Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 3

“It’s a freak out, nothing’s familiar, nothing seems to fit in the scheme of things.

Seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-one’s ever certain what tomorrow brings,

So don’t fall my friend, all nightmares have to end.”

(“Don’t Fall” – The Chameleons)

(Courtesy of You Tube user “HeadfulOfHollow”)

Whilst my musical awakening encompassed the Motown and Rod Stewart of my big sister with the Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath of my eldest and Bowie/Lou Reed & Iggy of my elder brothers, the years when I really discovered the true power of music to inspire, came in the early 1980s. The first 3 concerts I went to were The Damned in October 1979, Joy Division in April 1980 and Crispy Ambulance in approx October 1980 and my first time in a pub – The Millstone on Thomas Street in Manchester.

Margaret Thatcher imprinted her hatred of the last true Working Class and her policies started to destroy the industrial heartland of my home area. Wittingly or no, it was against this backdrop that arguably one of the greatest Manchester bands of the 1980s sprung forth, The Chameleons. I think I still remember hearing “In Shreds” for the first time when my mate Dewey bought it as a 7″ single and was absolutely blown away by the power of both chords and words. Mark Burgess remains one of the greatest songwriters of that era for me and improved album upon album ending their run prior to breakup on a US Major label (Geffen) with the immaculate “Strange Times” in 1986 – Mad Jacks, Tears, Swamp Thing – frequently overlooked Manchester classics.

Yes, I know they originated in Middleton (see Wilson Potter below), but whilst they may never have achieved the mythic status of Joy Division, or the mega sales of New Order or even the hipster cred of A Certain Ratio, they were – for me – one of the greatest Manchester bands. Great songs and powerful tunes.

Right then, I hope you forgive my reminiscing waffle as we get down to business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is 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, 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. Don’t FallWilson Potter  (Middleton, N. Manchester)- 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

See above for the inspiration for the name of this beer!

Ultra pale gold this, a white fluffy head with a gloriously sharp fragrance of lemon peel and pith, really zingy. This lemony tip carries on into the mouth where it had a surprisingly full body for such a pale lowish abv beer. Wow this is sharp! The lemon is mellowed off a touch with something a little milder like tangerine or mandarin whilst losing none of its dry bite. Good bitterness to this with a really dry resinous finish with a little bitter lemon in the aftertaste. I though that In Shreds had it, but another Chameleon beer takes the Middleton Crown. An absolute belting session beer. Must have this on draught! (Now to suggest a collab brew with me, Amanda, Kathryn and Mark Burgess! Maybe a wheat beer….Swamp Thing anyone?)

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2. India Pale AleSquawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

After posting a review of one of the Five Oh Brew Co beers and commenting that they were Manchester’s most recent brewer, the inestimably knowledgable and well-connected John Clarke corrected me by mentioning Squawk, I was hoping to catch Oliver at the Manchester Beer Fest for a chat, but you know how things get when the beer starts to flow……

An amber coloured beer with a small white head and a lovely fruity aroma with some bitter Seville orange. Ooh, this tastes big. A big digestive biccy malt base holding up some lovely sticky citrus hops with marmalade being the first thing that comes to mind. A full-bodied beer and really well-balanced with a nice bitterness in the dry finish and some resinous stuff in with a light orangey marmalade aftertaste. A really nice first beer from this brand new brewery! And, lucky me, I have a Porter lurking in my stash……!

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3. Hello Spaceboy – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.34  – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

As with a lot of the adventurous small breweries around at this time, Five Towns seem to brew a lot of “one offs” just like this Bowie themed beer. Next time, I’ll try to drink / write them up quicker, so you lot can also taste just how damned good these beers are!

Very pale straw coloured beer, white head and a big grapefruit and lemon aroma, nice and sharp and nose twistingly tart. Light bodied with just sharp sharp hoppage! Ooh is it tart! Really light, sharp light biscuit like an arrowroot or rich tea balancing this sharp grapefruit and bitter lemon hop attack. Nice and bitter with a fabulous resinous aftertaste with more than a trace of that lemon bitterness. Another light cracker from this increasingly excellent Wakefield brewer! More please!

