Full Steam Ahead! – A trip on the East Lancashire Railway to Ramsbottom – 29/06/2013

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The genesis of this trip was when I popped to see Matt Holmes of Ramsbottom Craft Brewery. On the way home, I drove past First Chop and promised myself that I would be back soon. How very right I was! The second pull was the chance to arrive on a steam-driven locomotive. I’m no anorak, but there is something inherently romantic about steam trains, don’t you think? Anyway, when I mooted the possibility, a couple of willing victims (Oops! I meant volunteers!) identified themselves, so I set a course for the weekend after payday.

Arranging to meet Jaz & Jeff (my own craft beer Fresh Princes!) at 12:45 at Trackside (the bar at the Bury end of the ELR), I somehow found myself in Bury a full hour early! Now then, what’s a boy to do? A brief perusal of the Good Beer Guide (hereinafter GBG!) told me that there was a bar called Automatic in the building that was the old Derby Hall….Hmmmm……

Automatic

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I’ve been to the former Derby Hall (now Bury Met) 3 times. First, 07/04/1980. I was 14 and got myself to Bury to see Joy Division at a now legendary gig which was abandoned after 3 songs, one of which was fronted by Alan Hempsall (vocalist with Crispy Ambulance, one of the great unsung Manchester bands!). History tells us that Ian Curtis had a seizure that evening, meaning that the band tried to struggle on once he’d left the stage. Next thing I saw was a pint pot (dimpled!) hurtling towards Tony Wilson who was trying to calm a near riot. I never did get to see a full set by my favourite band. My major musical regret. It was my second gig.

Anyhow, I digress. Walking into Automatic, I had the feeling of walking into a posher small Wetherspoons. Looking every bit the eaterie, two distinctly separate areas here, with the Malt Bar being closed. The main room was all classy colours and wooden tables, clean lines (always handy in a pub, I find!), a bit “restauranty”, but nice enough.

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Noticing the rather scrummy looking Pork Pies, I ordered the “pie & pint” offer (value at £5) with the pint being the house beer, Silver Fox by Outstanding Brewery. The staff pulled a fair bit off (1st pint of the day, I presumed) and served me mine. Hmm…a bit hazy. Not smelling “off”, I gave it a go. Nope. Not as good as Outstanding beers are usually, I took it back and they swapped without quibble – earning some ‘Brownie points’. Next was a beer from a local brewery I had never tried, Steam Plate Bitter from Irwell Works Brewery, described as a Best Bitter at 4.3% abv. Pale gold, with a slightly buttery hop aroma. More like a blonde this for me, more butteriness in the mouth with a clean dry and gently bitter finish.

Nice bar. Local ales (Pennine and Little Valley completing the four handpumps) and a good-looking menu. Nice place.

By this point, Jeff had joined me and fancied some fodder, so we upped and headed off to our next watering hole…..

Trackside

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Located just behind the entrance of the ELR Station on Bolton Road (and accessed via the side road), another new bar to me. Housed alongside Platform 2, this single roomed pub, is long and narrow, with the bar to the rear and had the feel of an ancient English longhouse (read Beowulf) but with 10 handpumped ales.

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(One happy boy!)

So many beers, so little time! We were scheduled for the 13:30 to Ramsbottom, so chose swiftly, but wisely in my case! Allgates Gin Pit at 4.3% abv. A lovely clear golden beer, nice smooth and bitter with more than a hint of what I can only think was the juniper berries that are steeped in the brew. A lovely refreshing pint. Typically Allgates, typically excellent.

Next up, another brewery I hadn’t tasted previously. Hopstar from Darwen with their Lancashire Gold at 4% abv. Golden coloured beer (what else!) that was clean gently hoppy and really refreshing too. I’ll be back for more Hopstar.

20130629_132522(“The train now standing at Platform 4…..”)

The next leg of our journey now beckoned. With Jaz having now joined us (and wolfing his first beer down), we jumped platforms for the train to Ramsbottom. As did a seeming Stag Do dressed in a naval theme! Oh dear, won’t be the last time we see these jolly Jack Tars!

Not the longest of journeys this, but beautiful and scenic. Swiftly passing through Summerseat, where even the air smelled expensive, we were soon in Ramsbottom. Here, I will freely admit, I lost my bearings, being swiftly corrected by Jeff as where I thought was First Chop, was actually an Estate Agents!

First Chop

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(pic moblog.net)

With Jeff the Sherpa leading the way, we finally got there! Two room, with the other being below ground level, this looked like a smart contemporary bar which wouldn’t have been out of place in the Northern Quarter.

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With a slightly smaller selection than Trackside, 4 ales on handpull, with a real cider and a smattering of craft keg. More than enough for me to be getting by! First up for me was one of their own, FCB (First Chop Bitter ?) at 3.6% abv. A bronze colour, this had quite a floral hop aroma and was clean, bitter with a nice dry finish. Brewed at Outstanding in Bury, now that the First Chop Brewing arm have their own brewery (finally!) in Salford, will this now be brewed there?

Next up was another First Chop – well, ‘When in Rome’! AVA at 3.5% abv was pale gold with a lovely tropical fruit hop aroma. Flavour came through with lovely earthy hops and sweet pineapple notes. Superbly refreshing.

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(Would sir like the cask menu?)

Food time! A juicy and spicy Harissa Burger at around a fiver. Excellent.

More beer please! Allgates Pretoria at 3.9% abv. Golden, citrus hop aroma, refreshingly bitter with a clean dry and fruity bitter finish. A really good session beer this, and first time for me I think. (There’s me banging on about not finding Allgates in Freehouses, then 2 on the same day!)

My notes show another AVA….but moving swiftly on…..

I just wish I lived in Ramsbottom. A cracking bar this, small yet perfectly formed. Excellent looking food offering, 4 ales, and a substantial number of real ciders too. Yep, a belter!

A short walk away……

Irwell Works Brewery

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Some of my family have been raving about this place for a while. It was therefore an essential visit. A small side room as you enter (to the left) and up the stairs into the main open room.

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Busy as a chippy in here! As bustling as possible. 8 pumps, 1 of them a cider, 6 Irwell Works own beers and a guest from Bank Top. Once I saw a Stout, there was no looking elsewhere, was there? Let’s be sensible about this! Irwell Works Iron Works Stout at 4.4% abv. Sweet coffee aroma, lots of roasted flavour with a touch of residual sweetness in the mouth. In excellent nick and a cracking pint (or 2!)

