Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 2 – Manchester, So Much To Answer For

“If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground,

As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight.

Far from home, Elephant Gun let’s take them down one by one….”

(“Elephant Gun” – Beirut)

(Video courtesy of 4AD Records on You Tube)

About 4 years ago, I subscribed to a music download website called E-Music. I’d gotten bored with buying cheap compilations whilst supermarket shopping. Through this website, I rediscovered my love of music but in particular, guitar led music. It was though E-music that I discovered the delights of Spoon (from Austin, Texas), The Decemberists (Portland, Oregon) and Beirut (Albuquerque, New Mexico via New York)

I gleaned from the website that Elephant Gun was a popular track by this band, it was therefore the first that I sampled. I was, quite simply, blown away. Part Mexican marching band, part Eastern European village folk and the most lovely warm and slightly sad voice. That voice is Zach Condon. He is Beirut and played most – if not all – the instruments on that album “Gulag Orkestar”. I was even more flabbergasted when I learned that he wrote most of these songs and arrangements when he was about 16 years old! A young man with an old soul. I love them. The 2nd album “The Flying Club Cup” is more than worth a listen too!

Time for business. The business being beer!

Being a bit of a contrary old git, I hit upon a fantastic idea. Why not write a post about Manchester bottles, whilst firmly ensconced in that there Big Smoke? Yeah, brilliant, until you need to add the weight of 5 bottles and a laptop to the considerable luggage that I was already taking! Silly boy! But, here we are. Never said that I wasn’t an idiot!

Now normally, I do try to post on the E of Eight O’Clock on the Saturday morning (you really can’t beat a bit of morning regularity!), however, my schedule was a bit set back when the hotel “tidied up” the glasses that I brought down from Manchester. They went walkabout for 3 days! Hence, when you view the image for the Elephant Hawk, I was drinking out of tumblers!!! Enough waffling…….

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

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

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1. Elephant Hawk IPA – (Collab) Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) & Thirst Class Ale (Richard Conway) – 6.4% abv – IPA– £4.59  – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The inspiration for today’s rather exceptional (IMHO) tune! I’ve met Richard (Jay’s collaborator) on a couple of occasions, nice bloke and another of these devilishly talented members of the Manchester Homebrewing Group. Jay, being an exceptionally talented alechemist himself, has a rather canny knack of choosing excellent collaborators, had he done it again?

An amber (indeed) coloured beer, white head and a big citrus fruit aroma loaded with sharp grapefruit. Then, in the mouth, BOOM! Really full-bodied and fruity with a big caramel biscuit backbone supporting HUGE hops! Hugely piney with more than a hint of apricot to my gob, this is a BIG beer. Gorgeously bitter with and aftertaste that is grassy as hell, big, sticky resins clinging on. A simply superb collaboration! I missed it on cask, but reliable intelligence reports (Arch-Nemesis!) said it was tremendous. I just hope Jay brews it again!

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

“I got a feeling, feeling. You’ve got me rocking and a reeling”! (Sorry, listening to The Four Tops whilst typing!)

Got this as part of a 2 for a £5 offer from Raj, but left this one a while having really enjoyed their IPA. The Darkside was calling the night before I left for London.

A deep ruby brown colour with a thick creamy (texture & colour) head, yielding an aroma including spice and mocha. A full-bodied beer, really smooth and creamy textured, the first flavour that I hit reminded me of chocolate ice cream, then a nice mid strength bitter chocolate with a little choccy caramel sweetness luring you into a quite hoppy and bitter finish. Nice resinous aftertaste too. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Excellent!

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3. Black PortBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.9% abv – Stout – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

Draught cask ale? Loads. But nary a bottle from this Horwich brewer. But bottling commenced before Xmas, I’d just been lazy. The night before I travelled down to reside in this Thames Side hotel for the last week, I hit upon the theme for this blog post, but was missing two Manchester area bottles…..To the rescue came Dan Buck from Great Ale Year! He’s a top bloke!

A black beer (“no shit Sherlock”, I hear you groan!), hugely lively with a massive cream coloured head with a chocolate and slightly sweet boozy note – the Port perhaps? Medium-bodied with initially chocolate in the mouth with some sweetness from the Port coming through. Then my rather defective tastebuds thought they got a sweet touch of strawberry! Later mouthfuls reached the developing big chocolate rounded off by a substantial hoppy character. Well. Defective tastebuds or no, I loved this! More please!

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4. FCB – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.6% abv – Bitter – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I llove Rik Garner’s beers, almost as much as the funky soulful tuneage he blasts out in his DJ sets in his railway arch brewery cum live venue cum nightclub! Keep an eye out for his once a month open nights, they’re superb!

Amber coloured beer with a nice fluffy white head clinging on with an aroma of peach and tangerine with some grassyness. Quite medium bodied for the strength with more hints of peach or nectarine, a little orange and a tiny hint of raspberry, quite a degree of bitterness with a nice pineyness (a word?) to it. The finish is bitter with a crackling resinous pine aftertaste. Another belter. This could develop into a standby beer – my ultimate accolade, as I rarely drink the same beer twice! (But I’m not a ticker. Oh No!)

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5. Dubbel – Tickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 6.5% abv – Belgian-Style Dubbel – £2.89 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another from Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent stall on Bolton Market. I need to visit more and keep up with their expanding range!

