Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 4

“They say no news is good news, the little girl wants information,

Mother just gives her some pills to choose and says ‘Go use your imagination'”

(“You Little Fool” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions)

(Video courtesy of “jjarcos1v” on You Tube

I bought my first 3 vinyl 7″ singles at the age of 13 with 2 £1 notes (remember them???) I found soggily stuck to the road during my morning paper round. I think (well, it WAS 35 years ago) I bought them at a shop on Salford precinct. They were…..

I Don’t Wanna Go To Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions; What A Waste – Ian Dury & The Blockheads & Jocko Homo – DEVO. I’m rather proud of those being my first! No “Birdy Song” here….oh no!

As I got older, my love of the music of Declan MacManus (Mr Costello) has grown and deepened. In my opinion (Isn’t that all that blogs are…Opinion?) his greatest album remains one of his more obscure, in that it lacked an obvious hit single. The album I refer to is Imperial Bedroom. You Little Fool was the lead single (there were only 2) and reached #52 in the UK whilst the album reached #6 (#30 in the US, where Costello is more revered than he is here). From the multi-layered and somewhat schizoid opener “Beyond Belief” through “Shabby Doll”, “You Little Fool” all the way to the utterly beautiful “Town Crier” the album remains in my all time lists, certainly within the Top 20 (I really must list them in one of my Hornbyesque moments!)

Costello is still, for me, one of the greatest lyricists writing in the English language. I haven’t seen him live since the Mighty Like A Rose tour. Something I would like to address. He remains a superb live performer. (Still plays “You Little Fool” too!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes

IMAG0876

1. Windrush StoutBrixton Brewery (er…Brixton, S. London) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.65 (330ml – inc Discount) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

To be honest, I’d never heard of this brewer until one recent afternoon, I spent far too much time & money in Raj’s excellent emporium (which is ALL too easily done!). Each time I go in there is more and more beer on his shelves. I hear that he may be opening a beer shop/bar later this year. Should be interesting!

This is an opaque black beer with a head creamy in both colour and texture. The aroma is of roasted barley and a gentle milky coffee. Medium bodied, initial flavours are of roasted malt with a hint of bitter chocolate followed by a pronounced bitter character. The finish is dry with quite a grassy hop aftertaste. A nice stout indeed with none of the sweetening additives like chocolate and quite Irish in character in my opinion.

IMAG0884

2. AVA – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Blonde Ale – £2.42 (500ml – inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Superstar DJ and occasional brewer (!) Rik Garner (He really IS a brewer, honest, just that he spins some great vinyl!) brews some quite phenomenally good beers in his well-appointed Salford Railway arch! I’ve had (and recommended to others – frequently) AVA on cask, but I’d struggled to find it in bottle. Until Dan & Gina stepped in with their expanding range of local beers!

If this was any paler, it’d be water! Straw yellow with a fluffy white head and a tart citrussy aroma with lemon zest and a little grapefruit. Ooh but this is a tart little number! Quite medium bodied for such a low abv beer, this is chock full of tart grapefruit and bitter lemon. Initially, quite a shock, but this is one seriously quenching refreshing beer, a nice bitter lemony hoppy finish rounds it off nicely. A beer of such low strength has no right to be so full of flavour! A belter. It is a rare beer that I always have when I see it on draught. This is one such.

IMAG0886

3. Mango Beach – Ramsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml – inc disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another brewery I see all too little of in bottles. I did have some draught, but that was in Ramsbottom itself and I don’t see Matt’s beers often enough, but then I saw them in Great Ale Year Round and all was right in the world!

A deep golden beer with a lingering white head and a juicy fruit aroma with mango (surprise) and peach upfront. Smooth and full-bodied. The fruit is upfront on the tongue with that juicy mango dancing a Macarena! Really smooth and almost creamy (mangoes & cream anyone?) A lovely fruity beer with a dry finish and substantial resinous and fruity aftertaste. A cracking beer from this small Rammy brewery. Nice to see his beer available closer to home!

IMAG0889

4. Rat-A-Tat-Tat – Fool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.72 (500ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Never been to The Hope in Stockport, nor ever had a Fool Hardy Brewery beer in any form. So I was glad to see some at Dan & Gina’s excellent little Micro Bar in Bolton Market. The beer itself………….

Black with a beige/tan head and a lovely welcoming aroma of chocolate/cocoa. Oh yes, my boxes are ticked! Medium to full-bodied and with a lovely smooth feel. The chocolate I would describe as just short of a “Bournville” flavour, bittersweet. A lovely mouthful with a nice hoppy bitter edge to it and quite a nice hoppy/coffee edge to the aftertaste. Excellent!

IMAG0891

5. K*ntish Beard – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.2% abv – American Wheat Ale – £3.23 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I had this on cask at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival & was hugely impressed….until a certain young Mr Sweeney from Bank Top guzzled mine (“by accident”, but I don’t hold grudges….much!) It was called Camden Beard then……We shan’t go into the murky waters of corporate bullying again, shall we? But I DO love that asterisk! (Apply your own vowel)

A deep gold almost amber beer this with a clinging white head and a big whack of citrus hop on the nose (presumably the Cascade & Centennial). Really smooth in the mouth with almost a creaminess to the texture making it feel really full-bodied.

