Bottles Ales – June 2014 – Pt 2

“So he paints a pretty picture and he tells you that he needs you

and he covers you with flowers and he always keeps you dreaming.

If he always keeps you dreaming, you won’t have a lonely hour.

If a day could last forever, you might like your ivory tower.

But the night begins to turn your head around…….”

(“The Night” – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons)

(Clip courtesy of FayteKnightmare on YouTube)

One of the few high points of Motown Chartbusters 10, a series of albums that arguably peaked at No 6 and thereafter were the vinyl embodiment of The Law Of Diminishing Returns. 10 was moderately weak, but 11 & 12 I have disowned.

Who needs “Oh What A Night” and the dubious subject matter of “You’re Ready Now”, “The Night” has a bass line to die for, just a perpetual rumble, overlaid with the harmonies, brass, skittering strings. A Northern Soul classic that isn’t aired enough for me, never fails to make me “dad dance” in the kitchen!

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 Ale (Simcoe) – Wiper and True (Bristol) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.39 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls –The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A mid-golden coloured beer with a thin and rapidly dissipated white head (unclean glass the likely culprit!) Quite hazy, must have let some yeast slip through.

A full-on aroma of mango and peach tickling the nostrils and getting the saliva glands working overtime. Nicely full-bodied (considering the strength). Real full-on fruitiness with this, mango sweetness scored with a hint of tart grapefruit. Smooth mouthfeel, each mouthful just gets fruitier – starting to think how many of my 5 a day I’m getting from this!

Nice bit of pine needle in the finish to this, with the bitterness quite dialled down adding to the smooth feel. A really good fruity pale ale.

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2. Saison le Printemps –  Burning Sky (Firle, East Sussex) – 4.2% abv – Saison – £2.99 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A glowing bronze colour to this well carbonated beer, with a tight white head, quite creamy looking, giving an aroma sweet with banana split toffee, clove and something more perfumed, almost rose-water?

Light on the tongue, the floral flavour is the first thing that springs to mind in the mouth, that and a spicy note. Then clove strokes the tongue sweetly. The finish is quite grassy, spicy and dry.

Overall, whilst I don’t claim to know much about saisons, this Spring beer is hugely refreshing and light. Isn’t that the job they were originally brewed for? Job done. Damn well.

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3. Single Bramling – Ringway Brewery (North Reddish, Stockport) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

Crystal clear amber beer with a lacy bright white head and an aroma groaning with malty toffee and stone fruit, some plum and maybe a little blackberry.

Initially fruity with those hedgerow fruits like blackberry and some deep plum, a little orange too. Quite spicy and peppery too balancing the caramel biscuit malt sweetness which smoothly leads to a quite bitter finish. An oaky, lingering peppery hop aftertaste rounds this off nicely.

Paul is unapologetic in his use of British hops and swims against the current brewery tide in their rush for citrus mouth wreckers. He is Damn right and I applaud him for it. He aims for flavourful easy drinking beers. With this, he is bang on target.

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4. Quirky Kiwi – Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 4.6% abv – NZ Pale Ale – £2.65 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

A lovely golden colour to this, with good carbonation, a nice clinging white fluffy head giving up citrussy aromas of peach, passion fruit and a little tangerine.

Ooh, this is rather nice! Smooth and medium-bodied but with a nice prickly carbonation (if that makes sense?). Really fruity, the passion fruit upfront, with kiwi and a little peach. SUCH an easy drinking beer, this could be dangerous on cask! This smoothness extends to the bitterness, which is restrained, but still present leading to a pleasant grassy hop aftertaste.

A little cracker. And at less than £2.40 a bottle (with discount) – a bloody bargain!

IMAG16015. Cascade – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

Orange golden beer with a fluffy clinging white head and a smell laden with citrus with a hint of lemon, some orange fruit and grapefruit. Really aromatic.

Medium-bodied, quite smooth textured with a gentle carbonation, this is beautifully fruity in the mouth. Feeling bigger than a 4% beer, this has a good malty biscuit backbone overlaid with bitter grapefruit, nice and tart with a bitterness that grabs your attention. That bitter grapefruit lingers long into the aftertaste, quite bracing. All the way down the glass. Lovely!

This could be a cracking session beer on draught – it was the pick of their beers at Blackedge’s open bar last week!

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6. West Coast Pale – Liverpool Craft Beer Co (Liverpool) – 6.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

Deep golden almost amber coloured beer, with a good deep white foamy head and a booming spicy tart citrus aroma, woof!

Full-bodied, gentle carbonation and really smooth feel to this. First impression in the mouth was of malty sweetness laced with apricot liqueur, which yielded primacy to something more like a bitter Seville orange with a sharp and tart lemon and grapefruit tinge lurking in the shadows. Bit of a Belgian style yeasty tinge too.

Low on the bitterness scale, there is a clinging sticky pine in the aftertaste which finishes it nicely.This is just SO smooth and lush and quite dangerously moreish at this strength.

There you go. Next time, I shall address the dire lack of dark beers!

Off to Black Jack & First Chop later. Anyone coming?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Just learned that Bobby Womack is dead and a star has just fallen from my sky. RIP Bobby – A TRUE Musical Legend.

 

Bottled Ales – June 2014 – Pt 1

“I’ll only ask you once more. You only want to believe
This man is looking for someone to hold his hand, he doesn’t quite ever understand the meaning

Never heard about, Oscar Wilde and never talk about Brendan Behan,
Don’t have to think about Sean O’Casey and don’t care about George Bernard Shaw.
You never hear about Samuel Beckett, you won’t talk about Eugene O’Neill, or Edna O’Brien and Lawrence Stern.

