The Tottering Temple – Blackedge Brewery – 29/03/2014

Tottering Temple

No tunes today (cue collective sigh of relief!) – just a swift post.

In case you haven’t noticed, I like bottled beer. Increasingly, I find myself drawn to beers of a more local persuasion. With a small number of North West breweries stocked at the excellent Liquor Shop in Whitefield and slightly larger number stocked at Bolton’s excellent bar Great Ale Year Round, I still craved breweries from the North West that I hadn’t yet tried. Breweries like the excellent George Wright from Rainford, Prospect of Standish and others too numerous…..

On Saturday, BlackEdge Brewery of Horwich opened a bottle shop of their own, The Tottering Temple. I had been in contact via Twitter on a number of occasions with the brewers and they had a bottle kept by of their hard to find Dark Rum for me to buy. Having had a fairly light evening on the Friday, I spied an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up! So, with my 14 year old chaperone in tow…..no chance for beery mischief…..

Located on Hampson Street off Lee Lane in Horwich, it was easy enough to locate….the sign pointing to The Tottering Temple didn’t hurt either!

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Entering a door which seemed to indicate a small unit, a couple of steps down and the place opened up nicely. Shelves of bottles to the left and right and a bar dead ahead. Typical me, we seemed to be first in!

Ignoring the bar for a moment, which was difficult with 3 beers priced at £2.30 a pint (!), I set to my bottle shelf investigations! Loads of breweries that I hadn’t had before. The shelves were really well laid out and labelled clearly so, if you were searching for something in particular (and they stocked it) you would find it in moments.

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From Bank Top to Thornbridge, most bases covered including some of the newer micros like Squawk. I started to drool when I saw that they had their Stout, which I had heard about but seemed merely a legend, but now glassy fact! That was the first beer to hand and placed on the bar, as Richard, Mr “Adlington Beer Circle” tapped me on the shoulder. We had “conversed” on many occasions on Twitter and – if truth be told – he was one of the major reasons that I post (or try to) at 08:00 on a Saturday morning. He does like a bit of light reading!

We chatted for what seemed like ages, to the extent that I forgot to get both a half of something light and refreshing (and a drink for the “chaperone”!) A quick half of Hop was the choice to slake my conversationally derived thirst! Top bloke Richard. Got to chat with his nephew Tom and passed some tips on Manchester drinking (Tom being at Uni in Mcr and all) Richard is the creator (with techy assistance from Tom!) of an excellent website (link above) which seeks to increase footfall (quite literally!) into a number of local pubs by the creation of a number of walks that link the pubs – a simply brilliant idea in these challenging times! (Don’t think I’ll be setting one up for Farnworth QUITE yet!)

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Had a number of necessarily brief, yet frequent, chats with Wayne & Shaun (the boys behind the brewery) who, through their brewing, are part of the reason why Horwich is gaining a bit of an excellent beery rep. They have a couple of pumps dedicated to their beers at the pub that serves as their “tap”, the award-winning Victoria & Albert on Lee Lane, Bolton CAMRA Branch “Pub of the Year” (popped in recently and I can see why!). BlackEdge brew a number of excellent beers with my personal favourites being the Darks, Black & Black Port (you KNOW what I’m like!).

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Wayne & Shaun have got this place well laid out with the 6 Bbl plant (216 gallon) at one end, with some seating and tables for the punters and even a comfy looking leather sofa (I was just TOO slow to grab that!), this was a nice place to come for a lunchtime beer and quite similar to others that I’ve been to. They have made the most of what is a fairly small venue.

Following swift halves of the excellent IPA and even better (well, it’s a dark!) Black Port grabbed whilst further yakking with Richard, I had to gather a stash to take away. Pricing is more than competitive (as I found when I got the bill!) and I was chuffed to pick up beers from George Wright, Prospect, Boggart, Marble, Westerham, Squawk as well as their own Dark Rum and Citra, an excellent and reasonably priced haul. I hadn’t even noticed the sign that mentioned 10% discount for 12 or more bottles, which I MAY have triggered!

This is a cracking shop with a really nice local based selection and “outsiders” like Thornbridge all at decent prices (I’ve got my eye on some Cheshire Brewhouse Govinda – a recent #Beergasm of mine – at £4.20!) and is well worth a look, especially if you shop at the behemoth like Tesco or Asda at Middlebrook (Bolton Reebok Stadium for non-locals). You’ll get FAR better beer here than you will at either of those!

With my 15+ bottle haul, I was being prodded by my “chaperone” who needed to get into Bolton to get a Mothers Day pressie – he’s a sweetie!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

 

 

 

3 Bar Surprise – An Evening in Manchester – 27/03/2014

“He’s cold to the kiss. In ignorance he’s dangerous, in innocence he’s bliss.

And he stalks the night with sonar senses and he holds you tight.

Masturbates the madness in you”

(“Mad Jack” – The Chameleons)

(Live Video courtesy of alkalidocklive – You Tube)

(The video link was a judgement call. The passion of live performance over the sound quality of the album track. Repeated games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide and Live Performance wins every time!)

I know that I’ve mentioned my love of the 3 albums of the first incarnation of The Chameleons, for me, one of the seminal post-punk bands. They reached their creative peak (in my opinion) with their final album, “Strange Times”, ironically, recorded with a major label, Geffen. Songs like “Swamp Thing”, “Tears”, “Soul In Isolation” and the above track “Mad Jack”, when listened to nearly 30 years later have – for me – more than stood the test of time.

Embarrassingly, I must have played my cassette of Strange Times to death and STILL never got the lyrics of “Mad Jack” right! I mean, to young ears, “Masturbates” does sound like “Must have been”, right? What this blog piece has made me do is log on to iTunes and fling some cash the way of Cupertino to download the album. An 80s rock classic. Treat yourself to some passionate lyrics and tight playing!

Now, in a slight diversion from the norm, no bottles today!

1) There’s been 4 bottle posts this month and I don’t want to a) bore you TOO much, and b) A snap decision whilst tilting glass to lips the other evening. A surprising evening!