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4. Citra Noir –  Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Black Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

What’s this? Me, champion of all things pale and single hoppy like, from Mallinsons, slurping on a dark ‘un! The world has gone all upside down! To be honest, whilst I was chuffed to bits at the Manchester Beer Fest to get some of Mallinsons Amarillo (a pint, natch!) on cask, I just missed out on the intriguing Citra Noir. So, when I noticed that Raj had some in, I latched onto it like a vampire on a blood bag!

Black ale, cream tan head with a mingled coffee and fruity aroma. OOH. The coffee is a 3 on the strength scale in the mouth, really smooth in this medium-bodied ale. Then a gentle tart citrus quality comes in. A black beer should simply NOT be as refreshing as this! Some ground coffee bitterness in this along with the fruit in the finish and the herbal hoppy resinous stuff in the aftertaste. Yum! Fruity, Coffee and resinous hops. What’s not to like? This is my idea of a sessionable baby Black IPA, can we have a cask in Manchester please ladies? Pretty please???

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5. Lupy As A Toucan – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.8% abv – Pacific Pale Ale (my description!) – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy & Motueka hopped amber coloured beer with an abundant white fluffy head and a tremendously fruity sweet aroma, with peach, pear and pineapple all mingled in. Ooh, big biscuity bready malt with a little sweetness added to the sweet fruity hopping with pineapple a little peach and something that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Then, after a humourous Tweet series with Ade from Saltaire Brewery, Shane and the legend that is Phil Hardy, I got it. Alcoholic Um Bongo! Remember that? “Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in The Congo”? Quite apt really as Congleton is known locally as The Congo!

The finish is nice and dry without being mouth puckeringly so with a lightly peppery herby finish reminiscent of Rocket (Salad AND Um Bongo? I’m really looking after you lot!) Dangerously drinkable for the strength.

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6. BAM! –  Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.0% abv – Belgian/Pale Ale hybrid – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

With a couple of new beers from this SW postcode brewer in his locker, Damian chucked a couple of samples my way to get my thoughts. I’d happily pay the price above for this! Can I pay it much more of a compliment? To be Frank (I never did like my REAL forename!), I’ve liked each of the beers from Rocky Head that I’ve tried, so…here goes this one!

Golden with a white head and a fruity and lightly spicy aroma that makes my nose twitch! The fruitiness being something akin to a cross between grape and pineapple with something like the funk of a Duvel. Full-bodied, this has something of the best of both worlds, that slight yeasty banana quality of a Belgian with the dryness and slight resinous quality of New World hops, maybe even a hint of rhubarb! Lightly sweet, dry (Very much so in the finish) some boiled sweet in there too. Another good beer from this increasingly impressive London brewery.

Well. That’s another 6 done and a fresh order in for a vat of Andrews Liver Salts! One or two exciting things that I hope come off in the pipeline for the next month or so including a visit to Great Ale Year Round tomorrow for an MTB with my nearest brewer (if I keep saying that, what are the chances of a bacon butty one morning in Radcliffe?)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

The Birth Of A Beer – Allgates Brewery 08/06/2013

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Sometimes, life is indeed full of surprises.

A few weeks back, I blundered into a Twitter conversation between Tandleman, Tyson the Beerhound, Jay Krause (Quantum Brewing) and David Mayhall from Allgates Brewery. During this conversation, a “collaboration brew” was mooted. I, being a bit of a cheeky scamp, asked if I could tag along. I even volunteered to be the ‘teaboy’. Surprisingly, David invited me in. Shocked and excited in equal measure, I tapped in “08/06/2013 – Allgates” into my calendar.

In case you haven’t been reading this blog recently, I like Allgates beers. A lot. Clean, crisp and (mostly) hop forward they inhabit the space between 3 – 5% abv and are really refreshing, dark or pale. I was introduced to them by my arch-nemesis Jaz (who else) who himself is a fan. He’s rarely wrong in his beer tastes! They have a small (yet perfectly formed) tied estate within the Wigan area and each pub has its own character. They also have a superb selection of guest beers in their pubs. Worth a visit in other words!

