London – April 2015 – Long Time No See

It had been over a year since the last time I had been drinking in the The Big City. Last March in fact (getting tipsy on boats doesn’t QUITE count!), so when the opportunity arose for a 3 day stay, I grabbed it – though somewhat reluctantly.

Reluctantly?

I guess I am a “home bird”. I am also becoming a bit of a professional Northerner, in that – especially where beer is concerned – I don’t feel that we need to doff the cap any more. Some Northern breweries (in my humble…..) easily brew beers that can match – if not better – their Southern brewing brothers and sisters. Yes, I am biased, something which I freely admit.

However, what London DOES have, is some outstanding pubs, the like of which that Manchester (for instance) simply doesn’t have. So what’s an aging boy to do eh? With a couple of evenings to kill. And an Oystercard.

Yup.

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The Cock Tavern (Mare Street, Hackney – approx 100 Yds from Hackney Central Overground Stn)

According to various sources, there may have been a pub on this site since the early 18th century. However, the current premises was rebuilt by Truman’s Brewery in the 1930s. Now though, it is the brewery (and tap) of Howling Hops Brewery, a brewery whose beers are bloody hard to find Oop North. Which is a shame. Because they are superb.

This interior of this pub is best summed up as….wood. The pace is stripped back and basic. And it is all the better for it. Stripped back floorboards, old wooden tables, chairs and bench seating and a lovely L shaped bar with a LOT of hand pumps dispensing Howling Hops own beers.  It feels like a place to drink beer. And chat. Which is what I and my buddy did.

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I paid little mind to the ciders (though there were a few) and bypassed the craft keg (7 I think) and focused on the 8 hand pulls featuring 7 of the brewery’s own beers – brewed downstairs. I had 3. Well….It was an early start!

XX Pale 5% – A fruity pale ale hopped with Columbus, Citra, Centennial & Mosaic with predictably lip smacking results.

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Mild 3.3% – A Dark Mild. Because I like Mild. OK? A nice Mild can be a thing of beauty and not the preserve of the 1950s and the beclothed of cap, whippet toting Northerners of old. Again, 4 hopped (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Citra), this was reminiscent of another of my favourites (All Black by Allgates) but was (an oxymoron for a Mild) slightly more assertive – and it’s a relative term. Either way, a highlight for me. You might say “a Mild for non-Mild drinkers” and I wouldn’t argue.

