Within the world of hype, fuss and circle jerks, I'm trying to rekindle my love of discovering pubs. This isn't a determined and rebellious stance; more of a return to practising what I preach. I love pubs in all shapes, areas and forms. As we keep losing those around us and the only venue promotions come to newly formed craft beer chapels I want to take in what is left in areas around me.
For reasons relating to my current personal status I've been spending much more time in Glossop; a hillside town placed just as Greater Manchester becomes Derbyshire. Glossop is an odd little town with an odd local reputation. On the one hand, growing up in the town of Stalybridge, Glossop was considered by us to be a rather quaint, picturesque Derbyshire town with such family outing places as Manor Park to enjoy. Having been decidedly little as an adult until recently, this is the view I continued to hold.
Yet speaking with people recently has proven that adults from the surrounding Tameside areas do not hold the same view of the town as a 10-year-old did. Planning a day trip there to visit our friend who has recently taken residence in the town centre was met with the firm view of; “It’s a shithole. There are a lot of pubs but none of them are worth going in."
That sounded like the challenge. There are indeed a lot of pubs in the town centre and I was determined that at least a couple of them must be worthwhile.
Exploring Glossop actually began on a Sunday in July 2016 (the day of the Euro 2016 final and so some were visited 8 months ago.) I've added other pubs since then until I've got a large enough set to get a feel for the town.
The Smithy Fold
We started at the Smithy Fold,Wetherspoons for logistical reasons in relation to our friend’s house and because I can’t resist checking out a ‘Spoons. This particular operation only opened in 2013 in a prime location beneath the new Glossop Travelodge, making this a relatively new-build – and it feels it. The line-up and availability of choice is as to be expected. Nursing a large hangover, I opted for the cold Devil’s Backbone from keg but I was assured the quality of cask was good. It boasts a lovely, airy, modern interior. And really noticeable fancy Doom Bar handpumps.
Alas, the clientele are mostly the stereotypical “Spooner” grumbling angrily at a TV screen with Andy Murray trundling on. The Glossop bourgeois are more taken by the Pico Lounge just thirty seconds away that has much of the feel of a Wetherspoons but without the cask and at twice the price.
We were shot a few questioning looks and there were a few unpleasant references to Andy Murray's nationality, although we seemed to be sat in the area that this was to be expected.
I happened to bob back into the Smithy Fold for an early breakfast the following morning and found it a lovely environment to enjoy their filter coffee at 7.30am. Personally, I recommend the place. I've been back - and eaten there - a few times since that July visit.
A quick side step onto the main road leading into Glossop leads to many pubs, including our next port of call: The Oakwood.
I visited this Robinson’s pub along the main street around seven years ago on my last brief trip to Glossop centre and it has certainly changed much since then. This place has really benefited from the large refurbishment money slowly being pumped into the entire Robinson’s estate. The tiling on the bar is beautiful with a lovely open front room. The dining area in the back room looks delightful as well. It was the first Robinson’s owned pub I’d visited with a larger range of their modern exerts into craft, with large American-style keg pumps for Kona’s Big Wave and some Swedish beer I can’t recall. I opted for one of Robinson’s White label beers; their cleverly disguised attempts at the modern market, there to confuse people who don’t like Robinson’s into buying Robinson’s beer. It worked on me, with this “G’Day APA” still tasting mostly of Robinson’s house yeast.
The young man behind the bar, in his Led Zep tee and many piercings was the sort mostly talking about the quality of certain drummers from bands long before his time, which was a tad off-putting. But everything else about the place seemed worthy of a visit. He made us feel more than welcome though I can imagine arguing with him about The Beatles' best work would sour an afternoon.
After a quick detour when my friend mistook The Crown as meaning the Globe, we eventually arrived at our next unintentional pub: the Friendship.
The Friendship is another Robinson’s pub to have recently undergone surgery – and was the first bit of proof to me that these Robbie’s refurbs are going to be all nearly identical. More wood, more grey paint but without the uniqueness of the Oakwood bar, the Friendship is a pub that is probably referred to more often than not as a boozer. At the bar were friends of the bar staff looking more than enquiringly at these three strangers ordering halves of cask. In the corner was an elderly couple in their Sunday finest, sipping slowly, not conversing with each and looking sullen; probably doing what they have done every Sunday for years. We drank Robinson’s Wizard that brought understanding to the rest of my brood about my grievances with Robinson’s use of their house yeast, with the beer tasting far too similar to the APA before it.
We sat and watched Andy Murray win the Wimbledon final from high chairs in the centre of the front bar. A man behind us tutted and muttered as we may have been slightly impeding his view, despite him being sat on a seat from where the television would only be visible in an empty pub. It would be enough to put most off the Friendship.
I like it.
The Star Inn
A 4 minute walk from the Friendship leads you right by Glossop's railway station and the Star Inn.
I met the managers of the Star Inn at a Meet the Brewer for Runaway Brewery a few weeks before my trip around Glossop. They were interested to learn more about keg, being a pub seemingly known for its quality cask. They weren’t dismissive of keg beer, more intrigued and a little naive. Still, they were pleasant people and I looked forward to visiting their pub renowned for good cask beer. (Hey, it's in the GBG.)
