Bolton Beer Festival (CAMRA) – 24 & 25/04/2014

“The Lord above made liquor for temptation, to see if man could turn away from sin.

The Lord above made liquor for temptation but, with a little bit of luck,

With a little bit of luck, when temptation comes he’ll give right in!”

(“With A Little Bit Of Luck” – My Fair Lady)

(Clip courtesy of  shanmugamlakshmanan – You Tube)

Is My Fair Lady the greatest musical of all time? For me, indubitably! How can you fail to be charmed by Jeremy Brett (one of the better TV Sherlock Holmes) singing   “On The Street Where You Live“? (Surely one of the greatest musical songs of all time itself.) “I Could’ve Danced All Night”? Wouldn’t It Be Lovely”? “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”? Is there a greater run of classic songs in any film? Lerner & Loewe in fine form. If I had a minor quibble, it would be Julie Andrews’ Broadway Soundtrack voice over Audrey Hepburn (who didn’t actually sing the role, utterly ravishing though she is!)

Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White, the stunningly beautiful Audrey Hepburn and, for me the life & soul of the movie, Stanley Holloway!

This was (so far as I am concerned) the greatest album in my wife’s collection that I inhaled into my collection when we got married. It wasn’t even hers either! Philip Wakerley, take a bow sir!

The inspiration for the inclusion of these clips comes from a conversation at the office that featured a pub quiz question from last night “Who is the only man to have won both an Oscar AND a Nobel Prize? A: George Bernard Shaw!

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A brief (for me!) review.

I blame Dan & Gina. It was all their fault. Really it was. I mean, putting temptation in the way of a boy utterly without willpower! I live in Bolton. There is a Beer Festival AND I have Friday off? I simply HAD to go to The Ukrainian Club, didn’t I?

Well, that was part of it. The other part was that Revolutions had put the message out that there was a cask of Manifesto at the festival. Those oh so nice Bolton CAMRA people!

Let me get my one disappointment out of the way. I REALLY wanted it to be in the club. I’d never been in, you see, and I made the assumption….(Assume = Ass U Me!)

The festival was held in what appeared to be like a little “function room” annexe to the Club itself, fairly rectangular, with the entrance and “facilities” at one end and a performance stage at the other and the long – firkin festooned – bar to the left side upon entry.

The beer selection for this bijou festival was mightily impressive! Yes, the best of the most local breweries were represented, with Blackedge, Deeply Vale, Dunscar Bridge, Bank Top, Brightside et al, but there were some impressive “foreign” breweries represented too, including my favourite bottled beer of 2013, Revolutions Manifesto strong stout.

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For drinking purposes, I went along with Atilla on Thursday, primarily to ensure a pint of Manifesto as a number of people who’d been there from opening time tweeted me about how much they were enjoying it. I call it “winding me up”!

To be honest, for the small size of venue, it was disappointingly quiet. The beers that Graham Walsh & the crew had put on were superb, I couldn’t understand it! Made for a really comfortable evening and lots of opportunity to chat with some top people like Dan, Gina and the anarchic Beerhound himself, Tyson. How I envy his verbal economy!

With about 50 beers on draught (about 25% of which were on handpull) I got the chance to sample most of my “priority beers” which were all in perfect condition (and temperature!). These were…

Revolutions Brewing Co  Manifesto (6%) – Black as Hades, rich,deep and luxurious. A big old body with roasted coffee, tobacco, licorice and a balancing bitterness with a hint of bitter chocolate. Everything I wanted and more….More than worth the wait. (Just wish it could have been through a sparkler!);

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Mallinsons Indulgence (3.9%) – Pale gold, a feast of citrus hoppiness from the mistresses of Pale Ales, so sharp and zesty without being a punch in the kisser. Beautifully balanced and so refreshing;

Geltsdale Brewing Co – Sno – A Scandinavian White Beer (a style I can’t say I’m familiar with!) A floral and fruity aroma to this pale beer, fruity and refreshing in the mouth with a dry hoppy finish. recommended to me by Dan if memory serves. (Never had this Cumbrian brewery’s beers before. One to look out for.)

I also worked a session (for 3 hours) on the Friday. First time I had volunteered for a CAMRA festival in over 25 years (when Bolton Beer Fest was the Great North West Beer Fest and it was held on Silverwell Street, remember that anyone?), warmly welcomed and with minimal instructions (I do like a bit of trust!) I was on the bar. 3 hours of fun!

For a short while, I was by far the youngest behind that bar, which felt ever so slightly weird! Then I met Shaun from Wigan Branch, a top bloke who both knew his beer and entertained me for the rest of the evening!

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 I do love working behind a bar and this was good fun. Hard work, but fun. The beers were all in tip-top nick too and perfectly cool given that the room was warming up with more bodies. (Note to self : wet towels on casks still work!)

On my section of the bar, the beers getting the most hammer were – in order:

Dunham Massey – Porter (unsurprisingly, being National Champion Winter Beer 2014); the superb Tipsy Porridge Stout by Deeply Vale and –  towards the end, Railway Porter by Five Points Brewery. (Really fond of that last two me!)

It was nice to finally meet the International man of Mystery that is Deeekos, made my festival did that (thanks again to Dan for identifying him for me!)

This was an excellent bijou wee festival. Small in scale, but big on selection & heart. Nice to be able to hear the chatter of conversation too, without the distraction of a live band. Beer and conversation….there’s a thought! An excellent local festival. Well done Bolton Branch and, in particular Graham, Linda, Pete (Norman Collier) Kobryn and Gill for a) a great fest, well organised and a great beer selection and b) making me feel welcome.

There. I said it would be brief (for me!)

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 4

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team,

or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” Frank Zappa

(Nicked without ceremony from the excellent website www.aswiftone.com)

“Between lightning and thunder, 3 seconds the gap. A warm candle glow keeps this wood room from black,

My cat, she sleeps on an old clippy mat, purring out echoes of faint pitter pat,

As the rain pours down in the yard. Rain, that most haunting sound.

Rain, makes beautiful music and rain brings peace upon all whom it pours.”

(“Rain” – Martin Stephenson & The Daintees)

(Video courtesy of  GTG5573 on You Tube)

No link to a beer this week for the song. This choice was inspired by just looking outside of my window as I started typing!

Some songs and albums just speak of a time in our lives. Some, not many, can do that and remain timeless. One such album (for me) is Boat To Bolivia by Martin Stephenson & The Daintees. It speaks of a time when this particular young man was a-courtin’ the young lady who was to become (and remains) my wife of nearly 25 years (she’s eligible for parole next year!)

Released in 1986, it is choc full of timeless songwriting. Tackling some heavy duty subject matter with a lightness of touch, from Crocodile Cryer through to Rain – (and the reggae inflected bonus title track), this is songwriting to simultaneously wallow and delight in. Just a joy, and one of the few albums my dearest brought into the marriage that we agreed on! Ah. The memories of my darling hobbit – all 4’8″ of her- having to sit on my shoulder so she could see the band at The International II in 1989! Priceless. A great album, often overlooked. Get on Spotify and have a listen!

Anyway – On to the beer eh?

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Pale – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.69 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Beautifully carbonated and as gold as a Yukon wet dream, with a white head and a pacific hop aroma that makes me want to break out the grass skirt and dance a hula!

Making me drool. Seriously drool! Oooh Matron! Sharp. Really sharp in the mouth with enough grapefruit to start a fruit shop. A really bold beer! Light to medium-bodied, the initial fruitiness is immediately followed by a bitterness tsunami, crested by piney resins, like white foamy horses stamping around your mouth.

Hugely refreshing and full of flavour, go buy one and treat yourself. Oliver Turton done good. Again.

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2. The IPA – Anspach & Hobday (Bermondsey, S London) – 6% abv – IPA – £3.35 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A new one to me, this brewery. However, having read some recent “Bermondsey Mile” posts, including one by my beery buddy TysonTheBeerhound I was expecting something interesting, to say the least. This also came with a “Raj Recommendation” too, so, if it was crap, HIS reputation was on the line with me! So…

An enticing deep golden/amber coloured beer with a lasting white head and restrained fruity yet slightly spicy aroma that carried a buttery note. Intriguing…..

Oh boy does this come alive in the mouth with the hops (Centennial, Galaxy & Columbus) singing loud and proud! Big boned ole beer this, with a good toffeeish malty spine augmented with some ripe orange marmalade leading on to a healthy helping of apricot (2 of your 5 a day in one glass. Result!).

Really smooth this, but certainly punching all of its 6% weight. The bitterness is fairly restrained but what there is, is pounced upon by a big sticky resinous finish. Big. Full-flavoured. And the head clings to the glass to the end. Classy IPA.

