The Levenshulme Beer Festival 22-24 August 2014

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“Baby, I’ve been breaking glass in your room again. Listen.

Don’t look at the carpet. I drew something awful on it. See.

You’re such a wonderful person, but you’ve got problems”

Breaking Glass” – David Bowie

(Clip courtesy of TheBabyUniversal on YouTube)

Low. The Album. Side One. The Greatest Side Of Vinyl. Period. (I need say no more)

I have a confession to make. I like Black Jack. I liked Rob Hamilton’s beers WAY before I saw him nearly cacking himself just before his first “Meet The Brewer” event at Port Street Beer House last year. He and (now) his team just make superbly drinkable tasty beers, no show or fuss. Just damn fine beer.

Since then, the brewery joined forces and effectively merged with the burgeoning distribution concern that is/was Glassworks. This meant that alongside all that Mancunian goodness that is the card bedecked beers of Black Jack, you now have distribution for many of the luminaries of the British Craft Beer movement all around the area.

Sometimes, these things come together for the good of all. Like this weekend!

Black Jack Beers are curating the Levenshulme Beer Festival for its second year and with the list of brewers involved, it promises to be a blast! With the likes of Kernel, Weird Beard, Siren Craft, Wild Beer Co, Arbor, Hopcraft, Burning Sky……The list stretches into the sunset. Cask heads and Keg heads, even the craftiest of drinkers can sate their liquid lusts at The Klondyke Club on Burnage Range!

What I can say without fear or favour, is that if this comes even close to the chilled out vibe that I’ve felt, each time the Black Jack have opened their doors for one of their – now semi-legendary – Brewery Taps, you’re in for a treat! Great chilled out tuneage from the superb DJs and some of the best Street Food in Manchester (I’ve had grub from The Moocher & Arepa Arepa Arepa at the Taps. They know their food!)

So. Who’s coming? I’ll be there on Saturday for certain – I’ll be the old bloke palming off flyers for The Independent Salford Beer Festival!

Come on down. You won’t regret it!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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Well. That’s that. IndyManBeerCon is over for another year. Anybody still hung over? Thought so! This year, I worked two sessions earning two tickets for sessions to drink at. With the one minor quibble (re Volunteering – more later….) I had an absolute blast. Judging by the semi-orgasmic commentary on Twitter, you lot did too! Many couldn’t get there owing to not buying tickets early enough. Lesson learned eh?

Anyway – I’m not the best at waxing lyrical, I’ll leave the floral purple prose to others better qualified. I’ll just talk my usual bollocks!

I’ve already given you my thoughts on the first set-up session and Thursday, so I’ll cut to the chase…..

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

I got there a couple of minutes late. I hate being late! Got let in by the ever genial Duncan (looking mildly stressed) and entered the Volunteers Room to be given our “Pre-Match” talk. I’ll communicate my thoughts directly I think!

After that, I was behind the bar in Room 3 and, to be honest, had a fantastic time. The volunteers were fun and professional. Matt was a genial and efficient Manager and the brewers in our room were great. We had Kees Bubberman from Emelisse, Colin Stronge from Buxton, Jon from Arbor of Bristol and Jeff Rosenmeier from Lovibonds. The volunteers all enjoyed the graft and working with Bex was an absolute blast!

A quick sampling of those beers that I didn’t know and I was able to advise if asked. And we all were. The customers were, universally, friendly and knew what they wanted and, more to the point, enjoyed the beers. It was easy to identify a few favourites though. If I had a £ for each time I was asked for a Buxton Tea Saison!!! The Emelisse Innovations 25 proved popular also and I recommended it to people wanting something a little lighter. This 2.5% beer seemed to confound a few. The punters LOVED it, but most seemed to think it was a 6 or 7% beer. Certainly full of hoppy flavour for a beer at 2.5%!

From the serving of the 1st beer to putting the final glass in the glass wash tray, it was such fun. But no more volunteering. Next year, I’ll just be a paying punter and appreciate all the hard work that the volunteers and staff do – from the OTHER side of the bar!

Saturday

An early start. Met up with The Arch-Nemesis for swift couple at the ever excellent Joshua Brooks. The Five Points Brewery Pale Ale being in exceptionally good nick. A 4.4% burst of citrus fruit bitterness, dry refreshing and damned moreish! A personal favourite and a steal at £2.60!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

Quite busy on entry. A quick scan of the bar revealed a suitable candidate to start….

