs along the front and was refurbished two years ago following a fire behind the bar. The door facing puts you into the vault. There is a small games room at the rear containing a pool table and dart board. A car park at the rear is accessed from Canal Street.

I hope that as many of you as possible will turn up on Tuesday 22nd January to give Linda and Billy, her husband of six months, her staff and not forgetting the 'regulars', all the support they deserve.

December 2012 Pub of the Month - Nursery
Thursday, 27th December 2012

258 Green Lane, Heaton Norris, Stockport, SK4 2NA Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for December 2012 has been awarded to the Nursery, Green Lane, Heaton Norris.

What can be said about this 1930s gem of a multi roomed pub that hasn't already been written before in these pages? Much has been written about the classic unspoilt structure and decor of the pub, the superb light oak panelling, the delightful windows decorated with horticultural images and the well manicured bowling green to the rear.

Photo courtesy Mick SlaughterHowever any pub is more than just its decor and history. Its excellence is measured by the quality of its beer and the warmth of the welcome. On all these points the Nursery has scored extremely highly for many a decade. Despite being tucked away, it draws customers from miles around encouraged by the friendliness of the staff, and the quality of the Hydes beers and the guest ales. This has resulted in the longest record of continuous entries in the Good Beer Guide for the area with the pub achieving a remarkable 30 years in the guide with the publishing of the 2013 edition.

This incredible record is down to one family. Simon Wetton manages the pub and his sister Louise organises the lunchtime food. Simon took over the pub from his step father George whose tenure saw the pub being crowned CAMRA's National Pub of the Year in 2001. However Simon hasn't sat on his laurels and lived on past glories; he has promoted highly successful beer festivals, live music at weekends and regular quizzes while maintaining the excellence of the beer and the food.

Photo courtesy Mick Slaughter The December Pub of the Month is always a lively and popular affair lodged as it is between Christmas and New Year. So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate not only the Pub of the Month Award but also an award to mark their 30 years in the Good Beer Guide. Both will be presented to Simon and his staff on Thursday, 27th December.

The pub is less than 10 minutes from the main 192 bus route (walk down Bowerfold Lane or Heaton Lane), 10 minutes from the 84 and 197 routes in Heaton Moor and the 22 stops within a ¼ mile of the door. Don't miss it! JF

November 2012 Pub of the Month - Vale Cottage

Kirk Street, Gorton, Manchester, M18 8UE Map
(Warning, pub much nearer to Hyde Road than Google suggest.)

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for November is the Vale Cottage on Kirk Street in Gorton.

When the pub closed in the summer of 2011 many people thought that was that. Click for larger photo Another victim of a dispute between a licensee and the pub's owners (Enterprise Inns in this case) had bitten the dust. With the track record of closed pub chain establishments, the prospects of re opening looked bleak, when along came a knights in shining armour, Geoff and Tina. Who re-opened the pub in early November.

What swayed them? They already knew of the homely atmosphere and friendly staff and clientele. In fact the staff are so dedicated that Lesley, Ria, Carole, Kath, Janet, Nora, Debora and not forgetting Rita the cleaner have not missed a shift between them over the past year. Many clubs and groups meet here, a recent capture is the Gorton MCFC supporters who meet every Wednesday. The first and third Mondays of the month sees acoustic jam nights along with occasional visits by Morris dancers and bell ringers. Coupled with delivering good home cooked meals and excellent beer what more does a pub need?

Click for larger photo

So why are we bestowing this honour on Geoff and Tina? They have rescued a pub that could have so easily have remained boarded for years, or even been demolished. Now, after serving an excellent pint of Taylor's Landlord, usually one of the Witches from Moorhouses and a changing guest, they have a thriving pub. All this enthusiasm and commitment has resulted in Enterprise putting their hands in their pockets and doing up the outside of the building.

How do you find the Vale Cottage? You need to know which footpath to take off Hyde Road, Gorton. With your back to the Waggon and Horses, take the country footpath to the right of the butterfly garden and orchard. Traverse the Gore Brook, part of Gorton Heritage area, and the Vale Cottage can be glimpsed through the trees. When approached this way you can understand their strap-line - The country pub in the city.

Busses 201, 204 and 205 will get you there from Manchester (with 206 daytime only) while 203 travels between Manchester and Stockport.

Joshua Brooks
October 2012 Pub of the Month

106 Princess St, Manchester M1 6NG Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for October is Joshua Brooks on Princess Street in Manchester City Centre.

