The Road To Wigan Beer – Allgates Brewery – 04/04/2015

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It’s probably going a bit too far to say that this day endangers my marriage, but this is the second Easter break in a row where I have been given a green card and skipped a visit to my beloved Outlaws – For the record, I actually DO love my In-Laws! This event has become a bit of a fixture for both myself and the Arch-Nemesis since the first episode in October 2013. Read HERE about that one.

So here is the spec. 6 pubs. 11 days. 95 beers – many new both to Wigan AND the North West. AND on the first Saturday, a bus. To take you around all of the pubs in one day (with a hot pot supper laid on at the end!) All for £5 (plus the beer, of course!)

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My love of Allgates’ beers is well documented. By me. It’s all well and good worshipping the God that is Humulus Lupulus. But the hop was meant to be a seasoning for beer. Not a spicy flamethrower. Beer is meant to be drinkable and Allgates makes eminently drinkable beers.

But they also have a number of pubs in the Wigan Metropolitan area, in which they sell (strangely), their own beers, alongside some excellent guests. At prices mostly £2.50 or less a pint. Yes Mancunians! There is a world where this is possible!!!

Twice a year, the good people of my favourite brewery scour the country for new beers for the drinkers of Wigan (aka Lucky Gits!) and spread these beers out across many of their pubs. for two periods of 11 days at Easter and October. And on the first Saturday of each – barring unforeseen problems – they lay on bus, so that some hardy souls can sample some of these new beers in each of these pubs. On a single day.

And if they can’t, this event is so unmissable, that we do it by public transport! Read that one HERE!

It’s gruelling. It’s hard work. But someone has to do it. Step forth a beery Ratman & Bobbins!

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The Anvil – Dorning Street (adj to Wigan Bus Station)

Allgates’ brewery tap and some would say “flagship pub”. Whatever, there is one thing to be said for this (effectively) 3 roomed pub. It never lacks for custom! A fairly bright and modern interior belies the early 20th century looking exterior. This pub just hums with conversation, whatever the time.

The six handpumps help. Outside of RTWB, Allgates AllBlack Mild is my go to. But this IS RTWB. And I spied this….

Pig & Porter Brewery (Tunbridge Wells, Kent – 4.5% abv) Starvation Point Porter . Dark, medium-bodied and oh so smooth. Coffee roasted aroma with a little smokiness, with sweet coffee flavour and almost a vanilla hint with all the roastiness. A superb start.

With time for a swift half (REALLY swift) before the bus set off, another new brewery to me

Firebird Brewing (Rudgwick, W Sussex) and #79 Golden Ale (4.3% abv). Golden? Check! Fruity as a fruity thing? Check! Run for the bus? CHECK!!!

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“Just hop on the bus, Gus”

Ding! Ding! And we’re off on the first leg (but second pub) to……

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The Crooke Hall Inn (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground)

(CAMRA Wigan Pub of the Year!) Now. It’s a rare thing when the ankle nibblers (who are hardly THAT at 20 & 15!) agree with their dear old Dad – even when he is PAYING! – but we agree on this pub. Them? Because the food is excellent here, especially the Sunday lunches. Me? That’s a rhetorical question. Obviously.

A lovely and well maintained 3 roomed pub – a lovely thing in itself – the views onto the Leeds – Liverpool canal make this journey so worthwhile, especially on a sunny day like this.

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(Archive shot – too busy drinking for pics!)

The pub is easily accessible (on a nice sunny day) via a canal walk from Gathurst Train Stn (Southport line) and the walk is worth it – you can trust me as I’m neither a politician nor a used car salesman!

In here, there was time for 2 beers..(and a lovely Steak Pie!)

Fixed Wheel Brewery (Blackheath, West Mids) had their “Single Speed Waimea” on the bar. This did the trick, being golden, fruity and tart with a nice pine resin hit in the finish.

Binghams Brewery (Ruscombe, Berkshire) – Space Hoppy IPA was stepping up the abv a touch and was golden and plenty fruity & bitter enough. Works for me!

Never enough time in this pub for me, only once have I managed more than 2 pints. A crying shame, but the bus was calling…. Ding! Ding!

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The White Lion (Leigh Road, Leigh)

Another award-winning pub. (SE Lancs CAMRA Pub of the Year!) This pub is on a main road just around the corner from Leigh bus station (Is Leigh REALLY the largest town in the UK without a train station?) – Harry the landlord has been building a cracking rep for his beers. And the prices are ludicrous to these Manchester focussed eyes!

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A 3 roomed town centre boozer with the main room housing the bar – complete with its SEVEN hand pumps complete with the fifth successive beer from a brewery new to me!

Totally Brewed (Nottingham) and their Papa Jangles Voodoo Stout worked its spell on me! Big coffee nose up front and a really creamy full-bodied mouthful. More coffee and a ickle vanilla hint probably made this my beer of the day. Utterly lush.

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Mordue Brewery / Panda Frog (Wallsend, Tyne & Wear) – Pandademic was another belter from a brewery I’ve never had a beer from (despite Mordue being around for a few years!). For a 3.5% beer, this felt much more full-bodied! Golden, fruity and tart with a crackling resinous finish. Panda Frog is a side project from Mordue and definitely worth looking out for!

Glentworth Brewery (Doncaster) and their Rain Dancer was from another brewery new to me (with no Social Media link, click the hyper for a few words from excellent Yorkshire bloggers A Swift One) – A 4% golden beer that was tart fruity & refreshing (and light, which at this stage was a bonus!) – Only 3 pubs in and I was starting to realise that this is a marathon, not a sprint!

Ding! Ding!

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The Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley)

Pretty much a 4 roomed pub this, with that number of distinct areas, this is another pub with a good reputation for honest pub food (and a few took advantage here). Lots of wood and a raised eating area in the main room. This is probably the closest Allgates pub to me and needs visiting more. The beer……

Green Duck Beer Co (Stourbridge, W Mids) and their Duck Blonde was another sharp golden beer that completely hit the spot. Smooth and a tart hoppy hit. Cracker. And ludicrously cheap again.
Sonnet 43 (Coxhoe, Co Durham) – Blonde – Golden and smooth, with a bit of gooseberry and grape. Really quite a refreshing pint with a really dry finish.
Hearing the shout from David…..time for the bus! Ding! Er…. Ding!
To my favourite pub….
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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley)
A straight up and down two-roomed local. That word. Local. Sums the place up. Friendly, warm, and great beer. Welcoming. It’s all I need. A pub that does the simple things right. Shame Nigel wasn’t around, it’s been a while…..
Pig & Porter Brewery (Tunbridge Wells, Kent) and their Crab & Winkle pale ale. A 3% abv beer with quite a full-bodied feel to it. Refreshing, much-needed. Fruity but not overpowering. A repeated brewery on the day, but I’m a sucker for a “small beer”.
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And at this point, I had a pint of one of Allgates own beers. A superb pint of Dry Bones. Fresh and zesty. A lovely beer.
Again, another pub that I can’t spend enough time in. I’ll be back soon.
And FINALLY…….Ding…….By this time, I was losing my Dings……..
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The Victoria (Haigh Road, Aspull)
I know it’s not, but this pub feels “villagey” and is quite close to the lovely Haigh Hall. It’s another two roomed pub. With, what seems to me to be an increasingly rare thing. A VAULT! Oh Yes! A proper vault! With a pool table and card/dominoes table and everything! This is to the right of the entrance with the main room to the left upon entry.
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And then came the one thing that I’d forgotten….FOOD! A much welcomed hot pot……
(Landlord is a Blue too, so I’m automatically biased here!
Ossett Brewery and Tedney Gold  Bright gold beer withan orangey note on the nose. In the mouth, Grape and peach in the mouth. Gently fruity and light. Nice bitterness with a dry fruity finish.(Not sure I could have handled something much heavier at this point!)