Citra by Brodies Brewery from Room 2. At 3.1% abv, hazy gold with a piney and grapefruit nose. Light bodied and refreshing with kiwi fruit and some more resinous pine. Refreshing and a cracker to start.

Wandered into Room 3 and stepping up a gear or two in strength. Decadence Stout by Weird Beard (5,5%). Full bodied black beer that was as smooth as Kojak’s head! Black as sin with some light coffee on the nose. Creamy in the mouth with lots of roasted flavour, chocolate and a little bitter coffee and toast. Luscious. Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers was behind the bar, really nice bloke brewing excellent beer (Have a few of their bottles stashed)

IMAG0106(The lull before the musical storm!)

Room 3 (AKA The Music Room AKA The Ladies Pool) was sponsored by Dark Star. It would have been churlish not to sample one of their beers, especially when it was a Green Hopped IPA! At 6.5% abv, this was upping the strength again, where was this going to end? Badly of course! Not that this beer was bad, OH NO! Pale gold, resinous pine on the nose. Mamma this was bitter! Load of fruity hops, firm biscuity base with even more resinous goodness. Lingering. I LOVE Green Hopped beers!

Next (and a HUGE Slainte! to The Beerhound for this one! Cheers Tyson!) I popped into Room 1 to check out some cask conditioned Italian beer from Toccalmatto. I missed their MTB at Port Street but heard it was a cracker. So when Tyson tweeted about some cask conditioned beer! When The Beerhound barks, you need to listen! The beer I tried was Zona Cesarini an IPA at 6.6% abv. Golden, fruity spicy aroma. Lots of hoppy goodness in the mush, oh yes, this is hoppy! Really fruity beer with long-lasting bitterness and a really grassy resinous aftertaste. One of the best of the week.

Next. Room 2. Briefly. Brodies Brewery Apricot Sour. SWEET BABY JESUS AND THE ORPHANS!!!! This was SOUR! Each time I took a mouthful I banged on the table! A Ronseal beer. With added sourness. A 3.1% abv tart palate livener!

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

Back to room 1 for a Redchurch Brewery Old Ford Export Stout. Is it REALLY 7.5%? Almost a “barrel aged” aroma, maybe rum, with this sinfully black beer. Deep bitter chocolate, some espresso and really rather bitter with an unexpectedly resinous dry finish. A kegged cracker!

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Next came another Stout, from Room2 this time. Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley at 6% abv. A big Stout which was cask conditioned, black with plenty of boozy wood on the nose, Slightly sweet in the mouth with bitterness kicking in later down the glass. A warm glow following the slightly boozy aftertaste.

Staying on the Dark Side of the street, I then ventured into caffeinated territory. Coffee In The Morning, a Breakfast Stout from Tap East in Stratford. 5.5% abv, black with an instant whack of fresh ground coffee to wake the nose up. A “Ronseal” beer this, fairly light bodied, but with loads of coffee bitterness. First beer I’ve had from this crew (I believe linked to Utobeer (Borough Market) and The Rake (possibly the coolest small bar in London!). If a coffee beer is what you want, this certainly does the job!

Time for a change. Back to Room 2 for something a bit, well, paler. Otters Tears (6% abv) from Thornbridge. If Otters cry tears like this, then get me Tarka and peel him an onion! This was mid gold with a nice earthy hoppy aroma. Really nice and bitter/hoppy in the mouth with maybe a hint of apricot fruit. A crackling bitter and resinous finish that lindered (or even “lingered”!). Nicest pale ale I’ve had from Thornbridge this!

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb5p0ch-lqM

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

Then came the (non-liquid) highlight of the evening. The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Walking in from the upper level (changing stalls) to the rear of the stage, in high theatre, they strutted in playing their instruments. When they got to the stage however, up went the bass drum and they let rip! An absolutely inspired piece of booking! Funky, uplifting and just bloody great musicians. A highlight.

Next, the ill-advised delights of Emelisse Brewery Imperial Russian Stout (11% abv) At this point, my notes came over all expletive laced! Black. Very black. Burnt toast, vinous and with an arse kicking coffee whiff. I staggered at the smell alone! Then the taste. Still boozy but with sweet coffee, bitterness, smoky with some more of that burnt toast. My notes finished Oooooohhhhhhh! Do I need say more? (I had another! But not before …..)

