Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 2

“I want to forget how conviction fits, but can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me? Oh oh oh oh
It can’t all be wedding cake, it can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it, can’t let go of it,

‘Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever, that’s why you will not survive!”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon)

(Clip courtesy Alphamatrix1 on YouTube)

As much as I love beer, I love music. Sometimes, I get all “High Fidelity” and start to make that dreaded nerd fest thing “The All-Time” list. Of course, tastes change over time, but some things stay the same. As John Peel used to say about The (mighty) Fall “Always different, always the same”. This phrase was used on Monday in The Guardian in an article about the new single by Spoon, which led me to this article where Britt Daniel, from the band, gave a brief run down of some of the standout tunes in their 21 year career so far.

Spoon are a band that I return to repeatedly when my musical palate feels a bit jaded. I’m not sure where the phrase “The kings of minimal indie” came from, and it’s probably not entirely accurate about what they do, but it fits, in that there isn’t anything in the tunes that shouldn’t be there. They’re stripped down, rhythmically tight, alternately subtle and powerful, delicate and driven.

It may sound rather stupid, but one of my favourite moments in Manchester in the last 2 years was being stood in Common Bar on Edge St one weekday evening, when the DJ played “Got Nuffin‘ and I found myself shambling drunkenly over to the DJ to say “Thank You”. Just one of (if not the) best bands out there, for me, at the moment. I just hope that they announce a date in Manchester for the new album!

Now for the beer…..

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. BronzeThe Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Wales) – 4.5% abv – Bitter – £2.19 (500ml) – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)

Amber coloured beer with a lovely white foamy head and hedgerow fruit aroma, plum, damson with a real spicy note along with toffee biscuit.

First mouthful is really fruity, with all that hedgerow fruit immediately apparent with a touch of blackcurrant too. Firm cheesecake biscuity malt underlay with a big carpet of fruity bitterness on top of it all.

That bitterness satays (or even “stays”!) awhile before giving space for a big grassy, almost oaky, hop aftertaste. A really big fruity bitter beer. Celt do some much more “experimental” beer, but it’s great to see them getting a beer as traditional as this, just right. Much maligned is bitter, as a style, but this, for me, is a fine example.
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2. Mild With No NameBillericay Brewing (Essex) – 5.5% abv – Strong Mild (Hmmm!) – £3.50 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
Another bottle, another “traditional” British beer style! But all may not be as labelled with this particular beer…..
Very dark beer, almost black with a tan coloured head and an aroma groaning with milk chocolate.

Full-bodied beer, lush and creamy textured. Full on chocolate assails the taste buds with this dark puppy. Chocolate digestives provide the body here then more sweet chocolate fills the mouth, coating the sides before subsiding and yielding primacy to a gentle bitterness and quite a big grassy hop finish.

Not sure that I would call this a mild personally, more Porter territory for me, but a fine beer nonetheless.

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3. Le IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorks) / Dark Star (Brighton, W Sussex) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £1.99 – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)
Amber coloured beer with a thin white head and a fruity aroma, but quite sweet, pineapple maybe?Caramel biscuit malt in this full-bodied mouthful, again fruity, but sticky like pineapple jam mixed with marmalade. Quite a bitterness follows that swallow, with a good resinous pine dollop to round off the aftertaste. Whilst it tastes every fraction of its strength, this is smooth and very easy to drink. Dangerously so, at the strength!  (Short but sweet!)IMAG17904. Rye Pale AleLiverpool Craft Brewery (Liverpool) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (ish!) (330ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

A small supermarket, on a fairly quiet throroughfare. Walk in past the checkout. And there, in the fridges off to the right, is more local beer (and “craft” from around the country) than anyone should have any right to expect! It’s bloody marvellous the range you can fit into such a small space! (And I didn’t even check out the shelves in the rest of the shop!)

A slightly hazy deep golden beer with a lasting soft creamy looking white head and quite a delicate citrus fruit aroma (maybe tangerine) with something more floral.

An interesting fruitiness to this beer, apricot maybe with more of that tangerine. But that Rye spice leads to an almost arid dryness. Really sudden. Further mouthfuls are the same, quite lush fruitiness ended quite suddenly with tongue curling dryness. Big hoppy finish to round it off. Quite unusual, but this really works for me!

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5. Le Gran DepartFive Towns Brewery (Outwood, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From The Brewer (Bought)
My stated aim. I WILL see more beers by Five Towns in the Manchester area! The only problem with this? Malcolm Bastow’s beers are THAT full of lovely hoppy goodness, that those damned Yorkies keep it all for themselves! If ever there was reason for another War of The Roses…… Anyway, so far, they will be the only brewery with TWO beers at The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Which means….that I am SO good to you lot! It really does!!! At the moment, if you want to buy his stuff, head online to Bierhuis (Ossett) & Yorkshire Ales (Snaith & Malton). They can hook you up! (Great shops both – popping in soon)
Extremely pale golden beer with a light white head and a big citrus aroma (with some bitter orange in there) – a Five Towns hallmark.
Light-bodied and very fruity with grapefruit, gooseberry, a little lemon sharpness too. Each mouthful leaves me wanting more of that uber-dry finish that follows the fruit down the throat. In later mouthfuls, an orangey character became more pronounced. A hugely refreshing beer with a good dollop of bitterness and that pine needle resinous wash at the end of the swallow. Another Outwood cracker from Mr Bastow!
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6. Pale AleRunaway Brewery (Manchester City Centre) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the brewer (swap)
I first had this (it was one of my major reasons for going!) at a recent Black Jack open event at their brewery. Mark Welsby’s brewery is the merest of cockstrides from Black Jack. Fortunately really, because when I wanted to pop in and see Mark, I had to ask the Black Jack collective for directions!
Bright and pale gold with a lacey white head and a brash boastful aroma all sharp and tart like a withering Lily Savage one liner put down. Grapefruit and lemon asserting themselves in nasal dominance.