Until about 18 months ago, this would have been a surprising choice for a CAMRA award. Little or no cask beer had been sold since the pub opened in the mid-1990s and it was more of a club than a pub.

There's still a lively club in the basement which hosts a variety of music nights and even theatre. However hand in hand with the refurbishment downstairs, came a new look for the pub premises on the ground floor with a more pubby feel and an greater emphasis on the beer.

"Real Ale" says the sign on the wall and indeed there is. There are six handpumps on the bar which dispense an ever changing range of guest beers and these are far from what you might call "the usual suspects". New beers from new micro breweries around the country vie for bar space with more familiar names.

Asked what he aims to stock, enthusiastic manager Jon Turner simply says "whatever seems exciting". Jon has been at Joshua Brooks for about four and a half years now and has overseen its transformation into something of an unsung gem on the City Centre cask beer scene. And it's not only with cask beers that the transformation has taken place. The fridges behind the bar feature bottles from the USA and closer to home including beers from RedWillow and Thornbridge, and even the keg range is not what you might expect with always on draft American beer sold along with Black Isle Stout which has ousted Guinness.

There is a good food offer including Pieminster Pies and CAMRA members can join the Joshua Brooks Club and pay just £2.50 a pint on a pint on Fridays. All well worth celebrating and join us when we do this and present our award on Tuesdfay 23 October.

The Calverts Court
September 2012 Pub of the Month

St Petersgate, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1EB Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for September 2012 has been awarded to the Calverts Court, Petersgate, Stockport, writes Jim Flynn.

When this Wetherspoon's pub was opened 11 years ago in an old furniture store it was welcomed by many, hoping that it would waken up the town centre pub scene. These hopes were dashed as instead it turned into a rather mediocre affair with somewhat indifferent quality and choice.

Click for larger photo This award is testimony that all that changed with arrival of Richard Cripps and his team. Calverts Court is now fulfilling the hopes of over a decade ago. Before coming to Stockport he ran the Bollin Fee in Wilmslow for four years, a pub that didn't really know what real ale was when he got there but which was awarded a place in The Good Beer Guide just before he left.

The pub currently sells 2000 pints of cask beer a week which is double what was sold when Richard first arrived. Five guest ales are always available (along with the usual Abbot and Ruddles) and Richard is keen to mix nationally available ales with those from local breweries. In addition at least one traditional cider is normally to be had. Richard and his team are always open to suggestions and have a 'Royal Ale' post box where customers can post a suggestion which they will then try our best to get in. Monthly meet the brewer nights are held and also a bi-monthly brewery tour at one of the local breweries.

They have a passionate team with special mentions on the beer front to Rich ('Chappers'), a new addition to the management team as one of Richard's deputies, who has a very keen interest in cask beer (he worked as a volunteer at the Stockport Beer and Cider Festival) and Paul a bar associate being heavily involved with the organisation of ale events. So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented to Richard and all his staff on Thursday, 27 September when, I am sure, a great night will be enjoyed by all.

August's Pub of the Month - Arden Arms

Thursday 23rd August 2012

23 Millgate, Stockport, SK1 2LX Map

The Pub of the Month winner for August is the perennial favourite, the Arden Arms on Millgate, just off the town's historic Market Place. Dave Platt went along.

Steve King and Joe Quinn have been running the Arden Arms Click for larger photo for something like 12 years now and during that time have won an impressive clutch of awards, from both CAMRA and other organisations, all hugely well deserved.

This Grade II listed pub had many historic features which have gained it a listing on CAMRA'S National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The interior is always kept in excellent order with brown and cream décor, lots of wood, real fires and chandeliers. All topped of by a warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Unseen by the regular patrons, are a number of body niches in the cellar walls attesting to its former use as a mortuary for the coroners' courts nearby.

The pub is known for its excellent food which is now served in the evenings as well as at lunchtimes. The pub buzzes at all times with quiz nights, wine tastings, jazz on Mondays and even a knitting club! Outside there is a superb courtyard showing off the old outbuildings and stables, and features a new stage which will feature a range of live music. An outside bar is being planned to accompany this. The beers are from Robinsons and the Arden sells a wide selection from the range, with quality being top notch.

Join us on Thursday 23rd August when we present this much deserved award to Steve and Joe, and their very hardworking staff who together make this pub a pleasure to eat and drink in.