A really deep ruby coloured beer with quite a fruity sweet nose with a hint of chocolate. Quite refreshing for such a relatively high abv beer, medium bodied, there is a bit of boiled sweet in this as well as some fruity plum and a little spicyness which becomes more prominent in the aftertaste and the lingering tingle in the gums. I like TB and this was the one beer that I held back on, unsure if I’d like a dubbel – not sure I’ve tried many to be fair, but this is my favourite of their beers so far.

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6. Cuckoo Number 7 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Bergamot & Peppercorn Saison– £4 (500ml) – Prestwich Beer Festival but also (possibly) Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

I first sampled this whan that nice man Darren Turpin (accompanied by the lovely Jo, opened the bottle that he purchased at the Prestwich beer Festival. I really enjoyed the taste that I got, but yearned for a somewhat larger measure. So I bought one!

An effervescent golden beer with a floral aroma and a hint of fruity peach, the head diminishing rapidly. That lovely delicate aroma leads you to a full body and more floral notes (that’ll be the bergamot then!) with more tropical fruit. The slight surprise (which shouldn’t be really!) comes when the gums start to tingle. Ahh…those lovely peppercorns! This beer has it all. A certain Belgian yeastyness, lovely and fruity, delicate bergamot and tingling spice. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!

So there you go. My idiocy in carrying an additional 10 Kilos or so of weight in my luggage is laid bare. All to be a bit perverse and laud Mancunian Beers in “Craft Central”! Was it worth it?

On that note…’til next time…(Notes from my week down here)

Slainte!

Victoria & Albert in Horwich, Old Fashioned Service – A Short Note

Vicandalbert(Image courtesy of perfectpint.co.uk)

As has been noted by one or two people recently, I seem to write about bottles these days. I haven’t been going anywhere that I haven’t already written about I suppose. Churning over old ground – even if there are new beers to report – can get boring and despite my rambling manner, I don’t want to bore you (yes, really!)

I went out last night with the sole intention of meeting a young blogger whose posts I enjoy and who seems to share the same beery tastes as myself. That blogger being Paddy Mc Grath whose blog All Beer No Belly details his efforts to drink great beers whilst maintaining his weight (something which some of us could NEVER achieve!)

It was a fairly brief evening if hugely entertaining for my part. We met in The Victoria & Albert pub on Lee Lane in Horwich and the evening started with a pint of In Shreds by Wilson Potter. Both the aroma and taste indicated a beer which was not quite perfect, indeed it was “on the turn”. I persevered for a sip or two, giving no indication of a problem. After a moment or two, the barman approached us and asked if the beer was OK, to which I replied that it wasn’t quite right. The barman immediately took both pints and offered replacements. I must emphasise that WE didn’t complain about the beer, he was honest and knowledgeable enough to know that it wasn’t right.

I was slightly disappointed in that the reason I went to this pub was for the Wilson Potter beer, having only tried it once, that being in the brewery itself and was keen to try it in the wild. The level of service MORE than made up for my disappointment.

To be brief (not my usual habit…!), the pub is a fairly open plan affair with a some comfy seating and  4 distinct drinking areas served by a single bar. That bar has 6 handpumps (all in use) stocked mostly with Micro Brewery beers including a permanent beer from the nearby Blackedge Brewery.

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I had 4 of the 6 last night. All were in excellent condition and were very tasty indeed. They were DV8 Stout from Deeply Vale of Bury (luscious, creamy, dark roasted and slightly smoky) American Pale from Blackedge (pale, fruity, very refreshing and moreish), Pint from Marble (hugely citrussy and refreshing) and a seasonal beer from Thwaites – Good Elf (fruity and spicy with warming clove).

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(A sample board – http://www.vicandalbert.co.uk)

I can fully understand why this has been Bolton CAMRA pub of the year for the last two years. With excellent service like this and such an excellent selection of well-kept beers, I will most certainly be back!

A huge thanks to Paddy for a) ensuring that I didn’t drink alone and b) for his most excellent company.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

(Thanks to Tandleman for inspiring me to write this with his piece on The Crown & Kettle – read it here)

Allgates’ The Road To Wigan Beer 29/03/2013

Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t visited an Allgates Brewery pub. Come to think of it, I hadn’t had a beer in Wigan at all! That day, I went in two really good pubs, one of which was The Anvil, Allgates’ pub in the centre of Wigan.

Whilst I was there, David Mayhall (the brewery owner) passed me a leaflet called ‘The Road To Wigan Beer’ (pun intended).

EPSON MFP image

The idea being that Allgates would have a beer festival lasting 11 days, spread across their whole estate of 7 pubs, all based around the Wigan area. Having been in precisely NO Allgates pubs previously, this festival gave me all the excuse that I needed. So, roping my good buddies Jaz & Col in, we find ourselves on the 13:04 train from Walkden to Wigan for the first stop….

The Anvil

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(pic – qype.co.uk)

Further to the previous visit, damn this was busy again! This may have had something to do with being Good Friday and the Wigan v St Helens derby match!!! Timing could have been better, but it was a fantastic atmosphere – which was helped by the fact that Wigan were winning.

Three drinking areas. A large area off to the right of the entrance, the main drinking area / lobby – which is in front of the bar and a smaller area to the left of the bar, where we sat. The frontage gives the impression that the inside may be older than it actually is. But it is a modern layout and look and is perfectly comfortable and welcoming, with friendly locals. It has also won a SHEDLOAD of Awards……

20130329_140122(Wall of Fame Pt 1 !)

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(Wall of Fame Pt 2! I couldn’t fit them all in one shot!)

