May 24 2021
I commute on Public Transport. And my daily commute ain’t short, taking me from Bolton to Manchester Airport and back out again. Nearly 4 hours return. But I see humans from all around the world passing through the Airport Train Station heading out to their eventual UK destination.
In December 2019, I started seeing people arriving at the Airport and entering the train station wearing face masks. Little did I know…..
It would be SO easy to bemoan how hard the last 15 months have been, but, in a way, I’ve seen more of my dear beer friends via Zoom and got to know them better through phone calls, than ever I would have previously. Ideal? No. But you make do. Focus on the positive, look after each other. (All THAT is for the next post!)
This blog – from it’s humble inception 10 years ago – had always tried to focus on the positive. Why change?
When the initial loosening of Lockdown was proposed and dates were floated, we started to plan stuff. Immediately, we booked tables at The Marble Arch for the first post-Lockdown Friday, then built a day around that.
Then we took to thinking about the very next day. And what would feel right.
There are – in truth – very few birthdays that are truly worth marking. But 50 is one of them. And to miss celebrating Chris’s birthday last year was, to put it mildly, a bit of a bastard.
A dear friend – and all round good egg – he’d been clear about what he wanted to do. And most importantly, where to do it. So. In the deliberations about where to go on the first post-Lockdown Saturday, that was decided. Crewe. And Tom’s Tap & Brewhouse.
Importantly, The Tap didn’t open until 3. In addition to that, we (Chris, Jock & Steve) were hungry. In that spirit – and killing two birds with one brick – we headed to Crewe Market Hall. And a recently launched bar “The Crewe Dog”.
Firstly. Food. And the Blue Cheese Burger from Mighty Burger Club was – to put it mildly – bloody lovely. Ordering was a doddle on the app for the venue (I speak for myself!) and the burger was delicious. Unctuous umami loveliness from the blue cheese combined with great beef patties. Gotta do that again. Just after the burger arrived, so did my first beer of the day. Keeping with the theme of the day, Tom’s Tap & Brewhouse Table Beer Kveik. At 3% abv, simultaneously fruitily hopped and bone dry, light, yet with more than enough body to hold the hops. It was a stunning start to the day. And may well be the best beer I’ve had so far this year. (And that’s saying something – Ed)
“The Crewe Dog” had an intriguing selection of beers. From local cask, to a really good keg selection. It looks like it was busy as hell. And I suspect we’ll be back. But onward….
Tom’s Tap & Brewhouse – Thomas Street, Crewe.
I go back a bit with this place. I was quite, quite gutted when the previous occupant – Michelle Shipman and Offbeat Brewery – called it a day. To me, an inspirational brewery, brewing beers (in both cask and bottle) that were in many ways ahead of the curve – certainly in cask. Michelle decided to sell.
And as gutted as I was that she did, I was quite delighted that Sean & Jacqui Ayling (Sean being former brewer at Pig & Porter in Kent) bought it. A leap of faith, a big move from Kent, but I sense that the idea of a self contained business appealed hugely. Sean provided one of the most popular beers at #ISBF6 and supplied for #VISBF (a Sorachi beer that I actually enjoyed!), I already knew he could brew. I was intrigued mostly to see how his beers would fit in Crewe.
And how the bar would look after he’d gone to work on it.
The bar is – quite simply – ace. Now moved from its original location to the back wall and served direct draw from his own self – built cold store, the beers were perfectly chilled. And damned tasty.
The Tap is three roomed. Brewery in unit one is expanding with a recently acquired 10Hl mash tun – something Sean will need once restrictions are lifted, given obvious demand.
The middle unit comprises seating with tables and a small performance area and was fully occupied (within restrictions) on Saturday.
The right hand unit – with the bar also has plenty of seating with a rather comfy leather sofa set – unfortunately taken on our visit!
The beers that I had were uniformly excellent. A fabulously tasty Dry-Hopped Lager, a Trans-pacific Pale, ESB, a magnificent WC IPA (with all the bitterness – see below). To be fair, every beer I’ve had in either draft or can has been excellent.
The Brewery – like many – has adapted over Lockdown. Packaging in can, selling subscription boxes, running incredibly popular Cheese & Beer tastings and also sharing the love with weekly events on Twitch (Caught in a Mash) featuring beers from various loved local breweries. There’s quite the community that Sean & Jacqui have built. With the beer being the social lubricant – precisely as it should be.
It has a genuinely almost US feel to it. A brewery Brewing beers for and served to its own community. And there was a community feel to Saturday with almost all customers being on first name terms with Sean.
Crewe is starting to have a critical mass of decent places to drink. The Hops bar is close by, The Borough Arms at the top of Thomas Street, The Crewe Dog, they are all close by. And a 10 minute walk from Crewe Station. And – to me – Central to all this, Tom’s Tap.
Worth the trip. Get on that train.
We’ll be back. And soon.