Bottled Ales – February 2015

“They’ve got their definitions and they won’t fiddle round trying to rethink them ‘cos there’s no middle ground.

Short change me and they short change the show, I almost tell myself  ‘George, change the flow’.

But they should have know better. Never send a boy to do a man’s job, that’s a waste of a go-getter.

It’s all hard work but now I got that bragging right. Try to put me in a box, but it’s not that black and white.”

(“Sad State of Affairs” – The Herbaliser ft George the Poet)

(Clip via Herbaliser TV on YouTube)

A bit of a different feel with the clip this time. One night a couple of years back, I was flicking through E-Music, looking for something to buy and I came across the album  “There Were Seven” by The Herbaliser and heard this track. I like Rap. Yes, I’m 50 years old in 8 weeks and I like Rap. I have ever since I heard the stone cold classic “Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel”. But, despite the rise of UK Rap over the last 10 years or more, nothing moved me. Until this track.

Literate, great flow and rhythm. It has everything I want. The older I get, the wider the poles, from thoughtful lyrics, message and literacy to squalling feedback and white noise. I can’t explain, I don’t have the words. I guess you like what you like. Which brings me to beer…..

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1. About ThymeBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

A pale golden beer with a light white head and the unmistakable perfumed aroma of thyme, savoury and floral.Oh WOW!!! This is a full on herbal hit! Light and refreshing with a barely discernable biscuity sweetness, this is just SO refreshing and light for a beer at this mid strength. This is just such an unusual and lovely flavour.

The other thing about it is that with a really low bitterness, this is such an easy drinking beer. Herbal thyme up front but with a nice gentle hoppy dry finish. To some people, thyme may not be up their Street, but I love this beer. My favourite that Steve has made so far. Would be perfect with some roast chicken!

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2. Chocolate PorterRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Lancashire) – 4.2% abv – PorterGreat Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
A deep ruby brown beer with lovely carbonation, producing an abundant off white head giving off a light sweet cocoa aroma.Quite full-bodied for such a mid strength beer with that cocoa / chocolate firmly in the vanguard, flavour wise. Some vine fruit too as well as a background coffee note that intensified following the swallow.

 The initial sweetness from the chocolate recedes allowing a hoppy bitterness to come through and add to that coffee to give a pronounced dry finish. A really rather lovely Porter this!
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3. Grateful Deaf (American Pale Ale) – Steel City Brewing (Sheffield) – 5.8% – Pale AleOtto
Obtained via a swap with my good buddy Otto (hope the glass got home safe!) this is a deep golden, almost Amber, beer with a lasting white head pumping out an aroma laden with sweet citrus, think orange, mandarin and a hint of Mango.Woof!!!! This is GORGEOUS! YOu get an instant hit of chewy caramel biscuit malt  which is swiftly mugged by resinous hops.  A shedload of marmalade fruit then followed by a big old resinous hit that seems to mutate into licorice root. It is a belting beer this.

The whole caboodle is rounded off by a dry resinous sticky finish. If only you could get their beer over this hill on cask. Hmmm…#ISBF2015 anyone?

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4. Baby Faced AssassinRoosters (Knaresborough) – 6.1% abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)
Beautiful can design. Really classy. Pale golden beer with a thin white head booming out an aroma containing Mango & grapefruit. Really fruity.Oh my is this a proper big IPA! Slightly sweet and chewy digestive biscuit malty base with a whole Barrow load of fruit hanging on. Mango is uppermost, sweet and tropical then tangerine and finally a hint of bitter grapefruit, maybe even a touch of pineapple. Impressively low on bitterness making this a smooth mouthful and exceptionally easy drinking. It carries its weight dangerously well.

This fruitiness eventually recedes and relents enough to give way to a fruity and quite sticky resinous finish. All in all a cracker.

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5. South Central PaleVagrant Brewing Co – 5.6% abv – Pale AleDirect from Brewer
You see what I did there? Getting the disclaimer in right at the start. I always say when I’m given something to try that I’ll only review it if (and ONLY if) I actually enjoy it……The packaging works for me. Makes me think of US liquor restrictions with that brown paper bag look. A nice hand crafted feel and touch. A good visual start.

Then the beer. A hazy righteous Manc Murky light brown /dark golden beer with a proper white fluffy head and an aroma that just reeked of the fruit basket! Peach, oranges, mango. Yum.

All fruit present and correct in the mouth too. As juicy as a packet of Starburst and no mistake! Firstly the mango and peach, then a pleasant bitterness strays across the tongue a little yeastiness to mine which (intentional or otherwise) added a slight Belgian touch. No bad thing in my book.

