#12BeersOfXmas 2015 – Day 1 :RISky Business – Otherton Ales

Otherton

Brewed whilst David was still Home Brewing (ie: Pre-Commercial), this dark beauty has been aged for 15 months in a chestnut barrel. I was gobsmacked when David handed me a bottle at #ISBF2015 and resolved immediately to save it until this event.

It’s a Russian Imperial Stout (see what he did with that name eh?) and has an “estimated” abv of 11%. Here goes nothing!

Oof! This nose has bitter chocolate made in the 7th circle of hell all over it with a little bretty sourness and some hot lava Java coffee potency in there too! This is scary! And it is retaining it’s mid-brown collar atop it’s dark heart….

First thoughts? Dense and treacly with that brett coming through loud and clear, tingling the tongue and getting the juices flowing. This. Is. Serious.

Big flavours. Slight bretty sourness, big on the coffee with a bitter chocolate hit, lots of raisiny vine fruit action going on too. Must be at least 2 of my 5 a day in here? This probably has bust my calorie allowance for the day. Who needs supper?

This is, quite simply, setting a very high bar for all of the Imperials that follow in my 12.

Stunning. I’m a lucky man!

 

My Golden Pints 2015

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The following awards are partizan. I am a Northerner. So expect a Northern bias. If you want to see the extolling of the “Titans of Craft”, switch off now.

This is for the little guys.

Also, if you want uncritical Craft Wankery and the following of the herd, look elsewhere. I’m sick of the uncritical herd mentality. Let’s start to see and call things out for what they are in 2016.

Also. Magic Rock Brewtap is a brewtap. NOT a pub or bar. So there!

Grrrrrrrrrr………. Here we go (takes Amlopodine to calm down…..)

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Best UK Cask Beer : May Day DIPA  – Five Towns Brewery

Sometimes, it’s  all about the moment. And the company. And the atmosphere. This beer was hugged by all three. It was an 8.4% hop fist, encased in a velvet glove. I dived in at the East West Fest. For. Three. Whole. Hours.

And lived. Unlike a certain someone. A beautiful beer. I have drunk nothing better on draught this year.

Honourable mention? DIPA by Cloudwater. As I told James Campbell, if this is REALLY 9%, it’s one hell of an achievement. It tasted like 6%. And was delicious,

Best UK Keg Beer : Deerhunter – Black Jack Beers

A “Coffee Saison” shouldn’t work. But it is sublime. I could happily drown in it. Even on keg.

Best UK Canned Beer : Life & Death – Vocation Brewery

I have drunk very little canned beer this year. But this was simply stunning. Vocation are yet to miss a beat. I’ll be inviting them to #ISBF2016. I should have asked them THIS year.

Best UK Bottled Beer  : OAP DIPA – Five Towns Brewery/North Riding Brewpub

I drank this the day after drain pouring a certain 10% X rated beer. It was a hop bomb that delivered its punch on the chin. Brewed by two brewers who worship humulus lupulus. It was 9.6% and it just rocked my world.

Best “Foreign” Draught : American Brown Ale – Howling Hops

Because anything south of Crewe is a foreign land to me.  BUT…When in Rome…

This was outstanding on cask in The Cock Tavern back in April. It made a big impression. In a simply stunning London pub.

Best “Foreign” Bottled Beer : Black Pig – Pig & Porter/Black Jack

I know it’s a collab. But. I. Don’t. Care. A Belgian Rye Porter from Sean Ayling that passed the Beergasm test. In spades.

Best Overall Beer : May Day DIPA  – Five Towns Brewery

For all of the above reasons. And a certain photograph that will forever remain an embarrassment. And for making me smile the next morning as I witnessed the damage it wrought on my Arch-Nemesis.

Best Branding : Brewsmith Beer

Just classy and clean. Great work from Something Brewing.

Best UK Brewery : Tickety Brew

This is awarded (as always) on the basis of having drunk and enjoyed the beers of a brewery consistently throughout the year. Last 2 years I have given it to Allgates and my regard for their drinkable beers hasn’t diminished. Far from it.

