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Words. Words don’t seem to cut it at the moment.

On Monday evening, I was at a meeting in the NQ at 57 Thomas Street. We were relaxed, I was there longer than intended. I caught the #8 bus to Bolton at 10:30. After a couple of minutes, I looked up and we were WAY off route. The bus was at the top of Trinity Way. Next to the MEN Arena.

I just thought that – what were obviously scenes of confusion – was the usual outspilling of a sellout gig. I had my headphones on. I had no idea. I was listening to Metal Box by PiL. And the track Albatross. I quoted a lyric on Facebook

“Sowing the seeds of discontent….. ”

And I had no idea whatsoever what had just happened. Until I got home. And the horror.

Then the Mancunian response. Free taxis. Offers of beds for the night, offers of brews (which in Manchester, isn’t a beer reference…). People from near and far, responding. With concern. With love. Caring.

Predictably, the next day, the “English Defence League” arrived. Peddling their vile message of hatred. “Sowing the seeds of discontent….. “. And Mancunians responded. By howling them down.

Piers Morgan on breakfast TV. “Sowing the seeds of discontent….. “. Ranting and railing against the Muslim community. Casting blame. And Sally Dynevor (from “Corrie”), calling him out. Being reasonable. Sensible. But taking no shit.

I fucking love this city.

So, in the afternoon, I showered, put on my shorts and a clean t-shirt and headed into Mancunia. To do the “normal” thing. On a decidedly abnormal day.

To me, Mancunians have always flipped the finger to adversity. Manchester is a city of love, not hatred. My Manchester is inclusive. It pulls together. Mancunians care. They look after – and out for – each other.

I – and have no idea how – blundered into a twitter conversation

Manchester. The word “bellend” seems peculiarly Mancunian. And that twitter exchange sparked something off.

#HopsNotHate is a hashtag used by Danish brewers Dry and Bitter for charity fundraising. Graciously, they have allowed us to appropriate it for this event. I first noticed it (not being a devotee of Danish brewing) when my good friend Jeff changed his Twitter name to HopsnothateMan. It stuck in my mind.

Manchester knows how to enjoy itself.

So. Put on your disco pants. Flip that finger. Let’s get together and have a beer party. And raise some cash.

The idea is that Steve at Beer Nouveau will open his doors and put on a bar full of beer from some great breweries. (At least one other venue may become involved. Check the FB Page for updates) All monies raised from the sales will go to the crowdfunding set up by the MEN in the aftermath of the atrocity to help support victims’ families and a local homeless charity. We’ve already had offers of beer donations from all over the place. And that’s before we’ve formalised anything.

That’s Manchester. Right there. Generous of spirit.

So come on down to Beer Nouveau’s arch on 9th June from 4pm. We are Mancunians. We live in the greatest city on earth. Let’s party. It’s what we do. Tickets here

(The event may expand – slightly – to meet demand)

On The 6th day

(Dancing on tables will be optional)

 

Manchester Beer Week – Co-Op meets Black Jack 

Around this time last year, I was fortunate enough to witness the creation of a beer melding the old and the new with J W Lees & Cloudwater. I was pleased therefore, when Connor Murphy invited me back to witness the creation of the MBW 17 festival beer. 

The Co-Op supermarket has recently (as have many competitors) started to pay more attention to updating their beer offer. And I was chuffed when I heard that an organisation founded in Greater Manchester was locally stocking beers from Black Jack. It’s a simple (and somewhat lazy) move to approach just the craft goliaths, with the likes of Brew Dog, Camden et al freely available in most supermarkets, but Black Jack in Co-Op made my radar tweak. 

It was plain to see that Black Jack have expanded as a company. Times have changed from the days where Rob Hamilton (that most self-deprecating of brewing folk) looked run off his feet. A number of the guys brew there now and some of the recent beers coming out of this (amazingly only) 5 barrel Irk Street plant have been truly lip smacking. 

This beer is to be – at base – a session pale ale. Brewed (by Lane) with aromatic UK hops (Admiral & Minstrel) with the Co-Op addition being a fruit compote added to the boil – something I’ve never done with fruit before – in advance of the bulk of the hops. This turned the beer from an almost ghostly pale to something of a darker hue. 

