Manchester Beer & Cider Festival – Pt 2 – 24/01/2014

Velodrome webb aviation

“My face is like an old film, shaky
There’s nothing through my window, oh my
No photo by my bedside, black, white
No image in my mirror, bye bye”

(“Listen To The Sirens” – Tubeway Army)

By the time you read this, it’ll all be over. The festival has a 19:00 finish time this evening to enable the complete clearing of the venue by close of play on Sunday.

So then. How was it for you? It has to be said that there were reports of several issues in the area of accessibility for those of limited mobility, the location of the toilets and others. For my part, yes, the toilets were a trek away, but it needs to be borne in mind that this is a sports stadium. That issue comes with the territory. I can only comment on MY experience which, to be fair, was completely positive.

Whilst I heard complaints about the location, I, for one, have none. For me, Manchester’s premier Real Ale event has an iconic venue in the National Cycling Centre (aka The Velodrome). I hated the utilitarian grimness that was The Sheridan Suite and, to be quite frank, there’s something to be said for watching Jason Kenny & co whizzing around the track….even made ME think of getting on my bike!

Turning up at The Velodrome, I had a quick chat with one of the Campaigns many volunteers who informed me that sales were ahead of expectations and that they had had to get more beer in! The fact that I had to queue to get in as early as 13:30, told me it was going to be busier than Wednesday. It was!

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(Spot the Arch-Nemesis? – A bit like a beery “Where’s Wally”!)

I’m not a one to make a list of “must haves”, however, there was one beer that I was absolutely determined to sample…Sloe Stout by Allgates Brewery (Wigan, Gtr Manchester) which, at 7.2% abv may not have been everybody’s choice of first beer of the day, but I couldn’t risk it running out!

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(Allgates Brewery – Sloe Stout)

As I said, maybe hardly the wisest choice of an opening gambit, but 5 minutes after I plonked it on the bar and took that picture, I received a message that it had run out! There, you see. It WAS a smart move after all! It was as black as sin with an alluring tan head which (not being sparkled) swiftly diminished. The smell was hugely fruity with a slightly astringent note and a definite chocolate background. In the mouth, there was the expected chocolatey and roasted flavours overlaid with masses of fruit with the astringency of the sloe. A real fruity mouthful which had a quite puckering dry finish with more than a hint of espresso. Spectacular start!

I had a wee walk around whilst drinking this and had a chat with the mighty Tandleman who looked a little more relaxed than on Wednesday, probably the result of being with his lovely wife Eileen, who – to my horror – was immediately in front of me in the entry queue and I had failed to recognise her! (Puts hands to head in shame!) A positive mine of information, it’s always nice to chat with Tandy, even with the pressures of this huge event!

After wandering round like a mole staring into headlights, I finally managed to locate someone else that I really wanted to chat to, Darren Turpin who writes the excellent Mancunian drinkers resource Greater Manchester Ale NewsNice to chat and swap notes (Darren being a far better – and more professional – writer than I!) and we may work together in some small way in the near future hopefully.

Now then. If you have read many of my random beery wafflings, you may have gleaned that I have a particular weak spot for the single hopped Pale Ales brewed by Mallinsons Brewery of Huddersfield. However, I have only ever had them in bottle. I was chuffed to see that their Amarillo was on draught on Bar 2 and allowed myself a pint. Once secured, I briefly swapped notes with Darren on this who seemed to enjoy it too! This is a lovely pale golden beer at 4.2% abv with a beautiful Seville orange fruity marmalade nose. The orangey flavour carrying on into the mouth. Really clean, sharp and refreshing, nicely bitter in the finish with a nice resinous aftertaste with echoes of that marmalade. A cracker to try on draught if you see it!

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By this time, Team GB cycling were in training session and I found myself trying to get a good picture, at which, as you can see, I failed miserably!

Next up – as a “thank you” I think for tipping him off about the Mallinsons – Darren pointed me toward the Oatmeal Stout by Harbour Brewing (Trekillick, N Cornwall) 5% abv and black with a quickly diminished tan head and a smooth chocolate nose, a luxuriously smooth beer in the mouth this, really silky. Flavours of chocolate and roasted oats and quite an earthy finish. Classy.

