4 Beer Festivals In One Day (inc Manchester Beer & Cider Festival Pt 2) – 22/01/2015

“Too many Florence Nightingales, not enough Robin Hoods
Too many halos not enough heroes, coming up with the goods.

So you though you’d like to change the world, decided to stage a jumble sale,
For the poor, for the poor.

It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean, try shaking a box in front of the Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams……..”

(“Flag Day” – The Housemartins)

 I think that it would have been in 1986. I was sat in the office in the arse end of Trafford Park, when word reached me that if you called the right number (I think it was the magazine City Life) you could get free tickets for a special performance by The Housemartins at a place called City Lites in Farnworth. There were 10 pairs available. I rang on the dot of 9am and snaffled 2, so me and my mate Nige ended up in a town I’d never yet visited. And a town I’d end up living in for the last 25 years!

The performance was for a TV programme which I have recently found out was called “Hold Tight” on Granada TV. The band were superb. It was a short performance, but managed to cram in a No 1 & No 2 single in “Caravan of Love” and “Happy Hour”. My memories are hazy other than 2 things. Firstly, the band finished by breaking up Hugh Whittaker’s drum kit. Secondly, Paul Heaton declaiming that “We fucking hate Tories!” Some things resonate!

Whilst preparing for this blog piece, I was looking for a vid for “Flag Day”, yet stumbled upon the Granada TV programme that the concert was recorded for! The link is here. A reminder of what a great band The Housemartins were and still sound like. “The 4th best band in Hull” indeed! (The other 3 were Red Guitars, Everything But The Girl & The Gargoyles – apparently!)

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Four Beer Festivals in One Day. Some things just have to be done, don’t you think? Obviously I do. But then again, I’m both stupid and easily led. Or so I thought when travelling to work at a preposterously early hour, in order to finish in time to start this malt & hop marathon! So, I yawned my way onto First Buses finest chariot….

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The New Oxford, Bexley Square, Salford

Tim (mein host) doesn’t really need to host beer festivals. The selection of 16 (or is it more?) handpulls is like the Elysian Fields for local cask ale devotees and Tim has a positive talent for pulling rare and unseen beers like rabbits out of the proverbial titfer. But hold a Beer Festival he does. And does it well. My advice if you fancy an evening beer here, get in early. It can get rightfully busy!

As I entered before midday, I could hear the voices of tickers picking off the beers that they were going to try. Me? Am I a ticker? I suppose so, but only in so far as it stretches to trying new beers from Northern breweries. You should know what I’m like by now!

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The first beer of the day was South Island Pale from the mighty Allgates of Wigan. Ultra pale and bursting with tropical fruit sharpness. Allgates just make excellent drinkable beers. Drinkability is vastly underrated as a characteristic.

Next up was Gold Top Milk Stout from Rebel Brewery of Penryn in Cornwall. Roasted coffee with a lactose and vanilla sweetness. Lots of cocoa/chocolate too. Sweet tooth, consider yourself sated!

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With the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff now in attendance and with thirsts slaked, time for walkies!

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I have absolutely NO idea as to how I let them persuade me to walk! But by the time we got there, a thirst had indeed been generated. I let the A-N sort out the beer choice whilst I sorted out my hunger pangs at Panchos with a large Burrito! ALL long days should start with a Panchos!

The Micro Bar, Manchester Arndale Market

In here I had a Pikes Peak by Elland from West Yorkshire. Yes, they of the mighty 1872 Porter. The Pikes was a beautifully pale golden beer bursting with zesty citrus and possessed of a bracing bitter finish.

Micro Bar is one of Manchester’s unregarded gems in my opinion. There’s always an interesting guest or two courtesy of Boggart’s own distribution setup, the staff are friendly and there is a cracking bottle selection for takeaways. All that and you can eat your burrito there too. Bonus!

We move on….

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The Crown & Kettle, Oldham Road, Manchester To what I now consider my favourite pub in Manchester. For me, it has it all. Beauty, increasingly great beer selection and (at £2.95 a pint for cask), great value.

