Crawling #8: Rochdale
October 22, 2022
I was in Rochdale for footballing reasons so felt the urge to go in at least six pubs so I could also get a Crawling column out of it. How did that go? Well, I stopped making notes after the first three so hopefully my memory is good enough to recall the rest!
PUB #1: D’ALE HOUSE
Ah! I see what they’ve done there. Transforming the Ale House title into a cunning play on words with a little apostrophe and a comment on the local accent. Top stuff. D’Ale House is an unassuming little building that feels more like a café than a bar. It’s up Drake Street and not far from tram links and the centre of town. I spotted a stout right away and plumped for it, along with Big Chris Linay while the Ogdens were on paler brews. I failed to notice the beer was peanut butter stout. Subdue your groans though, it was merely a slight flavour that didn’t dry out my mouth like every other peanut stout. ***¼ for Wilde Child’s Obsidian Phantom! We sat in there for a bit while Geoff ran his thumb over the racing post. “This is what it’s like with the Ogdens” says Chris. Later on, between pubs, Andy was watching a horse race on his phone. I peeked out the other door onto Church Lane and there are cobbles up that road. So, there’s cobbled streets out the back and tramline out the front. Rochdale has a unique sense of being both grounded in the past yet modernised. Already having a lovely time.
The photo shows the bar elevated above the tables. It does give me big café vibes but at least it has more personality than some modern ale houses.
PUB #2: BOMBAY BREWS
Right around the corner from D’Ale House is Bombay Brews, an Indian restaurant that happens to sell a range of good ales. Normally you get Cobra (and they do sell Cobra), Kingfisher or fucking Bangla but we’ve moved up in the world and I get a pint of Timmy Tompkins Dark Mild (Timothy Taylor for the layman). I couldn’t get much mild when my brothers were over in our neck of the woods but come up to Manchester and it’s all over the place! ***½ and a strong contender for beer of the day. We stood in the bar area, and I couldn’t really see the restaurant but there was this delightful smell of curry being cooked that made me hungry enough to eat two pies at the football.
PUB #3: THE REGAL MOON (WETHERSPOON)
Normally, I would turn my nose up at the Wetherspoons but this one is actually quite good. Yes, it has the same Wetherspoons uniformity that it’s hard to escape but the pub doesn’t immediately stink of their cleaning products and the beers came out smelling ok too. Plus, Andy had a load of CAMRA discount stickers so we got the beers for £1.49 a pop. I had a Conwy Brewery Autumn Red, and it was very nice. ***. I’m still on an unofficial boycott of Spoons in general but I can make an exception from time to time. Apparently, this is the most profitable Wetherspoons in the country. They also have what I’ve described in my notes as “a geezer playing an organ over the bar”.
Here is said geezer. With their real ale festival going on the beer was cheap and fresh and it wasn’t a total shitshow. Well done, Tim, not all your pubs are fucking shit.
PUB #4: THE MEDICINE TAP
The Medicine Tap used to be a post office and you can feel that post office vibe inside. The bar is presumably where the counter used to be so it’s long and although options could have been more varied, I landed on a DV8 stout from Deeply Vale Brewery, which is also really good. ***¼.
The whole place feels like it should have queues winding through it. We stood to a tall table near the bar and the bar staff in here were lovely. We got in here at 2pm and it’s over a mile to the ground so Andy ordered a taxi to take us to Spotland. We jump in there about half two and head up a steep hill, which Geoff didn’t want to walk up. Fair enough, I guess!
PUB #5: CROWN OIL ARENA
The ground had a bar in it under the Pearl Street Stand, which was well kitted out and packed with Rochdale fans. I didn’t get a beer in here but having the option to get a pint in and grab a pie from right next door was great. Rochdale lost 2-1 to Wimbledon and off we went to pub six…
PUB #6: THE BAUM
This time we did walk the 1.3 miles back into town and by the time we got to the Baum I was busting for a piss. The little walk through Rochdale did confirm to me that it felt very similar to Bromsgrove in many respects. It’s a similar size but has better public transport AND, crucially, better pubs.