Next up, my buddy asked me to choose one for him. Knowing his “crafty” leanings, I spotted a brewery that I personally hadn’t tried and, having ordered his and taking a quick sniff, I had to have one myself. The brewery was Siren Craft Brew and the beer was Soundwave. A deep golden beer with HUGE aromas of peach, mango and grapefruit which continued into quite a full-bodied mouth. Really fruity with quite an assertive resinous finish which hit me between the eyes, really hoppy. I’d heard a lot about this brewery on social media and had seen them raved about. Now I understand why!

IMAG0618(No tables in the drinking area? Tick!)

The next beer was a big change in all areas. Firstly, it was dark. Secondly it was fairly light in alcohol at 3.8% abv. It was a beer that I had wanted to try for quite a while, Blackberry Stout by Waen Brewery of Llanidloes, Powys in Welsh Wales. I missed this by the merest of whiskers at Joshua Brooks some time back and was determined not to do so again! Such a dark brown ruby beer as to be almost black, the aroma reminded me of Old Jamaica chocolate bars, chocolate and really vine fruity. Ooh…Medium-bodied with some dark chocolate and really fruity with the slightly tart blackberries, really tasty fruity beer with a surprisingly quite grassy dry finish. A sessionable Stout? I think I have died and gone to dark beer heaven – or is it hell?

Having chatted for so long, time was moving on and some of my companions were considering moving on into Town, so I plumped for another beer that I’d had in bottle but never on draught – Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield). At 7.4% abv, this Imperial Stout was definitely one to finish with. A big deep ruby beer, almost black, this had a really vinous nose with lots of dark fruits and chocolate in the background. Full-bodied and much fruitier than I remember in bottle with oodles of vine fruitiness and a good helping of bitter chocolate. Different from the bottle but equally as gorgeous, fruity finish on this with a good degree of bitterness rounding it off.

I hear all the things that have been pointed out about the issues with this festival. However, I loved it. The critiques were taken on board and was acted upon where possible, the tables in the hall being the most immediately noticeable. You could never move the toilets! Given that they are looking to host it there again next year, I’ll be interested to see what changes are put in place…for changes there will be! Short of holding it at GMex (or whatever it is called these days!), I can’t see a better venue in the “Rainy City”….speaking of which….!

It was BLOODY POURING DOWN as we left. And I had NO raincoat! The 6Ps sprang to mind (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!) at this point. Jumping the Metro, we squelched off at Piccadilly Gardens with a substantial number of fellow revellers. However, the Arch-Nemesis & I had clear plans to visit my favourite Manchester bar Joshua Brooks.

A long very wet tramp across town led to us being absolutely soaked by the time we got there. However a goodly beer selection of ales that I was yet to try cheered me up no end!

Nice to see Jon (manager) as I hadn’t been in for a few months. He was busy changing casks as a couple had just gone, but what was on was good enough for me!

Wisely skirting the beast that is Dark Star Imperial Stout, I alighted upon Cwtch by Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – A red ale at 4.6% abv and a really fruity hoppy beastie this! Mango & peach with a little grapefruit too, medium bodied fruity mouthful with a quite big resinous pine aftertaste. A corker!

One of the beers that Jon was putting on was next. This was Clovis Point Brown by Caveman Brewery (Swanscombe, Kent) 5.4%, deep red and slightly hazy, this had a nose like a slightly spicy Cadbury’s Caramel, with chocolate and toffee. Medium bodied, quite fruity in the mouth with some burnt toffee and a lightly smoky finish. Unusual and very nice indeed!

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Back with Tiny Rebel Brewery and another beer that I hadn’t had previously Full Nelson at 4.8%, a straw coloured beer with a peachy aroma from the Nelson Sauvin hops. Really fruity with peach and tangerine on the tongue and a touch even of grape, medium-bodied and a classic resinous piney finish. Superb!

