Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 2

“On the pad before my eyes, paper cries, tellin’ lies.

The promises you gave from the grave of a broken heart. Hmmm

Every day I spend my time, drinkin’ wine, feelin’ fine,

Waitin’ here to find the sign that I can understand,

Yes I am, oh.”

(“In A Broken Dream” – Python Lee Jackson)

This song was originally released in 1970, but by the time of its UK re-release in 1972, Rod Stewart was banging out some of the finest blues-rock singles of the age, songs that MORE than stand the test of time, even now. “Maggie May”, “Reason To Believe”, “Handbags & Gladrags”, “You Wear It Well” not to mention the all-time classic single “Stay With Me” that he recorded as a member of possibly the most lashed up and lashed together of all rock and roll bands “The Faces”. Pistols at dawn for anybody who denies the greatness of that run of classics! To think that he was paid for his vocal on my featured lyric….with a set of seat covers for his car!

Anyway, down to business…..that being BEER of course…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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…

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1. Brodies Prime Export – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 8.5% abv – Strong Dark Ale – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another of the batch that I received unexpectedly in the post. Sometimes, I can’t believe my luck!

Liquid ebony to the eye and twice as pretty! A light cream coloured head yielding an aroma containing deep dark bitter chocolate and some nose wrinkling spicy hop? Ooohhh! In the mouth this is full-bodied (as you would expect), but far from glutinous. A perfect balance of sweet & bitter. Licorice, bitter chocolate, a touch of cognac, and sweet strong coffee assail the taste-buds  and give the insides of the belly a warm luxurious massage! Licorice and chocolate linger into the finish with quite a hoppy perky aftertaste. I love Brodies Prime, but this is EVEN better!

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2. Monster Mash – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Strong Mild – £2.48 – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

Damn! I could have used the lyric from the classic Bobby Pickett & The Cryptkickers for the header (“I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight…”)

OK, I’ll get on with it….. Dark brown almost black was this puppy, with a creamy tan coloured head and a milk  chocolatey aroma with a hint of sweet coffee. It was full-bodied and creamy in the mouth, with chocolate at first on the tongue, then some bitter coffee and lovely toasty flavours in with the roast. This led to a dry finish with a little bitterness and a lingering coffee note in the aftertaste. Another Wakefield belter from Mr Bastow!

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(Now THAT’S what I call Amber!)

3. American Amber Ale – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale – £4.19 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The first time that I drank this, was on draught at Port Street Beer House. Astonishingly good (as have been all of Jay’s beers that I have tried), it was somewhat darker than anything resembling amber, buy BOY did it taste good! But in bottle?

No worries there! Yup! It’s an amber coloured beer alright, with a white head and a big citrussy aroma, the dominant whiffs being tangerine and peach. Full bodied and really fruity (tangerine, tart grapefruit) with a bready malt base supporting those fruity hops (all SEVEN) and rounded off with a nicely bitter finish and an aftertaste with lingering fruit and sticky piney resins. Yet another superb beer from the Hempshore Lane laboratory!

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4. Clearwater Pale AleAxholme Brewery (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.59 (less discount for 12 or more) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A brewery whose beers can be found rarely but increasingly in certain select pubs like The New Oxford in Salford, Mike & Jules Richards create some fine beers, but like many smaller brewers, rarely find their way this neck of the woods. Shame really!

Pale gold with ever such a light haze and an aroma yielding  some peach and maybe grape to the nose. Medium bodied and lacking a little in carbonation, but really refreshing with almost a cask feel to it. Quite dry with peach and tangerine flavours to the fore giving way to quite a dry finish, with a gentle bitterness at the back of the tongue. A nice beer from the North of Lincolnshire.

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5. Black Betty – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.4% abv – Black IPA – £3.49 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

About a year ago, I had never even HEARD the term “Black IPA” never mind tasted one! And now……Black is indeed the new Pale! This was a Beavertown beer that I’d heard loads of good verbage about, but was yet to try…..