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3. Lupy As A Toucan (Amarillo, Citra, Galaxy, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 – 15% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Last Tuesday, I received some intel that a firkin of Deeply Vale’s Tipsy Porridge Stout had been tapped at Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent wee micro bar. Being like a lemming faced with a cliff….It was all lush too…DV8 barrel aged in 20 yr old Bruchladdich cask….A Beergasm…. Whilst there – just before I left – this puppy caught my eye, One of Shane Swindells’ “Lupy” range that I was yet to try….

A deep gold beer with a full white fluffy head and a hugely fruity aroma with peach and pineapple sweetness in the vanguard, Um Bongo time again!

In the mush…. Mmmm…Really fruity! The first mouthful yields a luscious peachyness upfront, then a full-on bitterness, feels like there’s more to this…so, peeling back another onion layer….orange and tangerine, followed by that wave of bitterness again. This is another lovely beer…Oops..another layer…some mango too. Then that bitterness as night follows day….Really dry bitter and grassy finish to this too. Another cracker from Mr Swindells in “The Congo” (Rhymes with “Um Bongo”…No? Ach nuts! I’m no poet. And I know it!)

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4. Niamh’s Nemesis – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.7% – Strong Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery – 0 – 

Is there a pub out there that would do me a favour, near Manchester. Get some of this beer in!

This was among 13 other bottles that I liberated from Malcolm Bastow’ s boxes when I recently popped in to collect some casks for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer Festival. Thank you Malcolm! (On a winner immediately with the Gaelic name!)

A golden beer with a nice white lacy head and an aroma bursting with grapefruit and apricot tartness.

Really fruity again this. Full of body, with a light biscuity malt, bitter fruitiness gatecrashes in with more grapefruit and some nice tart gooseberry (hopped with Nelson Sauvin & Cascade). Fruity mouthful after fruity mouthful, this is one superb Pale Ale. I could swear I got a taste of rhubarb in there too…..

Each mouthful is followed by a good strong bitterness and the finish is really dry with those piney beasties just lurking around the corner in that aftertaste, for the unwary. This is really easy drinking, perilously so at the strength. Another corker from Outwood!

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5. Mystery Beer 002 – Craft Rebellion (Who knows?) – 5.9% abv – Milk Stout – £0 (500ml) – 0 – Direct by mail

Nice shape to this bottle! The second beer to try that I’ve received from this shop. The idea of the Mystery being that you try it and see if you can figure who it is. Of course, I’m rubbish, ‘cos I’d never have had the 001 (Saison) as Partizan! Saisons may not be my personal luggage of choice….a Milk Stout however….

“Oooooooh….STOP!” (Listening to “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies as I drink this!)

Impenetrably black. (Always a good start with a stout!) A beautifully full cappucino coloured head and a nose full of…freshly roasted coffee!…Yummy!

Bloody hell this is SO good! The first thing I get is a full-bodied, creamy smooth mouthful with that bitter coffee, like the reveille being sounded on Sgt Bilko, eye-opening!

Then, like another one of those onion layer things….that lactic sweetness pops its head out and says “Hello!”  This is lush! That milky sweetness slips down oh so beautifully and reveals something slightly warming as it slides. The finish for this is slightly sweet with that bitter roast for balance. A cracking Stout!

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6. Smoked Porter – Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) / Northern Monk Brew Co (Holbeck, Leeds) – 6% abv – Smoked Porter – £1.80(I think!) (500ml) – Saltaire Brewery Bottle Shop

Another collaboration from those nomadic monks, this time staying a little closer to their Yorkshire roots. (Should be brewing in their own brewery in Holbeck about now!). Have enjoyed each beer thoroughly so far, I couldn’t see a collaboration with the reliably excellent Saltaire being any different!

Almost totally black beer with a latte coloured head and an aroma with some treacle toffee and a gentle whiff of wood smoke.

This is full-bodied and really silky smooth in the mouth (oat malt). Slightly sweet, there is definitely something of the bonfire about this beer, treacle toffee certainly and a definite subtle smokiness. There is a gentler bitterness to the finish, quite dialled down on the scale, but nonetheless, there is a grassy note in the finish along with that subtle smoke. It’s a cool evening tonight and this is perfect! Please brew this again fellas, this autumn would be nice!

Another cracking batch there. Next post might be a wee brief review of the CAMRA Bolton Beer Fest from this weekend.

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

The Road To Wigan Beer – Easter 2014 – 19/04/2014

Edna Million in a drop dead suit, Dutch pink on a downtown train.

Two dollar pistol but the gun won’t shoot, I’m in the corner in the pouring rain.

Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup,

Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon; I can’t stand up.”

(“Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits)
(Video courtesy of Kenneth Sutherland on You Tube)

Tom Waits. Not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but SUCH a great songwriter. I love him. So There!

Take the following ingredients…

1 sunny day, 1 train, 1 bus, 6 excellent pubs (including my Pub of the Year 2013!), multiple award-winning beers. Mix vigourously. What do you get? Read on!

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I had been looking forward to this day since the previous event last October, so, when Allgates announced that not only would there be a “Road To Wigan Beer” spanning the Easter holidays, but that the bus would be touring their pubs again, it was an event that I simply couldn’t miss! With permissions both sought and granted by Mrs BM (a saint of a woman!), I reserved seats for both myself AND the Arch-Nemesis….If it was anything like last year, I might need support near the end!

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Catching the train on a magnificently sunny spring day (for Walkden), the carriage swiftly became rammed with Bank Holiday sand seekers, en route – presumably – to Southport. Standing room only! By the time we got to Wigan Wallgate, it was that warm ON the train, I was only too glad to get off. At this point, I realised my morning error. I hadn’t had a drink of any kind whatsoever since the previous evening. That first pint couldn’t arrive soon enough!

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The Anvil (Dorning Street, next to Wigan Bus Stn) is the Allgates Brewery tap (being a 2 minute stroll from the brewery) and whilst being fairly open plan, has the feel of a multi-roomed pub, bright with lots of light it has 7 handpumps dispensing Allgates own beers and varied guest ales. Multi-award winning (check out the certificates on the wall just past the bar!) this is one busy pub, so I was quite surprised to find a table free for the arch-nemesis & I to rest our weary bones!

Now, you may recall a recent post where David (Brewery Co-Owner) and myself went “over the hill” into the land that time forgot (Yorkshire) and picked up loads of casks for this very festival (read here). The first beer I had today was the last that we picked up that day. A certain symmetry, no?

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Bourbon Milk StoutSonnet 43 Brew House (Coxhoe, Co Durham) A good strength to start with at 4.3%, this was pitch black with a lovely tight creamy tan coloured head. With a milky coffee aroma, this was full-bodied and luxuriously smooth, little lactic sweetness with more smooth milky coffee, just when you start looking for the bourbon, there is a slight boozy backnote. A slightly sweet yet gentle hoppy finish to this. Was really hoping to have this. A cracker to start with.

My thirst kind of…almost slaked, there was time for a swift half before the chariot was harnessed….

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BlondeAtom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) 4% abv. Pale gold with a nice fluffy white head and a slight fruity aroma, this came alive in the mouth. Light-bodied and quite tart with a gooseberry sharpness to it. Really juicy, refreshing and light. Wished I had time for a full pint! The usual well-kept beer that you expect from the Anvil…managed to have the briefest of chats with Andy Heggs from the excellent HopOnTheBike but the chariot had been harnessed….

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(our beery chariot!)

Disappointingly not as full as last year, quite a few less locals on board. But with the Bury Militia, mobilised by Ramsbottom’s own beery Ratko Mladic (aka the Legendary Tyson The Beerhound!), I was minding my Ps & Qs!

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The Crooke Hall Inn – (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground) This was the kind of day when The Crooke really can come into its own, owing to its fabulous location on the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It really is stunning in the sunshine. Having heard that Greg (the Landlord) had 9 handpumps fully loaded, guess who was first into the pub?

Now. There were a number of beers in the Festival menu that I REALLY wanted to try. One of them was the marvellous Sonnet 43 and another was on the bar here at The Crooke!

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Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – This was a beer in demand. So much so, that there was a logjam at the bar with only one pump in constant use! This forced Greg to ask the following question

Q. “Anybody want anything other than Shindigger?”

A. (Alan Wass – Wigan CAMRA Branch) “Yes”

Q. “What would you like?”

A. “Half of Shindigger please!”

Laugh? I nearly bought a round! But once I’d dabbed the laughter tears from my eyes, I could pay attention to the beer in front of me….

The Pacific Pale was a deep golden colour, almost amber in fact,  with a tight white head and a lovely citrus fruit aroma. Medium-bodied, it was so refreshing with really zingy citrus flavours. Dry and tart in the finish, it was excellent. What was even better was the price. £2.40 a pint. (TWO POUNDS FORTY PENCE!) Bloody marvellous!

I bent my head around the corner to tell Andy the price. I quickly turned to what I thought was the sound of a jaw hitting the floor!

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Now how pale do you like your Pale Ales to be?

