Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Part 2

“Music in the ice-box, laughter in the dark,
Echoes in the silence, waiting for the spark,
Hold me while I’m naked, catch me if you can,
Suicide statements are the measure of the man …”

(“Do You Dream In Colour” – Bill Nelson)

(Clip courtesy Robert Jukes on YouTube)

I am a Bill Nelson fan. A true fan in that his is the only “Fan Club” that I ever joined. For a couple of years, you got a magazine (REALLY well produced) every quarter and an exclusive 7″ single with every second magazine. The output of the man was massive!

Simply one of the greatest, yet unsung, British guitarists. Starting solo and quite folky, then hitting a peak with one of the tightest rock bands of the 70s, the awesome Be Bop Deluxe. Tracks like Maid In Heaven, Between The Worlds, Love With The Madman, Ships In The Night……Oh my…..so tight…so melodic…and that guitar could make such sounds

Then, just when they looked to be getting huge in the States, he got …… bored. He went to form a more “modern” and aggressive band Red Noise. Again, utterly superb. But only one album. Check out “Sound on Sound”. Of its time, but still sharp as lemon juice!

“Do You Dream In Colour” was the “hit” single that never was. It was hamstrung in that its release coincided with a strike at the BBC in 1981, so that Top of the Pops wasn’t broadcast. It should have been huge. Bill should have had more success…..

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1. Govinda India Pale Ale (Barrel Aged Head Brewers Reserve) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8%abv – IPA – £No Idea (500ml) – The Ale Man (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)

A deep copper coloured beer with a tight soft white head with an aroma full of banana toffee laced with a boozy caramel note (aged in Brandy barrel), so inviting.

Second sniff reminds me more of a rich Christmassy fruit cake. Oh Yum!

Oh bloody hell this is SUCH A GREAT BEER. PROPER BEERGASM MATERIAL!!! A full-bodied rich and smooth mouthful. Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours just give way to a spicy hop and a very gentle (But present) bitterness. That said, this is such a smooth beer.

In the second mouthful and further, the earthy character of the hops takes more of a front seat with a building spiciness and peppery note. The aftertaste is peppery hop and a slightly smoky spirit warmth. Beautiful. There is apparently another barrel aged version of this beast. You NEED this in your glass!

#Beergasm Number 1 This week!
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2. Bohemian Antipodean PaleOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.65 (500ml) – Tottering Temple (Horwich)
Pale gold with a light white head and gentle carbonation giving really big tropical fruit aromas of mango & kiwi.

Oh my! Nice medium bodied beer this with a fabulously fruity party going on! Peach, mango, kiwi, passion fruit followed by a HUGE bracing piney sticky bitterness. Wow!

This is absolutely PACKED with flavour and feels much bigger than its strength. Further mouthfuls just confirm initial impressions. This bitterness builds to a dry finish with a really assertive piney aftertaste. Superb.

You need THIS as well!
#Beergasm Number 2!
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3. Stout PorterSeven Bro7hers Brewery (Salford) – 5.2%abv – StoutGreat Ale Year Round – £3 (330ml)
My first in bottle from this Salford brewery who – after their initial (feather ruffling) launch publicity – have settled to make some rather nice well judged beers on cask. But in bottle….
A black beer with a ruby tinge around the edges, a creamy tan coloured head and…. A subtle yet distinct aroma of… licorice & Anise. Very intriguing!

Initially tasting a little sweetness, this mouthful developed into something with a more dry and Roasted malt character, slightly bitter, but not overly, leaving the room free for some spicy licorice and herbal sweetness of the anise. A very nice mouthful indeed.

A second mouthful held more of the same, but I found a nutty note coming through in the aftertaste that was surprising and most pleasant and which gradually gave best to that gentle aniseed finish. This could work really well on draught and I need to try it soon. Salford has another brewery worth the candle it would seem!

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4. PilsShindigger Brewing Co (Here, there & everywhere!) – 5.1% abv – Pilsner -£? (330ml) – Direct from the brewer
No disclaimer needed, I did actually pay for this, I just haven’t noted a price up top as I don’t know what the retail price would be!
As Pale a gold add you could possibly wish for work a light white head and aroma of…. Mango! A Lager with a tropical fruit aroma? Hmmm.

This is now one of the few beers that I’ve had in cask, keg and bottle. Cask at ISBF, keg at MTB and now…. And it’s a bloody lovely beer too (as were the cask & keg)

First impressions in the mouth? Light, massively refreshing, clean and crisp as all good pilsner should be. With the addition of fruity hops which are more dialled down, but plenty enough! Smooth too, with a nice cereal / bready  malt backbone coming through later.

I told the fellas at the time of ISBF that this struck me as an ultra Pale Ale as much as a Lager in its cask incarnation. The bottle version reminds me (kind of) of Caesar Augustus by Williams Brothers which is a Lager / IPA hybrid (and bloody good too!)

I’m waiting for George & Paul to take a misstep. No danger yet of that. Another belter.

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5. OktoberfestRunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Dark Lager – £3 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round
A deep copper colour to this with a foamy off white head and an intriguing fruity aroma, some plum, a bit of barley sugar and something more… Boozy… Maybe a hint of golden rum or molasses.

Not being a big fan of darker German beers, I approached this with trepidation, I dislike Bock beers for example. Just don’t “get” them at all. However…..

Initial sweetness with some barley sugar (crystal malt?) and quite fruity, again plum but with something else too, maybe the merest hint of banana caramel. That sweetness quickly fades as a drying quality asserts itself with a feeling of rye curling the tongue.