The aim of this particular Thursday evening mission was to swap some bottles with the legend that is Jamie from Port Street Beer House, who, for those who don’t know, also brews some excellent beers (see previous reviews) under the guise of the “Five Oh Brew Co“. From the moment he ventured to have a chat with a certain ageing nerd holding a Nexus 7, I’ve always got on with Jamie. The bonus is in the fact that he is a top bar keep who knows his stuff (as do all at Port Street) and is damned passionate about beer. So much so, that he stuck his metaphorical head above the brewing parapet and brewed himself. Damned well too.

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So, bottle swaps done, the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) and I settle down to a pint of Pale by the Indy Man Brew House (brewed with the mighty Black Jack).  Living up to name, this was a very pale golden beer at 4%abv with simply LOADS of citrus going on! Tart and refreshing, I was damned pleased I went this route rather than the dark side. This beer would grace any bar and would be an excellent “house beer” should Port Street ever consider one. A gentle fruity bitterness in this light-bodied beer was followed by some drying fruity resinous stuff that just completed the pint nicely. Excellent. I followed this with a pint of Kipling by Thornbridge.

To be upfront, I adore the dark stuff that comes from Bakewell, but the pales? Never quite got the hype myself – not from Thornbridge, but Social Media – nice? Yes, good well made beer. But the purple prose that I have seen seems unjustified in the beers that I have had. Same here with Kipling. A lovely looking pale golden pint with a drool provoking lemony aroma. In the mouth? Just…nice. The fruitiness in the talk didn’t strut enough for me. Maybe I need to recalibrate my expectations. Over a pint of St Petersburg. Now THERE’S a beer!

With a cheery handshake with Mr Hancock and a bagful of bottles (the Nemesis had a few for me too!), we strolled off to the second of a planned 3 stops (well, it WAS a “school night”!)

Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square, Manchester)

I don’t get into Manchester often enough. I certainly don’t get into this hybrid bar/canteen/club often enough. Their beer range improves each time I enter. This evening was NO exception and contained a Manchester brewery I was yet to try on draught!

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(FOUR Dark Beers – Heaven!)

Being a bit of a stickler for all things local (where possible), I was delighted to see Squawk Brewing Porter. Had that and their IPA in bottle and both were superb. With my pub strolling outings becoming decreasingly frequent (not having done a “Hector Rivera” QUITE yet!), I don’t see the new brewers offerings in the wild. Tonight however…

Dark…..Creamy coloured and textured head with a lovely smooth chocolatey aroma. Oooh! More chocolate in this smooth full-bodied beer, some coffee hints too with a nice hoppy finish in with a gentle bitterness. I would have had another, but….my eye was wandering…..decisions decisions…..the angel on my shoulder was saying “stay local”

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(Damn that neon!)

Black Jack – Red Rye Saison was the shout. 7% abv!!! On a school night! Hugely irresponsible, but OH WHAT A BEER! Far too refreshing for a beer of this strength. A little of that yeasty funk, spice and tartness form the rye and as red as David Moyes’ redundancy cheque! Just superb. But a bit stupid! Ah well….tomorrow was another day, eh?

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Comment : Soup Kitchen is getting a wee bit like Joshua Brooks. If this selection continues along the excellent lines of tonight, could well become a “go to” bar for the NQ. Great beers and superb tunes from Mr DJ – good food too so I’m told. The full package then!

Now…..just one more eh Mr Nemesis?

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Twenty Twenty Two (Little Lever Street, Manchester. M1 1EZ)

This is a hard beastie to find. I had been once before, guided by the Arch-Nemesis. From memory, the beer was from Outstanding of Bury (just the one on cask) and they had a superb bottle range. It was the sheer physical “coolness” of the space on a mid-summer afternoon that got me. That temperature drop you get when you go subterranean (see Gaslamp). Abiding memory was of a great art space with nice beer and awesome tunes (“I’ll Take Care of You” Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX stood out)

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Tonight. Upon walking down the steps it was obvious that we had stumbled across something. This place was busier than Port Street, and you don’t say that about many bars midweek!

2 hand pumps on the bar too (along with 4 keg fonts from Outstanding) Nemesis went for the Outstanding whilst I went for TEA by First Chop. First time on draught for me. Amber to brown with a lovely somewhat earthy leafy aroma. Of course! TEA! Duh! Full bodied with good fruitiness and an earthy dry finish. I was possibly hoodwinked by the name into imagining tannins in the brew as there was quite a dryness on the tongue, almost reminiscent of Earl Grey. Worked well for me!

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(TWO TABLE-TENNIS TABLES!!!)

What we had stumbled into was the launch party for “BCN MCR” A design exhibition featuring the best art designers from both Manchester & Barcelona. This cool & trendy crowd had just been invaded by a two-man Dad’s Army! We must have upped the average age by 2 years!

Got to say, being no art connoisseur myself, I really enjoyed wandering around checking out the posters and installations.

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(Manchester weather – in poster form)

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Well. A surprising evening both on the beer front and culturally too.  3 excellent bars and superb beers – and one sluggish old man in the morning!

Anybody fancy a game of ping-pong?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 4

“They say no news is good news, the little girl wants information,

Mother just gives her some pills to choose and says ‘Go use your imagination'”

(“You Little Fool” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions)

(Video courtesy of “jjarcos1v” on You Tube

I bought my first 3 vinyl 7″ singles at the age of 13 with 2 £1 notes (remember them???) I found soggily stuck to the road during my morning paper round. I think (well, it WAS 35 years ago) I bought them at a shop on Salford precinct. They were…..

I Don’t Wanna Go To Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions; What A Waste – Ian Dury & The Blockheads & Jocko Homo – DEVO. I’m rather proud of those being my first! No “Birdy Song” here….oh no!

As I got older, my love of the music of Declan MacManus (Mr Costello) has grown and deepened. In my opinion (Isn’t that all that blogs are…Opinion?) his greatest album remains one of his more obscure, in that it lacked an obvious hit single. The album I refer to is Imperial Bedroom. You Little Fool was the lead single (there were only 2) and reached #52 in the UK whilst the album reached #6 (#30 in the US, where Costello is more revered than he is here). From the multi-layered and somewhat schizoid opener “Beyond Belief” through “Shabby Doll”, “You Little Fool” all the way to the utterly beautiful “Town Crier” the album remains in my all time lists, certainly within the Top 20 (I really must list them in one of my Hornbyesque moments!)

