My #GoldenPints 2014

Golden Pints Logo

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

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

How much I love blogging about beer.

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

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

How much generally that “Beer People Are Good People”

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

And….the following……

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


Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 2

“I want to forget how conviction fits, but can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me? Oh oh oh oh
It can’t all be wedding cake, it can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it, can’t let go of it,

‘Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever, that’s why you will not survive!”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon)

(Clip courtesy Alphamatrix1 on YouTube)

As much as I love beer, I love music. Sometimes, I get all “High Fidelity” and start to make that dreaded nerd fest thing “The All-Time” list. Of course, tastes change over time, but some things stay the same. As John Peel used to say about The (mighty) Fall “Always different, always the same”. This phrase was used on Monday in The Guardian in an article about the new single by Spoon, which led me to this article where Britt Daniel, from the band, gave a brief run down of some of the standout tunes in their 21 year career so far.

Spoon are a band that I return to repeatedly when my musical palate feels a bit jaded. I’m not sure where the phrase “The kings of minimal indie” came from, and it’s probably not entirely accurate about what they do, but it fits, in that there isn’t anything in the tunes that shouldn’t be there. They’re stripped down, rhythmically tight, alternately subtle and powerful, delicate and driven.

It may sound rather stupid, but one of my favourite moments in Manchester in the last 2 years was being stood in Common Bar on Edge St one weekday evening, when the DJ played “Got Nuffin‘ and I found myself shambling drunkenly over to the DJ to say “Thank You”. Just one of (if not the) best bands out there, for me, at the moment. I just hope that they announce a date in Manchester for the new album!

Now for the beer…..

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!


1. BronzeThe Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Wales) – 4.5% abv – Bitter – £2.19 (500ml) – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)

Amber coloured beer with a lovely white foamy head and hedgerow fruit aroma, plum, damson with a real spicy note along with toffee biscuit.

First mouthful is really fruity, with all that hedgerow fruit immediately apparent with a touch of blackcurrant too. Firm cheesecake biscuity malt underlay with a big carpet of fruity bitterness on top of it all.

That bitterness satays (or even “stays”!) awhile before giving space for a big grassy, almost oaky, hop aftertaste. A really big fruity bitter beer. Celt do some much more “experimental” beer, but it’s great to see them getting a beer as traditional as this, just right. Much maligned is bitter, as a style, but this, for me, is a fine example.
2. Mild With No NameBillericay Brewing (Essex) – 5.5% abv – Strong Mild (Hmmm!) – £3.50 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
Another bottle, another “traditional” British beer style! But all may not be as labelled with this particular beer…..
Very dark beer, almost black with a tan coloured head and an aroma groaning with milk chocolate.

Full-bodied beer, lush and creamy textured. Full on chocolate assails the taste buds with this dark puppy. Chocolate digestives provide the body here then more sweet chocolate fills the mouth, coating the sides before subsiding and yielding primacy to a gentle bitterness and quite a big grassy hop finish.

Not sure that I would call this a mild personally, more Porter territory for me, but a fine beer nonetheless.

3. Le IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorks) / Dark Star (Brighton, W Sussex) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £1.99 – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)
Amber coloured beer with a thin white head and a fruity aroma, but quite sweet, pineapple maybe?Caramel biscuit malt in this full-bodied mouthful, again fruity, but sticky like pineapple jam mixed with marmalade. Quite a bitterness follows that swallow, with a good resinous pine dollop to round off the aftertaste. Whilst it tastes every fraction of its strength, this is smooth and very easy to drink. Dangerously so, at the strength!  (Short but sweet!)IMAG17904. Rye Pale AleLiverpool Craft Brewery (Liverpool) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (ish!) (330ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

A small supermarket, on a fairly quiet throroughfare. Walk in past the checkout. And there, in the fridges off to the right, is more local beer (and “craft” from around the country) than anyone should have any right to expect! It’s bloody marvellous the range you can fit into such a small space! (And I didn’t even check out the shelves in the rest of the shop!)

A slightly hazy deep golden beer with a lasting soft creamy looking white head and quite a delicate citrus fruit aroma (maybe tangerine) with something more floral.

An interesting fruitiness to this beer, apricot maybe with more of that tangerine. But that Rye spice leads to an almost arid dryness. Really sudden. Further mouthfuls are the same, quite lush fruitiness ended quite suddenly with tongue curling dryness. Big hoppy finish to round it off. Quite unusual, but this really works for me!