Blonde by Emelisse Brewery. 6.8% abv. Hazy pale with an aroma a bit like a fruity custard (or was my hooter broke?) Orchard fruit in the mouth, really fruity yet simultaneously bitter and piney resins in the finish. That Mr Bubberman can make damn good beer! (His collab Impy Stout with Marble earlier this year – made with Sorachi Ace – was a classic too!)

Was it a good night? Popes being Catholic and bears fouling wooded areas spring to mind. Yes it was. The whole shebang more than surpassed last year. The range of beers over the three days that I attended were superb. More international beers being a bonus. Excellent crowds, swift service by staff who knew their stuff (including us volunteers!)

I managed to see part sets of 2 or 3 bands in The Ladies Pool which were all excellent, with Harlequin Dynamite the icing on a very sweet cake indeed!

Meeting some people I know only from Twitter was a total bonus (take a bow Otto!). The brewers were free with their time and very friendly indeed, especially those from The Ladies Pool on Friday.

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 03/10/2013 – 13/10/2013

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I have a lot to thank my Arch-Nemesis (Jaz) for. One of those things is the rekindling of my love for beer and pubs (resulting in these wafflings, I suppose!) Another thing that I have him to thank for, is my discovering the pubs – and beers – of Allgates Brewery. Over the last year, I have sampled many of their beers, all of which have been very tasty and full of flavour – from the Mild made with NZ hops (AllBlack) through the citrussy, zingy Ostara all the way to the Oatmeal Stout which I had a small part in the making of. I suppose – to cut a long story short – they are now, without question, my favourite brewery. But, I NEVER use one word where 2000 will do, do I?

Allgates, the Brewery & Pub Company is owned by two partners, David Mayhall & Ian Thorpe. They own 7 working pubs, all 7 being based in – or around – the Wigan metropolitan area. The ethos of these pubs is simple. They are rooted in – and are very much of – the local community. They offer excellent, locally brewed beers, alongside a wide range of superlative (and imaginatively sourced) guest beers from the best breweries in the UK, often supporting the youngest and freshest Microbreweries.

20131005_170827(Beer selection previously served at The White Lion, Leigh)

Another key matter that distinguishes Allgates’ pubs from their competition, is the pricing of their beers – both their own AND guest beers. To say that they are good value is to massively understate the effect that ordering a guest beer in an Allgates pub can have on the unwary. As an example. I ordered 2 pints of Motueka (single hopped Pale Ale) by Arbor from Bristol. An ale that would cost upwards of £3.40 in Manchester. I paid £4.20. That is £2.10 a pint!!! Obscenely cheap. In bloody good condition too! (Which, if you stay awake, you may read about later!)

In March this year, along with Jaz & my other good friend Col, I had a go at the previous RTWB, trying 3 Allgates pubs, The Anvil (technically, the Brewery Tap), The Hare & Hounds in Hindley and The Jolly Nailor in Atherton. 3 cracking pubs, but each distinctly different from the others. The beers in this “festival” were uniformly excellent. Not a single bum note to be had. I have subsequently had a number of Sunday Lunches in a further Allgates pub, The Crooke Hall Inn (Crook Village) on the bank of the Leeds – Liverpool canal. Another fabulous pub, with great food!

The principle of The Road To Wigan Beer is that it is simply a different kind of Beer Festival. One that is spread across all 7 pubs (in this instance) across 11 days. The trick is, to try to get to all 7 pubs. How? I hear you ask! The answer……(as I was advised by young Mr Mayhall…) by BUS!!! It transpires, that a bus had been organised for some regulars to get around all 7 pubs in the one day. Being somewhat of a cheeky little tyke, I had to ask, didn’t I?

Road To Wigan Beer Oct 2013

So, the Arch-Nemesis & I find ourselves meeting at Wigan Wallgate and watching (what seemed like) the entire town, clad in Cherry & White, emigrating to Old Trafford for the Rugby League “Super League Grand Final”, of which, more later! Grabbing a swift pork pie from Galloways, we strolled into (for us) the first pub of the day. The Allgates Brewery Tap, The Anvil.

Wigan pub ,The Anvil, built 1894(pic – www.beer-meister.co.uk)

The Anvil is a large pub occupying a corner plot on Dorning Street, just around the corner from Wigan Bus Station and a 2 minute walk from the brewery itself. A single roomed pub but with distinctly separate drinking areas giving it the feel of a multi-roomed premises. Each time that I have been in, it’s always been busy both with ale drinkers from far and wide and, predominantly, locals attracted by the excellent beer, keen prices and a core clientele with betting slips in hand and more than an eye on the TV watching the sports. This is a busy pub. It also sells damn fine beer. Like my first pint of the day…..