Costello is still, for me, one of the greatest lyricists writing in the English language. I haven’t seen him live since the Mighty Like A Rose tour. Something I would like to address. He remains a superb live performer. (Still plays “You Little Fool” too!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……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 or shop deal, 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. Windrush StoutBrixton Brewery (er…Brixton, S. London) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.65 (330ml – inc Discount) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

To be honest, I’d never heard of this brewer until one recent afternoon, I spent far too much time & money in Raj’s excellent emporium (which is ALL too easily done!). Each time I go in there is more and more beer on his shelves. I hear that he may be opening a beer shop/bar later this year. Should be interesting!

This is an opaque black beer with a head creamy in both colour and texture. The aroma is of roasted barley and a gentle milky coffee. Medium bodied, initial flavours are of roasted malt with a hint of bitter chocolate followed by a pronounced bitter character. The finish is dry with quite a grassy hop aftertaste. A nice stout indeed with none of the sweetening additives like chocolate and quite Irish in character in my opinion.

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2. AVA – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Blonde Ale – £2.42 (500ml – inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Superstar DJ and occasional brewer (!) Rik Garner (He really IS a brewer, honest, just that he spins some great vinyl!) brews some quite phenomenally good beers in his well-appointed Salford Railway arch! I’ve had (and recommended to others – frequently) AVA on cask, but I’d struggled to find it in bottle. Until Dan & Gina stepped in with their expanding range of local beers!

If this was any paler, it’d be water! Straw yellow with a fluffy white head and a tart citrussy aroma with lemon zest and a little grapefruit. Ooh but this is a tart little number! Quite medium bodied for such a low abv beer, this is chock full of tart grapefruit and bitter lemon. Initially, quite a shock, but this is one seriously quenching refreshing beer, a nice bitter lemony hoppy finish rounds it off nicely. A beer of such low strength has no right to be so full of flavour! A belter. It is a rare beer that I always have when I see it on draught. This is one such.

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3. Mango Beach – Ramsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml – inc disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another brewery I see all too little of in bottles. I did have some draught, but that was in Ramsbottom itself and I don’t see Matt’s beers often enough, but then I saw them in Great Ale Year Round and all was right in the world!

A deep golden beer with a lingering white head and a juicy fruit aroma with mango (surprise) and peach upfront. Smooth and full-bodied. The fruit is upfront on the tongue with that juicy mango dancing a Macarena! Really smooth and almost creamy (mangoes & cream anyone?) A lovely fruity beer with a dry finish and substantial resinous and fruity aftertaste. A cracking beer from this small Rammy brewery. Nice to see his beer available closer to home!

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4. Rat-A-Tat-Tat – Fool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.72 (500ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Never been to The Hope in Stockport, nor ever had a Fool Hardy Brewery beer in any form. So I was glad to see some at Dan & Gina’s excellent little Micro Bar in Bolton Market. The beer itself………….

Black with a beige/tan head and a lovely welcoming aroma of chocolate/cocoa. Oh yes, my boxes are ticked! Medium to full-bodied and with a lovely smooth feel. The chocolate I would describe as just short of a “Bournville” flavour, bittersweet. A lovely mouthful with a nice hoppy bitter edge to it and quite a nice hoppy/coffee edge to the aftertaste. Excellent!

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5. K*ntish Beard – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.2% abv – American Wheat Ale – £3.23 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I had this on cask at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival & was hugely impressed….until a certain young Mr Sweeney from Bank Top guzzled mine (“by accident”, but I don’t hold grudges….much!) It was called Camden Beard then……We shan’t go into the murky waters of corporate bullying again, shall we? But I DO love that asterisk! (Apply your own vowel)

A deep gold almost amber beer this with a clinging white head and a big whack of citrus hop on the nose (presumably the Cascade & Centennial). Really smooth in the mouth with almost a creaminess to the texture making it feel really full-bodied.

Refreshing, as you would expect of a Wheat Beer, there’s all kinds of fruitiness in the mouth, with satsuma, grapefruit, a bit of apricot….this mellows to the satsuma/tangerine following the swallow. There is an understated bitterness to the finish followed by a nice, none too assertive resinous aftertaste with a lip smacking tangerine taste. And I drank this all myself!

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6. Interocitor – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 7% abv – Strong Pale Ale – £4.25 (500 ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Always like to have one of Jay’s beers in the stash. Call it a Comfort Blanket!

A deep golden almost bronze coloured beer, minimal white head quickly diminished leading to a herbal grassy aroma. Full-bodied in the mouth with a certain hedgerow fruitiness with a little gooseberry maybe? Smooth and easy drinking, dangerously so for a beer of this strength!

Lots of fruity British hoppage in here on a big malty backbone. A gentle fruity bitterness in the finish. A lingering grassy fruity aftertaste. One of those beers where UK hops just work real fine. Big bodied (like myself), full flavoured and tasty! (Unlike….)

Right then. That’s it for another week. It’s getting late and I need my ugly sleep to be ready for a MTB with Privateer Beers at Great Ale Year Round tomorrow (Saturday) morning. See you there?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

A Thirst & A Fresh Oyster(card) – A Wandering Week in London – March 2014


” I had entered into a marriage in the summer of my 21st year and the bells rang for our wedding,

Only now do I remember it clear, alright, alright, alright.

No more a rake and no more a bachelor, I was wedded and it whetted my thirst,

Until her womb started spilling out babies, only then did I reckon my curse,

Alright, alright, alright!”

(“The Rake Song” – The Decemberists)

(Video courtesy of http://www.decemberists.com/)

As I mentioned in my last post, I fell in love with music again having discovered the online store / club E-Music. This website led me to discover a whole wealth of bands that I would probably never had otherwise heard. Chief among these bands was The Decemberists from Portland in Oregon.