Shut it! You don’t understand it. Shut it! That’s not the way I planned it.

Shut it! Shut you mouth ’til you know the truth!”

(“Burn It Down”  – AKA “Dance Stance” – Dexys Midnight Runners)

(Tune clip courtesy of  Anette Roller on YouTube)

Now THIS could cause an argument. Walk into a Manchester pub and assert that Dexys were the best band in Britain in the late 70s. Then run! By this – being a lover of Soul music – I mean the first incarnation of Dexys. The band that Kevin Rowland drilled relentlessly until they were ready to be unleashed. Until they were a band whose performances, laden with passion and sweat, became things of legend.

OK the “Mean Streets” garb looked a bit contrived, but this was a band that wanted you to know that they MEANT what they were doing. That it mattered to them and they wanted it to matter to you. For an album and a half – they never did get to release that second album they were working up to (“The Projected Passion Revue” eventually seeing a form of release in 2007) – they were simply a force. They were utterly brilliant, dirty, gritty, soulful and real. Before the abomination that was Too-Ry-Ay and performing “Jackie Wilson Said” on TOTP to a backdrop of Jocky Wilson!

They reformed for an album “One Day I’ll Soar” in 2012 and released what was  – for me – the single of that year “She Got A Wiggle” a lyrical portrait of unrequited love. I love it.

There. I’ve said it. I’m a Manc who saw Joy Division & The Fall in their late 70s early & 1980 pomp. And I love Dexys. And Rowland loves Northern Soul too (The origin of the bands name…..oh, go check Wikipedia)

One more reason as to why the latter clip in particular is important to me. One night in Brewdog in Manchester, I met two buddies of mine and a couple of old friends. Of the two buddies, Jeff was en route to see Dexys at The Bridgewater Hall (as were my old friends Phil & Sue). Myself, the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff started to chat….which turned into the chat which pushed me into doing this nonsense. A beer blog was born…over a glass of Human Cannonball!

On that note – 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. The Porter – Anspach & Hobday (Bermondsey , S. London) – 6.7% abv – Porter – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

“Conceived in the 19th Century, refined for the 21st” it says on the bottle. Really? I’ve seen at least one negative comment about their beers recently, but, to be honest, I enjoyed The IPA and was more than happy to give this a try….

This is one lively puppy! A booming mocha coloured head and an aroma that brought back memories of “Old Jamaica” chocolate bars from Cadbury’s – chocolate and slightly rum soaked raisins. A beautiful earthy perfume! Full-bodied and with a slight sweetness, the bittersweet chocolate is what first hits you followed by a bitterness offsetting the sweetness and an earthy hoppiness. Then there is something more….floral….? Then a dry cocoa quality….. The flavours delayering with each mouthful. Refined for the 21st Century? Not sure about that, but this IS bloody good!

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2. White QueenTatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 10% 12 or more btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

If memory serves, I picked this up from Dan & Gina’s increasingly popular bar, after the recent excellent Gourmet Burger & Beer Match hosted by Shaun (aka @FoodGeekUK) They’re getting busier & busier, deservedly so too. Great beers, kept well. Anyway…the bottle….

The label drew me in. Then it caught me. I absolutely love the series of historical novels by Philippa Gregory based around the life of Elizabeth Woodville (“The White Queen!) Simply excellent. The label is classy, minimal, but with a bit of regality in that font.

An intentionally hazy yellow gold brew with a thin white head and an aroma sweet with orange zest, a floral note and a little spice on the nose. Light bodied with a gentle carbonation leading to a smooth mouthfeel. There is an orangey flavour to the fore in the initial mouthful leading on to some clove and maybe a hint of cardamom. Really light and refreshing, fruity with the orange and a beautifully dry finish with a herbal hint in the aftertaste and with very low bitterness. This is so easy drinking. Really nice stab at a wheat beer. Any on cask?

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3. 13 GunsCrafty Dan (Thwaites) (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £1.99 (330ml) – 10% 12 btls or more – The Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

This deep ruby coloured beer has a lively off white head and an aroma reminding me of toast & marmalade. Orangey marmalade flavours continue in the mouth riding on the back of big biscuity sticky malt. A luxurious really smooth full-bodied mouthful, Smooth as silk, but more fruity, this is lovely. Plenty of resinous hops to make the tongue curl and the gums tingle. Yum.
The bitterness on this was dialled down. Not sure if this was due to the fact that I forgot I had this and it lay stored for a couple of months. A damned enjoyable fruity beast nonetheless. I’ll get a fresher one and see if it’s any better!
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4. Düsseldorf Altbeer – Hornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – German-Style Altbeer – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% 12 or more btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
The Arch Nemesis persuaded me to buy this one I think. Darker German style beers usually being too sweet for my tastes. Needless to say, I’ve learned to trust the A-N on beer over the years!
A really deep amber beer with a white head and a spicy chocolatey aroma, bit nutty too…like a Nutella on toast. Ooh… but this is a surprise….
There is a buttered toast maltyness to this, beautifully smooth medium-bodied beer. Then comes the chocolate note, like a light dusting of cocoa powder on a latte. Then a little sweetness kicks in, immediately countered by a hoppy herbal bitterness. That bitterness fades slightly into a herbal grassy aftertaste with a lingering chocolate note. Great balance to this, like all Hornbeam beers that I’ve had. Damned moreish….
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5. Imperial Russian StoutLiverpool Organic Brewery (Er…Liverpool) – 8.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.99 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)
This was another one that’s been stashed for a while….Needed to de-stress the other evening with a lot of stuff re the beer festival rattling round my vacated skull. This did the trick!
Black. Oh so black. Like a liquid black hole, no light comes out of this devil. Other than the lightly scattered cream coloured head. The aroma just oozes out….bitter, VERY bitter chocolate, dark red wine, slightly tannic, and the smell of a newly flexed fresh leather belt, so fresh that you can almost hear the cow “moo”! Spicy too.
Hugely bodied, the first taste that assaults you is that bitter chocolate, then a spicy bitterness followed by a quite powerful licorice bite, sweet yet dry. Second mouthful has the tongue tingling, sweetness, yes, but that bitter licorice is followed by an almost tobacco like tone. The finish has a big boozy feel to it, quite vinous. Sweet, but with a woody edge to it. Warming. I’ll sleep well. (I did BTW!)
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6. Something Something Barrel Aged – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W. London) – 9% abv – BA Imperial BIPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man Manchester (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)
Not seen Damian in a while. Then, last time I was at Raj’s, he popped in doing a delivery and plopped this in my ravenous maw. Surprised & pleased in equal measure, I clutched it to my chest and muttered something like ….”my…precious….
Like a Black Panther, a simply stunning creature to look at. All sleek black sinuous muscle, gorgeous yet malevolent. This beer wants to eat you and your children. That creamy colour head is to lull you into a false sense of security. Approaching it warily, aroma is sweet citrus, but with a darker intent, lurking beneath the sweetness.