Really smooth andfull bodied this. Those molasses come more to the fore in the second gob full. Big wholemeal bready malty base in this supporting that sweet fruitiness. And a big hint of marzipan cakiness too, giving this a seasonal feel.

A departure for Mark this. And he’s carried it off too. This could barrel age well methinks!

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6. Sorachi Ace StoutFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6.5% abv (I think!) – Strong Stout – Direct.
I originally picked this up at the same time that I personally collected the pin of cask conditioned version for ISBF. No labels either. I was strictly instructed NOT to drink it for a couple of weeks as it had JUST been bottled and wouldn’t yet be ready. Oh I am SO glad I waited. This was one of the stars of the show at ISBF. I was drooling as I picked up the bottle opener!
Pitch black. Reassuringly so. A nice tight tan coloured and creamy looking head on this as well with an aroma that just oozes…. Bitter chocolate and (of all things) rum like an Old Jamaica chocolate bar from the 70s. Do they still make them?

Oh shit this is just SO creamy and unctuous! Coffee. Strong coffee. That bitter chocolate too. Smooth and silky, seductive, I’m hearing Ike’s Rap II by Isaac Hayes (as sampled by Portishead for Glory Box), deep melodic bass notes. Slinky. Like this beer.

But there is a lightness of hopping that lifts this beer too. A fabulous grassy dryness and a little light fruitiness. Just a little. Because this beer wallows and luxuriates in its delightful dark depths. Got a lot of love at ISBF did this. I can sure see why.

A beautiful thing.

#Beergasm Number 3!

Cornish Bottled Beers – August 2014

“Oh, God of Progress, have you degraded or forgot us?
Where have your laws gone? I think about it now

Ancient hieroglyphic or the South Pacific
Typically terrific, busy and prolific
Classical devotion, architect promotion
Lacking in emotion, think about it now

Chicago, the New Age, but what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?
Oh, Columbia
Amusement or treasure, these optimistic pleasures
Like the Ferris wheel.”

(“Come On Feel The Illinoise” – Sufjan Stevens)

(Clip courtesy of Sufjan Stevens on YouTube)

If I was pushed to name my favourite song/track, this would be it.

With the release of his album “Michigan”, Sufjan Stevens announced a “50 States Project”. That was, to record an album themed to each of the 50 states of the US. 50 albums. Think about it. Given how prolific Stevens was at that point, the music press took him seriously. “Illinois” (from which the above track – with its nod to Slade – is taken) was supposed to be the second in the series….until he revealed that it was all a marketing gimmick and he had no intention…..

The above paragraph is meant to highlight the sheer ambition of Stevens’ music. This damned track is so multi-layered, so huge, so sprawling, so bloody BUSY! Few could get away with it. Sufjan Stevens can though. And speaking of getting away with stuff, few could make a song about one of (if not THE) most prolific mass murderers in US history –  John Wayne Gacy – sound like a thing of sad beauty.

Some of the tracks are little but snippets, but this is simply a HUGE album. 21 tracks from “UFO Sighting” through to “Jacksonville”, the banjo plucking “Decatur”, the lovely “Chicago”. A hugely underrated and chronically overlooked album.

And, as I said, my favourite track.

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(Baner Peran – St Piran’s Flag)

When in Rome…..

Back in August, I went on holiday for a week to Perranporth in the beautiful county of Kernow (Cornwall, for those not in contact with their inner Celt!). Now Perranporth isn’t exactly overburdened with great drinking holes, so I spent most of my time in a caravan….on top of a cliff…..at the tail end of a hurricane influenced weather system. Not ideal. However, to brighten things up, a colleague – who isn’t a beer nerd – mentioned an off-licence in the village as being worth a shuftie.

So, one morning, I went for a short walk. Which turned into a 5 mile round trip! When I got there, the place had had a window shattered and was being attended to by Devon & Cornwall’s finest. A false start.

The Haven site bar I was at was all Skinners. Dispiriting. So I jumped in the jalopy (lesson learned!) and popped down to that “offie”. Called “The Corkscrew”, the name was suitably descriptive in that it majored on wines. However, the beer selection was ace! All local. Yes, of course, there was St Austell & Skinners – not to mention Sharps, but there were a few Micros in there too, so……

 A few days later, we went to Truro, where I was lucky to stumble across a specialist beer shop named The Beer Cellar…..A place loaded with great craft beer….I could have gone daft…but instead restricted myself to some Cornish Micros…as I said “When in Rome”. So here’s my best 6….Don’t ask for prices……I can’t remember…I was too busy trying to keep that caravan on the ground in a Force 12!!!!

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1. White Cross IPABlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 5.7% abv – IPA – £1.95 (330ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

If I’d have known that these guys were SO CLOSE to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

Golden beer, decent fluffy white head and a beautiful citrus aroma with lots of Mango and a little peach in there too.

Full-bodied and really smooth on the tongue this packs a good tropical fruit punch with the mango, peach and a little kiwi in there too. This leads into a nice bitterness without being overpowering.

That fruitiness intensified with each sip, the bitterness leading to a quite punchy resinous pine hit in the aftertaste that lingers until the next fruity mouthful. A little belter this. A proper IPA.

IMAG19462. Pale AleHarbour Brewing Co (Trekillick, N Cornwall) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.35 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

I love the classy labelling of Harbour beers. Clean lines, bold, upfront, but so classy.

I also like the bold citrus aromas banging out of this deep golden beer! Lots of orange and fruity mango leaping from the white head!

Smooth as the proverbial bottom, this full-bodied beer slides into the mouth with some bitter orange marmalade muscle on a big digestive biscuit malt skeleton, this is simply a lovely beer.