That grapefruit tartness carries on in the mouth, building with each sip. And with each sip comes a growing bitterness. Sliding down really easily, like a beer of this strength should. Really crisp and refreshing and moreish. Nice hoppy bitter too. A fabulous session pale ale!

That’s it for now. Enjoy this summer with some great beer.
Slainte!

Manchester Northern Quarter Bar Crawl – 19/07/2014

“I’ve been up to Villiers Terrace to see what’s a-happening.
There’s people rolling ’round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine

Been up to Villiers Terrace, I saw what’s a-happening
People rolling ’round on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string
You said people rolled on carpet, but I never thought they’d do those things”

(“Villiers Terrace” – Echo & The Bunnymen)

(Video clip courtesy of ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube)

In 1979 /1980, when I was 14, my favourite bands were Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. Joy Division were a slight hand-me-down from my elder brother, but “The Bunnymen” (as we all called them at the time) were all mine. “The Puppet”, “Pictures On My Wall” & “Rescue” (12″ – naturally) were three of the earliest records that I bought for myself. Where Joy Division seemed to embody the somewhat dour, industrial chic of Manchester, “The Bunnymen” & Ian McCullough in particular, were effortlessly cool, a certain cockiness too, maybe. But just so cool.

I even remember buying my first combat jacket (but not “Camo”) to wear to go and see them, from Afflecks Palace (Yes Manchester hipsters, it really HAS been open THAT long!) There were rumours of a “Mystery Gig” swirling around in late 1980 and I desperately tried to get a ticket. To no avail. I think that I missed the last ticket held by Discount Records (Manchester old ‘Indoor Market’ with its entrance off Pall Mall) by a couple of hours. I was gutted. That concert ended up being recorded and saw release as an EP called “Shine So Hard” (An Atlas Adventure)

Rather controversially (some may think), I disowned the band upon the release of the single that was their commercial breakthrough “The Back of Love”, I remember hearing the track on a John Peel Session and thinking it was a sack of shite (Salford colloquialism!), so when I heard a shinier version as a single…..

I drifted back after that album “Porcupine” when they released the classic “Ocean Rain”, but the album (and period) from which “Villiers Terrace” is taken “Crocodiles”, is still their highlight for me.

The Bunnymen kindled a love of the City of Liverpool – though it was at least another 7 years before I was to visit. Strange to find – a couple of years ago – when I was desperately researching my family tree (prior to Dad passing away), that an entire branch of my family could be traced back to the area of Toxteth St Mary! Never leaves you I suppose!

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I really didn’t MEAN to end up in Manchester, honest! It was just meant to be a little nip in to Great Ale Year Round, to sample the bear I helped to shovel out (that most glam of jobs!). That beer is Station to Station IPA. Brewed by Allgates in collaboration with Five Towns of Wakefield, it was a 5.6% mango fuelled delight. Lightly hazed, it was fruitier than a Carmen Miranda headdress! Utterly lush. Glad that I drank it in a great bar, which is undoubtedly what Dan & Gina Buck have. It was nice to see them back in harness after a well-earned holiday!

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I’m off to the mighty County / Republic of Kernow soon (Perranporth, to be exact), so, given that a) I hadn’t been in The Lowers Turks Head for nigh on 30 years and b) there was a Cornish Beer Festival ongoing, we (well, the Arch-Nemesis is ALWAYS nearby!) opted to start here.

The Lower Turks Head (Shudehill – Opp the Bus Station)

Behind that beautiful historic tiled facade (the pub itself, perhaps dates back to as early as 1745), a lot of money has been spent to make this pub shine!

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Busy as hell in here and almost as warm on this humid July afternoon! 2 floors, classy decor shading, fairly dark with lots of wood. We grabbed pints from Padstow Brewery and headed off for some air!

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(Never smile at…..)

Unfortunately, this pleasant outdoor 1st floor terrace also doubled up as a smoking space, but I NEEDED to feel a breeze! The beer was fine, Padstow Brewery “Pilot” 4% abv. A deep ruby red beer, with a chocolate aroma, a bit like a Snickers, a touch nutty. Light bodied, bit like a mild, quite refreshing, lightly hopped.

Given that I love a local beer or two, I’ll have to pop back in on a more “normal evening to judge the offering, but to be fair, the pub looks great and was BLOODY BUSY!


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The Blue Pig (High Street/Back Turner St)

First time for me in this bar. Opening in 2012, this passed me by a bit – being a bit of a “pub” bloke. I’ve obviously denied myself some rare pleasures, because I love this place! Big open room with a bit of a bohemian feel. Nice flourishes all over the place and it was as busy as a chippy with great tunes (The Walkmen, The Smiths) all but drowned out by the sound of conversation – just the way it should be!