To be fair, when I see a Rat on the bar, I’m gonna bite. Always. This Huddersfield emporium knows how to knock out a damned good beer on their kit. The collaboration with the Pied Bull brewpub in Chester was absolutely no exception. Pied Rat was a big bruiser of an IPA. Amber with a creamy textured white head and barrow loads of citrus leaping from the glass. Chewy malt and massive hoppage. Even at 5.5% I had to have a second pint. Wise? Possibly not, but it tasted fantastic!

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Now, as you may have gathered over the last year or so, I’m a bit of a music nerd. So to hear an entire album and a bit from one of my favourite bands – the immense Beirut – I was beyond joy. Transcendent. Rounded off an excellent start to the day. The C&K is a belting pub, more than worth your cash.

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(Another Beer Festival? If you insist!)

This was where I finished off my “Dance Card Dozen” as listed here. On the previous day I had pretty much been rooted to the ground floor whilst my jaw ached from the talking to some seriously good beer people. But this day was for the beer! First up was a visit to the Concourse for a treble from Offbeat & Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing.

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Disfunctional Functional IPA from Offbeat came first. Refreshing, with punchy fruity hops. An excellent beer, as I have come to expect from this Crewe brewery. Great beer brewed by a chick indeed!

Psychedelic – Hebden Bridge Brewing – I only had a taste of this at ISBF and before I knew it, it ran out! I couldn’t miss it, could I? Being conditioned over a market stall full of citrus fruit, it was every bit as fruity as I remembered and had a damn nice dry hoppy finish too. A cracking beer (hope to have them back with something ace for ISBF2015!)

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Then the collab between the two (in Hebden Bridge’s Bridestones guise). The wackily named “Sprocket Wort Orange”. An unusual mouthful to say the least, but a damned enjoyable one to be fair. Chocolate and orange with a little hoppy nip. No surprise to me, I like both Offbeat AND Bridestones.

Next up was a beer high on my list. Being a smoked porter, from Rat Brewery. Workhouse Rat was everything it was meant to be. Dark and smoky, a little starting sweetness and lovely coffee/chocolate flavbours. Nice hop finish. Accomplished, from a brewery that I see too few darks from. (Try the Ratsputin IRS if you see it – it’s a belter of an Impy)

Then. A walk. For a foreign beer. Well, it WAS from a bit South of Crewe! Fang Pale Ale from Black Flag. I holidayed in Perranporth in Cornwall this year in the tail end of a hurricane. This beer in bottle made that seem a small price to pay. In cask it was even better. Really zingy with more than a hint of lime with the mango. A fruity cracker from a small craft operator that if I knew how close they were to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

I was gutted to miss just one of the beers on my list. Being from Jamie Hancock and his Five Oh Brew Co, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, as it was only the second casking he’d done (no prizes for guessing where the first one was served!). This was a slight tweak on the Sorachi Ace Stout he did for us (doh!). As I said, gutted.

However, that left a gap. Which was filled with one of those beers that rocked my head back. A #Beergasm indeed. This was the Stocky Stout from Richard Conway’s Thirst Class Ale. The first mouthful prompted a “BLOODY HELL IS THIS GOOD!” Creamy, bitter and beautifully roasty, a proper winter beer without the need for you to fall over. 5.2% abv of roasted perfection. It’s that good, that I’m going to Ashton to pick up a couple of bottles tomorrow from Browtons!

I really enjoyed this festival. I could have spent 4 days there and STILL not had all the beers that I wanted. The only thing I would say (and it’s assuredly NOT a criticism) is that I was (as Atilla would say) “over faced”. There was so much good beer that I struggled to decide on occasion. Hey ho! If only ALL beer festivals had that problem eh?

Over the two days, Beer of the Festival for me was the Stocky Stout – with the Imperial Buckwheat Stout by Quantum a close second. Bring on the bottles of both!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!

Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2015 – My “Dance Card” Dozen

Next week is the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 – Are you going? If it’s anything like last year, it’s going to be special!