July's Pub of the Month - The Crown

98-100 Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, SK4 4NZ Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month award for July 2012 was won by the Crown, Heaton Moor, writes Jim Flynn.

In an area which is definitely on the up as far as pubs and beer are concerned when Martyn Clowery and his manager Stuart Davies took over the Crown in Heaton Moor 12 months ago they Click for larger photo recognised that something had to be done to ensure that this ex Boddington's house stayed in front of the competition. Their plan was simply to ensure that the pub played to its strengths as a traditional boozer while improving its range of beers.

Stuart describes the pub has having all the best attributes of the Grapes in the sitcom Early Doors written by local writer Craig Cash. You can see his point not only for the setting but also for the wide range of characters who populate the three rooms (including the last traditional vault in the area). Although very popular for sport, horse racing as well as football, the televisions are not intrusive and there are no food menus, no jukeboxes, no fruit machines and no pool tables; just people enjoying a drink and having a conversation.

With the demise of cask Boddingtons the beer range has widened to include Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, Marston's Pedigree, Wells Bombardier, John Smiths and one or two guest ales. Having signed up for the Spirit Master Brew Range and also SIBA Direct Stuart hopes to find something to please his old Boddies drinkers as well as enabling him to choose a variety of interesting guest beers.

Stuart has been running pubs from North Wales (his home) to London and back for 14 years and this experience certainly shows. The bar staff are very attentive and service is always prompt even at the busiest of times. The beers are kept very well and the Stuart has ensured that the pub has supported CAMRA's local campaigns, most recently Mild Magic.

The pub is less than 5 minutes from Heaton Chapel Station, 5 minutes from the 192 bus route, the 22 and 197 stop a few hundred years away and the 84 passes the door. Don't miss it!

June's Pub of the Month - Cheadle Hulme

47 Station Road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle, SK8 7AA Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month Award for June is to be given to the Cheadle Hulme on Station Road. John Sutcliffe tells our readers why it was chosen.

Located as it is next to the Station, where the Macclesfield and Wilmslow railway lines meet, this was at one time called the Junction. It was an establishment of character but with a reputation for being a little on the rough side. It was altered and renamed the Cheadle Hulme; good but rather bland. Gradually it was improved and eventually entered the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

In April 2009, the present landlord, Dave Woods, with his wife Rebecca and their young son Max; now joined by young Harry, took over its management. Click for larger photo Dave has a superb track record in the licensing trade and his considerable experience soon showed. He looks after the cask beers himself and they are always very well kept. Two years ago these consisted of Holts bitter, mild and monthly changing seasonal but there is now Holts IPA and up to three non-Holts guest beers. Dave is ably helped by Assistant Manager Matt Holmes and friendly and capable bar staff. He also holds occasional Beer Festivals including the one on 1st to 5th June with a marquee and 100 beers.

Within the first year that Dave was manager Joseph Holt's spent a considerable sum, tastefully refurbishing and providing new furniture for the premises. Every pub in Cheadle Hulme serves food and in many the food predominates. Here the dining is kept to the rear with popular carvery and hob in the day and a wider menu in the evening. Two meals are offered for £10.50 at lunchtimes on weekdays, £12.50 on Sundays.

The sociable drinking areas at the side and front, including the comfortable vault, with dart board, make this a superb community pub. There is live music once a month and a quiz night on Thursdays.

Holts support Christies Hospital with 10p of every pint donated but in addition to this, the Cheadle Hulme helps another charity each year, and this year it is Help for Heroes. A voluntary collection on music nights goes to this cause.

Dave is a very 'hands on' manager, nearly always present, behind the bar or in front with a friendly word for the customers, many of whom are regulars but anyone is made to feel welcome. This well deserved award for continuing excellence and improved beer choice will be presented on Thursday 28th June starting at 8.00 p.m. There will be a quiz from around 9.00 p.m.

The pub is served by railway to Cheadle Hulme station and buses 313, 307, 308 and X57/157 stop immediately outside with 368 & 369 within 5 minutes walk along Station Road.

May's Pub of the Month - Molly House

Thursday 24th of May 2012

26 Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3NB Map

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for May is the Molly House on Richmond Street in Manchester City Centre. Karen Wainwright explains why this new free house is so special and so different.