From the moment that I heard the jangly entry notes of “The Crane Wife 3” I was hooked and fell in love with the lyrical worlds spun by Colin Meloy and this fabulous band. Tracks like “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”, “We Both Go Down Together”, “Yankee Bayonet” the list goes on….I can just wallow for hours in lyrical beauty backed by expert musicianship that straddles between folk and almost Prog Rock (One track was described to me as “Steeleye Span meets Black Sabbath”!). Meloy has a way with words and sometimes writes in an antiquated verbal manner using words that you’d never hear elsewhere.

With topics ranging from unrequited love “Angel Won’t You Call Me” through bloody murder ballads “Shankil Butchers” (sic) to infanticide (“The Rake Song” see above), you’ll never be bored!

Suffice to say, The Decemberists are my favourite band with never a slack track in their 6 full-length albums (+ several EPs) so far. They may be recording a new album as I type and – should they hit the UK on tour, I will certainly fill the gaping hole in my music CV and see them live. Given what I have seen online, their performances are never less than enthralling!

With the end of this musical revelry, I shall get on with the matter in hand. Beer and great places to drink it!

2 weeks ago today (Wednesday), “The Boss” asked for volunteers to work in London for a week with odd shifts being the order of the week. Now, I am a bit of a home bird – having missed nearly the first 18 months of my youngest so due to living and working away –  I’m not all that keen to spend time away. The bait on this hook for me was to visit pubs and bars that I have regularly read others like Nate, Chris Hall & Tandleman write about and make me drool. So, with a (forced) smile on my face and beer in my heart, I was on the train to Euston one drizzly Sunday.

Let’s Begin!

Arriving at approx 7pm on a Sunday evening, with a London Transport Travelcard in hand, I unpacked my considerable luggage and pondered my first move. Only then did I consider the erratic opening hours of London pubs of a weekend! Fortunately, a well placed tweet revealed that – if I was quick – A certain mighty (yet mini) hostelry might be open!

TheRake_005_1(pic courtesy – http://boroughmarket.org.uk/)

The Rake – (Winchester Walk, Borough Market)

I don’t get down to Capital City much these days, but the last time I came, I popped in The Rake and it made a big impression for such a small bar, great cask ales, brilliant keg range and a bewildering array of bottles beers too from far and er…. wide.

I went twice during the week once on the Sunday, then on the Wednesday. The Sunday visit was quiet as it was virtually closing time when I got there. The guys working the bar and cellar were good as gold and twice as friendly as I was served with a Chockwork Orange Stout from Brecon Brewery (Welsh Beer Festival that weekend). Not hugely orangey, but a fine full-bodied Stout.

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This was, perforce, a flying visit, but I just had to have a read of the Wall of Fame. This is an enormous white wall where brewers sign and comment about the bar, a quirky but unique feature, then again, this small single room bar (the beer garden is larger!) is unique and quirky itself!

I called in again on the Wednesday. My original idea was to drag a colleague all the way from Vauxhall to Leyton for some Brodies at their tap The King William IV. However, the mighty Dave let me know that there was a Rake “Tap Takeover” by Brodies that night. Bit of a no brainer really!

Myself & my buddy Phil settled down to pints of really light, pale gold, refreshing and citrussy London Fields Pale Ale which, at 3.9% abv, were just the ticket after a rather longer than expected walk from Vauxhall. With tart grapefruit and a hint of lemon, a superb sharp pint.

Bethnal Green Bitter was next at 4% and was again a cracking pint. Amber coloured and full-bodied for the strength, biscuity malt and gentle grapefruit making for an excellent sessionable beer.

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This small single room bar was getting really busy, so we were lucky to grab a table in the outside area / beer garden on this beautiful bright late afternoon. A couple of halves of fruity, sharp and roasty dark Dalston Black followed and were consumed with resinous relish!

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(Hackney Red IPA)

Chatted for quite a while with a couple who shared our table. Demien a Colombian tattoo artist with a fabulous orchid on his neck (national flower of Colombia dontcha know!), the evening just flowed as we chatted about anything and everything with Demien and Sara (his Dallas based girlfriend), a lovely way to spend a couple of hours in great company and with Brodies excellent beers. Having had a sniff of Sara’s Hackney Red IPA, I just had to have one! Spicy and citrus tart. Gorgeous.

Rolling back to Sunday, chanced my luck by trying the Market Porter which I thought was about to close. A stunningly good pint of gloriously roasty Harveys Porter was had. Dark and delicious as was the fabulous tuneage, with some early Black Keys and some Nick Cave. Sunday Bonus!!!

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Pelt Trader (Dowgate Hill, just at side of Cannon Street station)

A couple of hours on Monday saw me venture into the City. I’d heard many great things about this bar from luminaries such as Nate Dawg, Chris Hall and Tandleman, so it would have been remiss not to give it a spin!

Nice, cool and spacious railway arch built into the underside of Cannon Street Station. Fairly quiet at the time I went in, but got steadily busier. Being owned/run by the people behind the excellent Euston Tap (and given the excellent things that I’d been hearing), I had no fear for the beer quality. This was borne out by stunningly good pints of Oakham Citra and Quantum American Light. (Can’t escape Jay’s beers…even in London it would seem!)

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(Looks suspiciously like a pelt!)

As with The Rake, Pelt Trader has all the elements in place for me. Nice building (lots of exposed brickwork, broken up with artifacts here & there – a Kayak?), with REALLY friendly staff (had a chat with a guy I presumed was a bar manager) and – most importantly – damn fine beer.

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Draft House (Seething Lane, nr Tower Hill tube)

Just a quick one in here. A quick taste of a Purity Black Ale was less than sound, so plumped for a rather nice and refreshing Outlandish Pale Ale by Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire). Pale gold, light and refreshing and nice and hoppy. Bargain of the week at £2.70 a pint!

The neon may be attractive to some, but was harsh on my eyes. Nice big open room with (probably) a bit of an accent on food. Loads of tables and a nice attractive exterior. can’t escape that neon though! 6 handpumps though meant quite a bit of choice with Sambrooks, Marble & Twickenham breweries also represented.