20130629_163554(Juliet Balcony anyone?)

A nice busy bar, well worth the visit. Modern, lots of white walls, child friendly. Anything else you want to know?

The train was calling. The last service was at 17:10 and was disappointingly pulled by a diesel! Never mind eh?

Back into Manchester and an ill-advised (by me!) walk to…..

 Joshua Brooks.

You know my thoughts on this bar by now. Reliably excellent beer at an excellent price, with excellent tunes as well. My choice to take my firkin of Allgates Quaker House Oatmeak (or even Oatmeal!) Stout. Next Friday night people!

Hawkshead Lakeland Lager at 5%abv. Cask conditioned lager. Seem to be drinking this a bit recently. Pale gold, butter popcorn aroma. Slightly toffeeish flavour, bit of butterscotch with a clean dry finish.

Pictish Summer Solstice was next at 4.7% abv. A really nicely balanced pale bitter hoppy beer. My favourite of the two. Tune of the day in here, a cover of The Antlers’ “Parentheses” by Tricky, bit of a surprise!

We then nipped into The Font to round off the evening/day.

Rock The Kazbek at 4.0% abv by Redemption from Tottenham. Nice enough pale ale, quite bitter, good condition, but not exceptional for me. Next (and finally) came Cresta Black Stout by Tempest Brewing from Kelso. This was MORE like what the doctor ordered! Black, roasted and lovely stout. A nice finish to the day!

Yes, it was indeed a long day. Not been drinking in Rammy or Bury for years. Was hoping to meet Tyson The Beerhound and Darren from GM Ale News, but, sadly, neither were possible. Never mind eh? We’ll catch up another time (especially with the Quaker House “in the wild” this week!)

An excellent day. Good friends, great beers and great bars in which to drink them. “Back of the net” ass they say!

On that note….’til next time! (Friday night at Joshua Brooks!)

Slainte!

Port Street Beer House – American Beer Festival 24/06/2013 – Beer Presentation by Andreas Falt

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(pic : Portstreetbeer.co.uk)

Last night saw the start of the Port Street Beer House American Beer Festival – a celebration of craft brewing, if you will – featuring draught beers of distinction from the gold old, bad old (delete as personal politics dictate!) US of A. There are undoubtedly some great beers that come out of the States and we were going to taste some of them!

As we enter (as is now standard) we received the traditional 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each entitles you to a “sample” of beer being presented this evening (frequently a half pint). The first of these beer was Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner by Rogue Brewery from Newport, Oregon. A pale beer at 5.2% abv, it was a nice enough pilsner style beer, quite refreshing, but undistinguished compared to what came later!

20130624_173614(The Rogue is above the President’s head to the left!)

As well as tasting the beers, we were going to be guided through by the Ambassador (love the title!) from The Brewers Association in Europe – Andreas Falt. (The Brewers Association is the body in the US that represents many Craft Beer brewers).

An excellent relaxed public speaker our Mr Falt! He led us through a kind of “time-line” of US Brewing from 1900 through to the “Craft Years” which (acc to the Brewers Association) started in 1980 – effectively with the founding of Sierra Nevada Brewing by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi in Chico, California and the brewing of their landmark beer Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

The timeline started in 1900 with approximately 3000 breweries operating in the US, these breweries making standard beers of the day including Lagers, Ambers and Bitters. Via Prohibition, The Great Depression and WWII, this number plummeted to less than 50! Prohibition being key here. The brewers that survived did so by still making drinks, just diversifying into fizzy pop production (or Coors Lite, as we know it! Am I the only one actually frightened by JC Van Damme’s teeth? Avoid that dentist!!!)

1965 marked a major brewing point in the US with the purchase of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco by Fritz Maytag and, in particular, the making of their first really hoppy beer, Liberty Ale in 1972.

The explosion in home brewing following the lifting of its abolition by Jimmy Carter in 1975 led, eventually to the setting up of breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Albion and New Belgium through to the likes of Rogue, Odell etc.

Next came the second offering on the beer front (we’ll skip the CASK CONDITIONED Sierra Nevada Torpedo for now, shall we?) this being Modus Hoperandi by Ska Brewing of Durango, Colorado. At 6.8% abv (note the rising alcohol levels as we go along!), I have never had this legendary beer. Amber, I didn’t get much of an aroma (I generally let kegged beer warm a bit before I drink it!) but in the mouth? A different matter entirely, Quite well-balanced, but with shed loads of tropical fruit and piney notes. This was much more like it!

20130624_205937(Mr Falt in his element!)

There are currently approximately 2800 breweries in the US, of which 1600 are “Brew-Pubs”, a very popular type of venue in the ‘States. Did you know there are 57 breweries (inc Brew-Pubs) within the city limits of Portland, Oregon? Me neither, but I’d love to go! In essence, most beers brewed in the US never get exported far because they are drunk locally. A quick chat through the most popular beer styles (IPA, Pale Ale and Ambers), the relatively recent phenomenon of canning craft beers (Modus Hoperandi being predominantly canned) and the recent introduction of lining the cans to exclude the “metallic taste” and thus keeping the beer fresh and tasting better. (An interesting anecdote about a blind tasting with CAMRA members preferring Maui Coconut Porter – a CANNED beer of all horrors! Ha!)

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The next beer was the Belgian Style Blonde IPA by Sierra Nevada at 7.4% abv (abv rising again!). (The first time that Andreas himself had tried this) Pale, with a bubblegum and cream soda aroma, I’m not sure about this being an IPA, but it would have been the best Belgian Wit I’ve had, if it was from Belgium! A truly excellent smooth Wit, slightly sweet with a hint of banana split. Superb (NEARLY my favourite of the evening!) and apparently a style growing in popularity in the US.

A quick talk from Andreas about the regional preferences for beer in the US (East Coast – European styles, Mid West, slightly hoppier with European influences too – Odell Cutthroat Porter for example, and then West Coast – HOPS from the Yakima Valley!) and the criteria that determines what is actually a “Craft Brewery” in the US. (Amount of beer produced (vast!), independent ownership and traditional ingredients.) Also a little thread on the experimental nature of US Craft Brewers.