The Star Inn is a multi-snugged thin but traditional pub that will certainly appeal to a pre-craft crowd. On a late Sunday afternoon, the pub is packed inside and we crowd round the low, small bar to buy offerings from the likes of Mallinson’s and the Rat Brewery. We take the drinks outside – all kept in good condition – to soak up the sun. From here we watch the odd train service go back and forth and watch a possible funeral or Christening crowd get rowdy in the nearby George Hotel (that surprisingly never made the list of places to visit.) I like the Star though didn’t get much of a sense of its atmosphere on this day. I still haven't due to a nearby masterpiece, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it.
Once just being a small beer and wine shop on the main high street, Harvey Leonard's Wine and Ale Tasters has taken over the old Glossop conservative club and transformed into a must visit venue. It boasts a huge wine tasting machine, a wine shop area with (what I am told) is a terrific selection, a beer shop area with plenty of the beers one would expect to see in a modern quality retailer and a bar with six keg lines - including a house beer brewed by Runaway brewery. This is all backed up by a spacious drinking area with a variety of stools around barrels and comfy sofas. I cannot get enough of the place.
There is no difference in its excellent quality on the day that we visit but I go so many times it is the reason the other pubs in this blog would really struggle to impress me either way. Harvey Leonard's is a real venue to me; a destination. It isn't like any beer shop I've ever been to and now certainly retains more of a use as a bar
It can be considered a modern craft beer venue but is nothing like the city centre opened-ceiling pulled-pork mismatched-stool destinations of the last five years.
For me it is worth the visit to Glossop on its own and is my most used bar in the area by some way.
In a complete change of tact, we left Harvey Leonard’s, got pizzas on order and wandered slightly away from the town centre, though only around a 7 minute walk, to the Crown Inn. Having a reasonable reputation – and now an entry in 2017’s Good Beer Guide – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the small, local, Samuel Smith’s owned establishment.
What you are presented with in the Crown Inn is a Sam Smith’s pub; a traditional, multi-roomed pub that feels untouched but homely, a busy bar area and a myriad of regulars that judge anybody who enters the bar area. To my shame I had to order a pint here. My ridiculous quiff and perfumed scent were already being mocked quietly at the bar and so I caved in traditional English style under the potential embarrassment caused when ordering a half. I plumped for a full pint of Old Brewery Bitter on cask before retreating to an adjacent snug. Here we listened to a lovely couple come in and out of the pub whilst arguing over a mobile phone; toddler duly being ignored in the corner of the room.
My pint of Old Brewery Bitter endearingly brought me to use a beer description I don’t seem to have had use for in some time – musty. It smells and tastes musty, like Shaw’s Golden Globe always did. In general terms it’s poor and my still fragile state I couldn’t even complete it. The fact this pub has made it into the Good Beer Guide based on one poorly kept cask beer is a fine example as to why few people give the publication much credence any more. Was it returnable? I don't know. I can't say I've had a decent pint of OBB anywhere for 6 years.
This was to be enough to end my first tour around Glossop until I returned some months later to properly add a few more venues to the blog.
The next ramble was to begin at the Globe; a pub that has entry in the guide and brews its own beer on site. A couple of mentions to a few locals I know generally came to the conclusion of “yeah, they do brew their own beer, but it's shite.” Tickle me further intrigued.
Anyway, something else the Globe seems to be well known for is peculiar opening times and low and behold when I arrived just after 2pm on a Saturday afternoon the pub was indeed shut. So the mystery of the Globe oddity and its homebrewed beer continues. As it is on the main road into Glossop, it has now become something of a game to pass it in the car and say "Hey look - the Globe's open." Something that has been exclaimed no more than thrice and still hasn't led me to visiting.
The Corner Cupboard
As I had arranged to meet my friend in the Globe I decided to wait for him instead in the nearby Corner Cupboard, opposite the Oakwood. This large corner Thwaites’ pub is another boozer by definition; with dazzling light displays provided by flashing games machines and sport-filled televisions. The Liverpool match clashes with the Golf, but luckily there’s enough televisions for both. Wainwright’s is the only cask beer available and is very well-kept, though as uninspiring as ever. The landlord and regulars are all perfectly pleasant, which makes this next revelation all the more interesting.
As we leave, my friend points across the road at one of the biggest CCTV cameras I’ve ever seen that he tells me is trained directly at the Corner Cupboard. “It kicks off regularly on matchdays. In huge numbers. Any match too: Manchester City, Glossop North End, Sheffield United...” It doesn’t quite match the feel of the pub I’ve just been in but gives it some charm I suppose. Maybe charm is the wrong word...
Little Beer House
We begin our walk with the intention of reaching the Queen’s Arms, which is a 15 minute walk away. It’s housed in Old Glossop near Manor Park that I suppose is the defining area of that picturesque village I imagined as a youth.
On our way we spot an intriguing building...
Looking like the sort of establishment that would make a killing in this day and age, and just a minute away from the similar Harvey Leonard’s, this shop has clearly been gone for some time. Old homebrew kits and German looking lagers I’ve never heard of sit in the window display still. As of yet I’ve been unable to discover anything about it or its origins (apart from a registered, unused Twitter account) and any information would be gratefully received.