There is a quite gentle bitterness to this that slouches to one side and allows the hoppy resins to rise to the occasion in a grassy /piney hop aftertaste. A seriously nice beer, picked up at a ludicrous price at a shop recommended by a work colleague.

An unusual one as well, in that Harbour’s Pale Ale is stronger than their IPA! Both lovely beers.

IMAG1947 (1)3. An HowlPenpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 5.6% abv – Strong Golden Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

With it’s translation from Celtic meaning “The Sun”, this is a crystal clear deep golden ale with an abundant white foamy head and a spicy nose full of orange peel, marmalade, with a touch of melon in there somewhere. In the mouth? Wow! All of the above and more!

Big and bold orange marmalade fruity mouthful. Full bodied with a nice smooth texture, almost creamy feeling strangely, a big bready malty feel in this, yet quite light and is well-balanced by that fruity hoppy character!

This has a lovely deep fruity flavour and it makes my mouth all tingly. Considering the bold fruity hoppy flavours, the bitterness isn’t as big as I’d expect, making this feel even smoother. The finish is slightly sweet, yet with a gentle pithy bitterness followed by a lovely grassy hop aftertaste.

An absolute cracker!

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4. 1913 StoutSt Austell Brewery (St Austell, Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – Stout – £2.50 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

I haven’t drunk any St Austell beers for years (aside from the excellent Korev lager). Tribute isn’t my personal cup of Darjeeling and you don’t get much else up here. I didn’t even know that they did a dark beer, so I leapt on this like a vampire on a blood bag! Well. you know what I’m like with Stouts and Porters!

Black. Very black. Always a good sign with a Stout! Thin creamy tan head with a gentle, chocolate aroma with a light smoky edge.

Full-bodied and quite creamy textured, beautiful Roasted Barley bitterness as the beer hits the tongue, a touch of sweetness followed with a light waft of smokiness.

Next mouthful a chocolate character, slightly bitter develops following the roast & smoke. Beautifully smooth and creamy, the beer finishes sweet, with a chocolate and slightly herbal grassy hop aftertaste. A very pleasant surprise this.

IMAG20205. Double IPAFirebrand Brewing Co (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 7.5% abv – Double IPA –  £? (330ml) – Beer Cellar(Truro)

Deep golden verging on amber. Light white head and an aroma full of sticky citrus & tropical fruit, orange, peach, passion fruit…

Ooh… Full bodied as you would expect. Lightly carbonated leading to a really smooth feel in the mouth. The first taste I get is something really tropical, passion fruit I think, this is followed by quite a big bitterness and then sticky pine. All really smooth.

Second sip reinforced the first, but a little mango and more peachy presence. All the while finished off with that bitterness and dry sticky piney stuff. A Big beer. First beer from this brewer for me. Don’t drink that many DIPAs,  but this is very nice indeed!

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6. 1830 IPA (Historic IPA) – Penpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 6.5% abv – IPA – £? – Beer Cellar(Truro)

Pouring a slightly hazy deep golden colour, this has a clinging creamy textured white head and aromas of woodland fruits like plum and a spicy note to the nose.

Oh but this is lovely! Full of autumnal fruitiness, this is a full-bodied mouthful with the initial Malteser like sweetness immediately countered with spicy hopping, a lot of spicy hopping. Leaving your mouth coated in oaky, fruity splendour. The longer I do this stuff, the more I learn to enjoy these big English hopped IPAs and this is a belter. But off to Cornwall if you want it people!

Well. That’s it. I suppose I’ve learned one thing whilst I was in Perranporth. There’s an awful lot of good stuff being brewed in that there Cornwall, a lot of good stuff indeed.

Now, for those of you that don’t know (and I didn’t, until I finished this post!). Firebrand, Penpont & Beer Cellar are all owned/run by the same people. So, whilst I note that Eebria were certainly stocking Black Flag and Firebrand beers until recently, your best shot at getting some of these beers is through Beer CellarGive it a go. You know you want to!

On that solicitous note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 04/10/2014

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“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I have to make my way back home,

standing here in this old depot, waiting for my train to come on,

so come on train……”

(“Come On Train” – Don Thomas – Clip courtesy of “The 45s Club” via YouTube)

One of my all time favourite tunes, never mind just Northern Soul. From a former member of The Drifters, this is a dance floor classic, a Northern Soul floor filler that I never tire of hearing. It has that trick of many great tunes of just…building. Building momentum, building sound. That middle eight “Moving….down the track….got to get….my baby back….” Just bloody….moving. Has had this particular large fella shaking many a floor (never mind a “tail feather”) Used to great effect in 2009 in an ad for Visa cards. Have a listen. Feel that swelling sound, from the initial plaintive piano notes, the initial drum roll, the plucked strings to the blast of the trumpets….just bloody….soulful.

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” So said Rabbie Burns in 1785 in his poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” And how right he was!

This planned jaunt took several forms in the planning stages and was originally intended for the previous weekend. However, that excellent Sussex-based blogger Glenn Johnson had re-scheduled his illness blighted trip from earlier in the year. That was my priority, as much as I love the Allgates bus “crawl”. Then, the Allgates bus was cancelled until the next weekend. BONUS!!!

So, monitoring the Allgates Brewery Twitter account like a ravenous hawk, I awaited confirmation of the details……and waited….only to see a tweet in apology. Bus was fine, but no driver!!! Damn those fates! I NEEDED a day away from the stresses of planning The Independent Slaford (or even Salford!) Beer Festival………There was only one thing for it then….

DIY. On public transport.