Black with a chocolate-brown tinge at the head when held up to the light, the head is a tan colour but quickly faded to traces, giving up a powerful citrus aroma of grapefruit mingled with something earthier and spicier like licorice root. Making this old boy’s saliva glands go into overdrive! Once it passes the lips it is like a dark grenade! In the mouth the citrus is peach and mandarin and really sharp, with the carbonation enhancing the tingling of the gums. Entwined with that – like a vine – is that licorice again with a bitter chocolate note. This is the first time that I have had this beer in any form and it is bloody marvellous! A superb balance of sweetness and hoppy bitterness and resins. The finish is dry and bitter with lingering pine and bitter chocolate. A class act!

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6. Broken Dream – Siren Craft Brew (Finchhampstead, Berkshire) – 6.5% abv – Breakfast Stout – £0 (330ml) (£3.60 in shop) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I popped in this afternoon whilst in Bolton and had a superb pint of Deeply Vale DV8 (funnily enough, another Breakfast Stout) and it was great to see Dan & Gina doing well in their brave but welcome (ad)venture. Some MTBs coming up too!

Dan passed me this to see what I thought (knowing my love of most things dark!) and I am so glad he did!

A true stout. Black and opaque, a dark tan creamy head with an aroma of mocha with memories of chocolate flavoured ice cream sauce topping! Mmmm….Full bodied and ever so chocolatey! Really creamy and smooth on the tongue. The chocolate fades (if that is the right word) into more of a mocha feel with coffee increasingly making its eye-opening presence felt. The mocha sweetness is balanced with some nice grassy hopping which comes into play nearer the finish which has a blend of chocolate sweetness and hoppy dryness. I wasn’t that impressed when I tried this at the recent beer fest (unlike their awesome Soundwave), but this is more than a class above. A corker! (And a steal at the price!)

Being a total empty head, I forgot my beers of the month for January….so here goes….

Draught – AmarilloBrightside Brewing (Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester) Pale and VERY interesting, the orangey hop character of the Amarillo shone through in this fruity marvel. A deserves SIBA Gold Medal winner. Apparently, they’re having this on draught at the Great Ale Year Round MTB next week. Can’t wait!!!

Bottle – StrannikNorthern Monk Brew Co – “Creamy full-bodied and oh so bad…..I feel like I’m committing adultery with a beer!” – Enough said!”

That’s enough of my wittering & waffling for one week I think!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

PS : (I lied!) Allgates Brewery have brewed more of the luscious Quaker House Oatmeal Stout (My beer of the year 2013!), can’t wait to wrap my chops around that beauty again!

Bottled Ales – June 2013

20130621_202448(A VERY happy Daddy on Fathers Day!)

Not that much gallivanting this month (so far!). No trips over the hill, no visit to Booths. Starting to get itchy feet! I did manage to pick up some reviewable beers courtesy of my darling younger children (see above) and the nice guys at Joshua Brooks, courtesy of their excellent 3 for £10 offer – still on! Oh. And that visit to Ramsbottom Craft as well…..

Moving swiftly on, some nice beers may have passed my lips this last month, all UK (see my mini rant https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/bottled-ales-may-2013/) and all damned tasty. Here goes…. (Remember, all prices include discounts where offered – CAMRA membership etc)

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1. Pilsner by Hop Studio (York) – 4% abv – Pilsner Lager – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Having had the XS on cask, I was keen to try something bottled by this York brewery. The XS was superb and this was no different. This golden beer had a slightly biscuity aroma with plenty of juicy biscuit malt in the mouth with hints of blackberry and other hedgerow fruits. A lovely smooth mouthful with a nice dry and slightly bitter finish. A cracking UK pilsner this and a bargain at the price. (Don’t forget the postal saving offer at Yorkshire Ales at the mo!)

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2. Tohunga by Bridestones Brewing (Hebden Bridge, West Yorks) – 6.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.93 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

A deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a gentle fruity hop aroma. At this strength I was expecting a hop monster but what I got was more subtle and no less rewarding. A dangerous beer which doesn’t taste its 6.3%, it had a good malty body balanced by plenty of fruity hop flavour and a nice dry fruity finish with some grassy hop notes in the aftertaste. A very balanced beer at this strength.

20130531_222350(Amber is the new Chocolate!)