Anyhow, with a start time of 09:00 agreed, I pulled away early from an evenings debauchery with the aforementioned Jaz, in order to get me some ugly sleep.

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My main worry (a bit late!) as I approached the brewery, was an utter absence of technical knowledge. Basically, my knowledge of hop properties could be detailed on the wing of a gnat.

Knocking at the door, I was let in by Jonathan, the head brewer. A busy man, he brought me upstairs where, chatting merrily, were Tyson & Tandleman. Jay (unfortunately) had taken ill and couldn’t make it. David, the co-owner then arrived and we had a chat about how the day would go, from the grist (the malt/oats) to the hop selection and all things in between.

Jonathan suggested a grist comprising 175kg pale malt (Maris Otter), 10kgs each of roasted barley and chocolate malt, 25kgs of malted oats and 8kgs of torrified wheat (for head retention. That being agreed (I nodded dumbly!) we set off to the top of the world – or, at least, the brewery!

20130608_092525(More grist to Tandleman’s mill!)

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(That’s 228kg – right there!)

Having loaded the dry goods, we moved downstairs to the mash tun. The hot liquor (water – to lesser mortals, like me) was set at a ‘strike temperature’ of 73.6 C and as the water started to fill the tun, the grist was released. Now. I don’t know about you, but 228kg is a LOT of grist! It took quite a while to fall into the tun! There was a lot of (ahem) encouragement required for the chute to help the malt down.

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(Liquor & grist into the Mash Tun)

Whilst all the malted goodies were loading into the tun, a vigorous mashing was required to avoid any clumping of the malts – especially with the oats. This was done manually and we all had a go. Needless to say, Jonathan’s technique was far superior! (Tandleman was none too shabby though!)

20130608_094540(Now give it a reet good stir!)

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(Mmmm….My kind of porridge!)

With 535 litres of hot liquor in that mash tun, we had a mash temperature of just over 65C and it was getting steamy! Really enjoyed the manual mashing, but it was bloody hard work. They don’t just twiddle their thumbs, these brewers, oh no.

Then, with that done, another type of brew was required whilst due consideration was given to hop selection. After a bit of discussion (with zero input from yours truly!), Jonathan decided to go with Amarillo and Ahtanum for “first wort hopping”, Galena and Warrior for bitterness and more Amarillo and Ahtanum with additional Nelson Sauvin for aroma. A heady mix.

Prior to transfer to the copper and the addition of any hops, Jonathan poured off a little of the wort. Black, quite oaty and only slightly sweet. This was tasting promising!

20130608_111320(The wort – courtesy of The Arm of Tyson!)

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(FUN Time! The hop store!)

Once ready, Jonathan took a hydrometer reading to determine the Original Gravity of this “beer”. A slightly high 1051, this was “liquored back” (more hot liquor added) slightly to achieve the desired gravity of 1049 prior to transfer to the copper. Just prior to this, the mash was ‘sparged’ (water sprayed into the mash) to extract as much of the sugar as possible from the fermentable material.

20130608_110918(The sparge arm does its stuff)

The wort (not as sweet as I imagined) was transferred to the copper (where, in boiling, the hops release their goodness!) Once the wort was transferred, the first wort hops were added. A little bit of light work for yours truly. These were Amarillo and Ahtanum and 1/2 kg went in at this stage for smoothness of flavour.

20130608_112009(In go the first hops)

This initial addition is something that Allgates have been trying recently with excellent results. A little break for some light refreshment (thank you David!) and a nice couple of halves of Calico Deep and Ostara (I ADORE the Ostara and want her to have my babies!). During this, Jonathan added the first bittering hops, 1/2 kg each of Galena and Warrior (Galena being a particularly good hop with Stouts, I’m advised)

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(Jonathan The Alchemist – with his book of beery spells!)