Oh boy, the moment the darkness slipped past my lips, the claws came out! Beautifully full-bodied and smooth… Oh so smooth…. There’s burnt toast, bitter chocolate, an earthiness… yet after all that going on… a big sticky almost marmalade citrus jumps to the rescue like Tarzan. This is stunningly good. There is a subtle and building smokiness which is none too intrusive, just there as each mouthful sinks safely down. Yes there is sweetness, but this is just so well balanced with a fruity hop dryness and resins finishing it off. Like the Panther, I’m purring! And sated.

Didn’t realise it had been so long since the last bottle piece! More soon (+ maybe an update on progress for the Beer Fest – follow @salfordbeerfest on Twitter for up to date…..zzzzzzz)
On that note…..’til next time….
Slainte!

 

“The Return Of The Thin White Duke” – Station To Station IPA – A Collaboration

“This week dragged past me so slowly, the days fell on their knees.
Maybe I’ll take something to help me, hope someone takes after me.
I guess there’s always some change in the weather,
This time I know we could  get it together
If I did casually mention tonight, that would be crazy tonight”

(“Stay” – David Bowie)

(Video courtesy of VampireBowie on YouTube)

Adrian. Belew. Can. Play. Guitar. Wow! Apparently filmed in Bremen in 1978, this is simply a young Adrian Belew showing off his guitar chops. And how! A simply awesome performance of one of the best songs on – for me – Bowie’s most bold and awesome album. See? I rarely use the A word and simply HAD to use it twice there!

“It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine….”

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“I’m thinking that it must be mash….” OK. Those aren’t really the lyrics. I did alter them slightly.

It was early in April, when I accompanied the joint owner of Allgates Brewery, David Mayhall over the hill into Yorkshire to collect beer for their impending Road To Wigan Beer festival. One of the breweries we visited was Five Towns in Outwood, Wakefield. Malcolm & Beverley Bastow were fine hosts and Malcolm & David had a fine chat in the well-appointed cellar bar that they’ve built in their house (needless to say, EVERY drinker should have one!). Malcolm and David eventually started mooting a collaboration.

Naturally, I stuck my nose in and offered my services as a shovel monkey!

Two of my, no, my two favourite breweries, collaborating. I had to watch / take part, didn’t I? Sod it, I wheedled my way in anyhow!

Neither brewery is a stranger to collaborations with Allgates collaborating with the excellent Northern Monk outfit (now in Leeds) and, if I recall rightly (and I do!), Allgates made a rather nice Oatmeal Stout (read here) with the blooging – or even, ‘blogging’! – trinity of Tandleman, Tyson The Beerhound and YT. Having been re-brewed, that turned out rather well! Five Towns have collborated with some of my favourite Yorkshire Breweries like Revolutions and North Riding to produce superb beers like Scary Monsters/Super Creeps & the rather superb (and still the best bottled beer I’ve had this year) 300! So, there’s some great collab form in with these two.

So two weeks ago today, I found myself on a bloody early train to Wigan, where said collab was to take place. Malcolm, unfortunately was delayed on that fiendish M62 from Wakefield, so I did the decent thing. I drank a load of Jonathan’s (Allgates’ Head Brewer) lovely…tea. He makes a damn fine brew of that as well!

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In the meantime, Jonathan set to with the malt bill, which was rather large, the vast majority being Maris Otter Pale with a little Crystal for colouring and torrified wheat for head retention. Whilst J was filling the hopper with Malted Barley, I busied myself drinking tea and asking stupid questions! This was a big sticky mash in as both Jonathan & Malcolm wanted a fairly meaty IPA of between 5.5% & 6% abv….I was already licking my lips, before hopping was even discussed!

After a short while, Malcolm arrived and the sensible discussions started. Hops. Decision arrived at was Palisade & Warrior for bittering with  Cascade & Nelson Sauvin in equal amounts for flavour/aroma in the late addition. Oh but I tried to get some Amarillo in there, I fought like a Trojan and suffered the same ultimate fate, defeat!……Damn that tasty California for requiring all the stock the next day!

IMAG1477(A little light sparging!)

The wort being transferred to the kettle/copper, it was time to draw some off for colour and take a hydrometer reading to give an idea of the finishing ABV figure. Jonathan did his wizardry with a calculator and the figure of (approximately) 5.6% abv was arrived at, to satisfaction from both sides.