5. Le Gran DepartFive Towns Brewery (Outwood, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From The Brewer (Bought)
My stated aim. I WILL see more beers by Five Towns in the Manchester area! The only problem with this? Malcolm Bastow’s beers are THAT full of lovely hoppy goodness, that those damned Yorkies keep it all for themselves! If ever there was reason for another War of The Roses…… Anyway, so far, they will be the only brewery with TWO beers at The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Which means….that I am SO good to you lot! It really does!!! At the moment, if you want to buy his stuff, head online to Bierhuis (Ossett) & Yorkshire Ales (Snaith & Malton). They can hook you up! (Great shops both – popping in soon)
Extremely pale golden beer with a light white head and a big citrus aroma (with some bitter orange in there) – a Five Towns hallmark.
Light-bodied and very fruity with grapefruit, gooseberry, a little lemon sharpness too. Each mouthful leaves me wanting more of that uber-dry finish that follows the fruit down the throat. In later mouthfuls, an orangey character became more pronounced. A hugely refreshing beer with a good dollop of bitterness and that pine needle resinous wash at the end of the swallow. Another Outwood cracker from Mr Bastow!
6. Pale AleRunaway Brewery (Manchester City Centre) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the brewer (swap)
I first had this (it was one of my major reasons for going!) at a recent Black Jack open event at their brewery. Mark Welsby’s brewery is the merest of cockstrides from Black Jack. Fortunately really, because when I wanted to pop in and see Mark, I had to ask the Black Jack collective for directions!
Bright and pale gold with a lacey white head and a brash boastful aroma all sharp and tart like a withering Lily Savage one liner put down. Grapefruit and lemon asserting themselves in nasal dominance.

That grapefruit tartness carries on in the mouth, building with each sip. And with each sip comes a growing bitterness. Sliding down really easily, like a beer of this strength should. Really crisp and refreshing and moreish. Nice hoppy bitter too. A fabulous session pale ale!

That’s it for now. Enjoy this summer with some great beer.

Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 1

“And I’ll be good
Like I should
Waitin’ is such
Misery, I need
Your touch”

(“Your Touch” – The Black Keys)

(Video courtesy Suchnone on YouTube)

If  The White Stripes made being a two piece (guitar/drums) seem cool, The Black Keys took that template and stripped away the artsy pretensions and just let rip! This track is from the 2006 album “Magic Potion” and was the first of their albums that I bought, via E-Music.

This music is simple, but visceral. It gets me in the gut. Stripped down blues rock. Raw & dirty. All dirty denim and ripped check shirts. Rock & Roll. You’ve got to love it. Especially when it’s this good.

Recommended albums : Magic Potion (2006); Thickfreakness (2003); El Camino (2013)

Beer! Where would I be without it? (Bed probably!)

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!


1. Liverpool Dark – Liverpool One Brewery (Er…Liverpool) – 5% abv – Porter – £3 (ish) (500ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket, Penny Lane (Liverpool)

You might notice by the end of this piece…a bit of a locational theme! All down to the fact, that after a meeting in Liverpool this week, I tracked down a legendary shop in Liverpool. A shop now firmly fixed in my memory!

Black. Always a good start in my book! A light mocha coloured head giving up a chocolate aroma with just a hint of something smoky!

Oh this is lovely! Just enough sweetness in this full-bodied mouthful (ie: not TOO much). Really smooth and full of chocolate with a hint of rum sweetness and molasses.

With each mouthful, the chocolate gets more pronounced and deepens. Yes, there’s sweetness, but also a building bitterness. A very satisfying porter. This is the first I’ve had from this brewery in any format. If everything else is as good as this, I’ll be back to Londis on Penny Lane!


2. IPARunaway Brewery (Dantzic St, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – Swap (with the brewer) (330ml) – 0 – Direct

Ever get the feeling that you were in the right place, at exactly the right time? That’s how it felt when I walked into Mark Welsby’s brewery on Tuesday. It felt like I was witnessing the start of a great journey. I was there for a chat about The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage!) and bottling was in full effect. A beautiful looking brewery in a superb central location making forward thinking beers with room for expansion. Which is good, because if the bottles I walked out with are half as good as the stuff I had at Black Jack on keg, he’ll be expanding! So how was the first one I cracked?

