Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt 3


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(Destination Tastebuds. The New Batch!)

“Well Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born, he played it from the night time, to the peaceful early morn.

He soothed the souls of psychos and the men who had the horn and they all looked very happy in the morning”

(Sally MacLennane – The Pogues)

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

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1. DOCFirst Chop Brewing Arm – (Salford, Lancashire – Call me old-fashioned!) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (or 3 for £8) 500ml – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

It’s nice to meet people who make the beers that you really enjoy. That goes double for Rik Garner, the owner/Alechemist behind First Chop whom I met at a recent MTB at The Salford Arms. The fact that he brews great beer in my home town, just makes it that much more special!

This beer is one of those Pale Ales that could be confused for a lager, if on looks alone. Once you bring your nose close to the glass, those illusions are shattered by the lemon and grapefruit hoppy aromas. This is really fresh and zippy with lemon in the mouth balanced on a medium malt body with a touch of rich tea biscuit sweetness. This is a spankingly good beer. In fact, this is everything that a Pale Ale should be, fresh, well hopped and refreshingly dry with a superb fruity bitter finish.

I like this. A lot!

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2. Baby BlueFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Pale beer that was exceedingly lively when opened. Nice tart gooseberry nose with a hint of yeastyness (shook about on journey!) Medium bodied, with a drying tart fruitiness loaded with gooseberry and grapefruit also a twist of bitter lemon as I headed toward the slightly grassy bitter finish. Another belter from this increasingly impressive brewery.

AND it’s the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer starting this week. That nice Mr Mayhall has a clutch of beers from over that there hill. Including some from Five Towns! I’ll be hunting down my first pint on draught!

And now, we walk on the Dark Side!

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3. Dalston BlackBrodies Brewery (Leyton, East London) – 7% abv – Black IPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

A black beer with a head that stayed all the way down the glass. Instant aroma of bitter chocolate, coffee & licorice. Not the usual citrus, but none the less a big aroma. Nice full body and that bitter chocolate and licorice come through in the mouth, especially that bitter chocolate. WOW it’s bitter! A nice spicy bitter finish. And that bitter chocolate still hung around for a bit. A simply superb flavour-packed beer.

My first bottle by Brodies. Must get some more!

4. Black PerleWeird Beard (Hanwell, W London) – 3.5% abv – Coffee Milk Stout – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

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I’ve had this 2 or 3 times on cask this year so far and It rates as one of my top 5 beers of 2013. A lovely full-bodied creamy lactic coffee mouthful. I was therefore quite surprised to learn in a chat with Gregg Irwin (Brewer – whilst he was at Leeds International Beer Fest) that the abv is only 3.5%! To make a beer THAT good at THAT strength is a work of genius!

Only problem was how would the beer translate from the bottle? Very well indeed, if you ask me! Good body on this black beer with a tan coloured head and the sour tang to the coffee aroma that you would expect in a Milk Stout.

A nice mouthfeel from this low strength beer. The gentle coffee flavour is really smooth and the slight sourness of the lactose in addition makes for a gorgeous silky mouthful. Lovely sweet/sour balance, with a nice edging of bitterness in the finish. As stated, in both variants, one of my favourite beers so far this year!

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5. Imperial BlackBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.95 (330ml) – The Beer Shop (Heaton Moor, Stockport)

I’d just bought 5 Litres of Three Swords by Kirkstall when I spotted this wee devil. I’d had this on draught at Port Street one evening and it was ASTONISHINGLY good! Currently ranking as the 2nd best draught of this year for me, a simply awesome beer. Full of citrus, dark fruits and chocolate. And as smooth as Des Lynam!

The bottle lives up to the cask version standard! Nice tan head, lovely crisp sweet lemony/grapefruit aromas. More fruity in the mouth with a backdrop of some bitter cocoa. Lovely full texture with the gums now tingling. As I progress down the glass, the cocoa turns more toward black coffee with a hint of brown sugar – verging on treacle – sweetness. A gorgeous bitter finish to round it off.  Just a bloody good beer. Pistols at dawn for anybody who says different. OK!

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6. HefeweizenBad Seed Brewery (Malton, N Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (Direct from brewer) 330ml

A new beer from this increasingly impressive new North Yorkshire brewer. Having had four of their beers so far, each has been seriously impressive so I had high hopes for this.

Cloudy gold in the glass with an aroma reminding me of banana Toffo (anybody remember the multi flavoured packs of Toffo? Yes OK, I’m getting long in the tooth!). Superbly refreshing and spritzy with gentle flavour of orange or peel in the mouth with a little tingling clove sweetness.  Some nice hints of banana toffee (Toffo !) too. A surprising turn considering the full-on flavoured beers they have already turned out. But, just a damned refreshing wheat beer. Job done!

Another excellent batch of beers that I can whole-heartedly recommend. Not sure if Damian O’Shea still sells the Brodies, but you could always pick it up at Beermoth!

Beers of the Month Time!

Draught – Has to be Dinner Ale by Ilkley Brewery. An astonishing beer at 3.3%. Had it on keg at Leeds International and it simply ROCKED MY WORLD! Lovely sharp lemon hop flavours standing out in this hugely impressive beer.

Bottled – Bloody loads, I’ll split into Pale and Dark.

Pale – Revolutions / North Riding Brewpub – Punch The Clock (DIPA) At 78RPM / 7.8% – This was such a big bold flavoured Double IPA. A bit like Revolutions breaking out the guitar and turning the amp up to 11. Loads of citrussy hops, loads of malt. Superb!

Dark –  (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Bearded Lady – Magic Rock Brewing – A simply stunning Imperial Stout. Read about both these beers here – https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/bottled-ales-september-2013-pt1/

On that note…’til next time (Deeply Vale MTB at The Salford Arms on Wednesday – Come say hello to the old git with the Nexus 7!)