Green Duck Beer Co (Stourbridge, W Mids) and (the aptly named) Drunken Duck was my “finishing line” beer. Another pale beer with a citrus fruity nose and a nice fruity bitterness.

Dong!
Hot pot finished, Glass drained and back on the bus to the Anvil and a further pint.
6 excellent pubs. 2 CAMRA branch Pubs of the Year. 8 breweries that I’d never tried before. 12 beers likewise. It really IS one of the fixtures in my drinking calendar. I can’t rant on enough about it.
But I need to rest now……Bolton Beer Festival tomorrow…..Which, if it’s anything like last year will feature some superb beers…..
Until next time….
Slainte!

“(if music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it)

no more no need for gents and ladies
no need no more for breeding babies
take in that torso-redesign
no more divide the body and mind

not a duty just an action you’ll enjoy
for any boy and boy girl and girl and girl and boy
rub out the rules on how and who can procreate
xoyo triple x: sex mosaics (renegades!)”

XOYO” – The Passage

Historic Manchester Pubs- Pt 2 – 08/05/2014

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 (corridor – The City Arms)

“I wish that I could push a button and talk in the past and not the present tense.

And watch this hurting feeling disappear, like it was common sense.

It was a fine idea at the time, now it’s a brilliant mistake.”

(“Brilliant Mistake”  – The Costello Show ft The Confederates)

(Hyperlink video courtesy of  lisap2468 on YouTube)

Coming 2 years after the (rather harshly derided) “Goodbye Cruel World” – liner notes in the re-issue stating “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.” – “King of America” was, stylistically, a bold move by one of my favourite artists – if not quite as left field as the C&W album “Almost Blue”. There is almost no comparison between his Americana tinged 1986 classic and the likes of his bigger selling early albums like “This Years Model” & “Armed Forces” (I was strangle never overly struck on his biggest single “Olivers Army” – preferring the delights of “Accidents Will Happen”)

King of America is certainly my favourite Costello album. The lyrics (as usual) pin sharp and the subject matter spanning the range of emotions from the love-struck “Lovable” to the heart-wrenching end-of-relationship “Indoor Fireworks”, this is simply a stunning album that dragged me back into the Costello fold and is a diamond amongst the dross of late ’80s “music”. I wondered why he would want to play with members of his namesake Presley’s band The TCB Band, then I listened. the results are, quite simply, lovely. For me, the greatest album by a man who should be treated as a national treasure.

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I’m getting to that time of life when I’m meeting old colleagues at retirement dos with increasing regularity. I tend to pick and choose the ones that I go to. The sole criteria being respect. Last nights event, though I didn’t stay long, was for an utterly stand-out bloke. Unfortunately, however, the event was to be held in the Spinningfields branch of Slug & Lettuce. My sinking heart needed to be buoyed. So I floated it in the excellent Salford Arms with some colleagues of the current vintage.

Excellent pints of Black Jack Blackbird Stout (beautifully roasted and creamy with just the right amount of bitterness) and Zool by Tiny Rebel (fabulously fruity and hoppy pale ale) set the stage. As ever, both beers excellently kept by Tom – I haven’t been in for a while, but some things never change – excellent Steak & Onion ciabatta BTW – he just keeps the beer superbly in here. An essential staging post en route to Manchester.

Next up was a stop off in the re-opened Mark Addy. Again, excellent pints of Dark Revenge by Privateer (just SO smooth, coffee roast and ever so slightly hoppy and bitter – a class beer), Cascade by Blackedge (beautifully hopped, light and refreshing – probably my favourite pale by them on cask so far) and a nice hoppy Pale Ale by Shiny Brewing of Derby at 4.5% – the name of which escapes me. These were all bolted down – something I rarely do, for fear of the inevitable consequences! A really nice surprise was meeting Pete Killip behind the bar – someone with whom I’ve had many a pleasant social media exchange, but hadn’t met. Nice bloke, glad to see him back behind the MA bar. Good to see the Mark Addy open at all!

The do was…well, it WAS in the Slug….not my venue de choix! One (untried) cask ale by Hardy & Hansons (St George Ale, I think), meeting old colleagues was great and chatting to some with whom I’ve shared many a beery misdemeanour over the years was just a pleasure. It’s sad that I’m at that stage of life, when meeting old friends tends to be at Retirements or Funerals, but good people are always that, good people.

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Over a year ago, I did a piece on a mini-crawl around some of Manchester/Salford’s older pubs and planned to do a follow up (or Pt 2) soon afterwards. Well, this IS that sequel. A bit long in the making, but, safe to say, I enjoyed the making of this one a bit more than the last!

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The Rising Sun (Queen St/Lloyd St)

Manchester. The Rainy City. The umbrella in the shot says it all. It was wet. Very wet, as I sprint walked up towards the Rising Sun. I had kept the Arch-Nemesis waiting for over half an hour and felt a tad guilty. Good man that he is, if he had a grudge, he hid it well and had got me a pint of Mill Town Mild by Howard Town Brewery of Glossop.  A lovely mild, dark brown in colour, all toffee malt, caramel and chocolate in a light body at 3.5%, with little bitterness. A fine example of a Northern Mild from this local brewery.

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The ‘Sun is what can be described as a “cut” pub, with an entrance on both streets, originally designed to draw in passing trade from both streets. It is a single roomed and narrow pub with confusion surrounding its initial opening as a pub (with dates as early as 1684 being mentioned – which would indeed make it Manchester’s oldest by a distance). Logic dictates that this is probably wrong as, apparently, this part of Manchester was undeveloped at that time. I prefer to go with the date of the excellent Pubs of Manchester which gives it a date of approximately 1777. Bloody hell, the year after the US Declaration of independence!

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(This is so cute! I want it!!!)

The pub has had a refurb in the past couple of years and looks as good as I’ve ever seen it (Been drinking here – on & off – for 30 years). Nice neutral colours a few tables and comfy chairs. a couple of unobtrusive (ie: not gigantic) TVs. It’s a cracking little bolt hole, although one that is hardly a secret anymore, being 30 seconds from Deansgate and popular with the after office set. Good boozer. (Lovely tiled loos too….the toilets say a lot about a pub, ask Mrs BM!)

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Next on the list was a bit of a walk to clear out a few beer induced cobwebs. All the way across to Great Bridgewater Street, where, in the shadow of the mighty Bridgewater Hall (AND Manchester Central!), there are two gems amidst all the modernity….

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The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)

Still wet (well, it IS Manchester!), the walk was turned into a thirst-inducing power walk, the quicker to get out of the wet and into the dry!

The Britons is simply stunning. Standing in isolation and unprepossessing from the outside, it is simply BEAUTIFUL inside!

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Apparently dating from 1811 (see here courtesy http://manchesterhistory.net/), this is a true multi-roomed pub with the main room being fairly narrow with a long bar and, unusually, two entrances at the front with one giving direct access to the bar from the street.

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(gorgeous isn’t it?)

Again, another pub I’ve been coming in for 30 or so years. Even when it was a Tetley house, the beer was superb, The usual semi-macro suspects adorn the bar, with Robbies Unicorn & Jennings Cumberland (I think) to the right. My eyes alighted on the two pumps to the left that were adorned by local; micro clips, Privateer & Outstanding being the two tonight. Having already had a Privateer, I opted for the Outstanding Brewery and its 3.9. A very pale ale at (shock!) 3.9% abv, passion fruit nose and orangey refreshing bitterness in the mouth. Just what the doctor ordered to slake the thirst. Outstanding do the simple things very well, they make damn good beer.

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A warm and friendly pub with loads of beautiful decorative features, stained and leaded glass windows here, a real fire there….the two rooms to the rear are rarely empty and are great places to have a sit down and chat with friends. Beautiful pub, friendly staff, excellent beer, do you want anything else?