Atomic BlondeRevolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) A 4.5% abv blonde beer sticking to the core Revolutions themes, Music themed beer and a fine beer at that! This was only the second of their beers that I have had on handpull over here. Have had loads in bottle and they have been uniformly superb, full-flavoured, tasty, balanced beers. This was no exception. Pale gold with a fruity aroma, medium bodied and full of fruity bitter flavour with gooseberry and apple (or so I thought), sharp and zesty with a hint of tartness. Fresh, refreshing with a supremely dry bitter finish, absolutely cracking nick. The only problem was, it went down too damn quick! With a few minutes before the bus showed up, I hazarded a swift half of something else….

Odyssey BlondeFallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) Another “Blonde” beer, this time at 4.1% abv, super pale beer, with a spicy, almost savoury aroma which I couldn’t quite pick, fresh clean and spicy/bitter, the kicker came in the aftertaste with quite a hit of wood smoke! No doubt about it and very unexpected in a paler beer like this, unusual, damned tasty and also hurried down as I was told by David that the bus was here! Though I hate rushing good beer (and the Fallen was VERY good!), there was nothing else for it but to bolt it down and follow the throng! A good start on the beer front!

Onto the bus we go. It felt a bit like the works outing scene from Carry On At Your Convenience, replacing Londoners with the most genial bunch of people, Wiganers to a man/woman, that it’s been my pleasure to be on a bus with. On the top deck the banter was immediately flowing, I was soon chuckling and grinning from ear to ear listening to people that I was soon to get to know far better! The bus was headed to the most westerly Allgates pub…

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The Crooke Hall Inn is situated in Crooke Village and the pub is located on the picturesque banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Unfortunately, the access road couldn’t accommodate the girth of our historic white, orange and brown GM Buses double-decker, so we bailed out outside a Marstons pub for a 5 minute walk to the pub. A true Multi-Roomed pub with 4 separate drinking areas (including the bar area) and a beer garden area to die for on the canal side.

Been here a few times now, the last Allgates pub I’d “discovered”. My family has enjoyed a few excellent Sunday Roast dinners here over the last few months (of course, the excellent All Black Mild had nothing to do with my choice of venue, Oh No! *fingers crossed*). As with all their pubs, the landlord – in this case Gregg – keeps a fine cellar with excellent ale. Knowing this, I had high hopes for a beer that I knew he had on….

EP – Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) Now, I’ve written about my love of both Andy & Marks’ beers and their musical leanings/ethos. A short conversation with Andy left me in no doubt about his love of both beer and good music (of all kinds). All the beers are brewed to strengths consistent with music formats (3.3% abv / 33RPM, 4.5% abv / 45RPM, 6.0% / C60 ……), the EP is at 3.9% abv, being halfway between a vinyl single and an album. More importantly, the beer tasted just as good as I expected it to. A golden beer with a slightly resinous grassy hop aroma, it was clean fresh and hoppy with a hint of a bitter lemon character in there.

20131005_131033(Revolutions EP & Bexar County Texan Pecan Coffee Mild)

Texan Pecan Coffee MildBexar County Brewery (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) – For me, one of the beers of the day. Unfiltered and 3.7% abv, a hazy, murky brown beer comes from the pump, but give it a moment, then a sniff and Cafe au Lait comes over on the nose. In the mouth, more coffee, quite gentle, then a real nutty overtone. A “Ronseal” beer (does exactly what it says…..) and a belter that would go down well (even with the light abv) in some of the better Manchester “craft” pubs. As I finished and popped for a quick chat with Jonathan (Allgates head brewer), about current happenings at the brewery, it was apparent that I’d finished my beer too soon. Ah well, a swift half is called for again….

Bitter KiwiBristol Beer Factory (er…Bristol?) (5% abv) Pale gold again with big grapefruit hop aromas, really zesty fruity in the mouth too, zingy sharp hoppy flavours. Bloody good (if ill-advised – at 5%!) beer, as BBF normally is!

Ding, ding…..back onto that bus, with a further passenger, Gregg, the landlord from The Crooke!

A good 25min or so drive now. We were due to go to The Union in Tyldesley next, but the driver obviously had other ideas!