Slainte!

Hornbeam Brewery MTB @ The Salford Arms 25/09/2013

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So. It’s a Thursday. Also happens to be payday (YAY!). A choice between checking out my new Virginmedia setup, or pop down to The Salford Arms for the MTB with Dentons’ own Hornbeam Brewery. I won’t insult your collective intelligence with the obvious question…….!

A quick (almost telepathic) exchange with Tom revealed that there was no food on. So off to Caribbean Flavas on New Bridge St and possibly the saltiest meal I’ve ever had! Next time, I’ll go for the Jerk rather than curried chicken! It DID promote the thirst though!

Walking back in, there was the reassuring sight of my Arch-Nemesis at the bar. Furnishing me with a pint of Milestone Black Pearl Stout. Gloriously roasted and smooth with lovely notes of toast and mild coffee, we settled down in the front room to await the event.

Quiet. Again. What is WRONG with this picture, eh? A local brewer making an effort to come across town (on a Man U v Liverpool night to boot!) and talk about their excellent beers….an opportunity missed, to say the least!

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Kevin Rothwell – the head honcho at Hornbeam – was a most convivial host. He started commercially brewing in 2007 having been a keen “full mash” brewer at home since his teens. Brewing on a (Sketchy memory time alert!) 6 beer barrel plant (1 Bbl = 36 gallons) they brew up to 100 x 9 gallon casks a week, with about 10% or slightly less going into bottles.

In response to a question, Kevin told me that they have distributed pretty much across the whole of the North West, from Lancaster down to Derbyshire. However, now the focus is pretty much on the Greater Manchester area with a number of regular accounts. Whilst talking, Kevin was popping bottles…..first up was a taste of Black Coral Stout.

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A fruity dark beer with a good roasted malt body. Nice dark fruity notes with a hint of damson or plum. A very nice starter, but destined to be the only dark of the evening!

Another couple of people came in (Aussie couple that were also there last week) making a grand total of 4. We had a good chat around beer and sport, then Kevin broke out the White Swan. At 4.6% abv, this is a Wheat beer made with an unusual addition. Lavender. Bizarrely, this very pale golden beer had a distinct ginger note on the nose! really refreshing medium bodied beer with a really pronounced floral character. Unusual and damned tasty!

I was trying to make notes whilst the beers were coming fast! I could barely keep up! (No. Don’t weep for me. I can cope!)

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Next came Lemon Blossom at 4.1% abv. Brewed using the Sorachi Ace hop, this was again pale gold in colour with a delicate floral aroma. A distinct lemon note (a Sorachi characteristic) in  this clean easy drinking beer. Nice bitter finish with spicy hop note too.

Next came the Summer IPA again at 4.6% abv. Golden with a savoury aroma that I couldn’t quite pick. Quite fruity this, a little floral with a tinge of spiciness. Nice bitter and spicy finish.

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“Hard on the heels” came the Champagne Ale. 4% abv. Another golden beer but this time more dry and a pronounced bitterness to it. Light bodied and really refreshing, with a nicely dry slightly grassy bitter finish.

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On the bottle front, we finished up with one of the core range. Top Hop. 4.2% abv, with more of a deep golden hue. A more straightforward example of a traditional bitter, but full flavoured really fruity hopped with a cracking dry finish.

Whilst drinking these latter beers, Ken, one of the owners joined us. Asking a few questions himself, he was also puzzled at the attendance and I think, if there are further events after Deeply Vale next week, they may be on a different evening to encourage a greater attendance. Chaeck out their website via the link above. Nice bottle shop.

Ken then popped in with this little beauty!

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A cracking little tapas platter, highlighting the good food being prepared here. Really tasty with the mussels, a seafood paella and a mini burger. Went superbly with the Top Hop and Champagne Ale!

The nemesis and I couldn’t leave without the Orange Blossom on cask, could we? This is a lovely golden beer with some subtle earthy hops in the aroma. Dry, with some subtle orangey stuff going on at the back of the tongue. Nice dry and grassy bitter finish.

The theme of the evening? Other than my whining about the poor turnout? Tremendous well-balanced and tasty beers. All at a drinkable strength. Made with having more than one in mind. No bad thing to me. Another brewer from our beloved area making balanced tasty beers at a drinkable strength, alongside the likes of Wilson Potter and Privateer. Nice to see all these brewers thriving in this great city of ours!

We wandered off to other pastures! Absolutely SCANDALOUS on a school night. But hey-ho! I had got wind of some nice beers at Pie & Ale on Lever St so off we strode across the Northern Quarter.

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(pic: creativetourist.com)

Pie and Ale by Bakerie. A relatively recent addition to the thriving Northern Quarter scene, this places loses nothing compared to some of the more established NQ bars. The price upped a notch in here, but for what I had in mind, that was no issue! (And the Nemesis was paying!!!) Obsidian from The Hop Studio in the fine city of York. A cracking Black IPA at 5% abv. Lovely sharp sherbet grapefruit nose, with coffee notes in with the citrussy hops. A cracking pint. On the basis of the occasions that I have had this, one of the best beers I’ve had this year!

I do like Pie & Ale. No food this evening (being 9 ish) but great pies, having had the pleasure previously!

I couldn’t resist thee siren call emanating from the area of Port St!

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A belting chat with Al behind the bar, excellent barman who’s a keen home brewer. A kindred spirit in many ways, we shared our horror and disbelief at ale bars with no ale (Lower Turks take note!) over a pint of Graveyard Eyes Porter from Hopcraft Brewery from Pontyclun in South Wales. I do like Sorachi Ace in a dark beer. It adds a certain lightness and lifts what can be a heavy flavour into something much lighter. This was a cracker. The usual roasted character of Porter, quite creamy as well, but the Sorachi Ace…….yum! First time from this brewer for me. Will NOT be the last!