As stated, it was damned busy. However, most were watching the Rugby, so the bar was easily gained. Colin went for the Redwillow Faithless XIX whilst Jaz & I opted for the Arbor Ales Oyster Stout at 4.6% abv. What a lovely beer! Slight hint of coffee in the aroma, but in the mouth? Oh joy! Lovely dark roasted flavour with more than a hint of the briny about it. A glorious pint.

Next round was mine. Jaz & Col opted for pints of Allgates All Black Mild, whilst I chose a beer from Redwillow, the previously mentioned Faithless XIX. One of the brewer’s experimental series of beers, I’m not sure as to what is in this beer to render it one of the Faithless range, but it was a golden beer at 3.6% abv. A nice citrus aroma and a refreshing gently bitter citrus flavour with grapefruit hints. A really nice beer that could be drunk repeatedly. However…places to go and pubs to see!

I like The Anvil…a lot. And that’s after only two visits. A deservedly popular town centre pub, with the feel of a local. Ultra reasonable beer prices as well, the guests being around £2.50 or less. If this is how Allgates have their pubs run………speaking of which……We move on, to…..

The Hare & Hounds

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This was where the £3.80 return train ticket started to pay its way! Timing our departure perfectly from The Anvil, a 5 minute train journey and a 5 minute walk away. Located approximately 400 yards south of Hindley train station on Ladies Lane, this is what I would describe as a traditional type local.

2 main drinking areas here. The bar is to the right on entry complete with a good sized drinking area. To the left, is another area, open to the bar area, but distinctly separate.

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Large TV screen on the wall to the left of the bar. Also, the welcome sight of a dartboard. Another really friendly welcome with chatty locals and staff. 4 or 5 ales to choose from including 2 from Allgates (Mosaic & All Black).

My first beer choice here was all too easy. West Coast Blonde Pale Ale from Stringers. Stringers produce two of my favourite bottled beers with Dry Stout & IPA, however, I had never had their beer on draught. This was soon remedied with this golden beer. A citrus zest aroma followed by a nice hoppy bitter beer with a hint – of all things – orange. A nice pint.

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(Nice touch on a cold day!)

The real fire warmed my back at this point and was most welcome. Next beer for me was Black Port by Blackedge Brewery of Horwich at 4.9% abv. I’d had the Black before, but not the Black Port. A stout made with an addition of port. The beer is as black as sin with a tan head and an alluring boozy aroma (the port?) The flavour was simply ‘right up my street’. A lovely smooth mouthfeel, with roasted malts, chocolaty with a slight blackcurrant tinge, roasted, chocolate winey bliss. I think I like it.

We got carried away with chat (or was it that Col was delaying us in the hope of a Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout?) and we missed the next train. Hey ho, a pint of Redemption Pale Ale please! A nice bitter pint, some citrus in the mouth (orange peel?) with a nice dry aftertaste.

Where I live, there are NO decent locals. I would do time to have one like this! A really good pub. Much as we could have stayed, The Bristol Milk Stout wasn’t a-coming, so time for that train ticket to pay its way….on to….

The Jolly Nailor

Jolly Nailor

(pic – nwb.co)

This was a fair walk from Atherton train station, a good 15 minutes I’d say. Located on Market Street, this is another pub with 3 drinking areas. The bar area doubles as a large foyer with some tables and lots of space. To the left of the bar is a nice looking room with lots of tables. To the right of the bar is a larger room which seems to double as a performance space. As we entered, there was a rock band tuning up. Good sound, but flipping loud!

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6 beers on handpull, Thwaites Wainwright, Allgates Pride of Atherton and California with 3 further guests. Tryst Brewery Raj IPA, Dark Star Darkness and Mallinsons Tammie Norie. My first was the Mallinsons.

Golden pale beer, citrus aroma. Nice bitter citrus flavours, grapefruit up there again from the use of Newport (American) hops. 3.9% abv and a lovely refreshing pint at this stage of proceedings!

Next (and finally) Darkness from DarkStar. A black IPA at 3.5%. As with all of that style, a confounding – yet stunning – beer. Lovely darkness (as you could’ve guessed!) with a sharp citrus bitterness, yet roasted coffee in the aftertaste. Gorgeous flavours from such a light beer.

As for the pubs, each offered something different. What they all had in common was excellent beer, served well. Friendly staff and customers and all the pubs looked nice,  well maintained and attractively decorated. A very marginal preference for the Hare & Hounds (and I mean marginal!), nice warm fire and well-behaved dogs allowed. Nice touch.

The beer? I am a darks man, so I’ll err that way. Little between the Blackedge Black Port, DarkStar Darkness and Arbor Oyster Stout. Going back over my notes, I won’t separate them! Again, each different, but all exceptional. As were the pales too.

Allgates have 7 pubs. I’ve now been in three (and hope to do two more this week). All good well maintained pub, friendly locals and service with superb prices.

A winning formula!

Next up? Pubs with Jukeboxes I think! On that note…’til next time.

Slainte!

Historic Manchester Pubs – Part 1 – 15/03/2013

The final day of my week off. An old pal of mine – now resident in Perth, Western Oz – was in town. This gave me more than an excuse to sally forth to Manchester. Also an excuse to do some of the older pubs from my youth the “Historic Pubs”, I’ve been threatening for so long!

Passing up the chance to watch The Cheltenham Gold Cup (I backed the winner, seeing as you’re asking!), I acceded to my old pals request to meet in……

The Kings Arms

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(Sure there was daylight when I entered!)

Located on Bloom Street, just off Chapel Street (A6), this particular building dates from the 1870s and is a gorgeous old structure – standing proud whilst almost surrounded by newer residential flat developments – and is opposite the lovely old Salford Corporations Gas Offices. (The pub – apparently – was originally sited opposite!)