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The Jolly Nailor sits on an imposing corner plot on Market Street in Atherton. Quite a large pub with three distinct drinking areas, again, a proper multi-room. Again, as with all Allgates pubs, several handpumps dispensing both Allgates own and guest beers. Last time I came, on the previous “Road” trip (read here), there was a rock band warming up. The pub has live music on each Friday and Saturday, good nights, so I’m reliably informed. I was “here for the beer” so, in that spirit….

Harts DesireHarthill Village Brewery (Harthill, nr Sheffield) (4.4% abv) – Another new brewery to me. The Harts Desire was a mid-brown beer with a spicy fruity (mango/apricot) hop aroma. Medium bodied with some biscuit malt overlaid with fruity hops (gentle apricot). This had a dry bitter finish with a hint of licorice root in the aftertaste. Another superb beer in great condition. Followed by….

Citra BurstAlechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) Citra is the Marmite of hops. Me? I love it! This was no different. A golden beer with the bitter grapefruit aroma characteristic of single hopped Citra beers. Loads of toffee maltiness giving this excellent balance with a hint of vanilla, I thought. Big bitter finish with a lingering hint of toffee in the big zesty grapefruit aftertaste.

20131005_145602(A selection of previous ales at The Jolly Nailor)

With a bit of time left, a swift half was called for….

HopspurRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 4.5% abv Amber coloured beer with a surprisingly citrussy aroma. Biscuit malt but quite bitter with more than a hint of grapefruit, good clean bitter finish. Another good beer from the makers of the superlative Trinity Pale Ale.

Now, Jaz was gutted to see a new beer clip on the pumps. So, not wanting to miss out, the sod got another half in……

GalaxyTwo Roses Brewery (Darton, nr Barnsley, S Yorkshire) – 4% abv pale beer, slightly hazy with a super aroma of mango and passion fruit. Fruity and slightly resinous in the mouth with a tremendously bitter finish. Had the bottles from TR before, but first time on draught. Superb!

Ding, ding…….

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Back onto the bus to….Tyldesley and….

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The Union Arms, Castle Street, Tyldesley – A deceptively large pub, with a central bar and three drinking areas, with one, slightly elevated, being set for food. The, now about 45 strong, bus load swarmed into the pub. The first time that it took more than a minute or two to get served, but it was more than worth it….

MotuekaArbor Brewery (Bristol) 3.8% single hopped pale ale. The jaw dropper here was the price. £2.10 a pint! I have paid nearly £1.50 MORE for this in Manchester. Ludicrously good value for a super fruity pale gold beer with abundant grapefruit aromas. Light biscuit malt with super fruity hoppy taste. Nice bitter finish too. Nice chat with two guys we hadn’t met before, Tony & Jay.

Onwards……

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The White Lion, Leigh Road, Leigh.

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(Value? I kid you not!)

Nice cosy traditional pub with three separate rooms. Lots of wood, warm and friendly. being on her own, the landlady rang for reinforcements! Down came Harry the landlord! Friendly as hell behind the bar, but what mattered even more was the top quality of the beer, in this case…..

#10 Smoked Porter – Shamblemoose Brewery (Haslemere, Surrey) – A new brewery for me and a lovely black beer with a gentle coffee aroma. The smokiness really came through in the mouth with some dark roasted coffee in there too. Lovely, full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Really goo (or even “good”) ale!

The pace was slowing now (but not for all!), I was taking more time to chat and simply enjoy the ale….but Tempus Fugit and all that latin stuff……..

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The Hare & Hounds , Ladies Lane, Hindley.

If I could have a local pub, let it be like this. I LOVE the Hare! A dog friendly pub, with cracking beer, a real fire  and friendly locals. Four walled heaven!

Scouting the bar after a quick smile at Nigel, the landlord, my eyes hit another brewery I hadn’t had before….

ParklifeWindsor & Eton Brewery 3.2% abv – The lightest beer of the day. Well received by others. Copper coloured, gentle citrus aroma with some fruitiness in the mouth. Not bad, per se, I suppose, but given all I had heard about this brewery, I expected, well…more. As I said, some really enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t overly struck.

Moving on to another brewery I had never had…..