Maybe whiskies? The pub has a reputation for its wide variety and huge selection. Tonight I could see why!

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Next pub, fortunately, wasn’t too far away on this damp evening!

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Peveril of the Peak (Chepstow Street)

Apparently dating from the early 19th century (again, thanks to manchesterhistory.net), this wedged shape multi-roomed pub holds a special place in my drinking history – more later!

Beautiful green enamelled tiling adorns the outside, with lots of wood and warm tones inside and more original type features than you could shake a proverbial wotsit at….The bar football table (covered over tonight) is legendary in Manchester and has been a draw as far back as I can remember. The beer choice leaves something to be desired – could they make room for a local micro on the bar? Best option tonight was a pint of Deuchars IPA, with all the local micros around, not ordinarily my first choice, but do you know what, it was a rather pleasant refreshing pint, in tip-top condition. Golden, bittersweet and refreshing. More than did the job!

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Another rarity in the city centre is the pool table in the back room (probably, the largest room in the pub. The front room (with the main bar area) curves around the bar. There is a further (rather beautiful) third room, triangular in shape, with a real fire, small, but perfectly formed – a bit like this rather unique old boozer.

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That thing about a special place in MY drinking history!

In December 1981, I was due to see a band called Pigbag at the club on Oxford Road that used to be called Rafters. They got snowed in in Bristol, Dislocation Dance stepped in and a musical love affair commenced! However, Pigbag rescheduled for early 1982 and a few of us went to see them. Now, I do NOT condone under-aged drinking……yawn!…….but we started the night in The Pev. I was drinking Carlsberg. A good pal of mine, Smudge (take a bow Martin Murray!) was drinking a brown liquid that looked rather nice. Passing me his pint of what I learned was Wilsons Bitter, I took a taste. It was creamy textured and rather lovely. I put the Carlsberg down and ordered a pint. It was my Damascene conversion. I never drank Carlsberg again. 32 years later….

As I needed a bank for some funds, my original plan had to change, as there was no machine en-route to The City Arms. Thinking on my feet, we headed to another gem – one that had been a tad controversial recently.

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The Lass O’Gowrie (Charles Street)

According to the map contained here (manchesterhistory.net again!), the Lass has been around since at least the mid 1800s, when the area was (patently) more residential, with workers housing (no doubt staffing the mills at the end of the street).

The Lass is another beautiful old pub, but one that’s been knocked about a bit inside. Recently given a bit of a facelift following the rather controversial removal of the previous landlord, The Lass looks like it might regain some of its erstwhile popularity, lost no doubt following the relocation of Auntie to Salford Quays. I still remember the fond days of the 80s when, before The Marble Arch started brewing, The Lass was the original Brewpub. They may have been made from Malt Extract, but LOG 35 & 42 added much-needed variety to the beery diet dominated by Boddingtons and the national brewing conglomerates.

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Last time I entered, there was only one local micro on, it may have even been the only beer, but tonight things looked a little healthier, with the Arch-Nemesis buying me a pint of Cherry Baby from Blakemere  (Northwich, Cheshire). Chestnut hued, with a huge fruity aroma (yes, cherries), this was an excellent lightly roasty mild with plenty of cheery flavour. Perked up my flagging taste buds!

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Good footy related chat with some guys in the small room (bottom left of pic above!)

The Lass is looking up. It was a bit quiet, but on a Thursday evening, where (other than Port Street) gets busy? Nicely decorated, beer in excellent nick, a nice option on the Oxford Rd corridor.

I couldn’t pass Joshua Brooks without going in eh? Glad I did, as there was a First Chop beer on the bar that I hadn’t had. TOC was the beer. Typical of Rik Garner’s paler offspring, golden, fruity as hell (oranges and tangerines) with a hoppy and bitter finish. Brewed for The Other City festival recently, there may not be much of this about. It was lovely and in great nick, as usual with JB. Great to see the quality being maintained following Jon Turner’s departure.

Still a bit moist, though no longer throwing down stair rods, a bit of a walk to the next pub.

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The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

Located just off Princess Street/St Peters Square, in a parallel universe, this would be an undiscovered gem. In this real timeline, this pub has been hugely popular in the 30 years that I’ve known it Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) the pub occupies what was an 18th century town house, being known as a pub from the late 19th century.

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2 main drinking areas here, the main bar area with 8 handpumps on the go, with the second room accessed by a couple of steps down. Like the Britons Protection, 2 entrances here, with the one to the left giving access to a serving hatch, enabling people to use this as an overspill from the frequently busy main rooms.

The main bar area is sparsely furnished and serves as the main (mostly vertical) drinking area. On a busy evening, it’s best to use the left hand entrance, to avoid the struggle of entering a (justly) rammed pub!

On entry tonight, I was a bit rude. I didn’t scan the pumps. My eyes hit AllgatesAll Black Mild (well, May is Mild Month!). I love this beer and needed look no further – ticking be damned! Black, light chocolate and coffee notes with a hoppy kick from the use of New Zealand hops (hence the name!). I generally have it wherever I find it. A beautiful beer that cut through the clagged up taste buds at this late stage of the evening!

NB : The City has been garlanded by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA Branch as their Pub of the Year 2014. This particular member from Bolton lauds this fine choice!

Finally (are you still awake?)

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The Vine (Kennedy Street – next door to The City Arms)

Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) this dates from a similar era to The City Arms, having been a pub since the late 19th century. This bijou (Salfordian for lickle!) boozer is on 3 levels. A good job really because the bar area is a bit dinky! We headed downstairs where, last time that I went in – some years ago TBF – it was used as a restaurant. Oh how my eyes were opened!

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Downstairs there was a fully fledged bar with room for the handpumps that they couldn’t fit upstairs. Fairly quiet, the A-N selected a Lancaster Blonde at 4%. Golden, with a nice refreshing hoppy fruitiness with an orange note to it. I’m just astounded that my tastebuds had survived at this stage of the evening! Nice, fruity light and refreshing. A nice pint to sign off with.

Bloody hell, that WAS an evening! (Managed to have 3 Milds as well. Happy boy!)

Thanks due to the blogs Pubs of Manchester and Manchesterhistory.net for my liberal pilfering of data. A valuable service they provide. There is an absolute dearth of information on the net about Manchester’s drinking establishment heritage. Frankly, I was embarrassed how little I would have found without the above resources. There’s a Boak & Baileyesque gap here that needs to be filled. Any takers?

 On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

“It was a fine idea at the time….” But on Friday morning it felt like a Brilliant Mistake!

The Road To Wigan Beer – Easter 2014 – 19/04/2014

Edna Million in a drop dead suit, Dutch pink on a downtown train.

Two dollar pistol but the gun won’t shoot, I’m in the corner in the pouring rain.

Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup,

Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon; I can’t stand up.”

(“Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits)
(Video courtesy of Kenneth Sutherland on You Tube)

Tom Waits. Not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but SUCH a great songwriter. I love him. So There!

Take the following ingredients…

1 sunny day, 1 train, 1 bus, 6 excellent pubs (including my Pub of the Year 2013!), multiple award-winning beers. Mix vigourously. What do you get? Read on!

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I had been looking forward to this day since the previous event last October, so, when Allgates announced that not only would there be a “Road To Wigan Beer” spanning the Easter holidays, but that the bus would be touring their pubs again, it was an event that I simply couldn’t miss! With permissions both sought and granted by Mrs BM (a saint of a woman!), I reserved seats for both myself AND the Arch-Nemesis….If it was anything like last year, I might need support near the end!

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Catching the train on a magnificently sunny spring day (for Walkden), the carriage swiftly became rammed with Bank Holiday sand seekers, en route – presumably – to Southport. Standing room only! By the time we got to Wigan Wallgate, it was that warm ON the train, I was only too glad to get off. At this point, I realised my morning error. I hadn’t had a drink of any kind whatsoever since the previous evening. That first pint couldn’t arrive soon enough!