Isn’t this a pretty thing? Beautiful burnished gold with a clinging white head and a glass bursting with citrus smells! Grief! Mango, Apricot, Grapefruit and a bit of lime perhaps? Nasally intense to say the least!

This is just SOOOO smooth! This is schizoid. It goes from the hops which are like a Ramones style nasal hop thrash, all “1,2,3,4”, to Barry White, the Walrus of love just oh so smooth and seductive. There’s a deep voice in my head, saying “Hey baby, you know you want another mouthful!” (Ooh err…)

So very fruity, with Mango and maybe Pineapple in the mouth with no small amount of pine needle in the finish. But, perversely, such an easy drinking beer! The resins build with each sip, drying the mouth leaving you wanting more. This is every bit as good as the two beers I had on keg at Black jack. A Triumph. Nice one Mark!


3. Pale Ale – Atom Beers (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

2nd bottle from this new innovative brewery from Hull – also supplying to The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage!)

Bright gold in colour, with a light white head and an aroma with hints of peach and orange marmalade.

Oh yes……Fresh, clean and a good bitter hit. First flavour is that marmalade, so good that Paddington Bear could spread it on his sandwiches!

Medium-bodied this is sliding down ever so well. Nice and fruity with lots of citrus in here, slightly sticky, balanced by a good assertive bitter finish. Really refreshing too with a nice sharpness to it.

The bitter finish leads to a lovely assertive hoppy grassy aftertaste, not overpowering, just right in a beer of this strength. Impressive. Glad they’re on board for The Festival!


4. Kitty Wilkinson– Liverpool Organic Brewery (Liverpool) – 4.6% abv – Chocolate & Vanilla Stout – £3.20 (ish, my memory is shocking!) – 0 – Londis Supermarket, Penny Lane (Liverpool)

Kitty Wilkinson. The Saint of the Slums. In 1832, during a cholera epidemic, Kitty had the only boiler in her neighbourhood, so she invited those with infected clothes or linens to use it, thus saving many lives. This was the first public washhouse in Liverpool. Ten years later with public funds her efforts resulted in the opening of a combined washhouse and public baths, the first in the United Kingdom. (Source Wikipedia)

This bottle is labelled with the phrase (one of a series perhaps?) “Liverpool Heroes” I now know why. Some of my ancestors were from Toxteth St Mary at the time of this epidemic. Makes you think eh?

The beer is as black as you would want it (well, me anyway) with head like cafe creme yielding an aroma reminiscent of chocolate ice cream. Topped with a 99 for extra chocolate!

Nice and smooth rich beer this. Unctuously chocolately, decadent, like laying your taste buds in a tub of Ben & Jerrys.

Yes, slightly sweet, with all of that chocolate and the vanilla twist, it’s going to be slightly sweet. But there is a twist of hops that hits you at the back of the tongue, reminding you that this is a beer, not a dessert! I’ve always had this beer when I’ve seen it on draught. It was the first beer I had in Joshua Brooks. Now a favourite in bottle too. Lovely.

Just to round off the story : Kitty Wilkinson’s epitaph apparently read

“CATHERINE WILKINSON. Died 11 November 1860, aged 73. Indefatigable and self-denying She was the Widow’s friend. The support of the Orphan. The fearless and unwearied nurse of the sick. The originator of Baths and Wash-houses for the poor. ‘For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.’ St. Mark, 12th Chapter, 44th Verse.” A true heroine.


5. Londinium – Roosters Brewing Co (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 5.5% abv – Coffee Porter – £2.29 (ish) (500ml) – 0 – Booths Supermarket (Media City, Salford)

I’ve got David Bishop to thank for my trying this beer. Persuaded me one evening to actually try Roosters beers when sober! So glad he did!

A black beer with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Mocha coloured head just OOZES espresso menace but also has a spicy note.

As smooth as silk, but with all the eye-opening potency of a fresh Americano. This is assuredly NOT a midnight beer!

Quite full-bodied, the coffee is upfront, with a little sweetness, but there is a deeper roasted malt backbone at play here lending a substantial bitterness to this beer. This is just so smooth, I’m thinking of Isaac Hayes singing “Walk On By” (random musical thought!).

There’s a subtle deep fruitiness to this beer too. The finish is quite bitter with a hoppy kick in the aftertaste. Immediate but complex. A fine beer.