3. American Amber Ale by Quantum Brewing (Stockport, Cheshire) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale (?) – A swap for a pint at Port Street! – From the Brewery

I’ll say it again. Amber my arse! A deep ruby coloured beer this with the aroma of a freshly bitten chocolate caramel bar, drawing me in. I like a beery taste challenge, this was one! There was chocolate in the mouth, some toffee but with a lovely dry earthy hop quality. Lovely dry bitter grassy chocolatey aftertaste. This was as good as on draught at Port Street! Yummy! Jay also notes the hops used on his bottle label, but typical me, forgot to note them!

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4. RooBarb by Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, West Yorks) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I’ve had a few beers now from this Wakefield brewer. Uniformly excellent they were too. I’m pleased that Malcolm Bastow and his beers are getting some well deserved light shone upon them including this http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/five-towns-mango-junction-schneider-v2/ from Leigh Linley’s “The Good Stuff” blog.

I’ve had the Peculiar previously (also Rhubarb & Ginger flavoured), but this had the twist of Aussie hops, so had to be done, didn’t it? A golden beer with a fruity spicy nose (no surprise!) Made with the addition of rhubarb and ginger, this was refreshing in the mouth with a slight sourness and a hint of warmth from the spice. A nice bitter and slightly piney hop dryness. Really well balanced and tasty beer. (I’ve still got the V2Schneider put by to try yet!)

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5. Burnout by Brass Castle Brewery (Pocklington, North Yorks) – 5.8% abv – Peat Smoked Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Just HAD to get a dark one in! A deep ruby to black beer. The head dissipated rather quickly, but yielded a mocha hit on the nose, surprised me that! Some chocolate too in the mouth but with a deep smokiness accompanying it with a nice bitter touch. This had a lingering pleasant smoky aftertaste. Smoky, choccy and bitter. Ticks MY boxes!

Bottle of the Month ?

Quantum American Amber (but the Roobarb ran it close!)

Draught ?

Ostara by Allgates. Damn! Had it at the Hare & Hounds AND the brewery. Just a superb pale ale which, at 3.6% abv, more than gives the comparable Windermere Pale by Hawkshead a run for its money!

Right then! Off to gird my loins for the American Beer Festival presentation by Andreas Falt at Port Street Beer House on Monday…..

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

A Day Trip To Stockport – 18/05/2013

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I’m quite nosey me! (Bolton speak!) So when I picked up that Jaz and a group of his colleagues were planning a group tour of Robinsons (henceforth, Robbies) Brewery in Stockport, it set the limited grey matter working. I hadn’t been drinking in Stockport since the mid 80s and this struck me as an ideal opportunity to fill this knowledge gap (at least partly). Jaz made the right noises and I was in!

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Now, this also brought me within the gravitational pull of a certain Mr Jay Krause, Owner, Brewer and all-round hop alchemist at Quantum Brewing – I just had to ask! Didn’t I? Being the ‘good egg’ that he undoubtedly is, he invited Jaz & myself round. Whoo-Hoo! Two breweries in one day. Bargain!

So, I find myself on the train (for a change) and (meeting Jaz at Piccadilly) we set off on the 11:15 Virgin train to London Euston and a mere 10 minutes later, we’re walking up Wellington Road. Bugger me, but that is a hell of a gradient! It’s hardly the Col de la Madeleine, but I was bloody knackered before it levelled off on Hempshaw Lane where the aforementioned Mr Krause weaves his magic.

Let’s say, I struggled to find Quantum, initially! Then I remembered something Jay said about location, retraced my steps and lo! There be casks!

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(Anyone for beer barrel Jenga?)

Jay started this operation in 2011 and has quickly gained a reputation for full flavoured beers with often unusual ingredients – his Blood Orange Pale Ale has entered into legend! (And was the first beer Jaz asked about!) I first saw him at the Leeds International Beer Fest last year behind the bar and enjoyed his Stout hugely. Since then, I’ve had several of his beers and they have all been excellent, in particular his Keyworths Early using an old hop variety that could well make a comeback.

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(LtoR – Hot Liquor Tank and Copper)

Anyhoo! Located in an industrial unit off Hempshaw Lane, just outside (and UPHILL of) Stockport centre, Jay is unmistakably a one man band. I fail to comprehend how I can find so much of his beer in the Manchester area, with the size of his operation. He looks like a hell of an engineer having adapted his own mash tun to suit his own needs. 