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Quite a bit of cocktail action going down as we entered, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the small (2), yet perfectly locally formed cask offering! Shindigger Pale and Black Jack’s Oddingtons. I hit the Shindigger which was in good nick. A fine fruity refreshing pint. This bar probably has the beer selection spot on. 3 pumps, but 2 on, both local. I like it and I like this bar. Not too cool, just a good feel to it. My note uses the word “decadent”. Probably sums it up! I’ll be back.

Odd Bar

(Photo “nicked” from Odd Bar itself!)

Odd Bar (30/32 Thomas Street)

Just around the corner….Odd Bar. One of a 4 bar chain (Is The Blue Pig part of the group?) First time for me again. Top indie tuneage. Offbeat & Tickety Brew beers on the bar. Good start. A fine pint of Tickety Brew Stout. All the roasted malt you could want and that Belgian Yeast spiciness, luxurious and smooth.
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A Lively bar, dark tones, red and browns lots of photos adorning the walls with some seriously decadent wallpaper. Loved the purple fabric  hanging from the ceiling, made me think of a bedouin tent! Beautiful.

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Nice airy room upstairs too. Like Arnie… I’ll be back! A jukebox too? Maybe another juke crawl soon! Just the one in here as the table we occupied was reserved! On to….

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Common Bar (Edge Street)
From the first moment I walked in to Common to the strains of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” by Magazine, I fell in love with this place. The original bar that spawned the monster that became Port Street, The Beagle, IndyManBeerCon…… Now Manchester institutions all!
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2 main rooms, plenty of seating, lots of exposed brickwork and loads of artworks and posters adorning the walls. It really is just cool as fuck, but without trying too hard at it. Great food too! Two cask beers and a whole bunch of “craft keg” offerings. I went for the Moor Brewery and their Confidence at 4.6% abv. A hazy, ruby red beer with a citrus fruit nose allied to some forest fruit. In mouth, medium-bodied with lemon, grapefruit on top. Sharp and fruity. A damn fine beer. A damn fine bar.
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Terrace Bar (Edge Street/Thomas Street – dual entrance)
Bloody hell but this was rammed! Described elsewhere as “the prettiest ginnel in Manchester”, this 2013 bar has lots more exposed brickwork. The fact that it was really busy says a lot.
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Lots of decent breweries on offer from 6 handpumps. I went for Ringmaster from Magic Rock. I tried, but…no. Not for me. Lacked the sheer zing of Magic Rock for me. Had a swift half of Kernel IPA (Citra, Simcoe, Cascade) on keg, which was a bitter citrus delight. I like the bar, again, some great funky tunes and a fine beer selection shows that they are trying hard. Worth a visit.
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57 Thomas Street (Thomas Street – unsurprisingly!)
This is a small yet perfectly formed bar space which has carved itself its own niche in the Northern Quarter. Single room with a long table (apparently constructed from old floorboards), where alternately, you can see people chatting, drinking and eating or alternately playing various board games. It just is that easy-going and …cool (that “other” C word again!)
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(Beer Porn – Lagonda in all her golden glory!)
A few keg fonts as you enter, but the bar top cask dispense is a distinguishing feature. A physically cool (perfectly so) pint of Lagonda IPA was a delight. A Manchester classic. Fruity and lush. Really refreshing for a 5% beer. Spot.On.
The great thing about the above bars…they’re within 100 yards or less of each other, often opposite!
And then…the longest walk of the evening. All of 200 yards or so!
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Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square)
A bar that should NOT be overlooked in the search for good beer. And I mean DAMN good beer! The feel of a Cantina in this big open room, which really should be fuller than it was! Loads of bench seating with some high window seats to watch the NQ go by. Good food apparently too. Live music venue downstairs has some cracking acts on too!
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Tonight, the beers were Shindigger, Squawk, Titanic & Arbor. Now, you know me! Ordinarily, I go local where I can. And I would have done, were it not for the fact that, leering at me, then winking seductively, was Arbor’s Breakfast Stout. Was it REALLY 7.4%? Did I REALLY have a pint? Oh but it was utterly sublime! More coffee than Starbucks could shake a stirring stick at. Creamy and unctuous. Ohhhhh…..Would have had another, but the chariot was waiting!
A fine afternoon in the company of the Arch-Nemesis as always. Great beers in some fabulous Mancunian bars.
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 1

“And I’ll be good
Like I should
Waitin’ is such
Misery, I need
Your touch”

(“Your Touch” – The Black Keys)

(Video courtesy Suchnone on YouTube)

If  The White Stripes made being a two piece (guitar/drums) seem cool, The Black Keys took that template and stripped away the artsy pretensions and just let rip! This track is from the 2006 album “Magic Potion” and was the first of their albums that I bought, via E-Music.

This music is simple, but visceral. It gets me in the gut. Stripped down blues rock. Raw & dirty. All dirty denim and ripped check shirts. Rock & Roll. You’ve got to love it. Especially when it’s this good.

Recommended albums : Magic Potion (2006); Thickfreakness (2003); El Camino (2013)

Beer! Where would I be without it? (Bed probably!)

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. Liverpool Dark – Liverpool One Brewery (Er…Liverpool) – 5% abv – Porter – £3 (ish) (500ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket, Penny Lane (Liverpool)

You might notice by the end of this piece…a bit of a locational theme! All down to the fact, that after a meeting in Liverpool this week, I tracked down a legendary shop in Liverpool. A shop now firmly fixed in my memory!

Black. Always a good start in my book! A light mocha coloured head giving up a chocolate aroma with just a hint of something smoky!

