CAMRA Greater Manchester Pub of the Year 2021

CAMRA Regional Director Phil Moss with Cob & Coal landlady Michelle Riley.

Cob & Coal is Oldham’s Market Leader

A microbar inside Tommyfield Market Hall has defied the problems of the pandemic and beaten the best pubs in the region to be judged Greater Manchester’s Pub of the Year. 

Oldham’s Cob & Coal only opened in August 2019 and traded for six months before the first lockdown shut all pubs for months. Continued restrictions disrupted the business again before finally being able to welcome drinkers back to the cosy bar last May. Despite this short life, judges drawn from the membership of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) comprehensively voted the newcomer as the region’s Pub of the Year.

Landlady Michelle Riley is no stranger to running pubs across the area, with the White Lion in Delph and the Tandle Hill Tavern in Middleton among her previous tenancies. But the vision to create her own bar eventually led to a couple of vacant units inside the Market Hall and the transformation began. 

Her commitment to real ale, properly looked after, means six handpumps serve a rotating choice, with many drawn from breweries within a 25-mile radius. Recent weeks have seen beers from Pictish, Thirst Class, Wishbone and Durham delight drinkers. Cider lovers are well catered for with a choice of up to eight, and explains why the Cob & Coal has won branch cider pub of the year for the last two years. And central to the bar top are three fonts dispensing ABK lagers from the 700 year-old Bavarian brewery, the only outlet in Oldham.

But judges mark more than just the choice and quality of drinks on offer. CAMRA’s regional judging organiser Caz O’Donnell said: “Our adjudicators are drawn from across the region, although the local branch are not involved at this level. They look for a commitment to the local community, and whether the venues reflect the wider aims of CAMRA. A friendly welcome and knowledgeable bar staff also feature highly in their assessments.

“Pubs have had to adopt to changing social and spending patterns, and the Cob & Coal is one of several microbars open in markets around Greater Manchester.  Judges described it as ‘a little gem’. They liked the cooperation with other market traders providing hot and cold food, and the larger shared space immediately adjacent in which to enjoy meals and snacks with a beer. Although its opening hours have to comply with the operation of the Market Hall, it has achieved a loyal customer base in a relatively short and interrupted time. Locals and newcomers are equally welcomed. And of course the beer is excellent.”

The microbar’s name reflects the tradition of Oldham’s children singing “we come a cob coaling” around Bonfire Night, but Michelle explained the additional reference to her Leicester roots. “What people call a bread roll differs from place to place – and can cause a lot of arguments – but I knew it as a cob”, she said. “So trying to combine my birthplace with an Oldham tradition – it just fitted.” And visitors are left in no doubt as to Michelle’s allegiance to her favourite football team, Leicester City. Memorabilia jostle for space with reminders of Oldham’s past and an impressive collection of clocks.

Michelle continued: “It was a tricky start, with different pandemic measures meaning a stop-start to trade and a lot of uncertainty. I always believed we could make the Cob & Coal a great little pub. We were finalists in the Manchester Food and Drink Festival awards earlier this year, so I knew we were on the right track. But to win the 2021 regional title in competition with some other seriously good pubs has exceeded my expectations. It’s right up there with Leicester City winning the Premier League a few seasons back!”

CAMRA’s Regional Director Phil Moss was on hand on Friday 26th November to present the award to Michelle and husband Chris. He said: “It’s a delight to see how hard work, attention to detail and and emphasis on quality has made the Cob & Coal a worthy winner. The hospitality sector has been through the most difficult of times. This pub is valued by its community and I’m sure winning this award will bring it an even bigger audience. I just hope they can all fit in!”

Alongside the Cob & Coal, Michelle and Chris have redoubled their faith in Oldham as a destination of choice for drinkers. Just twelve months ago, they opened the town’s newest pub and sister venue, The Fox & Pine on Greaves Street. 

CAMRA Greater Manchester Club of the Year Winner 2021

Photograph of staff with award certificate at Flixton Conservative Club – Pat Doherty third from left, Andrea Doherty third from right.

Magnificent Seven as Flixton dominates Greater Manchester

A Conservative club has been judged Greater Manchester’s Club of the Year for an astonishing seventh year. 

Flixton Conservative club at the corner of Chassen Road and Flixton Road is no stranger to awards, having been named national club of the year in 2018. It has been hailed as top club by the local Trafford and Hulme Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) branch every year since 2013. But despite a challenge from five of the best clubs across the region, an expert team of judges marked Flixton the clear winner of the Greater Manchester title yet again.

Real Ale takes pride of place on the bar, with six handpumps dispensing a choice of beers. The club supports local breweries and beers from Pictish, Dunham Massey and Blackedge often feature. The club’s commitment to ale even extends to growing their own hops!