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(Post Transfer to FV- gives an idea of the colour)

I had a sneaky taste of the wort following transfer and whilst it had the sweetness you would expect, pre-fermentation, the bitterness from the Palisade and Warrior had already started to be felt. A promising start!

In between stages, the busy David popped in and out between meetings and suchlike (busy man!) and discussions were had about distribution of the beer. Malcolm was to take 8 x 9 gallon firkins of the finished beer. Of those, 2 may be bottled. Of those, I may try to get 1 or 2……. The thing with the beers that Malcolm makes is…..they’re so bloody consistently excellent, that they rarely leave Yorkshire. He has regular clients who take his beers, so he knew – without even making a call – who would take his six. testament to the excellence of his beers and the following they have over ‘the hill’.

The remaining 12 or so firkins will remain with Allgates who will have no trouble looking for customers, I think I managed to sell one for them on the day, but was gently informed by the lovely Julie & Cheryl that commission was only payable in smiles and tea! My career change is on hold then…..

The Nelson Sauvin and Cascade having been added late in the boil and the wort having been transferred to the FV for yeast addition, it was time for ME to shine! Digging out the mash tun time!

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(Jonathan & Malcolm giving the “Shovel Monkey” a break!)

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(Well. I had to take the occasional break to take photos, didn’t I?)

Now Malcolm had spotted some Sorachi Ace in the Allgates hop store and offered a swap for some Mosaic. The result being….1. Sorachi Ace heading to Wakefield in Malcolm’s van. 2. Some Mosaic heading to Allgates. 3. One intrigued and excited drinker, wondering what Malcolm was going to do with that most tricky (but beautiful) of hops!

Did I mention that the Mosaic was going to be used to dry hop this beer? Sad to say, I just drooled as I typed that bit!

Then we started to discuss names. As discerning Northern drinkers may be aware, Allgates like to name their beers after local pits – let’s face it, there are HUNDREDS to choose from in the Wigan area. As discerning Yorkshire drinkers may be aware, the Bastows have some form for naming beers after songs by one of their favourite artists. Mr Bowie himself. Being a bit of a lover of all things Bowie myself, I was chuffed to bits when both Malcolm & David agreed to call it Station To Station IPA. My favourite Bowie album and quite possibly, my favourite album of all time.

STS Snip

So, there it is. A rather pretty pump clip if I may say so! Of course, it’s merely a pretty thing, if the beer doesn’t back it up. But if initial tastings are right (and Jonathan & David have excellent palates!), it’s going to be an absolute cracker!!! For me, it couldn’t be anything else, what with my two favourite brewers being on board.

Looking forward to getting my hands on 1 or 2 (cases?) of this when it’s bottled, but I intend to have one or two pints on cask (well, OK, maybe more….) when it’s released into the wild. Which should be VERY soon.

Keep an eye out, it should be more than worth it!

Huge thanks to David, Jonathan and Malcolm for humouring a brewing incompetent like me and allowing me to shovel and carry! Oh…wait….

And, a little thank you to Julie & Cheryl for their humour and patience. Firstly, I hope you finished the biscuits? Secondly, for Cheryl….Fugglina…There, I did it! (She knows what it means!!!)

So, for me, another brief one!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte chuig na fir agus go maire na mna go deo!* (Cheers to Jo for that!)

NB: Did I mention that Malcolm was going to be brewing the mighty 300 DIPA again? I think I may have volunteered to be a shovel monkey again, but in Wakefield this time!

A Beer Festival In The “Dirty Old Town” ? 24th – 25th October 2014

“A central location for you is a must as you stagger about making free with your lewd and lascivious boasts.
We know you are soft cause we’ve all seen you dancing,
We know you’re hard ’cause we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again.
You’re the boy with the filthy laugh, you’re the boy with the Arab Strap”

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

(Video courtesy of  kkkkkklf  on YouTube)

I can’t think of a song that I like more from the 1990s. It has everything, from Stuart Murdoch’s plaintive voice, great playing, a superb chug along rhythm and a rude ending on the fade out. It is also an excellent lyric. Have a listen/watch yourself of this version played at the US Coachella Festival in 2002 – I love the adaptation of the crude outro!*

It started with a tweet. I SO wanted to factor in a reference to the Hot Chocolate smoochfest song from 1983! But to say it started there is incorrect. So I’ll start again.

This all started about a year ago, maybe more actually. A close friend of mine Gerry, asked me (because of this twaddle that I peddle) if I could put her in contact with her local CAMRA branch, I gave her the contact of the local head honcho (if such things actually exist) and I sent an email asking them to contact her.

Gerry runs St Sebastian’s Community Centre on Douglas Green in Salford. Which derived a lot – if not all – of its funding from Salford City Council. In this much bemoaned “Age of Austerity”, the Council retrenched a lot of funding under cuts from Westminster to Local Government grants. The Centre therefore, lost a lot of its funding and Gerry and the host of other people who support this vital Centre dug deep and have been working their proverbials off since, just to keep the Centre running for the local community.

Gerry’s idea, like many other places that need to raise funds, was to host a Beer Festival – she likes a beer or two herself, so she does. The local CAMRA Branch didn’t feel that they could help, with the Centre being a bit off the beaten track. So, one evening, a few of my friends, plus the lovely Atilla & I were at Gerry’s house. The question was popped. “Would you do it?”

“Yeah, go on. Let’s do it! We can do it!…….”

Those were assuredly not MY words.

