Rats, Rye & A Huddersfield Legend – A Brewday To Remember – 18/03/2016

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Just to recap, I am a cheeky git. That kind of explains how – when I heard that two of my favourite Yorkshire breweries were collaboRATing on a new beer – I wind up inviting myself along to what is (quite possibly) my favourite pub. Anywhere.

That pub is The Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield. And underneath that pub, lies one of THE most hop forward breweries in the UK. Rat Brewery. And just to ensure that hops would be to the fore, the other brewer was my good friend Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield.

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I took a day off from work. I also had to curb my enthusiasm for the beers at The Smithfield the previous evening, because getting to Huddersfield by train isn’t conducive to a lie in. Trust me.

The beer was to be a Rye IPA. I like Rye beers, but have never brewed with it, so had no idea what to expect of the mash. Or how much digging would be required. But, being by Rat & Five Towns, it was going to be hoppy.

I’d never met Robin before. Robin is the brewer at Rat and brews beers that I instinctively reach for when I see them on a bar. One of my biggest regrets at the first #ISBF was that we didn’t have any Rat beer. Remedied at #ISBF2015. When pale, the beers are hoppy, when dark they are gorgeously roasty. Good beer.

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I made one solitary note on this brewday. It was “Shagging a bag of rye malt”. I had to use it. Didn’t I Robin?

So. 200kg of malt. Including 50kg of rye malt. A LOT of aromatic hops (my hands never smelled so good!). Time to play….

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The mash looked like a Tarka Dhal. Just like a normal Dhal, but a little ‘otter…..

This took a lot of stirring. This was where I became acquainted with the absorbent properties of rye malt.

Near 200kg in a 5bbl plant is a lot of malt. And this beer should certainly have a good backbone to support all of these hops…

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All 14kg (Inc dry hopping) of them! Breaking them up was an aromatic joy!

800g of Admiral went in for Bittering with Cascade, Sorachi & Nelson Sauvin in later additions for flavour and aroma and Citra / Mosaic at flameout. (With a huge amount of Cascade & Citra being dry hopped)

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Transfer to the copper being complete, time for a dig. And WHAT a dig.

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The rye retained an awful lot of liquor, so this felt more like 300kg. It took a lot of digging. But this is where know nothing numpties like me step in. I enjoy digging out, perversely.

It also means that I got the pleasure of adding the hops and steam cleaning my face…. But the smell was worth the scalding….

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At each addition, the smells were beautiful, culminating in the final – flameout – addition of Citra and Mosaic. Holy. Mother. Of…… Stunning. Simply glorious aromas. More than worth the dig.

Welcome to “Rat Out”. A 5.8% Rye IPA. I can’t wait to try it at the East West Beer Festival in May!

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(Supervising Rats)

With that final hop addition, Robin let myself and Malcolm flee the nest and let us had upstairs into the pub. Refreshment was required, this was hot work.

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It would have been rude NOT to sample all 3! And, given that I started with a pint of King Rat (IPA at 5.6%) and a Rat Against The Machine (7% big hoppy IPA), that 4% White Rat more than held its own. A superb tasty session beer.

This was an excellent fun brew day. With stories swapped and chuckling a plenty. I’m very grateful that I was allowed into the Rat lair by Robin. But, after all that, there was  a further, ulterior motive for coming by train.

A Huddersfield Legend.

So Robin, Malcolm & I went for a walk.

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The Star Inn is a tremendous pub in its own right. Featuring, on any given day, a plethora of excellent ales. But, twice a year, it hosts a beer festival.

People I respect, like the Arch Nemesis and Des, have regaled me with tales of this beer festival. Some of my Yorkshire pals have tried to get me over for a couple of years now. So it felt like a privilege to walk in. And I was excited.

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Another of the reasons that I had to come was THIS beer. From the moment that Malcolm told me he was going to brew an IPA with Seville oranges, I knew I had to have it on draught.

“Could I have a pint of Alcazar please?”

“A pint?”

OK. It WAS 7.8%. But I’d earned this pleasure. And a pleasure it was. Big and deeply juicy oranges complemented by massive hopping. Yum. Just yum.

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It’s a lovely old pub is The Star. And it attracts drinkers from all over the North and beyond for these legendary festivals.

It was an utter pleasure (as always) to chat with Charlie (aka The Ale Ambler – a member of Yorkshire’s mighty “A Swift One” blogging collective) a man who has probably forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.

