MTB with Weird Beard @ Heaton Hops – 14/03/2016

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I kind of gave up on Meet The Brewer (MTB) events a few years back. They got to feel a bit like doing a “Brewery Tour”. I’ve been around a few Micro Breweries and to be honest, they start to blur into one. Once you’ve seen four or five, it gets to be ‘variations on a theme’. A bit samey.

It’s the personalities that make both worth doing. And Gregg Irwin – chief Spreadsheet Ninja, brewer, co-owner of Weird Beard Brew Co – is definitely one of those.

And (let’s get this out of the way NOW shall we?) I rather like the beers that these fellas brew down in West London. I always have. For all of my Northern Beer Fascism, I’ve had a soft spot for these beers since I was introduced to them by The Ale Man, YAY years ago.

Yes. Damian O’Shea. The same. Now thriving in his “Award Winning” bar. Heaton Hops. A bar that has wormed its way into my cold cold heart. By being astonishingly good. It’s simple really!

And I had an agenda….(maybe) more later….

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We had six beers to get through. 4 of them – given my curmudgeonly Northern tendencies – that I had never tried before.

Like I said, Gregg is certainly no wallflower. And there were a few choice epithets sprinkled throughout the evening, to be sure – given his visceral feelings about Mild, we’re unlikely to meet halfway on some. These made the evening all the more entertaining. I certainly shed a laughter tear or five!

Rather amazingly (or not – to some – given the “craft beer” boom) Weird Beard export their tasty wares to 21 countries, 10 of them on a regular basis. They’re even making inroad in that most vin sozzled of countries. France. Apparently, a real growing market for good beer.

So. Where were we? Ah….

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So Damian had persuaded Mr Beard himself to come and chinwag with us. And this was very much a two-way street. There was at least one vegan in the cosy audience, so we had a bit of to and fro on the usage of isinglass as an aid to clarity. We had Gregg’s story as to how Saison 14 (one of the beers tonight) acquired its name – a reference to a score it obtained in a Home Brewing contest – cue withering glare at YT (recent Home Brewing judge….)

The beers started to flow….and Gregg chatted briefly about the birth of each and how the hop bill and other parts of the recipes have changed – sometimes by design, sometimes due to availability of ingredients – over time. Things like how the body that they get into beers like “Little Things That Kill”. How the beers get named – mostly from songs “LTTK” (A track by Bush), “Fade To Black” (Metallica).

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Personally, I can’t wait to taste “Relight My Fire”…..

It is – to me – sad that WB only cask approximately 15% of their output. The joy I used to find in my occasional pint of Decadence Stout – one of the best I’ve ever had – was a rare thing. A truly lovely beer. I think that it is safe to say, that cask wouldn’t be Gregg’s preferred method of dispense. Putting it mildly…..(I just had to get “Mild” in one more time….)

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To my utter delight, Jimmy from Nasi Lemak had set up a mini “street kitchen” outside the bar, so we had some truly excellent grub appearing – at intervals – on the tables (Sweet Potato fries with spicy sauce went superbly with the Choc Mint Stout – “A World Without Dave”)

It would be easy to waffle on about the beer. Safe to say that it was uniformly superb. But, briefly, from “Little Things That Kill” (Light refreshing and hoppy), “A World Without Dave” (Choc, Mint, Lush and creamy), “Fade To Black” (Smooth, Citrussy, a little Coconut – the sole cask), Saison 14 (my personal favourite – surpisingly – Cream Soda smooth, Apricot & Tangerine)

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The final two beers were hastily consumed – as myself and my mentor “Pal” had to scarper sharpish for a train. They were “Sorachi Faceplant” a BIG (8.1%) IPA that was so juicy and dangerously drinkable and “Sadako” Imperial Stout, luscious, creamy, smooth and done absolutely no justice to by being wolfed down. Unlike the spicy chicken that Jimmy wheeled out….

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(Pic : Courtesy of @Deeekos)

This was an excellent evening. There are very few things that would encourage me to travel from Bolton over 20 miles on a school night. But Damian O’Shea, Heaton Hops & Gregg Irwin managed it.

Even if I WAS the butt of a few Irwin jokes…….

And no. With nights like this, Meet The Brewer events DON’T need “Reinventing”.

They just need good beer, good people (brewers, bloggers, beer & food lovers) and intelligent conversation. Oh. And a liberal sprinkling of beery expletives…

A joy of an evening.

 

Bottled Beers – July 2015 – Pt 3

With things just starting to get serious with regard to The Independent Salford Beer Festival, this blog will be entering a substantially quieter period soon, whilst I get on with arrangements for St. Sebastians in October (Tickets out in 5 days exactly!)

So, with one or two other posts in the pipeline, it might be time to give you a break from Beers Manchester…… But for now, while there are great bottles to drink, I’ll tell you about them in my waffling “prose”.

“Darkness, you are my priestess…..”

(A pint at ISBF from me for the first to give me that song & artist in the comments section below! No later than Midnight 27/07/2015)

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1. TobaTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6% abv – Oatmeal Stout – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Properly black beer. Cream head. Chocolate aroma with background coffee note. My kind of beer.

Nice and full creamy texture to this, my first bottle from this new Manchester brewer. Silky smooth and quite creamy, the first flavour to mind is a bitter chocolate, biting and dry. Then an earthiness that I can’t quite nail, but which, allied to a lovely dry bitterness works really well and makes this an excellent Stout. As I said, my kind of beer.

That earthy dryness remains in the finish where a coffee note comes through, again slightly bitter. Beautifully dry creamy lush Stout this.

And another brewer coming to a beer festival near you…..

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2. Sharks Against SurfersHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, St Wales) – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another ultra Pale Ale, all light golden hue and sharp lemony and grapefruit aromas leaping from its lacy white foamy collar.

This is really a surprise. I was expecting a brutal hop mouth battering. Yes it’s fruity, with apricot and orange jelly sweets on a light biscuity base. Really juicy, with that juicy fun chased off by a decent wallop of bitterness – full, but not brutal.

Nice piney finish mingled in with some lingering fruit in the aftertaste.

I would say that this medium to light bodied beer drinks quite lighter than its abv. This is a bloody good mid abv beer. And, for me, hugely sessionable.

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3. Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 8.5% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer time! – All words below are in no way influenced by the fact that I helped to brew this. OK, well….did some shovelling and stirring and shit. OK?

Black. Always a good start with an Impy. Totally black. Like tar. Dark brown collar of creamy foam and a spicy nose tingling aroma with licorice and red wine in the vanguard.

Oh yes indeed! This full-bodied beauty is lovely and unctuously creamy and rich. Vinous, with a rich nuttiness is the first sensation to hit the tongue, the next is as the beer first slips down, quite a bitter coffee taste. Such a mouthful of lovely darkness!

The finish is spicy, lingering hints of red wine, a touch of sour with more bitter espresso, luscious.

And even though I helped to brew it, there is no bias here. This is lush!

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4. Hare of DarknessMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – 7% abv – Black IPA – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Can’t make up my mind about this! Initial dark chocolate aroma on this black beer made me think of a Stout. But there is something more fruity and spicy on the aroma coming out of the thick cream coloured head which tells me it’s a Black IPA. Intriguing.

Full bodied and really creamy smooth. Oh this is SOOOOO good! Bitter chocolate allied to masses of tingling citrus and big hoppage. Oh yes. Bitter coffee too in the swallow and second mouthful. Really earthy. And again, just so smooth.

A little licorice note too. So good. Really dry and hoppy finish to this oxymoron, with a big resinous aftertaste. Great beer this.

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5. Pride & JoyVocation Brewery (Hebden Bridge) – 5.3% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Deep golden / Amber coloured beer with a light white lacey foam head and a huge aroma flying out full of mango, peach and orange zest. Full of promise!

Medium bodied, with decent carbonation, this is fruity Sod! The Mango is the heavyweight here, full and really juicy & tangy. Nectarine and peach too, a tropical fruit bowl of a beer this, delivering in spades on the promise of that aroma.

Really smooth texture to this making it feel quite sessionable. Dangerously so. The finish is really dry with big piney resins in the aftertaste providing a big finish.

Superb.

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6. Crafty RamRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom)- 4.6% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Great Ale Year (Bolton)

An American Pale Ale with fennel eh? Golden beer with a lasting soft white head and…  Oh yes…. There it is…. Fennel. That unmistakable light aniseed fragrance in the aroma.

Oh wow. This is really unusual, but REALLY good! The fennel – with its light anise note – is there, but merges with fruity hoppage and creates a new flavour, something akin to an orangey boiled sweet. Incredibly moreish and very tasty.

Medium bodied and really smooth, the second mouthful brings a touch of apricot to the party and leads to a fruity, mouth-watering finish with a spicy hoppy aftertaste. Lovely stuff. (And another coming to ISBF 2015 with a VERY special beer!)

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7. Three Hop HareFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Straw gold coloured Pale Ale with a light white head and a big citrus aroma full of grapefruit and lemon pith.

What. A. Tart. And. Sharp. Beer. This is full of tart citrus with the aforementioned grapefruit slightly trumped by the lemon. Really juicy and sharp. Gooseberry too. Nelson Sauvin perhaps? Really refreshing beer this, light and VERY sessionable…

This light to medium bodied cracker is dry in the finish, resinous and still sharp in the aftertaste.. Simply a superb Pale Ale. Another from the “Northern Magician”! Rapidly becoming my favourite brewery.

7 belters there! Next post may be about a shop I found in Newark this weekend and the local beers therein.

But, until then….

Slainte!

Bottled Beers – July 2015 – Pt 2

Drink Hebden Bridge

Last week, craving some Yorkshire beers, I dusted down my passport and checked that my inoculations were up to date.

Yes. I was going over the hill. I was crossing the border. I was going to Yorkshire!

I love Hebden Bridge. There is something about the place that just lifts the spirits, there is some beautiful walking to be had too, including one – to and through the village of Heptonstall – that, between my close friends and family, will be forever know as the “Heart Attack Walk”. I kid not.