I said Yes. Of course I said Yes! I couldn’t really do anything other, could I? The Centre is next to my old Primary School. A former priest from the associated Church was one of the two (yes, TWO) priests that married Atilla & I, all those years ago. All of my siblings went to the same Primary. You get the picture. I’m kind of connected to the place. I felt….obliged.

Then the initial euphoria settled. Panic set in. What the FECK do I know about setting up a beer festival? That was, of course, a rhetorical question. I know SOD ALL about it. I’ve worked a few, as some of you may know, but never set one up! I was crapping myself. Then I posted a tweet. Something along the lines of….

“I think I’ve just agreed to organise a Beer Festival. I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. I’m shitting myself. Help!”

The response I got, within just one hour, simply blew me away. From offers from Breweries across the north of equipment, beer and advice, logistics of storage of beer, to followers offering help with design both of leaflets and a web page! All free! People offering to help to staff in any way they could. To be honest, it knocked me sideways. I’m not gilding anything when I say I was humbled. Hell, it still brings a tear to my eye. Yes, I’m a soft old git!

The general idea, is to host a small Festival. Because the location is far from huge, as well as it being a first attempt – we don’t want unsold beer now, do we? Certainly no more that 30 casks and maybe as few as 25. Writing this nonsense, tasting as much beer as I have (despite what I’ve said to successive Doctors!), I’ve come to have an idea (well, MY idea) as to which are my favourite breweries, making some of the best beer in the North. Yes, the choices will be subjective. They’ll be my choices, how could they be anything BUT subjective. Most selections – no doubt – are made by committee. IN this case, there’s only me! I’ll try my best to vary the choices, I’ll try my damnedest to get great beer and I’ll work my nuts off to keep it right, so it tastes good. I promise.

Likelihood is it will be a ticket event, but not firmly made up my mind yet. Not sure about if there’ll be any “entertainment” or not yet, but I’ve got an idea of what I would like. That will be kept firmly “sous le chapeau” (in case it doesn’t come off!)

Having set the date this week, we have four months to pull this off. And I still haven’t a Scooby as to how we will. I’ve had further offers of advice and meetings will be had to scour the brains of those who’ve done it independently. This is not a pop at CAMRA, I’m a member myself for which I make no apologies. There are some fantastic people locally within the campaign, some of whom have offered to help. Help which I welcome with open arms!

The offers of help have started to bear fruit – today I received a proposed design for posters, which could indeed transfer to tickets etc. And let’s face it, if we’re going to pull this off, I’m going to rely on all that help I’ve already been offered – and more besides.

I’ll be approaching some of you – you know who you are – over the following weeks to cash in these blank cheques I’ve been given, I’ll be contacting brewers (have already started to be fair!) and looking to beg and borrow equipment – and pay where necessary. All with the aim of raising as much cash as possible to keep this invaluable local resource open.

More updates as we progress.

Anyone fancy pulling a pint or two?

Follow Progress on Twitter @salfordbeerfest

*”What do you make of the cool set in London? You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks.
She’s a waitress and she’s got style, Sunday bath time could take a while.”

(If you have the album/single, turn up the volume on the fadeout!)

Historic Manchester Pubs – Pt 3 – 31/05/2014

“If I could only be sure, that you loved me baby. If I could only be sure, that you loved me baby.

I’d climb the highest mountain, I’d swim the deepest sea. I’d take on all your misery, just to make you happy.

I’d turn my world upside down. I’d turn my smiles all into frowns. I’d do anything at all, yeah,

If you just let me love you baby. If you just let me love you baby.”

(“If I Could Only Be Sure” – Nolan Porter)

(Tune courtesy of NutsLiteVenueRoma on YouTube)

No musical preamble today. Just one of the greatest of mid-tempo Northern Soul dancefloor classics. Have a listen!

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Having indulged my basest beery urges following the Stockport Beer Festival the previous afternoon/evening, I was doubting my (ahem) “wisdom” whilst sat on the #8 bus from Farnworth at 10:30am on this bright sunny morning!

An excellent beer lover/blogger Glenn Johnson was due to come up this particular weekend for his first few beers around some of Manchester’s more special pubs. Unfortunately for both of us (but especially him), he had been stricken down with a nasty illness some weeks before, but wasn’t quite yet fully recovered. However, following a tweet from Des, a fellow Manchester area beer lover (more of a connoisseur than I, to be fair!), I decided to treat this as a (none too) “dry run” for my Southern based buddy’s rescheduled visit. This one’s for you Glenn!

Again, given the paucity of material available online about Manchester’s great architectural drinking heritage, I rely on the most excellent blogs & websites Pubs of Manchester and ManchesterHistory.net for a sizable chunk of my information. Both a more than worth a follow (Pubs of Manchester) and a visit (ManchesterHistory.net). They are a positive mine of information, only rivalled by the excellent booklets of the (sadly) late Neil Richardson.

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(Damn that lamppost!!!)

The Hare & Hounds (Shudehill – opposite Bus Station/Metro stop) It’s really strange the way things come about sometimes. I wrote about this pub in the first instalment of this series, but, like many pubs that day, feel I did them a disservice. Last time I visited, I recounted the tale of my “Stag” back in 1990 and watching, horrified, as Salvatore Schillachi scored the goal that knocked out the Republic of Ireland at the 1/4 final stage of the World Cup. Strangely enough, today, I watched a “highlight” re-run on BT Sport! (Schillachi had more hair than I remembered!)

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A truly beautiful pub, which, according to Pubs of Manchester 10 Oldest Pubs of Manchester piece (a piece to which I shall return later!), was first opened as a pub in approximately 1788. To think that you can still drink in a pub that is THAT old! (I wonder if you can still play “Crib”?)