6. White Fox – Liverpool Craft Beer Co (Liverpool) – 6.3% abv – IPA/Wit hybrid – £3 (ish, that crap memory again!) (330ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A twist in the (Fox’s) tail! When I bought this, I took it for a straight IPA. That’ll teach me to read bottles properly won’t it?

A hazy golden beer. A white head. A confounding aroma. Yeasty and fruity sweet in equal measure, maybe even a yeasty hint of rhubarb (always a winner with me!) Reminds me a tad of Ilkley Siberia, a fine reference point.

Oh this is lovely….once the lively beast had settled! Creamy smooth, yet arid dry. Fruity with rhubarb and maybe a hint of gooseberry tartness, grapefruit too, but subtle.

That yeast provides a spicy backdrop. A fabulous melding of styles that to me, that shouldn’t work, but just does. The finish to this is just oh. so. dry. There’s a sticky pine in the aftertaste too. A fine way to finish an (late!) evening! Another excellent beer (and a surprise) from Liverpool Craft.

2 (maybe 3) of these breweries will be featuring at The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage again!) Follow on Twitter HERE (Go ON! You know you want to!)

That’s it for this week I think! Off to Great Ale Year Round later to sample the delights of the beer I assisted on from Allgates & Five Towns – Station To Station IPA. I am SO looking forward to tasting this! (A bottle review to come soon!)

On that note….’til next time….



Booths Supermarket – Best Beer Supermarket in The North

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

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

(“Theologians” – Wilco)

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the beer eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Golden Pints 2013

Golden Pints Logo(Bloody Conformist!)

15 1/2 months ago, I decided that there weren’t enough people talking bollocks about beer, so I decided to join them by talking even MORE bollocks about it! What have I learned in that time?

1. That people LOVE talking bollocks about beer in even greater numbers than 15 1/2 months ago, and

2. That there are some lovely people in that number.

Last year, I just listed my favourite draught (NOT DRAFT!!!!) and bottled beers, because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I thought I would expend more words by following the acknowledged format! So, at 06:00 on Monday 23/12/2013, here goes….

