I don’t need much of an excuse to go back to Wigan. Despite only having been two weeks earlier for the Football Tourist Guide and the pubs, I was back today to see The Lancashire Hotpots. But not before a pub crawl of a couple of different parts of Wigan.
There was a train strike today but I wasn’t going to let that get between me and my beloved Wigan. It wasn’t all that far away from Blackpool so Lee was drafted in to provide a chauffeur service. He’s a keeper, that one. Now that my transport was sorted, I could get to work on my strict itinerary.
I had arranged to meet up with fellow Hotpotter Natasha, who wouldn’t be drinking today as she was driving thanks to the train strike. I suspected having a sober companion may make it easier for me to stick to plan and not end up sozzled as I had on my Hotpotting mission in Manchester the previous week (no blog for that one because it’s quite blurry). This ended up working very well indeed, so thank you Natasha (and the RMT).
But first I had to decide where I was going to start today’s mission (note the either/or above).
On my first visit to this fab little bottle shop, there was a little room at the back where you could drink bottles and cans you’d acquired in the shop. However, on all subsequent visits, this was no longer the case. Hence my question mark over where the start of my crawl would be today. Would this just be a flying visit? Or would I be staying for a drink? Well, neither, as it turned out…
On arrival the counter was pretty busy, so I loitered with intent, sticking my nose in the fridges.
When the shop cleared, I approached the counter to make enquiries of the boss about the possibilities for drinking on the premises. It turned out John (formerly of Cleveleys) knew who I was from previous visits and blogs. He launched into a rant about how many hoops he was having to jump through to meet with building regulations and council and licensing requirements to convert the premises such that customers are able to drink in the shop. There are so many rules and regulations and red tape that tie up all sorts of things and one has to wonder what the need is for all of this, other than to keep bureaucrats in jobs. Add to that the rising bills and it’s amazing that this place is still going really.
Anyway, suffice it to say I wasn’t getting a beer here today. At 10%, the one I fancied the most was not a great idea for my diet; nor could I very well take it into the gig with me later. But please do visit and support this great little indie if you’re ever in Wigan and fancy a take-out.
By now Natasha had messaged to enquire where we were meeting, so I told her Sherringtons and scurried off in that direction. All the way there I could hear singing in the distance. What was that? A bloody loud pub? A party? I had no time to hang around to find out but perhaps it would be somewhere we were visiting later on. I hoped so at least. I chuckled as I passed a well-behaved dog waiting at the kerb for a safe time to accompany their companion across the road. I’m growing to quite like dogs, despite always having been a cat person.
As I approached Sherringtons, I spotted Natasha walking through the doors. What perfect timing. We rendezvoused at the bar before I surveyed the pump clips.
I went for a half of the Heavy Lego milk stout. At 4.9% it was a little stronger than I’d have liked for a ‘sensible’ drinking day but I wasn’t going to leave that one in the pump, was I?
This isn’t your traditional micropub. It’s got a gin bar / cafe vibe. It’s different. And I like it. They had me at milk stout and dog biscuits.
I was also rather taken by the glassware.
Now there’s quite a bit of admin to do on these
pub crawls blog research missions, which can prove quite tricky when you’re out with one other person, as it doesn’t really do to be spending too much time on one’s phone. I did manage to keep up with my Untappd checkins, though, so I could remember what I’d had at every pub. Now we all know that social media and technology in general is getting spookily clever these days but this really freaked me out.
It was indeed a very nearby beer as it was on the table within inches of my phone. But how did it know?
Well there was no time to worry about that. On to the next pub!
This used to be called Doc’s Symposium but I suppose the new name makes it clearer what the place does. Although I did like the enigma of the old name. I also miss the old wallpaper.
Anyway here are the beers they had on today:
We were enjoying bopping along to ABBA from some comfy chairs at the back. But then our peace was shattered by the introduction of a man at the bar who was attempting to discipline his dog by hitting it. The third time this happened I downed my drink and left. I can’t bear animal cruelty. Yes I could have called out the man for doing it but I can’t imagine a man who hits his dog would be particularly receptive to criticism from a strange woman in a public bar.
This is the sister pub of Fifteens in St Annes. There’s also another one in Wigan town centre called Little Fifteens. This one, in Swinley, I’d stayed at on a previous Hotpotting mission. I’d also stayed at the Charles Dickens across the road. One of these places had a cassette radio or something equally niche.
Anyway a quick scan of the bar quickly revealed there were no real ales on today – despite it being on my Wigan Real Ale map – so we turned heel and left. From being slightly behind schedule, we were now ahead, allowing us to take our foot off the gas just a little.
I’d visited here on my Hotpotting mission last year and knew it to be magnificent – whilst also being a ‘danger zone’ in potentially tempting me into drinking strong craft beer that I really ought not to be drinking on a multiple-pub crawl. You’ll see exactly what I mean when I show you the beer boards…
Of course my eyes were instantly drawn to those Vocations Naughty & Nice. But which one to have? Mercifully the helpful barman pointed out that these were the Vocations range based on Celebrations chocolates. I’d got a box of these waiting for me at home (hidden away until Christmas Day) so that meant I was able to rule out trying these today.
I was asked what sort of thing I was looking for and was recommended the Brew York S’More Tonkoko. This was a great barman and a great beer.