Now then. Some of these pubs are damned slow to get to by bus. So the first leg of this journey started at Manchester Victoria (Arch-Nemesis – who else?) and Walkden (YT). The destination? Gathurst. First stop after Wigan Wallgate on the Southport line.

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The first mis-judgement of the day? No raincoat. Fortunately, the (rather picturesque) walk along the Leeds-Liverpool canal was wet, both overhead and under foot! The area had just received its first significant rainfall for ages and was…a touch mucky!

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Now then, having said that I needed a break from the planning of a certain beer festival, I get a call from a brewer (who shall remain unnamed, let’s call him…..Rob) with a beer proposition. he threw me a beery curve ball. But I was a) thirsty. b) thirsty and c)……. in short, I needed that first beer! And we were only half way to the destination!

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The Crooke Hall Inn (Crooke Village, Wigan)

This really IS a delightfully located pub, situated in Crooke Village, a conservation area. With tables on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool and a large marina just around the corner, it’s a beautiful spot. We’ve had quite a few Sunday dinners here with the kids and they love it so much they almost rip my hand off if I offer to drive over! (As long as Attila drives back……)

The A-N & I were (unsurprisingly) first in (we were there 10 mins early!) and shambled towards the bar….

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Bad Seed Brewery – Waimea Pale Ale – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale (Love the pump clip!)

With an almost amber colour, this beer took no prisoners as a first beer of the day. It didn’t last too long either! Peach and passion fruit in both nose and mouth, this was an assertively bitter beastie and no mistake, with one hell of a dry finish! My first cask beer from this most excellent Malton based brewery and it most certainly didn’t disappoint!

The Crooke really is a lovely pub, with three distinctly separate rooms, great, reasonably priced food and that fabulous location…

Two decisions. Food? And next beer…. The Beer battered Fish for me with something from a new brewery to me….

Longman BreweryAmerican Pale Ale – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale

This pale golden beer was fruity but maltier than I expected. With blackcurrant and citrus on the nose and quite fruity with that big malty base, it stood up well to the astringent preceding Waimea and went superbly with the excellent Fish & Chips! Next up, with 5 ales on the pumps, I went for the other guest beer.

Magic Rock BrewingRingmaster – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale

I’d had one or two less than sparkling pints of this since it was rebadged from its Curious days. This, however, was right back on the mark! Light Pale gold, big and fruity with a lot of hop going on this was back to its Curious best. A cracking beer to finish with, standing up well to both of the preceding – higher abv – beers. A proper session pale ale.

Now, with a couple of leisurely hours spent at The Crooke, we were under the gun a bit, so a brisk muddy walk back to Gathurst and the rattler back to Wigan Wallgate to stop number 2 which was….

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(Archive shot!)

The Anvil (Dorning Street, Wigan – adj to Wigan Bus Stn)

What is effectively the Allgates brewery tap manages to have the feel of a multi-roomed pub, without having any doors. Light and bright, with three separate drinking areas, this is one popular and busy pub. I’ve been in on several occasions and never seen it quiet. Justly renowned for the quality of its beers, this pub is a multiple award winner and a CAMRA Good Beer Guide staple. A thriving pub. It was here that I got another pleasant surprise with the beer selection…..

Cheshire Brewhouse – John Barleycorn Green Hop Temptress – 4.0% abv – Pale Ale

This man makes good beer. Shane Swindells that is. I was chuffed to bits to get my hands on this especially when it went down my throat! It was pale gold, with a slight haze. A beautiful fresh fruity & refreshing pale ale with a little spice hit in the finish. Beautiful. (A welcome surprise!)

Longman BreweryCopper Hop – 4.2% abv – Amber Ale

Another one from this Litlington brewery (in the South Downs National Park), seeing them all too infrequently, I had to have it, didn’t I?