My primary purpose last sunday though, was to pick up some beer from Five Towns that Malcolm had sorted for me and a couple that Bridestones Brewery (Owners of the aforementioned shop) wanted me to try. My secondary purpose was that, with me hosting the excellent Tuesday event “Craft Beer Hour” on Twitter in the guise of my Alter Ego – SalfordBeerFest – I needed more Yorkshire beer (The theme of the evening being – Breweries to be featured at the festival)

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(Hebden Bridge Arts Festival was in full swing)

The shop is larger than it looks from the frontage and goes back into two quite large rooms. Quite a few beers that are hard to get over here, including Five Towns, Vocation, Bridestones themselves and others, nicely displayed, both on the shelves and dotted around the shop. There are plans to develop the space to incorporate a Craft keg bar in the near future too, This will help to further the burgeoning impression that I have – which is that Hebden is turning into a place worthy of getting off the slow train to Leeds!

With Drink?, The Fox & Goose, Parcel Bar (at the Train Station) and Calan’s Bar (Opp St Pol’s Car Park), there are a number of spots worthy of a wander. I popped in Calan’s Bar (having bumped into Martin from Bridestones in a nearby Coffee Shop!) and had a superb pint of Mallinsons’ Nelson Sauvin in this smart Micro Pub which appears to be doing some great business (5 casks on the bar – all from Yorkshire Micros).

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In short – visit Hebden!

Bottles

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1. Wild Blackberry MildOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 3.8% abv – Mild – 500ml – Heaton Hops

It’s a MILD! Get over it!!! And it’s from one of my favourite brewers too!

Another beer from a recent trip to Damian O’Sheas excellent micro bar.

A barely detectable twinkle of ruby comes through this dark beer with a tan coloured head oozing with hedgerow fruit. Slightly tart.

Yes. As a  mild, this is light bodied. There is a gentle almost chocolaty roast malt character to this refreshing dark beer. This is gradually supplanted by a dark and juicy berry fruit. Really juicy too.

This is a beer I could drink all day. Really light, refreshing and just….. moreish! Milds are, by nature, lightly hopped, but there is a gentle leafy quality in the aftertaste which sits just right with the character of this beer.

Milds appear to be somewhat…. maligned in some quarters as devoid of flavour. As such, some appear to have dropped the word and saw sales soar. People need to get over their prejudices in that case and enjoy these “dark session ales” for what they are.

And this is a fine example.

I love Mild, that most underrated of refreshing drinks. The apparent prejudice around Mild by drinkers nowadays surprises and saddens me. I heard tale recently of one brewery who – upon renaming their Mild, by removing the very word itself from the branding – were experiencing n upswing in sales and demand for their “dark session ale”. It strikes me as sad that, to get drinkers to appreciate this fine beer, you need to lose the word Mild. But the branding change is right in a way, Mild IS a tasty “dark session ale”!

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2. May Day DIPAFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 8.4% abv – Double IPA – 750ml – Direct from the brewers

The “Arch-Nemesis Killer” from the EastWestFest in Wakefield!

Oh. My. God. This is the bottled version of my draught beer of the Year (so far). And. It. Does. Not. Disappoint.

Decanting a honey gold shade and with a smooth and fluffy white head with a citrus tropical cavalcade booming from the glass! Oh. My.

This is a big beer. It’s a DIPA for crying out loud! And this is a style which is sometimes hit & miss for me, but this is an utter bullseye. Big chewy and slightly sweet malt, a bit like a flapjack base on top of which these BIG hops dance like there’s no tomorrow!

That fruitiness. Big mango. Passion fruit. Nectarine. It’s all going on. With a big bracing bitterness punch in the finish. But, big as it is, you finish the mouthful and can’t wait for the next. It really is THAT good.

And guess who’s opening the hop store for a spacial beer for ISBF 2015?

This man makes superb beer. This is one of his best and makes choosing the best bottle this year rather difficult!

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3. On’t RivetBridestones Brewing (Hebden Bridge) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Direct from the brewers.

The above statement serves as a disclaimer! Picked this up from Martin from the brewery at their excellent little shop – soon to be tap-room “Drink” in Hebden Bridge.

A lustrous golden hue with good carbonation giving a good thick white head and a beautiful citrus aroma with orange fruits uppermost – and a light floral note too.

Yup. Yum. Ooh….. Really smooth medium bodied beer with lovely orange and mandarin up front and centre. Really fruity.  And then… Bam! A really bracing bitterness his you all over the mouth. Quite a  pleasant surprise!

But that bitterness! Oof! This is another fruity belter which also happens to slide down all too nicely, leading to quite a herbal resinous sticky finish.

The first “9” to sell out at ISBF was by this lot. Good to have them back!

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4. Graveyard EyesHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, S Wales) – 5.2 % abv – Sorachi Porter – 330ml – £2.90 – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

I KNOW it’s NOT from the North…But read on….

With a faint ruby glow at the edges, this almost black beer comes with a creamy textured, tan coloured head and an aroma that’s hard to describe. Sharp and tart citrus, but earthy too, maybe coffee grinds.  Hugely inviting though!

If it wasn’t for the huge bitter coffee flavour, I’d say this was 9/10ths of the way to a Black IPA!

Initial coffee hit and bitterness is followed closely by a beautiful and sharp, tart citrussy note that makes my tongue tingle, curl and dance all at the same time. Another beer with excellent carbonation, nice and smooth, almost creamy.

But that tingling citrus just doesn’t let go! Really big hoppy finish assisted by a decent bitterness. My first Hopcraft in bottle (I think) and it certainly won’t be the last! Stunningly fresh and tasty

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5. MadagascarGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 5.4% abv – Vanilla Stout – 330ml – £2.50 – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Black, with a ruby tinge at the edges, this beer had a creamy coloured foamy head emitting an aroma reminiscent of a Chomp bar. Chocolate and toffee with something slightly sweeter in there.

Mmmmmm….. Rich and creamy. Yes, there’s some smooth sweet chocolate, a slight hint of rum too. Beautifully smooth beer, then a little subtle vanilla creeps in, sneakily insinuating itself into the flavours.

This is a beer to be tried on cask and no mistake!

The finish had an unsurprising slight vanilla chocolate sweetness to it, but with a gentle herbal hop undertone.

Really nice beer this!

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6. Black MariaBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 5.7% abv – Black IPA – 500ml – £4 – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another dark beer in a week of outstanding dark beers. A very dark ruby and almost black, this has a pale creamy coloured head with loads of citrus and what smells like a touch of licorice….

Oh MUMMY this is glorious! Definitely on the IPA side of Black, there are orchards of fruitiness in this. Grapefruit, apricot and then work! The bitterness strikes. Oof yes! A bitter little cracker this.

Medium to full-bodied, the slightly spiky carbonation helps the hop flavours stay to the fore in this. There is a distinct background note of bitter roast coffee which remains throughout, daring you to have Another mouthful. But the fruitiness draws you back in….

Probably the best dark beer I’ve had from Black Jack. And I’ve had some bloody good ones.

That bitterness stays to the end leading to a substantial tangy hoppy finish and aftertaste. Superb.

Well – The morals of this story are…

1) Get to Hebden Bridge

2) Get these beers – You’ll thank me!

3) Er….That’s all for now!

EastWestFest – 15-16/05/2015

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I’ve been saying for over a year now that “Beer People Are Good People”. I’ve said it THAT often, that the predictive text on my phone even predicts that as a hashtag on occasion! My conversations with beery folk of all stripes have led me to that conclusion. And, for me, there are few – if any – better than a gentleman by the name of Malcolm Bastow. The brewer/owner of Five Towns Brewery of Outwood in Wakefield,

Back at the start of 2014 when I first tweeted that I had been coerced into curating a beer festival and shouted “HELP” on Twitter, Malcolm was one of the first to respond. He offered me a great deal on beer. As he has made some of the best beers that I have drunk in the last two years, I tore his proverbial hand off. He came over to The Independent Salford Beer Festival (as it became) with his lovely wife Beverley and I was chuffed to bits when one of the two beers he brought (Raven King) was voted Beer of the Festival, attracting rave reviews from people such as Deeekos (Twitter handle) and Rowan Molyneux. People who really know their stuff.

When he asked me to give him a small hand in a beer festival he was planning in Wakefield, I was both honoured and humbled. I still feel (and I’m not prone to false modesty) that I know little about beer. But he trusted my judgement. Coming from Malcolm, that meant a lot to me.

So I pledged to go to Wakefield. I consulted the Oracle (aka The Arch Nemesis) and booked hotels and trains. The day came. And I was stupidly (for a 50 yr old) excited.

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Getting off the train at Leeds (to change for Wakefield Westgate) we had half an hour to kill. Irrespective of the question, beer was the answer. So we walked the 60 seconds to the Leeds Brewery Tap. On entering this rather modern looking pub, there was a bonus. Sunbeam Brewery had had a Tap Takeover and some of their beers were still on the bar. At the risk of stirring up the recent debate about Craft Beer being the death of Mild, I had to tweet Tony Naylor (the excellent Guardian journo) with an image of Sunbeam Chocolate Mild. Assuredly a Mild that lacks nothing in smooth chocolaty flavour. A “delight”……Hold that happy thought for later!

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the delights of this two floored pub (with an ACE roof terrace!) as we had to hurtle back into the station – being on restrictive “Advanced” tickets!

Back on the train we go. I made a mental note to contact Virgin Rail about the fact that there is free WiFi on their East Coast Service. Ahem….West Coast Mainline please!

1/2 an hour later. There we were. Wakefield Labour Club. Affectionately referred to locally as “The Red Shed”.

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Because it’s red. And a shed.

From outside I heard someone say “The Mancs are here”! Feeling suitably charmed, we sauntered in, to be greeted by Beverley doing the honours with glasses and tokens. That glass….

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Nice innit? And, in a bold move (that I may yet replicate at #ISBF2015), the only choice of glassware. Nobody grumbled. And very few gave them back. No surprise there then!

I could prattle on about the beer (which WAS excellent) for pages and pages (as you well know), but what marked this day, for me, was the sheer friendliness. Chatting with people I have never met. And laughter. And stories. The banter (mostly at my expense!). It felt like I belonged. And it felt good. I felt at home.

