Harbour Brewing Company – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 28/10/2013

Harbour wall(Courtesy – http://www.harbourbrewing.com/)

Let’s start this post with my usual disarming honesty. Until recently, I hadn’t had much by Harbour. I may have had a Pale at The Euston Tap, but little else. Most of what I had heard about Harbour was good. Amongst my closer victims (er…sorry…friends!), they had a seriously good reputation. I was, therefore, rather happy when I saw two of their beers featuring in the Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt!

Those two beers were the IPA and Porter #6. They were truly superb and two of my favourites of the 12 or so that I bought (https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/sainsbury-great-british-beer-hunt-2013/) so when I saw that they were doing an MTB at Port Street, I had to go, didn’t I?

Brewing started in 2012. Rhys Powell (Brewer – formerly of Sharps in rock, Cornwall) and Eddie Lofthouse (business side – formerly running the family hotel in Polzeath) came together over shared love of beer and surfing…(cue gratuious surfboard pic!)…

Harbour Surfboard(Courtesy – http://www.harbourbrewing.com/)

….they use a 10Bbl brew kit with a number of fermenting vessels (4 if I remember rightly). They supply their beer all over the country. Sounds like we get so much of it because, with St Austell controlling many of the pubs in the county, the locals drink lots of brown (relatively) boring stuff!

Getting a ticket for this however, proved somewhat easier than getting there! After catching 4 (FOUR) buses – something to do with leaving my ticket at home! – I finally got to PSBH with just a minute or so to spare. Fortunately, the ever considerate Arch-Nemesis had already lined up the first beer of the evening….

Light Ale #2 (cask) – 3.5% abv – A copper coloured beer with a subtle grapefruit aroma. Light bodied but with some malt toffee notes and lovely marmalade orangey citrus hoppy freshness. Full of hoppy goodness, this was a really light refreshing start and – to be honest – my idea of a session beer. I could happily drink this all night! But then….along comes the next beer……

Aji Limon Pale Ale (cask) – 6% abv – Rhys (Brewer) introduced this as a variation on one of their standard beers (Pale Ale). The variation being that it was barrel aged for 6 or 7 weeks over Aji Limon chillies, not the hottest of capsicums, the aim being to bring a lemony lime citrus note to the beer with a building warmth the further down the glass you go. 6  weeks or so being optimal, before the heat builds too much. Hopped with Citra, Centennial & Chinook with a touch of Crystal malt for a sweet note.

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Pale gold with a lemon and more gentle mandarin citrus aroma, this beer had more bready backbone to it. Some lovely lemon citrus in this with a bit of paler fruit, maybe melon? Rhys was right too. The further down the glass you got, the warmth increased but was never overwhelming. A lovely pale beer and certainly the best beer that I’ve had that has used chillies.

Next up…

Double IPA (keg) – 7.2% abv – Introduced by Rhys as the big brother of the Pale Ale upon which the Aji Limon was based. Pale lager malt, Citra, Centennial & Chinook (accent on Centennial). The aim with this being to showcase the hops. Like several brewers, Rhys prefers this kind of beer on keg, his thinking being that without the carbonation, the beer could be cloying. Not sure I agree with that, I’d love to try this on cask!

Had to let this warm a bit (being kegged). Hazy gold beer, big hoppy nose once it warmed a touch, a slight malty sweetness pushed out of the way by some seriously big grassy hops. Nicely big and bitter, really hoppy with a huge resinous grassy finish.

Then….my higlight (or even “highlight”!) of the evening….

Porter #1 – 5.5% abv – Rhys’ interpretation of what an 18th Century London Porter may have tasted like. More upping of the malt bass and a tuning down of the hoppy treble on this number. A lot of brown malt. Describer as Rhys as having more sweetness with lots of coffee notes. Eddie (having arrived by now) made an excelloent point about the use of a sparkler on the pump (something that may not be prevalent down there in Kernow!) with Rhys noting the “Guinness” like appearance (underselling it – in my opinion!). Although they had Porter #6 in the GBBH, they have only done 5 with #5 not actually having been brewed yet. The #6 being like a big brother to #1, although (contrary to a Rhys quip!) I’m sure they didn’t up it to 6.8% with the addition of vodka!!!

IMAG0200_BURST002_COVER(Mmmmmmm……..Porter #1)

My beer of the evening, this. A deepest ruby coloured beer with a fabulous creamy head in both colour and texture. A gentle creamy coffee aroma gave way to a fabulously smooth roasted experience with cafe au lait, some dark toffee notes and a gentle building bitterness. I can’t say if it’s a great example of an 18th century Porter, but it sure as hell works for me in the 21st! The best Porter I’ve had in a long while – and I LIKE Porters!

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(Eddie shoots the breeze with the punters)

Then we came to the final beer of the evening. Generally, the beers at these events sign off with a relatively big beer. This was no exception.

Imperial Chocolate Stout – 8.5% abv (keg) – This beer was as black as sin with the cream coloured head dissipating quite quickly with an aroma of bozzy bitter chocolate. Lots of bitter chocolate in the mouth and a vanilla note with a boozy port wine feel. I detected some blackcurrant and cranberry in their too before a really nice dry grassy finish. Another belter.

There was a bit of a discussion about the availability of their beers on draught in their own area. The shame being, with the predominance of the likes of St Austell, Sharps & Skinners, the tastes appear to be for boring brown and amber beers, to the extent that Rhys has made their own amber for the local market. Price is also a big issue with outlets seeking the lowest possible. This may account for why so much of their beer makes its way across “the border”! I, for one, am not complaining!!!

Their was also a surprising yet pleasant afternote to the Sainsbury competition. Harbour will be having their Porter and India Pale Ale in over 250 Sainsbury outlets. Despite not being one of the winners! Just goes to show, quality (sometimes) does shine through!

Another excellent evening at Port Street with good friends and superb beer. They do do this thing quite well on Port Street. Met a nice couple from Ashton – Malcolm & Hazel – Hazel kept passing us her beer, bit too strong I think. Not that WE were complaining, Oh No!

After a brief (possibly sozzled on my part!) chat with Eddie from Harbour and Claudia from the Port Street empire, it was time for walkies with a couple of pleasant pints in The Castle (that REALLY is a nice job they’ve done reclaiming the upstairs room!) and the gorgeous Crown & Kettle. All over too soon.

Just wish we had got those damn tickets for the Kernel MTB when we could!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – October 2013

IMAG0123(Straight Outta  er…Prestwich!)

“You know an I’d ruther be sloppy drunk, Sip a-tin from the can.

Now than to be out in the street, a-runnin’ from the man”

“Bring Another Half Pint” – Sonny Boy Williamson

Been a busy month this month. What with Allgates’ Road To Wigan Beer, IndymanBeerCon and the MTB with Deeply Vale of Bury, that I’ve barely paid any mind to the bottles I have been guzzling. Time to address that! Also,located another wee shop selling good beer in the Manchester area, The Liquor Shop in Prestwich. More about that later.

