Hawkshead Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House 26/11/2012

‘Twas a fairly grim evening, this particular Monday. I had been aware of these events that had been held almost monthly at Port Street, but, as yet, had not attended one.

However, when Jaz approached me with the prospect of attending one when the great and the good from Hawkshead brewery of Staveley, Cumbria would be presenting, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up!

Anyway. Where were we. Ah Yes! ‘Twas a grim evening, this particular Monday. Getting to Manchester in rush hour was managed with the help of my darling Attila and I found myself approaching Jaz, loitering on the corner of Hilton & Port St.

Entering the mighty Beer House, I was surprised to learn that, ordinarily, it is closed on a Monday evening! I handed over my entrance ticket to receive 5 raffle style tickets, each to be exchanged for a drink at the bar, a 1/2 pint of Windermere Pale and 4 “samples”. Intrigued? Was I!

I was pleased to notice that, whilst there were only 3 beers with their clips “facing”, one of these was Blackedge Brewery “Black Stout”. Judging by reports, the Blackedge “Black Port” had been on and was subject to rave reviews. I was pleased to try this local ale (Horwich). Black as night, with an off white head, the aromas were promisingly earthy. What followed was a pint of dark malty roasted goodness, with a hoppy dry aftertaste. (I’ll be scouting Bolton pubs to find more!)

I then settled down to the business at hand, a half pint of Hawkshead Windermere Pale. A seriously hoppy beer at a mere 3.5%. Almost lager pale, the hoppy aromas can be quite surprising at first, lots of grapefruit and apricot in there. This is a gorgeously sharp pint. Nice and bitter and hugely moreish. A beer you could drink all evening and, quite possibly, my favourite beer below 4% abv!

As I got toward the end of the half, the brewers were introduced. 4 had travelled up from Staveley and one of them, Matt Clarke, the Head Brewer, (a New Zealander) gave us a quick spiel about the brewery.

Founded by Alex Brodie (hence, Brodies Prime) in 2002, they started brewing just outside of Hawkshead on a 7 barrel plant. Having grown rapidly, they outgrew the initial premises and ended up at the current location at Staveley where they can now brew nearly 6 times the previous capacity.

Matt introduced the first beer of the evening. Brodies Prime (I was SO hoping they’d brought some!). A silky dark roasted beer, not quite a Stout, not quite a Porter. Matt made reference to the current vogue of Black IPAs (which Brodies Prime predated by nearly a decade!). I resolved that this half pint would not be the last Brodies of the evening!

Next, Matt introduced NZPA (New Zealand Pale Ale). Brewed at 6%, using four New Zealand hops: Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka & Nelson Sauvin. He claimed that he was cajoled into making this beer as people kept asking him why a New Zealander wasn’t using hops from his own country! Tasting the NZPA, I reckon he needed absolutely no excuses whatsoever! This is a big beer. On a firm sweet malty base, those citrussy New Zealand hops pack a mighty punch. This was the first pale I had at the SIBA fest last month, I loved it then and that only grew with this taste (another 1/2 pint). Just when I was starting to feel that I was deserting my Dark wife for a pale mistress……

On comes the next beer…..Ooooh……An Imperial Stout! Brewed with oats and SIX malts!!! Aged in Oaken Bladnoch Whisky Casks for nearly 10 months!!!! (I think I’ve broken my exclamation mark key) This is an astonishingly lovely, rich beer! (I lied about the ! of course) Sweet tobacco, coffee…yum. Then, just at the side of the tongue, you get the warming oaky, whisky hit. Love at first sip.

Image

The boys from Staveley had brought some local made Pork Pie to accompany the beers. They were well matched with the Imperial Stout for sure.

Jaz and I had a bit of a chinwag with Matt, who seemed a decent sort, before it was onto the next beer, which he introduced as…….another Imperial Stout at 8.3% abv. This time made with Lyth Valley damsons and Madagascan vanilla pods (the sour and the sweet). Another gloriously black oozing brew, the sourness of the damsons offset by the natural sweetness of all that malt!

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I have to say that my slight preference would be for the “straight” Imperial Stout, though I could barely separate them.

Image(A fine selection of Cumbrian Crackers!)