I’ve loved this pub since it was an old Higsons House (A Liverpool brewer pub in Salford!). A brief perusal of t’interweb has some images with some Higsons detail.

The Kings has an odd layout with a main room which curves (slightly) around the bar. There is a separate serving hatch to the right as you enter with a nice sized room opposite (last time we came in, this was where the ‘Knitting Club’ were pearling for England!). The main room feels (but isn’t) cavernous. Excellent jukebox (Music being a big feature of this pub) and a number of great 7″ single picture sleeves adorn the walls. Each time I come to the pub, I notice some I hadn’t seen before! (Dad? What’s a 7″ single?)

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Walking into the bar, I spy my old (ex-pat) buddy. “Ah! Bunty!!!” (The names have been changed, to protect the innocent). Before we could chat properly, there was an issue to address….Blackedge Brewery IPA. 6 beers on the bar, but “drink local”! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with gentle citrus on the nose. Spritzy and refreshing with lemon and gentle grapefruit on the tongue. A nice start at 4.2% from this Horwich brewer.

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Joined by Jaz at this point, conversation was flowing (3 years or so to catch up on!) as was the beer. Next up was Bhuoys With The Black Stuff (sic) from Glossop’s own Howard Town Brewery. A dark porter with a creamy head. Nice roasted flavours, really smooth texture, light coffee flavours with a slight bitter twist in the tail. So nice that I had another!

My old mucker had places to go, as did I, so we split up at this point. He headed for them there hills, whilst – keeping with the “historic” theme, myself and Jaz headed towards……..

The Wellington

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Situated on Shambles Square in Manchester city centre (facing Selfridges / Harvey Nichols), this is an old building still umbilically linked to another pub, Sinclairs Oyster Bar. These pubs have been painstakingly physically relocated twice. The latter move necessitated (!!!) by the need to increase the footprint of the new (post IRA bombing) Marks & Spencer development.

Both pubs butt onto a further pub The Olde Mitre and all three sit in the shadow not only of the facing retail behemoths, but also Manchester Cathedral. They all share an open drinking area (plastic glasses only), which tonight was thronged with drinkers.

Both buildings apparently date from the 17th Century, making them some of the oldest buildings in the city. Now my family have a connection to this pub. Whilst researching my family tree, before my Dad passed away a couple of years ago, a family memory passed down about my granddad Chambers having a fishing tackle shop in the old Shambles. A trawl through the internet revealed that the shop was situated above The Old Wellington.

Will Chambers Fishing Tackle (2)(Here it is. Family History!)

(pic – courtesy of Manchester Records Office)

The Wellington has a tudor look frontage and has lots of wood and low beams in the single room bar area. There is an upstairs room, which is very popular, and also has low beams and loads of wood.

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4 ales on the bar I think. I opted for a brewery I’ve never had before Andwell from Hampshire and their Spring Magic at 4.4%. A nice pale beer, lemon sherbet aroma with a light lemon citrus flavour. A nice beer. Prices go up a notch here to £3.60 a pint. Nice beer, but at that price……the next logical port of call is attached….

Sinclairs Oyster Bar

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Walked in. No ale. All kegs & bottles. I had a bottle of Oatmeal Stout which I instantly regretted as it was too sweet. Whilst I love this ramshackle old building, I won’t be back in a hurry. 3 distinct drinking areas downstairs. A narrow stairway takes you upstairs. Being told that it was rammed up there, I didn’t venture a peep. From memory though, there is another bar up there and a nice long open room offering a nice view across the square. Again, lots of dark wood. Low ceilings. Main bar area is vertical drinking and incredibly busy.

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There is a small room just off the rear of the bar which fills very quickly as it has the only low seats downstairs.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this pub. Many a weekend night out started in Sinclairs, even if Old Brewery Bitter was never to my taste. It’s a gorgeous old building which appears to have survived its moves without massive compromises. It’s also really busy. It attracts lots of people and trades on its history. It has its market. This just no longer includes me, I’m afraid.

http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour4/area4page11.html is an interesting site with lots of images of Shambles past and present.

The Hare & Hounds

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Grade II listed, this is another beautiful old boozer. My “stag” do finished up in here where we stared in horror when Salvatore Schillaci ended Irish World Cup hopes in 1990. Moving swiftly on…..


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Large tiled lobby area, lots of wood again. A gorgeous entrance. 3 downstairs room (inc the lobby) served from a central bar. The Multi-roomed pub feels like a diminishing breed. Walls tiled with a dark brown tile, possibly not to everyone’s tastes, but works for me. Another pub that feels like a real local in the heart of the city, it’s great that such things still exist. Really friendly customers.

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(rear room)

Holts Bitter was mothers milk for juveniles of my vintage. (That and Tim Taylors Landlord) It was a lovely (if occasionally variable in quality) and uncompromisingly bitter brew. I’m unsure as to what has happened, but I haven’t had a great pint of Holts Bitter for years – and I’ve drunk it in a few pubs.

Recipe change? Whatever has happened, the beer (to me) wasn’t bad, it is now bland and anonymous. Shame. This bitter used to MEAN Manchester beer to me. Not anymore. There is far better to be drunk nearby. Scenic, friendly? Yes indeed. A classic pub, with underwhelming beer. I needed a palate cleanser…….

Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012(Recycled pic alert!)