Oh this is lovely! Just enough sweetness in this full-bodied mouthful (ie: not TOO much). Really smooth and full of chocolate with a hint of rum sweetness and molasses.

With each mouthful, the chocolate gets more pronounced and deepens. Yes, there’s sweetness, but also a building bitterness. A very satisfying porter. This is the first I’ve had from this brewery in any format. If everything else is as good as this, I’ll be back to Londis on Penny Lane!

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2. IPARunaway Brewery (Dantzic St, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – Swap (with the brewer) (330ml) – 0 – Direct

Ever get the feeling that you were in the right place, at exactly the right time? That’s how it felt when I walked into Mark Welsby’s brewery on Tuesday. It felt like I was witnessing the start of a great journey. I was there for a chat about The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage!) and bottling was in full effect. A beautiful looking brewery in a superb central location making forward thinking beers with room for expansion. Which is good, because if the bottles I walked out with are half as good as the stuff I had at Black Jack on keg, he’ll be expanding! So how was the first one I cracked?

Isn’t this a pretty thing? Beautiful burnished gold with a clinging white head and a glass bursting with citrus smells! Grief! Mango, Apricot, Grapefruit and a bit of lime perhaps? Nasally intense to say the least!

This is just SOOOO smooth! This is schizoid. It goes from the hops which are like a Ramones style nasal hop thrash, all “1,2,3,4”, to Barry White, the Walrus of love just oh so smooth and seductive. There’s a deep voice in my head, saying “Hey baby, you know you want another mouthful!” (Ooh err…)

So very fruity, with Mango and maybe Pineapple in the mouth with no small amount of pine needle in the finish. But, perversely, such an easy drinking beer! The resins build with each sip, drying the mouth leaving you wanting more. This is every bit as good as the two beers I had on keg at Black jack. A Triumph. Nice one Mark!

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3. Pale Ale – Atom Beers (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

2nd bottle from this new innovative brewery from Hull – also supplying to The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage!)

Bright gold in colour, with a light white head and an aroma with hints of peach and orange marmalade.

Oh yes……Fresh, clean and a good bitter hit. First flavour is that marmalade, so good that Paddington Bear could spread it on his sandwiches!

Medium-bodied this is sliding down ever so well. Nice and fruity with lots of citrus in here, slightly sticky, balanced by a good assertive bitter finish. Really refreshing too with a nice sharpness to it.

The bitter finish leads to a lovely assertive hoppy grassy aftertaste, not overpowering, just right in a beer of this strength. Impressive. Glad they’re on board for The Festival!

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4. Kitty Wilkinson– Liverpool Organic Brewery (Liverpool) – 4.6% abv – Chocolate & Vanilla Stout – £3.20 (ish, my memory is shocking!) – 0 – Londis Supermarket, Penny Lane (Liverpool)

Kitty Wilkinson. The Saint of the Slums. In 1832, during a cholera epidemic, Kitty had the only boiler in her neighbourhood, so she invited those with infected clothes or linens to use it, thus saving many lives. This was the first public washhouse in Liverpool. Ten years later with public funds her efforts resulted in the opening of a combined washhouse and public baths, the first in the United Kingdom. (Source Wikipedia)

This bottle is labelled with the phrase (one of a series perhaps?) “Liverpool Heroes” I now know why. Some of my ancestors were from Toxteth St Mary at the time of this epidemic. Makes you think eh?

The beer is as black as you would want it (well, me anyway) with head like cafe creme yielding an aroma reminiscent of chocolate ice cream. Topped with a 99 for extra chocolate!

Nice and smooth rich beer this. Unctuously chocolately, decadent, like laying your taste buds in a tub of Ben & Jerrys.

Yes, slightly sweet, with all of that chocolate and the vanilla twist, it’s going to be slightly sweet. But there is a twist of hops that hits you at the back of the tongue, reminding you that this is a beer, not a dessert! I’ve always had this beer when I’ve seen it on draught. It was the first beer I had in Joshua Brooks. Now a favourite in bottle too. Lovely.

Just to round off the story : Kitty Wilkinson’s epitaph apparently read

“CATHERINE WILKINSON. Died 11 November 1860, aged 73. Indefatigable and self-denying She was the Widow’s friend. The support of the Orphan. The fearless and unwearied nurse of the sick. The originator of Baths and Wash-houses for the poor. ‘For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.’ St. Mark, 12th Chapter, 44th Verse.” A true heroine.

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5. Londinium – Roosters Brewing Co (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 5.5% abv – Coffee Porter – £2.29 (ish) (500ml) – 0 – Booths Supermarket (Media City, Salford)

I’ve got David Bishop to thank for my trying this beer. Persuaded me one evening to actually try Roosters beers when sober! So glad he did!

A black beer with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Mocha coloured head just OOZES espresso menace but also has a spicy note.

As smooth as silk, but with all the eye-opening potency of a fresh Americano. This is assuredly NOT a midnight beer!

Quite full-bodied, the coffee is upfront, with a little sweetness, but there is a deeper roasted malt backbone at play here lending a substantial bitterness to this beer. This is just so smooth, I’m thinking of Isaac Hayes singing “Walk On By” (random musical thought!).

There’s a subtle deep fruitiness to this beer too. The finish is quite bitter with a hoppy kick in the aftertaste. Immediate but complex. A fine beer.