I then fulfilled my ‘promise to self’ with a pint of Brodies Prime followed by a sneaky half pint of Imperial Stout (rude not to….)

As stated, this was my first “Meet The Brewer”. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was an excellent evening, engaging presentations from people who have a passion about what they brew and some simply astonishingly good beer.

I sloped off at this point, leaving Jaz in his second home (his living room ?) and was slightly surprised to see the guys from Hawkshead piling into their “twin cab” pick up. One of the four having selflessly been the Designated one for the evening.

On that note I bid you a fond farewell til next time.

Slainte!

Castlefield Area Stroll – 22/11/2012

Feeling the need to stretch my legs (and my horizons!), it was high time I left the comforting bosom of the Northern Quarter for something different. Initial consultations with the mighty Jaz (well, this IS a democracy!) settled my decision (Democracy, eh???) and Castlefield was chosen. Reasons being a) I hadn’t written about any of the bars yet, b) At least one that I hadn’t visited yet, and c) Simply because….ok?

This time, in a slight twist to the usual, we had some company (Rob, Paul and Chris)! All my companions demontrated dedication to the cause, above and beyond…..the weather was FOUL!

Being furthest away, the meeting point was The Wharf in Castlefield basin. Having never been before, it was strangely tricky to find for such a large building. What a trek!

Located in the Castlefield canal basin (among the flats and offices etc) and formerly known as Jacksons Wharf, it is a large pub on two levels and seems to do quite a bit of food trade. Tonight, not rammed busy, but we unfortunately encountered a mixed group engaged in a Golf drinking game. As The Wharf constituted the 7th hole, it was getting a tad raucous! (More of them later!!!)

With there being 4 of us at this point, a traditional “whip” seemed in order. So off to the bar for 2 pints of a ginger flavoured beer from York Brewery, a pint of Weetwood Blonde and a Hornbeam Top Hop (mine). £14.50! Average over £3.60 a pint. This is expensive, even for Manchester. However, The Wharf patently must have its market. It certainly boasts a large selection of ales, having all 12 handpumps occupied, many with beers from local micros.

(A quiet moment at The Wharf!)

For this, The Wharf is to be applauded. The Hornbeam was a nice mid-brown bitter, fragrant hops on the nose, quite hoppy flavour with a nice dry finish. An excellent start on the taste front. But £14.50……! We move on….

The Knott Bar

The Knott has been a favoured meeting point for my work associates for a number of years, owing to its excellent beers and good food. The prices are average for Town and it  is an excellent meeting spot due to its proximity to both regional rail line (Deansgate) and Metrolink (GMex). Tonight it was reasonably busy for a Thursday. This was where we met Paul. Again, our Golfing game crew were here (the 8th hole) and some of them looked as if they were considerably “over par”!

Settling down to beer selection, Jaz & I went for a Hardknott Cool Fusion. A pale beer at 4.4% abv with a hint of ginger in the nose. The beer texture was somewhat lifeless, strange given that it was dispensed via beer engine, rather than direct from cask. The beer flavour was excellent with ginger to the fore with plenty of malt balance. A fine beer.

In common with most of the better bars in Manchester, The Knott has an excellent jukebox and as much as I would have liked to settle for another and some fine music….we have to move on. The Golfing crew headed to their 9th hole The Atlas opposite The Knott. However, we were destined to walk other fairways to…..

Cask

This bar is incredibly deceptive. The entrance and the frontage is so small, you could easily walk past. I’ve been a few times and nearly missed it tonight! Jukebox going strong, with The Black Keys juxtaposed with Joy Division….works for me!

(Unlike England, all wickets intact at Cask!)

We settled down to the beer selection, 3 on tonight with Redwillow, Pictish and Facers. I opted for the Shameless from the mighty Redwillow Brewery of Macclesfield. This pale cracker is a double IPA at 5.9% abv. Aromas of hoppy apricots giving way to lovely creamy hop bitterness. I don’t know what hops Mr Mackenzie put in this, but I detected more apricot and American hoppy flavours. A lovely beer and, notwithstanding the darks that come later, the best beer of the evening for me. With beers like this, I could be brought over from The Dark Side!!! The other 4 had the Pictish Brewers Gold, which was enjoyed hugely. Cask deserves more than one pint to be drunk, but, being a ‘stroll’……..