Next beer up was up the scale again at 9% abv and was Iniquity Black Ale by Southern Tier Brewing from Lakewood, New York State. An initial chocolate and hoppy, citrus aroma gave way to hints of chocolate overlaid by piney, resinous hops. Black IPAs are not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but they work for me. And this was excellent. Can also be described as a Cascadian Black Ale. (If anybody sees their Creme Brulee over here, let me know ‘cos my buddy Col REALLY wants one!)

At this point, food was up. Some excellent chilli topped Hot Dogs, but, being slow, everybody else had snaffled all the Jalapenos! Greedy little sausages!!!

Andreas explained as to how, once you go over the 8.5% mark, American brewers start to use the prefix “Imperial”. In response to an audience query, Andreas conceded that there was essentially no difference between a Double IPA (DIPA) and an Imperial IPA, to merriment from the audience! A quick chat re “Barrel Ageing” and sour beers. Also a recommendation about Crooked Stave brewery of Denver, especially for sours.

An interesting comparison of ostensibly similar beers in Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Ska Modus Hoperandi. Both big IPAs but with markedly different hop characteristics (Citrus v Piney resins)

The final presentation beer was from Flying Dog of Frederick in Maryland and was their Green Tea Imperial Stout at 10% abv. With four different malts and hopped with Warrior hops, this was as black as sin and had a lightly smoky nose and offered a boozy promise backed up in the mouth with loads of roast, more than a vinous warming hint and, TEA. I could actually taste tea in all that darkness. I just wanted to wallow in this! That lucky sod Chris stood next to us had two ‘cos his missus wasn’t keen!

A final chat from Andreas. Of 212 Million Hectolitres of beer produced in the States, 7% of this is “Craft”, 15 million Hectolitres (that’s near 3 BILLION pints!). The largest export markets are Canada, Sweden & the UK. But only 1% of US Craft beer gets exported. Just shows how much gets drunk locally! A comment about trying to break into Germany provoked a chuckle or two!

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(POTUS viewed through the PRISM!)

Andreas is an accomplished and genial public speaker. It is obvious that he loves his job (and who wouldn’t!) and is passionate about the beers he promotes on behalf of his employers. This was an excellent event and one I would certainly attend next year! Andreas also told me earlier that he will be involved with an Italian Craft bar at IndyMan later this year. Can’t wait. A nice guy!

It was great to chat with a few people last night, Tyson (all too briefly), Chris and his missus stood next to us (thanks for the chin-wagging!), James & Jon from Joshua Brooks. A wide cross-section of people here tonight, all united by a love of great beer!

Favourite brew? As if you need to ask! The Flying Dog Green Tea Imperial Stout was simply sublime. Followed closely by the Sierra Nevada Belgian Style Blonde IPA, a gorgeous Wit (IMHO!)

Thanks again to MC Jamie and the guys at Port Street for putting on a superb event. Get in there before that Sierra and Flying Dog sell out!

Ooh! Had to have a 1/2 pint or three of the Sierra Nevade Torpedo on CASK! SUCH a gorgeous hugely hopped citrussy beer. Stunningly good and a candidate for beer of the month!

Now. A 10:00 chuck out was a bit early for me, so we (Jaz & I) toddled over to Soup Kitchen for a final beer.

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I suppose it WAS a Monday evening, but it was virtually deserted! But I was SO glad I popped in! Revolutions Brewing! Clash London Porter! Oh I was one happy chap! I’ve been agitating to get their Manifesto Stout over here for a while now, but this will MORE than do! A lovely porter at 4.5% abv with plenty of roast and coffee but significant bitterness in the finish. Can we have some more over that there hill please!

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(Happy days!)

That then was it for the evening. I really enjoyed Andreas’ talks and the beers he presented topped off by a total surprise in Soup Kitchen. Back of the net!

So, Jaz & I go our separate ways, with me towards my chariot, supplied by First Buses!

On that note…’til next time! (Bury / Ramsbottom and the East Lancashire Railway this weekend!)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – June 2013

20130621_202448(A VERY happy Daddy on Fathers Day!)

Not that much gallivanting this month (so far!). No trips over the hill, no visit to Booths. Starting to get itchy feet! I did manage to pick up some reviewable beers courtesy of my darling younger children (see above) and the nice guys at Joshua Brooks, courtesy of their excellent 3 for £10 offer – still on! Oh. And that visit to Ramsbottom Craft as well…..

Moving swiftly on, some nice beers may have passed my lips this last month, all UK (see my mini rant https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/bottled-ales-may-2013/) and all damned tasty. Here goes…. (Remember, all prices include discounts where offered – CAMRA membership etc)

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1. Pilsner by Hop Studio (York) – 4% abv – Pilsner Lager – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Having had the XS on cask, I was keen to try something bottled by this York brewery. The XS was superb and this was no different. This golden beer had a slightly biscuity aroma with plenty of juicy biscuit malt in the mouth with hints of blackberry and other hedgerow fruits. A lovely smooth mouthful with a nice dry and slightly bitter finish. A cracking UK pilsner this and a bargain at the price. (Don’t forget the postal saving offer at Yorkshire Ales at the mo!)

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2. Tohunga by Bridestones Brewing (Hebden Bridge, West Yorks) – 6.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.93 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

A deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a gentle fruity hop aroma. At this strength I was expecting a hop monster but what I got was more subtle and no less rewarding. A dangerous beer which doesn’t taste its 6.3%, it had a good malty body balanced by plenty of fruity hop flavour and a nice dry fruity finish with some grassy hop notes in the aftertaste. A very balanced beer at this strength.

20130531_222350(Amber is the new Chocolate!)

3. American Amber Ale by Quantum Brewing (Stockport, Cheshire) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale (?) – A swap for a pint at Port Street! – From the Brewery

I’ll say it again. Amber my arse! A deep ruby coloured beer this with the aroma of a freshly bitten chocolate caramel bar, drawing me in. I like a beery taste challenge, this was one! There was chocolate in the mouth, some toffee but with a lovely dry earthy hop quality. Lovely dry bitter grassy chocolatey aftertaste. This was as good as on draught at Port Street! Yummy! Jay also notes the hops used on his bottle label, but typical me, forgot to note them!

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4. RooBarb by Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, West Yorks) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I’ve had a few beers now from this Wakefield brewer. Uniformly excellent they were too. I’m pleased that Malcolm Bastow and his beers are getting some well deserved light shone upon them including this http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/five-towns-mango-junction-schneider-v2/ from Leigh Linley’s “The Good Stuff” blog.

