Manchester NQ – 16/01/2013

Midweek Beer in the Northern Quarter

Sub zero in Manchester. What kind of fool would want to travel to Manchester for a pint in such cold? You guessed it!

Stepping into The Marble Arch on Rochdale Road, you stand for a moment to drink in all of the original features of this unique pub. The glazed tile walls, Victorian fireplace, lovely ornate bar, the ‘ski slope’ descent to the bar! (It takes some believing!)

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(A grand entrance!)

My intention was to drink just Manchester area beers, but that died on my breath as there was a beer waiting for me from Hand Drawn Monkey in Huddersfield! So, that was that!

Pale Ale Experiment #2, (the said beer) is a 4% abv pale refreshing and lightly bitter ale. Moving onto the ‘Dark Side’, I had to try the Marble Brewery Stouter Stout and revel in its satanic blackness! Dry, creamy and earthy, with some gentle charred coffee bitterness.  Mmmmm…..

I do like a little stroll, so, wandering down Rochdale Road, past the site of the former Pot of Beer (an old friend!) we approached The Angel.

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Somewhat overlooked by the huge new Co-Op HQ, The pub has a restaurant upstairs with a good reputation and the pub itself has had a few rebirths over the years, but is now settled as a free-house

Always guaranteed an eclectic selection in here. Open plan in an L shape with the bar on the left, the room has a peculiar (and unique, for Manchester) feature. A baby grand piano!

20130116_202440[1] (Fancy a tinkle?)

Quite quiet in here with some nice background music, I settled down to a nice pint of Culloden Stout from BrewHouse Brewery at 5.6% abv. Dry, slightly bitter with a hint of vanilla. The pub has around 7 beers on at any one time and frequently has some hard to find gems.

Moving on, we crossed over Rochdale Rd and popped into The Smithfield on Swan St, another pub with an unusual feature for the city centre, a pool table!

20130116_205637[1](A City Centre rarity!)

Another open plan pub, this has a small square mezzanine with some ‘shabby chic’ comfy chairs (VERY comfy!) and has an arrangement of comfy chairs located at the end around the large screen TV (for Sports). This has the feel (and clientele) of a true ‘local’ pub and is very friendly.

The usual good selection of beers on show, I opted for a beer from Bury, namely Deeply Vale ‘Still Walking’ bitter. 3.8% abv, a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish.

Bar Fringe up next, as eclectic as you want it to be! There is always a decorative surprise in here (as well as a decent beer or two!) The Mezzanine Motorbike being a personal favourite!

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(Eclectic Decoration – Fringe Style!)

A nice pale and hoppy Frost Giant from Sadlers Brewery in the West Midlands at 3.8%abv was the choice in here. I do like friendly bar staff, and the gravelly voice bloke behind the pumps certainly was that! Normally 2 or 3 ales on in here, with a large array of draught Belgian and German beers.

On this bitterly cold night, the next walk was short, across Oldham Road to The Crown & Kettle.

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A beautiful building inside & out. High ceilings and ornate details. 3 distinct rooms in here, a main room, small off room and a snug to the rear. Some nice classical prints on the walls. My preference is for the small room just off the bar area with a nice coal-effect fire.

Now warming up, I enjoyed a Peerless Brewery Hop Nob at 3.8% abv a pale, quite malty beer with some subtly flavoursome hops in there. Some soft soul music in the background, nice!

Finally, The Castle on Oldham Street. The only pub I’ve ever been refused service – a LONG time ago – by an old misery landlord! Times have changed! This pub is an old friend and has undergone a transformation in the last two years. The large rear room is now a performance space and the upstairs has been opened up into another public room.

The pub has a large selection of Robinson’s beers and some interesting guests. Tonight, I had a Lurcher Stout at 4.8% by Green Jack Brewery from Lowestoft. Smooth, creamy and lush! Chocolate flavours from the dark roasted malt and subtly smoky. And more friendly bar staff! A nice end to the evening.

Now then, where did I park that bus?

‘Til next time.

Slainte!

There And Back Again…..Wave Goodbye, Say Hello! (aka Port Street to Kosmonaut) 01/02/2013 / & More Bottles

It started with a Facebook post – something like  “Me & Holly are coming up on Feb 1st, fancy a few beers”?

Once I had thought through the numerous possible responses – featuring Bears/Woods, Pope/Catholic etc etc, I started to think about where these particular two nouvelle metropolitaines might like to go. Myself and Ben (a DJ) have similar musical tastes, so bars/pubs with decent grooves had to feature, as did, for me at least, good beer of course.

Then a liquid spanner was thrown in the works, when a colleague announced his ‘leaving do’ on the same day. With a 4 o’clock start to boot! If I wasn’t careful, this could turn VERY messy. However, having negotiated a starting point in Port Street Beer House, that meant I couldn’t finish in one of my usuals, I needed to think. And I knew just the beer to aid my contemplation…..

Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(Archive footage courtesy of ‘Yours Truly’)

Whilst I am ALWAYS open to new alcohol related opportunities, there are some beers that simply CANNOT be ignored. So, at £4.20 a pint (still a bargain for a classic!), we come to one of my favourite beers Ilkley Siberia. Brewed in collaboration with the beer writer/Sommaleier Melissa Cole, the beer is naturally hazy and uses rhubarb to impart a sour note. For me, it was love at first sip when I had it for the first time, last year, in Paramount on Oxford Rd. I also had it last week at the National Winter Ales Festival when I thought it slightly lacking sharpness. But at the liquid heaven that is Port Street, WOW!

This was far sharper than at NWAF and, or so I thought, there was even more rhubarb sourness. Have Ilkley tweaked the recipe? I didn’t think that this could get better. But it has, in spades. Whilst about to order my next beer, a more mature gent (not difficult, that!) commented that he had bought it earlier and couldn’t drink it! I mumbled something along the lines of “matter of taste”. The man must be MAD!!! 5.9% abv, hazy, tart and refreshing…and that rhubarb….just do your taste buds a favour! Next beer…..

Jaz had the Hand Drawn Monkey Belgian Brown Ale at 5.5% then the Siberia. I went for the Kirkstall Dissolution IPA. 5% abv a mid brown beer, quite a spicy hop aroma. The flavours surprised me. Had a slight sweetness to it that I wasn’t expecting . Delicious and refreshing, I was almost expecting to be assaulted by hops, but this was a bit more relaxed than assertive.

The  ‘leaving do’ had moved on toward The Oast House, but, strangely, my plans were elsewhere orientated. Having been taunted by my (male) victim of the evening, questioning the type of hostelry I was going to take him to, I made contact and discovered he was in Piccadilly with his partner. Burrito in belly, he started walking with us  towards Princess St, but after approximately 300 yards, ‘The Thirst’ gripped me. So we diverted to…..

The Molly House

(Pic – Origin Unknown)

Just within the area known locally as ‘The Village’, on Richmond Street, I have only been here once previously. A really relaxed bar on two levels with a third (club venue) in the basement. After entering this evening, I silently thanked Dave the monocled quizmaster at The Salford Arms for pointing me this way. The gentle hum of chatter and background music was enhanced by the availability of somewhere to sit! There were a good number of people in the ground level bar, but it was far from packed – fairly early I suppose – so I settled to order. My choice was a Redwillow Faithless XVI* (see correction below) at 4.4%. Black, earthy, with a hazelnut hint in the roasted malty aroma, this was a beguiling stout with some nuttiness and a gentle smoky tinge to the aftertaste. Superb.

A note of caution now. The pumpclip was Faithless with the number covered. I lifted it to show XVI and asked the barman, who said it was that number. (Update- following an exchange with Redwillow, it transpires that this was ACTUALLY Redwillow Faithless XVII (17) not XVI (16). This IS the Beetroot Stout at 5.2% abv, made with 18kg of beetroot! Renders the next sentence a bit redundant really!!!)

The Faithless range are experimental beers brewed for fun, I presume and allow the brewery to play with flavours. Well, I can’t wait for Faithless XVII as Mr McKenzie has gotten even MORE playful and made it with BEETROOT. Stout and beetroot…can’t wait! (Faithless XVIII is in the brewing at the moment – details awaited!!!) There may now be an average of one per month of the Faithless range.

Just one in here, both Holly and Ben seemed to like the venue and (as importantly) the beer, but we move on, to……

Joshua Brooks

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It was here that I started to play my trump cards – being host to this particular (Guildford based) couple! This was Ben’s round (I think). The cost made his jaw droop ever so slightly! £10.40 for FOUR pints! Of excellent beers! Now. Tell me what’s not to like? Hmm? *tumbleweed drifts across blog page*

First up for me was the Raw Brewery NYPA a pale ale at 3.8%, this was nice and refreshing with a nice body, hoppy with a nice lingering hoppy dryness in the aftertaste. I don’t think I’ve had Raw beers before, so that was another first at JBs!

My gregarious companions (by now, the banter was flying across the table like arrows on a medieval battlefield!) seemed to be enjoying the Beer Geek brewery Geek Unique, so I had to try one (didn’t I?). This was a darker beer altogether, being quite amber to brown coloured. A maltier brew, some spicy hop in there but also slightly nutty with a slight bonfireish smokiness. We could have stayed for more…there were beers from DoubleTop, First Chop and Marble breweries on the bar, but we move on…but not before…..

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The ID Parade

(It was her in the middle wot did it Officer – honest!)

Font

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Font is rapidly becoming one of my favourite bars, if not THE favourite. And this has nothing to do WHATSOEVER to do with the discount on the beer for card-carrying CAMRA members (honest!) This has just as much to do with a) the sheer quality of the real ales / bottles on offer, and b) The fantastic tunes spun by the DJs. Now, being honest, I should be WAY too old to love a place like this, but love is a many splendoured thing!