Grey/green stone clad exterior and brown enamel look interior tiling make this look as special as it is. 3 rooms including the main drinking area/bar which has a scattered table or 4, each area being beautiful and worthy of mention in their own right. But put together…. It was nearly 30 years ago (Xmas ’84) when I first came in this pub. It was a Tetley house then and still has the “Huntsman” logo on the side of the pub. It may have only the one cask beer (Holts’ Bitter), but that doesn’t diminish its charms.

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I recently read the excellent post that Pubs of Manchester wrote about The Hare, about the backroom. About Pensioner Karaoke and it rang so true the afternoon I went in. The room was ringed with Senior drinkers deep in chatter with a microphone set up for later performances.

The Holts was a fine beer. Not my cup of darjeeling these days, but dark brown, bitter with a hint of sweetness, it was more than acceptable and served as a settler from the previous evenings’ (hmmmm…) exertions! Is it just me, or has Holts lost something in the bitterness department since the 90s?

Whilst the beer may not be to the taste of all, I heartily recommend people pop in and drink in the beauty of this great old pub.

Moving swiftly on to another architectural gem, where I was to meet Des & the ever-present Arch-Nemesis…

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Last year, The Marble Arch celebrated 125 years standing. But as the map below indicates, there was a pub called The Wellington on the same site at least 37 years earlier.

Adshead Map 1851

(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

The name of the earlier pub was still in use for the new as recently as 1971, when it was called The Wellington Vaults, a Wilsons pub, as you can see.

Wellington Vaults(image courtesy Manchester Libraries)

A Grade II listing having been achieved in 1998, having undergone its fabulous transformation from Mega Brewery ownership to its purchase and restyling as a freehouse (before the brewery) sometime in 1984, the year that I first drank in it (I never went in when it was a Wilsons outlet). The subsequent stripping back revealing the architectural gem that you see today.

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For those who haven’t been in before (ARE there any such people?), once you walk between the doric columns and through the door, THAT slope draws you ever down, along the beautiful mosaic floor, to the corner bar, where are served a plethora of Marble Brewery beers. There is a small, functional rear room which opens up onto the kitchen (and the pub is renowned for its food) and an open drinking area that some people may call a “beer garden”. The splendour of this pub though is that main room.

Walking in, I saw one of my co-conspirators for the day, Des. Splendid beery chatter ensued, but not before a razor sharp pint of Pint, singing a zingy song of lemon and grapefruit hops. beautifully refreshing and taking my mind off the fact that throngs of pre-teens were loosening their larynxes all over Manchester for some boy band at The Etihad.

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(Just a hint of that beautiful vaulted ceiling)

Midway through my Pint, Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis) had parked his rear and was wolfing his beer down, ready for a wee stroll down the slight slope of Rochdale Road. A slight diversion took us past the subject of many an ill-advised dispute (on my part), the site of the former Pot of Beer (previously the magnificent after hours haunt in the 80s known as The Harp & Shamrock). Smug grin on his face, he and Des headed for our next port of call, whilst I headed for some cash.

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The Angel qualifies for this “historic” designation, not due to any antiquity on its part (though it may indeed be fairly old – at LEAST 1851!), but due to the fact that it plays its part in my early drinking in this great city. The same evening, around Xmas 1984, when I first entered the Hare & Hounds, the next stop for my works Xmas do was a Tetley house called The Weavers.

Weavers 1851

(Probable Adshead Map 1851 – courtesy Manchesterhistory.net)

 

This was a small two roomed pub downstairs, that had a function room upstairs that hosted frequent live music evenings, that night it was the legendary Victor Brox and his Blues Band. Because it had a pool table in the small back room, we ended the evening there, with one of my companions seeking to sleep the excess off under the pool table – whilst the rest of us were playing Killer!

The Weavers subsequently curled up like a big pub chain caterpillar and closed for refurbishment, exiting its decorative cocoon as the beery butterfly that was The Beerhouse. A great freehouse itself and one of three cracking pubs in the 90s in close proximity with The Marble & The Pot of Beer, the pub had had the internal walls removed and the bar relocated to open it up.

The rebranding to The Angel was somewhat less dramatic, a lick of paint, that former function room becoming the playground of chef . Robert Owen-Brown and the removal of the pool table – to be replaced by a baby Grand Piano! The departure of Owen-Brown to The Mark Addy hasn’t changed opinions of many that this is a great eating place.

IMAG1416(I must have looked SUCH a nerd when I took this!)

This pub has an enviable reputation for getting unusual and rare beers (If Jaz mentions that cask conditioned Ola Dubh by Harviestoun just one more time……), but I was in the hands of the aforementioned Arch-Nemesis and was furnished a pint of Chardonnale by Bob’s Brewing of Ossett at 5.1% abv. Golden, sweet malt and laden with mellow fruitiness. We sat outside and I sat there contemplating the one fault (for me) of this pub. The somewhat incongruous and ugly uPVC patio-style side entrance. Just saying!

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Bar Fringe appears to have been a pub from at least 1876 (source pubhistory.co.uk) in one of its former incarnations as The Old White Bear (see below)

Old White Bear

(image courtesy Pubs of Manchester)

Another recent source of beery historical dispute between the “all-knowing” Arch-Nemesis and myself. He not accepting that I went in a pub that I referred to as the “Polar Bear” – or similar – in the 80s, on the same spot as the current “Fringe”. I therefore thumbed my nose on viewing Pubs of Manchester’s excellent entry!

From hearing some people talk, I get the impression that the Fringe is like a pub version of Marmite. Well I LOVE Marmite! I adore this bar too, with (ordinarily) 5 well-kept cask beers along with the shiny chrome plate of the keg Belgian fonts.