  • Best UK Cask beerAllgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Yes Tyson, you guessed correctly! Simply the best Stout I think I have ever tasted. Can I be accused of bias because (along with Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound) I helped to brew it (well, stir the mash and shovel out the Mash Tun!), yes I can. Am I? No. I double checked on numerous occasions with my Jiminy Cricket (Jaz, the “Arch-Nemesis’) and he agreed and he’s NOT biased. A gloriously roasted, bitter, hoppy and luxuriously smooth alchemical concoction nursed to glorious fruition by Jonathan Provost, David Mayhall and the guys at Allgates. My proudest moment of the last 14 years. Thank you. (Honourable Mentions – Buxton Brewery – Imperial Black. Simply astonishingly good one night at Port Street, and Weird Beard – Black Perle. At 3.5%, simply WOW. A gorgeous Coffee Milk Stout at the strength)
  • Best UK Keg Beer – Ilkley BreweryDinner Ale – Unlike the vast majority of the beery blogosphere, I am not particularly well-travelled. My drinking has been pretty much limited to the North and – in particular – to cask conditioned and bottled beers. However, thanks to the miracles of Beer Festivals and the mighty Port Street Beer House, I have managed to sample a number of UK kegged beers, some absolute crackers among them. However, the one that stood out was Dinner Ale at the Leeds International Beer Festival. The most zingy and refreshing keg beer I’ve had all year. Refreshing is a quality that is seriously underrated.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerRevolutions BrewingManifesto – Creamy, luxurious, bitter chocolate, espresso, smoky, warming. Simply a classy strong Stout brewed without fanfare and just damn great. I love it and I love Revolutions Music & Beer ethos. Short and sweet (for a change!) (Honourable mention to Weird Beard – Decadence Stout. Bloody gorgeous bitter and hoppy Stout)
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer – Brouwerij Emelisse – Imperial Stout (Sorachi Ace) – Bought by the arch-nemesis at The Marble Arch at the end of a refreshing evening. Vinous yet delicate. Brutal yet gentle. I was astonished at the delicate flavours of this beer. Light and floral yet with all the heft of an Impy Stout. Do I have a clue what I’m talking about? Probably not, but I enjoyed it hugely.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Not really my bag….Next!
  • Best Collaboration Brew – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – For the reasons above stated. It was a Collaboration and the best beer I have had this year, therefore….
  • Best Overall Beer – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout  – By definition….
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelWeird Beard – Just superb design which would fail utterly if it wasn’t backed up by a consistently superb product. “Follow The Beard” indeed…..(Honourable mention to Bad Seed Brewery – Just minimal and classy)
  • Best UK BreweryAllgates Brewery – From my first sip of All Black Mild, I fell in love. Simply great drinkable beer. Consistently tasty, consistently excellent and immensely good value . Beer brewed without compromise but with that sometimes elusive quality. Sheer drinkability. Another underrated quality. (HUGE Honourable mentions to Five Towns, Mallinsons, Revolutions (all Yorkshire), Quantum & Wilson Potter from whom I’ve always drunk exceptional beer)
  • Best Overseas Brewery – I envy others better travelled than I. No Opinion.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – Bad Seed Brewery – Given that many of the beers I have drunk this year are from breweries new to me, I COULD have cheated. However, Bad Seed launched this year and whilst I have had nothing on draught by them, their bottles have been nothing short of first-rate. Chuffed to bits that they seem to be getting wide distribution. Let’s have something from them on cask in 2014! (HM to Five Points – All 3 beers being superb)
  • Pub/Bar of the Year – I’m going to cheat. I’m going for a bar AND a pub. BarJoshua Brooks (Manchester) – I could easily give this to Port Street Beer House. Many would and justifiably so. But I am contrary. I LOVE Joshua Brooks. Yes its a big old space. But it ticks loads of my boxes. Comfy seating, great tunes, friendly staff and a simply fabulous beer selection (recently upped to 8 handpulls I believe). And also the best damn value in Manchester on a Friday night. £2.70 a pint! For cracking cask conditioned ales from the greatest and the best breweries in the UK.  Pub Hare & Hounds (Hindley, Wigan) – The local I never had. Just a humble local boozer (Allgates) with a real fire, a dartboard, friendly locals and a landlady and landlord (Nigel & Adele) who keep an excellent pint and a friendly welcome. I just feel at home here and that’s what a good pub should be about. (Wigan CAMRA branch. Sort yourselves out and get this pub into the GBG. A travesty!)
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013Pie & Ale by Bakerie (Manchester) – A tad expensive on occasion perhaps, but great beer (mostly local) selection kept well. A great bar, deservedly popular (great pies too!)
  • Beer Festival of The Year – I was going to go for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer which was, quite simply, the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on this year and introduced me to breweries I’ve seen nowhere else (Bexar County Brew anyone?) and the bus journey was something to behold. If it runs again (the bus) you simply must try and get on it! However, I’m going to go all soft and go for IndyManBeerCon. Fabulous location, great beer, excellent entertainment. Met some lovely people and enjoyed the festival hugely. Yes, I had some issues, which I hope have been taken on board, but they shouldn’t (and don’t) detract from what was a great feat. More breweries for 2014 please!
  • Supermarket of the YearBooths. Knocks everyone else in the North into a cocked hat. Including Waitrose,
  • Independent Retailer of the Year – Yorkshire Ales – Probably the most difficult category to call for me. I genuinely agonised over this. There are some truly excellent retailers over this side of the hill, Damian O’Shea (Ale Man Manchester), Beermoth, The Liquor Shop as well as the Bierhuis in Ossett. Honourable mentions to all. BUT. Adrian & Vicky Pettit have a lovely little shop in Snaith with an emphasis on local produce. It’s this local ethos that swings it for me, They’re damn nice people too.
  • Online Retailer of the Year – I’m lucky. I shop local and in person. No Opinion.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine Opening Times (South Manchester CAMRA)- From Pub Curmudgeon to Stagger, just a great read.
  • Best Beer Blog or WebsiteGlenn Johnson’s blog. – Neither flash nor fancy. Just descriptions good beer (mostly!) in pubs that I’d love to go in, in places I’m unlikely to visit. Whilst I’m spoilt in Greater Manchester, I’m still jealous. (HMs to David Mayhall (his evisceration of Brew Dog “Equity For Punks” being the single most retweeted RT I’ve put out!) Nathaniel Southwood who manages the feat of being informative whilst making me chuckle repeatedly, Tandleman & Tyson I doff my cap to both! I wish I wrote as well as all of these fellas)
  • Best Beer AppPerfect Pint. Tells me what beer is currently on in my favourite pubs. Works for me!
  • Simon Johnson Award For Best Beer Twitterer – The mighty Nathaniel Southwood. Smart, opinionated, witty, frequently ranting. Always spot on. (HM to JazzyJollyJaunt without whose inspiration (and tolerance!) I wouldn’t be doing this. Thank you.)
  • Best Brewery Website/Social Media Weird Beard
  • Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – Black Country Pork Scratchings and Hobsons Twisted Spire at the River & Rail in Hampton Loade on the banks of the Severn. Time and place. I am a rather simple soul!