Copper coloured beer, fruity on the old hooter, a nice fruity bitter beer with a toffee malt backbone. A beautifully balancing bitterness. A proper nice beer.
Being only two minutes walk from Wallgate train station, this pub is worth a trip to Wigan itself (will only get better, with the opening of Wigan Central – new Prospect bar run by Dan & Gina Buck – next month!)
Time to move on and test both my planning skills and the timeliness of Arriva Buses! The 575 to Aspull….and….
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The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan)
To walk in and find that the landlord is a City fan just topped off this visit! A top chatty bloke too, as were the regulars at the bar. A two-roomed pub with (what appeared to be) a traditional “Lounge” & “Vault” layout, again in cracking good nick, this is a lovely boozer that I would be chuffed to have as my local. The beer happens to be cracking as well….
Black Jack Beers – Curse of Mexico  – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale
A cracking pint. That good, I had to have another! Pale Ale almost copper colour, with a really fruity peachy tropical aroma, Light toffee malt for balance, and beautifully bitter, loads of tropical fruit. A Brucie bonus this beer, was a new one on the Arch-Nemesis as well!
It made a change to see The Victoria in daylight, as it constitutes the last stop on the organised bus trip. Being less “refreshed”, I could appreciate this for the cracking local that it is. Another bonus was realising that it was reachable from Bolton on a single bus…the 575…that conveniently goes through the beery hot spot of Horwich! Needless to say…I’ll be back!
Back into the rain we went, without a raincoat, for the return to Wigan and the next leg, catching the 32 bus to Hindley (via a swift half in The Anvil (rude NOT to really. What with time to kill between buses!)
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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley)
Leaving aside the walk from Gathurst to The Crooke, the walk from the bus stop was the longest we faced – about 7-8 mins – but to get to my favourite pub, was time (& effort) well spent. I simply adore this pub. There may be pubs in Manchester that I visit more frequently, but this stands head and shoulders above them. Why? Because it is, quite simply, a community local that also happens to have a cracking partnership (Nigel & Adele) running it and keeping great beer in cracking nick.
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A two-roomer without having actual doors, the bar to the right upon entry with six  pumps with the usual mix of Allgates’ own and excellent guests. Lovely real open fire in the other room. Unfortunately no Nigel or Adele today, but the same friendly welcome,
Time was passing. Only time for one and a half in here.
Cwrw Ial Brewery (Eryrys, Mold) – Haf Gwyn – 4% abv – Extra Pale Ale
A pale cracker of a beer! Mango and grapefruit aromas leaping from the white head on that pale golden body, the fruity promise was delivered in the mouth. Bucket loads of citrus on top of a light pale biscuity body. A belter of a beer. I had another. Again, rude not to really!
This is the stage of the trek where the forward planning for the bus timetables paid dividends – YOU try interpreting TFGMs bus leaflet library after a “few” beers on a mobile phone!
The 33 bus was the selected chariot. Therefore, following an 8 minute walk and an uneventful 20 minute bus ride, we were in our fifth port of call….
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The Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley)
Despite the signage, this is most certainly an Allgates pub. It would be a rare Thwaites pub to have such an adventurous guest beer policy! (Certainly outside of its Blackburn heartland)
Whilst technically a two-roomed pub (one of the rooms wrapping around the bar) this has five distinct drinking areas, A Vault style area to the left of the entrance, two areas to the rear of the pub which link the main room to the Vault and an elevated area in the main room which is used mainly for eating (this pub also does excellent value grub). pub looks way better inside!
We may have had some more grub at this stage….memory fails me!
Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – One Inch Punch – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale
Golden. Tropical, almost peachy nose, fruity as hell in a smooth full bodied mouthful, loads of mango and none too bitter in the finish. With the taste buds starting to flag a bit, this was a bloody lovely refreshing livener.
Technically, The Union is my closest Allgates pub. I really should go more often.
The next leg of the journey was made slightly more complex by our missing the designated bus (582) and having to go on a two bus journey with the 33 to Astley then the 26 to Leigh. Needless to say, by the time we got there, I had started to wilt – just a little!
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The White Lion (Leigh Road, Leigh)
One of two Allgates pubs to be a CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year in 2014 (the other being The Crooke). This three roomed pub is another belter. The bar and busy main room is to the right on entry with two rooms to the left with the quieter being to the rear close to the Gents. Allgates have had this since 2011 and, with its beer selection, it is justifiably popular.
The problem here was nothing to do with the pub. It was me. Good grief was I flagging. I had a nice pint of something dark. But made no note so have no idea what it was! What kind of blogger am I, eh?
Reachable from Manchester by X34 & 26 buses (Leigh, tragically, has no train station – the largest town in England without one apparently!) and the 582 from Bolton – passing both The Union and the other Allgates pub The Jolly Nailor – the prices of the beer (as well as the selection) reward the intrepid traveller!
One more point. The buses. With only one exception (the last leg in Astley where the bus was SERIOUSLY late), the buses were all on time. We’d never have got to The White Lion otherwise!
Ah. Those prices….Just consider the beers we drank. Then think of all those beers being at around the £2.40 mark. That’s right, £2.40! No CAMRA or membership discount scheme. Just straight prices! You’d get a HALF in some Manchester pubs at that price!!!
I’m assured by young David Mayhall (Co-Owner of Allgates) that the bus will be back on the menu at Easter. All I will say is, you’d be daft to miss it! A £4 odd train ticket return to Wigan is a small price to pay for what is, in (not just) MY humble opinion, a grand beery day out! (You’d save that amount after 3 pints!!!)
Go on. Where’s your sense of adventure? Treat your taste buds and feast your eyes on some cracking pubs!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

 

 

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Pt 1

“All I can see is black and white and white and pink with blades of blue
that lay between the words I think, on a page I was meaning to send you.
You I couldn’t tell if it bring my heart, the way I wanted when I started
writing this letter to you.

But if I could, you know I would just hold your hand and you’d understand
that I’m the man who loves you.”

(“I’m The Man Who Loves You” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of “The Tonight Show” (US) on YouTube)

It’s been a while! *Yawns like a bear coming out of hibernation*

I came to Wilco rather late. Via their collaboration album with Billy Bragg, recording songs from the archives of the great socialist American songwriter Woody Guthrie that became “Mermaid Avenue”. Ahhh….”California Stars”…….

The above tune is the most accessible track on arguably their least accessible album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. The album that, perversely, brought them to mainstream attention. The album that transformed them from Alt- Country and Americana players to avant-garde. So much so that their label rejected it. Totally. So the band, via whatever channel, leaked it on the web. And became famous because of it, all over the world. There is a documentary about the gestation of the album, which, rather sadly, resulted in one of the band being (effectively) thrown out – Jay Bennett. Sadly, no longer with us. The documentary is called ” I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. I thoroughly recommend it as a document of the recording process and of the stresses and strains that that can create.

I saw the band for the first time when they were promoting their next album “A Ghost Is Born” at Manchester Academy. Jeff Tweedy, lead vocalist/guitarist, looked (and sounded) incredibly fragile. So much so, that I remember saying to my pal Chris, that I thought that he wouldn’t last the year. Songs with titles (and lyrics) like “Handshake Drugs” led to the belief that he may have been addicted. He was, it transpired, but to prescription painkillers, not the opiates that we feared. We resolved to going to see the band at Rock City in Nottingham a few months later. I now see them every time that they are in the UK.

Tweedy plays The Ritz – solo, in January. Chris picked up tickets last week. I’m excited. (Sad, for a near 50 yr old eh?)