So. Nearing bedtime on this fine Thursday evening, I’m off to recline with a good book and a glass of DOC by First Chop. Damned tasty too….that review can wait!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Sainsbury – Great British Beer Hunt 2013

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This is the third year of this competition, but I have to confess that years 1 & 2 almost passed me by completely. It was only in the aftermath of the 2012 iteration, that I picked up on the 2 winners Mocha by Batemans (slightly sweet, but v moreish) & J W Lees’ Manchester Star – a recreated recipe of a 19th century beer initially created in collaboration with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, I think I still have a bottle of that lurking somewhere!

This year however, I picked up on some of the buzz via Twitter & Facebook and headed to my nearest branch.

The competition works like this. This year, over 150 bottled beers were entered in the four regional competitions (Scot/NI, North, East & West) and, through customer tasting sessions, were whittled down to five from each region. These 20 beers are then stocked across the Sainsbury estate and, via volume of sales, are further whittled down to 12 which go through to a final judging by “beer experts” (sorry, couldn’t help myself – Just can’t get over Worthington White Shield winning Champion Bottle Beer of Britain at GBBF!)

Prize for 1st place? Shelf space in over 250 stores. 2nd place? 100 stores. A significant deal for almost any Micro!

Walking in to my branch at Bolton, the beers were clearly on display and separated from the main booze aisles. Now, despite a thoroughly undeserved reputation as a bit of a lush, there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to attempt all 20 beers! So I got selective. I bought 10 or so different bottles (in varying quantities) Here’s the best of the bunch that I bought.

One further point. My usual format for listing changes here, as all the beers were bought from the one retailer and all cost the same price – a ludicrously cheap £1.50!!!

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1. Windermere PaleHawkshead Brewery (Staveley , Cumbria) – 4% abv –  Pale Ale – 500ml

Firstly (and I feel like I’m back at school here!), I misplaced my photo of the poured bottle. I did take one, honest sir……it was there this morning……

Pale as a spring morning but with the pungent aroma of autumns harvest of that beast of a hop, Citra! If you have ever had this on draught….It’s just as pale, just as hoppy. Sweet and sharp on the nose with pineapple and grapefruit, light bodied but absolutely PACKED with hoppy flavours with more grapefruit having the edge. A nice slightly sweet rich tea biscuit base allows the hops to party. Nice very dry bitter finish. Slightly boosted in strength to 4% (draught on cask being 3.5% abv) but loses none of its refreshing ability. More please!

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2 Gonny No Brew ThatWilliams Bros Brewing (Alloa, Scotland) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml

I thought that at this strength, that this beer might suffer in comparison. Not a bit of it! Pale and gold with a pineapple marmaladey nose. Quite full-bodied for this strength with a doughy bread base balanced by a cutting orangey bitterness. A nice fruity bittersweet finish. Nice beer at this strength.

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3. Crafty Dan – Daniel Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 6% abv – Strong Pale Ale – 500ml

Brewed on a smaller brew kit used for Thwaites seasonal range, this is one of quite a few Thwaites beers I’ve had this year which is seriously impressive. Deep gold, abundant white foam head with an aroma of orange marmalade on warm bread. In the mouth, more slightly bitter Seville marmalade hops with a nice big biscuit malt base. Hints of warming rum or Curacao. A nice bitterness in the finish with a spicy orange tang. A Blackburn Belter!

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4. India Pale AleHarbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – IPA – 500ml

One of two Harbour beers that I bought. Not had much of their stuff, but what I have had has been impressive, but on keg. This was a bronze coloured beer full of citrus aromas. Medium bodied and really citrus fruity with gum tingling piney resins swirling around the mouth. A really nice hoppy bitter beer with sufficient malty sweetness for just the right balance – with the hops on top that is! Very tasty indeed!

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5. Porter No 6Harbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 6.8% abv – Porter – 330ml

Just to ramp the strength back up and to introduce some shade into all this light stuff! The second from Harbour. A deep ruby, nearly black beer with a surprising raisin wine aroma (for this strength). A mouthful of caramel maltyness with a nice coffee and sweet chocolate flavouring. This was quite warming as it slipped down – again, surprisingly so at this strength point. A touch sweeter that I usually like my porters, but a truly cracking bottle!

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6. WayfarerOrkney Brewery (Cawdor, Nairnshire, Scotland) – 4.4% abv – IPA – 500ml

A really pale beer with a distinctive citrus aroma, reminiscent of bitter lemon. Balanced malt base but overlaid with cascade and amarillo hop zing, more grapefuit and lemon puckering the lips. Really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly resinous finish. First Orkney I’ve had in a while. A cracker.

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7. Infra RedHardknott Brewery (Millom, Cumbria) – 6.2% abv – Red IPA (I suppose!) – 330ml

This almost exploded as I opened it. A ruby red beer with an aroma of cough candy, spicy and slightly yeasty. Again, in the mouth, the cough candy of the crystal malt is evident, but with quite a bitter hoppy hit. Quite bitter and spicy in the finish with a spicy hop lingering.

There you go. I didn’t burden you with the ones that I didn’t quite get. The Querkus Smoked Porter was particularly disappointing and the Hunters Devon Dreamer was a bit yeasty (may have shaken and not settled to be fair)

I know that this is now a bit late in the game, but if you bought any of the above, you’d be doing yourselves a favour IMO! And, you only have until next Wednesday. What are you waiting for???

If you ask me for my favourites….I’d have to say the Crafty Dan, and the Harbour Porter. The others just being shaded, but only just! Certainly, if the Bolton stores’ sales are anything to go by, the Hawkshead Windermere Pale has been selling well. Just look at the picture at the top!

