The family-run beer house bringing a community together
If you want to experience bliss this winter, go to Reddish Ale and sit two stools right of the door, in the window.
At around 1.30pm, on a clear freezing day, the sun will bathe Broadstone Road in celestial amber, and you can watch it all unfold. A front-row seat. Get yourself a half of Sureshot’s Milson Pale Ale and a merguez wrap. Littlewoods Butcher’s merguez sausage in handmade flatbread, ample crunchy sumac and pomegranate molasses dressed salad. Chilli and dill salsa verde and za’tar yoghurt. Warm, comfortably filling, lingering spice.
Sit there and root for the old bloke waiting for the 7 bus to Ashton. His every breath painted in steam. Will-on the bus arriving between bites and sips. Watch the smokers flow in and out of the Reddish Reform Club over the road and listen to patrons behind you discuss the celeriac remoulade on the Xmas barm.
Reddish Ale is the sort of place you can do that. Sheltered from the biting cold. Bliss to be alive.
Celebrating local ingredients over a pint or two
Reddish Ale in Reddish has been open since September and takes up the site of a former Italian restaurant. A bakery before that. The family-run business, headed by chef and owner Craig Ballinger, serves craft and traditional beers alongside a selection of light bites and snacks. “The thing is the beer is so good now that we want to match that with the food.” Craig says.
Craig’s own background is in craft beer and street food. Burnage raised, Craig was in London for the great street food explosion (present at the birth of the halloumi fry) and his love of beer is rooted in affiliations with Bermondsey breweries. Whilst The Kernel is a notable import from his days down south, most of the beer on offer here is local (Sureshot, Distant Hills, Red Willow, Runaway, Abbeydale) and he’s keen to make sure the food follows suit.
Homemade soups with bread, homemade wraps and meat and cheese boards making the most of locals Littlewoods and Manchester's Northern Cure. Nothing “flashy”, as Craig puts it, but with an emphasis on quality.
“Littlewoods is the best butcher possible as far as I’m aware. If you see who uses their stuff, Where The Light Gets In do, Erst do. If they’re using Littlewoods it’s obviously the right decision for us. You can tell the quality is there. The pork board we do, it’s roast pork, I’ll slice it, fry it to heat it back up with some fennel seeds and the meat speaks for itself.”
Craig’s street food background has afforded him a very particular set of skills, and going forward these will be at the heart of the Reddish Ale offering. He tells me he can make a banging pizza. He makes his own bread every morning. He knows his way around ingredients and he’s keen to experiment with what’s available nearby, be that Northern Cure meats or Stockport Fungi mushrooms.
The first signs look good. Homemade mince pies (stout, bourbon and chocolate; blood orange amaro, brandy and sour cherry) sit on the bar. An Xmas barm of pork and stuffing patty, celeriac remoulade and cranberry and scotch bonnet hot sauce on homemade bread (all for a fiver), caps a brief Christmas menu.
Back to the burbs
Reddish Ale is a familiar tale. Fresh ideas and small, personal hospitality businesses returning to the suburbs. You see it with Yes Lah, you see it with Codi’s Kitchen. Ornella’s in Denton. Gladstone in Stalybridge. The communities they serve inevitably embracing them.
“Everyone who comes in here is from here, generally.” Says Craig. “They’re chatting to each other which is always nice and the sign of a good pub. It shows you’ve got the vibe right and the people are comfortable. But also, you have people saying I’ve never been out for a pint in Reddish but I’ve always lived in Reddish.”
“Obviously it’s a business and you’re trying to make a living for yourself. At the same time, the more you meet the locals it feels like you’re doing something positive as well for the area, which is the nicest feeling.”
Amid the warmth of a bit of heating and the haze of a Sureshot pale, there is a Trattoria-esque feel to Reddish Ale. Big kitchen at the back, a compact bar dressed in paraphernalia and trinkets, pub mirrors on the walls and a panoramic window across the front. One of the few on the street that reveals what’s going on inside. The outdoor seating is a token gesture in weather like this but inviting nonetheless. Old and young nip in for coffee.
A family business, the Mediterranean model and sticking around for a drink
Family is at the heart of Reddish Ale and was the draw for Craig returning home. Most recently he was working in Italy, doing the catering for his wife’s floristry events, close to the town of Barga in the Tuscan countryside. Very much a jack of all trades, Craig has previously written about Barga and its unique connection to, of all places, Glasgow.
“We just wanted to be around friends and family more. Especially post-Covid.” Craig says.
Craig’s mum and brother are essential parts of the business and Craig jokes that he’s using the Mediterranean model of getting the whole family involved. His brother did the fit-out for the space and his mum decorated it.
His brother supplies the beer (he also runs The Bottle Mill at nearby Houldswourth Mill) whilst his mum helps in the kitchen and on the bar part-time. His best friend is a regular patron supporting from the other side of the bar. All three family members live nearby, a badge of honour regularly checked by locals trying out Reddish Ale for the first time.
Places like Reddish Ale give local people an excuse not to leave Reddish. Whilst Craig is happy to wax lyrical about Stockport and fun stuff going on in the city centre, he’s also keen to show that a similar calibre of place can exist in Reddish whilst remaining inclusive.
“It can all be on your doorstep. If you can do those things locally, why not? You see the strength of neighbourhoods in London. There’s no need to leave your local area for the chaos of a city centre.” Craig says. “Neighbourhoods can have that, it just takes a few things to add up.”
In the meantime, get yourself in that front window and see Reddish in a new light.
Reddish Ale, 14 Broadstone Rd, Reddish, Stockport SK5 7AE
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