LubelskiPictish Brewing Company (Rochdale, Lancashire) 4% abv – Single-hopped with the eponymous Polish hop, this was a lovely light, sharp and tart pale beer with more gooseberry notes. Medium-bodied and REALLY refreshing. The Arch-Nemesis has been banging on about Pictish for years. I’m now officially a convert!

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Just time for another swift half in this lovely multi-roomed pub with this fabulous location for summer days!

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Risky BlondeFool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) 4.4% abv – Brewed at The Hope Inn on the A6 in Stockport, I hadn’t even so much as sniffed a Fool Hardy beer until a recent bottle from Great Ale Year Round. This was my first encounter on draught, so I wasn’t leaving the Crooke until I had it!

A bit fuller-bodied than the Pictish, this was slightly maltier too. deep gold and another nice tight white head. Smooth and creamy textured in the mouth, this had a tart fruity edge to it too and a nice dry bitter finish. Lovely!

I must say that I REALLY tried hard to persuade Greg to join us again on the bus! But he manned the beery barricades like a trooper!

Back on the Magic Bus!

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Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley) – Bit of a Tardis is The Union! Looks quite dinky from the outside, but 3 distinct drinking areas with two bars front and back. Some of the guys had food in here and it looked bloody good! But, I only had eyes for beer at this stage!

Beyond The PaleElland Brewery (Elland, West Yorkshire) 4.2% abv – Not sure this was a Festival listed beer (the are 4 Elland beers listed), this was still a logical choice. Bloody glad I did too! £4.20 for TWO pints!!! Ludicrous pricing.

Bright golden beer, with a peachy aroma to my nose. Really refreshing again, fruity and bitter (Cascade hopped) with a tart grapefruit finish. Another cracker (Their 1872 Porter should be any beer drinkers “Bucket List”!)

As I finished the Elland, Was that a Black Jack clip being attached to a pump? Hmmm

New Deck – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) 4.2% abv – I know what to expect from the beers brewed by Rob Hamilton, quality hoppy pale beers. This was no exception! Tart and refreshing with big grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied and oh-so moreish. Really zingy, nice bitter finish and quite a pine needly aftertaste. Just YUM!

Ding Ding!

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The White Lion (Leigh Rd, Leigh)

Like Greg at The Crooke & the mighty Nigel at The Hare & Hounds, Harry is just SUCH a friendly Landlord who happens to keep a cracking pint in this 3 roomed pub in Leigh Town Centre.

Pale Ale – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv Well, the Blonde impressed me, so it would’ve been positively rude not to give the Pale Ale a try! Golden with a white head and a fruity aroma. Medium-bodied, fruity and zesty this fella! Nicely sharp, fruity and very refreshing with a sharp dry bitter finish. Another excellent beer from this “first-time” brewery for me.

At this point, a note on the festival. One of the things that draws me to Allgates pubs is the beer selection, Their own beers are excellent, the guest beers are selected from the best micros around. But the with the festival beers, David and the team make a point of searching out not only the best, but some of the newest breweries out there. Atom, for instance, have only been brewing since December 2013! And these beers are priced…how can I put it….ludicrously competitively! Some of these beers would be nearly DOUBLE the price you’d get them in Manchester! Sermon over. Back to the beer eh?

Chilli Plum PorterWaen Brewery (Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) 6.1% abv OK. So it’s NOT a festival beer! I don’t give a toss, this is just LUSH! Hellish good beer indeed! Black, satanically so. Beautiful chocolate aroma which carries on into the mouth, really smooth and full-bodied and fruity with the plum coming through, creamy almost. Lovely and soothing…then that heat at the back of the mouth! Woof! This is SUCH a good beer! If I needed to sell my soul….in a heartbeat!

Ding Ding!

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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley, Wigan)

What can I say. I’m biased when it comes to this wee 2 roomed boozer. I love it. So much so, that it was my Pub of the Year 2013. Why? It’s a feeling thing. It feels like the local that I never had. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Like a local should be. Nigel (mein host) also keeps a damned good pint! (Which helps)

Chocolate Cherry MildDunham Massey Brewery (Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire)

A deep reddy brown beer with a creamy coloured head and a chocolate and fruity nose. Ronseal beer alert! (Does exactly what it says…..) Initial chocolate on the tongue, followed by a layer of tart cherry, light bodied but really smooth and an easy drinking beer that you could do all day. The fruitiness of the cherries leads to a light bitterness in the finish. A beautiful beer. Nigel does love his darks. As do I!

Was damned sure that I had another beer in here, but without notes…..Doh! I’ll be back later in the week!

Ding Ding (I think even the dinger was getting tired by this point!)

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The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan) Effectively, the final stop – starting to feel the pace by now!

Classic two roomed local this. The main room was thronged by the time we got in. Nice and busy, added to by us lot wading in too!

Here, were two more of the breweries I was keen to try, especially as I’d help to pick up the beers! First off…

Gold – Stod Fold Brewing (Stod Fold, Nr Halifax) 3.8% abv A light fruity aroma to this golden (almost amber) beer. Lightly fruity in the mouth too, refreshing and easy drinking with a nice bitter finish. Really smooth session beer this. I want more.

A Day At The Races – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W Yorks) 3.9% abv – I could bore you to distraction about my love of Malcolm Bastow’s beers, but see my previous post here for that!

This straw golden beer had a big grapefruit aroma from its white head. In the mouth, lemon & grapefruit conspired to refresh my somewhat jaded palate! Really sharp, tart and refreshing. A beautiful light pale ale, as hoppy as a Watership Down screening. A nice piney aftertaste too. More Mosaic? Classy sharp beer to end the night!

Cracking hot pot supper in here, thanks to the pub. Lovely, just what was needed!

As much as the beer, the great pleasure of the day for me was just chatting to like-minded folk. Mark, the Wiganer now ex-pat in Edinburgh (on Rose St, the jammy bugger!), Andy Heggs, Tyson The (Legendary – Even Tandleman thinks so!) Beerhound, David Mayhall, Nigel, Greg, Alan Wass (thanks for the tears at The Crooke!) and more that my drink sozzled brain seems to have forgotten (sorry!). All great people with whom it was really lovely to chat. You made this boring old man smile, memories of which have made his birthday hangover seem worthwhile! To you all, a huge SLAINTE!

An even bigger thanks to Stig and his pals for laying on the bus, without which, you wouldn’t be reading this! Cheers fellas!

This festival lasts until next Sunday. At the risk of insulting you, you need to try at least two of these pubs! (The Anvil & The Hare are BOTH within 2 minutes of the Wigan – Manchester Victoria rail line – Evening return ticket? £2 – you’d save that on two pints!) Do your taste buds a flavour and get on that train!

Warning – This post may be added to later in the week!

But on that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 3

Johnny was an actor, oh you must have known? He wore his new Max Factor, nearly stole the show,

You go and tell me he’s not the only one. Ah, night creatures, strangest features, white faces and painted eyes.

Tongue teasers, oh you young deceivers, night creatures on your heels so high… “

(“Night Creatures” – Be Bop Deluxe)

(Tune courtesy of  “Notle Miroma” on You Tube)

One evening, some time in 1979, this particular 14-year-old boy was furtively listening (through earphones) to The John Peel Show on Radio One, when he played a track which caught my attention. I think it was “Art, Empire, Industry” by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. It blew me away with its energy and fizz, a melding of synthesizers and punk energy. I went to Virgin Records on Market St in Manchester and bought what I thought was the track I heard. The single I bought was “Revolt Into Style” and was the start of a love affair with all things Nelson.

Gradually, I learned of his previous band, Be Bop Deluxe. Emanating from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, they started out as a Glam Rock band with the album Axe Victim (from which the above track is taken) before making what – for me – is their masterpiece, Futurama. Containing the fabulously complex “Between The Worlds” and the short but mighty “Maid In Heaven”, the delicate “Jean Cocteau” (A Nelson hero) it’s a magnificent Rock album up there with any UK album of the mid-70s for me.

I’m not too big to say that I wept, the night I finally heard “Maid In Heaven” live, along with a whole host of Be Bop tracks when Nelson played a back catalogue concert in  Manchester a few years back, songs I never thought that I’d hear live, guitar solos I never thought I’d experience in the flesh. Bill self-records and releases these days and has a prodigious output, many tracks reflecting his futuristic wonder of the 50s and 60s (his childhood). But in the words of Bowie “Boy could he play guitar”

Moving swiftly on to the usual subject matter…bottled beers…

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Eastoft Elderberry Stout – Axholme Brewing Co (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Surprise! We start, with a dark beer!

Black beer with a creamy tan head and a delicate floral aroma with a roasty hint. Medium bodied, the floral characteristics come through in the mouth backed up by a smooth almost chocolatey roasted malt character. There is a pleasing light bitterness in the finish followed by a light herbal grassy note and a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste. An unusual yet really pleasant stout.