Finishing off with a second beer of the day from a brewer that I hadn’t previously tried….Siren Craft Brew and their Rysing Tide at 7.4% abv – entering into DIPA territory with this! A red rye beer with a nice tight white head and big mango on the nose. HUGE mango in the mouth, sweet with the malt and spicy from the rye and tart, deep and fruity and a really cracklingly dry finish with more piney stuff. Wow!

Last night, Joshua Brooks was REALLY busy. Gratifyingly so. Maybe it’s down to The Lass next door being closed, maybe people have finally cottoned on to what I have been banging on about for ages. This place simply does great beer at great value (and with cracking tunes!). Long may they prosper!

That’s all folks!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival – 22/01/2014

(courtesy – Danny Whitehead on You Tube)

Recently, well, in the last few bottle posts, I have tried to quote lyrics from songs that I adore and which link to the blog post in some way. With this post, given the location within which the subject matter took place, I’ve tried something different. Click on the link above and (hopefully!) it will take you to a performance by the German “Musik Arbeiters” – and possibly my favourite band of all time –  Kraftwerk in Manchester in 2009. At about 3:41  in, you’ll get the point!

2013 was the last year of the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester before it moved to Derby for this years event. The good people behind the Fest (the Regional CAMRA crew) had obviously already started to formulate a plan for a replacement fest because they had already booked the venue The National Cycling Centre Velodrome in the Sports City complex. To be honest, I was no fan of the rather grim utilitarian Sheridan Suite as I may have said here, so when I was told by John Clarke that next years fest was to be at the Velodrome, I was quite excited. A Beer Festival for Manchester in an iconic venue. With over 300 Cask Conditioned ales to be served, it was one of those “no brainers” that I would be going, that I could pitch up at the opening “Trade Session” was just the cherry!

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The afternoon started with a bit of error by the Arch-Nemesis who thought that the Micro Bar Beer Fest started on yesterday instead of today. Doh! No matter, a nice half of Scoundrel by Problem Child Brewery from Parbold was dealt with swiftly. A golden beer with honey and spice on the nose, medium bodied with some honeyed sweetness and a nice grassy bitter finish. A brewery that a buddy of mine from work had been telling me about, wanted to try one of theirs for a while. Really nice refreshing start at 4.6% abv. As I said, their festival started today (Thursday) and runs through to Saturday. I’ve seen the beer list and there are some rare beers to Manchester on there!

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(pic : webbaviation.co.uk)

Jumping on the Metro towards Ashton, it only takes about 15 minutes from Piccadilly Gardens to the Velopark tram stop. From there, it was a simple matter of following the signs to the Velodrome. We quickly entered, and with glasses and programmes in hand we were soon following the mazy up and down route into the central area within the track.

Beer. Lots of beer. Even more beer! Well, I suppose it wouldn’t be a beer festival without it!

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This is a HUGE space. Far bigger than the Sheridan Suite footprint. Absolutely acres of space to roam around in a beery daze. I was here to try to chat with a few people about – funnily enough – setting up a beer festival! But first, a beer. The Arch-Nemesis jumped on a Jarl from Fyne Ales and, ordinarily, I would have done the same, but I fancied an even lighter start, so I went for a pint of Smaller by Hand Drawn Monkey of Huddersfield. A cracking shout! Ultra pale with masses of lemony and grapefruit citrus, this was such a refreshing pint, I haven’t had a bad one yet from this brewery.

Then I went for some of the Festival Beer which was Rock It Fuel by the ever excellent Wilson Potter (in conjunction with Real XS Radio). However….DISASTER….No wallet! (And yes…….I’ve heard all of the puns so don’t even bother!) Utter Panic. Then, one of the genial bar volunteers said, “Is your name Englebert ? Your wallet is at reception!” (“The names have been changed to protect the innocent”…or the numpty…you decide!) With relief, I set off on a thirst inducing trek worthy of mighty Odysseus. Homer would have thought me a hero (no, not Simpson……Whatever happened to teaching the Greek classics eh?). After a lap of the outside of the building, I finally located it at the glass stand. The blokes there must have taken one look at my frazzled vizog and took pity. They were brilliant! Thanks fellas!