I was at Black Jack when the boys were brewing their first batch of this on the Six O’clock Brewing kit and was yet to taste it until now. Remedied. And how.

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6. Love LaneLiverpool Craft (Liverpool!) – 4.7%abv – Pale AleBarbeerian (Prestwich)
Just as a pale ale should be. Pale golden and absolutely bursting with citrus through that white head. Oh my!Peach, Mango, even more than a hint of sharp lime. This aroma promises SO much!….

And MY does it deliver on those promises!  Fruity. So fruity. More Mango than peach, but that lime is certainly present and correct. This is absolutely lovely and so packed with fruity goodness that there simply HAS to be at least two of your five a day in here!

Nice snappy dry and resinous finish to this accomplished Pale Ale. A beaut.

 

Well. That’s it until the next batch of beery waffling and wittering. Drink Local people!
Slainte!

4 Beer Festivals In One Day (inc Manchester Beer & Cider Festival Pt 2) – 22/01/2015

“Too many Florence Nightingales, not enough Robin Hoods
Too many halos not enough heroes, coming up with the goods.

So you though you’d like to change the world, decided to stage a jumble sale,
For the poor, for the poor.

It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean, try shaking a box in front of the Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams……..”

(“Flag Day” – The Housemartins)

 I think that it would have been in 1986. I was sat in the office in the arse end of Trafford Park, when word reached me that if you called the right number (I think it was the magazine City Life) you could get free tickets for a special performance by The Housemartins at a place called City Lites in Farnworth. There were 10 pairs available. I rang on the dot of 9am and snaffled 2, so me and my mate Nige ended up in a town I’d never yet visited. And a town I’d end up living in for the last 25 years!

The performance was for a TV programme which I have recently found out was called “Hold Tight” on Granada TV. The band were superb. It was a short performance, but managed to cram in a No 1 & No 2 single in “Caravan of Love” and “Happy Hour”. My memories are hazy other than 2 things. Firstly, the band finished by breaking up Hugh Whittaker’s drum kit. Secondly, Paul Heaton declaiming that “We fucking hate Tories!” Some things resonate!

Whilst preparing for this blog piece, I was looking for a vid for “Flag Day”, yet stumbled upon the Granada TV programme that the concert was recorded for! The link is here. A reminder of what a great band The Housemartins were and still sound like. “The 4th best band in Hull” indeed! (The other 3 were Red Guitars, Everything But The Girl & The Gargoyles – apparently!)

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Four Beer Festivals in One Day. Some things just have to be done, don’t you think? Obviously I do. But then again, I’m both stupid and easily led. Or so I thought when travelling to work at a preposterously early hour, in order to finish in time to start this malt & hop marathon! So, I yawned my way onto First Buses finest chariot….

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The New Oxford, Bexley Square, Salford

Tim (mein host) doesn’t really need to host beer festivals. The selection of 16 (or is it more?) handpulls is like the Elysian Fields for local cask ale devotees and Tim has a positive talent for pulling rare and unseen beers like rabbits out of the proverbial titfer. But hold a Beer Festival he does. And does it well. My advice if you fancy an evening beer here, get in early. It can get rightfully busy!

As I entered before midday, I could hear the voices of tickers picking off the beers that they were going to try. Me? Am I a ticker? I suppose so, but only in so far as it stretches to trying new beers from Northern breweries. You should know what I’m like by now!

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The first beer of the day was South Island Pale from the mighty Allgates of Wigan. Ultra pale and bursting with tropical fruit sharpness. Allgates just make excellent drinkable beers. Drinkability is vastly underrated as a characteristic.

Next up was Gold Top Milk Stout from Rebel Brewery of Penryn in Cornwall. Roasted coffee with a lactose and vanilla sweetness. Lots of cocoa/chocolate too. Sweet tooth, consider yourself sated!

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With the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff now in attendance and with thirsts slaked, time for walkies!

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I have absolutely NO idea as to how I let them persuade me to walk! But by the time we got there, a thirst had indeed been generated. I let the A-N sort out the beer choice whilst I sorted out my hunger pangs at Panchos with a large Burrito! ALL long days should start with a Panchos!

The Micro Bar, Manchester Arndale Market

In here I had a Pikes Peak by Elland from West Yorkshire. Yes, they of the mighty 1872 Porter. The Pikes was a beautifully pale golden beer bursting with zesty citrus and possessed of a bracing bitter finish.