The Britons Protection

Briton

(Pic courtesy of…ah..you can see!)

The BP is a Manchester classic old fashioned boozer. Walking through the crowded front entrance, the pub was very busy on this miserable evening (performance at The Bridgewater?)

Quick scan of the bar reveals 4 ales on, but my eyes went no further that Conwy Brewery Honey Porter. Never had a Conwy on draught (though have had some bottles). We got the beers and settled in the corridor behind the bar as the other two rooms were quite busy too. This pub is a decorative gem with all this wood and stained glass! Simply gorgeous. I could come in even if the beer was pants…which it certainly wasn’t! 3 went for the Conwy, 2 went for the Coach House Farriers Best Bitter.

The Conwy is a dark brown porter. Some honey sweetness on the nose along with the dark roasted malt. The flavour was slightly honeyed, not sweet at all with a lovely smooth texture and nice roasted taste with a slight bitterness in the finish. A really nice subtle beer. I’ll be looking out for Conwy draught products again!

With all these people in the bar it was damn HOT! I was sweating like Lee Evans in a sauna!!! We needed to get into the cool night air and (passing the Peveril – another evening, maybe) we headed to…..

The Paramount

No need for descriptives for this fine Wetherspoon emporium. Straight to the bar. DARK HEAVEN! As well as the (Elland) Paramount Porter, there was Greenfield Black 5 AND Titanic Plum Porter! I was struggling to choose. But opted for the Titanic. Plums? Tick! Roasted Malt flavours? Tick! Good value at £2.09? Hell yes! Another excellent draught beer from the ever reliable Stoke brewers. (Just waiting for some more Chocolate & Vanilla Stout on draught please!!!).

(Welcome to The Dark Side…Mwuuhhaahaa!!!)

What’s this I see? All 5 strollers drinking dark beer? Heavens to Murgatroyd!!!! The inevitable second beer in this fine hostelry was a doozy for me. Paramount Porter. 6.5% of Porter heaven. Creamy, slightly bitter, licorice and coffee roast. This is a 5 star beer at a 1 star price. £2.40!!!

Getting late. Chris, being off to Hamburg on a jolly on Friday morning, was dropped at St Peters Sq Metrolink. I fancied one more at Waterhouse, but was outvoted. Let’s just say, it got messy, buses were missed…….TAXI!

‘Til next time.

Slainte!

An Impromptu Northern Quarter Stroll – 02/11/2012 (or…”The best-laid schemes o’mice an men gang aft agley”)

This week, chez Heels, the dust has been flying. For a change, it was the stairway walls that were getting plastered, by my good friend Mr Wood. Now I had made a rather rash statement last Sunday (after two days committed blog research!), that I was pulling up the drawbridge and retreating from strolling for a couple of weeks.

However, Rabbie Burns knows far more about plans going wrong than I do, so, with my bank balance diminishing with the plaster dust, and the said dust drying my throat….sod plans! A quick call to my mentor and arch-nemesis Mr Jaz (at that time, at The Bury Beer Festival – excellent reports!) and I find myself on the (late) 18:44 from Farnworth to The Rainy City, which certainly lived up to its name!
So, at 19:15 I found myself shaking the raindrops off the new coat at the bar of……
Angel

Now I’ve known this pub in a number of incarnations. When I first drank there was my first Xmas works stroll back in 1984. Back then it was a Tetley house called The Weavers, a 2 room pub with an upstairs function room (with the legendary Victor Brox performing that particular night!). A fine pint of Tetley it was too.