Beer time….

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 (where I have it) 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. Dreaming Dreams – Wilson Potter (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – 3 for £7 – Direct from the brewery

Dreaming Dreams (of Amarillo – Geddit?). Amarillo. My favourite hop. Picked up on a recent (flying) visit to the brewery on one of their “soiree” afternoons following a drop off of casks remaining from The Independent Salford Beer Festival (zzzzzzzzzzz………). I didn’t know that WP had an Amarillo hopped beer other than “Is This The Way”! Intrigued and salivating, I had to pick one up.

A gorgeous Pale golden beer bought on a brewery soiree last weekend, this has a clinging lasting white head with a fine carbonation giving an aroma of a light marmalade with a hint of apricot. Oh wow! For a fairly light strength beer, this has quite a punch!
The first sip brings that marmalade to the party, juicy and sticky, so full of marmalade flavour that Paddington Bear would love this! A stonking dry and bitter finish too, quite bracing. With a substantial resinous pine hit in the aftertaste. An admittedly brief description, but it was that good that I was a little lost for words!
Each new Pale that Kathryn & Amanda release gets more assertive. And more impressive. This is up there with Don’t Fall. And that is a huge complement! A cracker, up there with the best of the Mallinsons single-hopped Pales for me. Speaking of which…..
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2. SPA (Session Pale Ale) – Mallinsons (Huddersfield, W Yorks) – 4.1% abv  – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 0 – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
If I had a brewery that I regret not being included at the aforementioned bijou beer fest, it is Mallinsons. And hell did I try….They’d grace any bar. But moving swiftly on (and there’s always next year!)
Lively wee devil this one, took a while to decant. Really Pale golden colour (almost a trademark) with an abundant white foamy head giving off a really fruity aroma full of peach and tangerine juices.
First taste, oh yes! Medium bodied and a now more subdued carbonation. Some peach, some passion fruit and what a whack of bitterness backed up by sticky pine resins. Woof! This is another Huddersfield cracker. A little grapefruit says hello in the next mouthful, backed up by that assertive bitterness and mouth gumming piney resins. As Omar Little might say in The Wire “Oh indeed”!
This is a beauty of a pale ale. Fruity, bitter, a little sharpness and a snap sticky pine aftertaste. Oh yes.
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3. Protz’s Pleasure – Steel City Brewing / North Riding Brewpub – 5.3%abv – Black IPA – ? (500ml) – 0 – The Ale Man Manchester (Various locations)
This beer was inspired – if that is the right word – by a phrase used by beer writer (and CAMRA Good Beer Guide editor) Roger Protz, who said “Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.” A brief perusal of the internet may reveal that a number of aspiring brewers were “encouraged” to try making a BIPA on the strength of THAT statement!
If Steel City have a mission statement, it has one word. That word is “HOPS”. Pair this cuckoo brewer with Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub) and his evident love of that green flower, then there was only one way this was going to go…..
Appearance : Black with a thick creamy head and a noise full of chocolate, licorice and some citrus hints.
Medium bodied and quite smooth in the mouth, WOW is this bitter! Flavours of bitter chocolate, burnt toast topped off with a distinct grapefruit citrus tang. Finished with an almost incredible, astonishing bitterness!
The smoothness is almost creamy textured as I take a second mouthful and those flavours intensify. That massive bitterness is rounded off with a sticky pine resin dry finish. I’m Gobsmacked! (I think that this MIGHT have been the desired effect!)
N.B. I’m REALLY looking forward to Damian (The Ale Man) opening his own bar in Heaton Moor! (Coming soon)
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4. Light – Briggs Signature Ales (Huddersfield) – 2.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 0- Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
The fact that a new brewer gets to use the kit at Mallinsons, must – in my eyes at least – mean that he has high standards. You have to be damn good for your pales to measure up to the beers of Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall! This is how Nick Briggs (former brewer at Elland) has set himself up for a potential fall. But has he…
Has he bloody hell! A lively golden beer with abundant white foamy head and a noise full of peach and Mango. Really fruity and with a floral hint that I can’t quite pick.
Quite a medium bodied beer – surprising at this strength! Initial thoughts are of a rather fruity ice cream full of peach and – strangely – strawberry. A really fruity creamy textured mouthful.
The second mouthful brings a little pineapple to this fruity party but also a strong dry bitterness followed by a dry resinous aftertaste. All in all, a surprising beer indeed. A cracking fruity, bitter Pale Ale.
This is a “Small Beer” in abv only!
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5. Old Norrell – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W. Yorks) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £0 (500ml) – Direct from the brewery
Picked up whilst delivering back empty cask from our recent “bijou beer bash”, this was a nice surprise! Got to see Malcolm in action too, with a spot of cask filling. A proper small micro in operation. If I’m right, he has now retired from his “day job”, which – with the addition of a fermenting vessel – will mean both an increase in brewing AND (hopefully) more of his beers over in Manchester – you heard it here first!
Pale golden with a persistent lacy white head giving a big lemon and grapefruit aroma. Lovely fresh & zesty.
In the mouth this is beautiful and sharp. And as bitter and twisted as a Nigel Farage speech! Courtesy of the Sorachi Ace hop methinks. Medium bodied, the first flavour to hit is a bitter lemon mingled with tart grapefruit. A gooseberry note too. Lovely and fresh this in no way tastes its strength.
The fruity tart and beautifully bitter mouthful has a little malty, bready sweetness which gives best to that tart bitterness, a dry sharp finish and resinous grassy hop aftertaste. A pleasure of a beer that I’d love to try on draught.
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6. Marmalade Porter – Wold Top Brewery (Driffield, N. Yorks)  – 5% abv – Porter – £? (330ml) – ? – Wold Top Stall (Cottingham Food & Drink Festival)
A gift from a very dear friend (Phil), this was a huge surprise at the end of a hectic day visiting beery people all over the North. I’ve had some very nice beers indeed from Wold Top (in particular their TdF beer Hello Velo). So to get a Porter flavoured with marmalade, was a bit of a boost!
This is a beautifully black beer with a coffee coloured head giving off milk chocolate and a hint of rum soaked raisins and sweet orange in the aroma.
Ooh Matron! This is a lovely creamy smooth full-bodied mouthful just oozing chocolaty luxury in the first sip! The sweetness from the chocolate is augmented but an Orangey tinge, prior to submitting to a finishing bitterness with a coffeeish edge.
A second mouthful brings some more of the Orange forward, slightly sticky before fading in the face of that bitter coffee and a herbal grassy hop dryness with more than a hint of rum in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Just wish I knew where he got it from! (Update – See above!)
(Locally, you can get some of their “core” beers in Booths)
Now that #ISBF2014 is washed up, dried and put away like good crockery, normal service can be resumed!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!

