My Golden Pints 2013

Golden Pints Logo(Bloody Conformist!)

15 1/2 months ago, I decided that there weren’t enough people talking bollocks about beer, so I decided to join them by talking even MORE bollocks about it! What have I learned in that time?

1. That people LOVE talking bollocks about beer in even greater numbers than 15 1/2 months ago, and

2. That there are some lovely people in that number.

Last year, I just listed my favourite draught (NOT DRAFT!!!!) and bottled beers, because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I thought I would expend more words by following the acknowledged format! So, at 06:00 on Monday 23/12/2013, here goes….

  • Best UK Cask beerAllgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Yes Tyson, you guessed correctly! Simply the best Stout I think I have ever tasted. Can I be accused of bias because (along with Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound) I helped to brew it (well, stir the mash and shovel out the Mash Tun!), yes I can. Am I? No. I double checked on numerous occasions with my Jiminy Cricket (Jaz, the “Arch-Nemesis’) and he agreed and he’s NOT biased. A gloriously roasted, bitter, hoppy and luxuriously smooth alchemical concoction nursed to glorious fruition by Jonathan Provost, David Mayhall and the guys at Allgates. My proudest moment of the last 14 years. Thank you. (Honourable Mentions – Buxton Brewery – Imperial Black. Simply astonishingly good one night at Port Street, and Weird Beard – Black Perle. At 3.5%, simply WOW. A gorgeous Coffee Milk Stout at the strength)
  • Best UK Keg Beer – Ilkley BreweryDinner Ale – Unlike the vast majority of the beery blogosphere, I am not particularly well-travelled. My drinking has been pretty much limited to the North and – in particular – to cask conditioned and bottled beers. However, thanks to the miracles of Beer Festivals and the mighty Port Street Beer House, I have managed to sample a number of UK kegged beers, some absolute crackers among them. However, the one that stood out was Dinner Ale at the Leeds International Beer Festival. The most zingy and refreshing keg beer I’ve had all year. Refreshing is a quality that is seriously underrated.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerRevolutions BrewingManifesto – Creamy, luxurious, bitter chocolate, espresso, smoky, warming. Simply a classy strong Stout brewed without fanfare and just damn great. I love it and I love Revolutions Music & Beer ethos. Short and sweet (for a change!) (Honourable mention to Weird Beard – Decadence Stout. Bloody gorgeous bitter and hoppy Stout)
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer – Brouwerij Emelisse – Imperial Stout (Sorachi Ace) – Bought by the arch-nemesis at The Marble Arch at the end of a refreshing evening. Vinous yet delicate. Brutal yet gentle. I was astonished at the delicate flavours of this beer. Light and floral yet with all the heft of an Impy Stout. Do I have a clue what I’m talking about? Probably not, but I enjoyed it hugely.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Not really my bag….Next!
  • Best Collaboration Brew – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – For the reasons above stated. It was a Collaboration and the best beer I have had this year, therefore….
  • Best Overall Beer – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout  – By definition….
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelWeird Beard – Just superb design which would fail utterly if it wasn’t backed up by a consistently superb product. “Follow The Beard” indeed…..(Honourable mention to Bad Seed Brewery – Just minimal and classy)
  • Best UK BreweryAllgates Brewery – From my first sip of All Black Mild, I fell in love. Simply great drinkable beer. Consistently tasty, consistently excellent and immensely good value . Beer brewed without compromise but with that sometimes elusive quality. Sheer drinkability. Another underrated quality. (HUGE Honourable mentions to Five Towns, Mallinsons, Revolutions (all Yorkshire), Quantum & Wilson Potter from whom I’ve always drunk exceptional beer)