Having thrown away a lake of dark beer at 2 previous ISBFs, I learned the hard way something that a wise fellow blogger once told me. That Manchester is – so far as beer is concerned – a Pale city. So this beer should go ever so well. And (unlike last year’s festival beer) there won’t be much of it about. 

So I wouldn’t be hanging about! 

A Micro Pub Stroll – From Burnage to the Heatons 

Since the advent of the final two bars in this piece, I’ve been aiming to combine the Micro Pubs of The Heatons into a summer crawl/stroll. Only to be beaten to the punch by a waggy bearded goat boy, the ever excellent Deeekos. Read his piece here. But, not to be put off by that….

I just fancied something a bit different yesterday. Manchester is Brewtap heaven, but I’m easily bored. With “The Lovely One” being at a girls night / hen do thing, I fancied getting out and stretching my legs. That and making good use of the GM County Card saw me running – yes, me, running – for a train….

Meeting up with Linda and The Arch Nemesis at Piccadilly, a 9 minute train journey took us to Burnage train station. And a 60 second walk along Fog Lane, to….

Reasons To Be Cheerful – 228, Fog Lane, Burnage.

I do love a bar with a song title as a name…. 

Of all the establishments today, this is the most recently opened, having had a rather tortuous genesis. It’s safe to say that the owners had to jump through some hoops to get this place off the ground – planning objections and the like are never going to be fun.

This was my first visit. And it was well worth the wait.

Brightly painted, simply furnished and very attractive venue with two distinctly separate drinking areas, this place was a joy. With 6 keg taps and 3 hand pumps on show, there was plenty of choice for such a small venue. Nice gin selection too……. I’m developing a liking for gin.

It’s not often that I break my Prime Objective and choose a beer from south of my personal Maginot Line – south of Crewe – but there was a beer from Five Points on the bar on cask. And I simply LOVE Five Points. Have done ever since they started and I grabbed some of their initial test brews. It’s safe to say that I’m a big fan

And the Brick Field Brown didn’t dissuade me. A lovely beer. I do like a good earthy and hoppy brown.

Excellent can/bottle selection, fabulous tunes with – at one point – Zeppelin fading into Bon Iver, a friendly and engaging host and a bloody attractive venue. This place ticks all the boxes.

I could have “cheerfully” stayed here for hours. But this is a crawl. So, leaving R2BC and turning right along Fog Lane, across the A34 onto Kingsleigh Road, about a gentle 10 minute stroll is the next venue..

The Beer Shop – Kingsleigh Road, Heaton Moor

This is a gem of a place that is completely under most radars and gets unjustly overlooked when compared to its fellow nearby Micro Pubs, but you shouldn’t bypass it.

I think that Jeff recommended this place to me a few years ago. I popped in on the way to a BBQ and left with not only a few bottles, but 5 litres – bag in a box – of Magic Rock High Wire. I was smitten.

Back then, bottle selection was centred on Belgium, Bamberg & the US. Now there is far more UK – especially local – stuff on the shelves. The draught beers are on cask, with two on yesterday, both from Track. The El Capitan was glorious. A fruity delight.

The owner is truly passionate about his local breweries and certainly knows his stuff. It nice to chat and find shed loads of common ground about some of the best Northern breweries.

If I remember rightly, there is a tie up with a local takeaway that you can order and eat in too!

As I said, it would be folly to overlook this place, which is – it’s fair to say – the earliest of local Micro Pubs. Don’t pass it by.

Turning right from the door, cross Mauldeth Road and walk up Leegate Avenue onto Sevenoaks Ave to Shaw Road (again, a pleasant 10 minute stroll) to

Bottle – 9, Shaw Road, Heaton Moor.

The Heatons sicken me. With all these simply excellent little pubs.

Bottle is the brainchild of Corin Bland. He of High Peak Beer Co at Stockport Market. I loved the place from the moment I went in for the first time in 2015. Beautifully designed space, eclectic decoration (I LOVE the music themed beer mat frames) and – in a fairly bold move back then – keg only.

As good as this place looks, it’s all about the beer. And Corin can certainly source beer. He knows his stuff. We chatted about a shared love of the Cornish brewery Black Flag and he mentioned a Cornish tap takeover coming up – something I wouldn’t want to miss

(Perfectly Posed…..)

A simply superb takeaway beer selection – as anyone who has been to Corin’s stall at Stockport Market would expect.