The Velodrome is a simply iconic venue, allied to great beers. LOTS OF GREAT BEERS! An almost overwhelming choice with beers from all over the UK and a huge selection of quality beers just from the North for little old me to amuse myself with!

From nearly 450 casks alone (Not to mention Ciders and the “foreign” beer bar), picking my personal “Dance Card” is going to be really difficult, but I’m going to give it a shot. Here goes…..

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Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum (Stockport) – 8.5% abvImperial Stout. At 8.5% abv, this is going to be a gentle waltz rather than a furious Can Can, but I just have to try it. A dark as sin Imperial Stout with all of the creamyness of Buckwheat. Fermented using Boddingtons yeast and inoculated with Brettanomyces, this is a beer I have looked forward to since we finished stirring the mash. A mash that was even THICKER than Katie Hopkins! This will be the first time that it is served in public. I can’t wait!

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Coconut, Macadamia & Lime PorterAllgates (Wigan) 4.6% abvPorter – One of Allgates “Limited Edition” beers that I’m yet to try on cask and inspired by a cake enjoyed in a Kirkby Lonsdale tea shop! I had a mini-cask of this at Xmas and it was beautiful , smooth & nutty from the toasted coconut and creamy macadamia. The lime element is very subtle and provides a tint of lightness in the dark.

Mallinsons

Experimental CitranellMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – For me, Mallinsons just nail low to mid strength Pale Ales. In this regard they have few equals. With Exp 366, Citra & Centennial hops, this already has my mouth watering!

 

PsychedelicHebden Bridge (Er…Hebden Bridge!) – 5% abvPale Ale – An American style Pale ale just LOADED with 5 Citrus fruits. AND, because it was the first firkin to sell out at ISBF and I didn’t get NEARLY enough of it! It got rave reviews at St Sebastians, so I’m hugely looking forward to this!

Five Oh

Sorachi WickedFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – The first beer to sell out at ISBF and another one that garnered rave reviews. I tried a 1/3rd. It was bloody LUSH!!!! Then, just when I wanted another? It had gone. I was just TOO damned kind to you drinkers! Only the second time that Jamie has casked. You NEED this in your life!

North Riding

JesterNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – Stuart Neilson just makes superb Pale Ales. Fresh and bursting with hops. This is with a new hop variety (Jester) and – if I know Stuart – he won’t have held back on the quantities! A rare appearance over here.

Bridestones

Sprocket Wort OrangeBridestones (Hebden Bridge) / Offbeat (Crewe) – 4.6% abvSpecial Dark Ale – This one is one of the collaboration brews especially for the festival. Chocolate, Orange, Juniper & Sorachi Ace hops? Oh my! I feel another Beergasm coming on!

Cheshire Brewhouse

Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4% abvPale Ale – A crisp blonde ale from Shane Swindells with loads of late-added Keyworth Early hops? Sounds like an early doors beer that is too good to miss, from a brewery whose beers I drink whenever I find them. Because they are THAT good.

Brass Castle

AnnexationBrass Castle (Malton, North Yorks) – 8.4% abvImperial Stout – Inspired by the renewed expansionism of Putin, this looks one NOT to miss! “Smooth like the Volga and as bonkers as Putin”….Works for me! Brass Castle made one of the Beers of the Festival at ISBF and this is another I’ll be reaching for.

Black Flag

FangBlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 4.5% abvPale Ale – Had this in bottle whilst in Cornwall in August and it is an absolute fruity belter. Smooth with a piney kick in the finish. Have never seen them up here. If it’s on, I’ll be damned if I miss this!

Offbeat

Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat (Crewe) – 4.8%IPA – This San Diego inspired IPA is one I’m yet to have from one of my favourite breweries. And from what I’ve heard from some trusted drinkers, is not to be missed. And it won’t be. By me at least!!!

Rat

Workhouse RatRat (Huddersfield) – 4.8% – Smoked Porter – Whenever I see a Rat, I just have to. Because they are just SUCH good beers.

Well, I make that a round Dirty Dozen. Should be enough to keep me entertained next week! If there are any that you particularly fancy, bang it in the comments. Who knows, I might try one or two!