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(Self built Mash Tun!)

He dispenses his beer in a variety of formats, Cask, KeyKeg and bottle. The bottles aren’t bottle conditioned, which will certainly help when it comes to chilling them slightly!

A 5 Bbl plant means that he can brew up to 1440 pints per brew, that’s 20 9 gallon firkins (cask) or nearly 1500 bottles! It’s good to hear that he’s making it pay, though he’s some distance off being a ‘beer baron’! This is his day job and he makes it pay by producing excellent beer which is showcased in some of Manchester’s best bars (Port Street, Joshua Brooks and Font, to name but 3!)

I was intrigued to see some of his wooden casks used for some specials. Smoked Porter aged in Caol Ila whisky cask anyone? (Trust me to miss THAT one!)

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As mentioned earlier, he produces a wide variety of tasty beers. In that vein, he allowed Jaz and myself to sample a Saison that is about to be released into ‘the wild’. This is one lovely beer! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with a lovely fruitiness and dry finish. This may be making its way in the world this week. Jaz & I both loved it. The knowledge that it’ll be served in Joshua Brooks was gratefully received. (James’ll tip us the wink, won’t you?)

As stated, Jay’s is a small, true Micro Brewery and he does all the key tasks himself, even down to the bottling. He’s one busy boy and we were really grateful that he took time out to chat with us and answer my idiot novice questions with good grace and a smile! (And a HUGE thanks for the CCC and American Amber! Reviewed soon – as long as Jaz doesn’t drink them first – they’re stored at his flat!)

A genuinely nice bloke running a human scale brewing operation. Look out for his beers, you will NOT be disappointed! (A collaboration brew is in the offing with Allgates, Jay, Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound – Two top brewers and two fables tasters – I may even sit in the bleachers and watch the fun! Watch this space, it’s gonna be superb!)

Now, for the polar opposite?

But first, we had a bit of time to spare before our 13:30 appointment at the brewing behemoth that is Robinsons, so we strolled along to the market place to have a look at the High Peak Beer Co.

I didn’t expect such a small unit! But a superb selection of beers from near and far. Had a bit of chat with (who I presume to be) the owner. Certainly knows his beer this man! Aims to snaffle himself a pub in the peak within the next 5 years with maybe a brew plant out the back. I like it! Said he’d be looking at a bit of a camping facility as well. I’m there already! Picked myself up a bottle of Axe Edge by Buxton Brewery. A cheery wave and we were off to meet our fellow beer tourists in the local Wetherspoons)

Had a nice pint of GWB Meerkat Mild here. Big ol’ Spoons, huge floor area, but 3 milds on, including George Wrights and Titanic. More later.

A short walk from Wetherspoons and we find ourselves at…..

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(Shiny new Visitors centre!)

We were given a few minutes to gather ourselves together (and, no doubt, peruse purchasing opportunities!)

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20130518_133834(Putting the cart before the – absent – horse!)

The Visitor Centre is fairly new. Lots of interactive displays around the walls with an accent on the history and heritage of the brewery. Lots of merchandise for sale from chutneys to t-shirts with most of Robbies bottled beer available to purchase, including the new “collaboration” beer with Iron Maiden, Trooper, which featured prominently as you would expect.

We were gathered together by our tour guide and shown the highways and byways of this, quite large, brewery.

Being a ‘tower’ type brewery (the process flows down with gravity!), there were a LOT of steps. If you have fitness issues (like me!) be prepared for recovery time!

There was a big accent on a recent major brewery refurb, with lots of new, efficient, kit being bought from Germany at great expense. Bright and shiny it was indeed. Industrial. This is a big business. They retained examples of most of the old kit too, which made for a nice contrast, starting at the old and new grist mills (grain grinders). Here we were shown samples of the various malts and encouraged to taste. I loved the bitter coffee flavours of the chocolate malt (surprised?)

We were also encouraged to smell sample a variety of hops. In Robbies case, mostly British with one jar of US (Amarillo). Robbies predominantly use Goldings in their beers.