It’s hard to single people out, but I hugely enjoyed my chat with Andrew Helm from Revolutions Brewing of Castleford. We share similar tastes in politics……and the more important things in life, like beer and music. Another of life’s good guys, we eventually got around to talking beer. And a planned collab for our little Salford bash. No secrets to be spilled, but it will be both big and dark. And have a solid music theme. I’m excited. (Great news to hear that he’s delivered a load of beer to the Piccadilly Tap!)

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(OH, if only people had….)

Malcolm seems to pull good people into his orbit of friendship. It was great (not to mention instructive) to talk with the likes of Charlie & David (two of the guys from the excellent “A Swift One” blogging collective), Alex (a lady involved with the superb Leeds International fest), Bob – a gent, Scott (GBK) Nightingale there were just too many to remember. Especially when you have a Swiss cheese for a brain, like me.

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(Because remembering this stuff matters)

As far as the beer is concerned, I focussed on Yorkshire beers. For 3 reasons.

  1. Because I love it.
  2. Because I can’t get much of it over here.
  3. As research for ISBF2015.

I learned the following.

  1. There are some really promising new breweries springing up under the shadow of the White Rose (Whippet & Learn To Brew)
  2. I definitely want Rat, Blue Bee & Sunbeam breweries represented at St. Sebastians’ this year.
  3. Judging by the comments, we brew some damn good beer over here too!

There was a raffle in each session. Both the Arch Nemesis and Deeekos won prizes. The Arch Nemesis wished that he hadn’t – it was a Tetley Bitter T-Shirt that he spent the rest of the day trying to give away! I, of course, won sod all. Other than the chance to drink some simply great beer.

My beery highlights?

Sunbeam AlesShepherds Delight. A tawny coloured beer with more than a hint of Turkish Delight to it. Intriguing and delicious.

Revolutions BrewingThe Golden Age Of Wireless. A golden mild. With vanilla. It just worked. Beautifully smooth.

Allgates (or Turks Head Brewing Co!) – Shogi Porter. Listed as a Porter, but the huge quantities of Sorachi Ace hops turned it into a Black IPA. A fine beer indeed.

Blue BeeReal. Pale, sharp and lemony. My #2 of the day.

Whippet Brewing CoTest Brew No. 1 – A smooth smoky Stout. Yum.

Atom BeersSchroedinger’s Cat. Pale, light and super hoppy. A delight.

Brewsmith Nelson Sauvin Pale. Just as it should be. Tart and refreshing.

Thirst Class AlePale & Interesting. A pale ale that started good and finished even better. More refreshment, just when my taste buds had started to jade a little.

And then we get to my personal favourite.

Five Towns BreweryMay Day DIPA

I am living proof this evening, that drinking copious amounts of Double IPA is neither big nor clever. But it was, quite simply, ASTONISHINGLY GOOD.

In the main (non-festival) bar, they had one of Malcolm’s beers on. Strange Brew, a strong pale ale at 7%. I wanted one. But the final pint was sold to the guy in front of me. Cursing with a smile on my face, I retreated. It was 9pm.

At 9pm – being the final session – Malcolm made the strategic decision to lower the price of the beer. From £3 a pint, to £1. And, even at 8.4% abv, that included the May Day. Well. If I couldn’t have Strange Brew….

So I hit it. Hard. Repeatedly. My head said that it was that thing known as A Bad Idea. But it smelt divine. Big, bold and citrussy. It tasted like heaven should taste. Nectar. And it was 50 BLOODY PENCE A HALF!

I didn’t stop hitting it till chucking out time. This morning.

To describe it….Big, bold and citrussy. Tropical. Bitter and resinous of finish. It felt light enough to almost session. It was Ruinous. A complete and utter Beergasm. If a beer can leave Charlie (The Ale Ambler) with a smile on his face, it is good enough for me. To sum it up, it knocked me down sideways and lifted me up again. It was astonishingly good indeed.

We, the Greater Manchester tendency wobbled off to our respective hotel rooms. With lopsided grins.

It was a fantastic day.

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And the Arch Nemesis got rid of that T-Shirt. As you can see!

Now. Being the consummate host, Malcolm had arranged to come to a couple of local beer landmarks with us. I was MORE than up for it. I felt great this morning. But the May Day had wreaked havoc with the Arch Nemesis! But, being the sympathetic soul that I am, I dragged him out on a route march! To….

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The Fernandes Brewery Tap (5, Avison Yard, Wakefield WF1 1UA)

We were there before opening. I was thirsty. Unlike my weary accomplice…..

What. A. Gorgeous. Pub. The pictures simply do not do this place justice. All the wood that you could shake a….er….stick at. a stunning place to drink beer on a Sunday (what felt like) Morning. Both the Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of The Caribbean and the Fernandes’ own Malt Shovel Mild were superb. Friendly service. The whole package. Malcolm met us hot from taking down his festival. I’m glad he suggested this place.

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Harry’s Bar (107B Westgate, Wakefield WF1 1EL)

A gem of a place. A small bar with extremely friendly staff. And great beer. Well worth the stiff walk from Fernandes. And close to Westgate train station – crucial, given that our train was going in 40 minutes!

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8 hand-pulled beers. A cider. And TWO of Malcolm’s own beers (one is the “house beer”). I tried the Five Towns “Mi Usual” which, given Mr Bastow’s penchant for the stronger brews, is hardly his “usual” being only 3.7% abv. It was a sharp, lemony treat. Light and refreshing after that hike!

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Also on the bar, was a beer from a brewery that my Arch Nemesis has spoken of in reverential tones on many an occasion. But one that I was yet to try. So I did.

Tigertops Brewery (Wakefield) – Outland IPA. A big, fruity and chewy IPA. Boldly hopped and simply superb.

If you are in Wakefield, you need to try to make time for BOTH of these bars. They are special.

We had to dash. We got to Westgate station only to discover that we actually had an extra 20 minutes. I’d cocked up on the times. My ailing associate scowled. Ailingly.

Again, I thank Malcolm & Beverley for making us just so welcome. And at home. All their friends too, those mentioned above and those that the May Day is to blame for any omission.

This really was a special little festival. That was for some local good causes. People coming together to make a difference. And that shit matters. More so now than ever. Being in a Labour Club made it feel even more right.

It was special both for the beer, but even more for the people that were there. It was small, in an age of increasingly mega festivals. It was intimate. It was fun.

It’s now a fixture on my beer calendar. It should be on yours too.

Better wrap this up ‘cos I’m off to Brighton tomorrow at the crack of a Sparrows’ doo-dah.

Beer may feature.

So, for now…

Slainte!

London – April 2015 – Long Time No See

It had been over a year since the last time I had been drinking in the The Big City. Last March in fact (getting tipsy on boats doesn’t QUITE count!), so when the opportunity arose for a 3 day stay, I grabbed it – though somewhat reluctantly.

Reluctantly?

I guess I am a “home bird”. I am also becoming a bit of a professional Northerner, in that – especially where beer is concerned – I don’t feel that we need to doff the cap any more. Some Northern breweries (in my humble…..) easily brew beers that can match – if not better – their Southern brewing brothers and sisters. Yes, I am biased, something which I freely admit.

However, what London DOES have, is some outstanding pubs, the like of which that Manchester (for instance) simply doesn’t have. So what’s an aging boy to do eh? With a couple of evenings to kill. And an Oystercard.

Yup.

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The Cock Tavern (Mare Street, Hackney – approx 100 Yds from Hackney Central Overground Stn)

According to various sources, there may have been a pub on this site since the early 18th century. However, the current premises was rebuilt by Truman’s Brewery in the 1930s. Now though, it is the brewery (and tap) of Howling Hops Brewery, a brewery whose beers are bloody hard to find Oop North. Which is a shame. Because they are superb.

This interior of this pub is best summed up as….wood. The pace is stripped back and basic. And it is all the better for it. Stripped back floorboards, old wooden tables, chairs and bench seating and a lovely L shaped bar with a LOT of hand pumps dispensing Howling Hops own beers.  It feels like a place to drink beer. And chat. Which is what I and my buddy did.

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I paid little mind to the ciders (though there were a few) and bypassed the craft keg (7 I think) and focused on the 8 hand pulls featuring 7 of the brewery’s own beers – brewed downstairs. I had 3. Well….It was an early start!

XX Pale 5% – A fruity pale ale hopped with Columbus, Citra, Centennial & Mosaic with predictably lip smacking results.

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Mild 3.3% – A Dark Mild. Because I like Mild. OK? A nice Mild can be a thing of beauty and not the preserve of the 1950s and the beclothed of cap, whippet toting Northerners of old. Again, 4 hopped (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Citra), this was reminiscent of another of my favourites (All Black by Allgates) but was (an oxymoron for a Mild) slightly more assertive – and it’s a relative term. Either way, a highlight for me. You might say “a Mild for non-Mild drinkers” and I wouldn’t argue.