Stretching my legs a bit, headed up to Shoreditch to a bar that had been recommended. So, on a hunt for some Five Points on cask, I headed to The Crown & Shuttle on Shoreditch High Street.

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(pic – crownandshuttle.co.uk)

Again, loads of exposed brick in this bar that was so long, it had the feeling of a tunnel. Busy for a Monday evening. Large choice of beer both cask and keg, with no Five Points to be found, yours truly settled for a Galaxy Burst by Alechemy on cask.

Lovely friendly staff, they could even understand my dialect! The Alechemy was lovely, full of spring grass on the nose, full-bodied with lashings of tangerine and orange an d a nice piney finish with a gentle bitterness. Top tunes too! Sly Stone, Marvelettes, Detroit Spinners. My boxes were all ticked! Cracking bar.

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(Tuesday? – Must be Hackney then!)

Tuesday was dedicated to seeing an old friend that I hadn’t seen for nigh on 25 years! Living (as she does) in Leyton, we arranged to meet in the Pembury Tavern

Located on Amhurst Road, this angular pub was reasonably quiet as I entered. A plethora of hand pumps, most from the Milton Brewery of Cambridge

Pembury bar-panorama

(pic : https://www.individualpubs.co.uk/pembury/)

Settling down a a lovely fruity and refreshing pint of Milton Tiki at 3.8%, I took in the view. My kind of pub. Leaving aside the single roomed aspect, loads of space close to and in front of the bar, plenty of tables to the sides with seats and benches, there was just such a relaxed vibe here. Then my friend Andrea arrived and all considerations of decor etc went right out the window! Catching up with her (and spilling a few stories to her cute daughter – doing her homework!) was utterly precious. Transpires that she knew the regulars and staff ever so well.

This pub just FEELS welcoming and friendly. Certainly family and (well-behaved) pet friendly. Great pizzas (according to my lovely friend) and well….it just felt right. Certainly right enough to have another pint of Tiki! Unfortunately, I had to move on as I was due to meet Dave from The Rake at the next pub (cue Keystone Cops like farce!)

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A swift Twitter poll decided my next move after a number of people (including the redoubtable Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy) suggested The Cock Tavern on Mare Street in Hackney.

This is the brewery tap for Howling Hops Brewery. Haven’t had much by them, so was really looking forward to a pint or 2. That plan was rodgered when my colleague I was expecting on Wednesday, arrived on Tuesday and expected me for company. This left me with one pint worth of time. After a number of tweets to Dave, I realised that I made one almighty balls up. He was in The Pembury!!!

Being a Northern chap and therefore of good grace (Well, a fellow Lancastrian and all!) he hauled himself down to the Cock for a swift pint! Top bloke who took my apologies in good heart and with the aforementioned good grace. The Milk Stout it was for both of us and it was absolutely LUSH! Gorgeously roasted and with that hint of lactose sweet/sour, it was a lovely pint. I will have to see if my good buddy The Ale Man has some stashed away!

The Cock deserved a longer stay. Felt like a proper local, but on the edge of the big city. Dark inside with wood panelled walls, lots of dark wood seating on the exposed wood floor, it really is a lovely pub. Next time I’m down, I’ll make a bee-line! However, I had my colleague waiting in Pelt Trader……Oops

More Keystone Cops stuff here as my buddy needed to eat. So I suggested Cask on Charlwood Street, but by the time I stood outside Pimlico Tube station, he’d give up and headed back to t’hotel! Not to be discouraged, I just got a step on. I was a tad peckish too by this point!

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(Cask was busy!)

Much to my chagrin, I don’t bump into too much cask ale by Mallinsons in Manchester. To my delight, there were THREE on at Cask! Unfortunately, I had a monstrously early start so couldn’t do all three to go with my scrummy Stilton & Bacon burger….Citra & Alias were more than fine enough The Citra brought out the best in that hop with lovely tart grapefruit clearing that Stilton palate. The Alias had plenty of fruit along with a pronounced bitterness which, if anything, lifted it above the lovely Citra! 2 Single hopped pales by one of my favourite breweries! Beer Heaven!

Really friendly & helpful staff here – could have stayed ’til closing…..damn that early start!

Thursday saw me (via little advanced St Patrick’s Night drink with some swanky Irish associates!) at The Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak. I love this long bar and it was really busy this evening. Fortunately we managed to grab a table so I could enjoy a lovely slightly bitter and gorgeously roasted pint of Long Nines Stout by Hopcraft. I didn’t care that it was 6% abv. It was lush! The only shame tonight, was that I couldn’t hear the Jimmy Cliff album being played on the turntable! Great bar, friendly staff and locals. (Didn’t realise that it was the same people who owned The Cock Tavern in Hackney!)

A damned long week. Would’ve liked to have visited more bars/pubs, but you know what they say “Work is the curse of the drinking classes!”

In summary though, the thing that made this week the undoubted pleasure it was, was meeting new people, both from the other side of the bar (unfailingly friendly), or chance encounters. This beer malarkey is all about the people. They were lovely! (Now. where IS that Shadwell based tattooist…..just fancy a chalice glass on my arm…..)

Well…..that’s it with London for a while I suppose…

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 3

“I want to live, I want to give, I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.

It’s these expressions that I never give, that keep me searching for a heart of gold.

And I’m getting old.

Keeps me searching for a heart of gold. And I’m getting old.”

(“Heart of Gold” – Neil Young)

(Video courtesy of “clydeman” on You Tube)

Being 48, closing rapidly on 70, the older I get, the more I appreciate great classics of popular music, be they Rock, Soul, Rhythm & Blues or even Doo-Wop. Don’t get me wrong, I can bang the ear-buds in on the bus and nod to the joyous noise of Fuck Buttons as much as anyone else, but sometimes you know, I just yearn for the simpler musical pleasures. Like Springsteen, Neil Young flicks all of my musical switches.

I could have easily chosen the equally classic “After The Goldrush”. Guitar, harmonica and voice. What else do you need. Click on the hyperlink above and wallow (if you’re of a nervous disposition, or have a loathing of laptop music, you may want to avoid the Fuck Buttons link!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……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 or shop deal, 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. SoundWave Aussie IPASiren Craft Brew – 5.6% abv – IPA – £3.08 (inc discount) (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

The “straight” version of this on cask at Manchester Beer & Cider Festival made a HUGE impression on me. I had to give this antipodean variant a go, didn’t I?