Looking at the beer board with the benefit of hindsight, I’m actually gutted I missed out on the ginger nut stout, as I’m oft bemoaning the fact there aren’t enough ginger beers in the world.
Sadly (or probably for the best) there was no time to linger in here either, with more pubs to tick off – not to mention a chippy tea to be had – before tonight’s gig.
I had heard that this place had been revamped since my last visit so was keen to have a nose at it today. And my word they had done a great job, retaining its traditional pub feel but giving it a fresh, warm feel. I liked this pub a lot.
Sure the beers were boring and the barmaid, leaning on the taps at the front of the bar, seemed incredibly indifferent to the point that I was completely unaware she was actually waiting to serve us. But somehow that only added to the pub’s character.
Here’s a snapshot of the menu.
I know you’re dying for the loo review, so here it is. First of all, they smelled lovely, which is a great start.
There was a World Cup match being shown at the time of our visit but I can’t remember who it was.
It was now time to head back into Wigan town centre for our pre-gig chippy tea.
Despite only having just been in the Royal Oak, we needed another wee. This wasn’t ideal as our next scheduled stop was the chippy. Well, there was nothing else for it – we had to make an emergency pub stop.
Yes I know I was only here in the last blog but one can’t simply nip into the pub, use the loo and leave again. So obvs we had to stay for a drink…
Right now it’s time for that chippy tea (chippy tea – I wants a chippy tea…).
I’d wanted to eat here for yonks. I think it was last Christmas when I’d seen on Facebook their festive specials such as battered pigs in blankets. I love quirky things like this. Not that I particularly like pigs in blankets. Hence I had an eye out today for interesting menu items – despite knowing full well what I’d be having. Since joining SlimmingWorld, chippy teas are few and far between – and only fish, chips and gravy would do tonight.
I had no idea what smacks were. Good old Natasha headed right over to the counter to find out. Apparently they are potato in batter (like scallops?).
We were seated at a table in the window, just to the left of this.
Anyway, here’s what I had. And it was bloody magnificent.
What a day this was turning out to be. Wigan truly is my happy place and is it any wonder?
We headed across the road to grab a taxi from the rank at the front of Wigan North Western station. The driver seemed somewhat distracted following a phone call I’d clearly interrupted and I had to tell him where we were going three times en route to Hindley (or wherever it was we had originally been headed) before eventually providing him with a postcode for his sat nav.
Hindley was a little way out of town and not really walkable, hence the taxi. But it was where the gig was. It was also home to two pubs on my Wigan real ale pub map, so I made a point of visiting these pre-gig, as both were new to me.
This was a traditional two-roomed boozer where we were immediately greeted by two dogs as we headed towards the bar.
I had the Old Boston, a locally-brewed plum porter.
We took a seat at a vacant table in the side room, where there was plenty to look at.
It is little gems such as this that inspire me to continue with these pub crawls. Whilst there is part of me that tells me I should be supporting my local pubs (use them or lose them), I simply love exploring new areas and previously undiscovered pubs because I never quite know what I’m going to get and it’s always an adventure. Plus I get to share them with you, dear reader, and hopefully encourage you to visit these pubs too to help keep them alive.
But there was no time to dally, for there was one more pub to fit in before the gig, just a short walk down the main road. As we passed the heaving Sommat To Ate steak restaurant, I made a mental note to eat here, should the Hotpots bring me to Hindley again.
It’s apparent from the name that this place is a bit hipster. As I approached the bar, I was invited to take a seat and someone would be over to take our order. Which is all very well and good but I wanted to see and photograph and contemplate the pump clips. Instead I contemplated the menu we swiped from someone else’s table, before I snuck up to the bar and snapped this.
Of course this being Wigan, this wasn’t fully hipster, with decent tunes, including ABBA (again), Michael Jackson and Billy Joel.
We were soon joined by fellow Hotpotters Stephanie and Gary.
Now it was time for the short walk to the venue, when I thought I saw a ghost in a churchyard.
I had resolved to switch to Diet Coke on arrival at the venue, but (a) I was far from being lashed, only having had a half in each pub over the course of five hours and filled up with a chippy tea; and (b) there was no way I was going to end the night on a disappointing beer. Consequently I ordered a pint of Diet Coke with a double Malibu in it and resolved that was going to last me the duration of the gig.
We took a spot towards the front, together with Andrew and Lorraine, who I had met at the Big Bash at Manchester Academy last week. I’m getting to know a few Hotpotters now and it adds a new dimension to these gigs. For years I’ve been going to gigs on my own, as I’ve found it preferable to dragging along someone who isn’t really that bothered about going. But these fellow Hotpotters are kindred spirits and it’s fun to share these special evenings with them.
Stu Penders opened up proceedings in what would turn out to be one of his last ever gigs. And then the Hotpots delivered their usual magnificent and fun set. We sang and danced and congaed the night away and it was bloody brilliant as always.
After a catch up with the band after the gig, I headed outside, glad of the relative cold, as it was boiling in the Monaco, and Lee was soon along to collect me and take me home.
If you’ve never been out in Wigan – or not for a while – I would strongly urge you to give it a go. Honestly it is my favourite town in the world and I seriously considered moving there before eventually deciding on a return to Blackpool. The people and the pubs are very special. I’ll be back for the beer festival in March and already can’t wait.
Next Up: Birmingham Pubs.