American Brown Ale 4% – Brown. A dose of rye and licorice on the nose and a crackling dry pint. A corker.
And then I looked in the fridge and noticed some of their own bottles. Up North, these are as rare as the droppings of that legendary wooden steed. So I had to. Didn’t I? And if I’m going to bring one back, it might as well be big.
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And it is.
Now then. For those semi-pro Northerners who aren’t in the know. An Oystercard is a godsend. Especially now that TfL have WANGED up the price for a day Travelcard to £12 or more! So, with that in my pocket, I was off back to Hackney Central, change at Highbury & Islington, Victoria Line to Kings X, Northern Line to Kentish Town, then a C2 bus. In reality, only approx 20 or so minutes. And the bus drops you DIRECTLY outside the door of the next premises.
Was it worth it? Oh yes.
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The Southampton Arms (139, Highgate Road, Kentish Town)
This pub just speaks to my soul. Wooden floors, wooden benches, wooden settles. A mahogany bar. A turntable rather than a CD player or streaming service! 12 hand pumps for beer. Several more for real cider. And proper pub grub. By which I mean, Pork Pies. More on that later.
A place that looks like it’s been here forever, this was apparently reborn in about 2009 and was stripped back to reveal all of that lovely wood. Long, but not particularly wide, the bar is long and festooned with all of those lovely handpulls featuring beers from micro breweries far and wide. A gents with access from outside too, an unusual feature. As is the rather lovely old mirror advertising the wares of the original Lacons Brewery.
It was busy, but we grabbed a table. I reached the bar and started to scan. But my eyes froze and my back leg rose like the tail of a Pointer.
Hobsons Mild. I drink it wherever I find it. It’s quite simply the best brown Mild that I’ve ever had. Refreshing and nutty. And light, at 3.2%. And utterly delicious. As was the 1/2 of Pork, Chicken & Stuffing pie. A steal at £3.60
Now, the Hobsons aside, I am (by nature) a kind of “When in Rome” kind of fella. Therefore, with my predilection for dark beers, the next choice was fairly simple.
Dissident Porter from Gipsy Hill Brewing (West Norwood, SW London) was 4.8%. And Dark. And so damn moreish. First beer from this brewery. Roasted, chocolatey, smooth and Oh. So. Drinkable. I’ll be looking out for this brewery again. excellent beer.
Food was necessary at this point. So we headed back into the city and Holborn via Northern Line to Kings X and Piccadilly Line to Holborn.
Fish, chips & peas with bread & butter and a mug of tea for £10. In London? The joy that is The Fryers Delight on Theobalds Road. A basic caff with excellent grub. And close to the next pub!
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The Lamb (94, Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury)
The Lamb. A Young’s pub. Yet not as it was.
Last time I came in was 10 years ago. The day after the tube bombings. I still have the memory of walking past the destroyed bus at Tavistock Square. Some things never leave you.
Happier times though. The last time I came in, they only sold Young’s beers. So it was a nice surprise to see 2 from Sambrook and a beer (apparently brewed for the pub) from Redemption. Which I had to try. The Bloomsbury Blend was a bit of a surprise, in that it was a nicely flavoured mid-strength bitter, but lacked the assertiveness of some of their other beers that I have had. Nice enough though
Lamb bar
(Nicked from the Young’s Website)
The Lamb is one of those pubs that just HAVE to be visited. It is a Victorian symphony in wood. A beautiful – almost circular – bar with the snob screens being a unique feature to my eyes (those little windows open above the bar – top left of pic) – designed so that bar staff needn’t meet the gaze of Victorian customers.
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(All mine this one!)
The pub is, quite simply, a Grade 2 listed gem. Built (acc to Historic England) probably early 18th Century, it may lack the buzzy kudos od some of the craft bars locally, but it takes some beating as a simply beautiful pub.
All of that travelling, on tube, bus and train? £6.40. What’s the word? Bargain.
Next evening, a little less trekking was in order, Victoria line to Euston, then Northern Line to Old Street. Quality beer and food were sought. We were not to be disappointed.
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The Old Fountain (Baldwin Street, EC1 – 3 mins from Old Street tube, City Rd Exit)
This has been a decent beer gaff as far back as I’ve been coming to London. A “cut” pub, in that there is another entrance on Peerless Street, Baldwin Street is directly off City Rd (A501) just to the north of Old Street.
Again, wood is the thing. Lots of it. Sources date this place to about the mid 18th century and it does have the feel of an old ale house about it. And it was bloody busy. With no tables available. And a lovely menu taunting us!
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A slightly limp pint of Jarl was dealt with, then a table located, luckily. A zinging pint of Oakham Citra accompanied by a HUGE home-made (and slightly runny) Scotch Egg more than made up for the Jarl! The Citra was all that one of the best pale ales in the country should be. Sharp, clean and massively refreshing.
The house burger was huge and (after the Scotch Egg) just too much. The chips were excellent too.
The pub lists 18 constantly rotating beers on cask and keg. And it was a keg font that caught my eye. From my favourite London brewery. And a beer I hadn’t yet had.
London SmokeFive Points Brew Co (Hackney) was SO unctuous! Smooth like an oil slick. Bitter chocolate, root licorice and just the right hint of smoke. Just a bloody superb beer. From a brewery that don’t muck about, take their time and just get the beers right. 7.8% abv was just about right.
Then. That rare thing in London. A walk.
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The Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, off Clerkenwell Road)
Walking along Britton Street and entering The Jerusalem, you wouldn’t think that you were only 1 minute away from the recently redeveloped Farringdon tube station! It’s like stepping into the 19th century.
The building dates from the early 18th Century with its conversion to a pub probably a century later. The pub has a bit of history itself, best read here.
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I’ve always felt that this place had the feel of a 17th century coffee-house, it feels unique and I, for one, have never been in a pub quite like it, And I have introduced many of my colleagues to its charms. All have adored it.
It. Is, Small. And can probably handle only about 60 people at most, with punters frequently spilling out from the front and side.
It is owned and run by St Peters Brewery of Bungay in Suffolk. I think that they only have two pubs and the other is a brewery tap. Whatever, it is one hell of a spot and gets busy with an after work city crowd. And rightly so.
In here, I could look no further than the Old Style Porter. Just a beautiful smooth, dark and lusciously roasted beer, with the merest hint of sweetness. It is, quite simply, one of the best porters that I’ve ever had. Moreish in the extreme. I had two. I should have picked up a bottle of Honey Porter too. But I have a memory like Emmental.
Going home the next evening after work, we had an hour or two to kill. Now then, I love the Euston Tap as much as anybody, but the range of breweries just….doesn’t really seem to change much. There never seems anything to excite me. Great beer, granted. But sometimes, I just want something that feels a little bit more, you know….pub like. So I went on a 90 second hike from the front of Euston Station.
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The Bree Louise (Coburg Street, Euston)
If the planners for the HS2 rail link get their way, this pub will be vapourised, obliterated from the map. Some might say “meh”. Me? I like this place. A lot. It has a soul that some nearby places lack. We came here for food and a pint (or 4) and were disappointed by neither,
The pub itself is of the “street corner” type that is sadly missing from my home city. It isn’t huge. And has a chaotic feeling when full of commuters hunting a pint. But the staff are friendly and efficient (incident about a late delivered meal to my mate aside!) and there is a LOAD of cask ale, Probably about 18 on the go.
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Now this amount of beer can lead to the odd dud. That is simply unavoidable, save reducing the number of beers. \But as long as they replace a lame pint, that is fine. I had one. And they replaced it without fuss. Brownie points.
COne of the endearing things about this place is the stillage dispense, a rarity in city centres (Yes, I DO know 57 Thomas Street, but that in itself is an oddity) and to look at the bar, you might struggle to make out what beers are on. Which is where the 42 inch screen comes in with a rotating view of beers separated into hand pulled, gravity and keg. A nice touch.
Now this particular evening was noted as a Tap Takeover by Hogs Back Brewery. Not a fan, so I focused on the other 60% of beers on offer. In order, these were :
  • HopHeadDarkStar – Predictable excellence. Pale hoppy and bitter. A refresher.
  • ConquerorWindsor & Eton – The epitome of a Black IPA for me. Bitter, roasted coffee and big citrus bite.
  • Slovenian DreamDownton Brewery – Now this was so pale that I had it as a Pilsner with a nice gentle floral hop character. The brewery has it as a Pale Ale. Works either way. But a Pilsner for me.
  • Wolf of the WoodsTwickenham Brewery – The pick of the bunch. Amber coloured with a chocolatey malt flavour and a good dose of bitterness. A fine beer.

And that was that. Other than a 45 minute delay at Euston. A further 45 minute delay on the train. The train for Bolton turning into a bus replacement service and the A666 turn off on the M61 being closed. I got home at midnight. Knackered.

London, you wore me out. With the admirable assistance of Virgin Rail & its Northern Rail counterpart. Renationalise the lot of them.

That’s all until next time….

Slainte!

My #GoldenPints 2014

Golden Pints Logo

Oh Shit! It’s that time of year when I’m forced to be decisive and tell you (and you probably couldn’t give a flying…..) about what I REALLY liked this year, by pre-defined category.

So, 2014 was a year when I discovered the following :

How much I love blogging about beer.

How much I really couldn’t be arsed blogging about beer.

How close you can come to a nervous breakdown (and I HAVE been there) and come through nearly unscathed (See The Independent Salford Beer Festival)

How much generally that “Beer People Are Good People”

And a huge thanks to “BeerReviewsAndy” (someone I have never met) for getting this snowball rolling…..