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2. Dark Hopfler – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 2.5% abv – Dark Milk Ale – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Knowing that Weird Beard like to name their beers after some kind of musical link, I am hereby making an assumption that this is some reference to Mark Knopfler. If so…

I HATE Dire Straits! Any tune by them reminds me of 1985, being stuck in a hospital bed (after having my nose fixed – not that you’d tell!) and I could hear was “Money For Bleeding Nothing”! On repeat. REPEATEDLY!!!

Moving swiftly on! This is a black beer with lively carbonation giving a fluffy latte coloured head with huge citrus hop aromas of grapefruit mingled with a really milky coffee.

Surprisingly full-bodied for such a light beer, not as thin as I would have expected at this strength. The hops are in your face with apricot and mango in the vanguard. This is followed by a very subtle milky coffee and a burnt toast undernote with a little lactose sweetness (just a little) creeping past the defences near the end. A sweet milky finish leads to quite a resinous finish. Dark Milk Ale just about describes it! Would love to try this on handpull through a sparkler!

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3. Anubis Porter – Raw Brewing Company (Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5.2% abv – Porter – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% off 12 Bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Shall we get the dark stuff out of the way eh?

Having had Raw on cask before, primarily at Joshua Brooks, I was keen to try this bottle that I picked up on the Opening Day (read here) of the Blackedge Brewery bottle shop!

Virtually black beer with a thin cream coloured head and a full chocolate and toffee caramel aroma. Mmmm….medium bodied, initial flavour was a nice bitter chocolate with a malty caramel toffee backbone, slightly sweet yet with quite a bite to it. For a non-bottle conditioned beer, this is excellent! This is added to with a pronounced bitterness from the hops and quite a grassy aftertaste with that deep chocolate toffee staying throughout. An excellent first bottle from a brewery that I’ve enjoyed on cask.

And now, for some lighter stuff!

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4. India Pale Ale (Amarillo) – The Kernel Brewery (Bermondsey, S London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.29 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

My favourite hop. In a single hop IPA. By one of the most renowned breweries in London. A no-brainer really when Raj pointed this bad boy out to me!

Hazy and dark golden beer with a white head and a full-on fragrant orange marmalade aroma, booking out of the glass! I took a moment to calm down.

Full-bodied (unsurprisingly) with rich sweet marmalade sliding all over the tongue, using it as its own playground, the marmalade doesn’t retreat in the face of a encroaching bitterness that’s really satisfying. The bitterness itself leads to a big resinous pine and fruity finish. Each mouthful left me wanting more! And I do want more.

A classy beer using my favourite hop to its maximum. Superb!

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5. Shipwreck IPA – Liverpool Organic Brewery (er..Liverpool!) – 6.5% abv – IPA – Swap with a colleague (500ml) – 0 – Direct from the Brewery

A colleague from the office (Cheers Dave!), picked this up whilst on a tour of the brewery last weekend, for which I am truly grateful. (The swap, was for a bottle of Saltaire/NMB Co Smoked Porter – a review of which, next weekend perhaps?)

Amber coloured beer with a light white head a toffeeish nose with a hint of fruit, maybe orange. Full bodied with big caramelly malt laying a base for the fruitiness of the hops, with more orange and peach for me leading to a good strong bitterness and a substantial fruity, grassy and pine aftertaste which tingles on the tongue. A really fruity big-boned beer this. Had this on draught at The Angel some months back, this is just as good.

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6. NZPA – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £3.75 (A swap) (330ml) – 0 – From the brewery shop

This, quite possibly, comes within my top 5 pale ales. I’ve had it on a number of occasions and wherever I have it (incl Wetherspoons) it is universally potent and tasty with booming fruity hops. I was chuffed to bits therefore, when my good pal (and colleague) Chris picked one up following a rather strenuous bike ride that started – and ended – in Staveley. Being a perfectly sensible chap, he nipped in the Beer Hall and (amongst other delights) picked this up for me. Damned fine fellow!

Just look at that colour! A beautifully bright golden beer with good carbonation, giving a generous lasting white head which yielded a beautiful citrussy aroma bursting with grapefruit, kiwi and a hint of mango.

This is every bit as lovely as the cask version that I’ve adored for so long! Full-bodied and smooth in texture the fresh tart citrus leaps onto the tongue with the grapefruit being the Silverback here, dominant and powerful without being overwhelming. An excellent assertive bitterness to this too, just like the cask version, which is followed by an aftertaste both dry and resinous. Every bit as good as on cask. Superb!

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7. Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (3 for £7.50) (330ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A disclaimer on this one. This was passed by this new Manchester area brewer  (currently “Gypsy Brewing” at Outstanding Brewery in Bury) for free via my buddy Dan at Great Ale Year Round. Usual rules applying. I only review if I enjoy it. And BOY did I enjoy it!

Firstly, the branding.

Plays to my prejudices with a slightly distressed looking blue and white combo, with their woven motif. Something in the back of my mind also has The Shindiggers being one of the earliest of Manchester gangs? (I’m probably wrong!) Either way, the name has a whiff of romance about it for me.

The beer? A deep gold with excellent carbonation and a lasting white head releasing aromas of citrus fruits, with apricot and grapefruit prominent. Mmmm…Really smooth considering it’s from the bottle. Really balanced too, with a good light biscuity malt backbone being ridden by lovely citrussy hops, with initially grapefruit then a more subdued tangerine or orange coming through. In later mouthfuls, I thought I got a lemon note too. Nice bitterness adding to this refreshing beer with a finish that retains the fruit but adds a substantial resinous pine dryness.

What an excellent beer for a first in bottle! (Will be seeking it out on draught on The Road To Wigan Beer tomorrow!)

Next up? The Road To Wigan Beer – Pt 3 (for me) – The pub crawl by bus! Tomorrow!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Life Begins At The Hop – 2 “Home-Brewed” Stouts

I have learnt there’s a magical spot at the hop. Come with me to the church on the corner the hop.

There’s nuts and crisps and ccc cola on tap. A good time had by the boys and girls at the hop.

Tell me what do you say? Tell me what do you say?

I tell you, life begins at the hop, boys and girls.”

(“Life Begins At The Hop” – XTC)

(Video courtesy of  “mondoprune” on You Tube)

Not that I’m stuck in some kind of Nick Hornby, High Fidelityesque mindwarp, but I do sometimes wonder “Who ARE my favourite British band of all time?” Once I accept that (Radiohead apart) there isn’t really a new UK guitar-based band that I have much time for, since…about 1980, I fall back on New Wave and pre-Punk rock music.

Almost every time, I end up with XTC. Never coming closer than a #10 single “Senses Working Overtime” (an excellent recent Pale Ale from Revolutions Brewing  BTW) and a #5 album (English Settlement) in the UK – they never sold the volumes that their inventive pop music deserved in this country whilst enjoying considerable commercial success on the other side of the world (#1’s in Australia, New Zealand and – of all places! – Japan with “The Mayor of Simpleton“)

From “White Music” in 1978, all the way through to “Wasp Star” in 2000 (the companion piece – and guitar led counterpoint – to 1999’s utterly lush and orchestral “Apple Venus”), there’s barely a missed beat. The greatest of shames is though, that due to the overwhelming stage fright suffered by co-frontman Andy Partridge, they ceased to tour in 1982. A great loss on my part, as I never got to see the band live. They continued to record and (following a major dispute with their label Virgin which lasted 6 whole years) self-released “Apple Venus” & “Wasp Star” before eventually, sadly, the two mainstays, Partridge and Colin Moulding drifted apart.

Get onto Spotify and listen to albums like “Skylarking” & “Oranges & Lemons” or delve further to “Drums & Wires” or “Black Sea”. Still sounding great after 35 years.

Without trying to sound TOO self-deprecating, it never ceases to amaze me when people send me beer to try. It goes without saying, that it also gives me massive pleasure when this happens too! A wee while back, Connor Murphy – he of the justly lauded “Beer Battered” (and rather cheekily subtitled “The Manchester Beer Blog”! Fight! Fight! Fight!) – passed me a couple of bottles of beer that he had brewed himself. A few weeks later, I was the proud recipient of another bottle of self-brewed ale – this time from Dave Harrison-Ward of Macclesfield and the rather nice “home-brewing” blog “Brews Implosion

Now then. This term “Home Brewing” and its derivative “HomeBrew” in no way does justice to the beers that people like these guys are making. Full malt mash, whole hops and a lot of inventive techniques and ingredients means that the beers made by the “Amateur Brewers” (my favoured term) of today, couldn’t be any further removed from the swill produced in the 80’s by the likes of my big brother, that led to lengthy seating on domestic thrones the length & breadth of the land!

In short – they’re making good stuff, which, if you’re not snoring already, you can read about ….now.

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Guatemalan Insanity Stout – Macc Brew Co (Dave Harrison-Ward) – 5.8% abvCoffee Stout (Recipe here)

I like Coffee Stouts being a fan of DarkStar’s excellent Espresso and having raved about Bad Seed’s amped up interpretation! But maybe next time, a little earlier than 9pm eh?