Then it subsequently became a freehouse under The Beerhouse moniker. A fine pub it was too, with a variety of well kept beers. Now it is known as The Angel and styles itself as a Dining Pub. The main restaurant room being in the upstairs area (formerly frequented by Mr Brox et al) the downstairs area occupied by the “pub” bit is an open plan in an L shape with the bar on the left as you enter. There are a number of hand pumps on display, with a good selection from the likes of Liverpool Organic, Pictish, Norfolk Brewery and Hawkshead. Dining Pub or not, this is one excellent drinking venue!
Seeking the comfort that familiarity brings, I opted for one of my favourite pale ales, Hawkshead Windermere Pale a 3.5% abv brew. As clear as you would want it, lovely and golden with a nice tight head. Like myself, it seemed a bit subdued, not its usual assertive self, perhaps the Jalfrezi I had recently eaten had dulled my tastebuds? Who knows! It was a nice pint in any case served by a very friendly and helpful young barman who tried to tempt me with a Pictish Beata!
Some minutes after the arrival of Jaz, he felt compelled to furnish me with a pint of Norfolk Brewery Moon Gazer Ruby Ale. A dark Ruby Mild at 4% abv, this had a lovely nutty aroma. Flavours were a biscuity roasted malt, a really nice pint. There was another Norfolk Brewery beer on the bar which came with the Jaz seal of approval, but, you don’t have a stroll while sitting on your bum! So, 5 minutes later and a 300 yard walk and we were back at one of my favourite venues….

Common Bar

Common

(Common Artwork 1)
(Common Artwork 2)
As busy as a chippy! We beat a path to the bar. Both pumps were occupied, one with a beer from Brightside Brewery from Bury. Ordinarily, I would have had one and ‘gone local’, but the other pump sported an Ilkley Brewery pump clip! The beer was The Green Goddess, another collaboration with the beer writer Melissa Cole. Two weeks ago, I eulogised about their other collaboration Siberia. Well, this is right up there also!
(pic – Courtesy of Joshua Brooks – ‘sorry’ – ed)
Green Goddess is desrcibed as a green hop IPA. I must confess, by the flavour, I’d have had as a wheat beer! Slightly hazy, and golden with cream soda in the aroma, the flavour, fresh cut grass, resinous hops. The  best recommendation I can give is…I stayed for another! (£3.15 – using my Common Card.- Bargain!) We move on…..to……
Terrace Bar (opposite Common) on Edge Street.
Again, busy as a chippy! Recently opened bar on Edge Street with 2 entrances – the other being on Thomas Street. The Edge Street side has a large open area with a DJ booth (I think!), the room then narrows into a corridor through which you access the bar. Lots of exposed brickwork, excellent powerful sound system, lots of cocktails being served to a predominantly young crowd.
The usual suspect lagers in evidence alongside 6 handpumps. 3 of these seemed to be occupied by Marston beers, but I opted for a beer by Happy Valley. The beer was hazy, not very well kept and VERY disappointing at £3.80 a pint. No issue with Happy Valley, as I know they brew excellent beer. This fault falls on the venue. Needless to say, we beat a hasty (and somewhat disappointed) retreat. (I won’t be back in a hurry!) to……
 
So much has been written about this pub. What I will say for my part, is that it’s the best pub in Manchester. Period.
Last night, I walked in to be greeted by JP behind the bar who recognised me from my stint behind the cask bar at IndyManBeerCon. The man has a formidable memory! Top bloke!
The beer.
First up was Resistance by the mighty Summer Wine Brewery from Holmfirth. A dark mild at 3.9% abv. Lovely dark brown beer with a nice roasted aroma. Nutty dark roasted malt flavour. Went down a treat after the previous pint!
Next – Fireside Porter by Ilkley Brewery. Having not had much on draught by Ilkley, I’m now on a bit of a run! Dark beer, roasted malt and smoky aroma. For the strength (4.2%) this was a surprisingly flavourful beer. Some vine fruit, smoky roasted flavour. Yum! Another excellent brew from Ilkley.
A touch of stupidity next! Generous George from Kirkstall. 6.6% abv was a stretch too far. Loads of flavour but by ‘eck it tasted it’s strength! One to try slightly earlier in the evening I think!
Finally, again on Kirkstall. This time their Framboise on keg. Lovely tart raspberries! Really refreshing.
Again, the bar staff speak for a pub. The staff last night at Port Street were friendly and ever so knowledgeable about the products they serve. Stood at the bar, I watched them help a number of customers with their choice of beer with an unfailing polite manner. This stuff works and makes for return visits. It works for me!
With that, It was off for the last 37 bus back to Farnworth! See you soon.
Slainte!