A week or so ago, when I was angrily tweeting about the change in the weather threatening my shark spotting trip on the Isle of Man, Matthew Lawrenson suggested that there might be a post on ‘the OTHER hobbies of beer bloggers’. My trip to the Isle of Man was part pub exploring, part shark spotting, and part researching a little known Victorian author. Don’t tell me I’m not rock ‘n’ roll anymore.
Having survived three weeks of almost unabated sunshine, when I arrived in Douglas on the steam packet from Liverpool it was overcast, cold, and rainy. After checking in at the Glenfaba guest house, which Retired Martin had coincidentally only just vacated, I went for one of my trademarked Vague Wanders about the town without benefit of map or recommendation. First stop was the Sir Norman hotel, mainly because they had a statue of Norman Wisdom outside and I decided this was as good a recommendation as any. My first sample of Bushy’s bitter was a revelation. Crisp, clear and quite, quite delicious. We were off to a winner. They even arranged my sausages in the shape of the legs of man, in an odd touch.
I had a vague notion of finding the Old Market Inn and there it was, tucked away on a side street. There were three of us in the pub. An auld Irishman was playing the bandit, giving the soundtrack of various bleeps and chimes which wasn’t at all irritating, whilst in the other room there was a bloke watching We Bought A Zoo with the subtitles on. They had an internet jukebox which I couldn’t help but think was an odd investment for a pub such as this. Every twenty minutes or so the unused juke would spit out a bit of Drake or Demi Lovato to a muted reception. I had a pint of Bushy’s export, which was £2.75. And everyone had told me that the Isle of Man was expensive. The Old Market Inn is a Proper Pub, with tat on the walls, a bar smaller than my Grandad’s living room ‘pub’, and not a hint of either food or distraction.
Next stop was the Rover’s Return, which was much busier, and had a good number of cask ales on. I selected the Bushy’s Ruby Mild and it was like vinegar, so I returned it. It was cheerfully swapped for a Mr Grundy’s Bullet brown ale. Sitting down, the dulcet tones of a local drifted over, “I’ve had the shits all week. I’m scared to cough, it was like lava.” With this bon mot I took a sip from my pint to find it was also on its way out. I was not in a million years going to return a second pint so I just choked it down whilst reading the local ‘Gallery’ magazine. Good show for putting out a glossy lifestyle magazine which is so parochial. The ‘paparazzi’ page featured a local nobody’s 50th birthday party. Excellent stuff.
The next day I was heading to Ramsey, with a stop off on the way to search for a grave. When I got my Electric Mountain Railway ticket and announced that I was getting off at Dreemskerry the conductor looked incredulous and continued to give me concerned looks throughout the journey. If anyone is particularly interested in my research into Runcornian author Hall Caine and his rags to riches story you’re welcome to look at my research blog. Two hours later, and one grave down I was in Ramsey. Fatigued from a four mile walk and jittery mountain railway trip I hit the first pub I saw which was the Mitre Hotel. With a view like this the beer could have been as bad as the Rover’s Return and I would have stayed but luckily the Bushy’s was pouring well and I was able to make an actual plan for the rest of the day. The barmaid complimented my jacket and I had to look down at it, in case it was a different jacket that I had left the hotel in that morning. A nice friendly place which was good and busy at midday on a Tuesday.
I moved on to a recommendation – the Trafalgar Hotel. Nice to see a passive aggressive note on the door, in case any roustabouts were attempting to take advantage of a regime change.
Okells was on but this is ubiquitous back in my ends so I went with a Trafalgar Best Bitter, albeit served in an Okells glass. In my cozy corner I had little to do but listen to the bizarre extended dance mix playing, which couldn’t have been more inappropriate for the demographics of the punters. Strolling from Bros, to the Shaman, with a brief stop off at War of the Worlds and Betty Boo, it really was the strangest thing, and I was captivated, so I decided to have another rather than move on. I had an Edinburgh Castle by Caledonian Brewery and got talking to a chap at the bar who had a dynamite opening line “I bet you don’t meet many people shorter than you – I was 6 foot 2 before I had my legs amputated”. A pint of Black Cat mild and it was time to get the bus back to Douglas.
See part two for more adventures in Isle of Man drinking, including no sharks, no draught bass, and a pint of Worthingtons in a plastic cup.