On that note…’til next time…(probably Hornbeam MTB at The Salford Arms tomorrow evening!)

Slainte!

First Chop Brewing Arm – MTB @ The Salford Arms 18/09/2013

First Chop

“The dark brown shades of my skin only add colour to my tears.

Oh, that splash against my hollow bones, that rocks my soul.

Looking back over my false dreams that I once knew,

Wondering why my dreams never came true.”

(Syl Johnson – “Is It Because I’m Black”)

A few weeks ago now, I noticed as tweet from one of my favourite pubs of the last 12 months – T he Salford Arms – that mentioned a series of up and coming ‘Meet The Brewer’ events with local Manchester area breweries. The first was with the excellent Privateer with its equally excellent ringmaster / owner, Matt Jervis. I was gutted that circumstances precluded me from attending, I do love the beers that Peter Curran and Matt bang out. Balanced, tasty and resolutely non-ludicrous with that strength!

Black Jack was next with Rob Hamilton. Another top bloke punting out excellent beer. Again, even though I’d been to one at Port Street, I wanted to go, but couldn’t!

However, a visit to my nice bank resolved some of my (ahem) difficulties, so I wasn’t going to miss the next one. First Chop.

I’d had a few of their beers around Manchester. Uniformly excellent they were too. I also popped in recently to their restaurant / bar in Ramsbottom (where it all started). You can read about that hereAn assured recommendation for a bar that would not be out of place in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

Got to say, with an advised 6pm start time, it was a damn struggle getting there on time! But with a hoppy ale at the end, my smiling face (!) presented itself at the bar with an open wallet and lolling tongue. A swift greeting to Tom who runs the bar (and keeps a damn fine pint!) and I had a pint of First Chop ‘Hop’ in my greasy mitt.

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(We also got this later – but what the hell!) – This is a golden pale beer with lots of citrus hop on the nose, lemon up there as well as a hint of grapefruit. Lovely and fruity/bitter in the mouth with a really good body base for a 4.1% abv beer and lots of citrus. This comes from (what I later learned to be) the FIVE hops used (Bobek, Cascade, Chinook, Citra & Simcoe), nice grapefruit in the finish with a touch of piney resin from the Simcoe. Lovely beer that you could drink all night!

At this point, I sensed that Tom was colluding with someone at the side of the bar….so being a nosey (and somewhat cheeky) sod, I introduced myself to Rik Garner, Mr First Chop Brewing Arm himself. And proceeded to cure his insomnia with my incessant waffling and questions!

For quite a young bloke, he’s been a busy boy these last few years! He started out as a chef and founded the bar / restaurant in the mid to late noughties. Having a love of good beer, he developed the yen to make his own beer. So, in 2012, he decide to try his hand at brewing his own beers. He approached Outstanding Brewery in Bury who agreed to let him use some of their spare capacity. The first beer was the Hop I tasted first. The range soon began to expand (as did demand) and the original plan for occasional brewing went out of the window!

So the search for new premises began and to invest in his own kit! Since this summer, Rik has occupied an arch  under the railway off Trinity Way in Salford and commenced brewing with a new 8 Bbl (Beer Barrel) plant.

He’s busy indeed. From that ‘occasional’ brewing idea, he is currently brewing 3 times a week and spends the rest of his time selling and distributing as well as the admin work (which he is still involved with at the bar in Rammy!). The beers are growing in popularity and have won several awards. They are also popping up all over the country from the North East to the South West (and all areas in between!). He has been so busy and successful, that he is having to look to bring someone in – now THERE’S an opportunity! (I offered myself up. I guess that the chuckle fro Rik, allied with the utter lack of technical ability, may mean that I need not apply. Another dream shattered!!!)

Good beer, great company (Rik, not me!) and a cracking pub. Now, where were we…ah yes, the beer!

The ticket for entry cost a whopping £5. For which you receive 4 beer samples. 4 1/2 pints….or so I thought! We settled into the lovely curved front room of the Salford, Rik parked himself, took out his samples and began. He handed out samples of 4 of the 5 hops that were used in ‘Hop’ and encouraged us to give ’em a good rub and sniff. From the Bobek, which was quite subtle and earthy, they got progressively more resinous through to the Simcoe….mmmmmm….Simcoe! Her also brought some of the pale malt that he used in the hop which was lovely Rich Tea biscuit with a dash of Horlicks.

We were furnished each with a half pint of Hop as previously described.

Next up was a bottle of ‘TEA’. Rik seems to name all his beers with 3 letters – AVA is named after his daughter! MIA after her bessie mate…….TEA was simply a damn good Brew! No arguing with that eh? TEA was golden, and at 5% abv, perhaps a shade darker than HOP and was fuller bodied with lovely darker tasting hoppy fruity flavours with a lovely dry bitterness in with the citrus. A distinctive grassy bitter finish. Getting the bottle was a surprise, but I think that Rik wanted us to sample 4 beers. there were only 2 of his on draught.

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Linda and Pete from Bolton (Good CAMRA members both) arrived and the chat flowed! First time I’d met Pete. It was obvious from our conversations (and his questions for Rik) that – like Linda – he is passionate about his beer! Not sure about his love of bottled stuff, but he, like me, enjoyed the two that Tom produced from behind the bar! The next one being SIP.

A 5.4% abv Pale Ale made with pale malt and loads of NZ hops, this had some delicious and more subtle tropical fruit going on with light grapefruit and lemon in nose and mouth leading to another dry and fruity bitter finish.