Drops of JupiterBumpmill Brewery (Alfreton, Derbyshire) 4% abv. Instantly getting the music reference (“Drops of Jupiter” being an album by the US band Train), I was warming to the beer before I had it in my maw. Pale gold again, nice full citrus aroma. Loads of fruity grapefruit citrus in the mouth. Refreshing, really fruity and a nice bitter finish. MUCH more like it!

First half of the Rugby was in here. Not going well. Lots of handling errors and mistakes by Wigan allowing Warrington a 16-2 lead. An unconverted try just before halftime lightened the spirits and fired optimisms’ flames!

Not enough time here for me. So I’ll be back on Tuesday! Moving on (and getting a little darker now……)

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The Victoria, Haigh Village, Wigan – First time at this pub for me (and the final Allgates pub. I now have the whole set! Two main rooms with a corridor linking the two. We got in with 5 minutes of the second half of the Grand Final played. Better from Wigan…… Pool table in the right-sided room where most settled to watch the finale….

Here I had….

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Being a wee bit (ahem) refreshed by this point, my schnozzle may have lost its “beerhound” sharpness as I didn’t get much aroma from this, but it was a damned tasty pint. Pale gold with a tight white head, crackling with grapefruit sharpness. Really fruity and refreshing. At the strength, it stood up really well.

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(all eyes on the screen!)

Back end of the second half was all Wigan as the pressure was poured on. A couple of tries close to the posts (both converted) took Wigan ahead to ecstatic scenes in the pub as they emerged as 30-16 winners. 24 points without reply in the second half!

Jubilant happy faces as we got back on the bus (just WHO took that sneaky pic in the pub?) we were back to where it all began 8 1/2 hours before….

20131005_203232(Once more unto the breach…..!)

Ostara was on. I simply had to do it! 3.6% of fruity hoppy heaven. One of my Beers of The Year so far. We’ll leave it there shall we. There was a train to be caught and I seriously hope that I made sense to David by this point!

I think I can say that, without exception, that in my opinion (for the little that THAT is worth!), each of the beers that I drank / sampled was in excellent condition. There was only one beer that I didn’t truly enjoy, the rest were all excellent. If I had to choose favourites on the day – which is difficult, I would say two from early on, The Atomic Blonde from Revolutions Brewing at The Anvil and the Texan Pecan Coffee Mild from Bexar County Brewery. Both superb, tasty beers, as were they all.

But this is, in my experience, what you get from Allgates’ pubs. Great beers in excellent condition, in a friendly, traditional pub environment. Just the kind of places that we should be treasuring. I do, that’s why I’ll be back in The Anvil and Hare & Hounds tomorrow evening!

This was a total blast! I met and chatted with many people I had never previously met. All with broad Wigan accents. I do believe that there may have even been a bit of Wigan dialect spoke on the bus! A huge thanks to David & Ian, Jonathan for humouring me by listening to my blathering on,”Stig” for sorting the bus and everyone else who contributed to this most excellent of days.

There is still a week to go on The Road To Wigan Beer. Treat yourself. A return ticket to Wigan can put you within a 3 minute walk of both The Anvil and (on the return leg..) The Hare & Hounds. Give it a go…and thank me later!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says “Good People Drink Good Beer.” Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public bar and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Because too much is never enough…..Or my good friend Col couldn’t make Saturday’s Epic Crawl, we decided to pop into a couple of Allgates pubs along our train line (Manchester – Wigan) and sample some new beers that I didn’t get to try on Saturday. Greedy, but hey…….

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Back to The Anvil, being in the centre of Wigan, within 3 minutes of Wallgate Station, Reasonably busy for a Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Jarl by Fyne Ales had sold out, as expected. However, more than adequate compensation was to be found…..

HankTiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, Gwent) A 4% abv pale ale that was really pale and full of the sharp grapefruit aromas of Citra. Really balanced with plenty of biscuit sweetness cut through with that grapefruit tang. This mellowed as I went down the glass and tangerine came through. A good beer in cracking form. 

Tempus Fugit. We had a train to catch to the next and final pub, but we certainly had time for a couple more…..

American Pale AleClarence & Fredericks (Croydon, S London) 4.1% abv. Deep gold with a creamy white head, a little tartness in the aroma which was more than represented in the mouth! Bitter orange seville marmalade with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry, nice smooth texture and full of mouth puckering fruity hop flavour. The aftertaste had quite a resinous hit. Only the second beer I’ve had from this brewer. Both excellent.

Just about time for a cheeky half before the train…..