American Brown Ale 4% – Brown. A dose of rye and licorice on the nose and a crackling dry pint. A corker.
And then I looked in the fridge and noticed some of their own bottles. Up North, these are as rare as the droppings of that legendary wooden steed. So I had to. Didn’t I? And if I’m going to bring one back, it might as well be big.
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And it is.
Now then. For those semi-pro Northerners who aren’t in the know. An Oystercard is a godsend. Especially now that TfL have WANGED up the price for a day Travelcard to £12 or more! So, with that in my pocket, I was off back to Hackney Central, change at Highbury & Islington, Victoria Line to Kings X, Northern Line to Kentish Town, then a C2 bus. In reality, only approx 20 or so minutes. And the bus drops you DIRECTLY outside the door of the next premises.
Was it worth it? Oh yes.
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The Southampton Arms (139, Highgate Road, Kentish Town)
This pub just speaks to my soul. Wooden floors, wooden benches, wooden settles. A mahogany bar. A turntable rather than a CD player or streaming service! 12 hand pumps for beer. Several more for real cider. And proper pub grub. By which I mean, Pork Pies. More on that later.
A place that looks like it’s been here forever, this was apparently reborn in about 2009 and was stripped back to reveal all of that lovely wood. Long, but not particularly wide, the bar is long and festooned with all of those lovely handpulls featuring beers from micro breweries far and wide. A gents with access from outside too, an unusual feature. As is the rather lovely old mirror advertising the wares of the original Lacons Brewery.
It was busy, but we grabbed a table. I reached the bar and started to scan. But my eyes froze and my back leg rose like the tail of a Pointer.
Hobsons Mild. I drink it wherever I find it. It’s quite simply the best brown Mild that I’ve ever had. Refreshing and nutty. And light, at 3.2%. And utterly delicious. As was the 1/2 of Pork, Chicken & Stuffing pie. A steal at £3.60
Now, the Hobsons aside, I am (by nature) a kind of “When in Rome” kind of fella. Therefore, with my predilection for dark beers, the next choice was fairly simple.
Dissident Porter from Gipsy Hill Brewing (West Norwood, SW London) was 4.8%. And Dark. And so damn moreish. First beer from this brewery. Roasted, chocolatey, smooth and Oh. So. Drinkable. I’ll be looking out for this brewery again. excellent beer.
Food was necessary at this point. So we headed back into the city and Holborn via Northern Line to Kings X and Piccadilly Line to Holborn.
Fish, chips & peas with bread & butter and a mug of tea for £10. In London? The joy that is The Fryers Delight on Theobalds Road. A basic caff with excellent grub. And close to the next pub!
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The Lamb (94, Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury)
The Lamb. A Young’s pub. Yet not as it was.
Last time I came in was 10 years ago. The day after the tube bombings. I still have the memory of walking past the destroyed bus at Tavistock Square. Some things never leave you.
Happier times though. The last time I came in, they only sold Young’s beers. So it was a nice surprise to see 2 from Sambrook and a beer (apparently brewed for the pub) from Redemption. Which I had to try. The Bloomsbury Blend was a bit of a surprise, in that it was a nicely flavoured mid-strength bitter, but lacked the assertiveness of some of their other beers that I have had. Nice enough though
Lamb bar
(Nicked from the Young’s Website)
The Lamb is one of those pubs that just HAVE to be visited. It is a Victorian symphony in wood. A beautiful – almost circular – bar with the snob screens being a unique feature to my eyes (those little windows open above the bar – top left of pic) – designed so that bar staff needn’t meet the gaze of Victorian customers.
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(All mine this one!)
The pub is, quite simply, a Grade 2 listed gem. Built (acc to Historic England) probably early 18th Century, it may lack the buzzy kudos od some of the craft bars locally, but it takes some beating as a simply beautiful pub.
All of that travelling, on tube, bus and train? £6.40. What’s the word? Bargain.
Next evening, a little less trekking was in order, Victoria line to Euston, then Northern Line to Old Street. Quality beer and food were sought. We were not to be disappointed.
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The Old Fountain (Baldwin Street, EC1 – 3 mins from Old Street tube, City Rd Exit)
This has been a decent beer gaff as far back as I’ve been coming to London. A “cut” pub, in that there is another entrance on Peerless Street, Baldwin Street is directly off City Rd (A501) just to the north of Old Street.
Again, wood is the thing. Lots of it. Sources date this place to about the mid 18th century and it does have the feel of an old ale house about it. And it was bloody busy. With no tables available. And a lovely menu taunting us!
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A slightly limp pint of Jarl was dealt with, then a table located, luckily. A zinging pint of Oakham Citra accompanied by a HUGE home-made (and slightly runny) Scotch Egg more than made up for the Jarl! The Citra was all that one of the best pale ales in the country should be. Sharp, clean and massively refreshing.
The house burger was huge and (after the Scotch Egg) just too much. The chips were excellent too.
The pub lists 18 constantly rotating beers on cask and keg. And it was a keg font that caught my eye. From my favourite London brewery. And a beer I hadn’t yet had.
London SmokeFive Points Brew Co (Hackney) was SO unctuous! Smooth like an oil slick. Bitter chocolate, root licorice and just the right hint of smoke. Just a bloody superb beer. From a brewery that don’t muck about, take their time and just get the beers right. 7.8% abv was just about right.
Then. That rare thing in London. A walk.
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The Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, off Clerkenwell Road)
Walking along Britton Street and entering The Jerusalem, you wouldn’t think that you were only 1 minute away from the recently redeveloped Farringdon tube station! It’s like stepping into the 19th century.
The building dates from the early 18th Century with its conversion to a pub probably a century later. The pub has a bit of history itself, best read here.
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I’ve always felt that this place had the feel of a 17th century coffee-house, it feels unique and I, for one, have never been in a pub quite like it, And I have introduced many of my colleagues to its charms. All have adored it.
It. Is, Small. And can probably handle only about 60 people at most, with punters frequently spilling out from the front and side.
It is owned and run by St Peters Brewery of Bungay in Suffolk. I think that they only have two pubs and the other is a brewery tap. Whatever, it is one hell of a spot and gets busy with an after work city crowd. And rightly so.
In here, I could look no further than the Old Style Porter. Just a beautiful smooth, dark and lusciously roasted beer, with the merest hint of sweetness. It is, quite simply, one of the best porters that I’ve ever had. Moreish in the extreme. I had two. I should have picked up a bottle of Honey Porter too. But I have a memory like Emmental.
Going home the next evening after work, we had an hour or two to kill. Now then, I love the Euston Tap as much as anybody, but the range of breweries just….doesn’t really seem to change much. There never seems anything to excite me. Great beer, granted. But sometimes, I just want something that feels a little bit more, you know….pub like. So I went on a 90 second hike from the front of Euston Station.
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The Bree Louise (Coburg Street, Euston)
If the planners for the HS2 rail link get their way, this pub will be vapourised, obliterated from the map. Some might say “meh”. Me? I like this place. A lot. It has a soul that some nearby places lack. We came here for food and a pint (or 4) and were disappointed by neither,
The pub itself is of the “street corner” type that is sadly missing from my home city. It isn’t huge. And has a chaotic feeling when full of commuters hunting a pint. But the staff are friendly and efficient (incident about a late delivered meal to my mate aside!) and there is a LOAD of cask ale, Probably about 18 on the go.
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Now this amount of beer can lead to the odd dud. That is simply unavoidable, save reducing the number of beers. \But as long as they replace a lame pint, that is fine. I had one. And they replaced it without fuss. Brownie points.
COne of the endearing things about this place is the stillage dispense, a rarity in city centres (Yes, I DO know 57 Thomas Street, but that in itself is an oddity) and to look at the bar, you might struggle to make out what beers are on. Which is where the 42 inch screen comes in with a rotating view of beers separated into hand pulled, gravity and keg. A nice touch.
Now this particular evening was noted as a Tap Takeover by Hogs Back Brewery. Not a fan, so I focused on the other 60% of beers on offer. In order, these were :
  • HopHeadDarkStar – Predictable excellence. Pale hoppy and bitter. A refresher.
  • ConquerorWindsor & Eton – The epitome of a Black IPA for me. Bitter, roasted coffee and big citrus bite.
  • Slovenian DreamDownton Brewery – Now this was so pale that I had it as a Pilsner with a nice gentle floral hop character. The brewery has it as a Pale Ale. Works either way. But a Pilsner for me.
  • Wolf of the WoodsTwickenham Brewery – The pick of the bunch. Amber coloured with a chocolatey malt flavour and a good dose of bitterness. A fine beer.