Micro Bar is one of Manchester’s unregarded gems in my opinion. There’s always an interesting guest or two courtesy of Boggart’s own distribution setup, the staff are friendly and there is a cracking bottle selection for takeaways. All that and you can eat your burrito there too. Bonus!

We move on….

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The Crown & Kettle, Oldham Road, Manchester To what I now consider my favourite pub in Manchester. For me, it has it all. Beauty, increasingly great beer selection and (at £2.95 a pint for cask), great value.

To be fair, when I see a Rat on the bar, I’m gonna bite. Always. This Huddersfield emporium knows how to knock out a damned good beer on their kit. The collaboration with the Pied Bull brewpub in Chester was absolutely no exception. Pied Rat was a big bruiser of an IPA. Amber with a creamy textured white head and barrow loads of citrus leaping from the glass. Chewy malt and massive hoppage. Even at 5.5% I had to have a second pint. Wise? Possibly not, but it tasted fantastic!

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Now, as you may have gathered over the last year or so, I’m a bit of a music nerd. So to hear an entire album and a bit from one of my favourite bands – the immense Beirut – I was beyond joy. Transcendent. Rounded off an excellent start to the day. The C&K is a belting pub, more than worth your cash.

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(Another Beer Festival? If you insist!)

This was where I finished off my “Dance Card Dozen” as listed here. On the previous day I had pretty much been rooted to the ground floor whilst my jaw ached from the talking to some seriously good beer people. But this day was for the beer! First up was a visit to the Concourse for a treble from Offbeat & Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing.

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Disfunctional Functional IPA from Offbeat came first. Refreshing, with punchy fruity hops. An excellent beer, as I have come to expect from this Crewe brewery. Great beer brewed by a chick indeed!

Psychedelic – Hebden Bridge Brewing – I only had a taste of this at ISBF and before I knew it, it ran out! I couldn’t miss it, could I? Being conditioned over a market stall full of citrus fruit, it was every bit as fruity as I remembered and had a damn nice dry hoppy finish too. A cracking beer (hope to have them back with something ace for ISBF2015!)

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Then the collab between the two (in Hebden Bridge’s Bridestones guise). The wackily named “Sprocket Wort Orange”. An unusual mouthful to say the least, but a damned enjoyable one to be fair. Chocolate and orange with a little hoppy nip. No surprise to me, I like both Offbeat AND Bridestones.

Next up was a beer high on my list. Being a smoked porter, from Rat Brewery. Workhouse Rat was everything it was meant to be. Dark and smoky, a little starting sweetness and lovely coffee/chocolate flavbours. Nice hop finish. Accomplished, from a brewery that I see too few darks from. (Try the Ratsputin IRS if you see it – it’s a belter of an Impy)

Then. A walk. For a foreign beer. Well, it WAS from a bit South of Crewe! Fang Pale Ale from Black Flag. I holidayed in Perranporth in Cornwall this year in the tail end of a hurricane. This beer in bottle made that seem a small price to pay. In cask it was even better. Really zingy with more than a hint of lime with the mango. A fruity cracker from a small craft operator that if I knew how close they were to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

I was gutted to miss just one of the beers on my list. Being from Jamie Hancock and his Five Oh Brew Co, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, as it was only the second casking he’d done (no prizes for guessing where the first one was served!). This was a slight tweak on the Sorachi Ace Stout he did for us (doh!). As I said, gutted.

However, that left a gap. Which was filled with one of those beers that rocked my head back. A #Beergasm indeed. This was the Stocky Stout from Richard Conway’s Thirst Class Ale. The first mouthful prompted a “BLOODY HELL IS THIS GOOD!” Creamy, bitter and beautifully roasty, a proper winter beer without the need for you to fall over. 5.2% abv of roasted perfection. It’s that good, that I’m going to Ashton to pick up a couple of bottles tomorrow from Browtons!

I really enjoyed this festival. I could have spent 4 days there and STILL not had all the beers that I wanted. The only thing I would say (and it’s assuredly NOT a criticism) is that I was (as Atilla would say) “over faced”. There was so much good beer that I struggled to decide on occasion. Hey ho! If only ALL beer festivals had that problem eh?

Over the two days, Beer of the Festival for me was the Stocky Stout – with the Imperial Buckwheat Stout by Quantum a close second. Bring on the bottles of both!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!