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Finally came the darker dangerous delights of SYL. This is a Black Jaggery IPA. Jaggery being an unrefined dark sugar made from Date palm sap. I love the fact that it is named after Syl Johnson, the soul singer who recorded Riks’ favourite album (I’m now gonna buy it today!) “Is It Because I’m Black” a cracking soul tune you can catch here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxvquwCqC2w The beer it helps to make is indeed dark and dangerous. A spicy nose with more than a hint of licorice, there is the flavour of dark vine fruits in the mouth with more licorice in a dry, pleasant, slightly herbal finish. Beautiful beer, but hardly advisable on a school night!

This was unfortunately sparsely attended for such a good brewer (and engaging personality), but the lack of attendees led to a far more intimate feel that the events at Port Street. This meant more time to chat with Richard, Pete & Linda (which was a pleasure) and some of the other attendees. A cracking finish to a great (if slightly tipsy) evening! That’s be the SYL then!

For a fiver, this was an absolute steal. Let’s hope more come for Hornbeam Brewery, next Wednesday!

Even though the bulk weren’t at the MTB, it was nice to see The Salford busy midweek. Tom and the gang are obviously doing things right. I can say for sure, that he knows how to keep a pint! Just make sure there’s food next week….I was damned hungry by the time the 37 deposited me outside Beers Mansions!!!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt 2

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(The Hawkshead Windermere Pale is FLYING off the shelves

at Sainsburys in Bolton!)

Before I start in earnest, a quick note. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of major supermarket promotions, The Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt is on now. This is where Sainsbury holds regional contests for bottled ales and the top 5 from each region go through to a National contest. The winners (2) going on to National distribution for at least 6 months. For some micros this is A BIG THING! The winner being decided democratically. By number of bottles sold.

So. In you nearest Sainsbury now, there all the beers in the GBBH should be on the shelves. These include such luminaries of the UK Micro scene as HardKnott, Harbour, Hawkshead, Williams Bros, etc…. All these beers are at the bargain price of £1.50 per bottle. get in and grab some bargains. You’d be bonkers not to! Oh yeah, The contest lasts 3 weeks. So get in before it’s over!

Now, back to my usual wafflings!

“Pardon me, I’m drunk again and when I’m drunk I make no sense,

but I crack more jokes and that’s my self-defence.

You caused me to think and I thought of what I’d have home without you,

You drove me to drink and I never had the courtesy to thank you!”

(“Pigeons In The Attic Room” – Everything But The Girl)

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

20130901_194254(A cracking debut!)

1. New World IPANorthern Monk Brew Co (Bradford, West Yorkshire) – 6.2% abvIPA – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Launching only this summer, this is a REALLY new brewery! I picked up on the buzz on Twitter and asked Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales to put a couple aside. Then promptly forgot to pick them up! A few weeks later, I popped back in and rectified. Therefore, this review comes a bit late in the day really. This was their sole beer at launch, but they have subsequently released an Imperial Stout – Strannik and brewed at least two collaborations, both with favourite brewers of mine – Allgates of Wigan and Weird Beard. I have a bottle of the Weird Beard collab “Bad Habit” and hope to pick up the Allgates collab soon….anyhow…What the hell does it taste like? Good question!

It’s a burnished gold in colour with a glass-clinging lacy white head. The aroma that I got was some toffee with a nose-tingling spicy hop. In the mouth was more caramel toffee sweetness with a growing grassy fruity bitterness with a tongue-drying grapefruit note. A lovely lingering grassy bitterness in the finish. A proper hoppy UK IPA.

Check out their website above. Really stylish design which has carried into the bottle label. Classy.

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2. 09/02Brew By Numbers (London) – 6.3% abvNut Brown Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer grabbed from the cracking stall at Castlefield Market run by Damian O’Shea. Go and pay a visit on a Sunday, he’s got some cracking stuff (and he puts out samples too!)

A lively wee devil this. Incredibly deep brown almost black beer with a latte coloured head and an aroma of a dark chocolate Marathon (showing my age, but never did get the change to Snickers!). Medium bodied, touch of bitter-sweet chocolate with roasted brazils and walnuts. Some residual sweetness with more roasted nut and a finishing snap of bitterness from the Columbus hops. Really nice beer.

Brown ales have truly come as long way from topping up my halves of “Dog” in the 80s – still the only beer that could be relied on to give me a hangover, ahh……. the unlamented 80s!

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3. BlondeThe Hop Studio (York, North Yorkshire) – 3.5% abvBlonde Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

As pale as a lager, a really pale gold. Light floral and fruity aroma with a nose-wrinkling peppery hop note. A crisp and clean light bodied refreshing beer this with a light caramel biscuit malt more than balanced with some spicy fruity hops (Chinook, Cascade & Nelson Sauvin) and some lovely bitter grapefruit in the finish too.

A beer that is full of flavour at this low strength, this could be a perfect “bridge” beer for a macro lager drinker! Just a thought! (Had their Porter in Pie & Ale in Mcr last night – like chocolate ice cream – lush!)

20130908_212443(Great beer AND the NFL is BACK!!!)

4. Dissolution Extra IPAKirkstall Brewery (Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire) – 6% abvIPA – £3.05 (500ml) – Beermoth (Manchester)

Picked this up on my (rather delayed) first visit to Beermoth on Tib St. Judging by what I saw in the range, it certainly WON’T be my last. Looking for something I hadn’t tried (and sticking to my UK ethos) I spied this, the first bottle produced by this Leeds brewer. Having had some of their casked offerings at Port Street and the superb kegged Framboise, I was looking forward to this one.

Pale gold again with bitter citrus and piney resins on the nose. A big malty backbone was complimented with fabulous earthy and resinous hops climbing all over it! Yummy! This is dry, resinous and HUGELY bitter with some orangey marmalade lurking in the aftertaste. This is a really cracking first bottle from Kirkstall. Hugely impressive.