And….the following……

  1. Best UK Cask BeerGrounds For DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorks) – For me, the best beer at #ISBF2014. A 7.8% Belgian style Tripel fermented using yeast from the legendary Brasserie Orval, brewed at the bottom of a garden in Outwood, Wakefield, by one of the most unassuming people that I have ever met. As fruity as Carmen Miranda’s headgear and as light and tasty as a Heston Blumenthal foam. It. Rocked. My. World. (And I’m yet to really get into Belgian beer!)
  2. Best UK Keg Beer – I haven’t really had all that much, but of those that I HAVE had, I’d fall on the side of American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery – . From the first sip at Black Jack Tap (Hmmm….) to the last sip (WOW!). This beer adheres to Principle 1 of the 3 Jazwinski Beer Principles. It was a beer that improved with each and every sip. By that last sip, I could *almost* have been a convert to keg. And it was fecking astonishingly good at #ISBF2014 on cask too!
  3. Best UK Bottle or Can – I’m not gonna cop out here by choosing one each (I’ll do THAT elsewhere!). This was a close run thing. My vote – by a well groomed whisker – goes to Govinda (Brandy Barrel Aged) IPACheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire). A massively English hopped IPA at 6.8% abv, the original version was already a stunning thing, a grand riposte to those who think English hopped beers are merely brown and twiggy murk. Get Thee Behind Me Beery Satans! “Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours …. give way to a spicy hop…” Being fairly dedicated to UK – and Northern beers in particular, this proved the most intense #Beergasm that I had this year.
  4. Best Overseas Draught – Not. Really. My. Bag. Next……!
  5. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Can? Founders All Day IPA. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Fresh, zingy and oh so refreshing. Bottle? Not had many…But, from Brouwerij The Musketeers (Ursel, Belgium) – Troubadour WestKust Black Imperial IPA – A 750 ml bottle that – in the midst of a tastebud numbing cold, I could actually taste. A full-bodied fruity hop assault. With licorice. What’s NOT to like?
  6. Best Collaboration Brew – Another tricky one. Came down to a choice of two, BOTH involving the mighty Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brewpub in Scarborough. The first was 300 from Five Towns / North Riding – a big, punchy Double IPA which in no way tasted it’s strength but had more hops than Watership Down and was a damn sight tastier! However, edging this by simple force of Bitterness, is Protz’s PleasureSteel City Brewing (Sheffield) / North Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – Conceived (possibly) as a riposte to a rant from Roger Protz about the beer type “Black IPA”. All of the oxymoronic characteristics of a BIPA with a simply MASSIVE bitterness. Astonishing.
  7. Best Overall Beer – See 3 above!IMAG2241
  8. Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelBad Seed Brewery. For that hanging tag pump label. Irritating for the staff, but classy as feck. (I’ve kept the one from #ISBF2014 – don’t change fellas!)IMAG2118
  9. Best UK Brewery – On balance, this HAS to go to the brewery from which I drink the most consistently excellent and drinkable beers – Drinkability, for me, means a tasty, well hopped (or dark and roasted) beer that I can drink repeatedly without falling off my chair. For me, this means AllGates. From Sloe Stout at Manchester Beer and Cider Fest to Half Devil at #ISBF2014 and all points in between, just consistently excellent beer.
  10. Best Overseas Brewery – Moving swiftly on…..Next!
  11. Best New Brewery Opening 2014 – Controversy time! I’m going to go with Shindigger Brewing. I KNOW that they don’t have their own premises (yet!), but as a consumer, this is about the beer, right? From my first taste of Pacific Pale to the Saison/PIP at an MTB in Chorlton, they have progressed with each. and. every. beer. Cask, keg and bottle. Cuckoo? Gypsy? It’s about the beer for me, like I said. A HUGE honourable mention to Runaway Brewery and Squawk Brewing too. Manchester really IS rocking at the moment!
  12. Pub/Bar of the Year – (I’ve twisted the category – slightly!) Pub? Easy. As last year, The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (Wigan). A proper local that I need to visit WAY more often. 5 Great cask beers, friendly service, friendly locals, a real fire and a great landlord/landlady combo in Nigel and Adele. Sorted. Bar? Hmmm….Trickier. But I can’t split. So – a) Great Ale Year Round at Bolton Market for continuing to bring good beer to Bolton (and giving me a reason to visit the town!), a rare thing in the last few years for me. Great local cask/keg beers, friendly regulars, friendly hosts. Anne & Steve continue to do a sterling job. I just hope that the council could open up 6 days a week instead of 4! And – b) Wigan Central – 7 cask lines. 4 Craft keg. In Wigan? A brave move by Prospect Brewery, but one that appears to be paying off judging by the feedback that I’ve been privy to! They made a wise move in bringing Dan & Gina Buck in to run it (formerly of Great Ale Year Round – see the link there?). Great location, fabulously fitted out. Excellent beers too. (As far as the original category goes – both of the latter 2 opened this year!)
  13. Best beer and food pairing – I’m not QUITE reconstructed to that stage yet….Next!
  14. Beer Festival of the Year – 3 candidates. 1 I cannot choose. Because I organised it. The self interest element prevents me from choosing The Independent Salford Beer Festival. So, I’m left with 2. IndyManBeerCon is indeed a beery Tour De Force and remains a fixture for most sensible beer calendars (mine is set for 09:00 on 01/04/2015 – for the probable ticket release!). I DO think that cask appeared to be marginalised this year and I hear many gripes from elsewhere, but really? Just “grow a pair” and appreciate it for what it is! My winner though is AllGates‘ “The Road To Wigan Beer” in April. A fantastic selection of some of the newest and best UK breweries on cask. Spread across 6 pubs within Wigan borough. In one day. On a bus. Simply the most fun I’ve had in 2014. And fun matters.
  15. Supermarket of the YearBooths. Simple. If you have been to a branch, bought beer, then chose a different supermarket, you’re having a laugh. At your own expense. Obviously, If you live more than 20 miles south of Knutsford, you may not understand. It’s a Northern thing!
  16. Independent Retailer of the YearThe Liquor Shop (Whitefield) Now closed and reborn as specialist beer shop BarBeerian, this has been the place from which I have bought the most beer. Period. The stock is large and wide ranging (Scotland to US/Italy) and great value too. All that from a small convenience store! Now Raj has moved a couple of doors down and opened up as a specialist beer shop, he’s looking to open a small bar upstairs with craft keg & a local cask line. I wish him well with this.
  17. Online Retailer of the Year – I haven’t. I try and shop locally. Aren’t I virtuous? Next!
  18. Best Beer Book or MagazineOpening Times (Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA) – Essential semi-drunken bus home reading material. Well written & edited (Mr Clarke, take a bow!).
  19. Best Beer Blog or Website – Hmmm….Time for another split. Still up there (and one of my two) is Glenn Johnson and his “My World of Beer“. Informative, straight and tells me what I want to know. Is the pub/bar/beer good. And does it well. But locally? The Boozy Procrastinator by Deeekos, a blog that came into its own with some assertive posts on a variety of issues from IndyManBeerCon through to Myleene Klaas & Paddington Bear (in the same post!). Funny, informative, passionate. A winning combination.
  20. Best Beer AppTwitter. I think I would meltdown if I used Untappd. And not in a good way. Some people talk such utter bollocks about beer & breweries when they can be cloaked in anonymity. So no. Next!
  21. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer@BroadfordBrewer. For #TwattyBeerDoodles and so much more.
  22. Best Brewery Website/Social mediaCheshire Brewhouse. Just functional & classy.

 

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Pt 1

“All I can see is black and white and white and pink with blades of blue
that lay between the words I think, on a page I was meaning to send you.
You I couldn’t tell if it bring my heart, the way I wanted when I started
writing this letter to you.

But if I could, you know I would just hold your hand and you’d understand
that I’m the man who loves you.”

(“I’m The Man Who Loves You” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of “The Tonight Show” (US) on YouTube)

It’s been a while! *Yawns like a bear coming out of hibernation*

I came to Wilco rather late. Via their collaboration album with Billy Bragg, recording songs from the archives of the great socialist American songwriter Woody Guthrie that became “Mermaid Avenue”. Ahhh….”California Stars”…….

The above tune is the most accessible track on arguably their least accessible album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. The album that, perversely, brought them to mainstream attention. The album that transformed them from Alt- Country and Americana players to avant-garde. So much so that their label rejected it. Totally. So the band, via whatever channel, leaked it on the web. And became famous because of it, all over the world. There is a documentary about the gestation of the album, which, rather sadly, resulted in one of the band being (effectively) thrown out – Jay Bennett. Sadly, no longer with us. The documentary is called ” I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. I thoroughly recommend it as a document of the recording process and of the stresses and strains that that can create.

I saw the band for the first time when they were promoting their next album “A Ghost Is Born” at Manchester Academy. Jeff Tweedy, lead vocalist/guitarist, looked (and sounded) incredibly fragile. So much so, that I remember saying to my pal Chris, that I thought that he wouldn’t last the year. Songs with titles (and lyrics) like “Handshake Drugs” led to the belief that he may have been addicted. He was, it transpired, but to prescription painkillers, not the opiates that we feared. We resolved to going to see the band at Rock City in Nottingham a few months later. I now see them every time that they are in the UK.

Tweedy plays The Ritz – solo, in January. Chris picked up tickets last week. I’m excited. (Sad, for a near 50 yr old eh?)

Beer time….

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 (where I have it) 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. Dreaming Dreams – Wilson Potter (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – 3 for £7 – Direct from the brewery

Dreaming Dreams (of Amarillo – Geddit?). Amarillo. My favourite hop. Picked up on a recent (flying) visit to the brewery on one of their “soiree” afternoons following a drop off of casks remaining from The Independent Salford Beer Festival (zzzzzzzzzzz………). I didn’t know that WP had an Amarillo hopped beer other than “Is This The Way”! Intrigued and salivating, I had to pick one up.