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(Grist to the mill!)

The Mash Tun and Lauter Tun were next and from this point, you get an idea of the sheer huge scale of this operation. These vessels are HUGE, like icebergs, you only see what’s on the surface.

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(Old & New)

Onward to the brewing vessel (or Copper) where the hops are added to impart their aromas and bitter characteristics. Again, think of icebergs!

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Via the Hop Back room (where the spent hops are removed – like the spent grains at other stages – and sent to farms for animal feed) we were taken to the fermenting vessels. Robbies have loads of FVs and again, they are HUGE! I had to take snaps of working FVs and empty to give you the scale. The FV is where the yeast comes to the party, shakes its booty and turns all those lovely sugars into even lovelier alcohol. There were some gorgeous fruity smells in here with maybe 4 FVs at work. (Robbies also have separate vessels used to brew Fentimans botanic drinks)

20130518_144655(The yeast having a party. Check out the patterns!)

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(An empty FV. That must be 15ft deep!!! That’s a whole lot of happy juice!)

With a quick peep into a Control Room, which looked like the tidiest, cleanest office you’ll EVER work in, we were pretty much done. This is a high-tech, leaner, more environmentally friendly operation than ever.

Then were off to the bar to spend our “tokens”, each of which equated to a 1/3rd of beer. I chose a 1/3rd each of Uncle Sams pale ale, Trooper (The Iron Maiden beer) and Fredericks on keg at 6.5%. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly struck by any of them. A slight preference for the Uncle Sams which was reasonably hoppy and bitter. The Trooper was a maltier brew and fine for what it is. The Fredericks was overly cold and, for 6.5%, I didn’t get much at all.

The bar/restaurant area was quite a nice space. If open to the public (aside from tours) this could be a nice little earner. The beer is in good nick (as you would expect) and the food (limited to sandwiches today) looked quite good.

A couple of observations –

1. This a slick tour around a grand old institution which has been brought bang up to date. The tour is pretty much pitched at the curious novice with little or no knowledge. For that market, it is a fabulous lesson in the chemistry of beer. I spoke to a couple of people afterwards who found it really informative. For me (a relative novice with a modicum of knowledge), I would have liked more detail. For one thing, I asked a basic question about the cost of the refurb. The guide didn’t have the answer to hand. Things like that should be standard. With just a little extra polish, what was quite a good tour, could be a lot better.

2. Robbies are obviously on the rise, both nationally and internationally. The hook up with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden is VERY astute. This could help Robbies penetrate abroad with that HUGE Iron Maiden fan base and also into live music venues. There has been a big push with Trooper and in all likelihood, it will pay off. Massively.

Moving onwards and (literally) upwards, we popped back into the Spoons to meet up with some more people and (after a nice pint of George Wrights Mild & a sour pint of Titanic Mild – taken off on mentioning!) we were off to….

The Crown

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(A Stockport Institution)

A lovely old pub. Lots of leather and wood inside with a vast number of handpumps (too many to count!), I plumped for a pint of Millstone Stout and we eventually settled our, now enlarged group into the room to the right of the bar – where lurked two handpulls dedicated to real cider.

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(rear room)

The Millstone Stout at 4.5% was lovely. Creamy full texture, slight coffee in that nice roasted flavour with a dry finish. A really good stout. and just what was needed.

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(Nice & busy on a Saturday afternoon!)

The consensus was to move on at this point. So that’s what we did!

The Magnet

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Another pub after my own heart. Multi-roomed with a plethora of handpulls. Busy again with chatter the order of the day (as well as Tittertons Pork Pies!). Well behaved dogs allowed in as well, which was a nice touch. Busy at the bar, I plumped for a BlackJack Canasta Mild at 3.8% abv. Dark, buttery roasted aroma with a nice texture, lots of roasted malt flavour with a nice dry finish.

20130518_173826(Busy bar – lots of handpulls!)

Ina slightly lower level was a pool table, where we settled our rabble down to a game of killer. I lost (as you would expect!). The pub has a lot going for it, lots of good beer and choice of rooms with different atmospheres. The only slight issue I had, was there was a little wear and tear showing, especially with the plaster work. I wonder if the money is available to do this work? Not to take away too much from what is an excellent boozer.