Blackhouse (Smoked Porter) – Fallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) – A hazy deep brown beer with a chocolate caramel nose (made me think of a liquified Cadburys Caramel). The flavour matched the nose with addition of the late appearance of a warm smoky note. Really smooth and creamy. Shame I only had time for a half!

A swift walk to Wallgate Station for the 20:27 toward Manchester and the second stop on the line. From there, a 5 minute walk downhill to…

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The Hare & Hounds is just a proper local. The kind of pub which just gives you a warm hug of familiarity when you push open the door. Again, I was hoping for Jarl, but it seems like I was a day early. Col however, was as happy as a pig in muck, ‘cos he’d come for the next beer (and that alone)

Mud BrawlerBoggart Brewery (North Manchester) A 4.4% Vanilla Porter which feels like a Stout. Very dark brown , a creamy coloured head with a milky coffee and vanilla aroma. Full bodied smooth drinking beer with vanilla on a dark roast choclolaty coffee malt base. As good as I had it at the brewery tap, The MicroBar in Manchester. Winner of top gong at Peterborough 2013. I can see why.

OstaraAllgates Brewery (Wigan, Lancashire) Sometimes, you just don’t need to go for a guest beer, when there is something as good as this. Pale gold, with a zesty grapefruit / apricot nose. Really fruity in the mouth with bitter citrus over a slightly sweet malted milk biscuit base. Nice bitter finish with bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. Just one of my very favourite beers. Kept very well.

Finally, to lubricate the excellent conversation we were having with Nigel (mine host), his good lady and some of the regulars (see what I mean about friendly?) …a beer I had the other evening

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Feeling slightly less (ahem) “refreshed” as I was by close of play on Saturday, I thought I’d give this another bash – and was glad I did! A pale golden “blonde” ale. Nice fruity nose with passion fruit and kiwi. A lovely slightly dry bitter finish. I think I appreciated it a bit more tonight!

That’s it! In the words of the great boxer Roberto Duran (having taken a fight full of punishment from Sugar Ray Leonard) “No Mas”!!!

I’m off for a cup of tea and girding my loins for The Independent Manchester Beer Convention tomorrow. Having volunteered for yesterdays “set-up” session, having seen many of the beers delivered, I can say but one thing. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you’re in for a treat!

Slainte!

Allgates’ The Road To Wigan Beer 29/03/2013

Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t visited an Allgates Brewery pub. Come to think of it, I hadn’t had a beer in Wigan at all! That day, I went in two really good pubs, one of which was The Anvil, Allgates’ pub in the centre of Wigan.

Whilst I was there, David Mayhall (the brewery owner) passed me a leaflet called ‘The Road To Wigan Beer’ (pun intended).

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The idea being that Allgates would have a beer festival lasting 11 days, spread across their whole estate of 7 pubs, all based around the Wigan area. Having been in precisely NO Allgates pubs previously, this festival gave me all the excuse that I needed. So, roping my good buddies Jaz & Col in, we find ourselves on the 13:04 train from Walkden to Wigan for the first stop….

The Anvil

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(pic – qype.co.uk)

Further to the previous visit, damn this was busy again! This may have had something to do with being Good Friday and the Wigan v St Helens derby match!!! Timing could have been better, but it was a fantastic atmosphere – which was helped by the fact that Wigan were winning.

Three drinking areas. A large area off to the right of the entrance, the main drinking area / lobby – which is in front of the bar and a smaller area to the left of the bar, where we sat. The frontage gives the impression that the inside may be older than it actually is. But it is a modern layout and look and is perfectly comfortable and welcoming, with friendly locals. It has also won a SHEDLOAD of Awards……

20130329_140122(Wall of Fame Pt 1 !)

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(Wall of Fame Pt 2! I couldn’t fit them all in one shot!)

As stated, it was damned busy. However, most were watching the Rugby, so the bar was easily gained. Colin went for the Redwillow Faithless XIX whilst Jaz & I opted for the Arbor Ales Oyster Stout at 4.6% abv. What a lovely beer! Slight hint of coffee in the aroma, but in the mouth? Oh joy! Lovely dark roasted flavour with more than a hint of the briny about it. A glorious pint.

Next round was mine. Jaz & Col opted for pints of Allgates All Black Mild, whilst I chose a beer from Redwillow, the previously mentioned Faithless XIX. One of the brewer’s experimental series of beers, I’m not sure as to what is in this beer to render it one of the Faithless range, but it was a golden beer at 3.6% abv. A nice citrus aroma and a refreshing gently bitter citrus flavour with grapefruit hints. A really nice beer that could be drunk repeatedly. However…places to go and pubs to see!