A gorgeous Pale golden beer bought on a brewery soiree last weekend, this has a clinging lasting white head with a fine carbonation giving an aroma of a light marmalade with a hint of apricot. Oh wow! For a fairly light strength beer, this has quite a punch!
The first sip brings that marmalade to the party, juicy and sticky, so full of marmalade flavour that Paddington Bear would love this! A stonking dry and bitter finish too, quite bracing. With a substantial resinous pine hit in the aftertaste. An admittedly brief description, but it was that good that I was a little lost for words!
Each new Pale that Kathryn & Amanda release gets more assertive. And more impressive. This is up there with Don’t Fall. And that is a huge complement! A cracker, up there with the best of the Mallinsons single-hopped Pales for me. Speaking of which…..
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2. SPA (Session Pale Ale) – Mallinsons (Huddersfield, W Yorks) – 4.1% abv  – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 0 – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
If I had a brewery that I regret not being included at the aforementioned bijou beer fest, it is Mallinsons. And hell did I try….They’d grace any bar. But moving swiftly on (and there’s always next year!)
Lively wee devil this one, took a while to decant. Really Pale golden colour (almost a trademark) with an abundant white foamy head giving off a really fruity aroma full of peach and tangerine juices.
First taste, oh yes! Medium bodied and a now more subdued carbonation. Some peach, some passion fruit and what a whack of bitterness backed up by sticky pine resins. Woof! This is another Huddersfield cracker. A little grapefruit says hello in the next mouthful, backed up by that assertive bitterness and mouth gumming piney resins. As Omar Little might say in The Wire “Oh indeed”!
This is a beauty of a pale ale. Fruity, bitter, a little sharpness and a snap sticky pine aftertaste. Oh yes.
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3. Protz’s Pleasure – Steel City Brewing / North Riding Brewpub – 5.3%abv – Black IPA – ? (500ml) – 0 – The Ale Man Manchester (Various locations)
This beer was inspired – if that is the right word – by a phrase used by beer writer (and CAMRA Good Beer Guide editor) Roger Protz, who said “Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.” A brief perusal of the internet may reveal that a number of aspiring brewers were “encouraged” to try making a BIPA on the strength of THAT statement!
If Steel City have a mission statement, it has one word. That word is “HOPS”. Pair this cuckoo brewer with Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub) and his evident love of that green flower, then there was only one way this was going to go…..
Appearance : Black with a thick creamy head and a noise full of chocolate, licorice and some citrus hints.
Medium bodied and quite smooth in the mouth, WOW is this bitter! Flavours of bitter chocolate, burnt toast topped off with a distinct grapefruit citrus tang. Finished with an almost incredible, astonishing bitterness!
The smoothness is almost creamy textured as I take a second mouthful and those flavours intensify. That massive bitterness is rounded off with a sticky pine resin dry finish. I’m Gobsmacked! (I think that this MIGHT have been the desired effect!)
N.B. I’m REALLY looking forward to Damian (The Ale Man) opening his own bar in Heaton Moor! (Coming soon)
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4. Light – Briggs Signature Ales (Huddersfield) – 2.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 0- Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
The fact that a new brewer gets to use the kit at Mallinsons, must – in my eyes at least – mean that he has high standards. You have to be damn good for your pales to measure up to the beers of Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall! This is how Nick Briggs (former brewer at Elland) has set himself up for a potential fall. But has he…
Has he bloody hell! A lively golden beer with abundant white foamy head and a noise full of peach and Mango. Really fruity and with a floral hint that I can’t quite pick.
Quite a medium bodied beer – surprising at this strength! Initial thoughts are of a rather fruity ice cream full of peach and – strangely – strawberry. A really fruity creamy textured mouthful.
The second mouthful brings a little pineapple to this fruity party but also a strong dry bitterness followed by a dry resinous aftertaste. All in all, a surprising beer indeed. A cracking fruity, bitter Pale Ale.
This is a “Small Beer” in abv only!
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5. Old Norrell – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W. Yorks) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £0 (500ml) – Direct from the brewery
Picked up whilst delivering back empty cask from our recent “bijou beer bash”, this was a nice surprise! Got to see Malcolm in action too, with a spot of cask filling. A proper small micro in operation. If I’m right, he has now retired from his “day job”, which – with the addition of a fermenting vessel – will mean both an increase in brewing AND (hopefully) more of his beers over in Manchester – you heard it here first!
Pale golden with a persistent lacy white head giving a big lemon and grapefruit aroma. Lovely fresh & zesty.
In the mouth this is beautiful and sharp. And as bitter and twisted as a Nigel Farage speech! Courtesy of the Sorachi Ace hop methinks. Medium bodied, the first flavour to hit is a bitter lemon mingled with tart grapefruit. A gooseberry note too. Lovely and fresh this in no way tastes its strength.
The fruity tart and beautifully bitter mouthful has a little malty, bready sweetness which gives best to that tart bitterness, a dry sharp finish and resinous grassy hop aftertaste. A pleasure of a beer that I’d love to try on draught.
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6. Marmalade Porter – Wold Top Brewery (Driffield, N. Yorks)  – 5% abv – Porter – £? (330ml) – ? – Wold Top Stall (Cottingham Food & Drink Festival)
A gift from a very dear friend (Phil), this was a huge surprise at the end of a hectic day visiting beery people all over the North. I’ve had some very nice beers indeed from Wold Top (in particular their TdF beer Hello Velo). So to get a Porter flavoured with marmalade, was a bit of a boost!
This is a beautifully black beer with a coffee coloured head giving off milk chocolate and a hint of rum soaked raisins and sweet orange in the aroma.
Ooh Matron! This is a lovely creamy smooth full-bodied mouthful just oozing chocolaty luxury in the first sip! The sweetness from the chocolate is augmented but an Orangey tinge, prior to submitting to a finishing bitterness with a coffeeish edge.
A second mouthful brings some more of the Orange forward, slightly sticky before fading in the face of that bitter coffee and a herbal grassy hop dryness with more than a hint of rum in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Just wish I knew where he got it from! (Update – See above!)
(Locally, you can get some of their “core” beers in Booths)
Now that #ISBF2014 is washed up, dried and put away like good crockery, normal service can be resumed!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 2

“Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Show me, show me, show me, show me, show me”

(“Everything’s Gone Green” – New Order)

(Video clip courtesy of  Brian110x on YouTube)

The first release where New Order primarily based the backing track on the use of synthesisers. It was a bloody revelation when it backed the track “Procession” released in September 1981. For me, it also marked a departure of sorts, as the general sound and feel of the band hadn’t shaken off the suicide of Ian Curtis – in my opinion – until the release of this single.

I saw Joy Division at the now infamous concert at Bury’s Derby Hall on 08 April 1980 (a concert – a bit like the Sex Pistols at The Lesser Free Trade Hall – where thousands professed to being there!) when I saw 3 tracks performed with different singers until the bottling started after Ian Curtis (deeply unwell, as we now know) departed the stage to be replaced by Alan Hempsall (Crispy Ambulance) and – I only recently discovered – Simon Topping from A Certain Ratio. Until the above track, the sound hadn’t moved on THAT much.

Certainly, when I saw New Order’s first Manchester gig in February 1981, nothing much had changed – including the ritualistic chanting of “Wilson is a Wanker!” at the sighting of Tony Wilson on stage – how opinions change eh? (As an aside, that concert is listed on many websites as being at Manchester Polytechnic. Bollocks! Manchester gigs at “The Poly” were at Cavendish Hall until it closed. This was on Hathersage Road – just at the Oxford Rd end from Victoria Baths.)

I got pissed off with New Order sometime in the middle of a concert at Salford Uni in 1985 (Low Life tour). I walked out half way through. The last album I loved was Technique (though I bought Republic out of curiosity, I never really “got” it. It bored me. Something they hadn’t done to me until that video, shot on a beach, for Regret.

I must be getting old. Was that first concert REALLY 33 1/2 years ago?

Moving swiftly on to the beer…..

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. Lupy As A Toucan (Simcoe, EXP 366, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

Nice surprise to see Shane’s beers in Londis Penny Lane on a recent visit! Adding to an already excellent fridge in this beery Allerton oasis!
A deep amber coloured beer, light white head and a huge fruity nose with kiwi, peach and Mango.

A really big, full-bodied mouthful this. A bit like Um Bongo but with added bitterness and pine. By heck this is a fruity little beast, more deep Mango, but with a really substantial bitterness balancing that fruity sweetness. And that bitterness? Oh my! Uncompromising to say the least! Probably more of an IPA style than a Pale Ale. But really, I don’t give a toss, ‘cos it’s bloody lovely

WHAT a beer this is. My gums are tingling! Always a good sign!
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2. Amber EpicureanFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 3.9% abv – Amber Ale – £2.80(ish?) (500ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
As its name implies, an amber Ale with a white thick foamy head and an aroma choc full of peach and Mango. A fruit basket of citrus smells.

Light bodied and full on fruity with the Mango front and centre, so fruity that it could be one of my five a day! This is hugely refreshing whilst being possessed of a bracing bitterness.

This is very generous of Rik, because this is right up there with AVA for me. Salford has a brewer to rejoice in. A simply cracking beer, light fruity refreshing and bitter. Possibly the perfect summer ale for a warm Cornish evening (as it was when I drank it!)

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3. Jumping Juniper RyeOffbeat Brewery / BlackJack Beers (Crewe/Manchester) – Rye Ale – 5.2% abv – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)
A companion piece collaboration with Black Jack to the St Clements Pale, brewed for the Birmingham Beer Bash (whereas St Clements was brewed for a local beer festival in Chorlton). What this means, is that this is the first bottled beer that I’ve had from BlackJack!
A deep dark ruby brown beer, almost black, with a creamy looking tan colour head with a distinctive roasted aroma with the fruity juniper on top.

The body of a Stout, the hopping and fruity bitterness of a black IPA and the astringent spicy touch of the juniper allied to the Rye. This is bloody lovely. Full bodied and smoothly carbonated, The initial coffee roast & bitter chocolate leads  to a fruitiness (maybe apricot) before the coffee reasserts itself  and dries on the tongue stripping it of moisture. The juniper and Rye add to this with a spicy touch in the finish leasing to a crackle of pine needle resins in the aftertaste. Classy beer.

This is best described as a BIPA crossed with a strong mild, ever so slightly reined in, but with the added complexity and spicy dryness leant by the Rye with the fruity drying astringency from the berries. Another classic collaboration by these two excellent breweries (the St Clements was bloody good too! The shape of things to come I hope!)
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4. Jasmine Green TeaTickety Brew (Stalybridge, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.05 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A beautiful Pale gold, crystal clear beer, with a white fluffy lasting head and a delicate aroma with that signature Belgian yeast note and something more delicate and floral.

Light bodied and very fruity. Peach and kiwi perhaps at first taste, then the tea kicks in with that tannic dryness and light jasmine touch.

Fresh and fruity this is a lovely light and refreshing beer with that signature Belgian spicy yeast note kicking in in the finish leading to a dry lightly grassy hop aftertaste. An excellent bottle from Stalyvegas.

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(Apologies for shockingly bad pic!)
5. Black IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.50 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Black. Thick creamy texture head. Tingling spicy licorice on the nose.

Full bodied, creamy textured feel in the mouth, the initial hit is mango, with a little sweet apricot, but this mutates quickly into a darker shade of flavour with licorice racing forward.

This is my kind of Black IPA, more on the Stouty side than IPA on the flavour spectrum. The impressive thing is how, flavour wise, it goes from Pale to dark flavours in the same mouthful. As good as it was on cask at Stockport Beer Fest.

If this was a tune, it would be Young Americans by Bowie. A beery slice of blue eyed soul. Beautiful.