In the meantime….

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. Citra (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Another single-hopped pale ale from Mallinsons? Yeah? What about it? Any more whining and I’ll drag you round the back of the bar and pour lager down your throat! And it won’t be Czech either!!!

This was a super pale beer that barely touches gold on the spectrum. Quite a delicate grapefruit citrus aroma. Medium bodied and smooth drinking with a touch of sweet biscuit malt balanced by the bitter lemon/grapefruit and piney notes. Nicely bitter without being a hop assault, a more delicate touch with this hop and better for it. Nice bitter resins linger on after the glass has been drained. Another cracker. No, I won’t say how they’ve nailed single-hopped pale ales again. I won’t!……Doh!!!

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2. Piepowder IPAYorkshire Ales (Rudgate Brewery – York) – 5.2% abv – IPA – £0 (Test sample) (£2.75 from shop – 500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

One of a series of beers with their shop own label, but brewed (in this case) by Rudgate. A golden beer with a slightly surprising almost forest fruit note on the nose with a little spice. Medium bodied with plenty of toffee malt in the mouth balanced with a good degree of bitterness. The bitterness continuing into an aftertaste with hints of fresh-cut grass. Not a US-style hoppy beast by any stretch but a good full=flavoured beer.

IMAG0127(You can see how people, would confuse this with a certain sticky Ginger Beer, can’t you?)

3. Pale AleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Gtr Manchester) – 5.5% – Pale Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Hooray for Tickety Brew! There was a time, not so long ago when their survival was in doubt (but we won’t go there, will we Keri!). At the time at which that all kicked off, I was still yet to try one of their beers. It was probably that that stirred my indignation! Anyway, waffling over…to the beer!

This was copper coloured with a diminishing white head and a fruity cream soda / banana ice cream aroma. In the mouth I got more banana tinged toffee, a touch of Belgian style wit yeastyness. Back on the pale ale track with the finish which was quite fruity with a dry grassy hop bitterness to it. A more than pleasant beer. I’m looking forward to the Blonde! Nice distinctive labelling. Classy!

IMAG0128(Woah Tiger!)

4. Drink MeMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – Rye Pale Ale – 5.8% abv – £2.29 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

#3 & 4 came almost as a surprise. I was struggling a bit last week with stuff too boring to relate. I was stirring myself after a mid afternoon nap and sent a tweet about fancying a beer. I got a response from the above shop and determined to visit them the next day. A small atypical local shop dealing in all of life’s last-minute essentials. But, also beer. And unusually good beer at that. I could have bought loads, but stuck to the North West choices (Drink Local ain’t just a slogan. Oh No!)

Like the Tickety, had never had a Mad Hatter. My but this a lively sod! Had to use two glasses! A copper coloured beer with a spicy aroma and (another) hints of banana. Medium bodied and quite peppery with some treacle toffee matched with some resinous hopping. A yeasty note as well, but the bottle did erupt on opening! Given the rather full carbonation, this was a really nice first from this brewer. I can drool over the other 3 now. And, like the Tickety, nice labelling carrying the Alice in Wonderland thing through onto the packaging. Nice touch!

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5. Hop DitchRocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 6.0% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer from Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market. Does one at the old Victoria Bus Station too (Greengate)! This beer was golden with quite an assertive citrus nose. Quite dry in the mouth with a mouth puckering hit of lemon and grapefruit. Light biscuit sweetness for some balance here, but this is about the hops and damn fine they are too both in the aroma and the bitter finish with a lingering piney resin lingering. Another excellent beer from this London brewer.

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6. Bad HabitWeird Beard / Northern Monk Brew Co  (Collaboration – West London meets Bradford!) – 8.6% abv – Belgian Tripel – £4.00 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

I don’t usually do Belgian beers. Bit of a blank on my liquid CV. I’ve had the odd one, Duvel, Rodenbach Grand Cru (and its little brother) and a few more. Very nice they were too, but I’ve always had a rather Anglo beer sensibility. I need a tutor perhaps! However, having had beers by both of these brewers (and enjoying them), I thought I’d give it a go! (Selfless, I know!)

As you can see, another lively wee bugger this! Copper/golden in colour with huge carbonation and a yeasty and slightly sherbet lemon aroma with some cut grass and hint of clove. In the mouth however…BOOM! I wasn’t expecting THAT! Full bodied, yes. Atypical banana split toffee & clove, yes. But bugger me sideways this was hoppy and bitter! Spicy, resinous and mouth dryingly bitter. A corker! Like I said, I don’t really know Belgian beers that well. Maybe this shouldn’t taste like this. But I bloody LOVE it!

3 excellent retailers. 6 excellent beers. Can’t ask much more than that!

More to come….

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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Well. That’s that. IndyManBeerCon is over for another year. Anybody still hung over? Thought so! This year, I worked two sessions earning two tickets for sessions to drink at. With the one minor quibble (re Volunteering – more later….) I had an absolute blast. Judging by the semi-orgasmic commentary on Twitter, you lot did too! Many couldn’t get there owing to not buying tickets early enough. Lesson learned eh?

Anyway – I’m not the best at waxing lyrical, I’ll leave the floral purple prose to others better qualified. I’ll just talk my usual bollocks!

I’ve already given you my thoughts on the first set-up session and Thursday, so I’ll cut to the chase…..

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

I got there a couple of minutes late. I hate being late! Got let in by the ever genial Duncan (looking mildly stressed) and entered the Volunteers Room to be given our “Pre-Match” talk. I’ll communicate my thoughts directly I think!

After that, I was behind the bar in Room 3 and, to be honest, had a fantastic time. The volunteers were fun and professional. Matt was a genial and efficient Manager and the brewers in our room were great. We had Kees Bubberman from Emelisse, Colin Stronge from Buxton, Jon from Arbor of Bristol and Jeff Rosenmeier from Lovibonds. The volunteers all enjoyed the graft and working with Bex was an absolute blast!

A quick sampling of those beers that I didn’t know and I was able to advise if asked. And we all were. The customers were, universally, friendly and knew what they wanted and, more to the point, enjoyed the beers. It was easy to identify a few favourites though. If I had a £ for each time I was asked for a Buxton Tea Saison!!! The Emelisse Innovations 25 proved popular also and I recommended it to people wanting something a little lighter. This 2.5% beer seemed to confound a few. The punters LOVED it, but most seemed to think it was a 6 or 7% beer. Certainly full of hoppy flavour for a beer at 2.5%!