And that was that. Other than a 45 minute delay at Euston. A further 45 minute delay on the train. The train for Bolton turning into a bus replacement service and the A666 turn off on the M61 being closed. I got home at midnight. Knackered.

London, you wore me out. With the admirable assistance of Virgin Rail & its Northern Rail counterpart. Renationalise the lot of them.

That’s all until next time….

Slainte!

Aside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(As seen on Dantzic St!)

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

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

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

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(Angel Meadow)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Spot the brewmeister?)

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

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

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

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

GrubMCR – Winter Ales Festival

My #GoldenPints 2014

Golden Pints Logo

Oh Shit! It’s that time of year when I’m forced to be decisive and tell you (and you probably couldn’t give a flying…..) about what I REALLY liked this year, by pre-defined category.

So, 2014 was a year when I discovered the following :

How much I love blogging about beer.

How much I really couldn’t be arsed blogging about beer.

How close you can come to a nervous breakdown (and I HAVE been there) and come through nearly unscathed (See The Independent Salford Beer Festival)

How much generally that “Beer People Are Good People”

And a huge thanks to “BeerReviewsAndy” (someone I have never met) for getting this snowball rolling…..

And….the following……

  1. Best UK Cask BeerGrounds For DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorks) – For me, the best beer at #ISBF2014. A 7.8% Belgian style Tripel fermented using yeast from the legendary Brasserie Orval, brewed at the bottom of a garden in Outwood, Wakefield, by one of the most unassuming people that I have ever met. As fruity as Carmen Miranda’s headgear and as light and tasty as a Heston Blumenthal foam. It. Rocked. My. World. (And I’m yet to really get into Belgian beer!)
  2. Best UK Keg Beer – I haven’t really had all that much, but of those that I HAVE had, I’d fall on the side of American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery – . From the first sip at Black Jack Tap (Hmmm….) to the last sip (WOW!). This beer adheres to Principle 1 of the 3 Jazwinski Beer Principles. It was a beer that improved with each and every sip. By that last sip, I could *almost* have been a convert to keg. And it was fecking astonishingly good at #ISBF2014 on cask too!
  3. Best UK Bottle or Can – I’m not gonna cop out here by choosing one each (I’ll do THAT elsewhere!). This was a close run thing. My vote – by a well groomed whisker – goes to Govinda (Brandy Barrel Aged) IPACheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire). A massively English hopped IPA at 6.8% abv, the original version was already a stunning thing, a grand riposte to those who think English hopped beers are merely brown and twiggy murk. Get Thee Behind Me Beery Satans! “Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours …. give way to a spicy hop…” Being fairly dedicated to UK – and Northern beers in particular, this proved the most intense #Beergasm that I had this year.
  4. Best Overseas Draught – Not. Really. My. Bag. Next……!
  5. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Can? Founders All Day IPA. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Fresh, zingy and oh so refreshing. Bottle? Not had many…But, from Brouwerij The Musketeers (Ursel, Belgium) – Troubadour WestKust Black Imperial IPA – A 750 ml bottle that – in the midst of a tastebud numbing cold, I could actually taste. A full-bodied fruity hop assault. With licorice. What’s NOT to like?
  6. Best Collaboration Brew – Another tricky one. Came down to a choice of two, BOTH involving the mighty Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brewpub in Scarborough. The first was 300 from Five Towns / North Riding – a big, punchy Double IPA which in no way tasted it’s strength but had more hops than Watership Down and was a damn sight tastier! However, edging this by simple force of Bitterness, is Protz’s PleasureSteel City Brewing (Sheffield) / North Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – Conceived (possibly) as a riposte to a rant from Roger Protz about the beer type “Black IPA”. All of the oxymoronic characteristics of a BIPA with a simply MASSIVE bitterness. Astonishing.
  7. Best Overall Beer – See 3 above!IMAG2241
  8. Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelBad Seed Brewery. For that hanging tag pump label. Irritating for the staff, but classy as feck. (I’ve kept the one from #ISBF2014 – don’t change fellas!)IMAG2118