But, each time I have drunk Tickety beers on cask in Manchester, they just get better. And better. I didn’t at all “get” the first couple of beers when they launched, but the more they brew, the better they get.

Not the trendiest of Northern breweries. But I go on flavour. Tickety wins.

Best New Brewery Opening 2015 : Vocation Brewery

Hit the ground running. And accelerated. Not a false step. In Cask, keg, bottle or can.

Pub/Bar of the Year : Crown & Kettle (Oldham Road, Manchester)
Manchester has several heavyweights. But this one punches hardest. A grand old building with soul. And great beers on cask and keg. £3 a pint for the cask too. Don’t argue.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015 : Heaton Hops (School Lane, Heaton Chapel)
If you have been to Heaton Hops. You understand. If you haven’t, just go. Then you will. Damian & Charlotte have done a simply outstanding job
Honourable Mention : Bottle (Shaw Road, Heaton Moor). The Heatons are truly blessed to have two bars like these.
Beer Festival of the Year : East West Fest (Red Shed, Wakefield)
Small, yet perfectly formed. Held in a Labour Club. That could only fit 70 people. And the 3 of us that caught the train over felt immediately at home.
It had soul. It was fun. The beer was all Northern. What else could this boy want?
This was the year that I fell out of love with the Mega Festivals. I crave intimacy. I crave fun. I found them in a red shed.
This year, I also really enjoyed The Independent Salford Beer Festival.
But I organised it. So I can’t vote for it.
Supermarket of the Year : Booths
If you live within 10 miles of one and voted for somewhere else, you’re wrong.
Simply the greastet range of beers in any supermarket that I’ve seen.
Best Beer Book or Magazine : Opening Times (SSM CAMRA Branch)
Simply a great read.
Best Beer Blog or Website : My World of Beer / The Boozy Procrastinator
Glenn Johnson just tells me what I need to know. About the pub or the beer. without fan boy bullshit. I like that.
Dec (Deeekos – to mortals) is one pithy little bastard. Prone to blogging Tourettes. And he makes me cry with laughter. And laughter is seriously underrated.
Best Event Black Jack/Runaway/GRUB/Shebeen Taps
These tap open weekends encapsulate Summer in Manchester. Great beer, great food, great cool tunage. Great people.
The reason that I wish Summer would never end.
Best Refurbishment : The Smithfield (Swan Street, Manchester)
Take a run down, tatty former Mancunian beer institution that’s on its uppers.
Give it a lick of paint and a kiss and a cuddle. Add some pub games.
You have a new Manchester institution. Thank you Black Jack.
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer : Craft Beer Hour
Now, a Tuesday night essential. A gathering of like minds talking bollocks about beer, because we love it. Tom has done a great job.
Honourable Mention : David Bishop with his @twattybeer doodles – If they don’t make you laugh or smile, you lack a beery soul.
And that is that.
And my opinion carries the weight of a feather!

 

Home Beers – December 2015 – Part 1

It’s been 5 whole months since my last bottle post. 5. Whole. Months.

There were times during that period where I doubted that I would carry on with this. But then I remembered, this is how I get to taste beers from breweries that I may not see in the pubs. Breweries that I might need to invite to a certain beer festival – announcements to come soon – for YOU to drool over.

So, I continue. But there will be a change in focus. Towards more pub related posts. And only relating truly exceptional packaged beer. But still Northern focussed. Starting now.

You know the drill by now. You get the beer, the brewery, where I got it from. And my thoughts. So let’s get on with it, eh?

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1. Bradford LagerBradford Brewery (Er… Bradford) – Lager4.5%abv330mlDrink (Hebden Bridge) – £2.50

So. A dry hopped Yorkshire Pilsner eh? Straw golden colour with a lacey fluffy head? Check!

Slightly floral and spicy aroma? Check!

First mouthful? Boxes ticked. Refreshing and light, nice light carbonation lending the beer a crispness that all good Pilsners should have.

Second mouthful and there is a building herbal hop hit. With each swallow this intensifies and adds to the dry finish leaving you wanting just another mouthful.
Then the glass is empty. And you want more.