Refreshing, as you would expect of a Wheat Beer, there’s all kinds of fruitiness in the mouth, with satsuma, grapefruit, a bit of apricot….this mellows to the satsuma/tangerine following the swallow. There is an understated bitterness to the finish followed by a nice, none too assertive resinous aftertaste with a lip smacking tangerine taste. And I drank this all myself!

IMAG0894

6. Interocitor – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 7% abv – Strong Pale Ale – £4.25 (500 ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Always like to have one of Jay’s beers in the stash. Call it a Comfort Blanket!

A deep golden almost bronze coloured beer, minimal white head quickly diminished leading to a herbal grassy aroma. Full-bodied in the mouth with a certain hedgerow fruitiness with a little gooseberry maybe? Smooth and easy drinking, dangerously so for a beer of this strength!

Lots of fruity British hoppage in here on a big malty backbone. A gentle fruity bitterness in the finish. A lingering grassy fruity aftertaste. One of those beers where UK hops just work real fine. Big bodied (like myself), full flavoured and tasty! (Unlike….)

Right then. That’s it for another week. It’s getting late and I need my ugly sleep to be ready for a MTB with Privateer Beers at Great Ale Year Round tomorrow (Saturday) morning. See you there?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Full Steam Ahead! – A trip on the East Lancashire Railway to Ramsbottom – 29/06/2013

20130629_132516

The genesis of this trip was when I popped to see Matt Holmes of Ramsbottom Craft Brewery. On the way home, I drove past First Chop and promised myself that I would be back soon. How very right I was! The second pull was the chance to arrive on a steam-driven locomotive. I’m no anorak, but there is something inherently romantic about steam trains, don’t you think? Anyway, when I mooted the possibility, a couple of willing victims (Oops! I meant volunteers!) identified themselves, so I set a course for the weekend after payday.

Arranging to meet Jaz & Jeff (my own craft beer Fresh Princes!) at 12:45 at Trackside (the bar at the Bury end of the ELR), I somehow found myself in Bury a full hour early! Now then, what’s a boy to do? A brief perusal of the Good Beer Guide (hereinafter GBG!) told me that there was a bar called Automatic in the building that was the old Derby Hall….Hmmmm……

Automatic

20130629_113401

I’ve been to the former Derby Hall (now Bury Met) 3 times. First, 07/04/1980. I was 14 and got myself to Bury to see Joy Division at a now legendary gig which was abandoned after 3 songs, one of which was fronted by Alan Hempsall (vocalist with Crispy Ambulance, one of the great unsung Manchester bands!). History tells us that Ian Curtis had a seizure that evening, meaning that the band tried to struggle on once he’d left the stage. Next thing I saw was a pint pot (dimpled!) hurtling towards Tony Wilson who was trying to calm a near riot. I never did get to see a full set by my favourite band. My major musical regret. It was my second gig.

Anyhow, I digress. Walking into Automatic, I had the feeling of walking into a posher small Wetherspoons. Looking every bit the eaterie, two distinctly separate areas here, with the Malt Bar being closed. The main room was all classy colours and wooden tables, clean lines (always handy in a pub, I find!), a bit “restauranty”, but nice enough.

20130629_114509

Noticing the rather scrummy looking Pork Pies, I ordered the “pie & pint” offer (value at £5) with the pint being the house beer, Silver Fox by Outstanding Brewery. The staff pulled a fair bit off (1st pint of the day, I presumed) and served me mine. Hmm…a bit hazy. Not smelling “off”, I gave it a go. Nope. Not as good as Outstanding beers are usually, I took it back and they swapped without quibble – earning some ‘Brownie points’. Next was a beer from a local brewery I had never tried, Steam Plate Bitter from Irwell Works Brewery, described as a Best Bitter at 4.3% abv. Pale gold, with a slightly buttery hop aroma. More like a blonde this for me, more butteriness in the mouth with a clean dry and gently bitter finish.

Nice bar. Local ales (Pennine and Little Valley completing the four handpumps) and a good-looking menu. Nice place.

By this point, Jeff had joined me and fancied some fodder, so we upped and headed off to our next watering hole…..

Trackside

20130629_123509

Located just behind the entrance of the ELR Station on Bolton Road (and accessed via the side road), another new bar to me. Housed alongside Platform 2, this single roomed pub, is long and narrow, with the bar to the rear and had the feel of an ancient English longhouse (read Beowulf) but with 10 handpumped ales.

20130629_123456

(One happy boy!)

So many beers, so little time! We were scheduled for the 13:30 to Ramsbottom, so chose swiftly, but wisely in my case! Allgates Gin Pit at 4.3% abv. A lovely clear golden beer, nice smooth and bitter with more than a hint of what I can only think was the juniper berries that are steeped in the brew. A lovely refreshing pint. Typically Allgates, typically excellent.