  9. Best UK Brewery – On balance, this HAS to go to the brewery from which I drink the most consistently excellent and drinkable beers – Drinkability, for me, means a tasty, well hopped (or dark and roasted) beer that I can drink repeatedly without falling off my chair. For me, this means AllGates. From Sloe Stout at Manchester Beer and Cider Fest to Half Devil at #ISBF2014 and all points in between, just consistently excellent beer.
  10. Best Overseas Brewery – Moving swiftly on…..Next!
  11. Best New Brewery Opening 2014 – Controversy time! I’m going to go with Shindigger Brewing. I KNOW that they don’t have their own premises (yet!), but as a consumer, this is about the beer, right? From my first taste of Pacific Pale to the Saison/PIP at an MTB in Chorlton, they have progressed with each. and. every. beer. Cask, keg and bottle. Cuckoo? Gypsy? It’s about the beer for me, like I said. A HUGE honourable mention to Runaway Brewery and Squawk Brewing too. Manchester really IS rocking at the moment!
  12. Pub/Bar of the Year – (I’ve twisted the category – slightly!) Pub? Easy. As last year, The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (Wigan). A proper local that I need to visit WAY more often. 5 Great cask beers, friendly service, friendly locals, a real fire and a great landlord/landlady combo in Nigel and Adele. Sorted. Bar? Hmmm….Trickier. But I can’t split. So – a) Great Ale Year Round at Bolton Market for continuing to bring good beer to Bolton (and giving me a reason to visit the town!), a rare thing in the last few years for me. Great local cask/keg beers, friendly regulars, friendly hosts. Anne & Steve continue to do a sterling job. I just hope that the council could open up 6 days a week instead of 4! And – b) Wigan Central – 7 cask lines. 4 Craft keg. In Wigan? A brave move by Prospect Brewery, but one that appears to be paying off judging by the feedback that I’ve been privy to! They made a wise move in bringing Dan & Gina Buck in to run it (formerly of Great Ale Year Round – see the link there?). Great location, fabulously fitted out. Excellent beers too. (As far as the original category goes – both of the latter 2 opened this year!)
  13. Best beer and food pairing – I’m not QUITE reconstructed to that stage yet….Next!
  14. Beer Festival of the Year – 3 candidates. 1 I cannot choose. Because I organised it. The self interest element prevents me from choosing The Independent Salford Beer Festival. So, I’m left with 2. IndyManBeerCon is indeed a beery Tour De Force and remains a fixture for most sensible beer calendars (mine is set for 09:00 on 01/04/2015 – for the probable ticket release!). I DO think that cask appeared to be marginalised this year and I hear many gripes from elsewhere, but really? Just “grow a pair” and appreciate it for what it is! My winner though is AllGates‘ “The Road To Wigan Beer” in April. A fantastic selection of some of the newest and best UK breweries on cask. Spread across 6 pubs within Wigan borough. In one day. On a bus. Simply the most fun I’ve had in 2014. And fun matters.
  15. Supermarket of the YearBooths. Simple. If you have been to a branch, bought beer, then chose a different supermarket, you’re having a laugh. At your own expense. Obviously, If you live more than 20 miles south of Knutsford, you may not understand. It’s a Northern thing!
  16. Independent Retailer of the YearThe Liquor Shop (Whitefield) Now closed and reborn as specialist beer shop BarBeerian, this has been the place from which I have bought the most beer. Period. The stock is large and wide ranging (Scotland to US/Italy) and great value too. All that from a small convenience store! Now Raj has moved a couple of doors down and opened up as a specialist beer shop, he’s looking to open a small bar upstairs with craft keg & a local cask line. I wish him well with this.
  17. Online Retailer of the Year – I haven’t. I try and shop locally. Aren’t I virtuous? Next!
  18. Best Beer Book or MagazineOpening Times (Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA) – Essential semi-drunken bus home reading material. Well written & edited (Mr Clarke, take a bow!).
  19. Best Beer Blog or Website – Hmmm….Time for another split. Still up there (and one of my two) is Glenn Johnson and his “My World of Beer“. Informative, straight and tells me what I want to know. Is the pub/bar/beer good. And does it well. But locally? The Boozy Procrastinator by Deeekos, a blog that came into its own with some assertive posts on a variety of issues from IndyManBeerCon through to Myleene Klaas & Paddington Bear (in the same post!). Funny, informative, passionate. A winning combination.
  20. Best Beer AppTwitter. I think I would meltdown if I used Untappd. And not in a good way. Some people talk such utter bollocks about beer & breweries when they can be cloaked in anonymity. So no. Next!
  21. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer@BroadfordBrewer. For #TwattyBeerDoodles and so much more.
  22. Best Brewery Website/Social mediaCheshire Brewhouse. Just functional & classy.

