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

“Great fire’s burning, you supplied the spark

Fires burning, spreading through the ark

Animals are panicking. I’m animal and panicking.

Your glance, a match on the tinderwood

You never spoke, but I understood

Bring water…..”

(Great Fire – XTC)

A gentle musical diversion. XTC. To me, as much of a British musical institution as The Beatles or The Kinks. Possibly the single greatest pop/rock band of my era and with some of the greatest songs. Dear God, Love On A Farmboys’ Wages, This World Over, The Mayor of Simpleton (#1 in Japan you know!), The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead….all fabulous songs – great lyrics and transporting tunes and melodies. It is one of my abiding musical regrets that I never saw them live – owing to Andy Partridge’s crippling stage fright. “A penny for the fellow who brings the sheep in….” Andy Partridge & Colin Moulding provided the soundtrack to a large chunk of my 80s & 90s with their all too rare literate pop. (Buy the Fossil Fuel “best of” and treat your ears!)

Anyway, this is supposed to be about beer….so…

A further ramble….Like many beer bloggers, I am lucky enough to sometimes be passed or sent some beers for free. I have one simple ethic and I say this at the time to those who give or send. If it’s good, I’ll review it. If it’s not, I communicate privately and say why…the chances are that it may simply not be my cup of char. Some I enjoy, but not enough to write about. After all, the point in these wafflings of mine is to highlight beers that I really enjoy and tell you via this media to give you the chance to try them too! And please, if you buy them and DON’T enjoy them, let me know! It’ll be all my fault!!!

I mention this, because two of the beers below were either passed by merchants or sent by the brewery for me to try. I have reviewed them because I like them. End.

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…


1. Black ShuckHellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 3.9% abv – Dark Ale – £0 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

One of those aforementioned beers that I have been passed to see what I thought about it, this time by Damian O’Shea just before Xmas when his stall was deservedly busy, bringing quality bottles to the shopping hordes! The first time this brewery came to my attention was in a series of tweets and FB posts by the wondrous Nathaniel Southwood (aka @NateDawg27 on Twitter), he was impressed. Being a young man of impeccable beery taste (him, not me!), I had no fear for this and positively looked forward to trying it.

For a start, I like the slightly gothic, medieval look to the label, with the font making me think of Hammer horror films. A nice start. A Dark ale, deep ruby in colour, nearly black, with a cream coloured head and an aroma of light coffee with something resembling muesli or toasted oats. In the mouth, medium bodied, smooth with some fresh brewed coffee, a little bitter chocolate and quite a grassy hop dryness in the finish. The Coffee and grass lingered in the aftertaste far longer than you would expect in a 3.9 beer. A nice drop indeed. Really refreshing for a dark beer. I whisper reaches my ears that Damian may have some Hellhound beers soon on his stall! Stay Tuned.


2. Starless & Bible BlackNene Valley Brewery (Oundle, Northamptonshire) – 6.5% – Chocolate Porter – Xmas Gift (500ml)

Thank you Simon & Sarah!

First, the bottle. That flip top brought back some memories! Memories of starting Saturday nights in the early 80s in Corbieres Wine Cavern in Manchester, downstairs with the crowd and the best jukebox in town banging out The Clash, The Cramps or Echo & The Bunnymen, chugging bottles of Grolsch prior to a swift burger and a half hour wait standing in the queue to get in The Hacienda. 1982. What a club, what a time, what a city!

Back to the subject in hand!

A nearly black but dark ruby brown beer with a thin beige tan head and a chocolate aroma reminiscent of ice cream syrup. Full bodied and initially really fruity with vine fruits and a touch of hedgerow then…. in slouches the chocolate all rich smooth and seductive, slightly sweet but with an edge of (what I can only describe as) port and coffee? This is a cracking beer! Warming and comforting. A real winter beer. I feel like Santa has brought me a late present! (Except…er….there is no Santa Claus….right?)

I will apologise by saying that I have absolutely NO idea how YOU can get hold of this. All I can suggest is (if you want to try it) click on the brewery link above!


3. Smog Rocket – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 5.4% abv – Smoked Porter – £3.50 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – Next Tuesday!)

A busy week next week! On Tuesday, Dan & Gina Buck open their new Micro bar, on the shelves of which will be this! Fair to say that they will have (IMHO) the best selection of bottled beers in Bolton. Bar none. I’m gonna have to take some time out to pop in. Can’t wait!

Flip the cap and Sniff. (That is NOT a euphemism!) Smokey bacon crisps. I kid you not. I felt like a kid again ripping open a packet of Golden Wonder!

Black on pouring with a thin beige head that dissipates. Medium-bodied in the mouth and smoothly carbonated, the smokyness is the first thing you notice. It then fades slightly (without disappearing) and yields primacy to a nice smooth chocolatey quality which itself tapers off into a gentle sweetness as it slides down the gullet. The finish is slightly sweet and smoky with the smoke sharing space with a grassy note in the aftertaste. Goes down dangerously easily this! Really smooth and tasty! There’s an art to making slightly off the wall beers easy to drink. Beavertown do it.


