Hello There Old Friend : Stalybridge Buffet Bar

Each post I write needs an inspiration. A prod or a prompt. Frequently, writing about something is the furthest thing from my mind. Until the “inspiration”.

This one started with a tweet.

I immediately started to check for train times to Stalyvegas. This is one of the joys of having a County Card. I can catch a train to anywhere in Greater Manchester.

You see, this was the beer that I most wanted at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. The top of my “to do” list. The variant on my favourite beer of 2017.

And – owing to being on the now infamous Bar 2 – I missed it. Along with about 60% of the beers on that bar, it wasn’t available on the Wednesday. It went on on Thursday. And sold out.

The running commentary from Barbara was “amusing”.

I had to accept it was a beer I was unlikely to taste in its draught form.

Until that tweet.

Sometimes, you can lose track of something special. That “something special” is Stalybridge Buffet Bar.

For me, the place will be forever associated with the (now infamous) Rail Ale Trail. With being sat on the platform with Pete, eating black peas.

It’s part of my history. And now, it belongs in my present. Because it is a magnificent place. A magnificent place to drink magnificent beer. A magnificent place to spend a few hours.

It’s more than just a stop on a train line.

I came for the Fudge Brownie Stout. What I actually got was a lovely evening of warmth and conversation. And soul. Lots of soul. And soul – in a pub – is, for me, essential.

But a pub or bar can have all the soul, yet without the good beer within, who will ever know? And “The Buffet Bar” has good beer. By the bucket load.

Whilst I was talking with Mark, drinking an immaculate (and simply stunning) Fudge Brownie Ski Sundae, I started to drift back to North Riding Brewpub on Friday evening. And the similarities between the two places.

  1. A beautiful place.
  2. Great beer. Served perfectly. Cask conditioned beer in peak condition. As it should be.
  3. A lady running the pub. Keeping the cellar just right. Ordering the beer.

Yes. That’s right. Two of the best pubs I’ve been in. And a female “cellar man”.

It’s not a coincidence. Karen (NRB) and Caroline (Buffet Bar) know what they are doing. And they do it bloody well. (But that’s for another post)

It became obvious during the evening that this place is loved. It isn’t a transitory place. It’s a “local”. With a coterie of friendly “regulars”, chatting away, that pleasant buzz and hum that’s the soundtrack of all the best pubs.

With 4 separate drinking areas, a real fire, it’s almost as if it was designed with me in mind. And only 15 minutes from Victoria on the train!

I went for just the one beer. And stayed four hours. Daylight became dark, trains passed. And I didn’t care.

It’s that kind of place. It’s that good.

It was a delight to see Mark. A loveable scamp who has an unnerving ability to get me to open up. I put the phone down. And forgot about it. We talked. Talking matters. I chatted with Caroline and unsurprisingly felt her deeply felt passion for beer. The care that she shows it. It’s obviously a calling.

And it shows. The warmth of the place, the atmosphere, the exceptional beer. That’s all down to her.

She knows her stuff. She has my respect.

She has a bloody good bar here. If I lived in Stalyvegas, I’d probably never catch that train to Manchester. I’d stay in a room on a train station platform.

It’s worth the journey. REALLY worth it. Catch that train.