20130909_214819(Another Mallinsons Single Hop pale? Oh yes please!!!)

5. Bramling Cross (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.8% abvPale Ale – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Where do I begin….Another Single Hop Pale by Mallinsons. Having had several of their single hop beers recently, they just seemed to get better and better, Not being over familiar with the Bramling Cross hop, I was a little worried that there may be a dud lurking here. Oh no! Another cracking session pale ale from these Huddersfield alechemists!

Bottle conditioned, pale gold and lively with some dark fruit on the nose, maybe damson and blackcurrant with a hint maybe of apple. Swirling around my gob, there was lots of blackcurrant with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry. Lovely, refreshing with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Some real spice to this that left my mouth and gums tingling. A fabulous refreshing beer. Just wish I could see more of their stuff on draught over here!

I’ve said previously that I think that these ladies have nailed lower strength single hop pale ales. Point made.

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6. South Pacific Pale AleBad Seed Brewery (Malton, North Yorkshire) – 5.8% abvPale Ale – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

I previously had picked up (and reviewed) their India Pale Ale & awesome Espresso Stout from Bierhuis in Ossett. If you read this regularly, you’ll know that I was hugely impressed by this new brewery from Malton. On my most recent visit to see Adrian Pettit (Vicky, sadly, being busy elsewhere!) I picked up the whole range for both myself and a friend. I like the look of these bottles. The only thing that slightly disappointed me was that the name ISN’T derived from Nick Caves’ great band! Never mind eh?

Another goldie this, with the light head yielding a light marmaladey nose. This is medium bodied and more delicate than the beastly India Pale but is no less impressive and is equally delicious. The New Zealand hops (Green Bullet, Pacifica and Pacific Gem) giving up a lovely orangey bitterness laid over some nice almost Digestive biscuity malt. Nice dry grassy quality in the finish too. More of a lightness of touch with this beer and very impressive it is too!

If you get hold of any of these, I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Anyway, that’s it for now!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

 

The 2nd Leeds International Beer Festival – 06/09/2013

Leeds Town Hall

(pic : Victorianweb.org)

“Why did we ever come so far? I knew I’d seen it all before.

Tall buildings reach up in vain. Tinseltown is in the rain”

(Tinseltown In The Rain – The Blue Nile)

How I love the voice of Paul Buchanan! And, for a fully paid up Lancastrian, how I love the beautiful city of Leeds. Stunning architecture, excellent shopping (or so I’m told!) friendly people, great bars. I, it would seem, am well catered for!

It was almost a year to the day when the doors opened at Leeds Town Hall for the 1st Leeds International Beer Festival, which, from recall, was a two-day event held – almost in its entirety – within the main ballroom of the building. The festival was the first to open my eyes as to how these events can evolve into a great experience across all demographics – Young/Not so, Male/Female etc – and I loved it (see here https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/the-first-leeds-international-beer-festival-08092012/ for one of my earlier efforts!)

Having left Bolton at an unfeasibly early hour, Manchester was living up to its nickname of The Rainy City. I packed my raincoat, yet hoped that the other side of “the hill” would be somewhat brighter. Sadly, the White Rose was not in bloom today. So coat on and hood up, a brisk walk to the Town Hall was in order.

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I was aware that the festival had been expanded to 4 days. I’d also read that there would be more beers, from more breweries than last year. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sight that greeted me on approach to the magnificent Town Hall. The area around the town hall was fenced off  for access purposes. There were huts/sheds, marquees, mobile catering trucks, even a Tipi! Last year, there was ONE facility outdoors – Fish &.  All became apparent on entry. The food vendors were all outside this year.

Entering the “compound”, I got my glass and (monopoly style!) beer money/tokens from different huts outside. Ignoring the food vendors for the moment, I entered the main building to be confronted by the magnificent room above, simply stunning, with its feature at the far end, the mightily impressive pipe organ. It was immediately apparent, that there were more beer providers this year, including a substantial number from London on the London Brewers Alliance bar, featuring liquid joys from Weird Beard, Five Points, Partizan, Pressure Drop and more. More later…

However, being from the western side of those hills, my first decision was easy once I spotted a couple of pumps from Quantum. No Mr Krause this year (on MY visit at least), but I toasted him with a glass of his English Pale Ale. A hazy golden 3.9% ale with a “Saisonnesque” aroma laden with yeasty funk notes. A tad warm this, but a lovely fruity balanced pale with contrasting sweet pineapple and tart gooseberry in the mouth with a very dry, lightly bitter, finish. An excellent primer!

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The beauty of this festival (and IndyManBeerCon – its almost “sister” festival), is the opportunity to chat to the alchemists who make these fine brews. It was with this in mind, that I abandoned my usual social reserve and approached the London Brewers Alliance bar where I spotted two gentlemen sporting the latest in promotional “beer wear” fashion T-Shirts, Logan Pant from Beavertown of Hackney and Gregg Irwin from Weird Beard of Hanwell. Both nice blokes, passionate about what they do and banging out some astonishingly good beers.

Whilst chatting, a certain Mr Bailey from Hardknott of Cumbria wandered over to further discuss with Gregg what may turn into a future collaboration brew. Keep your eyes peeled for that one! A brief chat with Dave (get me, all familiar like!) revealed another really nice bloke who also loves what he does. He’s also bloody good at it. One of his beers (Infra Red) has been chosen as one of the 20 beers by Sainsbury for their annual Great British Beer Hunt (beertoday.co.uk). Wish them well with this, if successful, this may be the spark for a considerable expansion for their excellent brewery.