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Back to that Wilson Potter! Slightly hazy amber coloured beer (not quite settled enough) but a lovely fruity aroma with a hint of spice. In the mouth, really fruity with a gentle ginger kick, nice and warming but not overwhelming.Nicely judged. Then, on my search for the Yin to my Yang, I bumped into him chatting with Amanda & Kathryn (Wilson Potter) alongside two opinionated (in a good way) beery Giants going at it….Tandleman and Dave Bailey from Hardknott Brewery. Lovely to chat with these lovely brewers (I DETEST the term Brewsters as I told Amanda!) and I congratulated them on this superb beer! I did manage 5 minutes with the mightily busy Tandleman to pick his brains about beer festival set ups. (he’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know!)

Wandering round, we had a quick chat with the lovely Jay Krause and his partner Dominique from Quantum, a man who is not only very tolerant of my wittering, but who also brews the most fabulous beer! Started to hatch a plan with Jay….who knows? Had a great chinwag with Rob Hamilton from BlackJack who has been really supportive of my Festival ambition! Also met Carley from Brightside who I’ve wanted to meet for ages! Being my nearest brewery and all! Had a lovely wee chin wag prior to availing myself of a pint of their Amarillo (having never had it on draught) A burnished gold coloured beer with a light marmalade aroma giving way to a mandarin orange fruitiness with a crackling piney hop finish. A lovely zingy beer at 5% abv – A deserved award winner at this years SIBA bash up at Hawkshead!

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Got to admit, one of the BIG selling points of the location was to watch members of Team GB training whilst we drank. It was fabulous to watch and quite hypnotic at times!

I rather unwisely stepped up the strength to try a beer that I managed to miss at the last festival Fallen Nun by Thwaites at 7.4% abv! Black as the ace of spades with a creamy tan head, the smell was all grapefruit, peach and mango. As full-bodied as any stout, really fruity but with some excellent roasted notes in there too with a hint of licorice. Bloody gorgeous!

Next up, I snaffled a Weird Beard beer that I hadn’t yet tried – Camden BearD which (being co brewed by the guys at Brew Dog Camden, is as near as we will get now to BrewDog in cask form! A Wheat Pale Ale, this was golden, and really fruity with bags of hoppy bitterness, a cracking beer which (and I will be generous here!) seemed to get mostly consumed by Ben Sweeney from Bank Top Brewery who we were yakking with at the time, well, we tried when we could get a word in! A really enthusiastic young man and a passionate advocate of his brewery’s products (which I really like at their Tap in Bolton) Both he and Craig (also one of the brewers at BT) liked the Weird Beard and I guided Craig toward their Decadence Stout which he REALLY enjoyed! Top lads!

At this point, I stumbled into James from Deeply Vale Brewery and Paul from Ringway (I’m still shamed that I haven’t had any Ringway beers!!!) who was to be our Geordie comedy meister for the rest of the evening! To be honest, I had SUCH a good time just chatting and listening that other that a beautifully fruity and dry Billabong from Tiny Rebel (oranges and peach with a nice hoppy finish), I lost track of what I drank!

IMAG0595(“Oh Manchester, So much to answer for”)

Managed to grab a quick chat with David from the excellent beer shop in Ossett, Bierhuis too. Top bloke who knows his beers (and stocks some corkers!)

Great fun. Chatted with the effervescent Rowan Molyneaux and her friend (both from Brew Dog on Peter Street) who were really good fun to natter with and just whiled away the rest of the evening with James, Paul and had a great chat with the ever friendly (and damned knowledgable) John Clarke who also imparted some wise advice about festivals (and guided me towards Prague for my upcoming 50th birthday revelries. Cheers John!)

Chatted for so long with James, Paul & Rowan that before I knew it, it was damned late, so off to the Metro laughing all the way…such great company. Tried to get the Arch-Nemesis to go for a nightcap of something ludicrous, but he just left me standing at the bus stop. Shame on him!

Anyway…..

On that note…til next time…(tomorrow at the Friday lunch session of the Beer Fest – I punish myself for your pleasure!)