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6. White Fox – Liverpool Craft Beer Co (Liverpool) – 6.3% abv – IPA/Wit hybrid – £3 (ish, that crap memory again!) (330ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A twist in the (Fox’s) tail! When I bought this, I took it for a straight IPA. That’ll teach me to read bottles properly won’t it?

A hazy golden beer. A white head. A confounding aroma. Yeasty and fruity sweet in equal measure, maybe even a yeasty hint of rhubarb (always a winner with me!) Reminds me a tad of Ilkley Siberia, a fine reference point.

Oh this is lovely….once the lively beast had settled! Creamy smooth, yet arid dry. Fruity with rhubarb and maybe a hint of gooseberry tartness, grapefruit too, but subtle.

That yeast provides a spicy backdrop. A fabulous melding of styles that to me, that shouldn’t work, but just does. The finish to this is just oh. so. dry. There’s a sticky pine in the aftertaste too. A fine way to finish an (late!) evening! Another excellent beer (and a surprise) from Liverpool Craft.

2 (maybe 3) of these breweries will be featuring at The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage again!) Follow on Twitter HERE (Go ON! You know you want to!)

That’s it for this week I think! Off to Great Ale Year Round later to sample the delights of the beer I assisted on from Allgates & Five Towns – Station To Station IPA. I am SO looking forward to tasting this! (A bottle review to come soon!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

The Independent Salford Beer Festival – 24/25th October 2014 – Update #1

ISBF Poster

(Design by Andy Heggs – aka HopOnTheBike)

“A mistake on the part of nature
You’re so fabled, so fair, just sit anywhere
I’ve pencil sketched the scene
It’s feeling Byzantine

Mistakes on the part of nature
The living proof of what they’re calling love
On certain sideway streets
Where things that don’t match meet”

(“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” – The New Pornographers)

(Video courtesy of  “Bill James” on YouTube)

Regarded as a bit of a “Supergroup” in North America, The New Pornographers are formed from the combination of a number of singular talents, Carl (AC) Newman (main male vocal), the siren voiced Neko Case (Grammy award winner), the fabulous Kathryn Calder (vocals/keyboards), Dan Bejar – all of who have successful solo careers, but come together every 3 years or so to make the most wonderful pop music.

It may not be the pop of Rihanna or Miley Cyrus or whoever, but what it is, is literate songs allied to superb musicianship that’s as tight as a drum. Look past the name and try a listen – this tune indeed was used on an Amazon Kindle advert.

Now…business!

How do you measure progress? I can assure you, that my building stress levels don’t feel like progress! To the eyes of an outsider, we probably haven’t moved on that far,  but,  putting one foot in front of another is how the biggest voyages start.

There are a lot of decisions/challenges still to be worked out, One big session per day or 2? Pricing for tickets? Size of glassware? Printed tickets or self print (via the likes of Eventbrite?), music/no music, I’m giving myself a headache trying to think about them all!

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the venue. I had been a few times before, but then I went in with different eyes. 151m sq is quite a big space when you clear out a bunch of tables! (Not all, of course!)

There are at least 3 rooms/spaces.

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(The main room)

Admittedly, that picture was taken from the corner of the room, but it’s a big old space. No Velodrome & certainly not a Victoria Baths, but it’ll more than do! To the left of the image there is an- out of shot – serving hatch, but food will be served from the other side in a different area. There’s more than enough room for both vertical and sedentary drinking for the more relaxed drinker (ie : Me!)

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(Food area / serving area)

The aim with the food is to keep it simple. It will be home-made and probably along the lines of Pie/Peas, maybe Chilli/Veg and other stuff yet to be thought about. The likely cook has fed me a few times and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Nothing overly spicy to take away from the main reason for being there!

In front of this serving area is a space with tables about 31 m/sq – a decent space for eating.

The venue is fairly well served by public transport with 2 buses that come from Salford Shopping Centre stopping right outside the door and buses from Manchester stopping a 5 minute walk away along Gerard Road from the stop on Littleton Road. (All this info will be on the website currently being designed & built by my good buddy Darren Turpin – he of the excellent Gtr Mcr Ale News)

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(3rd room at 30 m/sq – more tables for seating/chatting)

However, the main reason for this brief update is….Breweries! Having been in communication with some for quite a while now and having been in touch with others more recently, the following North West / Yorkshire breweries WILL be present and correct!

Allgates, Black Jack, Black Edge, Cheshire Brewhouse, Deeply Vale (A special brewed with Yours Truly!), First Chop, Hornbeam, IndyManBrewHouse, Offbeat, Outstanding, Privateer, Ringway & Runaway (likely, a World First!) – That’s the NW contingent, with more to follow (I certainly want at least one from Liverpool!)

So far, from Yorkshire…Atom Beers, Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing, Brass Castle, (the mighty) Five Towns & Revolutions – again, more to follow!

What I can guarantee is this, there will be at least one (and likely more) “World Firsts” in cask (I’m working on others!). There will certainly be beers that will be the first time you will see them in the Greater Manchester / North West both from Yorkshire and from nearer to home. I should have more of an update by the first week in August, when hopefully, the website may become the forum for these kinds of updates.

Actual Beers will be announced much nearer the festival with the “World First” type beers possible secret until the day…Just to keep you guessing like!

Next week will be contacting re dispense (hand pull & stillage etc), glassware and printing for posters / flyers etc…It never stops!

A big thank you already to Andy Heggs & Darren Turpin, the efforts and help of both made this feel more real from the off!