On the edge of Manchester's "Village" the Molly House (their website) is a new venture under the capable leadership of Paul Duffy. Click for larger photo Converted from a former tailor's shop, this three storey free house is a building of contrasts. The ground floor is dominated by floors and furniture of pinewood. The bar is populated with six handpumps carrying a varied array of Beartown beers plus regular guests from other local micro breweries such as Red Willow. Décor is low key, tasteful and complementary to function. Next to the bar is the open kitchen serving the mainly Spanish Tapas dishes. Forget about crisps and nuts for bar snacks; feast yourself on fresh carrot cake and Victoria sponge served from the bar. Thought provoking music, whilst not "in your face" but definitely in the air, helps to successfully entwine an ambiance of a cross between a British pub and a Continental bar.

For those who decide to explore the next floor, they discover the Molly House's unhidden secret. Whilst the bar is a carbon copy of downstairs the room is totally different. Soft furnishings and lighting create a sense of relaxation here. Take French "basement club", a Yankee "speak easy bar" and throw in a lot of well kept real ale, the result is a room with a unique character. Here too is access to a decked smoking area. With bench seating and adorned with hanging baskets it adequately caters for those thus inclined.

Paul has been in charge of the Molly House for the last sixteen months since opening. His team of staff is extremely friendly and nothing is too much effort to ensure you receive customer satisfaction. Apart from the real ales in the peak of condition, there is an excellent range of unusual spirits downstairs and fine wines upstairs. Foreign beers are well represented too. And for those who may be driving, (to complement the fresh cakes) an extensive range of teas and coffees from around the world are on offer along with a non alcoholic cocktail menu. Paul also has a wish to reduce his beer carbon footprint by trying to source guest ales that comply with CAMRA's LocAle philosophy in which he takes beer from local producers to reduce "beer miles".

The presentation of the Pub of the Month plaque will be on Thursday 24t May from 8 o'clock in the evening. Come along and enjoy a drink or two in the refreshingly pleasant surroundings of The Molly House at 26 Richmond Street M1 3NB. It is just a few minutes walk from Manchester's Piccadilly bus and train stations.

April's Pub of the Month - John Millington

Thursday 26th of April 2012

67 Station Road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle, SK8 7AA Map

Opening Times Editor, John Clarke, will explains why the Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for April is the John Millington, Station Road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle.

The John Millington (their website) is one of the newest pubs in Cheadle Hulme, and one of the newer pubs in the Hydes estate having been converted into a pub just w few years ago. It occupies the listed premises of the former Millington Hall and at the time the pub conversion attracted no little opposition from locals who were concerned about yet another licensed premises in the village.

Since then the John Millington has settled in to become a fixture of Cheadle Hulme village life. Click for larger photo Far from the rowdy den of iniquity predicted by the local nimbys the pub became known for a solid food offering and a reasonable range of Hydes ale. A food destination but not really a beer destination.

However that started to change in late 2010 when Matthew Abbot arrived as manager. Matthew is a cask ale fan and set about making the pub's beer offer as impressive as its other attractions. And so, as the beer trade has increased so has the number of cask ales on offer. Up to nine cask ales are on sale at weekends and apart from the regular Hydes beers (usually Original, Manchester's Finest and the current craft ale) guests come from a variety of brewers with the likes of Allgates, Marble and Hornbeam being amongst the favourites.

Apart from the beer side, the pub is thriving with events and promotions most nights - notably Mondays where there is 50p off cask ales all day. There are pub quizzes, live bands and even brewery visits. In short what could easily have been something of an anonymous suburban food destination is also making its mark as a proper community local. This is all down to the hard work of Matthew and his management team, including Louise Anderson and Paul Murren

It is appropriate then that this award is being presented during Community Pubs Month on Thursday 26th April from 8pm. To celebrate the award the John Millington is running a month long beer festival so we should be in for a beery treat on the presentation night.

This is quite an easy pub to get to. It's just a short walk from Cheadle Hulme station and buses 313 and 157 will take you there and back.

March's Pub of the Month - Railway (Portwood)

Thursday 22nd of March

Avenue Street, Portwood, Stockport, SK1 2BZ Map

Mike Gilroy is a regular and explains why the Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for March is the Railway, Avenue Street, Portwood.

This is a multi award winning family run business; at the helm are Sue and Vince, with a crew of four talented staff: Brian, Frankie, Phil and Sara. Click for larger photo The pub has been under threat of demolition for many years but seems to have more lives than your average cat. It has once again had a reprieve for at least another 12 months before it is knocked down to make way for a supermarket (Sainsbury's will have to wait).