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The Anvil (Dorning Street, next to Wigan Bus Stn) is the Allgates Brewery tap (being a 2 minute stroll from the brewery) and whilst being fairly open plan, has the feel of a multi-roomed pub, bright with lots of light it has 7 handpumps dispensing Allgates own beers and varied guest ales. Multi-award winning (check out the certificates on the wall just past the bar!) this is one busy pub, so I was quite surprised to find a table free for the arch-nemesis & I to rest our weary bones!

Now, you may recall a recent post where David (Brewery Co-Owner) and myself went “over the hill” into the land that time forgot (Yorkshire) and picked up loads of casks for this very festival (read here). The first beer I had today was the last that we picked up that day. A certain symmetry, no?

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Bourbon Milk StoutSonnet 43 Brew House (Coxhoe, Co Durham) A good strength to start with at 4.3%, this was pitch black with a lovely tight creamy tan coloured head. With a milky coffee aroma, this was full-bodied and luxuriously smooth, little lactic sweetness with more smooth milky coffee, just when you start looking for the bourbon, there is a slight boozy backnote. A slightly sweet yet gentle hoppy finish to this. Was really hoping to have this. A cracker to start with.

My thirst kind of…almost slaked, there was time for a swift half before the chariot was harnessed….

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BlondeAtom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) 4% abv. Pale gold with a nice fluffy white head and a slight fruity aroma, this came alive in the mouth. Light-bodied and quite tart with a gooseberry sharpness to it. Really juicy, refreshing and light. Wished I had time for a full pint! The usual well-kept beer that you expect from the Anvil…managed to have the briefest of chats with Andy Heggs from the excellent HopOnTheBike but the chariot had been harnessed….

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(our beery chariot!)

Disappointingly not as full as last year, quite a few less locals on board. But with the Bury Militia, mobilised by Ramsbottom’s own beery Ratko Mladic (aka the Legendary Tyson The Beerhound!), I was minding my Ps & Qs!

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The Crooke Hall Inn – (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground) This was the kind of day when The Crooke really can come into its own, owing to its fabulous location on the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It really is stunning in the sunshine. Having heard that Greg (the Landlord) had 9 handpumps fully loaded, guess who was first into the pub?

Now. There were a number of beers in the Festival menu that I REALLY wanted to try. One of them was the marvellous Sonnet 43 and another was on the bar here at The Crooke!

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Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – This was a beer in demand. So much so, that there was a logjam at the bar with only one pump in constant use! This forced Greg to ask the following question

Q. “Anybody want anything other than Shindigger?”

A. (Alan Wass – Wigan CAMRA Branch) “Yes”

Q. “What would you like?”

A. “Half of Shindigger please!”

Laugh? I nearly bought a round! But once I’d dabbed the laughter tears from my eyes, I could pay attention to the beer in front of me….

The Pacific Pale was a deep golden colour, almost amber in fact,  with a tight white head and a lovely citrus fruit aroma. Medium-bodied, it was so refreshing with really zingy citrus flavours. Dry and tart in the finish, it was excellent. What was even better was the price. £2.40 a pint. (TWO POUNDS FORTY PENCE!) Bloody marvellous!

I bent my head around the corner to tell Andy the price. I quickly turned to what I thought was the sound of a jaw hitting the floor!

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Now how pale do you like your Pale Ales to be?

LubelskiPictish Brewing Company (Rochdale, Lancashire) 4% abv – Single-hopped with the eponymous Polish hop, this was a lovely light, sharp and tart pale beer with more gooseberry notes. Medium-bodied and REALLY refreshing. The Arch-Nemesis has been banging on about Pictish for years. I’m now officially a convert!

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Just time for another swift half in this lovely multi-roomed pub with this fabulous location for summer days!

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Risky BlondeFool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) 4.4% abv – Brewed at The Hope Inn on the A6 in Stockport, I hadn’t even so much as sniffed a Fool Hardy beer until a recent bottle from Great Ale Year Round. This was my first encounter on draught, so I wasn’t leaving the Crooke until I had it!

A bit fuller-bodied than the Pictish, this was slightly maltier too. deep gold and another nice tight white head. Smooth and creamy textured in the mouth, this had a tart fruity edge to it too and a nice dry bitter finish. Lovely!

I must say that I REALLY tried hard to persuade Greg to join us again on the bus! But he manned the beery barricades like a trooper!

Back on the Magic Bus!

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Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley) – Bit of a Tardis is The Union! Looks quite dinky from the outside, but 3 distinct drinking areas with two bars front and back. Some of the guys had food in here and it looked bloody good! But, I only had eyes for beer at this stage!

Beyond The PaleElland Brewery (Elland, West Yorkshire) 4.2% abv – Not sure this was a Festival listed beer (the are 4 Elland beers listed), this was still a logical choice. Bloody glad I did too! £4.20 for TWO pints!!! Ludicrous pricing.

Bright golden beer, with a peachy aroma to my nose. Really refreshing again, fruity and bitter (Cascade hopped) with a tart grapefruit finish. Another cracker (Their 1872 Porter should be any beer drinkers “Bucket List”!)

As I finished the Elland, Was that a Black Jack clip being attached to a pump? Hmmm

New Deck – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) 4.2% abv – I know what to expect from the beers brewed by Rob Hamilton, quality hoppy pale beers. This was no exception! Tart and refreshing with big grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied and oh-so moreish. Really zingy, nice bitter finish and quite a pine needly aftertaste. Just YUM!

Ding Ding!

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The White Lion (Leigh Rd, Leigh)

Like Greg at The Crooke & the mighty Nigel at The Hare & Hounds, Harry is just SUCH a friendly Landlord who happens to keep a cracking pint in this 3 roomed pub in Leigh Town Centre.

Pale Ale – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv Well, the Blonde impressed me, so it would’ve been positively rude not to give the Pale Ale a try! Golden with a white head and a fruity aroma. Medium-bodied, fruity and zesty this fella! Nicely sharp, fruity and very refreshing with a sharp dry bitter finish. Another excellent beer from this “first-time” brewery for me.

At this point, a note on the festival. One of the things that draws me to Allgates pubs is the beer selection, Their own beers are excellent, the guest beers are selected from the best micros around. But the with the festival beers, David and the team make a point of searching out not only the best, but some of the newest breweries out there. Atom, for instance, have only been brewing since December 2013! And these beers are priced…how can I put it….ludicrously competitively! Some of these beers would be nearly DOUBLE the price you’d get them in Manchester! Sermon over. Back to the beer eh?

Chilli Plum PorterWaen Brewery (Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) 6.1% abv OK. So it’s NOT a festival beer! I don’t give a toss, this is just LUSH! Hellish good beer indeed! Black, satanically so. Beautiful chocolate aroma which carries on into the mouth, really smooth and full-bodied and fruity with the plum coming through, creamy almost. Lovely and soothing…then that heat at the back of the mouth! Woof! This is SUCH a good beer! If I needed to sell my soul….in a heartbeat!

Ding Ding!

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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley, Wigan)

What can I say. I’m biased when it comes to this wee 2 roomed boozer. I love it. So much so, that it was my Pub of the Year 2013. Why? It’s a feeling thing. It feels like the local that I never had. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Like a local should be. Nigel (mein host) also keeps a damned good pint! (Which helps)

Chocolate Cherry MildDunham Massey Brewery (Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire)

A deep reddy brown beer with a creamy coloured head and a chocolate and fruity nose. Ronseal beer alert! (Does exactly what it says…..) Initial chocolate on the tongue, followed by a layer of tart cherry, light bodied but really smooth and an easy drinking beer that you could do all day. The fruitiness of the cherries leads to a light bitterness in the finish. A beautiful beer. Nigel does love his darks. As do I!