Slainte!

A New Bar For Bolton – Great Ale Year Round

Great Ale Year Round

A couple of months ago – just about the time that my dear friend Gerry floated the idea of a Beer Festival – I took her and her partner (my good friend) Paul to Damian O’Shea’s stall at Urban Market on what was the old site of Victoria Bus Station. A young couple were standing close to the stall and Damian introduced us saying, “You might want to meet these people, they’re opening a bar in Bolton”! My attention being now absolute and undivided, I was introduced to Dan & Gina Buck. We chatted for a short while and I got the distinct impression that they liked good beer.

The plans were to open a bar in the refurbished Market Hall and a brief chat with Dan &  Gina told me that there would be an emphasis on local beers with some more foreign stuff (ie : from South of Crewe) in too, but only good stuff! I was really heartened because, to be fair, Bolton is hardly rammed with great places to drink. Yeah the Sweet Green is OK, Wetherspoons (currently OFF my radar) and Barristers are OK and the Dog & Partridge has a decent pint, but Bradshawgate of a weekend evening resembles mid 80s Beirut! Consequently, when I go out, I head south towards Salford & Manchester. Bright lights, big cities and all that….

The Bucks had been posting teaser pics on Facebook showing how the venue was coming along, which made me all the keener to get in and give it a road test. So. What is it like?

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The bar was originally supposed to open on 14th February (the date that the Hall officially opens I think), but, having brought THEIR opening forward, my good buddy Colin & I strode into the Market. The first thing to notice is the large seating area just outside the bar, loads of space which will be filled once the planned food vendors move in. A really nice space, the Market will do well here.

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(Great bottle selection)

The bar is fairly small (well, it IS a Micro Bar!) with firkins on stillage behind. The bar and a few bar stools take up one half of the space with a couple of small tables and the bottle shelves and fridge taking up the other half. Speaking of bottles….

With a selection from the likes of Brightside, Quantum, First Chop, Tickety Brew, Cheshire Brewhouse to name the locals, plus offerings from London luminaries such as Beavertown and Five Points, the UK selection is impressive. Add to that 3 from Brooklyn, some Sierra Nevada, Jever, some Timmermans fruit beers AND Cider from local producers Red Bank, the choices are superb. (We tried a drop of the Red Bank “Rum” Cider and it was lovely & smooth!)

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There are currently 2 cask conditioned beers which Dan informs me will be constantly rotated. The two on offer today were Solstice from Brightside of Radcliffe (a Golden Ale at 4.5% abv) and Dark Revenge from Manchester’s Privateer Beers (a 4.5% abv mild). It’s fair to say that both were on absolutely CRACKING form!

Having had Dark Revenge previously on several occasions (I adore it!), I opted first for the Brightside. A beautiful clear pale gold with a fabulous fruity aroma, this was superbly refreshing and citrussy with just the right amount of biscuity malt for balance. I didn’t want the glass to empty! next up was the Dark Revenge. The name kind of gives away the complexion of this beer. I asked to pull this and made a complete “dog’s” of it. But what I couldn’t spoil was the taste. A lovely creamy dark roasty thing of a beer with smooth chocolate, the merest hint of coffee and a lovely dry finish. Superb.

Needless to say, Colin & I hung around for a couple more and chatted awhile with punters and Dan & Gina. Nice to see Paddy & Rachel (Rachel for the first time) and have a wee chat whilst Paddy selected some excellent bottles – a man of taste! Two excellent bloggers (click the hyperlinks!)

It was nice to hear that the first day had been busy. Given the efforts that I know that Dan & Gina had put in, deservedly so. As further food and drink units open up, it can only go from strength to…er….strength! I hope so, because this place gives Bolton somewhere nice and relaxed to have an excellent beer – and the best bottled beer selection in a bar for MILES around.

Immediate plans are to have some “Meet The Brewer” type events with the likes of Brightside, Privateer & First Chop. Excellent local brewers more than worth a listen. I’ll be going for sure! Another – more imminent – arrival will be a lager font, the lager being the excellent German Paulaner (beloved of Manchester Xmas Markets!) and at some point shortly perhaps, a 3rd hand-pump allowing the range to increase. Here’s hoping!