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Getting slightly busier by now, it was time for another beer, this time Railway Porter from the excellent Five Points Brewing Co of Hackney. I’ve had a few of their bottles from Damian O’Sheas’ excellent stall at Castlefield Market. Now for some draught on keg. A very dark brown beer which I left to warm slightly. Bitter chocolate and spicy hop nose on this, with more gentle bitter chocolate in the mouth, Nice hopping led to a dry bitter finish. Nice! I caught up with Ed from the brewery later, another top bloke taking time out to chat to customers!

Being a thoroughly sensible (some may substitute “boring” if they wish!) I stayed at the lower end of the abv scale now with Mary Jane by Ilkley Brewery at 3.5%. Another golden beer with an aroma of fresh mown grass whilst also slightly fruity. This was really refreshing and clean with some melon and kiwi hints. Nice dry finish for this which would be great beer for a session. But not the best from Ilkley today….oh no!

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(“Oh I do like to be beside….er…wait a minute…!)

Having had a brief breath of fresh air (still raining!), it was time to wander back in for a Kirkstall Pale Ale at 4% abv. Another nice juicy golden beer with a light fruity hop aroma with a flavour which, to me, seemed to feature white grape and kiwi. Another really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly bitter hoppy ending.

One of the things that stands out for me about this new breed of festivals is the friendly nature of the people that you meet. Today we met a lovely retired couple from near Skipton. Janet and Derek were their names. I sat with them at our table for most of the afternoon and the chats were a joy. Both sharing an obvious love for good beer, Janet loving her Hophead and American Pale from Darkstar and Derek swapping tasting notes (and occasional sips!). Derek and I had chats encompassing politics, craft beer (and the rather poor regard from some parts of CAMRA – making him think of lapsing his card) and a whole gamut of other stuff. One of a few things that made my day. If they read this – Thank You!

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(A class act!)

This was a slow easy drinking day. No rushing, just good conversation, good food – including the odd Scotch Egg – and superb beer. Which brings me to my beer of the day!

I had a chat with the guys at the Ilkley bar earlier, including Nick, one of the brewers. I shared my thoughts on – amongst other things – the barrel aged Speyside variant of their classic Saison, Siberia. I was then pointed in the direction of the kegged Dinner Ale, which I had previously tried in bottle and been left feeling that there was something missing – even at 3.3% abv. I had had it after something stronger, so my taste buds may have been impaired because THIS is a CRACKER!

To look at it, you’d immediately think “Lager”. It is REALLY pale. Again, being kegged, I let it warm slightly as it was quite cold. I am so glad I did. Hugely lively at the font, by the time it had warmed slightly I was getting a delicate floral aroma with fruity hints of maybe sugared lemon of tangerine. In the mouth there was a hint of perhaps elderflower before a quite zingy lemon hit me square in the mush! Quite a dry shock that but a beer that rewarded with every sip. Just goes to show that it ain’t always the abv monsters that win the day. Today, Ilkley’s David beat the Goliaths!!!

20130906_164004(A walkabout reveals some beautiful and touching memorials)

I was conscious (no…really!) that I hadn’t had a good look around the venue at all there was to offer. For instance, I didn’t venture at all into the American Craft bar (to be found en route to the – ahem – conveniences). But I did nip outside into the Micro Ham Tipi (a “pop up” from Friends of Ham – more later)

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A quick scan of the pop up bar within revealed 6 beers from the Wild Beer Co in Somerset. I had already sampled the Collab beer with Fyne Ales “Cool as a Cucumber” at the Marble fest on cask. I therefore hit up a fresh hop beer called er….”Fresh” at 5.5% abv. Another hazy golden beer (unfiltered) which was sharp, fresh and fruity with traces of mandarin. A really bitter spicy green hop resinous finish with this. Coped well with the excellent pulled pork sarnie from the Castros pop up. A really excellent mouthful.

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(It’s like a little village!)

Time was marching on and with only 30 minutes to go, it was time for something ludicrous to burn those tokens! Holy Hoppin’ Hell from Weird Beard at 9.7% abv, a Double IPA. This is a seriously BIG DIPA. Sweet malt. LOTS of sweet malt. Intensely fruity and chewy like an orange caramel toffee. Warming with lots of lingering resinous hoppiness.

Just time for a quick palate cleanser now. A casked Sambrooks Red Rye at 4.something % (last digit obscured – not my vision!!!). Ruby red beer with dark fruity nose. The bitter rye character came through with some blackberry. An excellent palate cleanser following the Holy Hoppin’ sensory slaughter!

This, my chums, is a fabulous festival of beer. Celebrating what is best about the current progressive UK beer scene in a stunning venue. with huge room to move and breathe, it feels both civilised and incredibly friendly. The brewers are approachable and generous with their time. This event has expanded beyond belief from last year and the organisers are to be applauded for the bravery in this. I feel sure that they will be rewarded today by a bumper crowd.

It’s still on. What are you waiting for???

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(All that – and a lovely glass too!)

Two things really made my day. One was the conversation and company with/of Janet and Derek as stated above. The other was meeting an old friend.

I hadn’t seen Bob in nearly 20 years. We went to college together and were buddies for quite a long while but drifted apart as you sometimes do. It sounds a cliché, but he really hadn’t changed. Still loving live music (he has always had excellent and eclectic taste) and an admirable taste in beer, it was a joy to catch up and chat – albeit, all too briefly. I do hope to get over to Leeds again soon to renew acquaintance in less time straitened circumstances.

A quick beer with Bob in both North Bar and Friends of Ham ensued, both bars being excellent with great beer and cracking funky tunage. I hope to reacquaint my self with both of them soon! Bob runs an excellent music website. If you like good tunes, check it out here.

So. All that was left was to say farewell and catch that there train back over the hill, get to Bolton, open the door and “Hi honey, I’m home!”