From the serving of the 1st beer to putting the final glass in the glass wash tray, it was such fun. But no more volunteering. Next year, I’ll just be a paying punter and appreciate all the hard work that the volunteers and staff do – from the OTHER side of the bar!

Saturday

An early start. Met up with The Arch-Nemesis for swift couple at the ever excellent Joshua Brooks. The Five Points Brewery Pale Ale being in exceptionally good nick. A 4.4% burst of citrus fruit bitterness, dry refreshing and damned moreish! A personal favourite and a steal at £2.60!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

Quite busy on entry. A quick scan of the bar revealed a suitable candidate to start….

Citra by Brodies Brewery from Room 2. At 3.1% abv, hazy gold with a piney and grapefruit nose. Light bodied and refreshing with kiwi fruit and some more resinous pine. Refreshing and a cracker to start.

Wandered into Room 3 and stepping up a gear or two in strength. Decadence Stout by Weird Beard (5,5%). Full bodied black beer that was as smooth as Kojak’s head! Black as sin with some light coffee on the nose. Creamy in the mouth with lots of roasted flavour, chocolate and a little bitter coffee and toast. Luscious. Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers was behind the bar, really nice bloke brewing excellent beer (Have a few of their bottles stashed)

IMAG0106(The lull before the musical storm!)

Room 3 (AKA The Music Room AKA The Ladies Pool) was sponsored by Dark Star. It would have been churlish not to sample one of their beers, especially when it was a Green Hopped IPA! At 6.5% abv, this was upping the strength again, where was this going to end? Badly of course! Not that this beer was bad, OH NO! Pale gold, resinous pine on the nose. Mamma this was bitter! Load of fruity hops, firm biscuity base with even more resinous goodness. Lingering. I LOVE Green Hopped beers!

Next (and a HUGE Slainte! to The Beerhound for this one! Cheers Tyson!) I popped into Room 1 to check out some cask conditioned Italian beer from Toccalmatto. I missed their MTB at Port Street but heard it was a cracker. So when Tyson tweeted about some cask conditioned beer! When The Beerhound barks, you need to listen! The beer I tried was Zona Cesarini an IPA at 6.6% abv. Golden, fruity spicy aroma. Lots of hoppy goodness in the mush, oh yes, this is hoppy! Really fruity beer with long-lasting bitterness and a really grassy resinous aftertaste. One of the best of the week.

Next. Room 2. Briefly. Brodies Brewery Apricot Sour. SWEET BABY JESUS AND THE ORPHANS!!!! This was SOUR! Each time I took a mouthful I banged on the table! A Ronseal beer. With added sourness. A 3.1% abv tart palate livener!

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

Back to room 1 for a Redchurch Brewery Old Ford Export Stout. Is it REALLY 7.5%? Almost a “barrel aged” aroma, maybe rum, with this sinfully black beer. Deep bitter chocolate, some espresso and really rather bitter with an unexpectedly resinous dry finish. A kegged cracker!

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Next came another Stout, from Room2 this time. Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley at 6% abv. A big Stout which was cask conditioned, black with plenty of boozy wood on the nose, Slightly sweet in the mouth with bitterness kicking in later down the glass. A warm glow following the slightly boozy aftertaste.

Staying on the Dark Side of the street, I then ventured into caffeinated territory. Coffee In The Morning, a Breakfast Stout from Tap East in Stratford. 5.5% abv, black with an instant whack of fresh ground coffee to wake the nose up. A “Ronseal” beer this, fairly light bodied, but with loads of coffee bitterness. First beer I’ve had from this crew (I believe linked to Utobeer (Borough Market) and The Rake (possibly the coolest small bar in London!). If a coffee beer is what you want, this certainly does the job!

Time for a change. Back to Room 2 for something a bit, well, paler. Otters Tears (6% abv) from Thornbridge. If Otters cry tears like this, then get me Tarka and peel him an onion! This was mid gold with a nice earthy hoppy aroma. Really nice and bitter/hoppy in the mouth with maybe a hint of apricot fruit. A crackling bitter and resinous finish that lindered (or even “lingered”!). Nicest pale ale I’ve had from Thornbridge this!

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb5p0ch-lqM

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

Then came the (non-liquid) highlight of the evening. The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Walking in from the upper level (changing stalls) to the rear of the stage, in high theatre, they strutted in playing their instruments. When they got to the stage however, up went the bass drum and they let rip! An absolutely inspired piece of booking! Funky, uplifting and just bloody great musicians. A highlight.

Next, the ill-advised delights of Emelisse Brewery Imperial Russian Stout (11% abv) At this point, my notes came over all expletive laced! Black. Very black. Burnt toast, vinous and with an arse kicking coffee whiff. I staggered at the smell alone! Then the taste. Still boozy but with sweet coffee, bitterness, smoky with some more of that burnt toast. My notes finished Oooooohhhhhhh! Do I need say more? (I had another! But not before …..)

Blonde by Emelisse Brewery. 6.8% abv. Hazy pale with an aroma a bit like a fruity custard (or was my hooter broke?) Orchard fruit in the mouth, really fruity yet simultaneously bitter and piney resins in the finish. That Mr Bubberman can make damn good beer! (His collab Impy Stout with Marble earlier this year – made with Sorachi Ace – was a classic too!)

Was it a good night? Popes being Catholic and bears fouling wooded areas spring to mind. Yes it was. The whole shebang more than surpassed last year. The range of beers over the three days that I attended were superb. More international beers being a bonus. Excellent crowds, swift service by staff who knew their stuff (including us volunteers!)

I managed to see part sets of 2 or 3 bands in The Ladies Pool which were all excellent, with Harlequin Dynamite the icing on a very sweet cake indeed!

Meeting some people I know only from Twitter was a total bonus (take a bow Otto!). The brewers were free with their time and very friendly indeed, especially those from The Ladies Pool on Friday.

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 1

20131008_155421(The Splendour that is The Victoria Baths)

Doing this bloggy type thingy, one of the first things I wrote about was The Independent Manchester Beer Convention or IndyManBeerCon. A Beer Festival revelation, not only featuring some of the best beers that the UK had to offer, but held within the legendary Victoria Baths on Hathersage Rd. I remember getting my first drink and taking 45 minutes just to drink in the wondrous surroundings. The building may have been in need of substantial further refurbishment, but (and I don’t use this word lightly) I was awestruck. Stunning stained glass windows, beautiful balconies, lots of almost secret rooms. Ohh…….

Organised by the people behind Port Street Beer House, A Place Called Common & The Beagle, I was chuffed to bits to hear that the sequel was to have the same location. Another opportunity to say WOW!

For 2013, The “Convention” was to expand into 4 days from last years two. That was to be expected. Last year was incredibly popular, rightly so. The combination of the excellent beers, superlative “Street Food” and that oh so sumptuous location was a winner from the moment the doors first opened. Last year, I attended as a punter on the Friday and worked the bar on the Saturday. It was, quite simply, the most fun I’d had with my clothes on!