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6. PilsStod Fold Brewing Co (Ogden, Halifax, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Lager – £3 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)
Beautiful deep golden beer with a light white head and an aroma resembling marmalade on hot buttered toast.
A medium bodied beer, clean tasting with some nice gentle fruitiness in here, definitely a little orange but also something more coolly autumnal and hedgerow like.
Crisp and light but with a depth of flavour that’s missing in many a macro lager, plenty of bready malt for sure, but there’s a nice lightness of touch with the hopping and it reminds me of a number of German lagers I’ve had. Really smooth, fruity with a nice dry finish. A lovely beer.
In other news. Preparations for The Independent Salford Beer Festival continue and are likely to speed up as September goes on, with an actual beer list likely by the end of the month. Other developments will likely necessitate another blog post early next week.
For now, that’s it. Need to catch up on a couple of planned posts including a case from Eebria and some Cornish beers from my recent holidays. I’ll try not to bore you TOO much!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 1

“There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in.
The rain floods gutters and makes a great sound on concrete.
On a flat roof, there’s a boy leaning against the wall of rain
Aerial held high, calling, “Come on thunder, come on thunder”

Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul”

(“Sometimes” – James)

(Video clip courtesy Marblehead69 on YouTube)

When people think of James, they almost always think of “Sit Down”. A fine song. But it pales to nothing next to this. There’s something hugely poignant about that boy holding the aerial. It cuts me every time.

It took me a number of years to get James. Others got them in the 80s, not me. It took songs like this, the mighty “Laid” (“But she only comes when she’s on top”! – WHAT a line!) and the period when Andy Diagram added his trumpet to tracks like Born of Frustration to hook me in. To be honest, I can’t think of a British guitar based band I’ve loved since James…Hey ho!

I suppose that I chose this track, because sometimes, I wonder where my wittering is going. I have a moral. That moral is that when something stops being fun, it should stop.

I DO do this for fun, but it has been getting progressively harder to write and has, for a while, stopped being fun. I needed a (proverbial) shot in the arm and I received that from three, (two partially connected) sources this week. The first were some simply fantastic beers this week (including an increasingly rare “beergasm”), the second reason being a simply great night spent working behind the bar at Offbeat Brewery last night. I met some lovely people, good beer folk all. The  ever lovely Michelle, Chris, John, Caz, the lovely Mel (PLEASE Photoshop me OUT!), Otto, Phil….Thank you all. The pleasure was all mine.

The third reason was a belting shop I entered for the first time…

On to the beer….where would we be without it?

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. A Wee BitWilliams Brothers (Kelliebank, Alloa, Scotland) / Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, USA) – 4.8% abv – Dark Ale – £3.19 (?) (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Manchester)

A collaboration beer between these two was intriguing. Brooklyn have their own, almost unassailable reputation in the beer world, whilst Williams Brothers quietly make some of the best beer you could find in a supermarket (Caesar Augustus? Fraoch?), I was intrigued. That and it was a dark ale!

A really deep dark ruby beer with a creamy coloured head and a gentle smoky note over a chocolate base in the aroma.

Oooh! Medium-bodied with a gentle carbonation. This is a really subtle tasty beer. A smooth milky chocolate starts you off which is swiftly augmented by a little treacly sweetness (treacle & honey being added to this brew) then a gentle peaty smokiness which reminds me of a light peaty whisky like Jura or Ardbeg. A really delicate dark tapestry being woven here.

A really smooth mouthful gives way to a smoky dry finish with a whisper of grassy hop. A beautiful beer.

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2. The One (Amarillo) – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale (Single hopped) – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)

I initially struggled to enjoy beers from this brewery. But, I now realise, that this was almost certainly down to the pubs where I tasted my first beers, because with each taste in both bottle and from trusted bars (Great Ale, Tottering Temple…) those same beers are revealed in a different – shining – light. Their beers also seem to get better with each one I try….especially the pales!

A bright golden beer with a light white head and the familiar deep orange aroma of this beautiful hop.And there it is again in this medium bodied mouthful, that lovely sticky Seville marmalade bitterness. Yum! My favourite hop, well utilised in this single hop pale.

A smooth drinking, medium-bodied and lovely Orangey mouthful. The sweet fruit is followed by a building bitterness that increases with each mouthful. That bitterness is rounded off with a big hoppy aftertaste. Which increases after each sip.

Easy drinking and full of flavour. Another belter from Horwich.

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3. Neck Oil – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, London) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – £2.40 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A can. My first British beer, canned, for……… Picked up, when the subject of canning arose in a conversation with Simon, the owner, in this excellent Didsbury outlet – small, yet perfectly formed (the outlet, NOT Simon!). I have a feeling I’ll be back – and it’s ALL Rowan Molyneux’s fault!

An Ultra Pale golden beer poured from such a funky looking can. The first UK canned beer I’ve had since I was a teenager! As lively as a new puppy on its first walkies, the huge white head releasing a massive citrus aroma, initially smelt like Mango, but more tart like sugared breakfast grapefruit (do people still put sugar on it?)

Fresh. Zingy and fresh. That tart citrus assaults the mouth on first sip. Drying the tongue out en route to its appointment with the throat. The little biscuit malt sweetness in here is mugged by citrus and pine needle dry bitterness. This is a really easy drinking beer. For me, as good and as fresh as the Founders I  had as a train beer recently. I could get to like this canned stuff!

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4. Stockport Sour (Pineapple & Scotch Bonnet) – Quantum Brewing (Stockport) – 2.3% abv – Sour Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Sets out stall – I am not a big fan of UK brewed sour beers. There, heresy expounded! I may not be quite “on trend” here, but until this beer, my thoughts wandered towards the argument “leave it to the Belgians – the Masters”. But – unsurprisingly – being from Quantum I suppose, I “got” this….

Ultra Pale yellow gold and hazy. Giving the misleading appearance of a wit to the unwary. The head soon dissipated leaving the unmistakably sour fruity aroma with the pineapple there in the background.

That thing about being unwary? Just take a mouthful. Our maybe a sip to accustom yourself! Light bodied as you would expect, the pineapple sweetness initially surprises, almost instantaneously giving best to a sour note. No. More than a note. This is distinctly sour, but not tongue wrestlingly so. The kicker is in the subtitle…. Scotch Bonnet? Oh yes. You feel it like a threat first. Like watching Nightmare on Elm Street… You know that Krueger is there… You just can’t see him… Until it’s too late…

That sharp peppery heat isn’t an incendiary flame, just a tongue tingling sharp spice. But this beer does what all good sours should, it gets those saliva glands pumping like like a Texan gusher!

This is really refreshing beer. I kid you not. I’m not a big fan of UK attempts at sours (as said above), but really enjoying this from Jay. Pineapple? Check! Scotch Bonnet? Check! Another cracker from Mr Krause!

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5. American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery (Dantzic St. Manchester) – 5.7% abv – US Brown Ale – Swap (330ml) – Direct from the Brewer

As it says, this is a brown beer.

This is really lively, with a mushrooming white head booming out aromas of mango and grapefruit. Seductively drawing me in, but into what? Fruitiness is what!

Boxes and boxes of mango, peach and tart grapefruit hit the tongue immediately, walking the walk that the aroma talked. The first mouthful finished dry, suddenly dry. Onwards….full-bodied, a big toasty wholemeal bready malt base with lashings of hoppy stuff spread all over it, again really fruity but with a dryness that gets the side of your tongue and turns it inwards almost to preserve moisture.

On keg, this improved the further down the glass you went.This is no different, with other flavours hitting further down,like a rye spiciness and almost a licorice like note. The finish is dry, slightly sweet with a big hoppy aftertaste. Another superb beer from Dantzic St!

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6. Slovenian IPATickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 5.8% abv – IPA – £2.05 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)

The first thing that I noticed was the home-made look of the labels….then that they were situated next to a bottle of Tickety Brew Jasmine Green Tea….! But where were the usual labels? Then I looked on the reverse….A (rather) limited run of only 96 bottles….I feel somewhat privileged and lucky to have been able to snaffle one of there. Here’s why…

A beautiful golden beer, frisky as a kitten with a wool ball, huge white head and a big but gentle fruity aroma, peach and passion fruit, with that TB Belgian yeast tang.

Oh this is beautiful! Full-bodied and smooth with a fine carbonation, a little peach, a lot of passion fruit and no little orchard fruit as well, sweet apple (in a REALLY good way!)
The yeast, combined with the hops, provides for a witheringly dry finish to the mouthful. Quite surprisingly resinous. This beer provoked my first Beergasm of the week. I feel that my notes don’t do this beer justice. I like TBs beers and have been a big supporter, but this is a whole new level. Sod the labels….Get this! (And THAT price? Call the cops, ‘cos this feels like I stole it!)
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7. TurvyOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 6.5% abv- Black IPA – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)
Look at that seductive glassful of desire!

Black. As black as a Stout and equally opaque. A head creamy in both colour and texture Crooks Its finger and beckons you on to a nose of bitter chocolate and sweet licorice. Promises promises!

Oh baby! Is this one beautiful beer! Sweet Jesus! Totally different to all the BIPAs I’ve had before with its lack of tart citrus nose, but all the better for it!

A rich, rich mouthful. Smooth as the proverbial bottom, but silky smooth past the lips, there’s like a creamy almost buttery smoothness with that bitter chocolate roasted malty base, then leading you to some really bitter resinous hoppage.

Oh shit. Think I’m having one of those there Beergasms! This is THAT good!

This is everything I could want. Roasted & bitter, resinous and buttery smooth. A hell of a beer. Again, I don’t think that my notes have done this beer the justice that it deserves.

It. Rocked. Me. Out. Of. My. Seat. It is up there with the 300 from Five Towns. I can praise it no higher. One of the best bottles I’ve ever had. Year end podium material in my Golden Pints 2014!

“Great Beer Brewed By A Chick”? She’s a great “chick”, brewing great beer. This just…….

If you have the time today, GO to Crewe and enjoy some of the simply fabulous beers Michelle & here top team have put on in their First Friday Festival. Then thank me later!

That’s all folks!!! Bar one more thing!