We stayed for one more here, so I had an Oakham beer. Sock Monkey at 5% abv. Golden and bright, a citrus grapefruit aroma from what I thought was citra hops, a lovely mouthful of biscuity sweetness balanced with a grapefruit hoppyness. Typically Oakham, typically excellent. If we hadn’t stayed, I probably wouldn’t have spotted the nice decking area outside!

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(Well. Summer IS on the way. Isn’t it?)

Back to Manchester on Northern Rails’ finest. A quick snack from Sainsbury in Piccadilly station and off to a pub I’ve not been to in yonks!

The Bulls Head

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Judging by the beer selection, this is a Marstons pub. Fortunately for me, Jaz had chosen wisely and got me a pint of Marstons Single Hop Amarillo at 4% abv. Pale, gold and with abundant fruity hop aroma. Nice and refreshing. 2nd Single hop Marstons I’ve had recently. Enjoyed both.

Last time I came in, the pub was two roomed. Now it’s one open space with the large bar to the rear. Nice leaded windows, muted dark colours, reds and browns, quite warm feeling. Nice slightly elevated are to the front with (what looked like) a real fire range.

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It was here that the group split up. Some for home, some for food and some (guess who?) for Joshua Brooks! (Via Jaz flat to drop bottles off – amazed they got back!)

Joshua Brooks

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The magnet that pulled us in was the Baby Belgian by Offbeat Brewery. At 8% I bottled it (not literally – I’d have spilt some!), the indefatigable Jaz went that way, I went for the Last Porter Call by Titanic. Fruity, very fruity. Damsons or plums. Not much discernable roasty stuff going on. But then, it WAS late in the day! A nice beer at 4.9%.

Oakham Brewery Bishops Farewell was next. 2 Oakham in one day. Yay! Again, pale, hoppy and balanced with sweet biscuit malt. Another Oakham, another excellent pale bitter brew!

One more for my baby and one for the road. The baby in question, being another Baby Belgian for Jaz the Indefatigable (now looking rather fatigued!), the one for the road being Obsidian black IPA by Hop Studio from York. As far as the stuff in bars goes, the beer of the day. Both citrus AND coffee on the nose with bitter hops in the mouth and a slightly bitter coffee in the aftertaste. REALLY good this!

I know what to expect from Joshua Brooks (as should you, by now!) Tonight was fairly busy again, with a few coming in just before I left, for a beer prior to going downstairs to the club. More excellent beer.

At this point, I had to dash for my chariot. Past lots of young things on their way to JBs

An excellent day out, finished off nicely. The Old parts of Stockport are actually rather pretty, nice town. Hope to be back soon to explore more.

Beer of the day. Unfair really, but it was the taste of Saison from Quantum. Lovely. In the pubs it was Obsidian by Hop Studio. An excellent Black IPA. Last beer of the evening as well. How weird is that!

On that note….If you, like I, are at the BlackJack MTB at Port Street on Monday, say hello! If not….’til next time…

Slainte!

Beer & Music (Pubs with Jukeboxes Pt1) 09/05/2013

Aside from family, my two great passions. Beer and music. To me, they just go together so well. Beans/Toast, Cheese/Onion, Beer/Music. Don’t get me wrong, with social drinking, conversation is the thing. But, a top tune in the background…….The number of times I’ve been in a pub in the last 30 years and said “tune” are innumerable.

Jaz & I were thinking a while back, that whilst the vast majority of the venues we drink in have great tunes, the pub jukebox is dying out in favour of the tastes of the bar staff. Now, when the staff have eclectic tastes that match your own, that’s dandy. But what if they don’t…… It got us to thinking…How many pubs in the City Centre still have Jukes? Let’s call this series of articles a (less than scientific!) ‘survey’!

Before all that, I got a message from my arch-nemesis yesterday morning, telling me that Micro Bar had Dunham Massey’s Chocolate Cherry Mild on. A beer I’d only tasted in bottle once. I promise you faithfully, I REALLY wasn’t intending to sally forth last night, but that was a temptation too much. Oscar Wilde had it right….