I had to ask myself, “Could they better last years’ effort?”

I assisted with one of the “Set Up” sessions on Tuesday. Partly (let’s be honest!) for a free session ticket. However, my main motivation was to see what the place looked like BEFORE the “beer locusts” arrived on the Thursday evening, draining everything in their path!

20131008_124305(Room 1 – The beers had just started to arrive)

The logistics of this organisation are simply boggling. Before the beer started arriving, the first job to do was washing and drying glassware. And there was A LOT OF IT! Just as we got started, Magic Rock and Marble arrived with their beer deliveries. Magic Rock had their own room (the room in which Brewdog were located last year), so that was easy. The Marble beers had to be delivered to their bar which was in room 1 – thank the gods for cask carriers!

20131008_124421(No. Those are empties. Is it just me, or does this look like a shrine?)

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(The REAL “Angel of the North”!)

What, with more glass deliveries – yes, I smashed a couple, sorry! – price labelling (casks), multiple brewery deliveries and bar construction, let’s just say, we were kept fully occupied!

20131008_132243(Bar under construction)

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(Room 3)

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(Room 2 – View toward Food Vendor area)

I enjoyed this hugely. Met some nice volunteers. Got to meet Claudia, Duncan, Rosie and Jamie from the Port Street empire (nice to put names to faces that you see so often!), it was just, FUN.

Thursday

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(Room 2 – early on)

I hate being late. Especially when it’s my own fault. However, I couldn’t turn up covered in emulsion paint, could I? Trust me, It is NOT a good look! So, by the time that Jaz (Arch-Nemesis), Chris (Sacrificial Lamb) and I got in, the place was already busy. Having not eaten since breakfast though, first priority was food. The Meat Paella from Las Paelleras fitted the bill. Lots of lovely beery soaky plump rice grains with oodles of paprika and chorizo and chicken……drool……superb value at £5.

Firstly, with the beer, we need to talk about the measures. These are all priced for the 1/3rd of a pint. As you enter the building you pay/show your ticket, and are given a beer menu for that particular day. You are also given a stemmed glass marked with a line for the 1/3rd pint measure. Trust me, this works. The glass is lovely and delicate (Translation? Easy to smash on the way home!). This measure gives you the opportunity to try more beers. Personally? I just think that it’s more civilised than swilling pints!

At the bottom of the beer list is a wee map, showing where the various locations for functions are located. After a few, trust me, it would be easy to get lost whilst admiring this gorgeous interior!

First beer of the evening had to be light in alcohol, refreshing and hoppy. Quantum NZ Light at 3.6% abv was all that and more. Pale gold, fruity hop nose with the flavours of kiwi and passion fruit in the mouth. Tasty and damned refreshing. Having sat down to enjoy my Quantum with the paella, I was struck by the music. The sound of saxophone. And there they were, up on the balcony. Live music, nice touch. (Of course…if I had been paying attention to the website….)

It was getting a little busier at the bar in room 2, but service was till swift, so I stayed in here for another. Beadica’s Well (Barrel Aged) by Thornbridge. Whilst I hardly have beergasms over Thornbridge’s pale output, the darks generally rock my world. This was no exception. Black with a light creamy head. Smoky wood and toffee nose leading to more woody smoke, some treacle notes with some warming spirit drifting up your nose. Performed the trick of tasting above it’s relatively moderate 5.3% abv strength.

IMAG0029(Bar in Room 1)

Next came a walk into Room 1 to sample one of the IMBC Collaboration beers. Farmhouse IPA with Marble Brewery. At 7.4%, for the price of just a single token, this was a bargain! First on the nose, I got  quite hoppy notes with some yeasty Belgian funk. But in the mouth, the Saison character takes over. Quite spicy, yeasty and with a touch of peachy fruity sweetness. Superb.

IMAG0041(Room 3 – The Music Room)

Into Room 3 now for something a little different. Tea Saison from Buxton Brewery. Made with Cherry and Cranberry fruit teas allegedly! But where fruit teas can be a flavour let-down, this was anything but! Really tart and fruity aroma, the taste was akin to a Kriek, tart and mouth puckering. Really fruity and tart/sour with a finish that was sharp and as dry as a bone. Probably my second favourite of the evening.

Venturing into the Turkish Baths room now for a Dark Arts by Magic Rock – Kegged, therefore slightly too cold for my tastes, this is still a damned tasty strong stout with a firm dark roast malt body and the spiky flavours of bitter chocolate and coffee. A really good beer. Here is where I firmly come down on the cask conditioned side. Texture and temperature. I just think that cask (for me) wins hands down. Do I have all knowledge? Do I bollocks! I just happen to believe that cask conditioned, Dark Arts is a classic and one of my all-time favourites. On keg, it’s simply a really nice strong stout. And cold.

At this point, I went for a looksie into Room 3 where there was a band playing. They were called All We Are, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in company, I could have listened to them all evening. They sounded simply superb.

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Back to room 2 now. Weird Wit Black Jack Brewery collaboration with Weird Beard of Hanwell, W London. At 5% this was hazy gold with a gentle fruity aroma. This got going when it hit your taste buds! Quite full-bodied for a 5% beer, fruity, you could taste the melon as well, but this was simultaneously quite bitter with a marked resinous finish.  tasted a bit like a hybrid of a saison and an IPA. And in a VERY good way!

Stepping up on the abv now, next up was Blackberry King of Clubs by Black Jack Brewery Black and really fruity aroma. This was full of blackberry flavour. A full bodied dark roasted stout full of bitter coffee, chocolate and tart berries. Joint Beer of the Evening in my book! Along with…

Oh yes! From the moment that I saw this coming into the building on Tuesday, I just HAD to have some! Imperial Treacle Stout by Quantum (IMBC Collab beer) It says 8.6% on the menu, but 9.1% on the clip. Ooooohhhh smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back in time for breakfast! Unctuous, silky, oily and oh so bad for you. I REALLY don’t think anyone else should touch this beer. Leave it all for me. There’s a love! Black, alternately sweet with that gooey treacle, then bitter, then fruity. It was just soooo good, er…I mean terrible……er…Just leave it all for me. OK! Young Mr Krause has played another blinder! Cheers Jay.

To be honest, I took it really easy last night. I just enjoyed myself. Long chats with Peter (aka Tandleman) and his lovely lady Eileen to whom I could listen all evening dispensing beery pearls of wisdom (Eileen, of course ;-)) and some cracking chats with Matt from Privateer Beers (should have had his Dark Revenge here, CMON!) and his lovely friends Helen & Maria (I think?). Matt may be moving his brewery soon and it was nice to see him, especially talking positively about the future of the brewery. Helen has connections with the West Riding Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, a place I love of old. Long chat with Helen, birds of a feather views wise.