  • Best Overseas Brewery – I envy others better travelled than I. No Opinion.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – Bad Seed Brewery – Given that many of the beers I have drunk this year are from breweries new to me, I COULD have cheated. However, Bad Seed launched this year and whilst I have had nothing on draught by them, their bottles have been nothing short of first-rate. Chuffed to bits that they seem to be getting wide distribution. Let’s have something from them on cask in 2014! (HM to Five Points – All 3 beers being superb)
  • Pub/Bar of the Year – I’m going to cheat. I’m going for a bar AND a pub. BarJoshua Brooks (Manchester) – I could easily give this to Port Street Beer House. Many would and justifiably so. But I am contrary. I LOVE Joshua Brooks. Yes its a big old space. But it ticks loads of my boxes. Comfy seating, great tunes, friendly staff and a simply fabulous beer selection (recently upped to 8 handpulls I believe). And also the best damn value in Manchester on a Friday night. £2.70 a pint! For cracking cask conditioned ales from the greatest and the best breweries in the UK.  Pub Hare & Hounds (Hindley, Wigan) – The local I never had. Just a humble local boozer (Allgates) with a real fire, a dartboard, friendly locals and a landlady and landlord (Nigel & Adele) who keep an excellent pint and a friendly welcome. I just feel at home here and that’s what a good pub should be about. (Wigan CAMRA branch. Sort yourselves out and get this pub into the GBG. A travesty!)
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013Pie & Ale by Bakerie (Manchester) – A tad expensive on occasion perhaps, but great beer (mostly local) selection kept well. A great bar, deservedly popular (great pies too!)
  • Beer Festival of The Year – I was going to go for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer which was, quite simply, the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on this year and introduced me to breweries I’ve seen nowhere else (Bexar County Brew anyone?) and the bus journey was something to behold. If it runs again (the bus) you simply must try and get on it! However, I’m going to go all soft and go for IndyManBeerCon. Fabulous location, great beer, excellent entertainment. Met some lovely people and enjoyed the festival hugely. Yes, I had some issues, which I hope have been taken on board, but they shouldn’t (and don’t) detract from what was a great feat. More breweries for 2014 please!
  • Supermarket of the YearBooths. Knocks everyone else in the North into a cocked hat. Including Waitrose,
  • Independent Retailer of the Year – Yorkshire Ales – Probably the most difficult category to call for me. I genuinely agonised over this. There are some truly excellent retailers over this side of the hill, Damian O’Shea (Ale Man Manchester), Beermoth, The Liquor Shop as well as the Bierhuis in Ossett. Honourable mentions to all. BUT. Adrian & Vicky Pettit have a lovely little shop in Snaith with an emphasis on local produce. It’s this local ethos that swings it for me, They’re damn nice people too.
  • Online Retailer of the Year – I’m lucky. I shop local and in person. No Opinion.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine Opening Times (South Manchester CAMRA)- From Pub Curmudgeon to Stagger, just a great read.
  • Best Beer Blog or WebsiteGlenn Johnson’s blog. – Neither flash nor fancy. Just descriptions good beer (mostly!) in pubs that I’d love to go in, in places I’m unlikely to visit. Whilst I’m spoilt in Greater Manchester, I’m still jealous. (HMs to David Mayhall (his evisceration of Brew Dog “Equity For Punks” being the single most retweeted RT I’ve put out!) Nathaniel Southwood who manages the feat of being informative whilst making me chuckle repeatedly, Tandleman & Tyson I doff my cap to both! I wish I wrote as well as all of these fellas)
  • Best Beer AppPerfect Pint. Tells me what beer is currently on in my favourite pubs. Works for me!
  • Simon Johnson Award For Best Beer Twitterer – The mighty Nathaniel Southwood. Smart, opinionated, witty, frequently ranting. Always spot on. (HM to JazzyJollyJaunt without whose inspiration (and tolerance!) I wouldn’t be doing this. Thank you.)
  • Best Brewery Website/Social Media Weird Beard
  • Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – Black Country Pork Scratchings and Hobsons Twisted Spire at the River & Rail in Hampton Loade on the banks of the Severn. Time and place. I am a rather simple soul!