(Not so) Old Faithful. A reliably good pint served by young bar staff who know their trade. Tonight, I was lured with some false intel. That Jarl by Fyne Ales was on the bar. BUM! Never mind, the same brewery’s Hurricane Jack was on. Pale as a supermodel, zingy as a zingy thing. 4.4% abv, fresh grapefruit hoppy aroma, grapefruit and sherbet lemon in the mouth. Startlingly refreshing and simply superb after some of the dross I had just drunk. Restoring my faith in the brewing arts.

Next beer was from Great Heck in East Yorkshire. Blonde at 4.3% abv. Another refreshing pale ale, nice citrus flavours and very drinkable. Two Great Hecks on last night. Jaz had Powermouse by them and that was lush as well. First time I’ve seen their beers in a pub and hopefully not the last. Just time for a couple more historic pubs (gasp!)….

The Crown & Kettle

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Another stunning building dating from the early 19th century, with a wealth of outstanding details and features within. Multi-roomed as well!  Another Grade II listed pub. That this pub was shut for 16 years until 2005 is heinous! It is simply gorgeous…get the picture? Speaking of pictures….

20130315_212822(The bar)

As reported previously, 3 distinct rooms each with their own feel. It seems somehow wrong to comment on the beer served within, but….Red Rat from Rat Brewery at 4.2% abv. Unsurprisingly a red beer, made with Simcoe hops. Lovely and bitter, sharp with aromas you would expect from Simcoe, powerful grapefruit, apricot, grassy as well. A fabulous beer in a fabulous pub, where, shamefully, it was easy to get a seat! Some superb Northern Soul again in here….fancy starting an All-Nighter guys? Exiting through the door below (gratuitous picture link!)…….

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The Castle

Castle

(pic – beerintheevening.com)

Another late 18th century pub. The tiled frontage leads you into the mosaic floor tiled bar area. Simply lovely. Another pub that’s a favourite from my youth, the new owners have done a tremendous job restoring this building and improving it massively. Now (with the opening of the room upstairs) a 4 roomed pub – including the performance area – it is justly busy and has a great jukebox (even if some of the 80s selections last night weren’t to my taste!).

20130315_222809(busy bar area)

This is tied into Robinsons Brewery but always has 2 or 3 has some interesting guests. The choice tonight was Titanic Brewery’s Longitude. I will hopefully try this beer again, because, whilst a nice pint with hop flavour, I could get a touch of sweetness and at this stage of the evening, I needed something more assertive. Nice pint, wrong time.

To sum up. ALL the pubs I went in had something to recommend them. ALL were busy and – therefore – catering to their given audience. There are some stunning historical pubs in Manchester that serve beer that I DO like. As one of my conversations yesterday went…this is all about personal taste and opinions. Mine are not necessarily better than yours. If you disagree, comment. In the words of the Manic Street Preachers album – This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours!

More historic walks for the future and I will listen to suggestions. On that note……’til next time.

Slainte!

A quiet (!) night in Bolton – 10/03/2013

Having a weeks holiday booked has its advantages. One of which, is the chance to do something unusual. That is, to pop out for a pint in the town I now call home, Bolton, Lancashire.

The Lancashire bit is important. Bolton, historically being a mill town, has always felt like part of Lancashire. It is, despite what those bureaucrats did with their Greater Manchester construct, a Lancashire town.

That’s the good bit over. Bolton can also be a dodgy place to socialise of an evening. I know of some horror stories which have kept me out of Bolton for over a year. But hey, give every dog a chance!

Tonight, my buddy Colin and I decided to just do a couple of pubs and try a place we’ve not been in for over 20 years, The Dog & Partridge – about which I had been heaaring good things on the beer front.

Keeping it simple, we started off in Bolton’s lone Wetherspoons – The Spinning Jenny.

A typical Wetherspoon, but with a couple of separate spaces/(almost) rooms. My darling Atilla is none too fond of this place, thinking it a bit shabby and tired. I see what she says, but beer quality can overcome a lot for me. I can count on the fingers of one hand the ‘Spoons in which I’ve never had a bad pint. This is one of them.

Approaching the bar, I spotted two dark beers, including a Beartown, but my eyes were drawn to the other side of the bar, where lurked the mighty NZPA from Hawkshead Brewery. Not the smartest of moves at 6% abv, but it just had to be done. Especially with my CAMRA discount vouchers bringing the price down to £1.79! Outrageous!!!

Potent and massively citrus in aroma (owing to those 4 New Zealand Hops). Flavours of apricot and grapefruit coat the tongue and party in the mouth. A truly superb beer. Another belter from Hawkshead.

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(A Fireplace? In a ‘Spoons?)

The chance for another presented itself, so I hit the Beartown Black Bear at 5%abv. A strong mild (no kidding!). Some fruit on the nose with nice dark roasted flavours in the mouth. Quite thin in texture for a 5%, but nice roast tapering off into a touch of sweet/sour. Probably a bad idea straight after the NZPA!!! Will look to try this again elsewhere.

Moving on now. I had been in contact with Graham from the local CAMRA branch and arranged to have a pint in the Dog & Partridge – a pub we used to frequent as a Thwaites pub over 20 years ago.

Dog & Partridge

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(pic – Google)

Located on Bank Street, just down the slope from the famous Prestons of Bolton. Never the most glamourous of locations, but (a plus for me) a defined multi-roomed pub. A large space off to the right – used tonight for live acoustic music. A small snug type room with a larger room at the back, which is where we sat.

Looking across the bar, my eyes lighted on Hop from Blackedge Brewery of Horwich.