In summary. The venue is stunning. The beers were excellent and (mostly) well priced. The food was superb and laid on by the Guerilla Eats street food collective. The entertainment was first-rate (I don’t recall music last year?) The PSBH empire have raised the bar again. I could wax even more lyrical, but there are others more eloquent than I who will do that far better.

There is room to breathe – unlike most other fests. Room to chat (and be heard). It;s just civilised.  I enjoyed myself so much, that I completely lost track of time! So much so, that I finally paid attention to one of Matt’s (Privateer) prompts and realised that I had just over 10 minutes to get to Piccadilly and my last bus home (the look in Jaz’s eye indicated that his futon was NOT an option!)

TAXI!!!

Back to work there  (hopefully behind a bar) later – say hello. I’ll (probably be the oldest bloke behind the bars! And no beard!!!)

I’m hearing that there are still some tickets for Sunday going. Do yourself (and your taste buds) a favour. Come on down. Good food, great beer and a SPECTACULAR venue – worth the entry fee alone. Check http://www.indymanbeercon.co.uk/ for details!

On that note (and this may be further added to on Sunday!)…til then

Slainte!

Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 03/10/2013 – 13/10/2013

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I have a lot to thank my Arch-Nemesis (Jaz) for. One of those things is the rekindling of my love for beer and pubs (resulting in these wafflings, I suppose!) Another thing that I have him to thank for, is my discovering the pubs – and beers – of Allgates Brewery. Over the last year, I have sampled many of their beers, all of which have been very tasty and full of flavour – from the Mild made with NZ hops (AllBlack) through the citrussy, zingy Ostara all the way to the Oatmeal Stout which I had a small part in the making of. I suppose – to cut a long story short – they are now, without question, my favourite brewery. But, I NEVER use one word where 2000 will do, do I?

Allgates, the Brewery & Pub Company is owned by two partners, David Mayhall & Ian Thorpe. They own 7 working pubs, all 7 being based in – or around – the Wigan metropolitan area. The ethos of these pubs is simple. They are rooted in – and are very much of – the local community. They offer excellent, locally brewed beers, alongside a wide range of superlative (and imaginatively sourced) guest beers from the best breweries in the UK, often supporting the youngest and freshest Microbreweries.

20131005_170827(Beer selection previously served at The White Lion, Leigh)

Another key matter that distinguishes Allgates’ pubs from their competition, is the pricing of their beers – both their own AND guest beers. To say that they are good value is to massively understate the effect that ordering a guest beer in an Allgates pub can have on the unwary. As an example. I ordered 2 pints of Motueka (single hopped Pale Ale) by Arbor from Bristol. An ale that would cost upwards of £3.40 in Manchester. I paid £4.20. That is £2.10 a pint!!! Obscenely cheap. In bloody good condition too! (Which, if you stay awake, you may read about later!)

In March this year, along with Jaz & my other good friend Col, I had a go at the previous RTWB, trying 3 Allgates pubs, The Anvil (technically, the Brewery Tap), The Hare & Hounds in Hindley and The Jolly Nailor in Atherton. 3 cracking pubs, but each distinctly different from the others. The beers in this “festival” were uniformly excellent. Not a single bum note to be had. I have subsequently had a number of Sunday Lunches in a further Allgates pub, The Crooke Hall Inn (Crook Village) on the bank of the Leeds – Liverpool canal. Another fabulous pub, with great food!

The principle of The Road To Wigan Beer is that it is simply a different kind of Beer Festival. One that is spread across all 7 pubs (in this instance) across 11 days. The trick is, to try to get to all 7 pubs. How? I hear you ask! The answer……(as I was advised by young Mr Mayhall…) by BUS!!! It transpires, that a bus had been organised for some regulars to get around all 7 pubs in the one day. Being somewhat of a cheeky little tyke, I had to ask, didn’t I?

Road To Wigan Beer Oct 2013

So, the Arch-Nemesis & I find ourselves meeting at Wigan Wallgate and watching (what seemed like) the entire town, clad in Cherry & White, emigrating to Old Trafford for the Rugby League “Super League Grand Final”, of which, more later! Grabbing a swift pork pie from Galloways, we strolled into (for us) the first pub of the day. The Allgates Brewery Tap, The Anvil.

Wigan pub ,The Anvil, built 1894(pic – www.beer-meister.co.uk)

The Anvil is a large pub occupying a corner plot on Dorning Street, just around the corner from Wigan Bus Station and a 2 minute walk from the brewery itself. A single roomed pub but with distinctly separate drinking areas giving it the feel of a multi-roomed premises. Each time that I have been in, it’s always been busy both with ale drinkers from far and wide and, predominantly, locals attracted by the excellent beer, keen prices and a core clientele with betting slips in hand and more than an eye on the TV watching the sports. This is a busy pub. It also sells damn fine beer. Like my first pint of the day…..

Atomic BlondeRevolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) A 4.5% abv blonde beer sticking to the core Revolutions themes, Music themed beer and a fine beer at that! This was only the second of their beers that I have had on handpull over here. Have had loads in bottle and they have been uniformly superb, full-flavoured, tasty, balanced beers. This was no exception. Pale gold with a fruity aroma, medium bodied and full of fruity bitter flavour with gooseberry and apple (or so I thought), sharp and zesty with a hint of tartness. Fresh, refreshing with a supremely dry bitter finish, absolutely cracking nick. The only problem was, it went down too damn quick! With a few minutes before the bus showed up, I hazarded a swift half of something else….

Odyssey BlondeFallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) Another “Blonde” beer, this time at 4.1% abv, super pale beer, with a spicy, almost savoury aroma which I couldn’t quite pick, fresh clean and spicy/bitter, the kicker came in the aftertaste with quite a hit of wood smoke! No doubt about it and very unexpected in a paler beer like this, unusual, damned tasty and also hurried down as I was told by David that the bus was here! Though I hate rushing good beer (and the Fallen was VERY good!), there was nothing else for it but to bolt it down and follow the throng! A good start on the beer front!

Onto the bus we go. It felt a bit like the works outing scene from Carry On At Your Convenience, replacing Londoners with the most genial bunch of people, Wiganers to a man/woman, that it’s been my pleasure to be on a bus with. On the top deck the banter was immediately flowing, I was soon chuckling and grinning from ear to ear listening to people that I was soon to get to know far better! The bus was headed to the most westerly Allgates pub…

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The Crooke Hall Inn is situated in Crooke Village and the pub is located on the picturesque banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Unfortunately, the access road couldn’t accommodate the girth of our historic white, orange and brown GM Buses double-decker, so we bailed out outside a Marstons pub for a 5 minute walk to the pub. A true Multi-Roomed pub with 4 separate drinking areas (including the bar area) and a beer garden area to die for on the canal side.

