Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 3

Johnny was an actor, oh you must have known? He wore his new Max Factor, nearly stole the show,

You go and tell me he’s not the only one. Ah, night creatures, strangest features, white faces and painted eyes.

Tongue teasers, oh you young deceivers, night creatures on your heels so high… “

(“Night Creatures” – Be Bop Deluxe)

(Tune courtesy of  “Notle Miroma” on You Tube)

One evening, some time in 1979, this particular 14-year-old boy was furtively listening (through earphones) to The John Peel Show on Radio One, when he played a track which caught my attention. I think it was “Art, Empire, Industry” by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. It blew me away with its energy and fizz, a melding of synthesizers and punk energy. I went to Virgin Records on Market St in Manchester and bought what I thought was the track I heard. The single I bought was “Revolt Into Style” and was the start of a love affair with all things Nelson.

Gradually, I learned of his previous band, Be Bop Deluxe. Emanating from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, they started out as a Glam Rock band with the album Axe Victim (from which the above track is taken) before making what – for me – is their masterpiece, Futurama. Containing the fabulously complex “Between The Worlds” and the short but mighty “Maid In Heaven”, the delicate “Jean Cocteau” (A Nelson hero) it’s a magnificent Rock album up there with any UK album of the mid-70s for me.

I’m not too big to say that I wept, the night I finally heard “Maid In Heaven” live, along with a whole host of Be Bop tracks when Nelson played a back catalogue concert in  Manchester a few years back, songs I never thought that I’d hear live, guitar solos I never thought I’d experience in the flesh. Bill self-records and releases these days and has a prodigious output, many tracks reflecting his futuristic wonder of the 50s and 60s (his childhood). But in the words of Bowie “Boy could he play guitar”

Moving swiftly on to the usual subject matter…bottled beers…

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Eastoft Elderberry Stout – Axholme Brewing Co (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Surprise! We start, with a dark beer!

Black beer with a creamy tan head and a delicate floral aroma with a roasty hint. Medium bodied, the floral characteristics come through in the mouth backed up by a smooth almost chocolatey roasted malt character. There is a pleasing light bitterness in the finish followed by a light herbal grassy note and a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste. An unusual yet really pleasant stout.

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2. Dark Hopfler – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 2.5% abv – Dark Milk Ale – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Knowing that Weird Beard like to name their beers after some kind of musical link, I am hereby making an assumption that this is some reference to Mark Knopfler. If so…

I HATE Dire Straits! Any tune by them reminds me of 1985, being stuck in a hospital bed (after having my nose fixed – not that you’d tell!) and I could hear was “Money For Bleeding Nothing”! On repeat. REPEATEDLY!!!

Moving swiftly on! This is a black beer with lively carbonation giving a fluffy latte coloured head with huge citrus hop aromas of grapefruit mingled with a really milky coffee.

Surprisingly full-bodied for such a light beer, not as thin as I would have expected at this strength. The hops are in your face with apricot and mango in the vanguard. This is followed by a very subtle milky coffee and a burnt toast undernote with a little lactose sweetness (just a little) creeping past the defences near the end. A sweet milky finish leads to quite a resinous finish. Dark Milk Ale just about describes it! Would love to try this on handpull through a sparkler!

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3. Anubis Porter – Raw Brewing Company (Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5.2% abv – Porter – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% off 12 Bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Shall we get the dark stuff out of the way eh?

Having had Raw on cask before, primarily at Joshua Brooks, I was keen to try this bottle that I picked up on the Opening Day (read here) of the Blackedge Brewery bottle shop!

Virtually black beer with a thin cream coloured head and a full chocolate and toffee caramel aroma. Mmmm….medium bodied, initial flavour was a nice bitter chocolate with a malty caramel toffee backbone, slightly sweet yet with quite a bite to it. For a non-bottle conditioned beer, this is excellent! This is added to with a pronounced bitterness from the hops and quite a grassy aftertaste with that deep chocolate toffee staying throughout. An excellent first bottle from a brewery that I’ve enjoyed on cask.

And now, for some lighter stuff!

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4. India Pale Ale (Amarillo) – The Kernel Brewery (Bermondsey, S London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.29 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

My favourite hop. In a single hop IPA. By one of the most renowned breweries in London. A no-brainer really when Raj pointed this bad boy out to me!

Hazy and dark golden beer with a white head and a full-on fragrant orange marmalade aroma, booking out of the glass! I took a moment to calm down.

Full-bodied (unsurprisingly) with rich sweet marmalade sliding all over the tongue, using it as its own playground, the marmalade doesn’t retreat in the face of a encroaching bitterness that’s really satisfying. The bitterness itself leads to a big resinous pine and fruity finish. Each mouthful left me wanting more! And I do want more.

A classy beer using my favourite hop to its maximum. Superb!

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5. Shipwreck IPA – Liverpool Organic Brewery (er..Liverpool!) – 6.5% abv – IPA – Swap with a colleague (500ml) – 0 – Direct from the Brewery

A colleague from the office (Cheers Dave!), picked this up whilst on a tour of the brewery last weekend, for which I am truly grateful. (The swap, was for a bottle of Saltaire/NMB Co Smoked Porter – a review of which, next weekend perhaps?)