A fine first beer for me from this Brewery. And bought from a fine shop/bar in Hebden Bridge.

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2.  CascadeBarearts Brewery (Todmorden, W Yorkshire) – 3.9% abvPale Ale500mlBarearts Shop (Todmorden) – 3 for £8.

A bright golden Pale Ale with a light foamy white collar giving an aroma with notes of gooseberry, grapefruit and lemon sherbet with a background of fresh baked bread.

Oh yes this is one light refreshing beer! Light to medium bodied the citrussy grapefruit tartness is light and palate cleansing and is supported by a light biscuity slight sweetness that is cut through by a finishing gooseberry hit.

This is mouthwatering and juicy with a lovely fruity balance with the light Pale malt leading to a dry finish with that lingering citrus hoppy flavour carrying over into the aftertaste.

If you’re ever heading by car or train to Hebden Bridge, stop off on the way back and treat yourself. There’s not many places you can get this beer. And the shop is a bit of a local art space too. Well worth it! You can’t miss it. It’s painted big and bold in pink. Opposite Morrisons.

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3.  Brewsmith BitterBrewsmith Beer (Ramsbottom) – 3.9% abvPale Ale500ml – Direct from the brewer.

Pale golden – almost straw yellow – coloured beer with a light soft white head emitting an aroma fragrant with sweet lemon and light mango. Really fruity juicy nose on this.

Oh sweet baby Jesus is this GOOD!!! WOW! As sharp as Julian Clary’s tongue is this, juicy with sweet mango flowing over the tongue welded to a serious hoppy bite!

The carbonation is spot on, light and refreshing, leading to the fruitiness that is initially almost overwhelming but the swallow stops you dead in its hoppy dryness, quite abrupt with a sharp lemony hint, hugely satisfying.

This is right up there with Mallinsons for me, a pokey and full flavoured hoppy pale ale that punches well above its weight. That fruitiness leads to a substantial resinous hit in the aftertaste, sticky and dry.

This is one hell of a beer.

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4.  Reddish RyeThirst Class Ale (Stockport) – 5.0% abvRed Rye Ale500mlHeaton Hops (Heaton Chapel) – £3.50

Proper red beer. Almost the colour of Salfords own Vimto, this beer has a luxuriant off white foamy head and a deep fruity nose, oof plums and cherries with a little peppery spice.

Medium to full bodied, this is quite creamy in the mouth with good carbonation maintaining that head. A wholemeal bready body with raisins, juicy rum macerated raisins, some peach and that spicy Rye dryness. This is simultaneously sessionable, yet quite complex.

That spicy peppery dryness is the dominant feature in this finish, a grassy herbal hop features too and rounds this beer off nicely. Not had this on draught. Can’t wait!

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5.  City ShuffleShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.1%abvRed Ale330mlHeaton Hops (Heaton Chapel) – £2.90

Coming out of the bottle a rusty red/brown colour, this beer has an off white foamy head that gives off an aroma full of berries and spicy pepper. My nose screamed “RYE”, but I thought I was mistaken. Until I read the grain bill. Yup. Rye.

Medium of body, a fruity wee beast on first sip is this. Red berry fruit with a citrussy twist. And that peppery note characteristic of Rye. Drying the tongue and twisting it, curling it upwards.

A fairly gentle carbonation lends this beer a smoothness, almost creamy in the mouth. But oh that dry Rye…… The finish is dry, as you might have predicted! But with a hoppy edge.

Shindigger haven’t disappointed me yet. Other than curtailing casking. Onwards and upwards in 2016?

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6.  Life & DeathVocation Brewery (Hebden Bridge) – 6.5% abvIPADrink (Hebden Bridge) – £2.90

Oh my days, the grapefruit on this nose!!! This Pale golden beer pours with a light and thin white collar which lasts to the end and gives off simply masses of drool inducing grapefruit with a basket load of other tropical stuff. Oh yes.

Oh yes. This is another of those “Um Bongo” beers. Just a glass full of fruit salad…. Mango, big mango, kiwi, passion fruit, it’s all going on on top of a big juicy malt base. It’s like a tart with simply stacks of sliced fruit on top. Just SO juicy!