It was also a delight (as usual) to chat with those lovely ladies from Mallinsons (Elaine & Tara) and indulge in a bit of plotting. Of which all shall be revealed at the appropriate time….

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As well as the chatting, there were some stunning beers, from Mallinsons (Maverick), Wild Weather (a cracking Single hopped Sorachi Pale) and Neptune (the luscious Abyss Oatmeal Stout), there was also some gorgeous grub too….

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The Thai Green Curry Chicken was superb. But after that, it time for some sad goodbyes. I hated leaving. I really wanted to stay.

This beer festival is the best pub Festival I’ve been to. By a distance. It helps that it is hosted in a simply gorgeous pub, the likes of which Manchester lacks.

Next time, I’m booking a hotel for the night.

Thank you to Robin, Paul Spencer (Ossett head brewer – for extending the invite), to Malcolm – of course (the beer will feature at the cracking East West Festival) and everyone at The Star.

A great brewday. An iconic pub. And a legendary beer festival. A day I won’t forget.

I love Huddersfield.

Liverpool – Heart & Soul – 27/02/2016

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“Walking up to me expecting, walking up to me expecting words
It happens all the time

Present company excepted, present company accept the worst
It happens every night

Present company excluded every time.
Present company, the best that you can find…….

Present company excluded in every way. Present company, makes me want to stay.”

(“Dance Yourself Clean” – LCD Soundsystem)

(For Les & Lee)

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Ever had that moment when you realise that you’ve actually scheduled two fabulous events in consecutive days? Well. That.

The evening before, Atilla & her lesser half were invited to Michelle Kelsall’s 40th birthday bash at Offbeat Brewery. which, unbeknown to most (until 6 hours before) turned into a wedding do as Michelle and her partner David Shipman got married that morning….It was a proper party. And there was a specially brewed DIPA by David (Otherton Ales).

And it got messy. Very messy…. I should have listened to Atilla when she said “slow down”……I REALLY needed that coffee when she dropped me at Oxford Rd. I felt hideous. But I wasn’t going to miss what we did yesterday for the world.

You see, I’d had a standing invitation from two lovely beer people (Julie & Les O’Grady) to have a stroll with them around their beloved city.

Now, being a Salford lad, I need to let you into a little secret.

I adore Liverpool.

Always have. And, as I discovered 4 years ago, it’s in my blood. Back in the early 1800s, my Dad’s maternal ancestors lived in Toxteth as immigrants from Northern Ireland. When I learned that, everything about my feelings for Liverpool clicked into place. They made sense.

So. I’m on a train. With a hangover. Listening to LCD Soundsystem. Loudly. Counter intuitive, I know, but it felt right.

“We’ll meet you by the Ken Dodd statue”

Fortunately for me (bat blind) I met Lee (good people) off the platform. And HIS eyesight was working!

I met Les & Julie through Twitter and a mutual love of beer and music. They also hold the “distinction” of buying the first two tickets that we sold in 2014 for The Independent Salford Beer Festival. They are good people. And they know their Liverpool pubs and bars. Our spirit guides for the day ahead.

Our? That’s because we had those beery princes @BeerFinderGeneral, @Deeekos & @Leggywolf with us. Companions of the highest order.

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The Dispensary (87 Renshaw St, Liverpool, L1 2SP)

The first port in my storm. Ruff would do justice to how I felt at this stage. Until I got here. It lifted my spirits

Open planned, with a long wooden bar and an almost separate space at the back. \this is one lovely pub. Boosted even further by having 3 George Wright beers on. Not seen any for a while from this St Helens firm. Mild too! I needed something gentle to ease myself into that swing of things. Smooth, creamy and roasted malty. The oracle was worked..

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Isn’t that one lovely bar? Great friendly service in here too (as I was to find in all the places we visited. It obviously helps to have guides who have “form” locally!

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We just got chatting. About everything and nothing. It didn’t matter. Great beer, fabulous pub and good people. What else do you need?

It was here that @Deeekos joined our happy band. And by that point, the revitalising effects of that first pint were livening me up. I was ready for the day ahead.

The “Dizzy” was a great start.

Next, a walk down Renshaw St, onto Leece St and a left onto Roscoe St….

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The Roscoe Head (24 Roscoe St, Liverpool L1 2SX)

I’m always very wary of places that get lauded to hell. The expectations get raised to heights that can’t possibly be matched by the reality. But here, they were surpassed. It deserves every single plaudit it receives.