A deep gold, almost amber beer this, with a thin white head and quite an orangey aroma promising much delight within. Full bodied and quite bitter initially (in a really good way!) with masses of tart fruit and pine overlaying a big malty bread base. The fruit subtly changes further down the glass to more of a mandarin orange without yielding an inch on the resinous front! Really grassy. Definitely a beer for now, a cool spring evening in front of a warm glowing…laptop! Excellent.

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2. Shark Biscuit – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 7.2% abv – Australian IPA – £3.23 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(Bear in mind that Raj offers a 10% discount for 12 or more bottles)

I yield to no one in my love of these beers out of West London. I haven’t had the joy of meeting Bryan, but Gregg is a top bloke and they brew some simply astonishingly good beers (stops typing to avoid a Decadence Stout inspired #Beergasm!), This is another!

Amber beer with a nice foamy white head and a lovely fruity orangey aroma booming out. Oohhhh…This is bloody smooth! Full-bodied with big digestive biscuit maltiness, but not sweet. The orange mellows into a nice marmalade richness which fills the mouth, coating it completely with bittersweet orange. A hell of a beer this, with a nice bitter finish and a lingering grassy note. A stunningly smooth, well balanced IPA.

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3. Old Ford Export StoutRedchurch Brewery (Bethnal Green, East London) – 7.5% abv – Stout ? – £3.59 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Writing about beer is fairly easy. However, sometimes your opinions can make you seem a proper numpty. So, I shall combine a question with my opinion shall I?

When is a Stout, not a Stout? The answer? When it is Old Ford Export Stout!

Black as the pits of hell with the fires out! Big latte coloured head with an aroma that is fruitily reminiscent of a Black IPA. If this is a Stout then it is bloody well hopped! There is indeed LOADS of roasted malt flavour with bitter coffee in the mix, but this is as hoppy as a wallaby! A fabulous beer, but as a stout, it is verging on Black IPA territory – and none the worse for it! In short, a bloody excellent BIPA. Those expecting the comforting roasty notes of a well made Stout, be prepared for a surprise!

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4. Kooky GoldOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 4.2% abv – Golden Ale – £2.60 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

(Note current offer of 15% off online & in shop – not sure how long that offer will last!)

Since meeting the lovely Michelle (Basically, she didn’t yawn when I waffled at her for a couple of minutes on the Manchester #Twissup), I was determined to get my maws on a couple of bottles. The problem was, that I would normally source them from Damian, but Manchester Markets are out of season! I was delighted to note therefore,  that my pals Dan & Gina were stocking a few of Crewe’s finest. Problem solved!

Pale gold and lively with a white head emitting a lovely gentle toasty marmalade aroma. Medium bodied, smooth and easy drinking with more orange marmalade coating a light biscuit base and caressing the mouth with its juicy malt before a gentle fruity bitterness sways into view, followed eventually by a nice dry piney finish. A brilliant light, juicy and sessionable refreshing beer. Result. Just need to see more on draught now. Er…Dan?

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5. Session Pale Ale – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 3.5% abv – Pale Ale– £2.13 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

With that 15% off offer, this was a BARGAIN!!!

Deep gold verging on amber with a white head and a nose of gentle grapefruit, peach and mandarin. Medium bodied for such a light abv beer, really fruity with all of the above playing their part supported by a nice light spongey cake base, bit like a Jaffa cake (but without the chocolate!). A beer has rarely been so aptly named!

This is really well-balanced, refreshing and fruity with the gentlest of bitter finishes followed at the rear of the mouth with a waft of fresh spring grass in the aftertaste. Another superb refreshing beer. Nary a bottle by Blackedge for ages, then (like buses in the countryside), two in two weeks!

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6. GovindaCheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8% abv – IPA – £4.50 – inc discount – BARGAIN (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

With the under note on the bottle saying “Centenary Gyle Head Brewers Reserve”, this held out the promise of being something special. I like Shane Swindells’ beers. A lot. But heavy hopping with British hops?

Beergasm Alert! A deep amber coloured beer supporting a persistent clinging white head and yielding quite a honeyed fruity aroma. Really smooth and full-bodied this. The initial flavour impression is quite forest fruity with a little hint of hiney (or honey, if you like!), quickly followed by a tidal wave of grassy hop, but without the resinous nature of New World hops.

I think that the aim with this was to make a classic, heavily hopped, British IPA. Now, I have never hit the high seas to India, nor – to be fair – am I ever likely to, but this would be more than worth a sup as it hit the sub-continent quaysides! A triumph of a beer. Would have been easy for Shane to bang a load of C hops in, but this is SUPERB! Definite Bottle of The Year contender!

If Shane is right and this improves with age, I’m DAMN glad I’ve got another to lay down. Could be a classic!

Well, that’s it for another week. Still recovering, in truth, from a week working in London. Not to mention the visit to a pub or two! (write up to follow)

However

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 2 – Manchester, So Much To Answer For

“If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground,

As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight.

Far from home, Elephant Gun let’s take them down one by one….”

(“Elephant Gun” – Beirut)

(Video courtesy of 4AD Records on You Tube)

About 4 years ago, I subscribed to a music download website called E-Music. I’d gotten bored with buying cheap compilations whilst supermarket shopping. Through this website, I rediscovered my love of music but in particular, guitar led music. It was though E-music that I discovered the delights of Spoon (from Austin, Texas), The Decemberists (Portland, Oregon) and Beirut (Albuquerque, New Mexico via New York)

I gleaned from the website that Elephant Gun was a popular track by this band, it was therefore the first that I sampled. I was, quite simply, blown away. Part Mexican marching band, part Eastern European village folk and the most lovely warm and slightly sad voice. That voice is Zach Condon. He is Beirut and played most – if not all – the instruments on that album “Gulag Orkestar”. I was even more flabbergasted when I learned that he wrote most of these songs and arrangements when he was about 16 years old! A young man with an old soul. I love them. The 2nd album “The Flying Club Cup” is more than worth a listen too!