Draught wise, I had an Oakham that was really refreshing. Then my evening started to head south. With a beautifully smooth and incredibly tasty Cloudwater NW DIPA Citra. Stunning. But ill advised. And probably why I fell asleep on the bus home…… (oh, there were other reasons too. But that’s where it started….)

Leaving with a can and a bottle in my bag, we exit, turn right, then left at the top of Shaw Road onto Heaton Moor Road, past this helpful road sign…

…. past Heaton Chapel train station and across the A6 onto School Lane.

Heaton Hops – 7, School Lane, Heaton Chapel

The simplest thing to say about this bar yesterday was that it was rammed. Both inside and out. There’s a reason for that.

Damian O’Shea and his partner Charlotte nailed this place from the moment they opened. It just has whatever “it” is. And has been hugely popular from the get go.

Damian can source beer. Undoubtedly. But it’s the details here that make this place what it is. That turn this tiny space into a magnet for beer lovers

The beer, as always, was exceptional – in this case, Sonrisa by Buxton, SO tart and juicy – and business was brisk. There wasn’t a seat unclaimed. So time for a train back to Beer City.

I wish I’d gone straight home…. I might not have needed THIS so much this morning….

The message? Yes. Manchester is a truly fabulous place to go drinking. But a short train journey from Piccadilly – and a little gentle walking – can take you on a fabulous beer journey. To four special and individually superb bars and pubs.

But put them together? I’m still smiling.

Home Beers – May 2017 

I haven’t done one of these posts for nearly 10 months. Shit takes over you know…

But there are some simply magnificent beers knocking around – from all over the country. So, for the next few “Home Beers” posts, I’m going to break my Prime Objective. There’ll be non-Northern beers making an appearance.

It shouldn’t take much figuring out why….

PulpVerdant Brewing – 8% abv – DIPA – 330ml – Craft Brewtique (Urmston)

I’ve always been a late adopter. One of those individuals who waits for the hype to die down. One of those who takes time to let ground settle. You’ll never see me queuing up for iPhone 8 on release day (not that I’d ever buy a crApple).

I’m the same with beer. I want to wait. Sniff the air, assess the hype. Then, give it a try. It’s the hype justified, or just know alls talking complete bollocks.

I waited with Verdant. And waited. Then I dived in. And I don’t want to come out of the water ever again.

Pulp. Cracking the can open just flooded the nose with tropical smells, fleshy peach and mango, promising so much juiciness. A proper “come hither” crooking of the aromatic finger. But this ain’t worth shit if the tastes don’t bank it up. Fortunately….

This is just SO juicy. Full on fruitiness flooding the mouth and getting the saliva glands doing overtime. More fleshy fruit, mango & peach but with a hint of fresh spring grass. Couldn’t get away from that essence of freshness.

It’s nice to note a finish with a degree of bitter bite at the end. I’m a fan of a judicious touch of bitterness, something that I’ve started to think has been designed out of the DIPA of late. This bitterness is subtle and leads to a sweet and sticky resinous aftertaste.

And a big lip smacking yum.

Human CannonballMagic Rock Brew Co – 9.2% abv – DIPA – 500ml – The Brink (birthday present from the Arch Nemesis)

This beer occupies a very special place on this blog. It was on the night I first drank this – back in 2012 in Brew Dog Manchester – that I decided to start this damn blog. This thing that inexorably led to ISBF. And this beer – in its 2012 iteration – was my first “beer of the year”. It made a huge impression.

And when Jaz dropped it on me on Thursday, I daren’t drink it. I wanted to savour it.

So I did. And opening the can was like a cross between C hop heaven and opening a bag of Tangfastics. Fruity, with hoppiness fizzing up my nose! More mango fruit, maybe a little tangy gooseberry too. Just….. Ooh…

Wow. Just wow. Juicy as. Smooth carbonation enhances the juiciness with mango again foremost, courtesy of my old friend Citra. There is a herbal piney leafy note to this too, probably courtesy of the late Chinook additions. Quite sticky and resinous after the swallow.

Dry and fruity in the finish, the Chinook raises its cone again with a big pine resinous finish. A fine, fine beer. Just need to locate its big brother Unhuman now!

The ExpatriateWilde Child Brewing Co (Leeds) – Pale Ale – 4.5% abv – 330ml – Artisan Ales

Huge tropical hop aromas from this well carbonated and hazy mix gold beer. Initial mango giving way to a hint of gooseberry and kiwi. Tantalising….

