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!

Bottled Ales – May 2013

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(Yorkshire brewers all!)

As I have said on many occasions, both on this blog and in many a conversation, this is truly a Golden Age for beer in the UK. You can walk into lots of bars / pubs around the country and sample exceptional beers from far and wide. For that, drinkers should rejoice.

However, I am increasingly conscious of the amount of comment given to beers from outside of the UK. Be they from the USA, Belgium, Germany, Italy or wherever, these undoubtedly excellent beers get praised to the clouds. But there is an absolute wealth of beers being brewed by small micros in this country that are superb in their own right. Also many of which are not in thrall to American techniques or styles.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, I adore good beer wherever it may be sourced from. As you will see below, one of the best beers I’ve had recently was made by Sierra Nevada in California. But there is THAT much excellent beer being brewed by UK micros (yes, many using New World hops in many instances!), that that is where my future focus will be when I review bottles. UK Microbreweries.

With my recent visits to both Yorkshire Ales of Snaith and Bierhuis of Ossett, it’s obvious to me that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the number of breweries in one county alone, Yorkshire. I won’t be able to try them all. But I’ll have a bash!

There. Now here’s some belters that I’ve drunk recently……. The format remains the same. I give you the beer, who brews it and where, the alcoholic strength, the style of beer, where I bought if from, bottle size and how much I paid for it. Simples!

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1. Clash London Porter by Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I like the ethos of Revolutions. “Music-inspired beer. Craft brewed in Yorkshire”. All of their beers have a musical themed name. They also brew to abv strength associated with music formats. 3.3% (33 rpm), 4.5% (45 rpm), 6.0% (C60 cassette) etc…. So before I taste the beer, I’m favourably disposed. My first bottle I tried was the Manifesto Strong Stout. That was my bottle of the month in April. Could this live up to that standard?

A slightly sweet coffee aroma to this dark ruby coloured beer. Cream coloured head. Some coffee flavour from the roasted malts, smooth in the mouth and a nice hoppy dryness in the finish. The finish was redolent of a good IPA in its dryness with some hoppy grassy tones. A superb beer that I would put as a dark beer for IPA lovers wanting to visit The Dark Side, like a porter with an IPA touch. A 4.5 beer (The Manifesto was a 5 – I’ve already started a campaign to get a firkin or 2 of that over here!)

I’ve also snaffled a bottle of their Devolution Amber Ale (named after the great De-Evolution – DEVO –  from Akron, Ohio). Can’t wait!

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(A lively devil!)

2. The Chief by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Double IPA – £3.78 (500ml) – Bierhuis

It’s good to see an increasing number of Ilkley beers ‘over the hill’ now. Booths stock a good range and I even saw Mary Jane at Sainsbury in Bolton today. Things are looking up for Ilkley lovers! However, unless you live in Manchester city centre and can pop into Beermoth on Tib Street, you won’t get some of their ‘specials’. However, this doesn’t appear to be a problem for specialist beer retailers in Yorkshire. On a recent camping trip, I was advised by the owner of Bierhuis (David) that I was only about 20 mins away. How COULD I resist? It was here that I picked up this beer up (David put a couple aside for me).

This beer was a rich gold (almost bronze) colour and had an aroma of boiled sweets, very fruity with a touch of (what I thought was) Belgian yeasty funk. This beer kicked off when it got in the mouth! WOW! Incredibly hoppy (DOUBLE IPA remember) Apricot flavour in there for sure, mango maybe? A piney resinous hoppyness in a very bitter finish. Lip smackingly good. A fabulous beer that was worth every penny of that price! (4.5 SO nearly a 5!)

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3. Barista Espresso Stout by Summer Wine Brewery (Holmfirth, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Espresso Stout – £3 (330ml) – Port Street Beer House

I drink this almost everywhere I see it on draught. A great beer. But I’d never had it in bottle. So, when I saw an offer of 6 assorted bottles for £18 at Port Street one hazy evening, what was I to do?

This was another lively devil on pouring. A tan coloured head gave off an aroma just like when you tear open a packet of ground coffee. Just like that! But with a hint of spicyness. A lovely smooth texture in the mouth where those coffee flavours came to the fore but with a little touch of roasted malt sweetness. I love this beer on draught and the same applies with the bottled version. Another 4.5 beer!

20130513_213347(I get to use Colin’s JW Lees ‘Grip’ glass!)

4. Lotus IPA by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £2.21 (500ml) – Bierhuis

Not being bottle conditioned, I was surprised by the liveliness of this beastie. Golden, with an abundance of grapefruit citrus zing on the nose. In the mouth, this was more balanced than the aroma hinted at. Grapefruit yes, but mellower and balanced with a malty digestive biscuit like sweetness. As smooth as cream in the mouth with a dry grassy bitter finish. This gets a 5 rating on value alone! Superb. Thank you Bierhuis!

20130514_211258(The IndyManBeerCon glass seemed appropriate!)

5. Orval by Brasserie Orval (Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium) – 6.2% abv – Trappist Beer – £3.20 (330ml) – Pendle Witch PH, Atherton.

Confession. I had never had an Orval prior to this.

Another lively beast. This russet coloured beer had an incredibly jammy fruit nose with, perhaps, a hint of rhubarb. In the mouth there was the expected Belgian yeasty tones, but with an array of flavours at different stages. Firstly stewed apples and pears and a pear drop sweet flavour. Later on, there was a warming almost medicinal linctus tone which was surprising to me in a 6.2% beer. Initially underwhelmed, by the bottom of the glass I was a convert. A truly lovely beer. (4.5)

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6. Narwhal by Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, California, USA) – 10.2% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.69 (375 ml) – Bierhuis

Somewhere beyond black, there is a darker hue. This beer is even darker than that. If sin is this black, I don’t ever want to be virtuous! I opened the bottle and sniffed. Boozy port and spice. I poured it into my new 2/3 pint glass (for which I’m VERY thankful)  to further wallow in those aromas. A milk coffee coloured head, beneath which lurked a REALLY bitter chocolate flavour allied to a vinous warmth. There were touches of licorice root with sweet espresso and a glorious dry bitter spicy finish. To say this beer is “up my street” doesn’t even come close! 5 out of 5! (I’d give it 10 if I could!)

At THAT price, I felt  like I’d stolen it! Again, thank you Bierhuis!

Given what I said at the top, these may be the last couple of non-UK beers I review in a while. But what a pair to go out on, eh? 5 out of 5

Beer Of The Month

Bottled – As if you hadn’t guessed! Narwhal by Sierra Nevada. For the reasons stated above. A superb Imperial Stout.

DraughtImperial Black (Black IPA) by Buxton Brewery 7.5% abv (Port Street Beer House 26/05/2013). I am incredibly grateful to Jamie H that he got 4 halves of this out of the end of the cask! Smooth as silk, black as sin. Incredibly fruity whilst still having some roasted stuff in there. This was an awesome beer. I will drink it wherever I find it. It is THAT good!

On that excited note……’til next time!

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!