Well. That’s it from me. There’s a lot of good beer out there. Let’s hope for even more in 2014. Have a great festive season.


Bottled Ales April 2013 – Part 2


(Coming Soon!)

Yes. I know we’re now in May! But having had a couple of visits to those excellent Yorkshire Ale Vendors – Yorkshire Ales of Snaith & Bierhuis of Ossett – It’s high time I purged myself of bottled beer opinions and made space in the (ahem) cellar for this new influx of hoppy and roasty goodness. So there!

“Ah, What was that Mrs Beers? What about that trollyload in Booths?” (Trust the purse string holder to remember that little diversion!)

So. Where were we? Oh yes. The beers. Here we go…… (I hope my nurse isn’t reading this….”How many units per week was that again……”)

1. Columbus by Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.50 for 500ml from Yorkshire Ales


Is Huddersfield the Burton of Craft Brewing? Magic Rock, Rat, Summer Wine (not far away) and last – but by no means least – Mallinsons. Until I woke up to this new golden age of beer last year, I hadn’t heard of, let alone tasted, Mallinsons. I’ve had some on draught, but further remedied this in my visits to Snaith and Adrian & Vicky Pettit’s shop, Yorkshire Ales.

On my last visit I picked up a few of the Single Hop range, of which Columbus is one. This is a pale golden beer with an intense fruity hop aroma. A full flavoured beer this with really resinous bitter hop flavours. Dry, fruity, spicy and refreshing. More intense than their Aramis (made with a French hop). I recommend this if you can get it on draught. A full flavoured beer you could drink all evening.

2. Punk IPA by Brew Dog (Fraserburgh) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – 660ml. A birthday pressie from my good buddy Col (Slainte!)


I’ve put this here, simply because I’d forgotten just how good this is (and how much it astonished me when I first tried it!)

This was golden coloured with a slight haze on pouring. The tropical citrus fruit aroma hits you straight away and (strangely) reminded me of a fresh fruit flan! Some sweet biscuity malt and assertive hops, apricot bitterness which faded gradually to leave an earthy grassy dryness in the aftertaste. This is some beer. A supermarket stalwart! (Sainsbury do the 660ml bottles).

3. Mary Jane IPA by Ilkley Brewery – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 for 500ml from Booths at Media City

20130426_213311(Need to get a less intense flash!)

Being bored a couple of Fridays ago, I clocked off early and popped to Media City to check out Booths deals during one of their “Beer Festivals”. A few interesting bottles at 4 for £6, but 3 bottles I had never seen before took my eye, this among them.

The weather has been chilly recently, so I left this outside to cool, probably for too long as, when opened, I only got a slight fruity aroma. A golden – bottle conditioned – beer, this had a lovely sweet malt backbone matched with a spicy, fruity bitterness. Like a hoppy french kiss dancing around my tongue! Mmmmm….. A very dry finish with some almost herbal grassyness in the afters. I though I detected something else, maybe a touch of rhubarb. I may be talking utter garbage there, but this is a really lovely beer. A recommendation at any price. But at £2.29……..!!!!!

4. Manifesto by Revolutions Brewing (Castleford) – 6% abv – Strong Stout – £3.25 for 500ml from Yorkshire Ales


(Love Music? Love Beer? Oh indeed!)