Stewards Andrea and Pat Doherty took over a winning formula in 2019 and despite the devastation wreaked on all hospitality during the pandemic have worked hard to bounce back.  A lively programme of entertainment at weekends sees local bands and nationally-renown tribute acts tempting members and their guests back after the restrictions closed the club for long periods last year and until mid-May 2021.

The club is housed in a former cottage hospital, and boasts four full-size snooker tables and a bowling green.  For the less active, large screen TVs show all the top sports channels. An upstairs function room offers two more handpumps.

The Good Beer Guide-listed club is a members-only establishment, but applications from new members are welcome.  CAMRA cardholders can be signed in on production of their membership cards.

CAMRA’s regional judging organiser Tony Evans said: “This award recognises and rewards excellence, and encourages other clubs to aim for high standards. Flixton Conservative club has an outstanding commitment to real ale, not just from the stewards but also their members who clearly enjoy old favourites and new beers.

“Our judges were impressed with the welcoming environment, value for money and the quality of the real ales and cider on offer. Many mentioned the knowledge of bar staff about the ales served, a reflection of the impact good stewards have in promoting and maintaining cask ale. To have retained the title of the regions’ top club for another year is a remarkable achievement.”

The club was presented with the award by CAMRA’s Regional Director Phil Moss on Saturday 20th November. He said: “This club , like every other pub, club and licensed premises across the country has come through a very difficult time. It’s a tribute to the resilience of the stewards, staff and club committee that it has rebounded to once again achieve the highest standards of hospitality. And the quality of their beer has once again won over judges drawn from across the region. Flixton sets the standard for all clubs to aim for.”

Steward Pat Doherty said: “I’m delighted to accept the award on behalf of the Club committee. A love of real ale is a shared value at Flixton. We have a supportive committee, an excellent team of staff, and, of course, appreciative members who enjoy the range of ales we can offer.”

Andrea Doherty added: “We have many loyal longstanding members, but those who apply to join the club often cite the choice and quality of real ale we offer as a reason to join! “

Pub beer gardens opening

Across the country, pubs are now permitted to serve in outdoor areas only (with “outdoor” being defined the same as for smoking areas – if space has a roof, 50% of more of the walls must be open). Thankfully councils across the region are also allowing extended use of pavements and closed streets.

CAMRA branches across the region have been actively updating the listings on WhatPub.com with information on which pubs are opening when, which pubs require bookings and who is welcoming “walk ups”.

Click here to see listings for across Greater Manchester…

It’s table service only everywhere and all customers must either check in using the NHS Test and Trace app or log their contact details with the pub for Test & Trace purposes. These aren’t the pub’s rule, it’s the governments – so please don’t argue with their server.

Wrap up warm – hopefully it will warm up soon.

Your beer is under threat….

Your local beer is under threat.

The Government is set to increase the tax paid by some small independent breweries in the UK. This could lead to brewery closures, and less choice at the bar for you.

CAMRA has joined calls for the Government to think again – we need your help to persuade them that this is bad for UK brewing and bad for consumers.

Take action to protect your choice at the bar, small breweries, and the beers they make:

To learn more visit www.camra.org.uk/sbr

Jolly Angler under threat….

It has recently been confirmed that the Jolly Angler in Ancoats, Manchester has been sold and is expected to close at the end of January 2021.

This is one of the last remaining traditional local pubs left in Manchester City Centre and there are fears that it will be demolished to be replaced by new development.

Central Manchester Branch has started a petition to try and save the pub.

Please sign here:
https://www.change.org/p/sir-richard-leese-save-the-jolly-angler

Pulling Together

Pubs, breweries and taprooms are fighting for their very survival against the Coronavirus. Many are finding different and innovative ways to help their business weather the crisis. Whether this is by launching hot food deliveries, encouraging locals to buy ‘gift cards’ for the summer or crowdfunding, there are plenty of ways that you can help support your favourite local business.

CAMRA is working with SIBA to let you know about pubs, bars, taprooms and breweries where you can still get beer and cider during the crisis. Click the link below to find out more.

Flixton Con Club into final four

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the best four member clubs in the country as part of its Club of the Year competition and they include the Greater Manchester Club Of The Year Flixton Conservative Club (which won the award in 2018)

The other finalists include two other former winners, the Cheltenham Motor Club in Gloucestershire (2017) and the Appleton Thorn Village Hall in Warrington (2019).

The Orpington Liberal Club in Greater London is also in the running, which has made it to the final four in past years. 

Continue reading “Flixton Con Club into final four”