Black with a tan coloured head and good gentle carbonation giving up a very distinctive coffee aroma. This beer was really smooth and full-bodied thanks to the flaked oats in the malt bill. The initial chocolate malt sweetness leading quickly into a warming coffee bitterness which itself remains in the mouth for a while, coating the sides and eventually yields space to a quite hoppy coffee aftertaste which is more than pleasant.

A damn fine beer. Would willingly pay good hard cash for this. Just hope it doesn’t keep me awake! (It didn’t – I’ve recalled the hitman, Dave!)

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Chocolate Orange Imperial StoutConnor Murphy9.3% abv – (The name gives the style away, eh?)

With fresh orange peel and cacao nibs added in the secondary fermentation, AND my favourite hop in Amarillo, you know that this is going to be a “Ronseal Beer” right?

A deep black beer with a creamy tan head that is stubbornly clinging on! A full on chocolate & orange aroma! Really big body to this – as an Impy should be.

Holy shit! Can Orange be resinous? First flavour to assail is bittersweet orange with piney stuff following swiftly. Then we get to a bitter chocolate, then a roasted malt note, the chocolatey orangey sweetness carries throughout the beer and down the glass but isn’t cloying, just delicious, finishing with a surprisingly resinous orange herbal grassyness, like the best amarillo.

Nice warming feeling as it sinks too. As an Imperial should! I’ve had this a while. It would probably age well.

Superb. Would happily pay good hard cash for this too!  I’m not going to score these against each other, they are both fine beers in their own rights. Different styles for different stages of an evening. But both tug at my strings, being dark!

Both beers get the best thing that I could say. I’d willingly pay cash over a bar for both! Both full of flavour, with good body and mouthfeel.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know very little about what makes a commercial pro brewer,  but, to my uneducated taste buds, these beers are wasted just being drunk by their makers in their own front rooms! Good effort fellas!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

(Music & Title inspiration courtesy of a rather excellent pint of Revolutions Brewing’s “Senses Working Overtime” at Joshua Brooks. Music & Beer eh?)

(PS : The only competitor to XTC for me, being another band of the same era, but cut from a different cloth, Magazine)

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Part 2

” If you’re lonely, I will call. If you’re poorly, I will send poetry.

I love you. I am the milkman of human kindness. I will leave an extra pint”

(“The Milkman of Human Kindness” – Billy Bragg)

Isn’t it strange how some things just grab you? Strangely, I found myself in tears with this song. It gets me every time!

Many people look at Billy Bragg  and just think of  “that left-wing loony”, the rent-a-mouth who is rolled out every time that the press want a socialist to pass comment on events that they can sneer at. Let’s face it, few in today’s “Labour” Party fit that particular bill! But that view of Billy misses a huge fact. He is one of the greatest songwriters of my generation, in a kind of spartan way, up there with Costello for me.

What it also misses, is some of the great love songs he has written – just listen to “Must I Paint You A Picture” and see what I mean! Delicacy and poise, where all people expect is thrashing guitars and a snarl. It also misses the warmth of a live Bragg performance. Having seen him live on more than a few occasions now, my faith in human nature never fails to be partially restored on exiting the venue. The man gives a shit. And I love him for it. Rant over!

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles too!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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. Stout – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Stout – £4.20 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

It wasn’t so long ago that I hadn’t heard of Squawk or Oliver Turton, grateful to John Clarke the Sage of South Manchester CAMRA for bringing them to my attention. The first couple, (India Pale Ale & Porter) have been a superb start, so I leapt on this when I saw it on the opening day at BlackEdge Brewery’s excellent new bottle shop! (Read more here)

Black. (No shit!)

Not a massive head, but what there is is tan coloured. Bit worried about this, but needn’t have! The aroma is of a chocolate neither sweet nor overly bitter with an earthiness to it. Full-bodied, the beer has a slight sweetness with chocolate and a slightly bitter coffee note, really smooth and creamy texture with a finishing bitterness which is rather nice! The aftertaste has more of that roasted bitterness with a grassy hop note.  A great beer on a cool spring evening. Another cracking beer from this Manchester brewery!

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2. High TeaRoosters Brewery (Collab with Melissa Cole) (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 6.2% – Jasmine Green Tea IPA – £4.59 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

I read a lot about this Yorkshire brewery and, to be honest, I haven’t had much of their beer and when I have, it has been at the tail end of the evening, when – if I’m honest – the taste buds have been a wee bit over worked (ONE way of putting it!). Following a twitter conversation with David BishopI decided that I needed to give Roosters a try when I’m…err….sober. So…I alighted on High Tea..Jasmine…Melissa Cole…so far so good!

A pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head and a fruity aroma that I’m struggling to identify. Oooh this is nice! Full-bodied and smooth, a bready malt base supports this fruitiness that carries through with the green tea following in line.

The flavour reveals in onion like layers. First the fruitiness, then the tea and then a more floral delicate flavour reveals itself and after every mouthful there’s a drying bitter almost tannic finish with the fruitiness and the tea holding on throughout. If only green tea tasted this good on its own, I’d drink it!

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3. DBA – Cheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4.6& abv – Strong English Ale – £3.59 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Let’s hear it for a good old English ale! Personally, I would call this a strong bitter, a maligned drink in these “C-Word” obsessed times. I love New World hoppage as much as the next drinker, but I am starting to feel like traditional beer styles are being written off – a dangerous thing in my opinion. I love a good creamy Mild and a well executed bitter can be every bit as rewarding as a big IPA. Sod it, it’s all opinion eh? Shane Swindells is adept at many styles, so this was more than worth a dabble…

Mid brown beer with a white head and quite a fruity aroma, hedgerow fruit like damson and plum. Medium bodied, this is really fruity with lots of plum and a hint of blackberry and vine fruits – actually, with hints that are rather reminiscent of Vimto! – leaving a rather curious warming feeling given its relatively light strength. A proper strong English bitter, not something I drink much of these days, but I’d certainly drink THIS again!

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4. Dark Rum – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.6% abv – Porter – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% off 12 or more bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Another gleaned from my recent visit to the new BlackEdge Brewery outlet. A cracking place if you’re near Horwich (or even browsing around at Middlebrook!).

Unsurprisingly black with a light tan head and a chocolate and slightly smoky aroma. Oh yes! First flavour impression was of a treacle toffee, then that the treacle was coated in chocolate, then was soaked in some rum….layered like an onion!

Full-bodied and smooth, the light chocolate carries on through each mouthful but with each, the sweetness of the rum comes through more and more. The finish is quite dry and there is a distinct grassy hoppy aftertaste. Glad I waited for this. Superb. Need another bottle!

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5. Cuckoo Number 6 – Five Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, N Manchester) – 7% abv – US IPA – Swap (330ml) – 0 – Direct from the brewer himself!

I’m immensely proud that (I think) I was the first blogger to review one of the fine beers brewed by Jamie Hancock, ex of Port Street Beer House – now of Beermoth on Tib Street. He has now, commercially, brewed a number of beers in different styles that have met with almost universal acclaim – certainly within my earshot anyway! With a little investment in larger brew kit, he’ll be going far.And soon! You heard it here 41st!

I was gutted that I couldn’t make his Keg launch on Wednesday of a variant of his excellent Smoked Stout, I don’t say that lightly either. I was therefore forced into the welcoming embrace of this beer….. which was…

Deep gold with a lasting white head and an aroma with Lemon and maybe Apricot. OOH! Big dirty hoppage in here!

Big body with some jaffa cake marmalade sweetness immediately pounced on and wrestled to the ground by resinous hops! Fruity with orange and apricot in the bitterness, this is a full on flavoured beer, but again, really smooth and easy drinking.

Each beer Jamie makes just gets better and better. The finish is fruity and dry with that resinous afterteaste lurking in the shadows. A superb beer!

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6. 300Five Towns Brewery /North Riding Brewpub (Wakefield/Scarborough) – 7.3% abv – DIPA – £0 – 0% – Direct from the brewery

I’ve liked the beers made by Malcolm Bastow from the first sip. This man can brew on that 2.5 barrel kit in his “shed”. Beers from 2.9% to an Imperial Stout, all fabulous. Why pubs and shops over this side of the hill aren’t knocking down his door still phases me, only Allgates seem to have got the message about his beers. Wigan drinkers are lucky sods and there’s another 4 casks over here for The Road To Wigan Beer next week! If I had a shop or pub….. And don’t get me started about the tremendous beers made by Stuart Neilson  at his Scarborough brewpub!

Bright and pale gold with a nice white head and a huge mango aroma, really fruity, making my mouth water!

Really full-bodied. There’s plenty of bready malt lending a slight sweetness supporting a massively fruity hop charge, oh but this is HOPPY!  With bucket loads of mango dancing around my mouth, it was coated with a tropical fruity goodness. Mouthful after fruity mouthful!

This merits a #Beergasm and no mistake! A gentle, barely perceptible bitterness among the fruity hop assault leads to a  pine and big grassy finish. An absolute belter up there with any DIPA I’ve had.