 

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 1

“There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in.
The rain floods gutters and makes a great sound on concrete.
On a flat roof, there’s a boy leaning against the wall of rain
Aerial held high, calling, “Come on thunder, come on thunder”

Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul”

(“Sometimes” – James)

(Video clip courtesy Marblehead69 on YouTube)

When people think of James, they almost always think of “Sit Down”. A fine song. But it pales to nothing next to this. There’s something hugely poignant about that boy holding the aerial. It cuts me every time.

It took me a number of years to get James. Others got them in the 80s, not me. It took songs like this, the mighty “Laid” (“But she only comes when she’s on top”! – WHAT a line!) and the period when Andy Diagram added his trumpet to tracks like Born of Frustration to hook me in. To be honest, I can’t think of a British guitar based band I’ve loved since James…Hey ho!

I suppose that I chose this track, because sometimes, I wonder where my wittering is going. I have a moral. That moral is that when something stops being fun, it should stop.

I DO do this for fun, but it has been getting progressively harder to write and has, for a while, stopped being fun. I needed a (proverbial) shot in the arm and I received that from three, (two partially connected) sources this week. The first were some simply fantastic beers this week (including an increasingly rare “beergasm”), the second reason being a simply great night spent working behind the bar at Offbeat Brewery last night. I met some lovely people, good beer folk all. The  ever lovely Michelle, Chris, John, Caz, the lovely Mel (PLEASE Photoshop me OUT!), Otto, Phil….Thank you all. The pleasure was all mine.