Was damned sure that I had another beer in here, but without notes…..Doh! I’ll be back later in the week!

Ding Ding (I think even the dinger was getting tired by this point!)

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The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan) Effectively, the final stop – starting to feel the pace by now!

Classic two roomed local this. The main room was thronged by the time we got in. Nice and busy, added to by us lot wading in too!

Here, were two more of the breweries I was keen to try, especially as I’d help to pick up the beers! First off…

Gold – Stod Fold Brewing (Stod Fold, Nr Halifax) 3.8% abv A light fruity aroma to this golden (almost amber) beer. Lightly fruity in the mouth too, refreshing and easy drinking with a nice bitter finish. Really smooth session beer this. I want more.

A Day At The Races – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W Yorks) 3.9% abv – I could bore you to distraction about my love of Malcolm Bastow’s beers, but see my previous post here for that!

This straw golden beer had a big grapefruit aroma from its white head. In the mouth, lemon & grapefruit conspired to refresh my somewhat jaded palate! Really sharp, tart and refreshing. A beautiful light pale ale, as hoppy as a Watership Down screening. A nice piney aftertaste too. More Mosaic? Classy sharp beer to end the night!

Cracking hot pot supper in here, thanks to the pub. Lovely, just what was needed!

As much as the beer, the great pleasure of the day for me was just chatting to like-minded folk. Mark, the Wiganer now ex-pat in Edinburgh (on Rose St, the jammy bugger!), Andy Heggs, Tyson The (Legendary – Even Tandleman thinks so!) Beerhound, David Mayhall, Nigel, Greg, Alan Wass (thanks for the tears at The Crooke!) and more that my drink sozzled brain seems to have forgotten (sorry!). All great people with whom it was really lovely to chat. You made this boring old man smile, memories of which have made his birthday hangover seem worthwhile! To you all, a huge SLAINTE!

An even bigger thanks to Stig and his pals for laying on the bus, without which, you wouldn’t be reading this! Cheers fellas!

This festival lasts until next Sunday. At the risk of insulting you, you need to try at least two of these pubs! (The Anvil & The Hare are BOTH within 2 minutes of the Wigan – Manchester Victoria rail line – Evening return ticket? £2 – you’d save that on two pints!) Do your taste buds a flavour and get on that train!

Warning – This post may be added to later in the week!

But on that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 1 – Greater Manchester Bottled Ales

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(“Oh Manchester, so much to answer for”)

“It seems, to me, to be self-contradictory

It seems, to me, you count your blessings while they’re there”

(“In Shreds” – The Chameleons)

With all of this drinking malarkey, one can often just “Go With The Flow” and just drink great beer from wherever it may emanate, but it has struck me recently how little Manchester brewed bottled ale I have been drinking recently. This was brought sharply into my focus when I saw a post from Brightside (now) of Radcliffe – and now my closest micro! – that they had commenced bottling their ale. I was, to put it mildly, rather excited.

Most of the beers that I have been prattling on about have, I realised, been from either Yorkshire or that there London. High time for something more…local. I don’t often take home beer from my frequent Manchester jaunts, so it was a joy to locate a shop – not too far from me – which was starting to sell not only great bottled ale, but, increasingly, great bottled ale from the Manchester area. That place is The Liquor Shop on Bury Old Rd, Whitefield (150 yds from Besses O’Th Barn Metro stop). Stocking beers from as diverse brewers as The Kernel, Mad Hatter and Wilson Potter, Raj has started to build a really good range. Very competitively priced too! A friendly guy who likes his beers, he offers a 10% discount on 12 or more bottles (15% on 24!) too.

Over half of the beers below were sourced from his wee shop (the others being sourced directly from the brewers themselves). If you live in Central or North Manchester, pay him a visit, you’ll thank me!

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 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…

IMAG0267_BURST002(“Small” in name only!)

1. Small BeerQuantum Brewing Company (Stockport) – 2.7% abv – Pale Ale – £2.39 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Wow. Then, more wow! My good friend Colin & I had this on cask at Port Street last month and it rocked our worlds! I don’t know how brewers can make a beer this light in Alcohol, so bloody tasty! (OK, yeah, I know it’s the hops – Magnum, Columbus, Cluster, Citra & Chinook, in this case – but you know what I mean!) And without making it insipid? It’s MAGIC! Well…back to one of favourite Alechemists…Mr Krause!

First, the label. Classy and minimal. Tells you what it is and lists the dry goods (hops & malts) on the side. An example to many.A golden beer with an abundant white head which quickly settled. Abundant aromas of mango and pineapple flying from the glass , a fruity delight. In the mouth? This is light bodied (as you would expect at the strength), there is a little underpinning light biscuit sweet note to support those wonderful hops! Mango, grapefruit and orange fruit danced on my tongue leading to a fabulous bitter fruity finish with lots of pine staying on in the aftertaste. A cracking beer from Jay. Can’t wait to crack the Smoked Imperial Treacle Stout!

IMAG0236(Neighbours….Everybody needs good……!)

2. Amarillo – Brightside Brewing Company (Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Starting off behind a baker’s shop in Bury, these fine people are now my closest micro brewer, having relocated brewing operations to Radcliffe. In all honesty, it was their announcement that they had commenced bottling their ales, that made me think of a Manchester beer post!

This beer was a recent award winner at the SIBA NW Festival held at Staveley recently on cask …. having not had it at all, I was keen to taste this bottle.

Golden to bronze coloured with a fluffy white head giving up some serious citrus aromas. Bitter orange and tangerine contributing to an almost marmalade like nose. Biscuit sweetness supports the marmalade orange citrus in the mouth. This slides into a crackling bitterness and dry finish with an aftertaste with some more fruit yet distinctive piney tones. A cracking first bottle for me. More please!

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3. In ShredsWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.33 (3 for £7) (500ml) – Direct from the brewery.

I’ve written of my love for the beers that Amanda & Kathryn make on a number of occasions, but hadn’t had much recently. Weekend before last, I had the briefest of opportunities to pop up to the brewery and have the quickest of chats over a couple of halves, of which, this was one. A bitter hoppy delight it was too. So I snapped up one of their 3 for £7 boxes, including this beer.

Hopped with NZ hops (Green Bullet & Motueka), this was mid-gold coloured with a full white head and the bitter citrus aromas of lemon & lime just leaping out of the glass. A gorgeous zesty bitter mouthful with more lemon & lime followed by a bracing bitterness and a resinous, dry grassy finish. At the strength, a really refreshing bitter hoppy brew this. I like WPs beers, but this could be their best so far. A cracker! (And, to my joy, a music reference too. In Shreds was one of my favourite tracks from the excellent Chameleons, a band formed in the 80s from Middleton. Many a night dancing on beer sodden floors……..zzzzzz……check out Up The Down Escalator, my personal favourite track!)

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(And…lurking in the stash…was this!)

4. Triaurum IPARamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 4.7% abv – IPA – £2.50 (4 for £10) (500ml) – Direct from the brewery

I (somewhat cheekily) invited myself up to see Matt Holmes in June this year (read here) and observed his grafting (and crafting!) at first hand, sampling a bottle or two and taking some home. This was from that batch and was found lurking, buried in my – growing – stash. Rescuing it from the box……

A hazy and pale golden beer this with a white head and a subtle sweet grapefruit aroma minglred (or even “mingled”!) in with some fresh mown grass (not bad for November!) Medium bodied, this had some tart lemon notes in with the still present grapefruit leading balanced on a nice bready malt base. A really refreshing beer this with a dry, grassy bitter finish. Makes some damn nice beers does Matt – try get hold of his Thai Witbeer if you can!