Saying our goodbyes, both Colin & I agreed that Dan & Gina had done a cracking job and we can’t wait to go back.

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 3 (aka Where There’s Smoke….)

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Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 2

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Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

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“She had an horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beat.
When I looked in her eyes they were blue. but nobody home.
Well she could’ve been a killer if she didn’t walk the way she do and she do.
She opened strange doors that we’d never close again.”

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

Strangely – for someone who regards himself as fairly to moderately shy – I like meeting new people, especially ones who have a particularly strong interest in beer. I met two such at Damian O’Sheas excellent stall at the Urban Market in Salford a few weeks back. They were Dan & Gina Buck and have been selling beers at Farmers Markets for a while now. I was quite excited when I learned that they were planning to open a “Micro Bar” in the semi-arid area that is central Bolton, in the refurbished Market. The centre of Bolton isn’t exactly blessed with bars with great beer (IMO, of course) and Bradshawgate IS a bit of an obstacle course resembling downtown Beirut on a Saturday night, but I’m quite excited about what Dan & Gina have planned.

Unless I have something WAY wrong, the aim is to stock mostly (though not exclusively) local beers with an accent on flavour and quality. I for one can’t wait until the opening day, which, at the moment, is set for the 21st of this month. A diary date indeed! (BTW – The couple tweet – and retail – as @GreatAleYear). I’ll certainly be there enjoying a little “warm up” before the Manchester Beer & Cider Fest the next day!

Anyway, down to business…..

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. Rednik StoutBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 4.1% abv – Stout – £2.05 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Stout + Buxton Brewery. My favourite style of beer by one of the best breweries in the UK. What can go wrong? Well, nothing! This is a cracker! (And, at the price, a bloody bargain!)

Just as a good Stout should be, opaque (courtesy of Tandleman that one!), black with a creamy tan head that released a distinct lightly sugared mocha aroma. A nice start.

Medium bodied and smooth in the mouth, the initial dark chocolate flavour combining the bitter with subtle sweetness was followed by a smooth milky coffee which mingled with a light smoky note and some tingling spiciness ending up with a bit of a dry hoppy flourish, grassy but not overpowering the roasted malty stuff. The last word I wrote on my notes was “yum!”

As far as low strength Stouts go, this is as good as it gets. Superb.

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2. A Little Lupy (Single Hopped – Galaxy) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj and his growing Whitefield beer selection. I had the Stormy Point collab beer from Shane last month (see here) and was as impressed as I had been when I had it on draught. Having had one or two of his “12 Bar Blues” series before, I was really looking forward to this.

Poured a lovely glowing golden colour with a thin white head which gave up a fruity hop aroma with peach and tangerine sweet citrus to the fore. Medium bodied, this beer is full of sweet citrus with tangerine up front, cut with a little lemon sharpness. Slips down really easily this. A really refreshing and fruity mouthful, gently bitter, leading to a sharp dry finish with a resinous grassy aftertaste in with the fruit. Another absolute belter at a relatively low gravity! I’m led to believe that he may be doing more single hop variants of this beer. I’m keeping an eye out for those, whilst drooling!

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3. Hit The Fairy LightsWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 4.6% abv – (Festive!) Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another one from Raj and, for Weird Beard, I broke my rule of not drinking “festive” beers. I have had some truly appallingly lazy “Xmas” beers and, as a result, usually shun such things. However, having been so impressed by the output from this West London brewery, I made an exception. And I’m glad I did!

Poured a pale gold with a rapidly diminished white head.  First aroma to hit was a fruity orange, then a gentle aniseed/licorice like note. Medium bodied, an initial flavour of soft citrus, maybe satsuma or orange sits on a nice bready malt backbone then, quite surprisingly a sudden resinous dryness hits with a light bitterness. There is Star Anise added to the boil in this which I got more in the aroma than in the mouth. Still, an impressive beer, and for a “Festive” pale ale, this is the best “Xmas” beer i think I’ve had short of a big Stout!