And an ENORMOUS thank you to the brewers (named above) for their help, advice and lovely beer that’s coming your way. It really will be special – won’t it? I said it earlier on Twitter, but it bears repeating – Beer People Are Good People!

On that note….til next time…

Slainte!

Follow on Twitter @Salfordbeerfest – Go on! You KNOW you want to!

Bottled Ales – June 2014 – Pt 3

“Face drawn in acts of courage, penny drops, the same old story”

(“Atom Rock” – Quando Quango)

(Audio clip courtesy of GilMahadeva on YouTube)

Not the height of lyrical sophistication, I’ll grant you, but Quando Quango were more for the feet than the heart! QQ were a Factory Records band in those heady days that were pre Happy Mondays. When dancing at the Hacienda was one of the early to mid 80s escapes from Thatcherite drudgery and miserablism. To step onto the dance floor of the pre-rave Fac 51 and dance to tunes such as “Love Tempo” (QQ again) & “White Lines” just melted your cares away (not to mention the Glenn Miller break and the night ending Theme from Thunderbirds!)

This tune is notable for Johnny Marr’s smooth guitar work (still in The Smiths at this point – I think) as much as the dance rhythms and latino spiked brass stabs. The band only released one album, but were hugely loved in both Manchester & New York and had core members of Gonny Rietveld, her brother Reiner (from Rotterdam) and the then Hacienda DJ Mike Pickering (later to form M People). It has to be said, that in their brief – almost butterfly like – existence, they reached some influential ears, in one interview at the time, the legendary hip-hop producer Arthur Baker was asked for one band he would like to produce, his answer……….

Just enjoy the tune…..provokes some seriously shady “dad dancing” in MY house!

On to the beer….where would we be without it?

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. Dark AlchemyAtom Beers (Kingston-upon-Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.9% abv – Porter – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A brewery first encountered (by me) on the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” festival, I was eagerly looking forward to trying my first in bottle – and intrigued by the idea of a Porter without hops!

The beer is Black. With the faintest of ruddy glows at the bottom of the glass when held to the light. Thin beige coffee coloured head, with an aroma featuring chocolate, coffee and quite a spicy note, slightly perfumed…Cardomom perhaps (then I checked the bottle and saw that cardamom featured!).

Now this is one intriguing beer! Quite full-bodied considering the strength with good carbonation, there’s a lot going on with this beer and no mistake.

Firstly, there is a lovely smooth chocolate flavour….then there is quite a perfumed flavour which comes from the cardamom. This is followed by something more earthy and herbal and finishes off slightly warming as it slides. The aftertaste remains chocolatey with almost a Turkish Delight kind of flavour. Not a standard porter by any means, but I think I love this! (I think I’m going to have to add this lot to my Beer Fest list!)

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2. Amarillo Gold – Saltaire Brewery (Saltaire, W Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A pale straw gold coloured beer with a lacy white head and a nice mellow orange marmalade aroma.

The nice and gentle carbonation gives a smooth medium bodied mouthful with a good dose of Seville orange, bitter yet subtle. The fruitiness continues mouthful after mouthful with that bitterness building with each swallow. Hugely enjoyable and refreshing.

The finish is increasingly bitter with  a good resinous whack in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Probably the best mid strength Pale I’ve had from Saltaire. And that’s saying something!

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3. Brewers GoldBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Tottering Temple (Brewery Shop)

One of a few bottles that I picked up from their excellent shop on a recent visit to mither Wayne & Shaun about the upcoming Independent Salford Beer Festival !

Pale gold beer with lively carbonation giving a decent fluffy white head and an aroma delicate with citrus, orange.

Medium bodied beer same fruitiness, like bitter marmalade. And this IS bitter. Really clean tasting beer, refreshing with a hint of fresh apple in with the quite assertive bitterness.

A beer that I would describe as a bitter. And a damn good one at that. Did I mention Bitter? Not a swear word you know!

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4. Mayflower Gold – Billericay Brewing Co (Billericay, Essex) – 6.5% abv – Pale Ale – £4.50 (375 ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

You have absolutely NO IDEA how much I was tempted to use the lyrics of “Billericay Dickie” by Ian Dury at the top of this piece! What a great bawdy humoured classic!

Coming in a very attractive cork stoppered 375ml bottle. This is a slightly hazy, almost bronze coloured amber beer, with a big citrus fruit and floral aroma from a thin white head.

A big body on this, with loads of sweet biscuit malt and lashings of citrus hops with orange up front, this is almost more of an IPA than a straight pale ale for me. A slight savoury note too with this, like a light rauch smokiness, this is dangerously easy drinking – having it before a night out sure doesn’t feel wise!

The fruitiness mellows as I’m progressing down the glass, the bitterness is low too, which aids the easy drinking bit. Really rather pleasant!

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5. MotuekaMallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A golden coloured beer, with a lasting white head and a big tropical fruit aroma with kiwi and passion fruit to the fore, really fragrant.

This is light to medium bodied with a light fresh bready malt balancing the tropical fruit which comes through strongly in the mouth and is allied to quite an assertive bitterness.

Beautifully fruity and refreshing, there are hints of peach too in later mouthfuls. This is yet another beautiful single hopped Pale Ale from the Queens of the style.

Summary. Tropical fruity. Bitter. Lingering resinous aftertaste. Lovely. I kind of expect nothing less from these ladies.