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5. Lemon BlossomHornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £2 (500ml) – Direct from the brewer at a MTB

Picked this up at a recent (unfortunately sparsely attended) MTB at The Salford Arms. Kevin the brewer was a most genial host and this was among the many bottles we sampled that evening. Not a brewer I had had much from at that point, but with lovely balanced tasty beers like this, I certainly won’t be overlooking them on any bar now.

Such a pale gold as to be almost colourless! White head giving up subtle yet distinct lemony aromas (from the Sorachi Ace hops) allied with some grassy notes. Light to medium bodied with some zesty lemon in the mouth swiftly drying the mush with a lovely dry bitterness. Delicate and refreshing this. No hop monster, but all the better for it. A belting light refreshing beer that I could happily drink all night.

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6. BlondeTickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 5.8% abv – Blonde Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

You’ve just got to LOVE that label design haven’t you. Never seen anything like it on a bottle. So distinctive, beautiful.

The beer? Another one I picked up from Raj on my first visit to his Whitefield emporium, golden yet verging on copper coloured, this was lively with a white head and that Belgian yeasty funk that comes from their house yeast with a bit of cream soda in there too. The cream soda-ish notes came through in the mouth along with some banana (that yeast again!) and some more fruity notes. A nice dry finish with a little grassyness staying on. Another nice beer from this Stalybridge brewer. Now just need to try some on draught!

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7. DobberMarble Beers (Manchester) – 5.9% abv – India Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

As a kid – playing marbles or “alleys” in the street – Dobbers were the big beast of the marble jungle, highly prized. However, I rarely had a big one (story of my life, really!) and had to make do with “glassies” and “cat’s eyes”. This beer, in keeping with my understanding of the word, is described as “the biggest Marble in the pack”. Whatever, it most certainly is a big beer for this strength (&, to my shame, a Marble I was yet to sample!)

Deepest gold beer with a lasting white head giving up HUGE aromas of mango and peach! Big malty bready body supporting loads of fruity hop muscle. More mango and bitter grapefruit in the mouth, partying away and abusing my tongue, beating it into passive submission to the hops! I gave myself up to the big bitter resinous finish and collapsed, whimpering. I have absolutely NO idea why I hadn’t had this beer yet, but I want more!

As I pick up more local bottles, I will post more Manchester only items, just need more beer shops to stock local beers really. Raj appears to be doing OK, others just need to take the hint really!

Anyway, enough of my blatherings. Time for bed!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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Well. That’s that. IndyManBeerCon is over for another year. Anybody still hung over? Thought so! This year, I worked two sessions earning two tickets for sessions to drink at. With the one minor quibble (re Volunteering – more later….) I had an absolute blast. Judging by the semi-orgasmic commentary on Twitter, you lot did too! Many couldn’t get there owing to not buying tickets early enough. Lesson learned eh?

Anyway – I’m not the best at waxing lyrical, I’ll leave the floral purple prose to others better qualified. I’ll just talk my usual bollocks!

I’ve already given you my thoughts on the first set-up session and Thursday, so I’ll cut to the chase…..

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

I got there a couple of minutes late. I hate being late! Got let in by the ever genial Duncan (looking mildly stressed) and entered the Volunteers Room to be given our “Pre-Match” talk. I’ll communicate my thoughts directly I think!

After that, I was behind the bar in Room 3 and, to be honest, had a fantastic time. The volunteers were fun and professional. Matt was a genial and efficient Manager and the brewers in our room were great. We had Kees Bubberman from Emelisse, Colin Stronge from Buxton, Jon from Arbor of Bristol and Jeff Rosenmeier from Lovibonds. The volunteers all enjoyed the graft and working with Bex was an absolute blast!

A quick sampling of those beers that I didn’t know and I was able to advise if asked. And we all were. The customers were, universally, friendly and knew what they wanted and, more to the point, enjoyed the beers. It was easy to identify a few favourites though. If I had a £ for each time I was asked for a Buxton Tea Saison!!! The Emelisse Innovations 25 proved popular also and I recommended it to people wanting something a little lighter. This 2.5% beer seemed to confound a few. The punters LOVED it, but most seemed to think it was a 6 or 7% beer. Certainly full of hoppy flavour for a beer at 2.5%!

From the serving of the 1st beer to putting the final glass in the glass wash tray, it was such fun. But no more volunteering. Next year, I’ll just be a paying punter and appreciate all the hard work that the volunteers and staff do – from the OTHER side of the bar!

Saturday

An early start. Met up with The Arch-Nemesis for swift couple at the ever excellent Joshua Brooks. The Five Points Brewery Pale Ale being in exceptionally good nick. A 4.4% burst of citrus fruit bitterness, dry refreshing and damned moreish! A personal favourite and a steal at £2.60!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

Quite busy on entry. A quick scan of the bar revealed a suitable candidate to start….

Citra by Brodies Brewery from Room 2. At 3.1% abv, hazy gold with a piney and grapefruit nose. Light bodied and refreshing with kiwi fruit and some more resinous pine. Refreshing and a cracker to start.

Wandered into Room 3 and stepping up a gear or two in strength. Decadence Stout by Weird Beard (5,5%). Full bodied black beer that was as smooth as Kojak’s head! Black as sin with some light coffee on the nose. Creamy in the mouth with lots of roasted flavour, chocolate and a little bitter coffee and toast. Luscious. Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers was behind the bar, really nice bloke brewing excellent beer (Have a few of their bottles stashed)

IMAG0106(The lull before the musical storm!)

Room 3 (AKA The Music Room AKA The Ladies Pool) was sponsored by Dark Star. It would have been churlish not to sample one of their beers, especially when it was a Green Hopped IPA! At 6.5% abv, this was upping the strength again, where was this going to end? Badly of course! Not that this beer was bad, OH NO! Pale gold, resinous pine on the nose. Mamma this was bitter! Load of fruity hops, firm biscuity base with even more resinous goodness. Lingering. I LOVE Green Hopped beers!

Next (and a HUGE Slainte! to The Beerhound for this one! Cheers Tyson!) I popped into Room 1 to check out some cask conditioned Italian beer from Toccalmatto. I missed their MTB at Port Street but heard it was a cracker. So when Tyson tweeted about some cask conditioned beer! When The Beerhound barks, you need to listen! The beer I tried was Zona Cesarini an IPA at 6.6% abv. Golden, fruity spicy aroma. Lots of hoppy goodness in the mush, oh yes, this is hoppy! Really fruity beer with long-lasting bitterness and a really grassy resinous aftertaste. One of the best of the week.

Next. Room 2. Briefly. Brodies Brewery Apricot Sour. SWEET BABY JESUS AND THE ORPHANS!!!! This was SOUR! Each time I took a mouthful I banged on the table! A Ronseal beer. With added sourness. A 3.1% abv tart palate livener!

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

Back to room 1 for a Redchurch Brewery Old Ford Export Stout. Is it REALLY 7.5%? Almost a “barrel aged” aroma, maybe rum, with this sinfully black beer. Deep bitter chocolate, some espresso and really rather bitter with an unexpectedly resinous dry finish. A kegged cracker!

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Next came another Stout, from Room2 this time. Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley at 6% abv. A big Stout which was cask conditioned, black with plenty of boozy wood on the nose, Slightly sweet in the mouth with bitterness kicking in later down the glass. A warm glow following the slightly boozy aftertaste.

Staying on the Dark Side of the street, I then ventured into caffeinated territory. Coffee In The Morning, a Breakfast Stout from Tap East in Stratford. 5.5% abv, black with an instant whack of fresh ground coffee to wake the nose up. A “Ronseal” beer this, fairly light bodied, but with loads of coffee bitterness. First beer I’ve had from this crew (I believe linked to Utobeer (Borough Market) and The Rake (possibly the coolest small bar in London!). If a coffee beer is what you want, this certainly does the job!