Time for business. The business being beer!

Being a bit of a contrary old git, I hit upon a fantastic idea. Why not write a post about Manchester bottles, whilst firmly ensconced in that there Big Smoke? Yeah, brilliant, until you need to add the weight of 5 bottles and a laptop to the considerable luggage that I was already taking! Silly boy! But, here we are. Never said that I wasn’t an idiot!

Now normally, I do try to post on the E of Eight O’Clock on the Saturday morning (you really can’t beat a bit of morning regularity!), however, my schedule was a bit set back when the hotel “tidied up” the glasses that I brought down from Manchester. They went walkabout for 3 days! Hence, when you view the image for the Elephant Hawk, I was drinking out of tumblers!!! Enough waffling…….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……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. Elephant Hawk IPA – (Collab) Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) & Thirst Class Ale (Richard Conway) – 6.4% abv – IPA– £4.59  – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The inspiration for today’s rather exceptional (IMHO) tune! I’ve met Richard (Jay’s collaborator) on a couple of occasions, nice bloke and another of these devilishly talented members of the Manchester Homebrewing Group. Jay, being an exceptionally talented alechemist himself, has a rather canny knack of choosing excellent collaborators, had he done it again?

An amber (indeed) coloured beer, white head and a big citrus fruit aroma loaded with sharp grapefruit. Then, in the mouth, BOOM! Really full-bodied and fruity with a big caramel biscuit backbone supporting HUGE hops! Hugely piney with more than a hint of apricot to my gob, this is a BIG beer. Gorgeously bitter with and aftertaste that is grassy as hell, big, sticky resins clinging on. A simply superb collaboration! I missed it on cask, but reliable intelligence reports (Arch-Nemesis!) said it was tremendous. I just hope Jay brews it again!

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2. Porter – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Porter– £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“I got a feeling, feeling. You’ve got me rocking and a reeling”! (Sorry, listening to The Four Tops whilst typing!)

Got this as part of a 2 for a £5 offer from Raj, but left this one a while having really enjoyed their IPA. The Darkside was calling the night before I left for London.

A deep ruby brown colour with a thick creamy (texture & colour) head, yielding an aroma including spice and mocha. A full-bodied beer, really smooth and creamy textured, the first flavour that I hit reminded me of chocolate ice cream, then a nice mid strength bitter chocolate with a little choccy caramel sweetness luring you into a quite hoppy and bitter finish. Nice resinous aftertaste too. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Excellent!

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3. Black PortBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.9% abv – Stout – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

Draught cask ale? Loads. But nary a bottle from this Horwich brewer. But bottling commenced before Xmas, I’d just been lazy. The night before I travelled down to reside in this Thames Side hotel for the last week, I hit upon the theme for this blog post, but was missing two Manchester area bottles…..To the rescue came Dan Buck from Great Ale Year! He’s a top bloke!

A black beer (“no shit Sherlock”, I hear you groan!), hugely lively with a massive cream coloured head with a chocolate and slightly sweet boozy note – the Port perhaps? Medium-bodied with initially chocolate in the mouth with some sweetness from the Port coming through. Then my rather defective tastebuds thought they got a sweet touch of strawberry! Later mouthfuls reached the developing big chocolate rounded off by a substantial hoppy character. Well. Defective tastebuds or no, I loved this! More please!

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4. FCB – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.6% abv – Bitter – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I llove Rik Garner’s beers, almost as much as the funky soulful tuneage he blasts out in his DJ sets in his railway arch brewery cum live venue cum nightclub! Keep an eye out for his once a month open nights, they’re superb!

Amber coloured beer with a nice fluffy white head clinging on with an aroma of peach and tangerine with some grassyness. Quite medium bodied for the strength with more hints of peach or nectarine, a little orange and a tiny hint of raspberry, quite a degree of bitterness with a nice pineyness (a word?) to it. The finish is bitter with a crackling resinous pine aftertaste. Another belter. This could develop into a standby beer – my ultimate accolade, as I rarely drink the same beer twice! (But I’m not a ticker. Oh No!)

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5. Dubbel – Tickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 6.5% abv – Belgian-Style Dubbel – £2.89 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another from Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent stall on Bolton Market. I need to visit more and keep up with their expanding range!

A really deep ruby coloured beer with quite a fruity sweet nose with a hint of chocolate. Quite refreshing for such a relatively high abv beer, medium bodied, there is a bit of boiled sweet in this as well as some fruity plum and a little spicyness which becomes more prominent in the aftertaste and the lingering tingle in the gums. I like TB and this was the one beer that I held back on, unsure if I’d like a dubbel – not sure I’ve tried many to be fair, but this is my favourite of their beers so far.

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6. Cuckoo Number 7 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Bergamot & Peppercorn Saison– £4 (500ml) – Prestwich Beer Festival but also (possibly) Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

I first sampled this whan that nice man Darren Turpin (accompanied by the lovely Jo, opened the bottle that he purchased at the Prestwich beer Festival. I really enjoyed the taste that I got, but yearned for a somewhat larger measure. So I bought one!

An effervescent golden beer with a floral aroma and a hint of fruity peach, the head diminishing rapidly. That lovely delicate aroma leads you to a full body and more floral notes (that’ll be the bergamot then!) with more tropical fruit. The slight surprise (which shouldn’t be really!) comes when the gums start to tingle. Ahh…those lovely peppercorns! This beer has it all. A certain Belgian yeastyness, lovely and fruity, delicate bergamot and tingling spice. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!

So there you go. My idiocy in carrying an additional 10 Kilos or so of weight in my luggage is laid bare. All to be a bit perverse and laud Mancunian Beers in “Craft Central”! Was it worth it?

On that note…’til next time…(Notes from my week down here)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 1

“You’re holding me back. I wonder why, you do me like that,

But you keep on holding me back. You keep on putting your foot on me,

But I, I’ve got to break away, somehow and someday,

‘Cause I wanna be somebody so bad, so bad, I wanna be somebody, I wanna be somebody so bad.”