Aside

Oh, been tryin’ to let it go, tryin’ to keep my eyes closed
Tryin’ to keep it just like before, the times we never even thought to speak

Don’t wanna tell you what it is, oh, wee, it felt so serious
Got me thinkin’ just too much. I wanna set it off but

It’s this 1 thing that got me trippin’……”

(“1 Thing” – Amerie – Clip courtesy Goldiigaa on YouTube)

Some things just reaffirm my faith in humanity. Just, well, lift me up a bit. This tune was at the heart of that lift. You see, we said “Goodbye” to a close friend on Friday and – during the Humanist service – there were enough tears shed to float a super tanker. It was what happened in the evening that got me.

I like music and in nearly 35 years of collecting have amassed quite a library. I was truly honoured to be asked to compile a playlist for the post-service “celebration” of my friend’s life. Memories were shared, the laughter was like a dam breaking and just roared throughout the day. The someone began “tinkering” with the playlist….and the track above came on.

With a direct lift of a drum break from “Oh Calcutta” by The Meters sampled by producer Rich Harrison (“Crazy In Love” etc) this just has an energy and a vitality to it that is hard to beat. Judged on plays on my iTunes, this must be my favourite tune of the last 10 years. Who am I to argue with Steve Jobs eh? And I think that it knocks “Crazy In Love” out of the park.

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(As seen on Dantzic St!)

I’m not a gambler. I’m much too much of a scaredy cat to take financial risks. But when some people do, I admire them for their bravery. So when Jules Morris and Jason Bailey decided to host a modern beer festival in the shadow of The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, I applauded. A brave move indeed.

This was – in reality – as much about the artisanal food providers as it was about the beer list (which, if I’m honest, wasn’t particularly wintry), so I was chuffed to bits for them that all sessions sold out.

I was even more pleased – in a perverse way – that the original venue fell through. It gave me another chance to snoop around Runaway Brewery!

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(Angel Meadow)

The weather could barely have been better as I strode up Shudehill with a purpose and a thirst to be slaked. Bright winter sun was the order of the day. On stepping past the all dominating new Co-Operative HQ onto Dantzic Street, the signs were unequivocal. Follow the arrows. Beer awaits!

I’d heard some excellent reports from the Friday evening, with both Jeff & the Arch-Nemesis raving on social media. Could it really be as good as they said?

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Turning into the series of railways arches toward Runaway, the marquee drew me in (as did the smells from within). Now I didn’t try the food at The Velodrome, I have to go on trusted reports which indicated that it really wasn’t all that……However, this was!

With a superb beer from Black Jack in hand, I tucked into a Chorizo & White Bean Stew from Comida, beautifully spiced and chunky, proper winter food.

The feel of this was – strangely, given the vastly different location and season – reminiscent of Levenshulme Beer Festival. That the beer list also had the stamp of Glassworks/BlackJack added to the familiarity, with beers from the likes of Arbor, Hopcraft, BlackJack and many other craft luminaries just added to the familiarity. This just had a really relaxed feel to it. Quite a youngish demographic too, with my lot upping the average age by about 2 years!

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Some excellent tunes in the brewery with a couple of live acts whilst we were there added to the chilled (in more ways than one!) vibe.

Jeff and the Arch-Nemesis indulged their culinary sides more than I with some superb food (judging by the rapturous sounds!) with (if I remember rightly) Fu Schnickens being particularly highly rated.

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On the beer front, for me all of the beers were excellent and – in the main – excellent value for central Manchester, especially the cask offering. The beer of the day for me was the #Beergasmic “Deerhunter” by BlackJack. The coffee saison. It just rocks my world. It just edged out the American Brown Ale from Runaway, predictable excellence from Mr Welsby & friends. Was nice to see Mark and fellow Runaways behind the bar too – Excellent T-Shirts too. I wasn’t jealous….much. Nor did I try to snaffle one….well, not much.

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(Spot the brewmeister?)

Thoughts? Overall, a bloody good beer offering with outstanding food. Really relaxed and friendly. Do it again in June, when it’s a wee bit….warmer! If there was one minor piece of constructive criticism that I would offer, whilst the prices for the kegged beers was quite clear, that didn’t appear to be the case for the cask beers (unless I missed something). I would give the pricing equal prominence. But that really is a minor point.

This could be something close to the future for small beer festivals. A mixture of cask and keg with flavour being the main consideration. And rightly so.

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Jules & Jason, I tip my glass to you. Slainte!

One more thing. These guys are trying to get a new events venue off the ground “The Keystone”. A venue that will (it is hoped) host independent artists and grass-roots food & drink providers. A worthy venture. The Kickstarter link is hereGive it a click. Go on!

GrubMCR – Winter Ales Festival