After we’d all been to the toilet we settled into a seat on the corner of the bar. It’s a nice little L shaped central bar with cosy snugs scattered around the outside of it. There’s also a conservatory at the back and a beer garden beyond that. It was late October though, so we sat inside. I had a Pictish Sticklebract in here, which was a hoppy little pale ale. ***. The Baum is a cracking boozer. The toilets are too small but other than that I have no complaints. Next door to the Baum is the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum, the beginnings of the Co-Op movement and what Rochdale is famous for. At least in my head it’s famous for that. We’re still hitting 30 minutes per pub at this point, which if I was solo, I’d probably be slowing down a bit.
PUB #7: THE PINT POT
6pm when we get here and it’s starting to get dark.
The Pint Pot is probably my favourite boozer to this point. It’s a long thin bar and you can see almost all of it here. The bartender, and my companions, all decide to mock Birmingham as being “the third city”. I am suitably outraged. They have dark mild in here though. It’s Holden’s Black Country Mild, which I’ve never seen in the Black Country in the wild. It’s cracking. ***½. Two dark milds in the same day in different pubs, across the same town! Rochdale is genuinely ace. They had four beers on cask in here and I would quite happily of stayed here and had the lot and then the mild again. It’s a pub crawl though so we’re away to pub eight.
PUB #8: THE FLYING HORSE HOTEL
The Flying Horse came heavily recommended, and it’s packed out. It’s down a little cobbled road called Nelson Street and there’s taxi rank out front. The Flying Horse is considerably busier than everywhere else we’ve been into today and it’s a combination of the time (6.30pm as we get in there) and the football being on the telly.
We sit in the corner and watch Chelsea vs. Man Utd. I’m treated to local delicacy the Wobbly Bob. A 6% bastard that should really have been a bedtime beer. **½. The match was still going so I also had a pint of Spotland Gold, a more sensible Phoenix Brewery beer at 4.1%. **¾. I feel my sense of taste has probably gone by this point, so ratings have become increasingly arbitrary. After an hour in here we’re off to the next one.
PUB #9: HOGARTHS
Hogarths is a new chain pub, aimed at taking on JD Wetherspoons. Normally I’d say good luck to them, but the pub was shit. It’s a massive old bank and designed to get as many people into the space as possible, plying them with shitty beer. The range in here was so bad we ended up drinking Amstel. Yes, Amstel.
I didn’t take a photo and it was full on dark when we got there…and the alcohol was definitely kicking in. So, here’s what it looks like on Google Maps. It used to Lloyds Bank and it’s a very cool building but not to my tastes at all. Avoid.
PUB #10: CASK & FEATHER
Oh, bloody hell, are we still going? It was around half eight when we got into Cask & Feather and I was already winding down for sleep at this point. We played pool, made friends with the locals and just had a really nice time. I’m pretty sure I drank Guinness in here. Nobody tapped a beer on Untappd, so I have no idea what was even on the taps. I do remember leaving the gaff with a sense of joy of a great night out in Rochdale. Did it get a bit messy at the end? Did we get pizza and Heineken and watch Survivor Series ‘96 at 1am? All part of the journey friends.
I had a fantastic time in Rochdale. They have a range of boozers catering to all tastes. From the little ale houses like D’Ale House and the Pint Pot through to traditional pubs like the Baum and the Flying Horse to restaurants that have bars in, proper decent shithole pubs and everything in between. Has the whole experience changed my opinion of Rochdale as a place? You’re damn right it has. It’s a cracking little town, right on the outskirts of Manchester and close enough that Manchester is easy to hop into and out of again. But also self-contained as a great little place to live.
I’d like to thank my former colleague Chris Linay for his company on the train, insistence at drinking a load of cans and not snoring loudly when we crashed on the sofas at Chez Ogden. I’d also like to thank the Ogdens for their hospitality and a guided tour of their fine town. It was so much fun I was mentally planning the next one before I’d even gone to sleep. Stockport? Oldham? Salford? Bury? Let’s do the fucking lot lads.