Nice and smooth in the mouth with that fine carbonation, more tropical fruit flavours with that kiwi prominent. The second mouthful revealing a little mango and pineapple. A really refreshing fruity mouthful.

Moderate bitterness leads to a dry, grassy and resinous aftertaste.                                            
All in all, a beautifully refreshing sessionable Pale from this new Leeds (to me) brewery. Well worth seeking out.

 


NW DIPA CitraCloudwater Brew Co – DIPA – 9% abv – 500ml – Jaz (from the brewery)

Unleash The Mancunian Murk! Citra you big bad fruity bastard……

Yes. It’s hopped to murkery. And? It smells ludicrously fruity, BIG mango and all kinds of tropical nonsense going on in here. It’s a fruit bomb on the nose!

In the mouth, I need to first get past the torrent of saliva unleashed by the aroma….

Sooooo fruity. Yes, mango central, but there is orange pulp edging the tongue too followed by an unexpected whack of bitterness before the inevitable sticky resinous hop finish.

I wouldn’t say that I’m on point with DIPAs, they aren’t my favourite style for sure. But this is certainly the best of the Cloudwater iterations that I’ve had. I thought that Birthday and v12 were impressive, but this is gorgeous.

And frighteningly drinkable for the strength.

Imperial Brown StoutThe Kernel – Imperial Stout – 9% abv – 330ml – Artisan Ales

I mean, look at it. Brooding. Mean and moody. And simply magnificent. Black. Creamy tan head chucking out aromas of bitter chocolate, rum and old leather. A stunning combination.

Oh my…… So, so, so smooth. So smooth. Beautifully smooth, tongue coating. Bitter chocolate sweetness upfront reminiscent of dark muscovado. Followed by a little bitter Espresso, making my tongue tingle at the edges. Simply beautiful.

Second mouthful brings more bitter chocolate, but a distinct dusty cocoa and finishes distinctly grassy hopped. And making me smile from ear to ear.

Magnificent.

East West Fest 2017 – Small is Beautiful

Sometimes – just sometimes – the planets align. Beer, venue & people. All together. In perfect harmony.

Last weekend was one of those occasions.

It was immensely flattering for ISBF to be the inspiration for a select little Northern beer festival. One making a feature of The War of the Roses, Lancashire v Yorkshire joined in beery battle formation. It was also quite humbling to be asked to source the breweries from (predominantly) the Manchester area.

This was the third year. And whilst I’ve enjoyed the previous two hugely, this one was elevated. By people. And by some simply exceptional beer.

This is the little event that made me realise that – so far as beer events are concerned – small is beautiful. I really struggle with beer extravaganzas like IMBC & MBCF. I crave intimacy, events where it’s as much about the atmosphere, the people, the chat and fun. And this event has “it”. That indefinable quality that just makes it special.

Previously, myself and Jaz have been both years. I have waxed lyrical about both events and was thrilled that some beery buddies read what I wrote. And felt it worth a punt. To the extent that they decided they’d make a night of it and stay over. No pressure there then….

I knew that some of them would get there before I did. And had to suffer drooling message after message, trying beers. Taunting.

8 came over the Pennines. 5 of those for the very first time, on the back of my constant wibbling about it. It works for me, but would it for them?

I needn’t have worried. The smiles, laughter, the outright surrealism. Inspired by the venue – being a big red shed – the tremendous beer list (skewed a little towards the stronger stuff….) and just the sheer friendliness….. I for one haven’t had such a good time at any beer festival. Period.

Over the period of the days, all of the beers in the small (20 beers) list were tried. Several repeatedly. And with that select number of beers, there were no false steps – which is unusual at any beer festival. If pushed to single out a few, my choices for the best beers would be unusual. In that I generally prefer session beers. My favourites were the three strongest beers available.

Canadian Maple Brown by Black Jack / Drygate : I actually turned up on the brewday for this and was intrigued by at least one of the ingredients. Fresh made waffles! Created,  then chucked in the mash. It was a beer that I shouldn’t love, but it was astonishingly good! The flavours of waffles and maple syrup led to a slightly smoky sweetness, but it just WORKED so well.