A 3.8 %abv pale brew. Some citrus on the nose. Didn’t get (what I would call) much citrus in the mouth, but what I did get was a wonderful dry hoppyness, really clean and refreshing. I had this a couple of months back in the New Oxford and didn’t quite get it. I now know different. Superb session beer.

Then had a Moorhouses Black Cat. OK, but not at its best. When it is, it’s a superb beer. Possibly coming toward the barrel end methinks. Some roasted character in there, but a slight sourness. As I said, not bad, just not perfect either.

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(The REAL ‘King’ of Rock n’ Roll!)

Quite enjoyed the folky/rock strains coming through from the other room. This particular Dog is looking a bit shaggy now, but some interesting ‘Muriels’ (I love a good Hilda Ogden malapropism!) reflecting the pubs musical slant. That said, I’ll be back. 2 or 3 good beer venues close by.

Nice friendly barman as well. Asked for tasters, instantly provided. Nice.

Other beers on included Thwaites Wainwights and Bank Top Flat Cap. Good selection for a small venue.

Moving on, Colin fancied nipping into Barristers for a pint. Who am I to deny him!

Barristers

Attached to the much larger Swan Hotel at the end of Bradshawgate, this has been a bit of a real ale haven for a number years now. It’s previous name of ‘The Malt & Hops Bar’ giving the game away.

Barristers

(pic – courtesy of beerintheevening.com)

A one room bar, with an internal courtyard which leads to the facilities (contained within the aforementioned Swan). The bar has a bit of a Victorian look to it with a lot of wood in evidence. The room curves around the bar with more than adequate seating available, including a couple of nooks with some comfy chairs.

Looking for something dark, my eyes hit upon Double Stout by Hook Norton. At 4.8% abv, I’ve had this in bottle and thought it OK. Time for draught. Mmmmmm! Black, creamy head, some coffee notes on the nose. Lovely dark malty flavours, reminiscent of overdone buttery toast. Gorgeous and vying for ‘pint of the night’ with the Hawkshead!

£6.70 for three pints was none too shabby either!

At this point we bade farewell to Graham who had a bus to catch. Only 5 minutes later did I realise why, 11:10! Good grief, where did the hours go? An excellent and interesting beery related chat, was nice to meet him. Who knows, I might start to pop out to some Branch Meetings soon!

At this point (and against all my better judgement!) Colin dragged me (kicking and screaming) back into The Spinning Mule. Another NZPA? Who am I to say no!

A pleasant evening – even when accosted by an over refreshed guy in the Spoons earlier!

On that note….

Slainte!

A Few Bottle Tastings

Just a couple of nice ones so far this month.

1. Rudgate Chocolate Stout 5% abv – Booths – £1.99

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A surprise purchase from Booths at Media City this one! Hadn’t seen Rudgate there before. Deep ruby to black beer. A Malteser and caramac aroma. Dry chocolate in the mouthy, dark but not overly bitter. Nicely flavoured with chocolate not dominating the drink, a bit more subtle than some. Nice dry cocoa flavour lingered for a short while. A really nice choc stout.

2 Saltaire Triple Chocoholic – 4.8% abv – Booths – £1.99

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Yes, I have a sweet tooth! Black beer with noticeable chocolate syrup (ice cream topping) aroma. Smooth in the mouth with sweet chocolate flavour up front, lovely dark chocolatey malty base. Made with 3 sources of chocolate flavour, hence the Triple. Made to out chocolate the Youngs Dbl Choc Stout, which it does, in spades! Still one of my favourite beers, but the Rudgate pushes it close.

3. Two Roses Brewery – Black Beauty Stout – 5% abv – A gift form Jaz via Ashton Farmers Market.

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Black beer with a creamy head. Aroma had some lactic type Milk Stoutiness with an added whiff of licorice. This Vegan friendly beer was lovely and dark with a nice roast dark malt, a hint of coffee and a slight dry smokiness in the finish. A lovely beer and my first from this brewery. I’ll make up for that next time I pop into Yorkshire Ales!

4. Wilson Potter – Gingery Does It – 3.5% abv – Direct from the brewers.

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A very pale golden beer. Pale head. Slight citrus aroma with hint of spicing to come. A nicely gentle hoppiness with ginger nibbling on your tongue. A really refreshing nicely warming beer in the mouth. Really refreshing. Gingery in the way of Marble Ginger – but more refreshing. Must buy some more.

A Salford Stroll – 10/12/2012

To have one more ‘stroll’ in 2012 was decided when my good buddy Col informed me that he had a free night on Monday. (He’s not precious, he works nightshift!) As there was a particular pub I’ve been wanting to try for a while and one I wanted to revisit, I decided that a waddle around Salford was in order (or, at least, a small portion of it.)

Getting off the 37 bus opposite Salford Central train station, I showed Col where 6 (SIX) pubs had been lost since my youth. In order, The Pen & Wig (Wilsons/Websters) on New Bailey Street, The Albert Vaults (Tetley/Free), The Tallow Tub (Chesters) and The Punch Bowl (Tetley/Robinsons) all Chapel Street. Moving into Greengate (as was), I pointed out the former locations of The Three Legs of Man (Robinsons) and The Old Shears (Wilsons) on Greengate. I mention these, because they were all pubs of great character(s) which I frequented when I first started drinking real ale in the early 80s. They were great pubs, dearly missed. 2 of the buildings still stand (Albert Vaults and Punch Bowl) but sadly, never to be warm welcoming pubs again, I fear.

Anyway, reverie over! I chose this slightly convoluted route to another old favourite. One that I hadn’t visited for many years…..