You could stand in here all day looking at the various items adorning the walls and ceiling and I frequently do, but – being a crawl – a pint was called for. I chose the Mild from Scarborough Brewery, a fine brown Mild with toffee and chocolate biscuit flavours. Again, another pub with a reputation for getting unusual beers to the area and Carmen keeps a fine pint – though no sign of her today. (BTW – One of Manchester’s great jukeboxes – “Whip It” by DEVO being played – class!)

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The Crown & Kettle is, along with The Marble Arch, the most lovely pub in Manchester. Yes, that is only my opinion, but it is undeniably gorgeous. You only need to look at those elongated and stained windows to receive a hint as to the delights that lie inside.

Crown Ceiling

The ceiling, whilst in state of disrepair in places, is simply stunning. My photography simply does not do this Grade II listed beauty justice. A 3 room pub with a large main area (where the bar is located) with two rooms behind to the right and left (with the right hand one accessible to the right of the bar. According to ManchesterHistory.net there are records of pubs on this site as far back as 1734 with the current building being erected in the late 1800’s.

Crown Back Room

The room behind the bar is a little gem, with lots of wood panelling, mirrors and lovely green upholstered banquette seating. Pretty isn’t it? The room to the left of the bar is a wee bit darker but n one the less warm and comfy. If some overlook the delights of pubs such as these in favour of more exotic beery offerings, then…..

Coming to the beer – which, by the way, is always in good nick in my experience – this was none too shabby either! With three offerings (ordinarily) from the Ossett Brewery stable and a number of guests (was that 7 or 8 handpumps?), there is always something decent available. This evening was no exception, as I spied something from Rat Brewery.

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Project Rat IX  was a 6% abv mango bomb! A big beer with a good malt spine overlaid with bucket loads of tropical fruit, it was gorgeous. Halfway down that beer, I noticed something behind a wooden bar post….. Was that Quaker House Oatmeal Stout from Allgates? Given that I helped in the birthing of the original brewing of this beauty, it simply HAD to be sampled. Simply lush. Silky smooth, great full roasted body and excellent bitterness. Need I say more?

Castle

The Allgates & Rat being consumed, we headed off to the final historic gem of this crawl.

The Castle has (like The Hare & Hounds) been a pub since 1778 (Pubs of Manchester – 10 Oldest Pubs) and bears the brown tiled facade of Kays Atlas Brewery of Ardwick – Kays were taken over by Robinsons of Stockport in 1929. Despite being independently managed by the same group that owns The Eagle (Lamp Oil), The Parlour (Chorlton) and Gullivers (Opposite on Oldham Street) it retains its Robinsons tie, whilst offering a decent range of guest beers.

As I will have said previously, this is – so far – the only pub within which I have been refused service (if you discount a drunken evening in Grassington……the less said the better!) and BTW, that isn’t a challenge mein hosts! I’ve been drinking in this pub for over 30 years and I’ve got a really soft spot for the old place, so much so that I was absolutely chuffed to proverbials when I first saw how the new owners/managers had opened it up – including a previously unused room upstairs.

Castle corridor

Now, if you haven’t been in before, The Castle is dark. Vampires Lair kind of dark. Nosferatu lying in wait kind of…….get the picture? It’s a warm embracing kind of place too, with friendly bar staff and two main drinking areas. However, having sequestered the old pool room at the rear as alive music venue, it’s also quite small downstairs, with only a small room behind the bar. Hence upstairs being such a boon.

The beer is none too shabby either here, with my choice being “Durdle Door” by the Dorset Brewing Co. Deep ruby coloured, lots of chocolate and caramel with a gentle bitterness. Like a Strong Mild to me, perhaps the wrong beer on pump, as Durdle Door is supposed to be golden, but hey, it tasted grand to me!

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(Lovely old mosaic floor at the front)

Des took his leave at this point. Great to chat with someone who knows his beer, loves it as much as he loves Manchester pubs and has strong opinions about both.

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We carried on, ending up in First Chop’s open evening having met the lovely Gina & Dan from Great Ale Year Round in Cask. The word “hazy” successfully covers my recollections from this point on! A pint of Pictish and a few SIPs may have passed my lips prior to my all too late departure – although I do have a clear recollection of the fabulous Rik “Mr DJ” Garner (First Chop Overlord) playing the mighty Nolan Porter “If I Could Only Be Sure”. Cheers Rik!

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There was a rather excellent two piece on when we arrived playing some great stuff – if only I could remember their name, I’d give ’em a plug! The First Chop is highly recommended, a top conversion of this railway arch, with great beer and an excellent performance space. AND (if you get there early enough) great street food! Fire and Salt BBQ that day. A great addition to Manchester/Salford music venues – with some top funk & soul spun by Mr Garner.

Well, that’s all for this particular evening. Great company, great beer and simply outstanding pubs. What more could a boy ask for?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stockport Beer Festival – 30/05/2014

“And here I dreamt I was a soldier and I marched the streets of Birkenau
And I recall in spring the perfume that the air would bring to the indolent town
Where the barkers call the moon down, the carnival was ringing loudly now
And just to lay with you, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do save lay my rifle down”

(“Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect” – The Decemberists)

(Videolink courtesy of Moriah Mahan on YouTube)

I have professed my love for Portland, Oregon’s finest some time ago. Vocalist Colin Meloy just writes lyrics unlike any other I’ve come across, with a lexicon that is positively 19th Century at times and a voice that is, to some, an acquired taste. It is a taste that I HAVE acquired though, which is why they have remained one of my favourite bands ever since I first downloaded The Crane Wife on eMusic and heard the acoustic strum opening of The Crane Wife 3.