A multi-roomed pub in the truest sense, with 4 distinct drinking areas and one of the dinkiest rooms it has ever been my pleasure to drink in. Beautiful tiled floors. Masses of dark wood. This place has a soul. The kind that you simply don’t find everyday.

And it WAS a pleasure to drink here. Especially as the barmaid lost no time in latching onto my Manc tones and proceeded to take the piss out of me. My kind of pub this!

An Offbeat beer on? I broke my “when in Rome” rule to celebrate Michelle & David’s honeymoon. Hinkey Herkulean Hopper was that beer, lovely and fruity. We simply don’t see Michelle’s beers in Manchester. Some pubs need to seriously step up and right that egregious wrong! This pub did.

I get why this pub is so loved. It looks untampered with. Like, just because it’s just off the main Renshaw Street, it has been forgotten about. It’s certainly a gem of a place.

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To lose this pub for a supermarket plot would be bordering on criminal. I’m glad that (at least for the time being) the pub looks like it will continue. As the only pub in the North West to be in each edition of the Good Beer Guide and as an utter gem, you need to visit to appreciate it truly.

Roscoe Bar

Do it.

Next, turn right out of the pub, cross Leece St and straight along Roscoe St past the “Bombed Out Church”…..

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(Anything wrong with this picture?)

The Grapes (60 Roscoe Street, Liverpool, L1 9DW)

A short walk. To what – to me at least – felt like a “local” in the middle of the city. The place is open plan with an L-shaped bar and the room shaping around it with an area to the rear of the bar which had the feel of a different room.

Nice outdoor space to this pub which no doubt gets rammed in the warmer months, but, even as upholstered as I am, we stayed indoors and chatted. And chatted. And….

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The first of the pubs with beers from Liverpool micros here. With some trying the Liverpool Organic Pilsner, nice light, refreshing and lightly fruity in the way of a good Czech, but my eye was on a beer I had only had in bottle a couple of evenings earlier. And, as I was stood with mine host, the brewer, I thought “you know”…

The beer was “Abyss” Oatmeal Stout by Neptune Brewery and it was one of my two three beers of the day. Smooth and creamy as you would expect an Oatmeal Stout, it started with chocolate and coffee notes, but the further down the glass I got, a spicy licorice note became increasingly prominent. A delight. As was this warm and friendly boozer – a bit of a theme on the day that……

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(You’ve simply GOT TO have a “Super Lamb Banana”!)

So…Next we went down Knight St to Berry St and then onto Seel St to…

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Kazimier Garden (32, Seel St, Liverpool, L1 4BH)

It is quite safe to say that there is certainly nothing quite like this in Manchester! This is a performance and art space that is (mostly) open to the elements. It feels bohemian and home-made in construction and all the better for its uniqueness!

Sweet baby Jesus…..They’ve even had the legend that is Lee “Scratch” Perry play here….Jeff, you missed out buddy!

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A big griddle was in play for BBQ stuff, but beer was still in play here. The bar had 3 on cask from Liverpool Craft (and some decent craft keg), I plumped for a Rye Pale which ticked all of the required boxes.

I also started to fall in love with Julie’s impersonation of Larry Grayson by this point…….

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(View from upstairs)

I was advance warned that I’d like this place. It’s quirky as hell and has an individual charm with almost a “community” feel to it. It works. If you like something different, it’s an essential visit.

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(Obligatory historic beer brand shot!)

From here, we walked down David Lewis St and Campbell St then across Duke St. To the next (to say the least) damn quirky pub!

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Liverpool One Bridewell (1 Campbell Square, Argyle Street, Liverpool, L1 5FB)

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Fancy like drinking in a real 1850s (as Shane McGowan put it so sweetly) “drunk tank”? Yup. If you haven’t been before, this pub is in a converted gaol! To think, that I’m drinking in a place where some of the greatest music of the 80s may have been conceived? Frankie, Iain McNabb and The Icicle Works, The Pale Fountains (please say that “Thank You” was written here?), The La’s all hung out in this very building when it was a performance space/recording studios.

The main bar area is “relatively” conventional. Then you go down the corridor and realise that the former cells have been retained and converted into small drinking booths!