I’ve had the Peculiar previously (also Rhubarb & Ginger flavoured), but this had the twist of Aussie hops, so had to be done, didn’t it? A golden beer with a fruity spicy nose (no surprise!) Made with the addition of rhubarb and ginger, this was refreshing in the mouth with a slight sourness and a hint of warmth from the spice. A nice bitter and slightly piney hop dryness. Really well balanced and tasty beer. (I’ve still got the V2Schneider put by to try yet!)

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5. Burnout by Brass Castle Brewery (Pocklington, North Yorks) – 5.8% abv – Peat Smoked Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Just HAD to get a dark one in! A deep ruby to black beer. The head dissipated rather quickly, but yielded a mocha hit on the nose, surprised me that! Some chocolate too in the mouth but with a deep smokiness accompanying it with a nice bitter touch. This had a lingering pleasant smoky aftertaste. Smoky, choccy and bitter. Ticks MY boxes!

Bottle of the Month ?

Quantum American Amber (but the Roobarb ran it close!)

Draught ?

Ostara by Allgates. Damn! Had it at the Hare & Hounds AND the brewery. Just a superb pale ale which, at 3.6% abv, more than gives the comparable Windermere Pale by Hawkshead a run for its money!

Right then! Off to gird my loins for the American Beer Festival presentation by Andreas Falt at Port Street Beer House on Monday…..

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

Ramsbottom Craft Brewery – June 2013

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The Bury area, totally under my radar, has become a mini brewery mecca. The area is home to Brightside (recently relocated to Radcliffe), Deeply ValeFirst Chop (soon to commence brewing in their own premises in Salford), Irwell Works, Leyden (at The Lord Raglan in Nangreaves), Outstanding and (since December 2011) Ramsbottom Craft Brewery.

As is becoming a bit of a theme now, I stumbled upon a Twitter ‘exchange’ between Tyson The Beerhound and Matt Holmes, the owner and brewer at Ramsbottom Craft. At the end of this exchange, tentative arrangements were made to pop round at an indeterminate date when Matt may be brewing. One evening I saw a tweet addressed to myself and Tyson, along the lines of  “brewing tomorrow, fancy popping round…..? Well. You know me and temptation!

Unfortunately that fine Beerhound couldn’t make it due to work commitments. However, I was on holiday so, one sunny afternoon, I find myself lost in Ramsbottom!

Having driven onto the street listed on the website, it was all residential! Confused. I was utterly convinced I was looking for an industrial unit! A quick exchange with Tyson corrected that impression, so I headed back and knocked at the front door of a house I had recently passed. The door was opened and I was met by a genial young man (Matt) and the delicious unmistakable smells of an operating brewery!

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(The Mash Tun)

Not long after finishing our initial introductions (we had never previously met!), it was obvious that something was slightly wrong! At that point Matt was ‘sparging’ (a bit like rinsing the malt to get all available sugars from the grains) and the transfer of the ‘wort’ (the extracted sugars that form the basis of the finished beer) wasn’t going smoothly! There appeared to be a blockage, so, stirring implement in hand, Matt dived in (not literally!) to the Tun and got it sorted, freed the blockage and the process went smoothly! This issue was not unconnected with the large amount of grain in the Tun, the aim being for a wort to produce a finished beer of around 6% abv. These are indeed ‘Hand Crafted’ ales! (I – sort of – mucked in with a bit of  ‘re-circulation’ of the wort, good fun!)

Having never gone the ‘tinned wort’ route as a home brewer, Matt dived straight in with full grain brewing, using only whole leaf hops. Sourcing his stainless steel ware from Germany, he built his own brewery doing all the plumbing, cladding and wiring himself. He registered with HMRC (boo!) in December 2011 and commenced brewing pretty much from that date.

The Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), Mash Tun, Copper and his various fermenting vessels (6) and his bottles and casks are all stored and housed within his converted garage, and he produces quite a variety of beer in this 2 1/4 Bbl kit! Beers flavoured with Chilli and Lemongrass, Ginger, Cocoa nibs……

A native Midlander transported “oop north”, Matt is truly a one-man outfit doing the brewing, sales & distribution all himself, though, by his own admission, brewing is to the fore at the moment. Brew it, phone calls, then move it appears to be the way. Impressively, he fits this all around his day job as an Estate Agent too!

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(A bit of sparging)

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Matt’s beers are either cask or bottle conditioned and I noted a number of filled 9 gallon firkins, 2 of which had his Chilligrass Wheat Beer ready for a local Ramsbottom Bar/Restaurant The Hearth of The Ram and a number of bottles ready for packaging / orders. The bottles can be purchased either direct from Matt or from Summerseat Garden Centre

Matt’s Cask Conditioned offerings can be occasionally located at the (aforementioned) Hearth of The Ram and The Major pub in Ramsbottom, The Coach & Horses in Edenfield (nr Ramsbottom), The Masons Arms in Rawtenstall, The Magnet in Stockport, The Angel in Manchester, Trackside in Bury and others in the Blackburn area.

I sensed that Matt was a busy chap this afternoon, but he graciously let me have a taste of one of his mainstays (and I think he needed a refresher after his travails!), Rammy Ale,  a nice copper coloured bitter with a good balance and dry lightly hoppy finish. With driving, I couldn’t sample any more beer, so having not had any of his beers before today, I picked up a few bottles for later tasting and said my farewells to let Matt get on with the brew.

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It really is amazing quite what you can fit into a small space, and there is a little room for expansion, but, as things take off further, Matt may need to consider larger premises. Check the website at http://ramsbottombrewery.com/. Matt runs a “Beer Club” where – within a certain radius – for £30 a quarter, he’ll deliver a mixed case of RCB beers.

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Later that week, I tried a bottle of the Chilligrass Wheat Beer. Extremely pale (well, it is an all wheat beer!) at 4.4% abv there was some lemony citrus and spice on the nose. In the mouth, I got the refreshing characteristics of the wheat with a sharp peppery chilli kick! It certainly lives up to its name and definitely woke up my sleepy taste buds!

A nice bloke Matt. Cares passionately about what he brews, is obviously a dab had with the DIY and plumbing and indulges in some experimentation with his beers (Can’t wait to try the Thai Wit!), both beers I tried were full of flavour  with my personal preference being the lip licking  fiery Chilligrass. I’ll certainly be looking out for his beers on draught at The Angel.