Next up, another brewery I hadn’t tasted previously. Hopstar from Darwen with their Lancashire Gold at 4% abv. Golden coloured beer (what else!) that was clean gently hoppy and really refreshing too. I’ll be back for more Hopstar.

20130629_132522(“The train now standing at Platform 4…..”)

The next leg of our journey now beckoned. With Jaz having now joined us (and wolfing his first beer down), we jumped platforms for the train to Ramsbottom. As did a seeming Stag Do dressed in a naval theme! Oh dear, won’t be the last time we see these jolly Jack Tars!

Not the longest of journeys this, but beautiful and scenic. Swiftly passing through Summerseat, where even the air smelled expensive, we were soon in Ramsbottom. Here, I will freely admit, I lost my bearings, being swiftly corrected by Jeff as where I thought was First Chop, was actually an Estate Agents!

First Chop

pub-no-3375-first-chop-ramsbottom-greater-manchest

(pic moblog.net)

With Jeff the Sherpa leading the way, we finally got there! Two room, with the other being below ground level, this looked like a smart contemporary bar which wouldn’t have been out of place in the Northern Quarter.

20130629_140742

With a slightly smaller selection than Trackside, 4 ales on handpull, with a real cider and a smattering of craft keg. More than enough for me to be getting by! First up for me was one of their own, FCB (First Chop Bitter ?) at 3.6% abv. A bronze colour, this had quite a floral hop aroma and was clean, bitter with a nice dry finish. Brewed at Outstanding in Bury, now that the First Chop Brewing arm have their own brewery (finally!) in Salford, will this now be brewed there?

Next up was another First Chop – well, ‘When in Rome’! AVA at 3.5% abv was pale gold with a lovely tropical fruit hop aroma. Flavour came through with lovely earthy hops and sweet pineapple notes. Superbly refreshing.

20130629_142026

(Would sir like the cask menu?)

Food time! A juicy and spicy Harissa Burger at around a fiver. Excellent.

More beer please! Allgates Pretoria at 3.9% abv. Golden, citrus hop aroma, refreshingly bitter with a clean dry and fruity bitter finish. A really good session beer this, and first time for me I think. (There’s me banging on about not finding Allgates in Freehouses, then 2 on the same day!)

My notes show another AVA….but moving swiftly on…..

I just wish I lived in Ramsbottom. A cracking bar this, small yet perfectly formed. Excellent looking food offering, 4 ales, and a substantial number of real ciders too. Yep, a belter!

A short walk away……

Irwell Works Brewery

20130629_161210

Some of my family have been raving about this place for a while. It was therefore an essential visit. A small side room as you enter (to the left) and up the stairs into the main open room.

20130629_161342

Busy as a chippy in here! As bustling as possible. 8 pumps, 1 of them a cider, 6 Irwell Works own beers and a guest from Bank Top. Once I saw a Stout, there was no looking elsewhere, was there? Let’s be sensible about this! Irwell Works Iron Works Stout at 4.4% abv. Sweet coffee aroma, lots of roasted flavour with a touch of residual sweetness in the mouth. In excellent nick and a cracking pint (or 2!)

20130629_163554(Juliet Balcony anyone?)

A nice busy bar, well worth the visit. Modern, lots of white walls, child friendly. Anything else you want to know?

The train was calling. The last service was at 17:10 and was disappointingly pulled by a diesel! Never mind eh?

Back into Manchester and an ill-advised (by me!) walk to…..

 Joshua Brooks.

You know my thoughts on this bar by now. Reliably excellent beer at an excellent price, with excellent tunes as well. My choice to take my firkin of Allgates Quaker House Oatmeak (or even Oatmeal!) Stout. Next Friday night people!

Hawkshead Lakeland Lager at 5%abv. Cask conditioned lager. Seem to be drinking this a bit recently. Pale gold, butter popcorn aroma. Slightly toffeeish flavour, bit of butterscotch with a clean dry finish.

Pictish Summer Solstice was next at 4.7% abv. A really nicely balanced pale bitter hoppy beer. My favourite of the two. Tune of the day in here, a cover of The Antlers’ “Parentheses” by Tricky, bit of a surprise!

We then nipped into The Font to round off the evening/day.

Rock The Kazbek at 4.0% abv by Redemption from Tottenham. Nice enough pale ale, quite bitter, good condition, but not exceptional for me. Next (and finally) came Cresta Black Stout by Tempest Brewing from Kelso. This was MORE like what the doctor ordered! Black, roasted and lovely stout. A nice finish to the day!

Yes, it was indeed a long day. Not been drinking in Rammy or Bury for years. Was hoping to meet Tyson The Beerhound and Darren from GM Ale News, but, sadly, neither were possible. Never mind eh? We’ll catch up another time (especially with the Quaker House “in the wild” this week!)

An excellent day. Good friends, great beers and great bars in which to drink them. “Back of the net” ass they say!

On that note….’til next time! (Friday night at Joshua Brooks!)

Slainte!