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Again, there’s nowt like this in Mancunia. A decent selection from local Micros in here too. Nice pint of “Make Scouse Not War“, again by Neptune, in here. I’d kind of sworn that I’d be drinking halves, but got carried away in conversation punctuated by some very humourous “door shutting” (you had to be there I suppose!). Heidi Fleiss was getting a bit parky to say the least…..

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The pubs/bars were getting progressively busier as we went along. Chatted with one or two of the friendly locals too, again, a bit of a running theme. Friendly pubs….

Shamefully, we had a schedule to keep to….So, down Forrest St, left onto the main St James’ St then right onto Cornhill for our next meeting with a classic…

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The Baltic Fleet (33a Wapping, Liverpool, L1 8DQ)

A pub that I’d driven past on hundreds of occasions, had heard so much about, but never been in. Now rectified.

Baltic Bar

The home of the Wapping Brewery (downstairs in the cellar), this mid 19th century boozer – our furthest spot on the journey – was more than worth the walk. Bright, lovely bar, fabulous vaulted ceilings, toilets upstairs accessed by a sweeping “cruise liner” style stairway….

Again, a goodly few local beers here. I went for a Melwood Brewery Derby Stout, not as rich as I would like, but smooth and roasty flavours with chocolate Toffo (remember them?) being in there.

Baltic Backroom

Busy as a chippy, again, rightly so. I should have asked to see the “secret tunnels” to the Docks that run under the pub…. But not the 4 ghosts that live there…….

Right then. We still had a timetable to keep to, so, with the O’Grady whips a-cracking, back up Cornhill, right along Hurst St, then left up Sparling St to St James’ St, Right onto Jamaica ST then 2nd right on to Kitchen St….

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Black Lodge Brewing Taphouse (4 Kitchen St, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, L1 0AN)

More familiar territory here with a warehouse conversion into a bar/micro brewery. For this particular Manc, this had a feeling that would slot right into the NQ and absolutely thrive.

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Decor wise, minimalist earth tones. Great tunes and (as we were to find – due to Les & Julie ordering ahead!) superb food.

The brew kit is almost Pico in size and – on occasion – they brew whilst open. But not today. Today was for selling it. Bar was (and I could stand corrected) all keg and mostly brewed on the premises with a smattering of guests. I had their own Black Lodge BrewingBlack Rye. Right up there with the best three along with the Neptune Abyss (there’s one more to come….!), sharply hoppy, resinous with a bit of peppery Rye. A truly excellent beer – I wonder if I could persuade them for Salford…….?

Black Lodge Meats

(Thank you Julie & Les – Next time, a Marble Cheeseboard on me – & a Manchester Egg or two…)

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(I told you it was tiny….)

It’s an easy thing to say that there were no low points on this day. But this place impressed all 4 of the Mancs. Oh that platter was good! I won’t mention my utter shame in having an entire portion of Black Pudding Sausage Roll shall I? Best not eh? Nor the gooey Scotch Egg……

Now came the furthest walk. And you’ll have to figure your own route, because I’m damned if I remember…..

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The 23 Club (Basement of The Clove Hitch – 23 Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BQ)

The final stop. One hell of a walk. But SO worth it.

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This place is so tiny! But I can totally get why Les & Julie would come here so much. It’s like the set of Cheers, but with a Scouse accent instead of Boston! People just knew each other. Really friendly barmaid and some great beer. Now, there IS apparently some cask beer upstairs in the restaurant, downstairs being keg only. But was that REALLY 16 taps?

Just away from the bar area is a seating section and just past the stairs back up, there is another small room, but I can see this place getting seriously rammed. It’s THAT good and THAT tiny!

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AND they manage to cram in a little bottle store too! It was late in the day. I needed something different. Something to clear the fog on my tastebuds. I followed Les like a sheep follows a collie. Tsatsiki Sour by Mad Hatter. One of my 5 a day in a glass. And it just got better and better as it went down. I’ve had some good stuff from MH, but this is the best.

And I could see how people fall in love with this place. It reminded me of Atilla – small, but perfectly formed.

My Manc accomplices were all for staying, but I was on a fixed train at 20:16 and had to dash.

I can’t thank Les & Julie enough. For the chat, the beer, the laughter and their unerring taste in where to go – my feet were cut to shreds (new boots….), but that was a small price to pay to walk around one of my favourite cities. There’s just something about it that grabs me. It’s a place full of soul.

With pubs and bars to match.

I tip my hat.