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

(Tune courtesy of “maxitaxiphone” on You Tube)

The first time that I heard this tune was in a sample entitled (simply) “Interlude” on the Cypress Hill album “Black Sunday”. I always wondered where the slinky soul groove came from. Then I picked up a copy of Mojo magazine with the free CD “Soul Riot” (strangely, just about the time I bought the Sly Stone album “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” – a classic) and got the true picture. SUCH a truly great tune (and under the radar for many) that deserves recognition for its deep soul groove and lyrics depicting the struggles of Black Americans in the 60s and early 70s.

What brought this up was a Meet The Brewer back in September at the Salford Arms with Rik Garner of First Chop Brewing Arm (read here), in particular, how he came to the name of the first beer listed below, named after the artist who recorded one of his favourite albums of all time, Syl Johnson. Click on the tune above and just …….

Time for business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next! If you haven’t……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. SYLFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 6.2% abv – Black Jaggery IPA – £3.20 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

The story of the naming of this beer just works so well for me, well, you know my love of music & beer interacting! However, as said many times before, it only resonates if the beer is any good! (NB : I believe that Jaggery is an unrefined Indian sugar – sure Rik will correct me if I’m wrong!

Black and lively with a creamy coloured head like a latte and a lovely aroma like crystallised rum, molasses and sweet chocolate. Full-bodied and initially bitter chocolate and gently sweet. Then in come the hops like a police raid on TV, booting down the doors to the palate! The finish is oh so dry and hoppy/grassy with a little lingering bitter chocolate and a loitering resinous aftertaste. Simply a superb Dark IPA! (Man spins a mean piece of vinyl too!)

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2. Thunderstruck – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (500ml) (Possibly £3.50)  – The Ale Man (Manchester)

As I have said previously, like many bloggers, I get some stuff to try for free. Being a beer blogger, that tends to be….you get the picture. I always say the same thing, If it’s good enough, I’ll review it. If not, a quiet word in the shell will suffice with a reason why. This was one such passed by Damian O’Shea a while back.

A light haze on this deep gold beer. Lively wee bugger too with monstrous white head. Spicy nose with a little orchard, maybe raspberry on the nose. Decent smooth mouthfeel, really refreshing with orange peel, what feels like coriander and a nice hoppy grassy bite in the finish. For me, the best I’ve had from this Suffolk brewery. Really nice refreshing wheat beer.

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3. Moor TopBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2 (part of a deal) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I don’t think that I’d had anything by Buxton prior to popping into The Beer Shop in Heaton Moor about 18 months ago (just prior to starting to blog). I was lured into a swift half whilst browsing. I fell in love! Not had a bottle though….

Hopped with Chinook, this is a pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head giving up a lovely & subtle – yet distinct – grapefruit aroma. Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth with more of that there grassy grapefruit. Really refreshing but with an assertive bitterness teamed with a really nice fruity and resinous finish. The first beer I had on draught from Buxton and just as good in bottle as on draught. And that is high praise indeed.

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4. 01/02 (Amarillo & Orange) – Brew By Numbers (Bermondsey, SE London) – 5.6% abv – Saison – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

May I start by saying that I’m not sure Saisons are “my bag”. Not sure that I really understand quite what they are “for”. I mean, I know that they were made in the Benelux countries and Northern France and were meant to slake the hardest of farm workers thirsts, but…Maybe I’m just a simple soul. However, sometimes I just enjoy a beer for what it is. Here’s one such beer that I was persuaded to buy by its incorporation of my favourite hop, Amarillo!

Straw coloured and highly effervescent with an abundant white head giving off some orange and a distinctive funky note with a bit of fizzy sherbet. Mmmm….The amarillo (bias declared!) is certainly present & correct in this beer. I was just about to note the spicy wheaty characteristics of this, then I noticed that wheat flakes were used! Nice medium-bodied, prickly on the tongue with those bubbles and a nice orange citrus tone drawing you forward to the dry bitterness of the finish with some of that light spice mingling in the aftertaste with the sticky hops. A nice refresher.

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5. Big ChiefRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj’s burgeoning shop. The selection seems to widen and improve week by week to the extent, that some weeks, you can’t move for case upon case of freshly delivered beer! Busy and deservedly so.

I haven’t had much in the way of Redemption (beer or otherwise!), and none at all in bottle, but what I have had has been superb, especially the low-abv Trinity and their Fellowship Porter, both superb beers. The bottle has a head start for me, old-fashioned and substantial. However, opening the bottle showed that the contents were far from old-fashioned!

A “London Murky” adherent? Look past the haze! Quite a hazy deep golden beer with a white head that is hanging around! Big citrus aroma sticking its head out of the foam. Nice big malty base for this beer with a bit of caramel biscuit to hang these hops on. And hops there are! Nicely bitter and fruity with big sticky resins in this. Manages the trick of sliding down real easy whilst feeling bigger than it is! Just the right amount of sweetness for balancing against the bitterness. Nice smooth and full-bodied. My first bottled Redemption will NOT be my last!

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6. Rum In The BlackWilson Potter (Middleton, N Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Stout – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another shop with an increasingly impressive range (increasing in size too!). It’s great to see what looks like a success story happening in my own town. I’m hoping that in a couple of weeks, that they’ll be able to officially let the drinkers spread out onto the tables outside in the market food court. Makes sense to use the tables provided to fullest extent! Nice to see some Wilson Potter in the range. A little birdie tells me that there may be some coming on draught too?

Darkest brown to black beer (you can only tell when held to the light) with a tan head and a lovely chocolatey aroma! Ooh but this is damned fine! Medium bodied with a lovely initially chocolatey mouthful giving way to something I do love in a stout. Nice bitter hoppage! There’s something else there too that my palate can’t quite ID, a little sweetness maybe from the rum? Molasses maybe? Whatever it is, this is up there with their recent pales for me – given my love of all things dark! A lovely roasted and hoppy finish too. Lovely!

It’s now 01:50 on Saturday morning. This blog is done and so am I! Next week will be spent working away in that there big city with, one hopes, the odd bar or two featuring?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!