“Let’s Give Them Something To Drink” Indeed!

A really strong batch of beers this week, but this is probably the best bottle I’ve had so far this year – and THAT is saying something!

Right then…I’m off for a cold shower!

On that note…’til next time…(The Road To Wigan Beer next week – on the bus!!!)

Slainte!

P.S. Given the recent excellent blogging efforts of  Glenn Johnson on Weight Loss whilst still drinking and the continuing excellence of Paddy McGrath, I have been shamed into following in their rather large footsteps and will henceforth be trying to lose weight whilst drinking excellent beer. At the end of each week’s bottle post I shall not how I’m doing and am doing this by merely curtailing my snacking habits.

Last Monday 07/04/2014, I weighed a ludicrous 17st 12lbs. This morning, I am down to 17st 3lbs. A good start I suppose!

Le Grand Tour – A Journey Around Yorkshire With Allgates Brewery – 05/04/2014

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“Pale blinds drawn all day, nothing to read, nothing to say.

Blue, blue.

And I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.

And I will sing, ‘Waiting for the gift of sound and vision’

Drifting into my solitude, over my head.

Don’t you wonder sometimes ’bout sound and vision”

(“Sound & Vision” – David Bowie)

(Video courtesy of theMusicofmyLife1 on YouTube)

Now David Bowie is not my all-time favourite performer – close, but not #1. However, he has solid claim to my favourite single AND album of all time.

The album? Low. The first album of the fabled “Berlin Trilogy” (the others being Heroes & Lodger), Side One is most certainly my favourite A-side of all time. Low is an album of two halves, Side 1 is (I suppose) the vocal side and has some of his most direct, yet lyrically obtuse songs. Side 2 is more ambient and almost classical.

The single? Sound & Vision. With it’s lengthy intro, whip crack drums as tight as anything Motown ever put out, Krautrock meets funk rhythm. It just moves me. Hugely.

Now …to the beer.

I like Allgates brewery. I may have said this once or twice, but repetition does not diminish the statement. For introducing me to their wonderful flavour packed beers, I need to thank the Arch-Nemesis who had been (and remains) a fan for some time. In my Golden Pints of 2013 (click the link if you’re curious), I gave them my Brewery of The Year (and one of their pubs – The Hare & Hounds in Hindley – my Pub of the Year). They make consistently tasty beer and are unafraid to experiment.

I have also professed my love for a number of Yorkshire breweries, but, in particular, Five Towns of Outwood, Wakefield. Malcolm Bastow, the owner/brewer makes some of the best hop forward beers that I know and again, is unafraid to experiment.

Where is this going? Read on!

Some time ago, knowing my love of Yorkshire beers, David Mayhall, the co-owner of Allgates, invited me to jump on their “dray” and pop over on one of their regular collection/distribution runs, with the promise of maybe meeting Malcolm….Of course, displaying my usual nonchalance …I nearly bit his hand off! Unfortunately, the planets took a while to align, but then, with the Allgates “Road To Wigan Beer” on the horizon, I was given the nod. So, last Saturday, I was up early, Like a kid on Christmas day!

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(Milltown Brewery, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield)

Having left at 8am, we were at the first stop at Milltown Brewery a little early. This was a quick pick up and drop off on the outskirts of Huddersfield prior to the collection of some empty casks from The Railway in Berry Brow. Next came a drop off and collection that I was looking forward to….

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I like the beers made by Hand Drawn Monkey, a lot! Hoppy and pale in the main, they are damned tasty. Lucky for me, that the pick ups were for the Road To Wigan Beer! Nice looking bar and bottle shop here with a good selection on both cask & keg, but, just my luck, not serving as – ostensibly – closed! Damn!

Now, where were we off next….a bit of a drive over to Halifax and Stod Fold Brewery….where’s that then….?

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Now then, who wouldn’t want to come to work with this kind of view on your doorstep eh? This felt like the back of beyond – and then some! But at the very end of this single track country lane lies a surprise!

Stod Fold FVs

(pic : http://www.stodfoldbrewing.com/)

A really modern brewery set-up with a cracking visitors bar! Stod Fold Brewing Company – The brewery appears to have only been releasing beers into the wild since last year. The kit is seriously impressive at 10 Bbl (brewers barrels) with all new kit purpose-built and manufactured locally in Halifax. We didn’t have too much time here, but, with a brew ongoing, the smells were utterly intoxicating! With some grist flow issues going on, I didn’t mither the brewer too much, he was a busy chap indeed, but once we loaded up the casks (destined for The Road To Wigan Beer…..), I snuck a peek into the room next door to the brew house…

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Stunning. Something that you would NEVER guess would lie at the end of a single track country lane! The pump clips were also a thing of beauty, slices of ash wood with the brewery and beer details laser cut into the wood. If the beer is even HALF as good as this set-up, I’m going to enjoy it hugely! (I think that I may have even got a future invite to pop along sometime!)

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Saltaire Brewery for another pick up. With the brewery being closed (my luck had run out for the moment!) we loaded the casks into the van. However, my luck wasn’t TOTALLY out! Is that a bottle shop?

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With Saltaire having collaborated with Dark Star, there were a few beers from this excellent Brighton brewery. Rude not to eh? That collab with northern Monk looks tasty too! Nice little shop, damned reasonable prices too! A tad over £20 for 8 bottles!

Next we had a few empties to collect and beers to deliver prior to the next and final brewery stop. A nice stop in Bradford at The Fighting Cock led to an interesting and damned tasty Pork Pie and mushy peas combo, with the pie swimming in the peas! New one on me, but nearly as tasty as the half of Two Roses Brewery 366 that I had whilst watching Bradford City fans glory in Wigan beating Leeds on TV! Nice and sharp was that beer, really citrussy and pale.

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A swift delivery to The Leggers Inn outside Dewsbury was a scenic diversion, being located in a canal basin. Shame we couldn’t have stopped longer!

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The final pub stop was at a very nice looking pub indeed, The Cricketers Arms in Horbury, Wakefield where we dropped off a cask of the recent Hop On The Bike collaboration beer “Yellow Jersey”.

Next, for me, the highlight of the day. Five Towns Brewery.

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Pretty much since I first was introduced to their beers by Adrian & Vicky Pettit at Yorkshire Ales, I fell under their spell. Pale (mostly) and very hop forward, I was stunned from the get go by his Peculiar Blue (Rhubarb & Ginger) and needed more! A love affair ensued with these Wakefield beers, made with obvious passion by Malcolm Bastow. When I realised that he was fully employed away from brewing, I was awestruck! How can someone make such great beer, effectively in his spare time?

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(The Brewhouse!)

The brewery is located…..at the back of terraced house on the outskirts of Wakefield! On getting there, we (David & I) were welcomed warmly by Malcolm and Beverley, his wife. I was immediately given a branded glass, complete with a bottle of a collaboration brew with the excellent Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub, Scarborough), 300, being a Double IPA.

Having loaded up the beer, Malcolm asked us if we’d like to pop downstairs to “the bar” for a chat. Little did I know….

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(Creative use of a cellar!)

Malcolm has been brewing commercially since 2008 having been an enthusiastic amateur brewer for a number of years (I HATE the term Home-Brewer, it doesn’t do justice to the full-mash brews that result from most!) and, after initial worries about selling his beers, he has never looked back, because, once his beers had earned their reputation, he sells everything he makes. No surprise there to me! He operates on a Porter Installations 2.5 BBl kit housed in the ‘shed’ at the bottom of the garden and manages to brew twice a week which works well with only having room for two fermenting vessels! This means that he puts out around 18 casks a week. some of which he bottles, leaving a limited supply for pubs.

His beers rarely get across the Pennines, so popular are they in their home county where they grace some of the best bars such as The West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, The Fat Cat in Sheffield, The Star Inn in Huddersfield and many others. The only place I’ve managed to sample his beers over here being The Hare & Hounds in Hindley, an Allgates pub!

I can’t say enough how much of a trick pubs and shops over here are missing by not getting these beers!

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(Malcolm and brewkit)

Sod it! I admit it, I’m a bit of a fan boy! And I’m not the only one! When the likes of Leigh Linley (aka LeighGoodStuff) wax lyrical about a brewery, you should take notice!

With the sole pump on the bar not being connected up, Malcolm popped a bottle of one of his lighter beers Flintlock. I was unsurprised to get a hoppy tasty pale ale, full of citrussy goodness. Only unusual in that Malcolm prefers stronger beers himself in the 5+% range, the 300 being over 7%! With a shared interest both in good beer and (oh joy) David Bowie, we yakked for a while and I (for one!) could have talked all day with Malcolm & David, but we had to get to York! (But not before I snaffled a few bottles – well, I was getting withdrawal symptoms! With a commitment to maybe meeting for a beer in Sheffield later in the year and….(no, that secret shall remain, for now, a secret!), David and I were back in the van!