Cornish Bottled Beers – August 2014

“Oh, God of Progress, have you degraded or forgot us?
Where have your laws gone? I think about it now

Ancient hieroglyphic or the South Pacific
Typically terrific, busy and prolific
Classical devotion, architect promotion
Lacking in emotion, think about it now

Chicago, the New Age, but what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?
Oh, Columbia
Amusement or treasure, these optimistic pleasures
Like the Ferris wheel.”

(“Come On Feel The Illinoise” – Sufjan Stevens)

(Clip courtesy of Sufjan Stevens on YouTube)

If I was pushed to name my favourite song/track, this would be it.

With the release of his album “Michigan”, Sufjan Stevens announced a “50 States Project”. That was, to record an album themed to each of the 50 states of the US. 50 albums. Think about it. Given how prolific Stevens was at that point, the music press took him seriously. “Illinois” (from which the above track – with its nod to Slade – is taken) was supposed to be the second in the series….until he revealed that it was all a marketing gimmick and he had no intention…..

The above paragraph is meant to highlight the sheer ambition of Stevens’ music. This damned track is so multi-layered, so huge, so sprawling, so bloody BUSY! Few could get away with it. Sufjan Stevens can though. And speaking of getting away with stuff, few could make a song about one of (if not THE) most prolific mass murderers in US history –  John Wayne Gacy – sound like a thing of sad beauty.

Some of the tracks are little but snippets, but this is simply a HUGE album. 21 tracks from “UFO Sighting” through to “Jacksonville”, the banjo plucking “Decatur”, the lovely “Chicago”. A hugely underrated and chronically overlooked album.

And, as I said, my favourite track.

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(Baner Peran – St Piran’s Flag)

When in Rome…..

Back in August, I went on holiday for a week to Perranporth in the beautiful county of Kernow (Cornwall, for those not in contact with their inner Celt!). Now Perranporth isn’t exactly overburdened with great drinking holes, so I spent most of my time in a caravan….on top of a cliff…..at the tail end of a hurricane influenced weather system. Not ideal. However, to brighten things up, a colleague – who isn’t a beer nerd – mentioned an off-licence in the village as being worth a shuftie.

So, one morning, I went for a short walk. Which turned into a 5 mile round trip! When I got there, the place had had a window shattered and was being attended to by Devon & Cornwall’s finest. A false start.

The Haven site bar I was at was all Skinners. Dispiriting. So I jumped in the jalopy (lesson learned!) and popped down to that “offie”. Called “The Corkscrew”, the name was suitably descriptive in that it majored on wines. However, the beer selection was ace! All local. Yes, of course, there was St Austell & Skinners – not to mention Sharps, but there were a few Micros in there too, so……

 A few days later, we went to Truro, where I was lucky to stumble across a specialist beer shop named The Beer Cellar…..A place loaded with great craft beer….I could have gone daft…but instead restricted myself to some Cornish Micros…as I said “When in Rome”. So here’s my best 6….Don’t ask for prices……I can’t remember…I was too busy trying to keep that caravan on the ground in a Force 12!!!!

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1. White Cross IPABlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 5.7% abv – IPA – £1.95 (330ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

If I’d have known that these guys were SO CLOSE to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

Golden beer, decent fluffy white head and a beautiful citrus aroma with lots of Mango and a little peach in there too.

Full-bodied and really smooth on the tongue this packs a good tropical fruit punch with the mango, peach and a little kiwi in there too. This leads into a nice bitterness without being overpowering.

That fruitiness intensified with each sip, the bitterness leading to a quite punchy resinous pine hit in the aftertaste that lingers until the next fruity mouthful. A little belter this. A proper IPA.

IMAG19462. Pale AleHarbour Brewing Co (Trekillick, N Cornwall) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.35 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

I love the classy labelling of Harbour beers. Clean lines, bold, upfront, but so classy.

I also like the bold citrus aromas banging out of this deep golden beer! Lots of orange and fruity mango leaping from the white head!

Smooth as the proverbial bottom, this full-bodied beer slides into the mouth with some bitter orange marmalade muscle on a big digestive biscuit malt skeleton, this is simply a lovely beer.