The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2014 – Questions, Answers, Thoughts.

Capture ISBF

“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah!

Your head will collapse and there’s nothing in it and you’ll ask yourself…

Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind?

(“Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies)
(Clip courtesy Kanaal van CasaAzul65 on YouTube)

The Pixies’ greatest track. In MY opinion, of course…….

I suppose the question should be “Where WAS my mind?” I mean, what the **** was I thinking when I said that little word “Yes” to Gerry Stone nearly a year ago? But it was for Gerry, so I couldn’t (in all conscience) refuse.

In the words of Andy Partridge (XTC) at the start of their classic “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”…..Let’s begin!

Questions

Question – The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Why….Independent? (This question HAS been asked…on a number of occasions!)

Answer? – Gerry (whom many of you have now met) asked me for some advice on who to contact to help set up a Beer Festival at her Community Centre at St Sebastian’s to help raise money. On her behalf, I contacted the local CAMRA Branch (North Manchester Branch) and asked them to get in touch with her to see if they could help. The answer was, in short, No. I felt, at that time, that that would be the end of that! Until Gerry popped the fateful question….”Would you……?”

I knew that I could get beer. But I also knew that I knew NOTHING ELSE about staging a beer festival. Oh how I’ve learned!

Question – Why at St Sebastian’s Community Centre?

Answer – That one was easy. Gerry wanted to raise money to help the Centre function and (hopefully) thrive. The Centre was cost-free as a venue. Getting people IN the place, they could get an idea as to the work that the centre does. As for being “out of the way”? We sold out three sessions out of four. Need I say more?

Question – Why Ticket Only?

Answer – This was again, rather simple. The Centre has a fire safety limit of 250. That was….before the bar and stillage went in! That meant that we lowered access to only 150. That required some form of control. For piece of mind, that meant ticketing. I have heard advice about clicking people in & out, but for simplicity and, again, peace of mind, Eventbrite ticketing worked. For me, brilliantly. And the analytical information that Eventbrite provides helps HUGELY in any planning for possible future events. More on that ….later!

So. How was it for you? (Chuck your comments in below!)

For me? At times, this was really “seat of the pants” stuff. Far too often! But some key decisions were made well in advance that made our job far easier than it otherwise would have been.

They were….

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Design – From the moment that I was sent an e-mail from Andy Heggs (of “Hop On The Bike” blogging infamy) owner of Drumbeat Creative, I knew that the “look” of the Festival would be something special. If I’m being honest (which I hope that I am), initially, I got too caught up in minor detail to see the classy retro beauty of the logo design. The more I looked at the Glass & Bottle logo, I just fell in love. It is a thing of beauty that is 100% nothing to do with me and 100% to do with Andy’s talent for design (aren’t the Brewsmith website and pump clips lovely? He designed those too!). I/We owe him. Hugely. And as for the beautiful programmes!

Website – Take a bow Mr Darren Turpin, web designer and creator of the superb Manchester Ale News website. Darren took Andy’s logo and built a website of equal beauty and sheer useability that (for me, as an organiser) was simply a joy to work with and something that other beer festivals should look at. Not because it was FOR our Festival, but for the classyness of the design, the information about the festival and its beer that it displayed so clearly. The downloadable beer list sheets? The Ebook? All his handiwork. And they attracted the praise which they richly deserved. As did the artwork from Andy. I owe them both. Enormously.

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Cooling/Bar – That decision took a little time. I received lots of advice about how to cool the beers and keep them in the best possible condition. But the best advice that I received, was wordless. It was in the The Anvil in Wigan 2 0r 3 months back in a chat with David Mayhall of Allgates and Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery. I mentioned my thinking about using a cooling system. They nodded. That made my mind up. And all of the feedback that I/we received about the condition of the beers were worth every penny. All Flow Dispense set up the bar, the stillage, the lines, the python cooling system, everything. Then took it all away again to make the room feel that it was never there. A brilliant job which minimised my stress levels. Damn friendly guys too. Cheers Lee & Sam. A top job!

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Glassware

I’ve been to plenty of beer festivals over the last 30 years. I always take the logo’s glasses home too! But the one that stuck with me the most, was one that never made it home. The 2/3rd pint stemmed glass from Leeds International Beer Festival 2013. I adored it. But dropped it on Lever Street on my way back from Leeds.