A truly excellent day out with friends old and new.

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt1

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“So when you see me coming, you better whistle or start humming, ’cause otherwise, I’ll tell you now that I’ll just walk right by.

‘Cause lover, when I drink, I’m dozy but I fancy getting cosy and I heard a rumour that I may have caught your eye. “

(Meanwhile, At The Bar, A Drunkard Muses – Arab Strap)

Aidan Moffat – Poet, Genius!

In the miserable knowledge that I am confined, by budgetary restraints, to BM Mansions, I resort to the tried and tasted method of cheering up. Listening to Arab Strap and raiding the (ahem) cellars! By this route, we come to a few more bottled beers worthy of a shufty.

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

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1. PaleFive Points Brewing Co (Hackney, East London) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

I had this beer a month or so ago at Font bar and enjoyed it hugely. When I saw it in bottle at Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market, I really needed to give it a whirl. So….

Gold in the glass with a lively white head, releasing aromas laden with mango and sweet pink grapefruit. Medium bodied, that grapefruit comes to the fore in the mouth with a sting of lemon zest. Smooth drinking with some resins and a lovely bitterness with some grapefruit lingering to mutate into a lovely, slightly herby, bitter dry finish. At this strength, I could drink this all night on draught!

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2. Fade To Black –  Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, West London) – 6.3% abv – Black IPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

Another product from Damian’s super Sunday stall at Castlefield. Go to this excellent market if you get the chance. Superb food stalls, vintage clothing, even second-hand vinyl when I went last weekend! Beer AND Music – heavenly!

Unsurprisingly, a black beer! Cafe creme head with a candied citrus nose with prominent lemon and sugared grapefruit. Into the mouth and there is espresso with simultaneous citrus! I love this beer, confoundingly satisfying! The body and texture of a creamy stout or porter with fruity hoppiness. A cracker for what is now a firm favourite brewer with no backward steps.

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3. Davy Jones’ LockerFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, West Yorkshire) – 3.8% abv – Bitter – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Picked up on my most recent visit to Adrian & Vicky Pettit’s excellent shop, Yorkshire Ales. I like this brewers beers. A lot. However, on pouring this, I started to worry. Was this one of those “boring brown beers”? Well, I should have learned to NOT judge a book by the cover!!! One sniff of that glass put me at ease and got me salivating…..mango, pineapple with maybe a sprinkling of caster sugar on a grapefruit segment. Mmmmm….

Unsurprisingly fairly light bodied given the alcohol levels, but oodles of upfront hoppage in here. More mango and a more than a touch of grapefruit. Superbly bitter, fruity with a grassy dry finish. A cracking refreshing beer. Another cracker from Mr Malcolm Bastow.

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4. IPARodhams Brewery (Otley, West Yorkshire) – 6.2% – IPA – £2.61 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

On that same visit to Yorkshire Ales, this caught my eye. No idea why, because that is hardly the most eye-catching label! But catch it it did. So in the box it went.

An incredibly pale gold beer, almost lagerishly pale. A reassuringly nose twitching citrus aroma, with tingling lemon and grapefruit. A bloody lively devil this, the top flew off when flipped. In the mouth, more tart lemon and grapefruit citrus in a smooth medium body. Bitter. Desert dryingly bitter. Some warmth filtered through following a bitter grassy herbal finish. Did I say it was dry? OK. Excellent first for me from this Otley brewer.

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5. Punch The ClockRevolutions Brewing Co / North Riding Brewpub (Collaboration) – 7.8% abv – Double IPA – £3.87 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I love beer. I love music (any kind of music…….). It stands to reason therefore, that I love Revolutions! Another brewery that just gets better with every sip. I also like the beers I have had by Stuart Neilson from North Riding Brewpub in Scarborough. This simply couldn’t go wrong!

A deep golden beer with HUGE citrus aromas. Drooling by now, I put my lips to the glass for a sip. A big biscuity malty backbone with a fabulous full-on dirty hop citrus bang! Citra in there? Like all Revolutions beers, really well-balanced. Loads of Malt? Loads of hops! Simples!! Lovely bitter grapefruit flavours with a big bitter finish and really dry grassy aftertaste. The best beer of this style I’ve had in ages. A real big DIPA……and named after a Costello album. Boys, you spoil me!

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6. (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Bearded LadyMagic Rock Brewing (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 10.5% abv – Imperial Brown Stout – £11 (660ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market)

With all of that pale stuff, some balance was required. This beer provides that balance….and a bit more! But first, that bottle. Just the look of it stunned me. Sealed with black wax over the crown cap, the bottle looks and feels as if it’s etched. It is simply stunning. The beer had a lot to live up to!

In the words of the mighty Tandleman, this is a proper stout, there’s no seeing through this bugger! Black. Pitch black. Not bad for a Brown Stout! A fabulous creamy cappucino head boasting bitter chocolate, Tia Maria and smoky, boozy aromas. A beergasm! (I felt like Meg Ryan playing footsie under the table with Billy Crystal!)

Once I’d cleaned up and calmed down, I got to taste it! More bitter chocolate with deep coffee tones and an enveloping boozy warmth. Then the whiskey soaked wood rises up and through your nostrils like a dragons’ breath!

Sweet, bitter, smoky and warming. My vocabulary feels inadequate. It is. A work of Dark Art(s) both inside and out. Like the Revolutions/North Riding, worth every penny!

Well, (takes a deep breath!) that’s it for now.

Favourite pale? Revolutions / North Riding. An absolute crackerjack of a DIPA.

Favourite Dark? Go figure!

On that note….’til next time!

(If you’re going to Leeds International Beer Fest on Friday, I’ll be the Manc in the corner, drooling and talking gibberish. Please, save me from myself!)

Slainte!