York was a bit of a pain! Busy as hell and chock full of shoppers and tourists, it was a struggle to get to the final port of call. This was where we collected some casks from another brewery I hadn’t heard of – Sonnet 43. Another special trait of the RTWB, lots of new breweries!

That done and with Simon & Garfunkel strumming in my head, we were homeward bound!

A hugely enjoyable day – for me, for which I thank David and Allgates for hugely! The most fun I’ve had since the last Road To Wigan Beer in October last year. Now…what’s starting next week?

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

Wetherspoons International Beer Festival – 03/04/2014

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“I can’t stand by and see you destroyed, I can’t be here and watch you burn up.

Lie for the moment and lie as a decoy. Does it matter if I give in easy?

So why is it so hard to get by?”

(“Pounding” – Doves)

(Video link courtesy of mralan1969uk – YouTube)

To anybody who attends matches at The Etihad, Doves have had a special musical place – pre match – in City hearts. Jimi Goodwin is a Blue. Given the massive self-publicity of The Gallaghers being Blues, it is noticeable that it’s two Doves tracks that get played, the mighty Pounding and an instrumental of Words – both from the excellent album “The Last Broadcast”  – Proper tunes!

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A good Wetherspoons is like a barber or a dentist. When you get one that is well-managed, you never let it go! On this particular evening, my good friend Col & his lovely wife Sue fancied a nip to the local Spoons, especially as they were holding one of their regular “International Beer Festivals”. Ordinarily, having broken my Wetherspoon “fast”, I would have gone to Paramount or The Waterhouse in Manchester, but I don’t get out with these fine people much and good beer is more than enhanced when drunk in good company!

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Now this particular ‘Spoons, The Bulls Head in Walkden is one of their finer renovations. A substantial amount was spent on this place and -for an open plan pub – it really looks superb. Even though it is indeed open, there is a distinct feeling of separate drinking areas with some, obviously, being a Wetherspoon, more dedicated to the food offering. The main issue I have with this particular pub is the number of pumps that regularly have the “Coming Soon” label attached to the pump clips!

Tonight, however, only 1 was unused and surprisingly, being midweek, there were 4 (FOUR) of the “International” beers on. What the “I” word means in the context of this chain is that they get brewers from excellent breweries around the world to brew versions of their own beers at UK breweries. A great idea for those who might balk at paying substantial amounts for the likes of a Nogne O in its more usual “craft” bar habitat.

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Having decided that the four international beers were my choices for the evening, I set to. First, the Nogne O Brown Ale brewed at (and with) Batemans of Wainfleet, nr Skegness in Lincolnshire. I’m an enormous fan of their all too rare Mild, so I had high hopes for this!

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At 4.5% abv, this was a deep red/brown with a head that was creamy in both colour and texture with the aroma having a light chocolate note to it. The beer had a lovely full body with the flavours of light coffee and chocolate sharing palate space with a certain nutty flavour – hazelnut maybe? This wasn’t universally popular in our wee group, but I really liked it (and I’m no fan of Brown Ales!)

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Next on the menu for me was the Fermin Red Ale from Spain’s Alberto Pacheco at the Mateo y Bernabe Brewery from Rioja. This was brewed with Shepherd Neame in Faversham, Kent.

I seem to have moved on somewhat from this Faversham brewer, my tastes having gravitated away from their paler beers whilst holding a bit of a torch for their Porter which doesn’t seem to have the trademark “tang” that marks their pales.

This beer however was a belter, though hardly “Red”! More of a mid brown beer, this had an aroma full of foresty type fruit. In the mouth, at 5.8% abv, this unsurprisingly had a full body with the stand out flavour for me being plum, surprisingly, with a little sweetness complemented by a nice hoppy and bitter finish. Really enjoyed this one too.

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Moving swiftly on, next up was a beer from Wicked Weed Brewery – Sir Ryan The Pounder –  all the way from Asheville in North Carolina, this being brewed at Everards in Leicester. An amber/red beer this had a white head and quite a spritzy lemony aroma which was a pleasant surprise and at 4.7% was substantially lower in alcohol than the beers between which it was sandwiched! Smooth, medium-bodied with a light biscuit base danced on by juicy citrus hopping with lemon and grapefruit. Really tasty and well-balanced. My favourite of the evening.

The Klosterbock by Kloster-Scheyern in Bavaria was next and was brewed at Wadworth in Devizes, Wiltshire. At 6.5%, in hindsight, a pint of this was probably a mistake as I forgot that I really don’t get Bocks at all. Nothing wrong with this beer per se, just not my style. Really fruity and quite heavy feeling at the start, I warmed to it somewhat as the fruity flavours developed. But not my kind of beer really. Too sweet.

Whilst I’ve only rattled on about the beers, the evening was made really by being with good friends and having a really good chinwag, even if Sue gave me a yellow card for some rather fruity vernacular. I really don’t know what came over me!

In summary, a really nice surprise with the beer selection here tonight. All really well-kept and, to be fair, I’m yet to have a bad pint in this, my nearest ‘Spoons. Back soon.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 1

“I’d like to see you, but really I should stay away and let you settle down, I’ve got no claims to your crown,

I was the boss of you and I loved you, you know I loved you, but it’s all over now”

(“I’m A Cuckoo” – Belle & Sebastian)

Belle & Sebastian. The first tune that I heard (without realising who it was) was the theme tune to the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, which, I think, was Andrew Lincoln’s first TV series following the mighty “This Life” (SUCH a great series!). I never really understood just how HUGE a band could be without having a single massive hit, until I heard this band.

One title “The Boy With The Arab Strap”. That is all! (Introduced me to the poet that is Aiden Moffat!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles too!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……The format is slightly changed….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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….IMAG0974

1. Waterfall PaleRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £3.05 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Bright golden beer, plenty carbonation and light thin white head doggedly sticking around giving a fruity tart aroma with lemon and kiwi. Light to medium-bodied, this is tart with lemon, a little peach and a touch of kiwi too with a little spiciness tingling the gums. Really refreshing with a nice fruity bitterness kicking in in the finish. A smooth, really easy drinking and refreshing beer, perfect session material at this strength. Another excellent beer from this one man Micro.

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2. Dotty DIPA – Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 7.2% abv – Double IPA – £3.85 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Having rarely had Offbeat beers and NEVER having met the talented “chick” that brews them, these seem to be coming thick and rather fast! AND I bumped into her last week at the World Beers Festival! Shame there was no Offbeat beer there…so I’ll rectify that now eh?

Amber beer with an abundant white head and a big aroma of fruity marmalade. Oooh…this is a hell of a beer! A big warming chewy toffee malty mouthful with a big mixed marmalade flavour. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness which in turn gives way to a hefty whack of pine in the aftertaste. And that’s just the first mouthful! This is superb, each mouthful just amping up the sensations. And the hoppy resinous finish just builds and builds. Fabulous!

IMAG09723. The One – Citra – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 12 for £24 – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Bought on the (official) opening day of the shop located within BlackEdge Brewery’s unit in Horwich (just off Lee Lane), read here for review!

Very pale, straw yellow-gold beer with a lasting white head and a distinctive tart lime and grapefruit aroma. Oh this is LOVELY! A light biscuit malt medium-body, really fresh grapefruit, lemon & lime in the mouth. Beautifully refreshing and tart. I keep licking my lips! My gums are tingling too! Really dry and gently bitter finish with plenty enough piney stuff in the aftertaste. A real cracker and the best pale I’ve had from BlackEdge by a distance. Cask version please? NOW!

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4. Bloody ‘Ell – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.2% abv – Blood Orange IPA – £3.30 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Raj does get some rather interesting beers in his rather bijou little shop. Just to think that when I first went in, it REALLY was a typical convenience store. Now? The beers appear to have multiplied like the rabbits on Lundy! Now, almost certainly the largest selection of UK Craft beers in Manchester. And still growing!

To the beer….

A deep golden almost amber beer with a lingering soft white head and a big orangey aroma with something more delicate like peach blossom. A big IPA (almost DIPA in feel) with more than an initial hint of toffee malt sweetness with lashings of orange in a full-bodied mouthful. The finish isn’t as bitter as I expected with a nice gum tingling spiciness but there is a big piney pay-off with lots of sticky resins in the aftertaste. Oh yes. A lovely beer indeed!

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5. Stronge Extra Stout – Buxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.4% abv – Stout – (see below) (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(I got this when there was an offer at 6 for £12 on Buxton beers at Raj’s – check the website for current price by clicking the hyperlink above)

Named after the (rather excellent) brewer, rather than a statement of strength!

Seriously black beer. Seriously boozy coffee nose. Seriously full-bodied. Seriously smooth. Seriously? Boozy coffee nose leading to more slightly sweet coffee. Smooth as a George Clooney chat-up line and twice as tasty! That smooth coffee underpins a really rather nice coffee overnote followed by a long dry finish. A really smooth grassy hop aftertaste completes the wizardry. Seriously good! #Beergasm!