Micro Bar

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Micro Bar by name…….No jukebox here. This was a ME moment!  Chocolate Cherry Mild by Dunham Massey Brewery. Given that the brewery is probably 15 miles from my front door, I have had very little of their stuff on draught. This is probably their most famous beer and I had only tried the bottled version (and that was only last week!). Time to fill that gap.

This dark ruby beer instantly filled my hooter with Black Forest Gateau aromas. This carried on in the mouth. Lovely fruity cherry with a dry almost cocoa powder chocolatey flavour. This is a Ronseal of a beer (‘Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin’!), a nice hoppy grassy touch in the aftertaste as well. As good as cherries in beer gets short of being a Kriek.

This was an early start for me, as this bar shuts at 18:30. As its name implies, this bar is indeed small and is the nearest I’m likely to get to a Micro Pub any time soon. That said, they still manage to fit in 5 hand pumps (one being for cider) and a number of craft/keg fonts.

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Within its limited footprint, Micro Bar also manages to fit in a role as a substantial ‘off-licence’! Bottles from around the world with a large proportion being UK sourced. I was seriously tempted to buy the Dark Star Imperial Stout, but….next time, maybe!

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Who’d have thought that such an oasis could exist within the walls of the hideous Manchester Arndale! Food tip. If you’re feeling peckish, there are a lot of take-away vendors of quality on adjoining stalls. Pancho’s Burritos being two stalls away. You can even sit in the bar area AND eat your grub. What more could you ask for?

With shutters dropping around us, the decision was made by others for us to move on…

The Smithfield Bar & Hotel

Smithfield

(pic – courtesy of Google)

The Smithfield has the feel of a local on the edge of the city. It sits four square within the Northern Quarter without actually feeling part of it. When compared with other nearby bars, it certainly is a character apart.

6 or 7 ales on hand pump here. This is as traditional a drinking hole as you’ll find hereabouts with nary a sign of a craft font! Local ales mostly with (I’m advised) a tendency to source beers from breweries rare to the area. Looking across the pumps, I remembered that May is the month during which CAMRA seeks to promote Milds. With that in mind, I opted for Smithfield Mild, brewed for the pub by Facers from Flint, North Wales (formerly of Salford)

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(Facers Mild)

A good choice. Toasty on the nose with a lovely creamy texture and full of roasted malt flavours. 3.3% abv and lots of flavour. The Jukebox leaned heavily on 80s/90s Manchester staples, Joy Division, New Order, happy Monday, Stone Roses etc with an Irish slant via some compilations and a bit of Van Morrison. A good selection, but not the most eclectic you’ll find. Certainly no match for the zany, surreal wallpaper!

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(Not from B&Q I take it!)

For me, one of the standout things in this pub is the presence of a pool table, something you don’t see much of in Town.

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(A rarity)

Given that the pub was fairly quiet, I gave the Juke a miss. The regulars at the bar were friendly enough and I saw no reason to disturb their chatter. After just the one, we moved on, across the road and about 50 yards to…

Bar Fringe

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Now. If you’ve never been here, you need to. Frequently. This is possibly the most eclectically decorated/furnished pub in Manchester. There is no overt attempt to be cool. It just is.

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(Rear toward the ‘beer garden’)

5 handpumps with one for cider.Lots of craft/foreign keg fonts. One rally interesting thing by its absence. Guinness. Replaced by Marstons Oyster Stout. An interesting and welcome touch.

Beer? Continuing with Milds, Midnight Rose by Pennine Brewery at 3.7%. Dark ruby, buttered toast nose. A fruity mouth with more than a hint of damsons/plums. A belting pint. (Not had much by Pennine before). I was hoping to meet the legendary landlady, but more later!

The jukebox? A cracker! Just to have Curtis Mayfield (one of my musical heroes) was a winner for me. Put a few tunes on in here, Freddie’s Dead and You Gotta Have Peace by Curtis and Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zep. Classics all.

The landlady made her presence felt via Twitter by recommending the Ducktor Who by Green Duck Brewery. Who was I to argue?

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(You can glimpse the famous Motor Bike top right!)