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6. SessionRingway Brewery (N Reddish, Stockport) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

Bright and deep golden beer with a plentiful white head that shares aromas from the forest, blackcurrant and blackberry, fruity with a toffee biscuit backing vocal.

Once again from Ringway, a really smooth easy drinking beer. Quite full-bodied for its modest strength, the biscuity malt & the forest fruit flavours come through in the mouth too like a promise fulfilled. A bracing bitterness at the end of each mouthful too, a proper session bitter this one. Another belter from Paul who describes his beers as “easy drinking” a phrase which hits the mark at bull’s eye.

One question. Has “Bitter” become a swear word in the drinking community? It isn’t with me. There’s something about a nice pint of bitter which just really…..satisfies and comforts in equal measure.

Before I go, a slight rant.

I keep hearing the phrase “twiggy” when describing beer made with British hops, a phrase that is as worthy of derision as are the tastebuds of the people that spout it. To quote Jeanette Winterson “Orange is not the only fruit”! There are more fruits in the supermarket than lemons, grapefruit and the rest. Yes, I like those flavours too, but try something different and actually try TASTING it before JUDGING it! (I’ve had a shit week, my tolerance levels are stuck on Empty!)

So, rant over, there we go!

At some point soon, I might have to have a “blog holiday” and focus four square on The Independent Salford Beer Festival if it’s going to work!

On that note….until next time….

Slainte!

 

Booths Supermarket – Best Beer Supermarket in The North

“Inlitterati lumen fidei, God is with us everyday
That illiterate light , is with us every night.
Theologians, they don’t know nothing , about my soul, oh they don’t know…

I’m an ocean, I’m all emotion, I’m a cherry ghost, cherry ghost”

(“Theologians” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of  Luis Rodrigo Barrera on You Tube)

10 years or so ago, Phil, my good friend played me a track called “California Stars”. It is an old Woody Guthrie song and was recreated (along with a whole host of others) to form the album “Mermaid Avenue” as performed by Billy Bragg & Wilco. Little did I know it then, but a love affair was born with a band from Chicago.

In 2004, I saw Wilco at Manchester Academy. The band were fantastic, great musicians all, but together….just fantastic. But the thing that struck me was just how fragile the vocalist (Jeff Tweedy) seemed. There was a vague rumour of an addiction (not eased by the lyrics of songs like “Handshake Drugs”) and I was utterly convinced that he wasn’t long for this world. I committed to seeing them whenever I could and saw them again later that year at Nottinghams’ Rock City. A fabulous live band. With the subsequent addition of the jazz inflected shredding guitar of the mighty Nels Cline, they’re even better.

I saw them most recently on the tour for their most recent album “The Whole Love” – again at Manchester Academy on a day when we buried an old college friend of mine. I don’t know if  the emotion of the day caught up with me, but the performance was one of the greatest of any band I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It started with this track “Art of Almost“, the lead track from the album. I had to share that too. Hold with it until the music fades and Glenn Kotche starts a whipcrack drum beat at about 4:43. Then watch/listen Nels Cline go! (The mans hands BLEED after performances!). Do you know what, the memory of that concert – and the whole day – still gets me.

We could get into the “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” situation / mythology – but I’ll let you find that for yourself. The band are MORE than worth a listen.

Recommended albums : I can’t. They’re all superb. My favourite tracks however : “Impossible Germany” (Sky Blue Sky); “Art of Almost” & “One Sunday Morning” – simply heartbreakingly beautiful – (The Whole Love) & “A Shot In The Arm” (Summerteeth)

On to the beer eh?

Today, I’m going off on a beery tangent – shop wise.

I am a huge supporter of small independent beer shops. They provide knowledgeable service, combined with beers you simply won’t find in any supermarket. I don’t think that there is an exception to that rule. But I love E H Booths – or simply Booths as they are now. They are a Northern chain and are positioned (I would say) at The Waitrose end of the spectrum. The artisanal foods that they stock, the breads, the deli counter, they rock my boat….but oh, the beer….

It was about 2003 and I was driving along Penwortham Way from Preston toward Leyland when I spotted (from the corner of my eye), a supermarket just off a roundabout and resolved to go in, which I did. I walked in with no preconceptions, no basket, no trolley and strolled – purposefully – towards the alcohol section. Bypassing the wines & spirits, I arrived at the beer section. My jaw dropped. I had simply never seen so many beers in a shop. The first thing I noticed was Alaskan Smoked Porter…..I went to get a trolley…..and walked out with nearly £100 of beers I had (mostly) never seen, never mind drunk, previously. The birth of another love affair….

With my beer shopping being focused on small independent shops, I hadn’t been into their excellent Media City outlet – my next closest being Chorley – for a while. That is, until I wandered into a Twitter conversation which seemed to offer up a live online community tasting session. Inspired by the launch of 4 own branded beers sourced from the 4 counties in which they operate (Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire & Yorkshire), they were hosting this session tasting 2 of those 4 beers with the #BoothsCheers hashtag and sending the two chosen beers to a number of people to join in, I butted in and they sent me two, but, on the day of the tasting, I missed the delivery, so, improvising, I went to Media City to pick the two up – and walked out with 19 bottles!

I chatted with a couple of the staff including the manager of the Alcohol section (really friendly) who helped me to find a couple of beers I couldn’t locate, the service is impeccable. I even tried to blag a raffle prize for the Salford Beer Festival…….well…he didn’t say no and even said he’d like to come….that’s ticket number 1 sold then!