Been here a few times now, the last Allgates pub I’d “discovered”. My family has enjoyed a few excellent Sunday Roast dinners here over the last few months (of course, the excellent All Black Mild had nothing to do with my choice of venue, Oh No! *fingers crossed*). As with all their pubs, the landlord – in this case Gregg – keeps a fine cellar with excellent ale. Knowing this, I had high hopes for a beer that I knew he had on….

EP – Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) Now, I’ve written about my love of both Andy & Marks’ beers and their musical leanings/ethos. A short conversation with Andy left me in no doubt about his love of both beer and good music (of all kinds). All the beers are brewed to strengths consistent with music formats (3.3% abv / 33RPM, 4.5% abv / 45RPM, 6.0% / C60 ……), the EP is at 3.9% abv, being halfway between a vinyl single and an album. More importantly, the beer tasted just as good as I expected it to. A golden beer with a slightly resinous grassy hop aroma, it was clean fresh and hoppy with a hint of a bitter lemon character in there.

20131005_131033(Revolutions EP & Bexar County Texan Pecan Coffee Mild)

Texan Pecan Coffee MildBexar County Brewery (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) – For me, one of the beers of the day. Unfiltered and 3.7% abv, a hazy, murky brown beer comes from the pump, but give it a moment, then a sniff and Cafe au Lait comes over on the nose. In the mouth, more coffee, quite gentle, then a real nutty overtone. A “Ronseal” beer (does exactly what it says…..) and a belter that would go down well (even with the light abv) in some of the better Manchester “craft” pubs. As I finished and popped for a quick chat with Jonathan (Allgates head brewer), about current happenings at the brewery, it was apparent that I’d finished my beer too soon. Ah well, a swift half is called for again….

Bitter KiwiBristol Beer Factory (er…Bristol?) (5% abv) Pale gold again with big grapefruit hop aromas, really zesty fruity in the mouth too, zingy sharp hoppy flavours. Bloody good (if ill-advised – at 5%!) beer, as BBF normally is!

Ding, ding…..back onto that bus, with a further passenger, Gregg, the landlord from The Crooke!

A good 25min or so drive now. We were due to go to The Union in Tyldesley next, but the driver obviously had other ideas!

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The Jolly Nailor sits on an imposing corner plot on Market Street in Atherton. Quite a large pub with three distinct drinking areas, again, a proper multi-room. Again, as with all Allgates pubs, several handpumps dispensing both Allgates own and guest beers. Last time I came, on the previous “Road” trip (read here), there was a rock band warming up. The pub has live music on each Friday and Saturday, good nights, so I’m reliably informed. I was “here for the beer” so, in that spirit….

Harts DesireHarthill Village Brewery (Harthill, nr Sheffield) (4.4% abv) – Another new brewery to me. The Harts Desire was a mid-brown beer with a spicy fruity (mango/apricot) hop aroma. Medium bodied with some biscuit malt overlaid with fruity hops (gentle apricot). This had a dry bitter finish with a hint of licorice root in the aftertaste. Another superb beer in great condition. Followed by….

Citra BurstAlechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) Citra is the Marmite of hops. Me? I love it! This was no different. A golden beer with the bitter grapefruit aroma characteristic of single hopped Citra beers. Loads of toffee maltiness giving this excellent balance with a hint of vanilla, I thought. Big bitter finish with a lingering hint of toffee in the big zesty grapefruit aftertaste.

20131005_145602(A selection of previous ales at The Jolly Nailor)

With a bit of time left, a swift half was called for….

HopspurRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 4.5% abv Amber coloured beer with a surprisingly citrussy aroma. Biscuit malt but quite bitter with more than a hint of grapefruit, good clean bitter finish. Another good beer from the makers of the superlative Trinity Pale Ale.

Now, Jaz was gutted to see a new beer clip on the pumps. So, not wanting to miss out, the sod got another half in……

GalaxyTwo Roses Brewery (Darton, nr Barnsley, S Yorkshire) – 4% abv pale beer, slightly hazy with a super aroma of mango and passion fruit. Fruity and slightly resinous in the mouth with a tremendously bitter finish. Had the bottles from TR before, but first time on draught. Superb!

Ding, ding…….

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Back onto the bus to….Tyldesley and….

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The Union Arms, Castle Street, Tyldesley – A deceptively large pub, with a central bar and three drinking areas, with one, slightly elevated, being set for food. The, now about 45 strong, bus load swarmed into the pub. The first time that it took more than a minute or two to get served, but it was more than worth it….

MotuekaArbor Brewery (Bristol) 3.8% single hopped pale ale. The jaw dropper here was the price. £2.10 a pint! I have paid nearly £1.50 MORE for this in Manchester. Ludicrously good value for a super fruity pale gold beer with abundant grapefruit aromas. Light biscuit malt with super fruity hoppy taste. Nice bitter finish too. Nice chat with two guys we hadn’t met before, Tony & Jay.

Onwards……

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The White Lion, Leigh Road, Leigh.

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(Value? I kid you not!)

Nice cosy traditional pub with three separate rooms. Lots of wood, warm and friendly. being on her own, the landlady rang for reinforcements! Down came Harry the landlord! Friendly as hell behind the bar, but what mattered even more was the top quality of the beer, in this case…..

#10 Smoked Porter – Shamblemoose Brewery (Haslemere, Surrey) – A new brewery for me and a lovely black beer with a gentle coffee aroma. The smokiness really came through in the mouth with some dark roasted coffee in there too. Lovely, full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Really goo (or even “good”) ale!

The pace was slowing now (but not for all!), I was taking more time to chat and simply enjoy the ale….but Tempus Fugit and all that latin stuff……..

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The Hare & Hounds , Ladies Lane, Hindley.

If I could have a local pub, let it be like this. I LOVE the Hare! A dog friendly pub, with cracking beer, a real fire  and friendly locals. Four walled heaven!

Scouting the bar after a quick smile at Nigel, the landlord, my eyes hit another brewery I hadn’t had before….

ParklifeWindsor & Eton Brewery 3.2% abv – The lightest beer of the day. Well received by others. Copper coloured, gentle citrus aroma with some fruitiness in the mouth. Not bad, per se, I suppose, but given all I had heard about this brewery, I expected, well…more. As I said, some really enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t overly struck.

Moving on to another brewery I had never had…..

Drops of JupiterBumpmill Brewery (Alfreton, Derbyshire) 4% abv. Instantly getting the music reference (“Drops of Jupiter” being an album by the US band Train), I was warming to the beer before I had it in my maw. Pale gold again, nice full citrus aroma. Loads of fruity grapefruit citrus in the mouth. Refreshing, really fruity and a nice bitter finish. MUCH more like it!