Well. That’s it from me. There’s a lot of good beer out there. Let’s hope for even more in 2014. Have a great festive season.

Slainte!

My 12 Beers Of Xmas – #3 – Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery

IMAG0442 crop(12 Beery Apostles – Saints or Sinners?)

“On the 3rd day of Xmas, my true love sent to me……”

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#3 Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery

Let me be open about this. I simply LOVE Siberia. A Rhubarb Saison brewed in collaboration with the beer writer Melissa Cole, for a pale beer it ticks a lot of my boxes. Fruity and tart, fresh, slightly spicy and fabulously refreshing for a 5.9% beer. I adore it and drink it on draught wherever I can find it.

Late in 2012, Ilkley took some Siberia and aged it in oak Speyside whisky casks. They only made 700 330ml bottles. I was greedy and snaffled 12! To be fair, I have been fairly generous with my bounty and several found their way to fellow local beer lovers and friends. This bottle I picked up from Yorkshire Ales.

To this beer. The first time I drank it I was slightly underwhelmed. It was a 4 – 4.5 out of 5 where Siberia itself is a 6! I just felt that it had something taken away as much as added. I was keen therefore to give this another shot after leaving it a few months.

A golden beer with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma slightly fruity/sour with traces of that rhubarb and a Belgian yeasty funk and maybe even a touch of apple. In the mouth, more rhubarb – although not as tart as in the original – a little apple and then a hit of woody warmth wraps you up like an oaky fleece. The whisky alcohol then insinuates into the upper reaches of your nostrils. A second mouthful reveals a lightly sweet flavour that reminded me of Xmas cake icing (then I looked at the beer notes on Ilkley’s website and saw Marzipan mentioned, spot on)

A mellow finish with warmth and the woody whisky warming the throat and belly.

I’m not sure if I have mellowed towards this beer or if keeping it has improved it. It’s certainly more refreshing than a beer at 8.8% abv has a right to be. (Still prefer Siberia though!)

And I have 3 bottles left!

On that note…’til next time (tomorrow of course!)

Slainte!

My#12 Beers of Xmas – #2 Old Engine Oil by Harviestoun Brewery

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(12 Beery Apostles – Saints or Sinners?)

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21/12/2013

#2 Old Engine Oil by Harviestoun Brewery (Porter – 6% abv)

I need to declare a modicum of bias. I hate Xmas beers. Beers that are brewed “especially” for this period are generally speaking, shite! The majority of UK brewers are capable of producing MUCH better beers, fortunately, most do. This is an example.

Old Engine Oil is the base beer from which their barrel aged beers – the Ola Dubh range – are derived. To become Ola Dubh, the beer is aged in varying ages of Highland Park whisky barrels. That said, Old Engine Oil is a great beer in its own right.

Black as a Stout with a light tan head, the initial aroma is of buttered burnt toast, dusty dirty dark chocolate and burnt sugars. In the mouth, those characteristics also come through in a full-bodied creamy, slightly viscous mouthful, dark and delicious with an additional sweet coffee note and a touch of port. This is a George Clooney of a beer,  deep, smooth and seductive. I feel like my throat and insides are being stroked with a furry glove whilst listening to a Barry White soundtrack. The finishing bitterness brings you back to more earthly matters, there is even a little resinous grassyness in the aftertaste to wallow in.

Unlike #1, this beer is right up my street, I willingly submit to its dark pleasures and will follow it wherever it leads! This is most definitely a Saint!

(Note : You can also find this beer in certain Tesco stores as an own label “Traditional Porter” 4 for £6 at the moment! That my chums, feels like shoplifting!)

On that note….’til next time (er…tomorrow for beer #3)

Slainte!

My #12BeersOfXmas – #1 Redbreast by Jennings

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(12 Beery Apostles – Saints or Sinners?)

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20/12/2013

#1 Redbreast by Jennings Brewery (Marstons)

Let’s get the positives out of the way……. Well that was quick!

This is a brown beer with a white head and the faintest of fruit cakey aromas. Described as a “Dark Chestnut Winter Beer”. In the mouth it is fairly thin, with the faintest of fruity traces, not much spice (if any) some burnt caramel and a slightly bitter-sweet finish with a vague fruity aftertaste which quickly vanishes, leaving a coating of thin caramel.

This tastes like a Xmas “toss off”. One of those beers that a big brewer makes just because “ITS CHRISSSSSSMAAAAS”. It’s probably an adapted Jennings Bitter with more alcohol that has strayed within 1/2 mile of a fruit cake. It’s not offensive “per se”, but it offends my taste buds. I will finish it, because I like my drains too much to pollute them. I’m sure it has its fans, but I sure am not one of them. Had you guessed? It’s a SINNER!

I feel like using that scarf around the Robin in the picture to throttle the little bastard! And if anybody sees me reach for one of these again, please impale me!

On that note…’til next time (in about 2 hours!)

Slainte!

Victoria & Albert in Horwich, Old Fashioned Service – A Short Note

Vicandalbert(Image courtesy of perfectpint.co.uk)

As has been noted by one or two people recently, I seem to write about bottles these days. I haven’t been going anywhere that I haven’t already written about I suppose. Churning over old ground – even if there are new beers to report – can get boring and despite my rambling manner, I don’t want to bore you (yes, really!)