I like The Anvil…a lot. And that’s after only two visits. A deservedly popular town centre pub, with the feel of a local. Ultra reasonable beer prices as well, the guests being around £2.50 or less. If this is how Allgates have their pubs run………speaking of which……We move on, to…..

The Hare & Hounds

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This was where the £3.80 return train ticket started to pay its way! Timing our departure perfectly from The Anvil, a 5 minute train journey and a 5 minute walk away. Located approximately 400 yards south of Hindley train station on Ladies Lane, this is what I would describe as a traditional type local.

2 main drinking areas here. The bar is to the right on entry complete with a good sized drinking area. To the left, is another area, open to the bar area, but distinctly separate.

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Large TV screen on the wall to the left of the bar. Also, the welcome sight of a dartboard. Another really friendly welcome with chatty locals and staff. 4 or 5 ales to choose from including 2 from Allgates (Mosaic & All Black).

My first beer choice here was all too easy. West Coast Blonde Pale Ale from Stringers. Stringers produce two of my favourite bottled beers with Dry Stout & IPA, however, I had never had their beer on draught. This was soon remedied with this golden beer. A citrus zest aroma followed by a nice hoppy bitter beer with a hint – of all things – orange. A nice pint.

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(Nice touch on a cold day!)

The real fire warmed my back at this point and was most welcome. Next beer for me was Black Port by Blackedge Brewery of Horwich at 4.9% abv. I’d had the Black before, but not the Black Port. A stout made with an addition of port. The beer is as black as sin with a tan head and an alluring boozy aroma (the port?) The flavour was simply ‘right up my street’. A lovely smooth mouthfeel, with roasted malts, chocolaty with a slight blackcurrant tinge, roasted, chocolate winey bliss. I think I like it.

We got carried away with chat (or was it that Col was delaying us in the hope of a Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout?) and we missed the next train. Hey ho, a pint of Redemption Pale Ale please! A nice bitter pint, some citrus in the mouth (orange peel?) with a nice dry aftertaste.

Where I live, there are NO decent locals. I would do time to have one like this! A really good pub. Much as we could have stayed, The Bristol Milk Stout wasn’t a-coming, so time for that train ticket to pay its way….on to….

The Jolly Nailor

Jolly Nailor

(pic – nwb.co)

This was a fair walk from Atherton train station, a good 15 minutes I’d say. Located on Market Street, this is another pub with 3 drinking areas. The bar area doubles as a large foyer with some tables and lots of space. To the left of the bar is a nice looking room with lots of tables. To the right of the bar is a larger room which seems to double as a performance space. As we entered, there was a rock band tuning up. Good sound, but flipping loud!

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6 beers on handpull, Thwaites Wainwright, Allgates Pride of Atherton and California with 3 further guests. Tryst Brewery Raj IPA, Dark Star Darkness and Mallinsons Tammie Norie. My first was the Mallinsons.

Golden pale beer, citrus aroma. Nice bitter citrus flavours, grapefruit up there again from the use of Newport (American) hops. 3.9% abv and a lovely refreshing pint at this stage of proceedings!

Next (and finally) Darkness from DarkStar. A black IPA at 3.5%. As with all of that style, a confounding – yet stunning – beer. Lovely darkness (as you could’ve guessed!) with a sharp citrus bitterness, yet roasted coffee in the aftertaste. Gorgeous flavours from such a light beer.

As for the pubs, each offered something different. What they all had in common was excellent beer, served well. Friendly staff and customers and all the pubs looked nice,  well maintained and attractively decorated. A very marginal preference for the Hare & Hounds (and I mean marginal!), nice warm fire and well-behaved dogs allowed. Nice touch.

The beer? I am a darks man, so I’ll err that way. Little between the Blackedge Black Port, DarkStar Darkness and Arbor Oyster Stout. Going back over my notes, I won’t separate them! Again, each different, but all exceptional. As were the pales too.

Allgates have 7 pubs. I’ve now been in three (and hope to do two more this week). All good well maintained pub, friendly locals and service with superb prices.

A winning formula!

Next up? Pubs with Jukeboxes I think! On that note…’til next time.

Slainte!

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

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I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

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The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

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Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

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(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

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(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

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Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

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3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!