Amber coloured beer with a light white head a toffeeish nose with a hint of fruit, maybe orange. Full bodied with big caramelly malt laying a base for the fruitiness of the hops, with more orange and peach for me leading to a good strong bitterness and a substantial fruity, grassy and pine aftertaste which tingles on the tongue. A really fruity big-boned beer this. Had this on draught at The Angel some months back, this is just as good.

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6. NZPA – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £3.75 (A swap) (330ml) – 0 – From the brewery shop

This, quite possibly, comes within my top 5 pale ales. I’ve had it on a number of occasions and wherever I have it (incl Wetherspoons) it is universally potent and tasty with booming fruity hops. I was chuffed to bits therefore, when my good pal (and colleague) Chris picked one up following a rather strenuous bike ride that started – and ended – in Staveley. Being a perfectly sensible chap, he nipped in the Beer Hall and (amongst other delights) picked this up for me. Damned fine fellow!

Just look at that colour! A beautifully bright golden beer with good carbonation, giving a generous lasting white head which yielded a beautiful citrussy aroma bursting with grapefruit, kiwi and a hint of mango.

This is every bit as lovely as the cask version that I’ve adored for so long! Full-bodied and smooth in texture the fresh tart citrus leaps onto the tongue with the grapefruit being the Silverback here, dominant and powerful without being overwhelming. An excellent assertive bitterness to this too, just like the cask version, which is followed by an aftertaste both dry and resinous. Every bit as good as on cask. Superb!

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7. Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (3 for £7.50) (330ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A disclaimer on this one. This was passed by this new Manchester area brewer  (currently “Gypsy Brewing” at Outstanding Brewery in Bury) for free via my buddy Dan at Great Ale Year Round. Usual rules applying. I only review if I enjoy it. And BOY did I enjoy it!

Firstly, the branding.

Plays to my prejudices with a slightly distressed looking blue and white combo, with their woven motif. Something in the back of my mind also has The Shindiggers being one of the earliest of Manchester gangs? (I’m probably wrong!) Either way, the name has a whiff of romance about it for me.

The beer? A deep gold with excellent carbonation and a lasting white head releasing aromas of citrus fruits, with apricot and grapefruit prominent. Mmmm…Really smooth considering it’s from the bottle. Really balanced too, with a good light biscuity malt backbone being ridden by lovely citrussy hops, with initially grapefruit then a more subdued tangerine or orange coming through. In later mouthfuls, I thought I got a lemon note too. Nice bitterness adding to this refreshing beer with a finish that retains the fruit but adds a substantial resinous pine dryness.

What an excellent beer for a first in bottle! (Will be seeking it out on draught on The Road To Wigan Beer tomorrow!)

Next up? The Road To Wigan Beer – Pt 3 (for me) – The pub crawl by bus! Tomorrow!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 2

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

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

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

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

Yes I am, oh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Now THAT’S what I call Amber!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

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

A Two City Stroll 2 – 29/12/2012

Christmas 2012.

Family meal.

In a pub with 5 handpumps.

The beer was dire.

I drank tea! I stuck to my guns and steadfastly refused to drink the likes of Greene King IPA.

Does that make me a beer snob? Do I care? (You know the answers!)

So. On the final Saturday of 2012, I felt justified in seeking the welcoming warmth of hostelries with handpumps. And good beer. Having met Jeff for the first time in many a year a couple of months back, (and discovering a mutual love of quality beer)  there was an outing planned for Manchester. A quick check of my diary revealed a family do that afternoon. Having negotiated my exit strategy with my beloved Atilla, it was game on. So on this particular Saturday evening, I find myself on a bus, Manchester bound reading a text calling off the meet.

What’s a thirsty boy to do? A quick call to my good friend (and frequent drinking companion) Mr Jaz and I find myself exiting the bus a couple of stops early and entering…..

The Salford Arms

(Image courtesy of http://www.fancyapint.com)

Walking up to the bar, there was only one pump occupied with a clip. However, a quick smile from Tom and he declaimed that he was busy putting two more ales on! So, joining the 4Ts Brewery Magnc pale ale was, firstly, Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack Brewery. One of those for myself and a 4Ts for Mr Jaz secured, I settled down in a comfy leather chair and awaited my partner in crime.

As per our last visit, Tom had said that the nice fellow at Black Jack was reformulating the beer to make it vegan. This had now been accomplished. I hadn’t had the ‘house ale’ previously and was really looking forward to it, so much so, that I didn’t wait to see what the second new ale going on was!

As I started to sip the Salford Arms ale, Jaz walked in. (I had had a sneaky sip of the the 4Ts Magnc whilst waiting and it was a lovely pale beer with some complex hopping, spicy with some citrus but with a smooth malt base. A very nice beer which I will try again). The Salford Arms ale was superb. Pale as Kate Moss but with more body, it was lovely hoppy brew at 4.3% abv, nice juicy malt in there but the right side of hoppy and bitter. If I am going to drink pale beers, this is how I like them! Another excellent beer by Black Jack!