I went out last night with the sole intention of meeting a young blogger whose posts I enjoy and who seems to share the same beery tastes as myself. That blogger being Paddy Mc Grath whose blog All Beer No Belly details his efforts to drink great beers whilst maintaining his weight (something which some of us could NEVER achieve!)

It was a fairly brief evening if hugely entertaining for my part. We met in The Victoria & Albert pub on Lee Lane in Horwich and the evening started with a pint of In Shreds by Wilson Potter. Both the aroma and taste indicated a beer which was not quite perfect, indeed it was “on the turn”. I persevered for a sip or two, giving no indication of a problem. After a moment or two, the barman approached us and asked if the beer was OK, to which I replied that it wasn’t quite right. The barman immediately took both pints and offered replacements. I must emphasise that WE didn’t complain about the beer, he was honest and knowledgeable enough to know that it wasn’t right.

I was slightly disappointed in that the reason I went to this pub was for the Wilson Potter beer, having only tried it once, that being in the brewery itself and was keen to try it in the wild. The level of service MORE than made up for my disappointment.

To be brief (not my usual habit…!), the pub is a fairly open plan affair with a some comfy seating and  4 distinct drinking areas served by a single bar. That bar has 6 handpumps (all in use) stocked mostly with Micro Brewery beers including a permanent beer from the nearby Blackedge Brewery.

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I had 4 of the 6 last night. All were in excellent condition and were very tasty indeed. They were DV8 Stout from Deeply Vale of Bury (luscious, creamy, dark roasted and slightly smoky) American Pale from Blackedge (pale, fruity, very refreshing and moreish), Pint from Marble (hugely citrussy and refreshing) and a seasonal beer from Thwaites – Good Elf (fruity and spicy with warming clove).

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(A sample board – http://www.vicandalbert.co.uk)

I can fully understand why this has been Bolton CAMRA pub of the year for the last two years. With excellent service like this and such an excellent selection of well-kept beers, I will most certainly be back!

A huge thanks to Paddy for a) ensuring that I didn’t drink alone and b) for his most excellent company.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

(Thanks to Tandleman for inspiring me to write this with his piece on The Crown & Kettle – read it here)

Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 2

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(Coming soon to a throat near….er…me!)

“We all know you are soft ‘cos we’ve all seen you dancing,

We all know you are hard ‘cos we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again,

You’re the boy with the filthy laugh, you’re the boy with the Arab Strap”

(“The Boy With The Arab Strap” – Belle & Sebastian)

Remember the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, if you do, The Boy With The Arab Strap was the theme tune. Surely one of the greatest Indie tracks of the last 20 years with some absolute killer lines, including the best fade out lines I’ve ever heard!*

Austerity is beginning to bite hard on the BM Millions (or lack of) so I have barely ventured forth across the moat into the big wide world of draught beer. My thoughts have been mostly taken up with an idea floated by my friend Gerry….to set up a small beer festival! This being to raise funds to help a local Community Centre in Salford which is run by Gerry herself.

There are distinct ups and downs to this proposition. Ups? The tweets of support and offers both of help and of beer supply from the good brewers (and drinkers) of Greater Manchester and beyond. As I’ve said previously, the good nature of people in the local beer world is to be marvelled at and I, for one, have really appreciated every tweet and message I have received! Downs? The mere thought of the WORD “logistics” is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat!

The general idea will be to feature beers from the North, Lancashire, Gtr Manchester and Yorkshire. Micros Only. In the New Year, I’ll be spreading my beery tentacles and tapping the “Great & the Good” on the shoulders for advice. Don’t be surprised when it happens to you!

Back to the matter at hand eh? As usual, the good and the indifferent have passed my lips this month, but, if you’ve read this before, I only try to highlight the truly good for your pleasure! A bit like a beery Santa’s list (but 2 or 3 times per month!)

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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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. Natural ProgressionWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – Strong Bitter (?) – £2.23 (3 for £7 – 500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

There’s not an awful lot that I can say more about these excellent brewers (I hate the term “Brewsters”!), they just make excellent tasty beers, continue to do so and finally seem to be getting a little traction in Manchester City Centre. Much deserved. And, if the mighty Tandleman likes them, then who am I to argue?