Even locals, including the rival establishments, only ever remember this building as “a phone shop.” I’m intrigued as to how this place was wiped from everybody’s memory, like the curse on the Beast's castle. Most don’t even seem to have noticed it until this tourist pointed it out to them.
The Queen's Arms
Here in the area known as Old Glossop the roads are steep, complicated and most without pavements. It is a different town altogether.
After a short but enjoyable trek we arrive at the Queen's Arms; a consistent Beer Guide entry. The pub's interior doesn't reward you after the odd sloping streets and promise of country pub style vibes, but the beer is prominent. The barman is friendly and makes the typical jokes about it being "a bit early" for apparent local favourite Jaipur. We opt for some of the most Nelson Sauvinny Thornbridge Kipling I've ever tasted and relax in the corner.
The pub is pleasant but a little lost in identity. It isn't sure if it wants to be food focused or beer focused. It promises both but doesn't provide the ambience required to make it perfect for either. The beer is well kept and the staff friendly enough to make it returnable; but on the day I'm underwhelmed. If good beer is your only concern then this is one of the best in town.
A walk up a lovely winding old road brings you to a pub with a beautiful old exterior overlooking the old town.
Another pub that is certainly lost in its real identity is The Wheatsheaf. This particularly small pub is still defined by two areas; one for drinking and one for dining. And boy does it want to let you know that.
Despite being so close they may as well be entering each another, The Wheatsheaf is still determined to keep these areas as separate entities, despite it being near open plan. So the area to the left of the door is laced with placemats and folded cutlery specifically for dining. The bar room on the right holds the beermats in front of the fireplace to let you know you’re welcome to drink in this area.
With a pint of Howard Town Wren's Nest we casually enquire about food at the bar - in a pub presently occupied by one man and his dog. We are made to sit down on a properly graced table less than four yards from the bar we just ordered a drink from. Waiters clumsily bump from the kitchen to take orders we could whisper to the barman who is still in such close proximity and with nobody to serve. We have to fold menus and all sorts.
My breaded halloumi dish thing is tasty pub grub and I understand why they are keeping the routine which probably works in busier times. But on this visit it did feel like sitting through Rowan Atkinson gift-wrapping your necklace when a bag would have done.
The Bull's Head
My friend departed here and I walked all of 25 yards to my next destination; the Bull's Head. Similarly to last pub, it has a beautiful exterior building amongst this Old Glossop area, but this time with the Robinson's brewery makeover. A shame as images in the link above show it in former glory and dating back to 1607.
The interior is homely and I immediately want the place to be good. The problem is that on a Saturday afternoon in a fairly sizeable pub, I am the only person here. I am served a drink (Unicorn) and then three members of staff sit down in one of the pubs many rooms to watch a game show on a corner television. They aren’t even expecting further custom.
I'm not criticising - with less anxiety I probably would have joined them in this game show marathon and made best friends - but I worry about its future. In just a brief visit, I felt the necessity of something like the existence of the Bull's Head to pubs. But it is completely unnecessary in terms of the market and area it is in.
(After writing the above I can confirm that The Bull's Head has just been sold from Robinson's to Inglenook Taverns. I’ll try and revisit. I hope they gut out the Robinson's refurbishment.)
It seemed a lot further to walk back down the road into Glossop centre again. I thought the Commercial would make a nice welcome break. It wasn’t a pub on my radar but a couple had mentioned it as “one of the better places” to go.
Unfortunately, I can’t even recall what was in the glass pictured but do remember four cask ales on a very busy bar. Traditional with many making use of the pub games, I sat on a table near the bar and, realising I could get no phone signal here, had little choice but to stare. There was plenty of conversation going on around me but no opportunity for me to jump in myself. I seemed to arouse suspicion from a group of (probable) regulars at the bar who potentially thought I was a police officer or inspector of some variety.
There’s nothing wrong with The Commercial and I wouldn’t avoid returning. I’d just make no conscious effort to do so.
Since these visits I’ve returned to Harvey Leonard’s many times and not stepped foot in any of the other pubs in town. The reasoning for this though is definitely in relation to how much I enjoy Harvey Leonard’s personally, but it is easily the best place in town.
It is, however, the only pub in this post that doesn’t serve cask beer and that is an interesting point about Glossop. Every pub visited served cask and all, bar the Crown, served it in near perfect condition even if brewery ties limited the choice in many. In that respect, Glossop is a town ideal for a ramble for those who are satisfied with a Robinson’s cask beer or the like served correctly.
It was also interested that all the pubs in New Glossop were certainly busy enough to justify their opening, especially in a town with such a sheer density of pubs. Perhaps in quite an isolated town, bereft of much else in the way of entertainment, pubs can still thrive
There are still plenty of other places to go at in Glossop and the surrounding areas and expect to see more of them appearing in this blog. In the mean time, get theeselves to some of your own locals or an unexplored nearby town. It doesn’t always have to be a newly opened craft beer hub. Love your pubs.