First half of the Rugby was in here. Not going well. Lots of handling errors and mistakes by Wigan allowing Warrington a 16-2 lead. An unconverted try just before halftime lightened the spirits and fired optimisms’ flames!

Not enough time here for me. So I’ll be back on Tuesday! Moving on (and getting a little darker now……)

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The Victoria, Haigh Village, Wigan – First time at this pub for me (and the final Allgates pub. I now have the whole set! Two main rooms with a corridor linking the two. We got in with 5 minutes of the second half of the Grand Final played. Better from Wigan…… Pool table in the right-sided room where most settled to watch the finale….

Here I had….

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Being a wee bit (ahem) refreshed by this point, my schnozzle may have lost its “beerhound” sharpness as I didn’t get much aroma from this, but it was a damned tasty pint. Pale gold with a tight white head, crackling with grapefruit sharpness. Really fruity and refreshing. At the strength, it stood up really well.

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(all eyes on the screen!)

Back end of the second half was all Wigan as the pressure was poured on. A couple of tries close to the posts (both converted) took Wigan ahead to ecstatic scenes in the pub as they emerged as 30-16 winners. 24 points without reply in the second half!

Jubilant happy faces as we got back on the bus (just WHO took that sneaky pic in the pub?) we were back to where it all began 8 1/2 hours before….

20131005_203232(Once more unto the breach…..!)

Ostara was on. I simply had to do it! 3.6% of fruity hoppy heaven. One of my Beers of The Year so far. We’ll leave it there shall we. There was a train to be caught and I seriously hope that I made sense to David by this point!

I think I can say that, without exception, that in my opinion (for the little that THAT is worth!), each of the beers that I drank / sampled was in excellent condition. There was only one beer that I didn’t truly enjoy, the rest were all excellent. If I had to choose favourites on the day – which is difficult, I would say two from early on, The Atomic Blonde from Revolutions Brewing at The Anvil and the Texan Pecan Coffee Mild from Bexar County Brewery. Both superb, tasty beers, as were they all.

But this is, in my experience, what you get from Allgates’ pubs. Great beers in excellent condition, in a friendly, traditional pub environment. Just the kind of places that we should be treasuring. I do, that’s why I’ll be back in The Anvil and Hare & Hounds tomorrow evening!

This was a total blast! I met and chatted with many people I had never previously met. All with broad Wigan accents. I do believe that there may have even been a bit of Wigan dialect spoke on the bus! A huge thanks to David & Ian, Jonathan for humouring me by listening to my blathering on,”Stig” for sorting the bus and everyone else who contributed to this most excellent of days.

There is still a week to go on The Road To Wigan Beer. Treat yourself. A return ticket to Wigan can put you within a 3 minute walk of both The Anvil and (on the return leg..) The Hare & Hounds. Give it a go…and thank me later!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says “Good People Drink Good Beer.” Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public bar and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Because too much is never enough…..Or my good friend Col couldn’t make Saturday’s Epic Crawl, we decided to pop into a couple of Allgates pubs along our train line (Manchester – Wigan) and sample some new beers that I didn’t get to try on Saturday. Greedy, but hey…….

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Back to The Anvil, being in the centre of Wigan, within 3 minutes of Wallgate Station, Reasonably busy for a Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Jarl by Fyne Ales had sold out, as expected. However, more than adequate compensation was to be found…..

HankTiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, Gwent) A 4% abv pale ale that was really pale and full of the sharp grapefruit aromas of Citra. Really balanced with plenty of biscuit sweetness cut through with that grapefruit tang. This mellowed as I went down the glass and tangerine came through. A good beer in cracking form. 

Tempus Fugit. We had a train to catch to the next and final pub, but we certainly had time for a couple more…..

American Pale AleClarence & Fredericks (Croydon, S London) 4.1% abv. Deep gold with a creamy white head, a little tartness in the aroma which was more than represented in the mouth! Bitter orange seville marmalade with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry, nice smooth texture and full of mouth puckering fruity hop flavour. The aftertaste had quite a resinous hit. Only the second beer I’ve had from this brewer. Both excellent.

Just about time for a cheeky half before the train…..

Blackhouse (Smoked Porter) – Fallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) – A hazy deep brown beer with a chocolate caramel nose (made me think of a liquified Cadburys Caramel). The flavour matched the nose with addition of the late appearance of a warm smoky note. Really smooth and creamy. Shame I only had time for a half!

A swift walk to Wallgate Station for the 20:27 toward Manchester and the second stop on the line. From there, a 5 minute walk downhill to…

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The Hare & Hounds is just a proper local. The kind of pub which just gives you a warm hug of familiarity when you push open the door. Again, I was hoping for Jarl, but it seems like I was a day early. Col however, was as happy as a pig in muck, ‘cos he’d come for the next beer (and that alone)

Mud BrawlerBoggart Brewery (North Manchester) A 4.4% Vanilla Porter which feels like a Stout. Very dark brown , a creamy coloured head with a milky coffee and vanilla aroma. Full bodied smooth drinking beer with vanilla on a dark roast choclolaty coffee malt base. As good as I had it at the brewery tap, The MicroBar in Manchester. Winner of top gong at Peterborough 2013. I can see why.

OstaraAllgates Brewery (Wigan, Lancashire) Sometimes, you just don’t need to go for a guest beer, when there is something as good as this. Pale gold, with a zesty grapefruit / apricot nose. Really fruity in the mouth with bitter citrus over a slightly sweet malted milk biscuit base. Nice bitter finish with bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. Just one of my very favourite beers. Kept very well.

Finally, to lubricate the excellent conversation we were having with Nigel (mine host), his good lady and some of the regulars (see what I mean about friendly?) …a beer I had the other evening

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Feeling slightly less (ahem) “refreshed” as I was by close of play on Saturday, I thought I’d give this another bash – and was glad I did! A pale golden “blonde” ale. Nice fruity nose with passion fruit and kiwi. A lovely slightly dry bitter finish. I think I appreciated it a bit more tonight!

That’s it! In the words of the great boxer Roberto Duran (having taken a fight full of punishment from Sugar Ray Leonard) “No Mas”!!!

I’m off for a cup of tea and girding my loins for The Independent Manchester Beer Convention tomorrow. Having volunteered for yesterdays “set-up” session, having seen many of the beers delivered, I can say but one thing. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you’re in for a treat!

Slainte!