I picked this up on a recent visit along with 2 others (In Shreds & Is This The Way – see elsewhere on the blog) and it is a fine amber beer with a white lacy head and had an aroma containing raisin and maybe plum. Full-bodied in the mouth, the flavours that stood out were more subtle raisin and a little plum, followed by a big bitter finish with a good herbal grassyness in the aftertaste. This isn’t a beer that boasts and brags from the rooftops about its IBU score. Just damned tasty. Another excellent beer from these Middleton brewers.

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2. Hello VeloWold Top Brewery (Driffield, E Yorkshire) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £1.98 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Picked up this one on my last visit to Yorkshire Ales. If I remember aright, one of Vickys suggestions when I was looking for a final bottle or two to round out my purchase. That visit feels like AGES ago! I was worried, that having held onto it for quite a while, it may have lost some of its sparkle and zest. I needn’t have fretted!

Brewed to commemorate the award of Le Grand Depart for 2014 (the start of Le Tour de France), this beer was ultra pale with the white head being only a shade or two pale than the body! The aroma upon pouring was quite sharp with some lemon and maybe a touch of grapefruit to my mind (not what I would expect of First Gold & Goldings!) Medium-bodied with some initial light sweetness followed by a building bitterness and some more sharp citrus.Not overpowering, but really palate refreshing. A bitter and dry finish being followed by some earthy grassyness in the aftertaste. A nice surprise this, really refreshing. They will be brewing this again in the summer. Appropriate, because this would be a perfect summers day beer, thirst quenching.

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3. Pale (Simcoe, Columbus, Chinook) – Partizan Brewing (Bermondsey, SE London) – 4.7% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another beer that had been stashed for some time. And yet another that I needn’t have worried about! A very pale golden beer, lively white head with abundant citrus aromas of passion fruit, grapefruit, some zingy lemon and a hit of pine. Again, medium-bodied with more citrus joy, grapefruit and lemon tartness with a hint of kiwi later on. There is some light malteser sweetness in here, but the hops have the throne in this palace! A really refreshing zippy beer, with a very dry bitter and resinous finish. Easily up there with the best of the London Pale Ales that I’ve had this year!

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4. Fresh – The Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Wild Beer are a brewery that have crept under my radar a bit. The first beer I can recall having was the coolab (I’ll stick with that spelling!) with Fyne Ales, the ludicrously refreshing Cool As A Cucumber. Last month, I reviewed a bottled I’d had for months (Wildebeest), this is only the second bottle I have had. I want more.

Golden, with a lively foamy white head and an appetising apricot and grapefruit citrus aroma. Tart grapefruit and pine in the mouth, really fresh and refreshingly zingy and tart with citrus. Some bready malt sweetness for balance, but a big bitter and resinous finish with the green stuff lingering. A really refreshing lively beer. Moreish in the extreme for a 5.5% beer. Raj has a few more. I think I’d better treat myself in the New Year!

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5. Chinook (Single Hopped) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Here he goes again…blah blah Mallinsons….blah blah Single hopped Pale Ales….blah blah blah…. Well what can I do? Do you want me to lie and say that they are crap? Well I won’t, so there!

Pale gold with quickly diminished white head. Aroma of peach with a hint of bitter grapefruit. In the mouth, medium bodied and smooth, with the peach and grapefruit, a touch of kiwi and a bitter hit of pine grassyness. That citrus mellows into more of a tangerine as you go further down the glass. The beer has a bitter finish with lingering citrus and pine in the aftertaste. Refreshing bitter and dry. In short, a damned fine Pale Ale. I’ll say it again, I wish I lived in Huddersfield!

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6. HOPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Spinningfields, Manchester)

Firstly, It was great to see Damian (The Ale Man) inundated with custom on Saturday, even given the somewhat windy conditions. A nice busy spot near the Nat West Bank. I’m pleased, because he’s a decent bloke selling outstandingly good beer (see my mini haul at the top of the page!) and long may this continue!

Anyway, to Mr Garner’s beer! With a name like HOP, I wonder what it’s going to taste like? Pale gold and lively out of the bottle, the white head yielding an immediate grapefruit citrus aroma hit with a little lemony bitterness too. Medium bodied, plenty of hops with a nice balancing hint of sweetness, fruity with grapefruit and lemon tangoing across the tongue with maybe a bit of apricot as it slips down. Plenty of bitterness and a big resinous aftertaste. Superb Salford beer. Hurrah for my hometown! I’ve heard that Rik maybe having an open day at  the brewery on 25th Jan with a bar and all. I’m gate crashing! His beers are simply too good to miss! (I was up in Ramsbottom last week. If you get there, try the First Chop bar. Then thank me!)