The Eagle (AKA The Lamp Oil Shop)

The Eagle, Salford, Review And Elegy

(Courtesy of http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk)

As I’d told Col, The Eagle was an old friend it took me a long time to find. Located on Collier Street, set back slightly from the Trinity Way inner ring road this is a PROPER Salford back street boozer! Frankly it’s amazing that it is still standing. Back in the day (I HATE that phrase!), it was one of many pubs in the Greengate district.  Once thriving. Now all gone. You could say that The Eagle is truly The Last Bird Standing. The pubs all catered for the factories in the Greengate and Trinity areas. Again, gone. In their place, posh high-rise flats and car parks for the Arena. Progress eh?

Taken on in the last 12 months by the team who renovated The Castle (another old favourite), I was intrigued to see what they had done with it. I was not to be disappointed.

Layout wise, they’ve left well alone. A smart move. A lick of paint in classy subtle warm tones set the scene (that and the Xmas tree being put up!) They’ve made good use of the small back yard and the back room looks better than I had ever seen it before. This is a comforting, warm welcoming pub. As I said earlier a PROPER Salford back street boozer! AND, the smallest pub in the Holt estate (or was).

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Walking into the pub, ‘Is that REALLY Guy Garvey’? Indeed it was, enjoying a chat. Star struck (I’m a sad git!), I didn’t wan’t to say hello for fear of being a bumbling idiot (A 47 year old one at that!). So, Beer choice took over. On the bar, Holts Bitter, Holts Mild, Holts’ winter brew Bah Humbrew and Shepherd Neame Spitfire. The Bah Humbrew having just run out, we settled for 3 pints of Mild. In good nick as well, roasted malt and slightly bitter – Holts Mild as it should be! The pricing seemed slightly high (£2.70 I think), but is more than worth it for supping in what is one of a rapidly diminishing breed. The true back-street pub. It is a classic, sensitively refurbished. Changing little, enhancing much. Nice jukebox as well, bit of folk, bit of reggae. The Eagle in the 80s was renowned for its Juke.

Those aforementioned flats give me hope for the pub. A lot of people live within a coin toss of The Eagle now. I hope they wake up and see the polished gem from their balconies. And patronise it. A classic pub. I’ve had some great times  in The Lamp Oil. I hope to have more. Back soon.

(If I may venture just a slight improvement suggestion? Ditch the Spitfire for a local Micro? There are loads – after all, this IS the team behind The Castle! – A Black Jack, Outstanding, Quantum?)

Having congratulated (who I presumed was) the Landlord on a job well done – apologising to the nice Mr Garvey for interrupting! – we walked past two other lamented pub losses (The Black Friar and The Braziers – Boddingtons) and were generally moving toward Chapel Street. Getting our thirsts back, we decided to pop into….

The Kings Arms

Walking into The Kings, the knitting club was pearling away in the Snug. The main room was quite quiet so we were swiftly served with Facers Porter (Me) and Blackedge American Pale (Jaz & Col). I’d forgotten I’d had the Facers Porter in The Smithfield recently, but never mind eh? Mocha on the nose, coffee and dark roasted malt with a chocolate hint in the mouth. Fairly potent for a ‘school night’ at 5.5%abv, but SO nice! I sampled the Blackedge as well. This had an amped up hop nose with a smoother American hop flavour (amarillo?)

I was gutted to note (too late) that Old Tom was on cask on the bar!


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(A pleasure denied!)

We had a nice chat in The Kings over the beer. A chance to note the other beers on the bar. 2 more from Facers, 1 from Happy Valley and one from Copper Dragon. A nice selection. Weird to see a bar in Salford with 3 from Facers now that they’ve moved from Salford to Flintshire!!!

Some of the decor took my eye. I’ve always loved the 7″ singles covers on the wall from the heyday of punk and New Wave, but the vast number of hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs? Nice!

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By the way. More excellent music. Al Green, The Imposter (Pills & Soap!) Ahhh….we move on, to……

The Salford Arms

Walking silently back in….It WAS quiz night after all! We slid towards the bar (very quietly) with a quick Hello to Tom, we ordered the Iron Gate Stout by Black Iris Brewery. First beer from this brewery for me. I snatched the first pint poured. Just after the second…disaster. Finito! Being the consummate gentleman, Col gave up the pint to Jaz and chose a pint of Hornbeam. The Iron Gate was SUPERB! A lovely smooth coffee roast tinged Stout. Nice and dry. Certainly worth seeking out. Another at 5.5%abv. Possibly sensing our disappointment at the Stout expiring, Tom indulged in some cellar wizardry (barrel tilting!) and conjured up another 3 pints for the team. Nicely done!

20121210_205730[1](beats the usual decorations – White Xmas anyone?)

Whilst that was going on, I had a belting chat with The Quizmaster, Dave. A lovely bloke who patently loves a nice pint and a nice pub to drink it in. He loved similar pubs to me and managed to suggest one I am yet to visit, The Molly House. One for the early new year methinks!

A quick chat with Tom reveals more Saltaire soon to come…was that a Triple Chocoholic with CHERRIES!!!!!??? He also has hatched plans with Black Jack to make the house beer Vegan by using alternative finings. Given the Vegan food evenings they have on a Tuesday, an excellent move. They’re serving some excellent beer here. Just remind me when that Saltaire is on! (Defintitely worth the 8 mile bus journey!)

Having had two, it was time to move on. Farewells said, we strode off along Chapel Street to….

The New Oxford

A perennial favourite of both myself and Jaz, but the first time for Col. Again, fairly quiet, bit of rock on the Juke.