Meanwhile it is very much business as usual. The bar sports 14 hand pumps, serving cask ales from Pennine, Outstanding and Moorhouses breweries , with ever changing guest milds. Every Friday up to three guest beers are on sale; there is also a hand pump with Thornbridge "Jaipur" as a permanent feature.

The cider and perry are supplied by John Reek of Merrylegs Cider, so the quality is top notch. The perry is Weston's "Country" 4.5%, and as for cider, a different cider goes on as soon as the last barrel is empty, so you never know what cider is coming next, but you do know it will be good. A wide selection of Belgian, German and other bottled beers complete the range.

The pub has a railway theme, with a large loco mural at the back of the pub, and a model railway at the top of the bar. There is a bar-billiards table which gets used a lot, and card games (crib) are played around the pub. There is a quiz team and a darts team so the place is buzzing with different things going on.

And if all that wasn't enough, the Railway puts on up to three beer festivals a year and the same amount of cider festivals (which are not to be missed). All the local beer festivals get visited from this pub with buses/minibuses organized by Sue & Vince. For the Ramsbottom festival there was a vintage bus and a steam train used to get there.

The presentation is on Thursday 22 March from 8pm. The pub is just a short walk from Stockport Town Centre but buses 330 and 325 will drop you almost outside.

February's Pub of the Month - Ye Olde Woolpack

Thursday 23rd of February

70 Brinksway, Edgeley, Stockport, SK3 0BY Map

Pete Brown explains why Ye Olde Woolpack in Edgeley is Stockport and South Manchester's Pub of the Month for February 2012.

Click for larger photo

Ye Olde Woolpack on Brinksway, is a pub we almost lost. Closed for more than 12 months, its fate seemed uncertain until Mick Flynn and his family came to the rescue in November 2011. Situated on the banks of the River Mersey, close to the town centre and the M60 motorway (the Co-op pyramid is about 100yards away) it is ideally situated for passing trade and regulars alike. It is particularly popular in summer months with walkers and cyclists.

As you enter you are greeted by a U-shaped bar, with an open seating area to your left, and two small rooms to the right. There is the odd hand pump on the bar, 15 to be precise, five dispensing an ever changing range of quality beers, and 10 (yes I did say 10) given over to some of his range of up to 16 ciders and perries. Click for larger photo This makes Ye Olde Woolpack the pub in Stockport if you enjoy the occasional pint of cider. Add to this a range of bottled ciders and 14 German bottled beers; the Woolpack really does cater for everyone.

Lunchtime food is also on offer here with both a regular menu and a daily specials board. It is simple, no frills fare and excellent value for money.

As with any good pub, the people make all the difference. While much of its lunchtime trade comes from local businesses, there is also a loyal band of regulars old and new who ensure it has that "local" feel. There is a quiz night on Wednesday, and for those that like such things, Karaoke on Friday night. Add to that, the friendly, welcoming atmosphere created by the whole team and you end up with a great place to spend an afternoon or evening (or both). Not only have the efforts of Mick and the team prevented another pub from being turned into offices, but it steadily increasing in popularity. A fact illustrated by the speed with which the beers are changed.

All in all, a worthy recipient the Pub of the Month award. So please come along to the award presentation on Thursday 23 February from 8pm onwards.

January's Pub of the Month - Victoria Hotel

Tuesday 17th of January

438 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester, M20 3BW Map

Let Mark McConachie tell you why the Victoria in Withington is Pub of the Month for January.

This is a very busy, community pub in the heart of Withington village. It boasts a fantastic bustling atmosphere visited by a more mature student population along with its regular clientele. It has a pro-CAMRA stance, in that it participates fully in campaigns for Mild, Winter Warmers, and Ciders. Fully refurbished to a high standard in August 2010, licensee Mark Burns and his team set about rebuilding the business as a traditional pub - with cask ales as the main focus. So true to cask are its staff, that they are all cask drinkers and are trained in cellar management. With quality as their watchword, it comes as no surprise to see Cask Marque accreditation here. And you know it is genuine as they maintain 10 hand-pulled beers, plus two ciders. If you're mad for cask, get down on a Thursday as all cask is a bargain £2.20 a pint!