I could never tire of beer that is this good. This is fruity from start to finish. Light carbonation and really well balanced on that big malt, with a smooth bitterness that asserts itself the further down the glass you get. But it doesn’t get in the way of this really smooth beer.

A proper Beergasm.

 

The Little Things in (Beer) Life

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I’ve been away a while. That’s what organising a Beer Festival can do to you. I couldn’t do that AND keep up my usual waffling.

No. Not even me.

It’s taken a while to get the urge back. But that happened last night. On a visit to Mancunia that was rendered rare, by an appearance from Atilla. The occasion? A visit to the Xmas Fair curated by those lovely GRUB people, Jason & Jules.

Well, Storm Desmond put the kibosh on that.

Having entered the marquee at about 6:30pm to be told by Jason that he was calling “Last Orders” in the name of safety – it WAS a bit windy TBF – it was a brief visit. But not before a pint of Southern Keg Filth, a predictably excellent, refreshing, Little Things That Kill by Weird Beard and an excellent Panzerotti by Fritto

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The music was great, the food superb and the beer was as I’d expect from the Glassworks/Black Jack crew. It was a brief but highly enjoyable visit. Gutted that I missed Santa and the Choir mind!

The GRUB/Keystone/Shebeen axis put on some simply great bashes that have been a feature of my summer. They both know their market AND (crucially) have a flair for this stuff. Both this particular old boy and his lovely Missus had a great (if brief) time.

Sadlers Yard looks like a good space. Hope to see more events here soon.

But we had to move on. To The Smithfield. And the point of this piece.

Smithfield Snip

We entered and sat near the door. Myself, Atilla and Jeff – already in situ. We met more friends in the mighty Darren Turpin (he of the legendary – and rumoured to be rebooted – GtrMcrAleNews) and his lovely lady Jo. We chatted – as you do. I ordered a Farmhouse Brown by BlackJack. It was Brown, damned tasty with a saison style yeasty hit. It did what it said on the tin.

A number of people greeted us as they came in. Again, more friendly conversation and welcomes.

I kind of take this stuff for granted. Atilla however, was made up by the friendliness and all round “niceness” of everybody. It was warm, welcoming, friendly and lubricated by excellent Black Jack beers.

It was – to me – the Manchester Beer Scene examplared in one room.

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You see, I find little on my beery walks around Manchester that dispels my beliefs, both that #BeerPeopleAreGoodPeople and that Manchester’s beer scene is a flower in bloom. One that we should cherish and nurture.

What also struck me – perhaps, slightly more controversially – was the number of people staying in the bar for a number of beers that used to gravitate to Port Street previously. That’s no comment on Port Street. What it IS, is a recognition of the great job that Black Jack have done with what was becoming a tired pub, albeit one that was dear to the hearts of many. Me included.

What they have achieved, with a lick of paint and a few nice touches like the bar games (HUGELY popular last night!) and some excellent guest beer choices (Cascade by Bad Seed Brewery was sensational the previous evening) is to create a destination bar. One where people come in and stay for a few beers. In Manchester, THAT is an achievement. One to celebrate.

On another point. There is an awful lot to look forward to in Manchester in 2016.

Firstly, Tryanuary. An initiative by Andy Heggs. An intiative born in Manchester. Get it followed and get involved. (There *may* be a post from YT coming soon!)

The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival. At Manchester Central. An iconic location for a beer celebration. (Manchester seems to pick Iconic venues to showcase beer, doesn’t it……) And there will be keg…..(just let that sink in…..)

And, from the man who brings you Beer Battered, is coming Manchester Beer Week. If even half of the things that I am hearing about come off, this will be 10 days highlighting all that we are proud of in the “Manchester Beer Scene”. Connor seems to be pulling out all the stops on this! Get involved.

I’m excited. And after the come down of ISBF2015it has taken a lot to get me excited again.

Manchester is a city to be proud of. With a beer scene that needs bow to none.

2016 will only highlight this in big bold colours.

Bring. It. On.

It’s been 4 months. I’ll be back a little sooner!

Slainte!