The Sun in September
In his classic 1946 essay The Moon Under Water, George Orwell describes in some detail his favourite pub. Orwell’s drinking spot features such delights as “draught stout, open fires, cheap meals, a garden, motherly barmaids and no radio”.
These things all sound pretty fantastic. The only catch is that The Moon Under Water doesn’t exist. Nor has it ever existed, being instead an idealised place dreamt up by Orwell as combining all of the writer’s favourite pub characteristics.
Recently, we paid a visit to our new Burnage local The Sun in September, which doesn’t sell its beer in “pleasant strawberry-pink china mugs”. It doesn’t have any of those “large biscuits with caraway seeds in them” of which Orwell was so fond, either.
However, The Sun in September does have many things in common with Orwell’s ideal pub.
For starters, there is draught stout, a large and lovely garden, a saloon bar and a public bar, no loud music, friendly barkeeps, a clientele of regulars and, in the words of Orwell, the architecture and fittings are “uncompromisingly Victorian”. We’re not sure if The Sun in September “sells aspirins and stamps” as does The Moon Under Water but we are willing to overlook this minor discrepancy.
Tucked away between Burnage station and the Kingsway, The Sun jumps out at you with an immaculate lawn and a curiously European exterior. Local sources (i.e. the old chap drinking at the table next to us) tell us that the building was once the manor house of a wealthy family, and the well kept beer garden are all that remain of some pretty impressive grounds.
The location lapsed into infamy over time, as what was then known as The Milton Lodge become one of the most popular brothels in the area, patronised by Irish labourers. We hear it was very busy, very glamorous, and very discreet. Unfortunately for some, Samuel Smiths (the exceedingly traditional Yorkshire brewery) took over and cleaned up the joint.
Despite this vibrant history, the exterior gives the impression of a pub which has remain unchanged through the ages. It’s a complete timewarp of dark wood, green leather, and low lighted nooks to hide away in. The landlord serves two types of mild, doesn’t take debit card and yells out how much money is going into the till. He’s also a friendly well informed bloke who makes sure to water all the plants with nutritious beer.
We were pleasantly surprised to see Old Brewery Bitter on cask – which tasted both more interesting and slightly more tart than its keg counterparts. The Samuel Smiths range of bottles were out in force - the Imperial Porter is refreshingly dry despite the ABV with herbal dark fruit undertones, while theOrganic Wheat Beer tastes neither like a Weissbeer nor a Witbier but is incredibly drinkable none the less.
We were recommended the Yorkshire Stingo by the landlord, it is apparently a beer of variable strength barrel aged for at least a year to bring out some unique flavours. Unfortunately we had to dash before investigating further, but will definitely be returning - especially if the weather is nice, as sitting on the terrace overlooking the garden with an organic lager is a memorable experience.
We admit, this boozer is a little off the beaten track and might not be to the taste of either cask fanatics or craft beerios. However: if you too have the vision of the perfect pub (and feel like doing Orwell proud), we wholeheartedly encourage you to make your way to The Sun in September.