If entertainment is your scene, Friday's alternate weekly between live bands and karaoke. Click for larger photo The pub is a big supporter of charities - St Ann's Hospice, and "Help for Heroes"; it also sponsors the MMU Woman's Football Club. Two successful beer festivals have been held - St Georges Day week (22nd to 29th April 2011) and the more recent early October event. Over 86 different cask ales were sold throughout that three-week period, with all beers selling-out, and more importantly for the business no wastage due to their excellent cellar management expertise. The regular beers are sourced nationwide along with local micros such as Phoenix, Hornbeam, Dunham, and Marble. These supplement the full Hydes range.

Hydes have recognised the achievements made here with nominations for Hydes Managed Pub of the Year and Runner-up in Cellar of the Year, whilst Assistant Manager, Laura Bodham won the coveted Hydes Employee of the Year.

Licensee Mark Burns has an interesting background - beginning as a Design Engineer in the aerospace industry in the US, Canada, and Australia, he changed tack in 2007 to become second chef at Hydes Quarrybank in Timperley. Roles as Barman, and Relief Manager quickly followed, then the relief position arose at the Victoria in Nov 2009. Mark says he has never looked back in all that time.

So come along for a great night on Tuesday 17th. The Victoria is at 438 Wilmslow Road, Withington M20 3BW, by Withington Library. Buses from the Stockport locale are 42, 22 and X57/157, along with 23/A, 84 and 370 (change at Didsbury); buses from Manchester are 41-3, 48, 142-3.

Pub of the Month for December - Paramount

Thursday 29th of December

33-35 Oxford Street City Centre, Manchester M1 4BH Map

Hear why Jim Flynn thinks this Good Beer Guide regular should be the Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for December.

This very busy Wetherspoons pub while buzzing with conversation and life has a more relaxed ambiance than the frenetic atmosphere found in many other city centre pubs. Around the walls are old photos of theatres and cinemas from Manchester's old theatre land in the vicinity of the pub (from which it derives its name) and aptly is very handy today for many modern day venues. The pub is extremely pro CAMRA supporting all our local campaigns such as Mild Magic and the Winter Warmer Wander but it takes more than all this no doubt positive stuff however to make a pub of the month.

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So has led to this award and what makes the Paramount different from many other Wetherspoon's pubsl? The answer is clear; what really gives it an edge is the passion the managers and staff have for their cask beers. When early in 2006 real ale enthusiasts Mark and Natalie Hodgson moved from the Wye Bridge House in Buxton to take over as the management team at the Paramount they set about improving the cask beer sales and they have succeeded in a massive way, making the pub a Good Beer Guide fixture for the last four editions.

Gone are the days when you can't find anybody behind the bar who knows anything about the beers on sale, its staff are well trained and customer orientated. Above all, although the number and variety of beers (and now ciders) available has increased considerably over the years, the quality is always of the highest standard. It always has beers from local micros as well as ales from further afield, all in excellent condition and all at Wetherspoon's bargain prices. Mention a new up and coming beer to Mark and low and behold the next day one of his team is on the phone endeavouring to bring it to the pub.

The December Pub of the Month is always a very lively and very popular affair lodged as it is between Christmas and New Year when most people are off work. So why not join the local CAMRA branch to celebrate the award which will be presented on Thursday, 29 December when, I am sure, a great night will be enjoyed by all. Come down and take this opportunity congratulate Mark, Natalie and their staff for the all their efforts in ensuring that the Paramount has continued to be such a beacon of excellence.

The pub is only a short walk from Piccadilly Gardens and two minutes from Oxford Road station and the St Peter's Square tram stop so there's no excuse, come on down on the 29th!

Grapes - Pub of the Month for November

Wednesday 23rd of November

196 London Road, Hazel Grove, Stockport, Cheshire, SK7 4DQ Map

Let Chris Wainwright explain why this Good Beer Guide regular is the Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for November.

ROBINSONS may have closed a number of struggling pubs in Hazel Grove lately, but no such worries exist about the future of November's Pub of the Month. George and Elaine have been in the Grapes for 18 years now. As if this level of longevity in one pub is not achievement enough, this year they celebrate 25 years with Robinsons. Older readers may remember them at the controls of the (now closed) Royal Mortar on Hillgate.

Well known and respected in the area the Woods have contributed to local events and charities from the Click for larger photo outset. The efforts of the customers each year in playing a major role in the Hazel Grove Carnival were rewarded earlier this year in them winning "Best Decorated Float". And it's those same regulars that will share a cheery welcome with you as you walk through the door, whether it is for the first time or the umpteenth time.