Truly, Madly, Deeply Vale – Deeply Vale Brewery MTB – Salford Arms 02/10/2013

20100320-215227-860359(What a CRACKING Saturday Line-Up! courtesy http://www.Songkick.com)

“You don’t have to weird, to be wired”

(“Totally Wired” – The Fall)

Deeply Vale is a valley located to the east of Nangreaves, Bury (due east of Jct 1 of the M66 northbound).  Between 1976 and 1979 it was the site, of one of the legendary Free Festivals and at its peak (1978/1979), 20,000 people were attracted to listen to the likes of Steve Hillage, Nik Turner (ex Hawkwind) and local “New Wave” bands like The Fall and The Durutti Column. It was one of (if not THE) first festivals where the hippy counter-culture intersected with Punk.

For those of you at a tender age, I was JUST too young to attend the 1979 Festival (my first “gig” – The Damned – being on 10th December 1979) and it was a source of deep regret. However, given it’s relatively remote location, I probably would never have made it back to Salford!

The Deeply Vale Brewery therefore, has quite a romantic name in local terms (although Greater Manchester Police CID in 1979 may not have agreed. They were – legend has it – kept from the site!). The name is derived from the fact that James’ (Brewer/Owner) family originate from that area.

Fall Deeply Vale Fest(pic – http://www.elirecords.co.uk A VERY young Mark E Smith @ Deeply Vale in 1978)

Founded in 2012 near the centre of Bury by James Stewart and his parents, the brewery has quickly gained a reputation from drinkers and licensees alike for the excellence and consistency of his beers including the multi-award winning Breakfast Stout DV8.

James started to think about commercially brewing (being a full mash home brewer from a young age) whilst working at the noted Bury alehouse Trackside and started to look for premises eventually finding one on the Peel Industrial Estate. Brewing commenced in 2012 and they now make a core range of beers including Still Walking (sampled later) a 3.8% “bitter”, Golden Vale at 4.2% and DV8, the strongest at 4.8% abv.

Turning up at The Salford Arms I said a quick “Hello” to somebody I recognised from Twitter. This was Helen, partner of James Stewart the brewer. Jaz turned up along with a few others (including a fine turnout from the Bolton CAMRA Branch!) and I began to think that this might just be better attended than the last events. By the time we all settled in the front room, there were 15 or more people, which was gratifying to see and at least stopped James & Helen from feeling lonely! Then someone leaned over toward me and I realised it was Darren, who created the Gtr Manchester Ale News website / internet magazine. We’d been trying to meet for a pint for ages! We had a cracking chat,certainly a man who knows his beer.

James then gave us a brief chat about the genesis of the brewery, the recipes of the beers and the range of distribution. Distribution outside the immediate North West is handled by Mark Dade’s Boggart organisation and James handles a lot of the local distribution himself taking the beer into Lancashire and Cheshire with further outlets in Liverpool. James regularly has his beers featured in several Manchester pubs like The Angel, Marble Arch,  Soup Kitchen, Corbieres. I first sampled Deeply in The Smithfield on Swan St with Still Walking which I described as “a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish” (read more here!)

still walking clip

The brewery operates on a 2.5 barrel plant (1 barrel = 36 gallons or 4 firkins) and he brews 2 or 3 times a week spending the rest of the time doing the admin or distributing the beer around the area. What was really good to hear was the little “co-operative” that appears to exist between 3 Micros, Deeply Vale, Privateer & Ringway. They help each other out, distribute each others beers and even help to break new markets (The Ringway brewer – being  a Geordie – will be looking to break the Co-Op beers into the vibrant Newcastle beer scene.

Rather than 4 halves of different beers, given that James doesn’t bottle yet, we had but two beers on draught on the bar. First up was Still Walking, the “hoppy session ale”, a Pale Ale to my eyes. A lovely clear golden beer with a gentle fruity grapefruit nose (Cascade hops). A fruity easy drinking beer, medium bodied and really smooth with just the right amount of bitterness in the finish. A lovely refreshing easy drinking session beer.

By this point, this had become like a bit of a round table chat between like-minded people. This was really fun and quite intimate. Lots of people asking questions and voicing opinions, all in the spirit of the evening, which was really convivial.

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(One “almost built” brewery!)

Next beer up was the one of which James said he was most proud of. Being a fellow lover of dark beers and Stouts in particular, I’m with him on that one! DV8 is the beer in question, describer by James as a Breakfast Stout as it is, effectively, an Oatmeal Stout. A fabulous smoky aroma to this. Wonderfully full-bodied and creamy, lots of chocolate in here with the undertone of smokiness. A tremendous Stout, one that we should see more of around Manchester. As the nights draw in and the wind starts to blow, this is the time when a beer like this, in front of a real fire would go down a treat. Just need to find such a place in Manchester. Ideas anyone?

DV8 clip

One of the questions that came up was regarding bottling. james intends to put together a small bottling plant himself, rather than sending the beer elsewhere for packaging. A smart move really. Keeping quality control of his beers from start tp finish. Tying into this is the possibility of using his skills – possibly moving the small plant in his Dads’ garage into the brewery – is the idea (floated from the room) of doing seasonal beers. James was already considering an Imperial Stout and one that caught MY imagination was the thought of a Chocolate & Cinnamon Stout or a Xmas pud Stout? I offered to do some serious mashing, always willing to help, me! For a bottle or two of course!

Tysons Deeply pic(pic – TysonsBeerBlog.Blogspot.Com)

A further gloriously creamy pint of DV8 followed whilst Darren, Jaz & I had a further chat. I seriously like Darren’s internet ‘paper, always informative and definitely worth a read if you drink around the Manchester area, check it out here. Darren had to make a move, so Jaz and I also said our farewells to James & Helen and Ken & Tom from the pub and moved on to the Mark Addy where my pint of the beautiful Dark Revenge by Privateer had something missing, a little lacking in condition. Not as good as that beer usually is for sure. Jaz was more than happy with his Gin Pit by Allgates.

We then popped in for a final beer (& a bit) to a bar I haven’t been in for ages. The Gaslamp

Located in the former kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Childrens Mission (you can still see the name in the brickwork above the entrance!) this is just one seriously cool bar! Quite quiet but with some cracking eclectic tuneage. A great beer on draught too. Kitty Hawk by Privateer. This was MORE like it! The only thing was, I couldn’t quite bottom the flavour! Certainly made me think this one, good body to it for a 4%, I presume it was the hops, but there was a real savoury element to this, almost a touch salty? Whatever it was, both Jaz & I LOVED it. They do make some cracking beers on that there Temperance Street! (AND – Rumour has it that they may be on the move! Stay tuned!

Having missed my bus, it was time for a quick half of Harbour Breakfast Stout on keg. Quite oily and heavy, this (at 8.5% abv) was more like an Imperial with lots of strong bitter coffee/chocolate and a high degree of bitterness in the finish. A proper sleeping draught!!!

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, as did this particular evening. One of the best MTBs I had been to. A lovely friendly chatty couple (James & Helen), excellent company from the Bolton contingent (Pete, Linda & Graham) and meeting Darren. Yes. A good evening all round!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!