There is a quite gentle bitterness to this that slouches to one side and allows the hoppy resins to rise to the occasion in a grassy /piney hop aftertaste. A seriously nice beer, picked up at a ludicrous price at a shop recommended by a work colleague.

An unusual one as well, in that Harbour’s Pale Ale is stronger than their IPA! Both lovely beers.

IMAG1947 (1)3. An HowlPenpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 5.6% abv – Strong Golden Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

With it’s translation from Celtic meaning “The Sun”, this is a crystal clear deep golden ale with an abundant white foamy head and a spicy nose full of orange peel, marmalade, with a touch of melon in there somewhere. In the mouth? Wow! All of the above and more!

Big and bold orange marmalade fruity mouthful. Full bodied with a nice smooth texture, almost creamy feeling strangely, a big bready malty feel in this, yet quite light and is well-balanced by that fruity hoppy character!

This has a lovely deep fruity flavour and it makes my mouth all tingly. Considering the bold fruity hoppy flavours, the bitterness isn’t as big as I’d expect, making this feel even smoother. The finish is slightly sweet, yet with a gentle pithy bitterness followed by a lovely grassy hop aftertaste.

An absolute cracker!

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4. 1913 StoutSt Austell Brewery (St Austell, Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – Stout – £2.50 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

I haven’t drunk any St Austell beers for years (aside from the excellent Korev lager). Tribute isn’t my personal cup of Darjeeling and you don’t get much else up here. I didn’t even know that they did a dark beer, so I leapt on this like a vampire on a blood bag! Well. you know what I’m like with Stouts and Porters!

Black. Very black. Always a good sign with a Stout! Thin creamy tan head with a gentle, chocolate aroma with a light smoky edge.

Full-bodied and quite creamy textured, beautiful Roasted Barley bitterness as the beer hits the tongue, a touch of sweetness followed with a light waft of smokiness.

Next mouthful a chocolate character, slightly bitter develops following the roast & smoke. Beautifully smooth and creamy, the beer finishes sweet, with a chocolate and slightly herbal grassy hop aftertaste. A very pleasant surprise this.

IMAG20205. Double IPAFirebrand Brewing Co (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 7.5% abv – Double IPA –  £? (330ml) – Beer Cellar(Truro)

Deep golden verging on amber. Light white head and an aroma full of sticky citrus & tropical fruit, orange, peach, passion fruit…

Ooh… Full bodied as you would expect. Lightly carbonated leading to a really smooth feel in the mouth. The first taste I get is something really tropical, passion fruit I think, this is followed by quite a big bitterness and then sticky pine. All really smooth.

Second sip reinforced the first, but a little mango and more peachy presence. All the while finished off with that bitterness and dry sticky piney stuff. A Big beer. First beer from this brewer for me. Don’t drink that many DIPAs,  but this is very nice indeed!

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6. 1830 IPA (Historic IPA) – Penpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 6.5% abv – IPA – £? – Beer Cellar(Truro)

Pouring a slightly hazy deep golden colour, this has a clinging creamy textured white head and aromas of woodland fruits like plum and a spicy note to the nose.

Oh but this is lovely! Full of autumnal fruitiness, this is a full-bodied mouthful with the initial Malteser like sweetness immediately countered with spicy hopping, a lot of spicy hopping. Leaving your mouth coated in oaky, fruity splendour. The longer I do this stuff, the more I learn to enjoy these big English hopped IPAs and this is a belter. But off to Cornwall if you want it people!

Well. That’s it. I suppose I’ve learned one thing whilst I was in Perranporth. There’s an awful lot of good stuff being brewed in that there Cornwall, a lot of good stuff indeed.

Now, for those of you that don’t know (and I didn’t, until I finished this post!). Firebrand, Penpont & Beer Cellar are all owned/run by the same people. So, whilst I note that Eebria were certainly stocking Black Flag and Firebrand beers until recently, your best shot at getting some of these beers is through Beer CellarGive it a go. You know you want to!

On that solicitous note….’til next time….

Slainte!