Time for a change. Back to Room 2 for something a bit, well, paler. Otters Tears (6% abv) from Thornbridge. If Otters cry tears like this, then get me Tarka and peel him an onion! This was mid gold with a nice earthy hoppy aroma. Really nice and bitter/hoppy in the mouth with maybe a hint of apricot fruit. A crackling bitter and resinous finish that lindered (or even “lingered”!). Nicest pale ale I’ve had from Thornbridge this!

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb5p0ch-lqM

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

Then came the (non-liquid) highlight of the evening. The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Walking in from the upper level (changing stalls) to the rear of the stage, in high theatre, they strutted in playing their instruments. When they got to the stage however, up went the bass drum and they let rip! An absolutely inspired piece of booking! Funky, uplifting and just bloody great musicians. A highlight.

Next, the ill-advised delights of Emelisse Brewery Imperial Russian Stout (11% abv) At this point, my notes came over all expletive laced! Black. Very black. Burnt toast, vinous and with an arse kicking coffee whiff. I staggered at the smell alone! Then the taste. Still boozy but with sweet coffee, bitterness, smoky with some more of that burnt toast. My notes finished Oooooohhhhhhh! Do I need say more? (I had another! But not before …..)

Blonde by Emelisse Brewery. 6.8% abv. Hazy pale with an aroma a bit like a fruity custard (or was my hooter broke?) Orchard fruit in the mouth, really fruity yet simultaneously bitter and piney resins in the finish. That Mr Bubberman can make damn good beer! (His collab Impy Stout with Marble earlier this year – made with Sorachi Ace – was a classic too!)

Was it a good night? Popes being Catholic and bears fouling wooded areas spring to mind. Yes it was. The whole shebang more than surpassed last year. The range of beers over the three days that I attended were superb. More international beers being a bonus. Excellent crowds, swift service by staff who knew their stuff (including us volunteers!)

I managed to see part sets of 2 or 3 bands in The Ladies Pool which were all excellent, with Harlequin Dynamite the icing on a very sweet cake indeed!

Meeting some people I know only from Twitter was a total bonus (take a bow Otto!). The brewers were free with their time and very friendly indeed, especially those from The Ladies Pool on Friday.

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt 2

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(The Hawkshead Windermere Pale is FLYING off the shelves

at Sainsburys in Bolton!)

Before I start in earnest, a quick note. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of major supermarket promotions, The Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt is on now. This is where Sainsbury holds regional contests for bottled ales and the top 5 from each region go through to a National contest. The winners (2) going on to National distribution for at least 6 months. For some micros this is A BIG THING! The winner being decided democratically. By number of bottles sold.

So. In you nearest Sainsbury now, there all the beers in the GBBH should be on the shelves. These include such luminaries of the UK Micro scene as HardKnott, Harbour, Hawkshead, Williams Bros, etc…. All these beers are at the bargain price of £1.50 per bottle. get in and grab some bargains. You’d be bonkers not to! Oh yeah, The contest lasts 3 weeks. So get in before it’s over!

Now, back to my usual wafflings!

“Pardon me, I’m drunk again and when I’m drunk I make no sense,

but I crack more jokes and that’s my self-defence.

You caused me to think and I thought of what I’d have home without you,

You drove me to drink and I never had the courtesy to thank you!”

(“Pigeons In The Attic Room” – Everything But The Girl)

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 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…

20130901_194254(A cracking debut!)

1. New World IPANorthern Monk Brew Co (Bradford, West Yorkshire) – 6.2% abvIPA – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Launching only this summer, this is a REALLY new brewery! I picked up on the buzz on Twitter and asked Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales to put a couple aside. Then promptly forgot to pick them up! A few weeks later, I popped back in and rectified. Therefore, this review comes a bit late in the day really. This was their sole beer at launch, but they have subsequently released an Imperial Stout – Strannik and brewed at least two collaborations, both with favourite brewers of mine – Allgates of Wigan and Weird Beard. I have a bottle of the Weird Beard collab “Bad Habit” and hope to pick up the Allgates collab soon….anyhow…What the hell does it taste like? Good question!

It’s a burnished gold in colour with a glass-clinging lacy white head. The aroma that I got was some toffee with a nose-tingling spicy hop. In the mouth was more caramel toffee sweetness with a growing grassy fruity bitterness with a tongue-drying grapefruit note. A lovely lingering grassy bitterness in the finish. A proper hoppy UK IPA.

Check out their website above. Really stylish design which has carried into the bottle label. Classy.

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2. 09/02Brew By Numbers (London) – 6.3% abvNut Brown Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer grabbed from the cracking stall at Castlefield Market run by Damian O’Shea. Go and pay a visit on a Sunday, he’s got some cracking stuff (and he puts out samples too!)

A lively wee devil this. Incredibly deep brown almost black beer with a latte coloured head and an aroma of a dark chocolate Marathon (showing my age, but never did get the change to Snickers!). Medium bodied, touch of bitter-sweet chocolate with roasted brazils and walnuts. Some residual sweetness with more roasted nut and a finishing snap of bitterness from the Columbus hops. Really nice beer.

Brown ales have truly come as long way from topping up my halves of “Dog” in the 80s – still the only beer that could be relied on to give me a hangover, ahh……. the unlamented 80s!

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3. BlondeThe Hop Studio (York, North Yorkshire) – 3.5% abvBlonde Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

As pale as a lager, a really pale gold. Light floral and fruity aroma with a nose-wrinkling peppery hop note. A crisp and clean light bodied refreshing beer this with a light caramel biscuit malt more than balanced with some spicy fruity hops (Chinook, Cascade & Nelson Sauvin) and some lovely bitter grapefruit in the finish too.

A beer that is full of flavour at this low strength, this could be a perfect “bridge” beer for a macro lager drinker! Just a thought! (Had their Porter in Pie & Ale in Mcr last night – like chocolate ice cream – lush!)

20130908_212443(Great beer AND the NFL is BACK!!!)

4. Dissolution Extra IPAKirkstall Brewery (Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire) – 6% abvIPA – £3.05 (500ml) – Beermoth (Manchester)

Picked this up on my (rather delayed) first visit to Beermoth on Tib St. Judging by what I saw in the range, it certainly WON’T be my last. Looking for something I hadn’t tried (and sticking to my UK ethos) I spied this, the first bottle produced by this Leeds brewer. Having had some of their casked offerings at Port Street and the superb kegged Framboise, I was looking forward to this one.

Pale gold again with bitter citrus and piney resins on the nose. A big malty backbone was complimented with fabulous earthy and resinous hops climbing all over it! Yummy! This is dry, resinous and HUGELY bitter with some orangey marmalade lurking in the aftertaste. This is a really cracking first bottle from Kirkstall. Hugely impressive.

20130909_214819(Another Mallinsons Single Hop pale? Oh yes please!!!)

5. Bramling Cross (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.8% abvPale Ale – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Where do I begin….Another Single Hop Pale by Mallinsons. Having had several of their single hop beers recently, they just seemed to get better and better, Not being over familiar with the Bramling Cross hop, I was a little worried that there may be a dud lurking here. Oh no! Another cracking session pale ale from these Huddersfield alechemists!

Bottle conditioned, pale gold and lively with some dark fruit on the nose, maybe damson and blackcurrant with a hint maybe of apple. Swirling around my gob, there was lots of blackcurrant with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry. Lovely, refreshing with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Some real spice to this that left my mouth and gums tingling. A fabulous refreshing beer. Just wish I could see more of their stuff on draught over here!

I’ve said previously that I think that these ladies have nailed lower strength single hop pale ales. Point made.

20130911_210246(SUCH classy labelling!)