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6. Cuckoo Number 5 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6% abv – NZ Pale Ale – Swap (330ml) – 0% – Direct From The Brewer (Chilled too!)

For those of you who don’t know by now, this brewery is the brainchild of Jamie Hancock, barkeep supreme at The Port Street Beer House. If I’ve outed him, ah well, I’ll do FAR worse things in the years I have left! At the moment, these are (still?) only available for purchase from the rather fine Cuckoo bar in Prestwich, but not for much longer I suspect if he keeps making beer as good as this!

Deep golden with a light white head and lovely aroma of passion fruit and a little gooseberry. Smooth, really smooth. Medium-bodied and really fruity with a spicy tingle to the gums. More passion fruit, kiwi and some peach in here, like a boozy Um Bongo! Manages the trick of being quite high in alcohol, but really refreshing too. There is only a gentle bitterness in here, really smooth, leading to a beautiful smooth hoppy grassy herbal aftertaste. Quality.

Five Oh are having the launch of the first keg at Port Street on Wednesday I believe (well, I hope so because I’ll be there!). Teat (or even, treat!) yourselves by calling in. If I’m wrong about how good Jamie’s beer is, tell me. (I don’t anticipate any approaches!)

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7. Mystery Beer No 1 (A Bonus Beer if you will!) – Craft Rebellion – 3.8% abv – Saison – Free ! – 0 – In the post!

Craft Rebellion? Shop? Guerilla Marketing Campaign? I don’t know myself, all I know is that one day I got a card from Royal Mail in my postbox…..I kind of like free beer. I can remind the sender of my “rules” and drink free of guilt!

The idea appears to be that you receive a beer and try to guess what it is! I warned them that a) I’m USELESS at guessing and that b) I’d only review it if I really enjoyed it! (As with all that I review) Unwritten contract agreed…..

Ultra pale with, initially, quite a large white lacy head yielding a funky cream soda aroma with a little nose wrinkling spice. Light bodied and effervescent yet smooth drinking. Fruity with some citrus understated and a maybe touch of pineapple, a nice subtle sourness to this too (lemon?) . A really refreshing beer (as a saison should be!) with a dry finish and a nice grassy herbal  reminder in the aftertaste.

It transpires, that the beer is actually a Lemon & Thyme Saison Grisette by Partizan (Click hyperlink and check their website)

Well, I have an early start tomorrow (Saturday) as I go on a bit of an adventure….report to follow!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

NB : If you’ve got any thoughts on the nonsense that I talk or post, let me know in the “comments” box below – entertain me!

 

 

World Beers Festival – Stockport – 28/03/2014

“Everyone I’ve loved, kept me tangled in my heart,

You’ll tie that knot bit too loose, not enough to tease apart, come on.

Everyone I hold, holds me strangled sweet and small,

I’m not a puppy you’ll take home, don’t bother trying to fix my heart.”

(“French Exit” – The Antlers)

I do love a touch of melancholy in my tuneage now and again, but when I first heard the above track on The Antlers’ album “Burst Apart” it blew me away. Simply beautiful. From the staccato guitar line that opens the track through beautiful melodies to the crescendo ending, it’s like musical catnip to my ears and is quite possibly my favourite track of the last 10 years. I wish I could explain why, but it just is.

The album starts with “I Don’t Want Love” and introduces Pete Silberman’s falsetto voice, which just works so well. A corker of an album goes onward through “French Exit” & “Parentheses” (incidentally, covered by Tricky – rather well) this is another excellent US guitar-led indie (I HATE the word!) album, something I find sadly missing in the UK. Another discovered via EMusic. Now, what was I meant to be doing…..I really AM that forgetful you know!

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(With Marty Feldman smiling down on me, what could possibly go wrong?)

Now then, where were we? Ah, me and my memory!

Some time ago, I received a pair of free tickets for each night of a new beer festival to be held in Stockport. Quite surprised to be given them to be fair, but grateful, for 2 reasons…..

a) I love a beer fest! And…

b) I’m kind of….sort of….in the early stages of planning one myself for later in the year, to raise money for a very good cause.

So, last Friday (the first day of said Festival) I raced back from work to get showered and changed and get back into Manchester to meet the Arch-Nemesis and catch a train to Stockport…Now, where was I? Ah yes, my memory!

Just before the bus turned into Piccadilly, where the A-N was waiting thirstily……On Shit! Where are those damned tickets???? I really am such a ****wit! I had to face a thirsty and ticketless Nemesis, who had already bought train tickets!!! A quick call to my youngest, who located the beasties and snapped a piccie to show the organisers…..worth a try eh?

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With two fine security chaps on the front door, I confessed my abject ****wittery. With a chuckle that was nearly as broad as his shoulders, he pointed me towards one of the organisers who was in a …debate…with some irate customers. Listening in, Christian, (said Organiser) sounded utterly reasonable, but was confounded by the rather skewed logic and arithmetic of the 3 malcontents. (THEY were wrong…in SO many ways!)

Anyway, as he listened to my (ahem) problem, he smiled and let me in!

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Having started at 5 (we arrived at 6:15), it was getting reasonably busy, but, spying two familiar barmen (and a gap at said bar) we dived in!

James and Paul Stockport World Beers

(l to r Paul & James – pic courtesy of Felicity McCartney)

Ah, James & Paul (Deeply Vale & Ringway Breweries respectively), two fine fellows with a big job to do. Slake my thirst! Now then. I had to – at this point – confess to Paul that I had never tasted Ringway beers and that I needed to right this wrong! That I did with Ringway IPA. A 4.6% abv amber coloured beer with a really hedgerow-fruity nose. Medium-bodied and really fruity, this had a lovely bitterness to it and quite a haystack grassyness to the finish. A cracking introduction to this British hopped IPA (First Gold & Challenger)

The Nemesis went for Paul’s “Wor Stout” and gave me the wink. No further hint needed!

Ringway– Wor Stout A 4.3% abv black beauty with “a bit of everything” in it! Milk choc and roasty aroma, more chocolate and barley roast in the full-body and the merest hint of lactose to give it that gentle sourness – almost, but not quite, a Milk Stout – It couldn’t be more up my street! A beauty.

Paul is a top bloke to natter with and (just like at the Manchester Beer Fest) he had me in stitches in minutes, he and James come as a bit of a double act and we chatted for quite a while – or, at least until this got busier. Which it did!

A little look along the keg lines led to something that intrigued me enough to have a slurp (having heard Paddy, Kev & Shaun wax about it)…

Keg fonts World Beers Fest

(pic courtesy of Felicity McCartney)

Red HookLonghammer IPA 5.9% abv – Golden, bright , fresh & zippy IPA lots of citrus in the nose, more in the mouth balanced against a substantial malty body, really refreshing and totally enjoyed this, which surprised me.

Small & Mighty by Happy Valley – 3.6% abv – A golden pale beer, fresh and refreshing with some light citrus on the nose, a nice and fruity bitterness with some late arriving gentle resinous hops following through in the afters. Nice. Not had much from Happy Valley, will keep an eye out.

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The room was filling up and getting really busy, so, with a Citra Storm from Deeply Vale in hand, we retreated to the second room for a seat, shortly to be joined by a bunch of blokes from Bury. A cracking chat lubricated by excellent beer. This is what this drinking is all about!

Citra StormDeeply Vale Pale golden at 4% abv, nice grapefruit citrus nose, refreshing and light with plenty of tart grapefruit balanced on a light malt base. Resinous aftertaste following a gently bitter finish. Tasty & refreshing beer!

The final beer for me here was again on keg and was the Blonde by Brugge Zot. A nice golden Belgian, reminiscent of a lighter Duvel for me, yeasty funk and spice with gentle hopping and tasted scarily lighter than its 6% abv!

To sum the festival up? A great idea and, due to it being a first stab, they went small and will probably expand markedly next year. But all the elements were in place. Cask (although only 3 – admittedly local – breweries) keg from the UK, Germany, Czech, Belgium & the US and bottles. All quality and very reasonably priced too at £2 for 1/2 pint for most keg stuff (if not all). They sold most of their tickets, hence why it was SO busy.

Will either need a larger venue next time, or to locate some bars in the second room. But a damn fine effort! (A reminder to pitch mine small)

Moving on, I fancied a swiftie before the train. So we popped in Ye Olde Vic (Chatham Street – the other side of the train station).

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A quirky old pub that I’d only been in once before, after 2013’s Stockport Fest. A good selection as last time. But I only had eyes for one beer…

CentennialMallinsons Brewery 3.9% abv – Crystal clear golden beer with hints of gooseberry on the nose. Nice, refreshingly tart , fruity and bitter clean tasting beer. The same quality I have come to expect from this Huddersfield brewery. Absolute Quality.

Back to Manchester for a swift and unremarkable pint in the Waterhouse, prior to harnessing the chariot.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!