(Recommended albums : “Her Majesty The Decemberists” – 2003; “The Crane Wife” – 2006 & “The Hazards of Love” – 2009)

IMAG1350(Oh that “end of season” feeling!)

How the hell did Stockport County end up in The Skrill North league?

This was only my third Stockport Fest. I enjoyed last year hugely but my fondest memories are of the first one I attended. I can’t say what year it was, but it would have been BC (Before Children – aka Pre 1992!) It was THAT long ago, that Sam Smiths Museum Ale was all the rage and Atilla & I (staffing a charity stall) were serving that and Wilsons Bitter. Nobody seemed to pay the Wilsons any mind, which made me smile as there was more for me!

It has to be said, that Stockport always has an interesting beer list. This was enhanced this year by the addition of a Bar Nouveau, stuffed with brand new beers! This was located in the below stand area along with the food and the entertainment. Wanna guess where I ended up?

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With lots of lovely local beers down here, I just parked my well upholstered ass down on a chair and planted roots!

My beers here were….

1. Ringway BreweryReddish Ruby – 4% abv – Red! Off white head and caramel /slightly treacle nose. Medium bodied with some toffee caramel in themouth but not overly sweet. Some blackcurrant hints in this single English hopped beer and it had a nice bitter finish. Makes some damn fine beers does Paul and respect to him for sticking with English hops.
2. Wilson PotterDreaming Dreams – 4%  abv (I do like a slow start!) Typically excellent Wilson Potter pale beer. Golden and crystal clear. Fruity aroma, clean drinking, smooth and really fruity & refreshing – I do love a bit of Amarillo (d’ya get the quote?) (Their excellent “Don’t Fall” – see previous review here – won Beer of the Festival!)
Bit of a break here while I grabbed some excellent beef stew next door!
Bumped into Darren (he of the excellent Manchester drinking reference work “Greater Manchester Ale News“) and his better half Jo. Always nice to chat with people who know their beer (click his link above for news of another festival coming in Chorlton soon!) Also nice to chat with the ever affable John Clarke from the host CAMRA Branch – one of the many local CAMRA members of my acquaintance who talk much beery sense! Back to the beer ticking!
3 . Squawk Brewing Pomegranate Porter – 3.7% abv – Pomegranate? Intriguing!  Dark brown with an off-white head, berry fruit aroma with good roast backbone. Fairly light bodied, really fruity with that Pomegranate, and a smooth chocolaty hint. Beautiful! Slight sweet yet dry finish.
4. Deeply ValeDeeply Red – 4.2% – Very red indeed! Off white head with gentle red fruit and light spice aroma. Very fruity and very smooth, with a slight spice and astringency from the Rye used. A fine beer.
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(A bit of steel bandage!)
The we turn to the dark side!!!!!
5. Shindigger CraftBlack IPA – 5.5% – At that strength, I held back a bit before trying it. So much so that I had a minor scare when I thought that it had gone! However (and this would be my only minor complaint of the day…) this was somewhat down to the pumping of the beer being a bit of an issue. This beer was beeeeeeautifully black, with a creamy white head and a fantastic citrus aroma with a darker roasted edge. Oh but in the mouth! A devilish blend of roast and citrus. An earthiness of dark roast and licorice with leavening of grapefruit citrus. Beautiful.
6. (And my final beer from Bar Nouveau!) Tickety Brew – Black IPA – 5.5% abv – Black with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Cream colour head with a fruity citrus nose and slight spicy tint. Oh this Is lovely! Spritzy, citrus, a hint of blackcurrant with a roasted base. Hugely fruity, dry finish, low bitterness with that Belgian yeast popping up to say ‘hello’  at the end. Bit of chocolate too. Lovely.
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(bit busier upstairs!)
Whilst it was still quite busy upstairs, it was as nothing compared to the Saturday last year!
7. Shindigger CraftWest Coast IPA  – 5.2% abv – A golden pale with a nose of orange fruits. Full-bodied, really fruity with the citrus edged by a light gooseberry tartness. Refreshing, and again a spritz to it, with a really hoppy finish. Lovely.
My final beer was another newbie for me but from an “old” friend of a brewery….
8. Blackjack BeersFarmhouse Brown – 4.8% abv. Quite a rye-ish aroma to this, that made my nose wrinkle. Really tasty, a lot of fruit, but hugely dry with a real earthy quality. Savoury and again, surprisingly zingy. Mmmm.
There were one or two more consumed, but these were the pick of the bunch for me. All of the beers in the Bar Nouveau were excellent, but there was just something tongue tingling about that Tickety Brew that edged it for me.
A couple of diversions prior to the train led us to….
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The Armoury – (Shaw Heath, Stockport) – Just a quick pint of Robbies Brazilian Blonde in here. Ok, yet unexceptional given the previous fluid intake! However, the pub is a thing of beauty with loads of wood and some mock Tudor detailing inside.
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As I said, just a swift one in here before moving on to….
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Ye Olde Vic – (Chatham Street, Stockport) where I had a refreshing and fruity pint of Solstice by 3 Tuns Brewery (Bishops Castle, Shropshire). A refreshing citrussy and sharp pale ale from this rarely seen brewery (in these parts anyway!)
Myself and the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) carried on for a bit whilst our excellent companions  headed off elsewhere.
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An excellent pint of K*ntish Beard by Weird Beard in Joshua Brooks was our prize for walking from Piccadilly to this excellent (and great value!) bar…..
One or two more followed …… We’ll leave it there shall we?
In short. another excellent beer selection at Stockport. One of the best CAMRA beer festivals. Well worth the journey next year!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!