4. Cuckoo No 3 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – Smoky Stout – Swap (330ml) – From the Brewer

Ta Da! Manchesters’ newest brewer again! Well, unless someone else has fired up a copper that I’m blissfully unaware of! The name reminds me that you can still only buy this brewery’s beers in Cuckoo bar in Prestwich. Probably £4. Worth every penny too! I got mine by virtue of a swap for a bottle of Espresso Stout by Bad Seed.

Black and opaque. Always a good start with a stout! Lovely creamy looking tan coloured head. Initial nose of port wine with a touch of chocolate. In the mouth, full-bodied nice and smooth, chocolate, yes. Warming with a winey hint, some dry roasty malt with another hint of coffee. The finish is not sweet, but quite dry with a distinct smoky note  and a substantial grassy aftertaste in with the roast. Chocolate at the back of the throat on the swallow too! Another excellent beer from this rookie brewer. Who IS this super hero?


5. Stout Tickety Brew (Stalybridge, Cheshire) 5.4% abv – Stout – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer picked up from Raj’s increasingly impressive emporium. A marvellous wee shop, well worth a visit. He has some stuff that not many get with some excellent “specials”!

Almost black. But reveals a deep red winey glow when held up to the light, a bit like the first time I held up my 7′ copy of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in 1980 and saw that it was glowing red as Chianti! (Not that I knew what Chianti was being a Salford lad! And I WAS only 15!) Ah….7″ vinyl…..those were the….zzzzzzzzzz

Off cream head yielding a smoky chocolate aroma. As smooth as a George Clooney chat up line in the mouth, quite full-bodied with cocoa and not too sweet dark treacle with that tell-tale Tickety Belgian yeast strain popping its head up and saying whatever it is that Belgian yeast says! The finish is slightly sweet with that Belgian funk there to tang things up a little with some smokiness and a lasting chocolate and slightly grassy aftertaste. Complex. Like life. But tastier!


6. StrannikNorthern Monk Brew Co (Bradford, W Yorkshire) – 9% abv – Imperial Stout – £2.92 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

From my recent raid on Adrian & Vicky Pettit’s lovely wee shop was this!

On the first day, there was New World IPA. And it was good. On the second day, there was Strannik. And it was even better. But I missed it! On the third, fourth, fifth and sixth days, collaborations everywhere. And they were excellent. Then, on the seventh day, the Lord thy God said “Beers Manchester. Thou shalt have thy Strannik. You dozy git!”

Beergasm Alert!

No seeing through THIS wee blighter! Coal black and twice as warming!

A lovely beige tan creamy head from which slouches the most seductive of dark roasty aromas. Burnt toast, treacle, rum infused latte…someone throw a bucket of water over me! Creamy full-bodied and oh so bad…..I feel like I’m committing adultery with a beer! Sweet coffee, treacle, licorice, bonfire toffee, bitter chocolate, Woods 100……Rich, luxurious, warming, I need a lie down! And after the beer coats the entirety of the mouth and slinks down the throat, a lovely grassy hoppy afternote to counter the slight sweetness. I’m pissed off that this is the first time that I have had this…why have I waited so long! Yeah. It’s alright this!

And so, the end of another yawn inducing beery blather! Kick Dryanuary in the cojones and get some of these beasties in! Say that I sent you!

On that note…’til next time…(Manchester Beer & Cider Festival next Wednesday!)


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

  1. “Ta Da! Manchesters’ newest brewer again! Well, unless someone else has fired up a copper that I’m blissfully unaware of!”

    Indeed – Oliver Turton at Squawk Brewing in Ardwick was due to put his first brew through last Thursday. He’ll bet at MBCF Trade Session (as will I if I can shake off this bug) so I’ll introduce you.

    • I’m damned pleased that I used that phrase now!

      Indeed you must get well. I need to pick your brains about something well within your many areas of expertise! I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

    • Winter is when dark and warming beers come into their own. I happen to like the silky textures and roasted, chocolatey and coffee flavours that they offer. A welcome antidote to the frequent hop assaults that comprise most of the decent pales around (I do like many of those too) Guess I’m just a winter kind of guy!

  2. Drank Daleside Blonde and Field 41 from Spoons today, followed by Simcoe (interpreted by Brew Co & Dark Star) today, and it was wondrous.

    You certainly like your darks, but tell me, who can drink more than a pint at a time? It’s like a meal in a glass!

    • I can! Milds, Porters & Stouts whilst not being the be all are my preference. I suppose it comes down to not getting many of them in many pubs. I learned to drink them where I could, to the point that they became my first choice when on a bar. Bit like, do you like coffee or tea I suppose. I like coffee (but a nice tea goes down well too!)

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