The third reason was a belting shop I entered for the first time…

On to the beer….where would we be without it?

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. A Wee BitWilliams Brothers (Kelliebank, Alloa, Scotland) / Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, USA) – 4.8% abv – Dark Ale – £3.19 (?) (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Manchester)

A collaboration beer between these two was intriguing. Brooklyn have their own, almost unassailable reputation in the beer world, whilst Williams Brothers quietly make some of the best beer you could find in a supermarket (Caesar Augustus? Fraoch?), I was intrigued. That and it was a dark ale!

A really deep dark ruby beer with a creamy coloured head and a gentle smoky note over a chocolate base in the aroma.

Oooh! Medium-bodied with a gentle carbonation. This is a really subtle tasty beer. A smooth milky chocolate starts you off which is swiftly augmented by a little treacly sweetness (treacle & honey being added to this brew) then a gentle peaty smokiness which reminds me of a light peaty whisky like Jura or Ardbeg. A really delicate dark tapestry being woven here.

A really smooth mouthful gives way to a smoky dry finish with a whisper of grassy hop. A beautiful beer.

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2. The One (Amarillo) – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale (Single hopped) – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)

I initially struggled to enjoy beers from this brewery. But, I now realise, that this was almost certainly down to the pubs where I tasted my first beers, because with each taste in both bottle and from trusted bars (Great Ale, Tottering Temple…) those same beers are revealed in a different – shining – light. Their beers also seem to get better with each one I try….especially the pales!

A bright golden beer with a light white head and the familiar deep orange aroma of this beautiful hop.And there it is again in this medium bodied mouthful, that lovely sticky Seville marmalade bitterness. Yum! My favourite hop, well utilised in this single hop pale.

A smooth drinking, medium-bodied and lovely Orangey mouthful. The sweet fruit is followed by a building bitterness that increases with each mouthful. That bitterness is rounded off with a big hoppy aftertaste. Which increases after each sip.

Easy drinking and full of flavour. Another belter from Horwich.

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3. Neck Oil – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, London) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – £2.40 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A can. My first British beer, canned, for……… Picked up, when the subject of canning arose in a conversation with Simon, the owner, in this excellent Didsbury outlet – small, yet perfectly formed (the outlet, NOT Simon!). I have a feeling I’ll be back – and it’s ALL Rowan Molyneux’s fault!

An Ultra Pale golden beer poured from such a funky looking can. The first UK canned beer I’ve had since I was a teenager! As lively as a new puppy on its first walkies, the huge white head releasing a massive citrus aroma, initially smelt like Mango, but more tart like sugared breakfast grapefruit (do people still put sugar on it?)

Fresh. Zingy and fresh. That tart citrus assaults the mouth on first sip. Drying the tongue out en route to its appointment with the throat. The little biscuit malt sweetness in here is mugged by citrus and pine needle dry bitterness. This is a really easy drinking beer. For me, as good and as fresh as the Founders I  had as a train beer recently. I could get to like this canned stuff!

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4. Stockport Sour (Pineapple & Scotch Bonnet) – Quantum Brewing (Stockport) – 2.3% abv – Sour Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Sets out stall – I am not a big fan of UK brewed sour beers. There, heresy expounded! I may not be quite “on trend” here, but until this beer, my thoughts wandered towards the argument “leave it to the Belgians – the Masters”. But – unsurprisingly – being from Quantum I suppose, I “got” this….

Ultra Pale yellow gold and hazy. Giving the misleading appearance of a wit to the unwary. The head soon dissipated leaving the unmistakably sour fruity aroma with the pineapple there in the background.

That thing about being unwary? Just take a mouthful. Our maybe a sip to accustom yourself! Light bodied as you would expect, the pineapple sweetness initially surprises, almost instantaneously giving best to a sour note. No. More than a note. This is distinctly sour, but not tongue wrestlingly so. The kicker is in the subtitle…. Scotch Bonnet? Oh yes. You feel it like a threat first. Like watching Nightmare on Elm Street… You know that Krueger is there… You just can’t see him… Until it’s too late…

That sharp peppery heat isn’t an incendiary flame, just a tongue tingling sharp spice. But this beer does what all good sours should, it gets those saliva glands pumping like like a Texan gusher!