There has been some fairly dire beer sold in Hazel Grove, as is evident from a recent Stagger article in these pages, but there is however no doubt that the Grapes consistently deliver an excellent pint. The Unicorn bitter is always on top form and the Hatters mild is offered at two different temperatures for those that prefer a slightly cooler than usual tipple.

Testament to demand for George's cellar skills is the fact that this pub is driven on wet sales alone. You won't see any menus on tables; hear any deafening live music to shatter the peace. Even the jukebox is reasonably low key. What you will hear is good old bar room chat and banter. Customers actually having conversations with each other prove this is truly a pub for the community.

So come along for the presentation on Wednesday 23rd of November from 8.00pm and sample the atmosphere for yourself. The Grapes is in the middle of Hazel Grove (SK7 4DQ), on the bend in the A6 served by the 191, 192, 199 bus and just four minutes walk from Hazel Grove rail station.

Fletcher Moss - Pub of the Month for October

William Street, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6RQ

Note change of date - Wednesday 26th

Stuart Ballantyne is a fan of Didsbury's pubs and explains why it won.

Tucked away on a side street off the busy Wilmslow Road the Fletcher Moss can easily be overlooked by visitors unfamiliar with Didsbury. Consequently the pub's main trade is with locals and it does not pander towards the transient student population.

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Very much a community local, the pub supports local charities such as St. Ann's Hospice and Christie Hospital by hosting regular charity quizzes and acoustic music nights. The pub is everything a community pub should be; it doesn't feature gimmicks such as sport on TV, it is not a food driven operation and despite the introduction of local high profile competition, the pub has, if anything, become even busier. But how can this be you may ask?

It's all down to licensee Ken Mallion, his wife Lynn, deputy manager Mark and their team who make the running of a good pub look easy. Such is the quality of the service and the beers on sale that the Fletcher Moss now seems to be a perennial entry in the national Good Beer Guide. This year is no exception.

In addition to the regular three Hydes beers sold (Original, 1863, and Manchester's Finest) Hydes seasonal ale is also on sale. The Fletcher Moss has also very successfully introduced three guest beers and a traditional cider.

With record beer sales it will come as no surprise that the Fletcher Moss is to host its own beer festival featuring between 25 and 30 beers. This will take place from Thursday 6 to Sunday 9 October. If you want to dine whilst visiting the beer festival then why not try the Fletcher Moss paella which will be cooked in the beer garden on Thursday night? Also don't overlook the live solo artist who will be playing on Sunday night.

So for continued excellence, the introduction of an extended beer range and for just being a damn good local's pub the Fletcher Moss has won the pub of the month award for October. Why not join the CAMRA group for the pub of the month presentation on Wednesday 26 October when the pub is likely to be very busy. Please note – the date of the presentation has been brought forward from the usual Thursday to Wednesday to avoid a clash with the Didsbury beer festival.

So please come and give your support to The Fingerpost, William Street, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6RQ map here from 8pm, October 26th. It is served by the 23/23A, 42 and 370 busses from central Stockport and most 40/140 busses with East Didsbury in their destination from Manchester. East Didsbury and Burnage train stations are about equal distance away and involve a 10 minute walk.

Fingerpost - Pub of the Month for September

Hempshaw Lane, Offerton, Stockport, SK1 4QA

Chris Wainwright explains explains why, on Thursday September 22nd, the Fingerpost on Hempshaw Lane in Offerton will be awarded the Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA, Pub of the Month.

There is this month a new-comer to this column, being a first time winner of our prestigious award. The Fingerpost was built in the Victorian era, and dominates a cross-roads in Offerton. Click for larger photo Like many things Victorian, it is a solid red brick built affair with a bold white painted porch and large sash windows. A multi-roomed former hotel that has been a proud part of the Robinsons estate since their takeover of the old Bell's Brewery over 60 years ago.

Comprising of a large curved bar in the vault harking back to the days when most of the trade was provided by the working classes, and a smaller bar serving the lounge area. The vault is still suitably appointed so as to provide comfort for those not wanting too many modern trappings, without being too bare. The lounge side has all the comforts of a modern pub with three distinct drinking rooms in a semi open plan layout, with two meeting rooms at the end of the passageway.