This week, I had a couple of mates around to help me reduce my stash. Des & Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis). The bulk of the beers will form a separate blog post next week, however, Des – being a fine beery bloke of the highest order – has commenced my schooling in the arts of Belgian beers.

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These two beauties from De Ranke & Girardin are the start of my Belgian experience. The Gueuze, a fine mouth-watering sour and a superb “bitter” (Belgian style being anything BUT a “Bitter”!) were astonishingly good. I will leave others better qualified than me to pass judgement on these two rare beauties, but I both enjoyed them HUGELY and thank Des for bringing them and both Des & Jaz for a top evening. My next stop in the “Belgian Odyssey” will feature these two beauties. Things of rare beauty….

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I’m a lucky boy!

And on that note….til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

Booths Supermarket – Best Beer Supermarket in The North

“Inlitterati lumen fidei, God is with us everyday
That illiterate light , is with us every night.
Theologians, they don’t know nothing , about my soul, oh they don’t know…

I’m an ocean, I’m all emotion, I’m a cherry ghost, cherry ghost”

(“Theologians” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of  Luis Rodrigo Barrera on You Tube)

10 years or so ago, Phil, my good friend played me a track called “California Stars”. It is an old Woody Guthrie song and was recreated (along with a whole host of others) to form the album “Mermaid Avenue” as performed by Billy Bragg & Wilco. Little did I know it then, but a love affair was born with a band from Chicago.

In 2004, I saw Wilco at Manchester Academy. The band were fantastic, great musicians all, but together….just fantastic. But the thing that struck me was just how fragile the vocalist (Jeff Tweedy) seemed. There was a vague rumour of an addiction (not eased by the lyrics of songs like “Handshake Drugs”) and I was utterly convinced that he wasn’t long for this world. I committed to seeing them whenever I could and saw them again later that year at Nottinghams’ Rock City. A fabulous live band. With the subsequent addition of the jazz inflected shredding guitar of the mighty Nels Cline, they’re even better.

I saw them most recently on the tour for their most recent album “The Whole Love” – again at Manchester Academy on a day when we buried an old college friend of mine. I don’t know if  the emotion of the day caught up with me, but the performance was one of the greatest of any band I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It started with this track “Art of Almost“, the lead track from the album. I had to share that too. Hold with it until the music fades and Glenn Kotche starts a whipcrack drum beat at about 4:43. Then watch/listen Nels Cline go! (The mans hands BLEED after performances!). Do you know what, the memory of that concert – and the whole day – still gets me.

We could get into the “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” situation / mythology – but I’ll let you find that for yourself. The band are MORE than worth a listen.

Recommended albums : I can’t. They’re all superb. My favourite tracks however : “Impossible Germany” (Sky Blue Sky); “Art of Almost” & “One Sunday Morning” – simply heartbreakingly beautiful – (The Whole Love) & “A Shot In The Arm” (Summerteeth)

On to the beer eh?

Today, I’m going off on a beery tangent – shop wise.

I am a huge supporter of small independent beer shops. They provide knowledgeable service, combined with beers you simply won’t find in any supermarket. I don’t think that there is an exception to that rule. But I love E H Booths – or simply Booths as they are now. They are a Northern chain and are positioned (I would say) at The Waitrose end of the spectrum. The artisanal foods that they stock, the breads, the deli counter, they rock my boat….but oh, the beer….

It was about 2003 and I was driving along Penwortham Way from Preston toward Leyland when I spotted (from the corner of my eye), a supermarket just off a roundabout and resolved to go in, which I did. I walked in with no preconceptions, no basket, no trolley and strolled – purposefully – towards the alcohol section. Bypassing the wines & spirits, I arrived at the beer section. My jaw dropped. I had simply never seen so many beers in a shop. The first thing I noticed was Alaskan Smoked Porter…..I went to get a trolley…..and walked out with nearly £100 of beers I had (mostly) never seen, never mind drunk, previously. The birth of another love affair….

With my beer shopping being focused on small independent shops, I hadn’t been into their excellent Media City outlet – my next closest being Chorley – for a while. That is, until I wandered into a Twitter conversation which seemed to offer up a live online community tasting session. Inspired by the launch of 4 own branded beers sourced from the 4 counties in which they operate (Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire & Yorkshire), they were hosting this session tasting 2 of those 4 beers with the #BoothsCheers hashtag and sending the two chosen beers to a number of people to join in, I butted in and they sent me two, but, on the day of the tasting, I missed the delivery, so, improvising, I went to Media City to pick the two up – and walked out with 19 bottles!

I chatted with a couple of the staff including the manager of the Alcohol section (really friendly) who helped me to find a couple of beers I couldn’t locate, the service is impeccable. I even tried to blag a raffle prize for the Salford Beer Festival…….well…he didn’t say no and even said he’d like to come….that’s ticket number 1 sold then!

As far as supermarket chains are concerned, they have no competitor in the North West. Yes, I’ve heard of the exceptional range at Londis on Penny Lane in Liverpool, but that’s one outlet. But with stock only slightly varying depending on store size, you get beers here that you won’t in any other Northern supermarket. May be the reason why they were my Beer Supermarket of 2013 in my Golden Pints! I’ve tasted a small selection of my haul….Prices are generally around the £1.79 to £2.29 mark, with an offer on many at 4 for £6 at the moment, during their “Beer Festival”

Connor Murphy on his excellent Beer Battered blog wrote a piece on Booths recently as part of his ‘Supermarket Ale Trail’ series – read here

And before you say anything…This is most certainly NOT an advertorial….Confidentially speaking….some local blogs do that…I don’t. These were all paid for. By me!


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1. Route 66Eden Brewery (St Andrews, Scotland) – 5.1% abv – Lager

This was a bright straw yellow gold and had a slight chill haze, with a white head and a  slight fruity aroma with peach and a hint of spice.
In the mouth, this is medium-bodied with a good rich tea malt base and was quite fruity and dry with a note that reminded me of grape skins. That biscuity malt gave a slight sweetness that was offset by quite a bitter kick. A really refreshing mouthful with a substantial spicy hop finish and a lingering herbal hop grassy aftertaste. First from this Brewery and a really good British Lager.

I *may* have bought one or two more from Eden’s range……maybe….

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2. YankeeRoosters Brewing Co (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale
Only my second from Roosters in bottle (following the excellent High Tea). I was delighted to see both this and their Coffee Porter “Londinium” on the shelves and MAY have snapped up a bottle or 2…..
A beautiful bright golden with a white fluffy head and a full booming aroma with sweet lemon and tart gooseberry, enough to make my saliva gland go into overdrive!
Medium-bodied and fruity with a kind of lemon sherbet on a base of fresh white bread, this is so smooth and easy drinking. Each mouthful as fruity and zingy as the first. Perfect summer drinking. Fresh as a daisy, sweet fruity and very moreish. A classy Pale Ale. I could go at this all night….
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3. Marie JauneIlkley Brewery (Ilkley, N Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale
The one thing that can be said about Yorkshire Micros…They were never going to leave “Le Grand Depart” of the Tour De France uncommemorated, were they? To be fair, I’ve had some belting beers loosely Tour themed. This was another..
Golden, white head, subtle fruity aroma with a little peach or nectarine.

This is quite full bodied for the strength with a good solid biscuity malt body, some grape fruitiness, nicely sharp, clean and fresh tasting, along with a gentle peach leading to a subtle bitterness. Really dry tart aftertaste too. This was smoothly carbonated lending itself to a really smooth easy drinking beer. Lovely.

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4. Cherry StoutTyne Bank Brewery (Newcastle Upon Tyne) – 5.2% abv – Stout
This was a really pleasant surprise on the shelves near the lift. Tyne Bank are a rarity to me. Last time I had any was IndyManBeerCon in 2012! So I had to…didn’t I? Especially with my love of the Darkside!
Black with a slight ruby glow and a light mocha coloured head and an aroma of light coffee with a gentle whiff of cherry.

Full bodied smooth in the mouth, initial flavour is Bournville chocolate, sweet but with a certain depth. Then in comes some cherry – not overpowering, unlike some beers that use it – which complements the chocolate really well with a slightly sour tinge. This is excellent.

The Oatmeal lends the beer a silkiness which adds to the sense of balance. Mouthful after mouthful, this is a lovely smooth flavoursome beer. Silky from the oats, with that cherry ohhh …… And at a couple of quid, feels like shoplifting!

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5. “Jack Brand” Innovation IPAAdnams Brewery (Southwold, Suffolk) – 6.7% abv – IPA
Having heard a lot about the Adnams “craft” range (and this beer in particular) from luminaries like Nathaniel Southwood, I was keen to try this and rather pleased when I saw it on the shelves – especially at £1.99!
Deep golden coloured beer with a light white head and booming citrus aroma all apricot and grapefruit, so fragrant.

Full bodied and just SO SMOOTH. The first mouthful is all big juicy malt sweetness with a fruitiness which is more like a grapefruit marmalade, sticky and juicy. There’s a barley sugar element to this but it’s more than balanced by the fruit and a restrained bitterness.

The finish is really quite dry with a fresh-cut grass and insistent resinous pine. A really good IPA in its own right, but probably the best “craft” offering I’ve had so far from one of the regionals. Yeah. Just about sums it up.

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6. Black IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 5.6% abv – Black IPA (er…)
This was the first of the beers in the #BoothsCheers Twitter Tasting. But, give that I missed the delivery, I bought this and the Golden Ale (also excellent). It was more than worth it.
Black with a cream coloured head, the aroma on this was all sugared grapefruit with something a bit…darker…lurking in the shadows of that place between the nose and the mouth…
In the mouth, this was full-bodied, with the instant shock of mango and grapefruit coming from a black beer brought back down to dark reality by a touch of treacle, a lashing of licorice and more than a chunk of bitter chocolate. This flavour fiesta is rounded off by a substantial resinous aftertaste. Just a cracking beer. I do like a Black IPA me, I do! As Connor put it at the time….”Everything a Black IPA should be” – I’m such a plagiarist!
Well, that’s it. If you’re going to shop in a supermarket for beer, honestly, look no further. We’re a lucky bunch in the North!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!