That glass just felt so…..inclusive. It felt right. It also was just as classy as the Poster/leaflet, the website….keeping that classy look just felt like the right thing to do. We’d have made more money just going with traditional straight glasses (and we had 300 of those too!), But the moment they arrived at the Centre 3 days before opening and I opened the box, the whole thing felt more real and, for not the last time that week, I got a bit emotional. Again, I’m a soft old git.

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Come the day….Everything just seemed to work. And little of it was of my doing!

The beer was in good nick. Which was a relief! Some people travelled huge distances to be there (although I’m sure that Chris – who flew in from Abu Dhabi and came straight to the Centre – didn’t fly in just for this!) and their feedback was heartwarming. What was particularly pleasing to hear was the immensely positive feedback about the venue, the food and (in particular) the volunteers.

The most praise – from me – must go to the those people, the Volunteers. I’ve said on many occasions that “Beer People Are Good People”. But the people who volunteered to help behind the bar and selling tokens/glassware were simply…awesome! Now, being an old git, that isn’t a word I use too frequently. One of the things that made me most get all emotional, was the praise for the following good people (there was LOADS as well!) who did a fabulous job, made the punters feel welcome and made the weekend what it was. A success.

I tip my proverbial to the following….At any bar I may see you, there’ll always be a beer on me!

Bernard, Bevis, Celia, Charlotte, Chris D, Dan & Gina, David R, Declan, Graham, Jaz (The Arch-Nemesis), Jeff, Jez, Kelly, Linda, Nick C, Nick M, Paul, Pete, Robert, Rowan, Sarah & Will. Thank you from….well, you know. Especial thanks due to Dan, David & Chris for taking the responsibility of managing the bar.

Thank you to all of the brewers, both for the beer and your good humour when dealing with me. You were very patient and make some simply fabulous beer (as acclaimed by the customers!)

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Particular thanks to Emma from Beer Junkets, for wise words of advice! Bailey & Jules from Grub Mcr for their unfailing support! David Mayhall from Allgates for most excellent advice and logistical help, Rob Hamilton and the whole Black Jack / Glassworks team, without whom, I’d have had warm spoilt beer. Thank you to Malcolm Bastow from Five Towns Brewery for consolidating the Yorkshire beers and bringing them over. To James Stewart at Deeply Vale both for a brilliant brew day (Mmmm….Amarillo!) and for designing a simply beautiful pump clip for the festival. That, and giving me two of the clips, one for Jan. A classy touch that brought more than one tear to my eye. To Rik Garner and the gang at First Chop, for digging me out of a hole or two! Huge thanks too to Doug Macpherson from Cwrw Ial Brewery, both for the generous offer of an MTB (which was brilliant!) complete with bottle tasting and for his evening stint behind the bar! Most generous. Especial thanks too to Dan & Gina Buck. Dan kept me sane in my most panic stricken moments and Gina (the Laminator Queen!) for just putting up with my terrible organising! And Alex and the guys from Duke & The Darlings for a lovely set – and the impromptu jamming session afterwards around the table!

Thanks also to the cask sponsors for their most generous sponsorship : Salford Angels WI, Kersal Vale Apiary – Jack Hobbs, Harry Davis, SALIX Living,
Jess – Zumba Crazy, Salford CVS, Joan Fielding – Helping Hands, Simon & Sarah Gare, Drumbeat Creative, Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man Manchester), John Pinder – Vista, Ben & Holly Wakerley, Godwin’s Tree Consultants, “Paddy’s 50th Birthday Ale” and Envirovent Ltd.

Thank you also to Anne & Steve Simms of Great Ale Year Round in Bolton Market for their huge generosity in sponsoring the T-Shirts!

Thank you also to Graham Donning and Martin. Some very helpful constructive feedback from the first session! To all the local CAMRA branches too, for their help in publicising the event.

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People tend to focus on the beer at these events. And, whilst it was pleasing to get lots of nice comments about the selection, I was always confident in the choice of beers. These are excellent Northern breweries all and selected for that reason. The number of breweries to offer me brand new beers for their first appearance was a surprise and a joy too. The beer selection  however – for me – was merely the means to the end. Raising money for the Centre.

Speaking of which. Whilst we have one or two bills still to pay, a rough calculation indicates that you/we raised in the region of £5000. I thank you, the drinkers, all hugely for coming along and helping us to that figure, which will help Gerry & the Centre massively.

The generosity of your spare token donations also raised over £130 for St Ann’s Hospice. Thank you all. A cheque will be with them shortly. A particular thank you for the kind punter who adapted the token sheet in a valiant effort to raise more money for St Ann’s!

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Beer of The Festival – That was a close run thing! A number of beers were voted for, via Twitter & Facebook using the #ISBF2014. Whilst many beers received votes, two beers rose above. The winner being Raven King by Five Towns, closely followed by Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle of Malton. Two Yorkshire breweries! Let’s see more of their beer over here eh?

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Finally. Will we do it again?

I think we will. The feedback was so positive as to be – on occasion – personally overwhelming. Some really kind words indeed, which frequently overworked my tear ducts! What I found particularly heartwarming (that word again!) was the praise for the venue, the volunteers and the food. Comments like “friendly”, “warm”, “intimate” all made an impression on me in particular. Once we sold out the 3 sessions, I started to think ….bigger. Street Food providers, big space…. But no. Same place. Maybe a few more tickets, one or two more beers, but nothing too excessive. I wouldn’t want to lose the feel of the event.

There are many lessons to be learned. And we’ll take a couple of months to think those through.

But next time, planned over a longer period. With some people who know what the hell they’re doing. Less stress. Oh yes…less stress!

If this doesn’t make sense, forgive me. It’s been emotional!

Thank you all again. See you next year?

Jim