Well. That’s more waffle than you’ll get in an Amsterdam Pancake Huis! And for now…..

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

*If you listen to the song to the end, the last line that is easily audible is “…as the cigarette catches…and sets off the smoke alarm” then it fades away. However, turn up the volume and you will hear the killer final lines…”What do you make of the cool set in London? You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks. She’s a waitress and she’s got style.” All delivered in Stuart Murdoch’s sugar sweet and world-weary tone. Gorgeous!

Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 1

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(Tonight, tonight…….)

“I like your nerve, I like watching you.

But I don’t watch what I drink, got better things to do”

(“Definitive Gaze” – Magazine)

Been struggling to write recently, with the black dog growling, putting finger to keyboard takes a hell of an effort. But, whilst making a curry this afternoon, I started to listen to an album I haven’t played for nearly 3 years “Real Life & The Hereafter” a retrospective album commemorating the reformation (however temporary) of the greatest of all the bands of the era labelled “post-punk”, Magazine. Just get on Spotify and listen to the album “Real Life”, then tweet me and say “thanks”! I heard the above track….and strode to the keyboard!

One of the things that has kept a smile on my face has been the never-ending surprise I get every time I meet somebody involved in the business of either brewing or retailing micro brewery beers. Such nice and friendly people. One recently was Dan (I didn’t catch his surname) who is looking to open a Micro Pub/Bar in the refurbished Bolton Market. Had a chat with him at the stall (now) at Urban Market (Located on the site of the old Victoria Bus Station) run by another decent fella Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man) and am excited by his plans for the unit – will be great to have a decent local beer selection in Bolton!

Anyway….to the business at hand….

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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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. Black JesusGreat Heck Brewery (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 6.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.25 (330ml) (10% disc for 12 btls) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Was a HUGE surprise to find this beer at Raj’s shop! Possibly the only stockist of this particular brewery’s beers in (certainly) Greater Manchester. This is the third beer that they have bottled with two more planned. The first two (Yakima IPA & Amish Mash) were both delicious, so I had high hopes for this (especially having heard some good reports about it on draught!

A black beer with a tan head and a sharp yet deep complex aroma with both citrus grapefruit and a touch of licorice! Mmmm…. Nice and full-bodied, almost creamy, in the mouth, the first flavour to hit was the grapefruit, swiftly followed with a piney hit and a good degree of bitterness then came the more earthy notes with a healthy dose of licorice. A 330 ml bottle doesn’t do this beer justice. Some commentators describe a Black IPA as a Stout with hops. This particular beer is as close to a mash-up of Stout and IPA as I’ve tasted. It’s bloody gorgeous!

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2. MoonrakerJ W Lees (Middleton, N Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Strong Ale – £1.25 (4 for £5) (500ml) – ASDA stores everywhere!

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Col popped around for a beer or two and we had a little tasting session, this was one of the beers that he brought round that we didn’t get the chance to taste.

A really deep ruby beer, if you don’t hold it up to the light it appears totally black. A really lovely creamy head on this when poured, it had a deep vine fruit aroma with a nose wrinkling touch of spice. Full bodied, initially sweet with chocolate then raisins with some barley sugar sweets (remember them?) then some spiciness. The initial sweetness gradually gave way to a building dryness with a gentle bitterness with some licorice in the aftertaste. A really nice winter warmer, just need a pub with a fireplace!

I haven’t, historically, drunk an awful lot of Moonraker, but I do remember that it was a stronger beer than this, I certainly recall it being at 7.5% at one point. This is a really nice beer (and an utter steal at the offer price!), but I do wish that breweries would leave well alone with their recipes. There are a number of beers that have reduced strength over the years (in one format or another) and beer drinkers do notice these things. That said, a good source tells me that Lees’ annual winter brew “Harvest Ale” is one to look out for, I’m looking!

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3. Stormy PointCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) (Collab with @PDTNC aka Ade from Saltaire Brewery) – 6.7% abv – Dark IPA – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Picked this up on my recent visit (mentioned above) to see Damian O’Shea at a rather chilly Urban Market event at the old Victoria Bus Station. Unfortunately quiet when I turned up, some excellent long stall there, not the least of which was Damian’s usual excellent selection of superb beers. He had a few from Shane Swindells’ Cheshire Brewhouse (including a few gift sets), so I snaffled a bottle or two.