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

Hare & Hounds, Hindley. 05/06/2013

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Early last week, I made arrangements to hand over a couple of bottles of good ale I had purloined from Yorkshire (Yorkshire Ales & Bierhuis) to a couple of good friends of mine (from WAY back), Mike & Jeff. Wetherspoons in Walkden seemed convenient, so we set a date for Wednesday evening.

However, the little devil on my shoulder (on this occasion, Colin) had an itch to scratch. He had spotted a Honey Porter that was on the bar at The Hare & Hounds. being a mere £1.60 return train journey from Walkden, I was only too glad to boot the beery conglomerate into the long grass. More Allgates for me!

Unfortunately, just before we set off, Mike tweeted that he had a ‘sick note’. We sent our commiserations and……carried on regardless, as he would have expected!

The bottles were V2 Schneider from Five Towns Brewing of Wakefield and Siberia from Ilkley Brewery. The V2, being for Mike was no longer needed, so we set off to the train station. Only problem was, I left the other bottle at home too! Doh!!!

15 minutes after boarding the train, we were entering the pub. 5 handpulls, all in use. 2 from Allgates (Ostara & Session – aka Napoleons Retreat), & 1 each from Castle Rock (Harvest Pale), Milestone (Honey Porter) & Abbeydale (Moonshine Pale). I’ve only been here once before, but REALLY enjoyed that brief visit! https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/allgates-the-road-to-wigan-beer-29032013/

I started with an Ostara by Allgates at 3.6% abv (not for the last time this week https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/the-birth-of-a-beer-allgates-brewery-08062013/ !), whilst Col hit the ground with a Castle Rock Harvest Palewhich he was more than happy with. I, however, was enraptured by the Ostara. Lovely and golden pale with a light “Burton snatch” to the aroma (that slight sulphur like aroma you get from beers from Burton – Pale Ales) along with a citrus hoppyness, It was a hoppy joy in the mouth balanced by a Rich Tea biscuity malt. Dry in the finish, hoppy and really refreshing. Whilst having this, Col noticed the Landlord (Nigel) who said hello and would have a chat later (which he duly did!)

Next up was another from Allgates, this time Session (aka Napoleons Retreat) at 3.9%. A mid brown / copper coloured beer, this is not normally my kind of play, but it was a really flavoursome ‘best’ bitter. Didn’t get much of an aroma. A slightly more bitter-sweet beer than the drier Ostara, with a dry nicely hopped finish. I can see why it sells well across the estate.

Had a nice chat with Nigel at this juncture. Really friendly bloke who learned his cellaring trade at the Edington Arms (next to the train station, 200 yards away). I can testify that he keeps a good pint from my two visits! We chatted about how he came to have the pub after the previous landlord (Greg) went to take over The Crooke Hall Inn (another Allgates house). We chatted about loads of stuff, but he had to “walk the dog” (no, really!) a patient little Staffordshire Bull Terrier was sat close with eyes only for Nigel!

Jeff now appeared and (for a craft keg man) really enjoyed the Ostara I got him.

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(“What’s a Smoke Room, Dad?”)

I had another Ostara before I tucked into an Abbeydale Moonshine Pale. At 4.3% abv, this was golden and a slightly sweeter beer than the Ostara, more of a Blonde than a Pale Ale for me, akin to Thwaites Wainwrights. A nice enough beer and certainly in good nick, but I was expecting something hoppier.

Having apologised to Jeff for leaving his Siberia on my back room table (where it remains, in grave peril!), I tucked into a Milestone Honey Porter, the original reason for our visit! From Newark (quite close to where my OutLaws live!), this 4.7% abv beer was a very deep ruby, almost black, beer. With an Ovaltine like malty nose, there was lot of roasted flavour, slightly chocolatey with a touch of bitterness. This had been ‘on’ for 3 days or so and was in remarkably good condition.

Having a few minutes ’til the train, it would have been wrong not to have another Ostara, wouldn’t it? Is it TOO obvious to say it was my beer of the evening?

To summarise. This is the local that I wish was on MY doorstep. Warm friendly staff and landlord, two distinct spaces, a dartboard and a telly for sports fans (de rigueur these days!), it really is my idea of a local. And, with train fare at only £1.60 return, it may yet become it!

A quick dash up the hill and we were at the train station.

20130605_223415(Col – “Wish I had a tape measure!”)

Thankfully skirting around the Wetherspoons, a walk up the hill and “Hi Honey, I’m home!”

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

The Birth Of A Beer – Allgates Brewery 08/06/2013

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Sometimes, life is indeed full of surprises.

A few weeks back, I blundered into a Twitter conversation between Tandleman, Tyson the Beerhound, Jay Krause (Quantum Brewing) and David Mayhall from Allgates Brewery. During this conversation, a “collaboration brew” was mooted. I, being a bit of a cheeky scamp, asked if I could tag along. I even volunteered to be the ‘teaboy’. Surprisingly, David invited me in. Shocked and excited in equal measure, I tapped in “08/06/2013 – Allgates” into my calendar.

In case you haven’t been reading this blog recently, I like Allgates beers. A lot. Clean, crisp and (mostly) hop forward they inhabit the space between 3 – 5% abv and are really refreshing, dark or pale. I was introduced to them by my arch-nemesis Jaz (who else) who himself is a fan. He’s rarely wrong in his beer tastes! They have a small (yet perfectly formed) tied estate within the Wigan area and each pub has its own character. They also have a superb selection of guest beers in their pubs. Worth a visit in other words!

Anyhow, with a start time of 09:00 agreed, I pulled away early from an evenings debauchery with the aforementioned Jaz, in order to get me some ugly sleep.

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My main worry (a bit late!) as I approached the brewery, was an utter absence of technical knowledge. Basically, my knowledge of hop properties could be detailed on the wing of a gnat.

Knocking at the door, I was let in by Jonathan, the head brewer. A busy man, he brought me upstairs where, chatting merrily, were Tyson & Tandleman. Jay (unfortunately) had taken ill and couldn’t make it. David, the co-owner then arrived and we had a chat about how the day would go, from the grist (the malt/oats) to the hop selection and all things in between.

Jonathan suggested a grist comprising 175kg pale malt (Maris Otter), 10kgs each of roasted barley and chocolate malt, 25kgs of malted oats and 8kgs of torrified wheat (for head retention. That being agreed (I nodded dumbly!) we set off to the top of the world – or, at least, the brewery!