The lovely Holly got this round in. She sported a ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin as she returned with change from £10! I think Jaz and myself were building up some ‘cred’ credits for choice of venues by this point!

Now, as usual on a Friday / Saturday evening, it was absolutely PACKED. We parked ourselves at the base of the stairs for somewhere to stand, but had to move on, so we went downstairs, where, shockingly, we found an empty table! Only one mind, because it was even more rammed down here!

The beer? For me it was Gold by Hop Studio brewery at 4.5% abv. This was pale, with some peachy aromas on the nose. (Reminded me of tinned peaches as a kid). Some hoppy dryness in here, some peachy / nectarine type flavour (from the hops?), but more than that I couldn’t figure.

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(A GPO – Post Office – weighing machine ! Love the details!)

Decision time. Where to go next? We wanted to go toward Piccadilly, cos Ben & Holly were staying at The Malmaison. But where? We’d done Port Street (well, me & Jaz). Being a tad younger than us, we plumped for….

Kosmonaut

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(Archive shot – The camera lost power!!!)

Although this bar does do real ale – normally something from Sheffield’s Kelham Island – bottles, cocktails and ambience are the thing here. Located on Tariff Street (close to Port Street) this is a bar with pumping tunage – R&B this evening – and a fabulous selection of bottled beers and cocktails. I went for a Schneider Weisse Tap 7, Jaz for a Thornbridge Jaipur with Ben and Holly on the Whisky Mac cocktail. This was a relatively short stop as there was the small matter of my chariot waiting (courtesy of First Transport.

The Schneider Weisse was a really nice wheat beer with some nice spicing and a hint of orange zest and at approx 5.5% was tonight’s sleeping draught of choice.

I think that I had achieved the objective of showing my southern based companions around some excellent pubs/bars, with excellent tunes and superb beers. They were certainly surprised and had expected some “spit & sawdust”. I was almost sorry to disappoint them!

They moved off to their nearby hotel (long day!) which prompted me to head toward Piccadilly and the weed reeking 37 bus home!

On that note….and having enjoyed several  breweries new to me!  ….Til next time (& replenished bank balance!)

Slainte!

More Bottle Blather

I do like a nice bottle, now and again, to while away the time between ‘strolls’. The following beers have been recent highlights.

1. Nogne O Imperial Stout – 9%abv

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Purchased during my last trip to the mighty Beer Shop in Heaton Moor, this is a satanically black beer with a tan coloured head (as you can see, of course. Doh!) The aroma of licorice and leather draws you in for a sip – and this is a sipping beer! A lovely creamy texture in the mouth with a flavour (initially) of licorice and bitter chocolate. The further down into the Hades like darkness that I ventured, I got some really lovely strong espresso like coffee tones. A truly majestic beer from this Norwegian brewery and a veritable bargain at (then) £5 for 500ml.

2. Harviestoun – Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 – 8%abv

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This special porter is derived from Harviestoun’s own Old Engine Oil Porter and is aged in wooden casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 18 Yr Old Single Malt whisky.

On pouring, this looked impenetrably black with a small tan head. The aroma was of treacle toffee with a smoky edge. Earthy in the mouth with some caramel toffee and a peaty smokiness in a full bodied creamy texture. The further down the glass you go, that woody, whisky cask flavour starts to warm you, not overpoweringly so. But just like a sip of a good smoky single malt, it lingers awhile.

This is a definable progression from Old Engine Oil (a beer I love). A classy beer indeed and already a contender for beer of the year in my book!

3. Stone Brewing – Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale – 7.2%abv

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My youngest, has decided to start collecting beer bottle tops (nothing to do with me!). He has quite a collection, having received a good number from my buddy Colin. However, THIS was one he had been waiting for! The bottle top which read “Arrogant Bastard Ale”. I had to smile when handing it over!

This is my first Stone beer and was again purchased on my last trip to the Beer Shop. It’s a deep ruby colour with a pale creamy head upon pouring. Some spicy hop and fruit in the nose. On tasting, there was a substantial hoppiness with some fruit. Then some treacle. There was also a flavour which reminded me of a certain boiled sweet that I couldn’t nail down. An excellent beer all in all. Just as I finished the glass, I started to detect a coffee liqueur type flavour! Yum.

4. Blakemere – Chilli Chocolate Stout – 5%abv

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Finally. Returning to a  more local beer now. This one from Cheshire and bought from Bents Garden Centre just off the East Lancs Rd in Glazebury. This is, again, a black beer with a tan/cream coloured head on pouring. There was some cayenne spice in an otherwise (unsurprisingly) roasted malt aroma. The flavour was smooth and chocolatey. But no spice. Then I started to feel quite warm inside! Very subtle and nicely done. This could easily have been harsh (as some other chilli beers) and undrinkably macho and spicy. Instead it’s a lovely balanced effort.