As far as supermarket chains are concerned, they have no competitor in the North West. Yes, I’ve heard of the exceptional range at Londis on Penny Lane in Liverpool, but that’s one outlet. But with stock only slightly varying depending on store size, you get beers here that you won’t in any other Northern supermarket. May be the reason why they were my Beer Supermarket of 2013 in my Golden Pints! I’ve tasted a small selection of my haul….Prices are generally around the £1.79 to £2.29 mark, with an offer on many at 4 for £6 at the moment, during their “Beer Festival”

Connor Murphy on his excellent Beer Battered blog wrote a piece on Booths recently as part of his ‘Supermarket Ale Trail’ series – read here

And before you say anything…This is most certainly NOT an advertorial….Confidentially speaking….some local blogs do that…I don’t. These were all paid for. By me!


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1. Route 66Eden Brewery (St Andrews, Scotland) – 5.1% abv – Lager

This was a bright straw yellow gold and had a slight chill haze, with a white head and a  slight fruity aroma with peach and a hint of spice.
In the mouth, this is medium-bodied with a good rich tea malt base and was quite fruity and dry with a note that reminded me of grape skins. That biscuity malt gave a slight sweetness that was offset by quite a bitter kick. A really refreshing mouthful with a substantial spicy hop finish and a lingering herbal hop grassy aftertaste. First from this Brewery and a really good British Lager.

I *may* have bought one or two more from Eden’s range……maybe….

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2. YankeeRoosters Brewing Co (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale
Only my second from Roosters in bottle (following the excellent High Tea). I was delighted to see both this and their Coffee Porter “Londinium” on the shelves and MAY have snapped up a bottle or 2…..
A beautiful bright golden with a white fluffy head and a full booming aroma with sweet lemon and tart gooseberry, enough to make my saliva gland go into overdrive!
Medium-bodied and fruity with a kind of lemon sherbet on a base of fresh white bread, this is so smooth and easy drinking. Each mouthful as fruity and zingy as the first. Perfect summer drinking. Fresh as a daisy, sweet fruity and very moreish. A classy Pale Ale. I could go at this all night….
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3. Marie JauneIlkley Brewery (Ilkley, N Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale
The one thing that can be said about Yorkshire Micros…They were never going to leave “Le Grand Depart” of the Tour De France uncommemorated, were they? To be fair, I’ve had some belting beers loosely Tour themed. This was another..
Golden, white head, subtle fruity aroma with a little peach or nectarine.

This is quite full bodied for the strength with a good solid biscuity malt body, some grape fruitiness, nicely sharp, clean and fresh tasting, along with a gentle peach leading to a subtle bitterness. Really dry tart aftertaste too. This was smoothly carbonated lending itself to a really smooth easy drinking beer. Lovely.

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4. Cherry StoutTyne Bank Brewery (Newcastle Upon Tyne) – 5.2% abv – Stout
This was a really pleasant surprise on the shelves near the lift. Tyne Bank are a rarity to me. Last time I had any was IndyManBeerCon in 2012! So I had to…didn’t I? Especially with my love of the Darkside!
Black with a slight ruby glow and a light mocha coloured head and an aroma of light coffee with a gentle whiff of cherry.

Full bodied smooth in the mouth, initial flavour is Bournville chocolate, sweet but with a certain depth. Then in comes some cherry – not overpowering, unlike some beers that use it – which complements the chocolate really well with a slightly sour tinge. This is excellent.

The Oatmeal lends the beer a silkiness which adds to the sense of balance. Mouthful after mouthful, this is a lovely smooth flavoursome beer. Silky from the oats, with that cherry ohhh …… And at a couple of quid, feels like shoplifting!

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5. “Jack Brand” Innovation IPAAdnams Brewery (Southwold, Suffolk) – 6.7% abv – IPA
Having heard a lot about the Adnams “craft” range (and this beer in particular) from luminaries like Nathaniel Southwood, I was keen to try this and rather pleased when I saw it on the shelves – especially at £1.99!
Deep golden coloured beer with a light white head and booming citrus aroma all apricot and grapefruit, so fragrant.

Full bodied and just SO SMOOTH. The first mouthful is all big juicy malt sweetness with a fruitiness which is more like a grapefruit marmalade, sticky and juicy. There’s a barley sugar element to this but it’s more than balanced by the fruit and a restrained bitterness.

The finish is really quite dry with a fresh-cut grass and insistent resinous pine. A really good IPA in its own right, but probably the best “craft” offering I’ve had so far from one of the regionals. Yeah. Just about sums it up.

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6. Black IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 5.6% abv – Black IPA (er…)
This was the first of the beers in the #BoothsCheers Twitter Tasting. But, give that I missed the delivery, I bought this and the Golden Ale (also excellent). It was more than worth it.
Black with a cream coloured head, the aroma on this was all sugared grapefruit with something a bit…darker…lurking in the shadows of that place between the nose and the mouth…
In the mouth, this was full-bodied, with the instant shock of mango and grapefruit coming from a black beer brought back down to dark reality by a touch of treacle, a lashing of licorice and more than a chunk of bitter chocolate. This flavour fiesta is rounded off by a substantial resinous aftertaste. Just a cracking beer. I do like a Black IPA me, I do! As Connor put it at the time….”Everything a Black IPA should be” – I’m such a plagiarist!
Well, that’s it. If you’re going to shop in a supermarket for beer, honestly, look no further. We’re a lucky bunch in the North!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!