20130608_092525(More grist to Tandleman’s mill!)

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(That’s 228kg – right there!)

Having loaded the dry goods, we moved downstairs to the mash tun. The hot liquor (water – to lesser mortals, like me) was set at a ‘strike temperature’ of 73.6 C and as the water started to fill the tun, the grist was released. Now. I don’t know about you, but 228kg is a LOT of grist! It took quite a while to fall into the tun! There was a lot of (ahem) encouragement required for the chute to help the malt down.

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(Liquor & grist into the Mash Tun)

Whilst all the malted goodies were loading into the tun, a vigorous mashing was required to avoid any clumping of the malts – especially with the oats. This was done manually and we all had a go. Needless to say, Jonathan’s technique was far superior! (Tandleman was none too shabby though!)

20130608_094540(Now give it a reet good stir!)

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(Mmmm….My kind of porridge!)

With 535 litres of hot liquor in that mash tun, we had a mash temperature of just over 65C and it was getting steamy! Really enjoyed the manual mashing, but it was bloody hard work. They don’t just twiddle their thumbs, these brewers, oh no.

Then, with that done, another type of brew was required whilst due consideration was given to hop selection. After a bit of discussion (with zero input from yours truly!), Jonathan decided to go with Amarillo and Ahtanum for “first wort hopping”, Galena and Warrior for bitterness and more Amarillo and Ahtanum with additional Nelson Sauvin for aroma. A heady mix.

Prior to transfer to the copper and the addition of any hops, Jonathan poured off a little of the wort. Black, quite oaty and only slightly sweet. This was tasting promising!

20130608_111320(The wort – courtesy of The Arm of Tyson!)

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(FUN Time! The hop store!)

Once ready, Jonathan took a hydrometer reading to determine the Original Gravity of this “beer”. A slightly high 1051, this was “liquored back” (more hot liquor added) slightly to achieve the desired gravity of 1049 prior to transfer to the copper. Just prior to this, the mash was ‘sparged’ (water sprayed into the mash) to extract as much of the sugar as possible from the fermentable material.

20130608_110918(The sparge arm does its stuff)

The wort (not as sweet as I imagined) was transferred to the copper (where, in boiling, the hops release their goodness!) Once the wort was transferred, the first wort hops were added. A little bit of light work for yours truly. These were Amarillo and Ahtanum and 1/2 kg went in at this stage for smoothness of flavour.

20130608_112009(In go the first hops)

This initial addition is something that Allgates have been trying recently with excellent results. A little break for some light refreshment (thank you David!) and a nice couple of halves of Calico Deep and Ostara (I ADORE the Ostara and want her to have my babies!). During this, Jonathan added the first bittering hops, 1/2 kg each of Galena and Warrior (Galena being a particularly good hop with Stouts, I’m advised)

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(Jonathan The Alchemist – with his book of beery spells!)

With the wort now transferred to the copper, you start to appreciate why these brewers are so fit. Time for shovels! That there below, is 228kg of dry grist, soaked. And hot. That is about 2-3 feet deep and a hell of a lot of weight. It was shovelled from the mash tun into sacks which got winched downstairs for myself, Tandleman and Tyson to hump into drums outside. The spent grains get picked up by a (presumably VERY strong) farmer who uses it as feed for his animals – lucky devils!

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20130608_131548(Messy, heavy work!)

Each sack must have weighed at least 40kg + that’s nearly half a TON! David and Jonathan hooked up the sacks to the winch and we emptied them into the drums (probably the source of my sore shoulder this morning!!!)

At approximately 14:00 Jonathan added the final bittering hops (Warrior and Galena again) before, at 14:35, the final (aroma) hop addition of Nelson Sauvin, Ahtanum and Amarillo. Not long afterwards, we were ready to transfer to the Fermenting Vessel.

20130608_140023(Control panel. Boil Temp? 99.9C!)

20130608_150544(The Heat Exchanger)

The wort (now featuring some hoppy goodness) transfers to the FV via a clever piece of kit called the Heat Exchanger. The heat from the wort is partly removed (from 100C to 21C  and heats water in the opposite direction, headed to the Hot Liquor Tank. A very clever piece of energy-saving kit indeed!

20130608_153518(Party Time!)

The wort having been transferred into FV #1, it was time to let the yeast have a party! Tandleman had this pleasure. A quick wet with some wort (no, not Tandleman!) and in it went, the FV was closed and (with some cleaning up – kindly, David and Jonathan did this!) we were done. Back to the bar for an Ostara to cool down!

And the beer? It is going to be a hoppy Oatmeal Stout at around 4.9% abv. Lovely and dark with (no doubt) plenty of chocolate and oaty character. It is likely to be a one-off (although there could possibly be a second take at some point – there’s more oat malt!).

I’m quite excited to see how the Amarillo will work in a stout. It smelled superb in the brewery. Should be released in about 3-4 weeks. I’ll be having some (but then, Tandleman, Tyson and myself may know where some of it may be going!). Come release, I’ll let you all know!

I think I can speak for us all, this was a brilliant way to spend a Saturday. I learned loads. You do tend to when you’re actually involved, rather than listening to a tour guide. I even learned a little about hop properties! I’m a very lucky boy indeed and very grateful to David and Jonathan for their generosity and patience. We were fed, (definitely) watered and I had a fantastic time, which I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. (Try the Calico Deep – Dark – and the Ostara if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed!)

The generosity bit? Well, for one, I was invited. Second, lunch was superb, courtesy of David and his local Booths! Third (and a total surprise this) David is letting us have 3 firkins of the finished beer, 1 each for Tandleman, Tyson and myself to raise money for the chosen charity of each. Mine being St Anns Hospice in Little Hulton who gave fabulous care to Dad in his final days. A more than worthwhile cause. Thank you David for your generosity, hospitality and patience, Jonathan for your patience and skill and all 4 (inc Tandleman and Tyson) for taking this beer drinker to school!

It was great to meet Tandleman and Tyson. I had met the former at Wilson Potter brewery some months before (another brewery we both like), but didn’t get to chat much. We were both (ahem) ‘refreshed’ and I was just about to head to Manchester. A veritable mine of beery wisdom and a bloody nice bloke. I hadn’t met Tyson previously, but another beery good guy who, again, knows loads about beer. David and Jonathan were still quite busy, so we decided to get out of their hair and nip over to the Anvil for a wee one!