Now. The plan was to have one and then move on. But, as you know, plans do indeed have a habit of changing. This one changed when Tom brought over a sample of the other beer that went on at the same time as the ‘house ale’. The beer was brewed by a recent addition to the Manchester brewing brotherhood Privateer. A quick sip showed that this was a beer that demanded  further exploration. The beer was called Dark Revenge, was 4.5% abv and was appetisingly black! A lovely aroma combining chocolate and some coffee notes, the flavour was of a nice smooth dark roasted stout with a flavour that I got as subtly chocolate. Jaz detected more coffee than I did, but hey! I wasn’t complaining. This was my first beer from Privateer and with flavour as good as this, it won’t be my last! An excellent pint. The pub was reasonably busy in this Xmas / New Year interlude and deservedly so. Tom has got the beer turning over really well and seems to feature local micros in the main (all 3 last night were local). An excellent pub.

I could have drunk the Privateer all night, but, as you know, a stroll is a stroll. So, we headed off toward……

The New Oxford

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Slightly damp stroll from The Salford, the front of the New Oxford was quite busy so we opted for the back room and a little rugby union (Munster v Ulster, as you’re asking!). Not before choosing a pint of Axholme Chocolate Stout at 4.9% abv. Another new brewery for me. This one from North Lincolnshire. Settling down in the back room, this beer was intially thin in texture but the mouthfeel improved as I drained the glass. A lovely smooth chocolate flavour followed with the lovely roasted malt. A nice first pint from this brewery (an interesting website too – http://www.axholmebrewing.co.uk)

The night was enlivened at this point by a group of West Brom fans sat next to us. Beer lovers too. Passionately bemoaning the biased coverage on TV which only showed Man U and swearing that they were camped in opposition territory all second half. We had a chuckle indeed. We chatted about The Post Office Vaults (near New St Station in Birmingham centre) and they extolled the virtues of The Black Eagle in Hockley (now stored in the memory bank!) Nice blokes. We move on….(a substantial stroll) to….

Cask

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Really busy in here. It was that busy and loud with conversation, that I could barely hear Manchesters’ greatest pub jukebox! Jaz had an Abbeydale whilst I latched onto the North Star Porter from Facers. I’ve drunk more Facers recently than I ever drank when they were located in Salford! The North Star has a nice roasted nose and a nice texture (not too thin at 4% abv) dark roasted coffee flavours and a touch of sweet chocolate. Excellent friendly bar staff again. Now at this point I got a phone call from Rob (see Castlefield Area Stroll) who was also looking for a pint having been at the same function as me earlier. The Facers Porter was a nice pint, but the were other pastures to graze upon. Next stop…….

The Knott

Pleasantly not quite as rammed as Cask, but busy enough, there were a couple of beers that caught my eye here, both at the higher end of the price range, but worth it. I left the Redwillow Shameless to have as a second pint in here and plumped for Thornbridge McConnells. 5% abv and £3.80 a pint, this was a lovely looking dark brown to black beer with a nice caramac (new colour!) coloured head. A little sweetness in the aroma led to a nice creamy stout. A lot of subtlety in here with no particularly dominant flavour. A touch of vanilla, some lovely smooth almost caramel chocolate roasted flavour from the malt. Just an excellent understated pint. I’m beginning to appreciate again that flavour doesn’t have to be an assault to be good. During this pint, Rob joined in the fun and after a quick update on the function fun, he too settled down to enjoying a pint of McConnells – I’m starting to think he’s gradually shifting to the Dark Side!

The only slight disappointment came next. I was REALLY looking forward to a pint of Redwillow Shameless, the 5.9% abv Double Pale Ale. Unfortunately, as I’m draining the last of the Thornbridge, it ran out! Damn! Ah well, another pint of McConnells all round could barely be described as a hardship now, could it? Anyhow, after this dark interlude, I was in the mood for a final pint of dark pleasure (and we needed to head toward the bus station of course…) so, in the steady drizzle (and Rob without a jacket….!) we mosied on down to….

Paramount

Anybody who knows me, knows what happens when we get here! There was a large selection of Xmassy type beers with typically Xmassy type ‘humourous’ names like Rogered Rudolf and the like. Maybe I’m a bit of an Eberneezer about such things. Just give me a beer name that gives me a hint as to the flavour and I’m content!

Anywho, I’m a simple soul, with simple tastes. So, having the merest sniff of the JW Lees Plum Porter (which Rob pronounced as full of plum flavour), the cry went up “Paramount Porter Please“. 6.5% and (at this stage of the evening) with a texture that felt like black Angel Delight, this was my sleeping draught of choice! Glorious with some roasted cocoa bean action going on, there was a lop-sided smile on my face! As usual, quite busy in here and deservedly so.

Finishing the pint, we headed in the drizzle for Piccadilly and my personal homing pigeon, the 37 bus – this time with Rob for company (with the Kebab lust in his heart!)

Until Next Time. And a Happy New Year to one and all!

Slainte!

(Next Stroll – Historic Manc Boozers – suggestions please!)