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(Beer Heaven Pt 2 – The Bottles)

The usual large selection to choose from. Dark Side wins again with a Townhouse Brewery Barney’s Stout. The usual roasted malt flavours present. Nice enough, but after the series of 5.5%ers, possibly a bit light! I finished off with Hop from Blackedge. Again, possibly suffered from the time of the evening. 3.6% abv not wisest at this late stage. A nice bitter though. Pale, slightly bitter with a balanced flavour and aroma (Bramling Cross hops?). Slightly maltier than I expected (I love to be assaulted by hops!)

A nice end to the stroll, Col and myself headed for the 37 bus (we actually got the 8 and walked!), Jaz probably headed off to a central bar (knowing him!). A good evening, with good company, excellent pubs and excellent beer. Isn’t this how it always should be?

Til next time.

Slainte!

Hawkshead Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House 26/11/2012

‘Twas a fairly grim evening, this particular Monday. I had been aware of these events that had been held almost monthly at Port Street, but, as yet, had not attended one.

However, when Jaz approached me with the prospect of attending one when the great and the good from Hawkshead brewery of Staveley, Cumbria would be presenting, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up!

Anyway. Where were we. Ah Yes! ‘Twas a grim evening, this particular Monday. Getting to Manchester in rush hour was managed with the help of my darling Attila and I found myself approaching Jaz, loitering on the corner of Hilton & Port St.

Entering the mighty Beer House, I was surprised to learn that, ordinarily, it is closed on a Monday evening! I handed over my entrance ticket to receive 5 raffle style tickets, each to be exchanged for a drink at the bar, a 1/2 pint of Windermere Pale and 4 “samples”. Intrigued? Was I!

I was pleased to notice that, whilst there were only 3 beers with their clips “facing”, one of these was Blackedge Brewery “Black Stout”. Judging by reports, the Blackedge “Black Port” had been on and was subject to rave reviews. I was pleased to try this local ale (Horwich). Black as night, with an off white head, the aromas were promisingly earthy. What followed was a pint of dark malty roasted goodness, with a hoppy dry aftertaste. (I’ll be scouting Bolton pubs to find more!)

I then settled down to the business at hand, a half pint of Hawkshead Windermere Pale. A seriously hoppy beer at a mere 3.5%. Almost lager pale, the hoppy aromas can be quite surprising at first, lots of grapefruit and apricot in there. This is a gorgeously sharp pint. Nice and bitter and hugely moreish. A beer you could drink all evening and, quite possibly, my favourite beer below 4% abv!

As I got toward the end of the half, the brewers were introduced. 4 had travelled up from Staveley and one of them, Matt Clarke, the Head Brewer, (a New Zealander) gave us a quick spiel about the brewery.

Founded by Alex Brodie (hence, Brodies Prime) in 2002, they started brewing just outside of Hawkshead on a 7 barrel plant. Having grown rapidly, they outgrew the initial premises and ended up at the current location at Staveley where they can now brew nearly 6 times the previous capacity.

Matt introduced the first beer of the evening. Brodies Prime (I was SO hoping they’d brought some!). A silky dark roasted beer, not quite a Stout, not quite a Porter. Matt made reference to the current vogue of Black IPAs (which Brodies Prime predated by nearly a decade!). I resolved that this half pint would not be the last Brodies of the evening!

Next, Matt introduced NZPA (New Zealand Pale Ale). Brewed at 6%, using four New Zealand hops: Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka & Nelson Sauvin. He claimed that he was cajoled into making this beer as people kept asking him why a New Zealander wasn’t using hops from his own country! Tasting the NZPA, I reckon he needed absolutely no excuses whatsoever! This is a big beer. On a firm sweet malty base, those citrussy New Zealand hops pack a mighty punch. This was the first pale I had at the SIBA fest last month, I loved it then and that only grew with this taste (another 1/2 pint). Just when I was starting to feel that I was deserting my Dark wife for a pale mistress……

On comes the next beer…..Ooooh……An Imperial Stout! Brewed with oats and SIX malts!!! Aged in Oaken Bladnoch Whisky Casks for nearly 10 months!!!! (I think I’ve broken my exclamation mark key) This is an astonishingly lovely, rich beer! (I lied about the ! of course) Sweet tobacco, coffee…yum. Then, just at the side of the tongue, you get the warming oaky, whisky hit. Love at first sip.

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The boys from Staveley had brought some local made Pork Pie to accompany the beers. They were well matched with the Imperial Stout for sure.

Jaz and I had a bit of a chinwag with Matt, who seemed a decent sort, before it was onto the next beer, which he introduced as…….another Imperial Stout at 8.3% abv. This time made with Lyth Valley damsons and Madagascan vanilla pods (the sour and the sweet). Another gloriously black oozing brew, the sourness of the damsons offset by the natural sweetness of all that malt!

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I have to say that my slight preference would be for the “straight” Imperial Stout, though I could barely separate them.

Image(A fine selection of Cumbrian Crackers!)

I then fulfilled my ‘promise to self’ with a pint of Brodies Prime followed by a sneaky half pint of Imperial Stout (rude not to….)

As stated, this was my first “Meet The Brewer”. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was an excellent evening, engaging presentations from people who have a passion about what they brew and some simply astonishingly good beer.

I sloped off at this point, leaving Jaz in his second home (his living room ?) and was slightly surprised to see the guys from Hawkshead piling into their “twin cab” pick up. One of the four having selflessly been the Designated one for the evening.

On that note I bid you a fond farewell til next time.

Slainte!