Until recently it had been under the care of no less than three generations of one family. About eighteen months ago and just after Robinsons had spent a large amount of cash on structural repairs, Robert Lester arrived to take over the helm, ably assisted by family members Barbara and Meg. Click for larger photo No strangers to either the pub trade or Robinsons Brewery having run pubs in Whaley Bridge, Kirkham, Nantwich and Shrewsbury, they set about to restore the business to its former glory. They introduced homemade meals, reopened the upstairs function room and engaged live bands to complement the already established darts, cribbage and football teams.

Past visitors may remember the Robinsons Best Bitter and Mild being served through electric pumps, these were replaced with handpumps a few years ago when the beers were renamed Unicorn and Hatters. Credit for the sparkling quality of the beer is down to Robert's faultless cellarmanship. The Lesters have continued the Fingerpost's habit of supporting charities by holding family fun-days in the huge open space to the rear of the pub. There is still a very strong Stockport County FC following here too, with a band of regulars who insist on calling in for breakfast to start their journey to away matches, a tradition that Robert is happy to continue.

So please come and give your support to The Fingerpost, 434 Hempshaw Lane, Offerton, Stockport, SK1 4QA map here (With slight Google error!) from 8pm, September 22nd. It is served by the 383/384 and 358 busses.

Pub of the Month

Friendship - Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield

Margaret O'Brien explains why, on Thursday August 25th, the Friendship will be awarded the Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA, Pub of the Month.

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This will be the third Pub of the Month award that Chris and Tricia Batty have won during their stewardship of the Friendship, a welcoming Hydes pub in central Fallowfield. They must be doing something right - so what makes the Friendship such a great pub?

It is of course in the heart of the university and student area of South Manchester and is surrounded by halls of residence. But despite that location the Friendship lives up to its name by being perhaps the last true local on the long stretch of road between the City Centre and Withington.

Refurbished this year to give the pub a fresh and modern look, the large horseshoe bar serves a variety of areas and can now accommodate 12 cask ales - offering the Hydes range, as well as varying guest beers. This is ideal for the many festivals the pub hosts (the next one is coming up between Friday 30th September and Sunday 2nd October).

The rear extension completed a few years ago has created the space for provision of interesting and popular Oriental food, including takeaways. Well positioned TV screens provide for sports fans, but to get away from the bustle and hubbub, there is the "Hyde Out" back bar for a peaceful drink and a chat. Come the good weather, a variety of outdoor drinking spots are available for people-watching or bus spotting even! Quizzes are held weekly - music on Sunday; general knowledge on Tuesday.

Beer quality is excellent and the Friendship is often to be found gracing the pages of CAMRA's national Good Beer Guide. There will certainly be good beer to be had on the night of our presentation - Thursday August 25th

The pub is very well served by public transport - the many buses that go up and down Wilmslow Road will drop you outside. From Stockport the 42 will suffice, while from Manchester anything with 40 something or 140 something on the front will do the same.

Pub of the Month - July

Milson Rhodes - School Lane, Didsbury

The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for July is the Milson Rhodes on School Lane in Didsbury. Didsbury pub fan Stuart Ballantyne went to visit this relative newcomer to the village's pub scene.

The Milson Rhodes is Wetherspoons first venture into Didsbury and it has introduced some much needed competition into the village. The pub is named after Dr. John Milson Rhodes (1847-1909) who has been described as 'a friend to humanity'. Dr. Rhodes lived in Didsbury treating patients with learning difficulties and epilepsy. He was so highly regarded that on his death Didsbury's four square clock tower on Wilmslow road was built to commemorate his life.

The manager of the Milson Rhodes is Kirstin Downham, formerly the duty manager at the Ford Madox Brown in Rusholme. She told Opening Times that she drinks cask beers herself and uses her own experience and beer preferences to choose which beers to sell. She always tries to mix well known beers with those of her own choice and from smaller breweries up and down the country. "I am always willing to try new beers" she says.

At the Milson Rhodes attention to detail is important. Kirstin has trained her own management team to ensure that quality is always high. She always supports local charities and regularly raises money for the nearby Christie hospital.

Kirstin's plans for the near future include running a mini Manchester beer festival featuring micro breweries across Greater Manchester and participating in the Wetherspoons cider festival. As if this were not enough, she is also in negotiations with a North West brewery to brew a beer to her own recipe.

For the new kid on the block, the Milson Rhodes has covered the ground fast. We will present Kirstin and her team with the Pub of the Month award for July on Thursday 28 July. To add to the celebrations on the same night from 7pm there will also be a "Meet the Brewer" event with representatives from Milestone Brewery.