May Day 2017 (aka “The Jaz Killer”) by Five Towns (our host!)  An 8.4% Pale Ale (we called it the DIPA) that was unbelievablely drinkable, fruity, bitter and just ooooh… Mango and apricot. Balanced bitterness. Utterly lush. And the base for some ludicrous Black and Tan action later…

Sorachi Stout – Squawk Brewing : I was there at the birth and another beer that simply rocks my world. At 7.1% abv, this beer confirms all of my thinking about Sorachi Ace. It just works so well in big Stouts. Oli Turton put an awful lot of this most schizophrenic of hops into this brew. And it’s bloody gorgeous. So smooth, with the Sorachi bringing its more coconut A game. Tremendous.

My actual favourite beer though was a blend.

I’ve developed a reputation for somewhat ludicrous “Black and Tans” over the last year or so amongst my friends. But by 9 on the Friday evening we were all at it.

Work the Five Towns May Day forming the Pale half of each blend, various dark roasty partners were tried with surprisingly excellent results. The Black Jack Canadian Maple Brown was utterly lush when paired with the DIPA, but my personal favourite, was with the Sorachi Stout. A mere 7.1% abv Stout meets an 8.4% Pale. Transcendant. Just beautiful. I had more than one – to put it mildly….

Next morning, a stroll was in order.

The Black Rock – Bread Street.

This 18th century beer house is a thing of beauty. And – a Brucie bonus – was open early when we had time to kill waiting for a train (for 3 of our rabble).

In brief, it’s a beautiful old open plan pub. Loads of wood. Am old drinking soul, precisely the kind of venue that tugs at my hearts strings. And (even better) it had a beautiful refreshing Oakham Citra to wash away the lingering flavour of breakfast.

The pub was recommended by some good judges locally. They were right.

Wakefield Beer Exchange – Bull Ring

Directly opposite the Black Rock – despite being listed on a different street – this place is as modern as the Black Rock is old. But it works just as well.

Opened by some of the guys behind Revolutions of Castleford in December 2015, this bar has already earned its spurs in the Wakefield beer scene. 6 cask lines matched up against 6 keg means you’ll get something delicious. I went for Candidate by Revolutions (when in Rome). Joy Division track reference, refreshing Pale Ale. As is standard with Revs.

The Beer Exchange is a single roomed bar that would slot into any vacant Manchester NQ space and thrive. Clean lines, plenty of tables, great beer, top tunes, good gin selection. Great place.

3 of our band of brothers headed back over the hill – one, to the disappointment of being beaten in a Super League defeat at home by (irony of….) Wakefield Wildcats. Sorry* Deeekos.

*not

We headed to

The Hop – Bank Street.

What you get caught up with these pubs operated by Ossett Brewery (there’s one in Leeds – inside the railway “Dark Arches”), it’s a range of Ossett group beers (Rat, Fernandes, Riverhead etc) in a minimalist brick lined building, live music and a bit of quirkiness.

I like both that I’ve been in. And the Fernandes Pale was excellent.

I also like this….

Yup. A pub, with internal access to a kebab shop. They’ve thought of everything!

And this…..

“What’re you talking a photo of THAT for?”

Because it’s Ian ******g Curtis. A Mancunian musical legend. And I saw him live, 37 goddamned years ago.

Obviously a few quid spent on The Hop. And it’s worth it.

Finally, penultimate stop for the remaining four of us..

Fernandes Tap – Avison Yard

I’ve lived this place from the first moment I set foot. If it had opened earlier, it would have been the first stop, but being just around the corner from the Red Shed (don’t call it the Labour Club when ordering a cab…).

The photo says it all – other than the fact that there is a second (continental) bar downstairs.

Again, a lovely light Fernandes Session IPA. The job. Done.

And then, it was back to The Red Shed. To cover the bases we hadn’t before.

To drink more 8.4% May Day. More Sorachi Stout & Canadian Maple Brown. More Black and Tans…. More genuine fun. And, being all for charity, just made it even more, you know.

I haven’t laughed so much since….

It’s my favourite beer festival. I think it’s Jaz’s too. I was worried that the others – having spent almost a weekend there – wouldn’t like it. That my judgement was flawed because of my personal attachment. But, I think, they got it.

And I think that they might be paying a return visit next May.

And – just for that little bit of surrealism…

No squirrels were harmed in the creation of this blog. (A time & place thing…)