This is really refreshing beer. I kid you not. I’m not a big fan of UK attempts at sours (as said above), but really enjoying this from Jay. Pineapple? Check! Scotch Bonnet? Check! Another cracker from Mr Krause!

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5. American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery (Dantzic St. Manchester) – 5.7% abv – US Brown Ale – Swap (330ml) – Direct from the Brewer

As it says, this is a brown beer.

This is really lively, with a mushrooming white head booming out aromas of mango and grapefruit. Seductively drawing me in, but into what? Fruitiness is what!

Boxes and boxes of mango, peach and tart grapefruit hit the tongue immediately, walking the walk that the aroma talked. The first mouthful finished dry, suddenly dry. Onwards….full-bodied, a big toasty wholemeal bready malt base with lashings of hoppy stuff spread all over it, again really fruity but with a dryness that gets the side of your tongue and turns it inwards almost to preserve moisture.

On keg, this improved the further down the glass you went.This is no different, with other flavours hitting further down,like a rye spiciness and almost a licorice like note. The finish is dry, slightly sweet with a big hoppy aftertaste. Another superb beer from Dantzic St!

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6. Slovenian IPATickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 5.8% abv – IPA – £2.05 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)

The first thing that I noticed was the home-made look of the labels….then that they were situated next to a bottle of Tickety Brew Jasmine Green Tea….! But where were the usual labels? Then I looked on the reverse….A (rather) limited run of only 96 bottles….I feel somewhat privileged and lucky to have been able to snaffle one of there. Here’s why…

A beautiful golden beer, frisky as a kitten with a wool ball, huge white head and a big but gentle fruity aroma, peach and passion fruit, with that TB Belgian yeast tang.

Oh this is beautiful! Full-bodied and smooth with a fine carbonation, a little peach, a lot of passion fruit and no little orchard fruit as well, sweet apple (in a REALLY good way!)
The yeast, combined with the hops, provides for a witheringly dry finish to the mouthful. Quite surprisingly resinous. This beer provoked my first Beergasm of the week. I feel that my notes don’t do this beer justice. I like TBs beers and have been a big supporter, but this is a whole new level. Sod the labels….Get this! (And THAT price? Call the cops, ‘cos this feels like I stole it!)
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7. TurvyOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 6.5% abv- Black IPA – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)
Look at that seductive glassful of desire!

Black. As black as a Stout and equally opaque. A head creamy in both colour and texture Crooks Its finger and beckons you on to a nose of bitter chocolate and sweet licorice. Promises promises!

Oh baby! Is this one beautiful beer! Sweet Jesus! Totally different to all the BIPAs I’ve had before with its lack of tart citrus nose, but all the better for it!

A rich, rich mouthful. Smooth as the proverbial bottom, but silky smooth past the lips, there’s like a creamy almost buttery smoothness with that bitter chocolate roasted malty base, then leading you to some really bitter resinous hoppage.

Oh shit. Think I’m having one of those there Beergasms! This is THAT good!

This is everything I could want. Roasted & bitter, resinous and buttery smooth. A hell of a beer. Again, I don’t think that my notes have done this beer the justice that it deserves.

It. Rocked. Me. Out. Of. My. Seat. It is up there with the 300 from Five Towns. I can praise it no higher. One of the best bottles I’ve ever had. Year end podium material in my Golden Pints 2014!

“Great Beer Brewed By A Chick”? She’s a great “chick”, brewing great beer. This just…….

If you have the time today, GO to Crewe and enjoy some of the simply fabulous beers Michelle & here top team have put on in their First Friday Festival. Then thank me later!

That’s all folks!!! Bar one more thing!

This week, I had a couple of mates around to help me reduce my stash. Des & Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis). The bulk of the beers will form a separate blog post next week, however, Des – being a fine beery bloke of the highest order – has commenced my schooling in the arts of Belgian beers.

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These two beauties from De Ranke & Girardin are the start of my Belgian experience. The Gueuze, a fine mouth-watering sour and a superb “bitter” (Belgian style being anything BUT a “Bitter”!) were astonishingly good. I will leave others better qualified than me to pass judgement on these two rare beauties, but I both enjoyed them HUGELY and thank Des for bringing them and both Des & Jaz for a top evening. My next stop in the “Belgian Odyssey” will feature these two beauties. Things of rare beauty….

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I’m a lucky boy!

And on that note….til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 2

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