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4. Scary MonstersRevolutions Brewing / Five Towns Brewery (Collab) – 4.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

One of a number of beers I picked up from a visit last week to Adrian & Vicky’s Snaith emporium, including 2 more with a David Bowie theme from Five Towns (must be fans those Bastows!). Being a fan of Black IPAs, this was the first I reached for.

There is a pale twin of this beer – Super Creeps – but unfortunately, I missed it. Gutted! Being from TWO of my favourite breweries – Oh I know how this is going to go!

A really deep ruby coloured beer, would be almost black without being held up to the light. As soon as I opened this lively bottle, I was hit with a big citrus aroma (and my nose was a foot from the bottle!) Aromas shooting from the glass include tangerine and peach. Another medium bodied beer this, the first thing that I got was the citrus with those fruity aromas matched in the mouth – peach/nectarine and tangerine. This is immediately followed by a bitter note with perhaps licorice and bitter chocolate. The next layer was a tongue curling dry grassyness with some great late revealing hoppage. I don’t want this beer to end! Just brilliant – and unfortunately limited to 700 bottles I believe.

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

Now, for two start-ups! One a shop/micro bar – opening soon! The other……a World first review for a new brewery!

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5. Gamma Ray – Beavertown Brewery – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – or soon to be!)

I was ashamed to say that, until the Beavertown MTB at Port Street last year, I hadn’t had any of their beers. I went to the MTB purely on the recommendations of two people whose good taste I trust implicitly, Jeff & Jaz (See what I did there!). The beers were universally superb and the first that I had that evening, was this, on keg. I loved it,

When Dan from Great Ale Year Round said that he had some for launch day, I got in early!

Hazy gold, light white head clinging to the glass, the initial aroma was a lovely sweet mango with maybe just a hint of tart grapefruit in the background.

Smooth as a freshly ironed smooth thing in the mouth, more fruity mango, slightly sweet and biscuity backbone leading to a dry herbal hoppy finish. Each mouthful is just SO smooth, I could almost forget that it was bottled! So fruity yet so dry and grassy. Damn, why have I waited for so long to buy some of these? (Got an 8 Ball and a Smog Rocket lined up too. Lucky me!)

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6. Cuckoo Number 2Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – IPA – £4 (330ml) – Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

“Drum roll please!” – I do believe that this may be the first review of a beer by this fledgling brewer. I feel quite honoured at that! And quite daunted. Ah bollocks to the wittering!

I picked up on this brewer on Twitter the other day and made some enquiries. I swiftly realised that his beers were limited in availability and currently retail in only one location. Cuckoo on Bury New Road in Prestwich. Being the excitable type, myself and the ever lovely Atilla popped up to snaffle one for review. And at £4 for a 7% beer, from a bar, I was made up with the price! I think we’ll be back. Atilla liked the look (and smell) of the food! Busy bar, nice friendly staff. No draught ales, but Brightside & this brewer in bottle. Good enough for me!

However, it’s all about the beer. Is it any good? Damn right it is!

Starting with the bottle. No branding, just a tag, dangling like a cigarette from Alain Delon’s lips. Minimalist and damn classy! (I’m sure the brewer wouldn’t agree!). reminded me a touch of Bad Seed in that respect, with that hanging tag. But THE DAMN BEER! Oh….OK….

Amber coloured with a light white fluffy head and a lovely big citrus aroma (hopped with Warrior, Columbus & Citra) with deep grapefruit tones and a background note of toffee. A full-bodied beer with initial big grapefruit flavours mellowing in the swallow to more of a peachy tone, then it warmly slides down the throat, caressing your insides like an internal fleecy blanket. Then you breathe after the swallow and the resinous pine floods into the mouth like a wave on a beach. The finish is simultaneously fruity and dry with a more gentle resinous note hanging around like a barfly.

An impressive first beer for me from this brewer. I was lucky enough to also pick up a Smoky Stout from the brewer himself which I’ll let settle and have next week. If it’s anywhere near as good as this, you’ll be hearing about it!

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!