Excellent fruity pint of California followed by a pint of the gorgeous dark and smooth AllBlack mild. During the second, David and Jonathan called in, unaware we were there. I just sat back and listened to the guys chat. An absolute pleasure.

So, there you go. I can honestly say, that in about 4 weeks time, I will have taken an active part in the creation of something that I will see pouring from a handpump. From Grain To Glass. To me, it will feel really special. And trust me, this beer will TASTE special too. But of course, I’m biased. I worship the Dark Side!

Back to Wallgate station with Tyson & Tandleman and a walk up the hill.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Sunny in Manchester? 07/06/2013 (Or, the best laid plans…Pt2)

The original idea was set some time previous. A colleague wanted to see some of Manchester’s better pubs/bars. As you will see, at least I had a good time!

Word got out of a Works do at Dukes 92.

I couldn’t do it. Whenever I had been there, the beer was simply awful. Arrangements were made to meet afterwards. Needless to say, they didn’t quite work out. Hey ho. There was beer to be drunk, so I obliged!

The afternoon starts off in….

Sandbar.

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Having not been for a while, seemed like a good place tp kick off….

Being a lovely bright sunny day, there were tables outside. What’s more, there were people sat at them! Warm outside, but nice and cool inside with 7 (seven) handpumps on display. As you can see below, an excellent selection. However, I had eyes for a beer I’d had only once before. Tarantula by Privateer.

A Mild, weighing in at 3.5% abv, this was as dark as you might expect with a light cocoa nose. Lovely and smooth in the mouth, a chocolate tinge with a hoppy finish. A nice twist on a dark mild. (Almost a shame it’s only available at Sandbar!)

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(Beer Garden)

Sandbar effectively has 3 room. A large room where the bar resides and two rooms to the rear, which were formed from the addition of the next door premises. Being fairly early in the afternoon, these were quiet. A nice sized beer garden to the end of the bar was enjoyed by a few sunseekers.

Following the Tarantula, decision time. Redacre by Worth Brewery (from Poynton). A 4% deep copper coloured beer. A gently floral aroma was followed by a fruity mouthful, bitter with an increasingly dry herbal grassy finish. Not usually my kind of beer, but nice enough.

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Each time I see Sandbar, there’s something else that impresses me. Today, spotting an excellent jukebox and the notes on the “prayer board” listing the hops used in each beer. A nice touch. Nice friendly bar staff too! Ordinarily, I would have loved to have stayed, but word had reached me of other beers that needed sampling elsewhere….that elsewhere was….?

Joshua Brooks

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Again, quite a few people sat on the balcony overlooking the Medlock, enjoying the rays. Me, I had an alternative agenda!

Canasta Mild from Black Jack Beers. A black beer, slight chocolate nose, lots of roasty stuff going on. Nice and creamy textured, with a dry coffee aftertaste. Another nice Manchester Mild.

That Black jack went well with a lovely Lancashire Cheese and Onion pie from Great North Pie Co with a creamy side of mash. Just what the proverbial medical chap ordered!

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(Solace from Quantum)

Next up, the US Saison from Quantum at 5% abv. I didn’t think this was being casked! Hazy golden coloured, this was a fruity mouthful with a pronounced peachy nose. Really peachy in the mouth too, more so than I remember from a couple of weeks ago. Refreshing, grassy dry finish. A big surprise this. Great tunes in here too. Gold Panda, Yeasayer. Works for me anyway!

Let me repeat. £2.60 a pint. Every Friday! How many times do I have to repeat myself? Eh?

20130607_171438(How comfy does THAT look?)

With no James to mither, we moved on to….

Font

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(Oops – View from Font. Superb graffiti art on the arches!)

Quite busy for the time of day, but still able to get a seat. Just the one here. For me, Black Perle from Weird Beard Brew Co. Only the second beer I’ve had from this Hanwell, West London brewer. And what a belter! A 4.5% abv Milk Coffee Stout. As in a Milk Stout with Coffee! Black, with a gentle coffee aroma. Slightly sweet with a firm coffee kick, this was a lovely creamy mouthful. The coffee in the mouth was like a nice filter, rather than the usual ristretto.It was all the better for it. The tunes in here were quite retro today. Walking in to Peaches by The Stranglers set the tone.

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(DJ Booth – Love the artwork!)

Value was again superb in here. Use of the CAMRA membership rendered the Weird Beard and a pint of a 7.4% from Tempest down to £5.40. Floats MY boat!

We moved onto ….

The Knott

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Hadn’t been for a while. The balcony was busy with sun seekers whilst the bar was fairly well populated also. First choice was Titanic Stout. 4.5% abv, this black beer is an old favourite and didn’t disappoint. Black beer with a beige cream head, this had a lovely smooth creamy texture with a full roasted body with a slight bitter coffee note. An excellent dry stout.

20130607_190020(Bar area)

Next up was Rapture from Magic Rock. At 4.6% abv, I love this beer and have had it on many occasions. It was in really good condition as well. As hoppy as you would like with a big grapefruity nose, good malty body with lots of hops. The balance is on the edge with this but just works so well! £3.80 a pint seemed a tad excessive though. The Castlefield effect I guess.

Whilst the initial plan didn’t work out (though I tried!), as you can tell from the above, the afternoon wasn’t wasted!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

The Stockport Beer Festival 01/06/2013 (or, Sir Galahad finds his Holy Gr(ale))

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(pic – gmcr.alenewsnet.com)

This was truly a last-minute decision. OK, it was made the evening before, but you get the point!

I knew this was my lucky day when I turned up late for the train at Farnworth, to find the train was even later! So it was that I found my self at the rear entrance to Stockport Train Station and waited for Jaz (well, who else would drink with me!) A quick nip into Sivoris caff for a spot of brekky and we’re entering that cathedral of footballing excellence, Edgeley Park. Home of the newly relegated Stockport County FC!

I had heard from John Clarke (CAMRA South Manchester), that Jarl by Fyne Ales would be making an appearance. Let me be quite honest, much though I love a beer fest, it was Jarl that dragged me out of my pit that morning and plonked me on that train! Jaz had been winding me up about how gorgeous it was the previous day (Cheers Buddy!), so my hopes were low of locating my beery Grail. Now, where were those beers beginning with the letter F? Then, the metaphorical clouds parted and the sunbeam shone on one particular 18 gallon (kilderkin) cask. JARL! At £2 a bloody pint as well!!!