I had this on cask at the recent Boothstown Beer Festival. It was the best beer I had by a distance combining the earthyness of a dark, with the citrus of a big IPA. I’m yet to have anything less than excellent from this brewery, so I was looking forward to this, whilst stemming the drool!

Darkest ruby with a lovely sexy ruddy glow to it, a nice tan head releasing fruity aromas of sweet mango & tart grapefruit. Full bodied and almost creamy in the mouth, earthy yet citrussy. Fruity with mango to the fore but earthy with hints of coffee and licorice. A Kalahari dry finish with lots of resinous pine in the aftertaste, For a 6.7% beer, I could drink this all day. OK. I’d probably fall over, but I’d have a lovely time getting there!

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4. Red Rose Rye – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.7% abv – Red Rye Ale – £3.69 (500ml) –  The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

This beer was brewed in collaboration with Manchester Homebrewers at Jay’s Hempshaw Lane beery Fantasia. If the homebrewers are some of the guys I’ve met at Privateer & Port St, they’re a cracking bunch of fellas and certainly know their hops from their barley!

This was a lively wee beast! Deep red with an abundant white foamy head, with a perplexing yet really enticing aroma, really fruity but with an additional quite subtle perfumed floral note that I couldn’t quite pick but that reminded me (slightly) of Parma Violets (Do they still make them? My flavour memory bank is going back 40 years there!)

Ooh! What a full flavoured and full-bodied beer! Fruity and spicy with that rye adding its spicy notes, really bitter and dry too. Again that elusive floral note came through in the flavour. Quite complex in the flavours (NO surprise with 5 hops and 6 malts!) and I struggled to pick individual characteristics out, but this was just a magnificaent (Latin for Magnificent!) beer that I hope Jay brews again. If he does, get on it!

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5. Bondi Blues – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.3% abv – (Antipodean) IPA – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another one picked up on my recent visit to Damian O’Sheas’ excellent market stall (should be one on this weekend!) A limited edition of 500 bottles this, I’m not posting this so you can pointlessly drool, more in the hope that Shane will brew it again soon!

A hazy amber beer with a lacey white head and a BIG hoppy nose! Full bodied and big and fruity in the mouth with a cheesecake biscuit base flattened with citrussy mango and orange marmalade, a hint of pineapple sweetness and a big piney afternote. Surprised me as I started to warm as it went down! The finish was bitter and dry with nice resinous pine lasting well into the aftertaste. Another Congleton cracker, C’mon Shane, brew it again!

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6. Nelson Sauvin – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – (Single hopped) Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Is there anything that I haven’t previously said about the single-hopped Pale Ales made at this Huddersfield brewery? Should I even bother to mention the near beergasm that I had when I smelled this in the glass? Ah go on then…..

Straw coloured pale beer with a white head and a booming aroma of grapefruit and sharp lemon (drool now!). Medium-bodied, this has a light Malted Milk biscuit sweetness more than matched by a fabulous grapefruit tartness. The sharp grapefruit leads to a lovely bitter finish with a resinous aftertaste that goes on and on and on…..zzzzzzz. You get the picture?

I’ll spare you the lyrical waxing by just saying WOW! The shame is, that there isn’t much of this left at The Liquor Shop. Give Raj a shout on Twitter, but if out of luck, pop over to http://www.yorkshireales.co.uk where they seem to still have some! Also, Beermoth on Tib Street usually have a good range of Mallinsons, more than worth a look if you’re in the city centre!

NB : For all you beer loving, local sourcing Mancs, Raj (@LiquorShopUK) has a Manchester Beer Box case of 12 local micro brewery ales for £26.99. Get in!

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With that, I need to address my Beers of the Month for November! Fairly straightforward these two!

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Draught Guero by Five Towns Brewery of Wakefield. A 2.9% abv Pale Ale just bursting with hoppy goodness and grapefruit tartness. A stunningly good example of how great a low abv beer can taste! Thanks to Nigel of The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (simply a great local pub!) and David Mayhall from Allgates for alerting me to its presence!

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Bottle Manifesto by Revolutions Brewing of Castleford – See here for the reasons why! The best bottled beer I have had so far in 2013.

With that, It’s time to move on to pastures new….y’all come back now!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!