With the wort now transferred to the copper, you start to appreciate why these brewers are so fit. Time for shovels! That there below, is 228kg of dry grist, soaked. And hot. That is about 2-3 feet deep and a hell of a lot of weight. It was shovelled from the mash tun into sacks which got winched downstairs for myself, Tandleman and Tyson to hump into drums outside. The spent grains get picked up by a (presumably VERY strong) farmer who uses it as feed for his animals – lucky devils!

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20130608_131548(Messy, heavy work!)

Each sack must have weighed at least 40kg + that’s nearly half a TON! David and Jonathan hooked up the sacks to the winch and we emptied them into the drums (probably the source of my sore shoulder this morning!!!)

At approximately 14:00 Jonathan added the final bittering hops (Warrior and Galena again) before, at 14:35, the final (aroma) hop addition of Nelson Sauvin, Ahtanum and Amarillo. Not long afterwards, we were ready to transfer to the Fermenting Vessel.

20130608_140023(Control panel. Boil Temp? 99.9C!)

20130608_150544(The Heat Exchanger)

The wort (now featuring some hoppy goodness) transfers to the FV via a clever piece of kit called the Heat Exchanger. The heat from the wort is partly removed (from 100C to 21C  and heats water in the opposite direction, headed to the Hot Liquor Tank. A very clever piece of energy-saving kit indeed!

20130608_153518(Party Time!)

The wort having been transferred into FV #1, it was time to let the yeast have a party! Tandleman had this pleasure. A quick wet with some wort (no, not Tandleman!) and in it went, the FV was closed and (with some cleaning up – kindly, David and Jonathan did this!) we were done. Back to the bar for an Ostara to cool down!

And the beer? It is going to be a hoppy Oatmeal Stout at around 4.9% abv. Lovely and dark with (no doubt) plenty of chocolate and oaty character. It is likely to be a one-off (although there could possibly be a second take at some point – there’s more oat malt!).

I’m quite excited to see how the Amarillo will work in a stout. It smelled superb in the brewery. Should be released in about 3-4 weeks. I’ll be having some (but then, Tandleman, Tyson and myself may know where some of it may be going!). Come release, I’ll let you all know!

I think I can speak for us all, this was a brilliant way to spend a Saturday. I learned loads. You do tend to when you’re actually involved, rather than listening to a tour guide. I even learned a little about hop properties! I’m a very lucky boy indeed and very grateful to David and Jonathan for their generosity and patience. We were fed, (definitely) watered and I had a fantastic time, which I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. (Try the Calico Deep – Dark – and the Ostara if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed!)

The generosity bit? Well, for one, I was invited. Second, lunch was superb, courtesy of David and his local Booths! Third (and a total surprise this) David is letting us have 3 firkins of the finished beer, 1 each for Tandleman, Tyson and myself to raise money for the chosen charity of each. Mine being St Anns Hospice in Little Hulton who gave fabulous care to Dad in his final days. A more than worthwhile cause. Thank you David for your generosity, hospitality and patience, Jonathan for your patience and skill and all 4 (inc Tandleman and Tyson) for taking this beer drinker to school!

It was great to meet Tandleman and Tyson. I had met the former at Wilson Potter brewery some months before (another brewery we both like), but didn’t get to chat much. We were both (ahem) ‘refreshed’ and I was just about to head to Manchester. A veritable mine of beery wisdom and a bloody nice bloke. I hadn’t met Tyson previously, but another beery good guy who, again, knows loads about beer. David and Jonathan were still quite busy, so we decided to get out of their hair and nip over to the Anvil for a wee one!

Excellent fruity pint of California followed by a pint of the gorgeous dark and smooth AllBlack mild. During the second, David and Jonathan called in, unaware we were there. I just sat back and listened to the guys chat. An absolute pleasure.

So, there you go. I can honestly say, that in about 4 weeks time, I will have taken an active part in the creation of something that I will see pouring from a handpump. From Grain To Glass. To me, it will feel really special. And trust me, this beer will TASTE special too. But of course, I’m biased. I worship the Dark Side!

Back to Wallgate station with Tyson & Tandleman and a walk up the hill.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!