A good recommendation. A golden beer with an apricot/grapefruit hoppy nose. Juicy sweet malt with oodles of citrussy American hoppy flavours. At this point, a female cyclone blew through the room, chatting to the regulars. The famous landlady, known to Twitter as Banana Charlie! To say the least, she left an impression! Top lady, top bar.

20130509_203015(Gratuitous decor shot!)

This is another bar where you can source some hitherto unseen beers. Tonight, Great Yarmouth Brewing CompanyDNA‘. A 3.8% pale hoppy brew from Norfolk. Am informed by the mighty Nate Dawg that this is a new set up in the seaside town. I had a sneaky sip and it was nice indeed. I’d have had another one, but another juke was calling!

The Castle

Castle

(pic – Beerintheevening.com)

Walking down Oldham Street from Great Ancoats St, it was difficult to miss the space where a recent fire burned down a huge premises a few doors up from this pub.

There was daylight as we approached to pub entrance. Walking in was like being back in the womb. Dark reds, warm, comforting. It was that dark you could imagine this being a vampires lair. Anyway, there was a band on and it was busy. Notwithstanding that, we got served quickly and Jaz grabbed a seat whilst I scoped the Juke.

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(Where the magic happens!)

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(Spooky!)

Another cracker this. For my £1, Prince ‘Sign O’ The Times’, Talking Heads ‘Take Me To The River’ and Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say Pts 1 & 2’. Aural class! First beer, Another mild, this time a 4.8% fruity number from Titanic called Nautical Mild. This was almost as plummy as their Plum Porter! Dark, fruity with a nice dryness to the finish.

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(The selection)

My tunes finished. Then some genius located Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National! The High Violet album on a Juke? I had to leave to calm down! Great album!

I’ve loved The Castle for over 30 years. Good to see it thriving and new generations of drinkers enjoying its charms. 9 handpumps on the bar too!

I was up for more Jukes, but that would’ve taken us to the other side of town (and Jaz was feeling lazy!) so, the lesser of evils, we popped for some good tunes, just no Juke, to…

The Crown & Kettle

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Assured of a good pint & good tunage in here. Beer? Another mild for me with Stokers Slake from Three Bs Brewery of Blackburn. A smooth Dark Mild with lots of roasted malt flavours and a slight smoky touch. Mmmm….. Walking in to the strains of Janis Joplin “Another Piece of My Heart” was a bonus. Misleading though as most of the following tracks had a distinct 80s bias. Modern Love by Bowie (a favourite – great circular chorus), Dancing With Myself by Generation X…..A little Joni Mitchell with Big Yellow Taxi gave a little 60s seasoning.

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(Gratuitous Ceiling Shot!)

Good beer, beautiful pub. An architectural gem. (A gorgeous back room too). I like this place. A lot.

Jaz now wanted to put his feet up and relax in his front room. His front room being….

The Port Street Beer House

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(Last nights cask offerings)

By now, you should all know what you get here! Craft beers in both cask and keg, reliably tasty and served by staff who drink them themselves and know what they are talking about. Simple eh? They do this stuff well. Which is why they’re always busy.

It isn’t an architectural gem like The C&K, but it does it’s job. Tonight, in the absence of a mild, I went local for American Amber Ale by Quantum Brewing from Stockport.

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(Mr Krause. Amber my arse!)

Jay Krause does some great things with hops. But if that’s an amber beer, I need to go to Specsavers! What it is, is a nose full of beautiful hoppy aromas. Dark ruby coloured (as you can see!), a mouth full of lovely malt with some licorice hop overtones. Only thing to add was it was probably my pint of the night!

A nightcap Mr Jazwinski? Oh, I shouldn’t really! But if you insist, a 1/2 pint of Ageless by Redwillow please!

I’ve only had this in bottle previously and it knocked me off my feet. A double IPA full of grapefruit citrus joy. Pineapple as well. Joy! The same in the mouth with resinous notes. So good, I had to have another 1/2!

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(Coming soon to an architectural marvel near you!)

Now Jaz is lucky. He only has to stumble 100 yards to his door, whereas I need the assistance of First Transport! So, off to Piccadilly with me for that old favourite. The last bus!

On that note…..’til next time…..

Slainte!