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(Beer Porn Alert! The Holy Grale!)

I truly felt like Sir Galahad as he laid eyes on the hallowed chalice! Jarl. Beloved in bottle, now on draught. And I had a pint!

Believe me when I say this. I have chased this beer from bar to bar. From the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” (Pt 2 in October!), to haring across Manchester on a rumour (it had sold out!). But now, I finally had it in my trembling mitt! Was it worth it? Bloody stupid question! 3.8% abv and pale as a spring morning, It was sharp, lemon zesty both in nose and palate. It was a citrus festival in my mouth. I love this beer almost as much as my darling Atilla! Yeah. It was a decent pint! So good was it, that I broke a rule. I had two. I had to!

Descending some stairs into the bowels of this footballing Mecca, we ambled to watch an Oompah band. Just behind the bottle bar, I asked a genial gent if he was John Clarke, one of the organisers  of this fest and Editor of Opening Times the S Manchester CAMRA branch mag. I introduced my self and had a really pleasant (but all too brief) chinwag. A damn nice bloke indeed. Interesting bottle selection too, with a De Molen Citra for £3. (I didn’t)20130601_124431

(The Oompah band is there – look harder!)

The Oompah troupe were superb and fun, playing snatches of requests. Good, but my focus was back upstairs, where business needed doing!

That business matter led me to Dark Matter, a 3.8% Mild by Saltaire. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mild by the Shipley alechemists before. This was quite subtle. Some nice gentle roast with more than a tinge of blueberry or blackberry. A nice smoky hint in the aftertaste too. Lovely. I would have had it first, but when Jarl (my Juliet – apologies to David Mayhall for this most blatant of thefts!) calls, this Romeo had to climb to the balcony!

Next up was Coal Porter (See what they did there!) by Elixir Brewing from Livingston. Now THIS is my idea of dark heaven! 5% abv, black (or near as dammit!) with a hint of smoke on the nose. This delivered bitter chocolate in this roasted mouthful, smooth texture with a lingering smokiness. A beautiful porter. Enjoyed whilst sitting in the stands (see below!)

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(A tinge of grassyness!)

Following my second pint of Jarl, I had a small taste of Oat Stout from Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth. At 5.2% this was creamy textured with more than a hint of the hedgerow. A gentle smokiness in the finish was a twist. First from Nook and really nice.

Next up was the Single Hop IPA from Stockport’s own Quantum Brewing. The hop variety in the case being Triskel (French I believe). Golden, fruity aroma (tropical, pineapple?) with that carrying through in the mouth. Nice and juicy with a nice dry finish. Quite subtle this hop. Didn’t taste its strength.

We’d gabbed for a bit and time had passed. It was time for a final beer and I opted for another Fyne Ales. This time (reverting to type!) their Sublime Stout at 6.8% abv. Probably not the wisest of choices at that strength. However, just like the Quantum, it didn’t taste its strength. A lovely smooth roasted mouthful with some mocha on the nose. Creamy wee beastie this with a delicious smokiness that hung about a bit. It was 4 o’clock now and we were being ushered out. One of the perils of separate sessions I suppose.

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(One of the ‘quieter’ moments!)

In summary : All the beers I had were uniformly in superb condition. They were also ludicrously inexpensive! £2 a pint for Jarl? The idea of sitting in the stands was great. However, this is where my one quibble surfaces. The area where the beers were served had the feel of a narrow corridor, in no way helped by the punters tendency to hang around once they’d made their purchases. This made it somewhat difficult to move about in there. I know, I know that you can’t actually FORCE the imbibing throng to relocate once they’d made their choices, but at times, I felt uncomfortable. There!

That said, after a 20 odd year gap between fests (I served at a charity bar at the old Town Hall fest), I’ll be back! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Departing felt like I was actually leaving a footy match! At this juncture, Jaz revealed a plan to visit a nearby boozer Ye Olde Vic.

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Located on Chatham Street, walking in felt like a time warp! Dark, warm and friendly, I settled in instantly to a pint of Oracle by Salopian Brewery, a first by this brewer for me! A pale beer that was lovely, sharp, crisp  and hoppy.

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This isn’t a multiroom, but has that multiroom feel. I think there were 7 hand pumps, with beers from Thornbridge, Oakham, Magic Rock featuring. However, I went for Jade by Liverpool Organic. This was a nice clean pint with flowery notes. Probably a bit too delicate at this stage. I think after my efforts, I needed something more assertive. This beer would be one to start with. Refreshing though.

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(Now. Where DID I put those pumpclips? Ah yes, the ceiling!)

Time for the train back to Manchester. Now, a sensible boy would’ve IMMEDIATELY caught a connection to Bolton. But I said “sensible”!

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So, Jaz guided us into Pie & Ale by Bakerie. Located on Lever Street, this is a decidedly modern affair and looks designed to catch a fairly trendy crowd. So, what am I doing here? To the rear bar we go and Lo! Handpumps! And what’s more, local beers from Wilson Potter and Brightside! Alongside a couple of Wells & Young’s offerings and a Liverpool Chocolate Porter.

Here I chose Natural Progression by Wilson Potter. You will (if you’ve read this blog before) know what I think of the beers brewed by these ladies. Smooth, tasty and clean. This was no exception. A nice fruity smooth mouthful. 4.8%. It’s great to see more of their beers around Manchester. Seems like their beers are on in this place quite frequently. Good to know!

Next up, Odin by Brightside Brewing (now of Radcliffe!). A really refreshing beer this. Bright, pale, zippy and nicely hopped. Initially thought it was a ‘real’ lager it was THAT pale (as you can see!). A blonde beer to look out for from another excellent local brewery.

20130601_191043(A zesty blonde indeed!)

Pie & Ale is an excellent addition to the Northern Quarter. If the food is anywhere near as good as the beer……..friendly knowledgeable staff, siiting booths and bench seating. I like this place!

Quickly skipping my greedily ordered Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt (I had to!) We finished off the evening in Port Street Beer House (where else) with an Oakham Green Devil IPA. More hops than a Watership Down audition. Stunningly fruity and hoppy. Enough said. A classic.

Not the most sensible day out, but bloody enjoyable!

Back in Manchester on Friday and Wigan on Saturday with some brewing luminaries at Allgates (I’ll be making the tea!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!