6. South Pacific Pale AleBad Seed Brewery (Malton, North Yorkshire) – 5.8% abvPale Ale – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

I previously had picked up (and reviewed) their India Pale Ale & awesome Espresso Stout from Bierhuis in Ossett. If you read this regularly, you’ll know that I was hugely impressed by this new brewery from Malton. On my most recent visit to see Adrian Pettit (Vicky, sadly, being busy elsewhere!) I picked up the whole range for both myself and a friend. I like the look of these bottles. The only thing that slightly disappointed me was that the name ISN’T derived from Nick Caves’ great band! Never mind eh?

Another goldie this, with the light head yielding a light marmaladey nose. This is medium bodied and more delicate than the beastly India Pale but is no less impressive and is equally delicious. The New Zealand hops (Green Bullet, Pacifica and Pacific Gem) giving up a lovely orangey bitterness laid over some nice almost Digestive biscuity malt. Nice dry grassy quality in the finish too. More of a lightness of touch with this beer and very impressive it is too!

If you get hold of any of these, I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Anyway, that’s it for now!

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?)

20130315_153646(The Bar)

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.

20130315_153658(Main Room)

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.

20130315_184930(Busy)

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.

20130315_190540(side room)

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…..


20130315_193803(lobby and bar)

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!

Blather About Bottles – 09/01/2013

It’s that time of the year isn’t it. Christmas has been and gone, as has the bank balance in an orgy of spending! The reins get applied to the strolling. Bugger me I’m fed up! However, the consolation is that it forces me to dig into those boxes stored just off the kitchen. You know, the ones filled with all manner of bottled beer! Malty manna from that place up there, you know…..The Beer Shop!

Anyway, I was under frim (or even firm) orders from Atilla to deplete the stash before I even batted an eyelid at The Beer Shop, Beers of Europe, or even Booths! So, it was with a heavy heart 🙂 that I FORCED myself to locate the bottle opener……

Redwillow Ageless

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This was one of four bottles purchased at the SIBA Festival in Manchester (4 for £9! ) and was the only one of the four to be bottle conditioned. Being about as sensitive as a bull in the proverbial, this one got shaken up. Badly. So, I had to let it lie for a while….

When I finally plucked up the courage to flip the lid, oh boy! I was reaquainted with the knowledge that Redwillow are one of my favourite breweries. This beer (a Double IPA) poured golden with a light head, slightly hazy but the spicy citrus hop aroma hit from the off. At 7.2% abv, this is obviously not a beer to trifle with (insert own sherry reference!). A nice balance between intense hoppyness and firm malt base. Lovely and bitter and really smooth in the mouth for a bottled beer. A fine lasting bitterness in the aftertaste. I like this!

Tatton Brewery – Obscure

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I first clapped eyes on this beer on draught in The Mark Addy in Salford (NOT Manchester – got it?), Jaz had this one whilst I had an Acorn Old Moor Porter. He enjoyed it, but couldn’t quite figure it out. Anyway, a fine colleague of mine (Take a bow Mr D!) managed to pick up a bottle of this for me (and a Beartown Wojtek – see below), for which I was suitably grateful! When I opened it, I was puzzled as hell!!!

5.7% abv. It poured black. To my eyes, a porter or a stout. A cream coloured head…so far so good….then the aroma….sugared grapefruit? Banana Split ice cream? Fudge? WTF is going on? Spicy hops? I needed a lie down. The flavour only befuddled me more! Yes, there was roasted malt in there, and a tinge of dark chocolate. But rhubarb??? The label says “Not Your Obvious Beer” – They’re not kidding either. I love hop monsters and the like, but sometimes…you just need something that makes you think. This made me think in spades. A candidate for my bottled beer of the year! (Going to try to get to the brewery late spring-early summer!)

Beartown Wojtek 5.5% abv

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I had tried for ages to get my hands on a bottle of this! Finally, at the SIBA Fest (see previous blog) I managed it. In with the Redwillow at £2.25. Bargain! Then, when I get into work the next week, that lovely Mr D got me another one! Ta muchly!

A pale gold when poured, with a nice white head. Some nice, fresh yet subtle citrussy hops on the nose. A lovely biscuity malt that reminded me of the base of a good banoffee cheesecake! Balanced up with some nice citrus hop flavour. A nice dry hoppy aftertaste too. Like I said above, sometimes a hop monster isn’t what’s required and a nice well made beer is just what you want. Beartown are proud of the awards they have won for this beer. Rightly so as well. I see quite a bit of their beers in some supermarkets, I just wish this was one of them!

Fyne Ales – Jarl 3.8% abv

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When I first encountered this beer, was the first time I came across Fyne Ales. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of E H Booths supermarkets within a short drive. They stock 4 or 5 of Fyne’s beers. Jarl was the first I tried. There aren’t many beers that shock me, but this most certainly did.

This pours paler than most lagers. The aroma hits you first, some assertive hopping here with grapefuit or apricot prominent. Then the flavour…BANG! Assertive didn’t do it justice….grapefuit again..maybe even a touch of lemon…wow, this is a really hoppy beer. On draught, it would make a fabulous session beer. But herein lies the rub….I’ve never had it on draught….what I would give…….!

Suffice to say, that if anybody hears of it on draught within a 30 minute train journey of Bolton (and told me in time, of course!), I’d be forever in their debt. In the meantime, do yourselves a favour, get to Booths!

Buxton Brewery – Smokey and the Band-Aid 7% abv

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Firstly. Let me get this out of the way. My boss bought me a bottle of this for Xmas. How fecking cool is that eh? (Last year it was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!) Needless to say, we get on famously (nice one Mick!) Totally independently, I picked one up at the formidable Beer Shop in Heaton Moor (see previous blog – Best Little Beerhouse…..), so I have a spare. Lucky me!

This is one of Buxtons “Special Reserve Series” (number 2) and is a Smoked Rye Porter. It’s also bloody gorgeous!

Pouring a deep deep brown, almost black. The aroma? Bonfire debris. Intense smoky bacon, Lagavulin (my favourite single malt!), peat smoke.

The flavour? Initially smooth, slightly sweet with some smokiness. Then the peatyness fills the sides of your mouth like an Islay single malt. For the strength, this is surprisingly warming. A lovely smooth almost cask-like texture, the smokiness isn’t overpowering, it’s just mmmmmm……..

A fabulous beer! Another bottle of the year candidate. Buxton just keep making bloody good beer. I just need to get hold of a Series 3 – and if anyone has a Series 1 knocking about……..!

Just one more thing. 2012 was a year of rediscovering beer again. Thanks to my good buddy Jaz for that! Now seeing as everybody seems to give laurels out….who am I to buck the trend. Nice and simple though. Just best bottle and best draught for me!

Draught

Tricky this. All through this blog, I’ve rattled on consistently about how my favourite beer is Magic Rock Dark Arts. And how I love the Dark Side. But, Magic Rock beat themselves! All because of a night that started in BrewDog on Peter Street in Manchester…..

1. Magic Rock – Human Cannonball (9.2%) – Simply wrecked my mouth that night –  an absolute hop assault – unforgettable.

2. Magic Rock – Dark Arts 6% (need I say more?)

3. Ilkley Siberia 5.9% – Thank you Ilkley and Melissa Cole for this rhubarb gem – a classic!

Bottle

This was the year I started to truly appreciate bottle conditioned beer. And strong beer. Oh sod it!

1. Tatton Obscure – see above – Truly astonishing!

2. BrewDog Abstrakt 7 (12.5%) – Thank you to Will at IndyManBeerCon for this. Loved working and drinking at that festival. And buying this! (Port, Whisky,Xmas Cake…..ooohhhh)

3. Buxton – Smokey and the Band-Aid – see above. Subtly smoky, just a great advertisement of the brewing arts.

Right, enough. Another stroll soon as the bank is replenished!

Until next time.

Slainte!