All of this Yorkshire brewery’s beers are music themed. I mean “Clash Porter”, “Kraftwerk Brown Ale”, “Ravenscroft Pale Ale” (A homage to Mr J Peel?). They’re onto a winner with me BEFORE I open any bottles! I was attracted to Manifesto for two reasons. 1. It’s a Stout, Duh! 2. “Manifesto” is the name of one of my favourite Northern Soul tracks by A Case of Tyme. I also bought a bottle for my Soulie chum (the aforementioned) Col, whose wife glugged it before he got a sniff! (She LOVED it BTW)

Anyway, the beer! Black with a tan head on pouring. The aroma? If I hadn’t read the ingredients, I’d have sworn that there was some port or rum in there! The aroma eventually mellowed to a strong dark chocolate. A really smooth full texture in the mouth. This is a malty mouthful with loads of roasted flavour with plenty of bitter chocolate, whilst being smooth and lush. Dry and earthy aftertaste. It’s a damn good job that this is rarely on cask. I’d never be out of the pub!

5. Delta V by Stringers Beer – 6.5% – Pale Ale – £2.19 for 500ml from Booths at Media City


(Another Music Moniker ?)

Another one of my surprises from the recent visit to Booths. I am a HUGE fan of their IPA & Stout (not too taken with the XB though) which are two of my top 5 supermarket bought beers. I had only seen this one at Micro Bar and at the SIBA fest last year, so was quite chuffed to find it in the aisles.

Deep gold with a light apricot citrus aroma. Lovely texture with a marmaladey bitter fruity flavour prominent. A slight warming sensation from that there 6.5%. That fruitiness faded to leave a dry hoppy grassy note. Another recommendation at the price!

6. Chocolate Cherry Mild by Dunham Massey Brewing (Altrincham) – 3.8 % abv – Mild – £3 (£9 for 3) for 500ml from Bents Garden Centre, Glazebrook, Warrington.


(Oops – lively devil!)

A colleague of mine claims this as his favourite draught beer of all. Haven’t had it on draught yet (Molly House do Dunham Massey, I think), but when I saw the bottle, I had to give it a go. Didn’t I?

A deep ruby coloured beer. I didn’t initially get any cherry in the aroma, more of a choccy toffee thing. The first taste was of a really good, standard mild. But then the cherry and chocolate start to insinuate themselves and wrap around your tongue. Just one word for this. Yum! If I see it on draught, I’ll be all over it like a rash!


Beers of The Month ?


Manifesto by Revolutions Brewing – For all the reasons mentioned above. A gorgeous dark, dirty and dangerous Stout/ The rocks upon which this ship could happily get wrecked!


In The Black by Wilson Potter (Middleton). A 4.2% Stout. Had this twice this month, firstly at the brewery and secondly at The Salford Arms. Gloriously lush, creamy and roasted with a slight smoky tinge. Just a simple dry stout, made well. Good to start seeing their stuff ‘in the wild’.

More pubs soon.


Bottled Ales April 2013

I’ve quite enjoyed this month. A quick visit to Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales at the end of March, helped to replenish my supplies with some excellent beers from Yorkshire (See below!) and a ‘spur of the moment’ visit to Booths – at the end of the month –  revealed a few beers I haven’t seen in supermarkets over here before – at great value. Really pleasing. I hope in May to pop to Snaith again as well as nipping over to Ossett to Bier Huis (need some more Green Goddess by Ilkley – again, see below).

I haven’t anticipated my visits down the A1 to my out-laws as much in many a year!

The downside to this month being a chat at my local doctors surgery.

Nurse : “Your cholesterol is high, your blood pressure is high and you are overweight. What is your diet like?”

BM “Not brilliant, eat a lot of good stuff but a lot of junk”

Nurse “What about your alcohol consumption?”

BM “Can we go back to that diet again!”

Well. What do you think I’m going to do? Write a blog about mineral water and decaffeinated tea???

Anyway, back to that most historically healthy of drinks. Beer!

You known how this works. I tell you about the beer, how it tasted (to me), where I bought it from and how much it cost. Needless to say, I enjoyed them all. As would you, (in all likelihood) if you bought them.

As mentioned earlier, At the end of last month, I detoured the family jalopy off the A1 towards Snaith and Yorkshire Ales. This really is a pretty little shop stocking some superb beers (almost) exclusively from Yorkshire. Adrian & Vicky were their usual friendly selves. Next time, I hope to chat more. However, if they’re as busy as they deserve to be, that could be difficult!

NB : Currently, they are promoting an offer of £5 next day delivery for up to 12 bottles. This reduces to £0 if you order 24. That’s right, FREE. Just saying……

1. Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – Imperial Russian Stout -£3.50 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales


(Great label!)

A deep dark coffee aroma on the black beer with a light tan coloured head. The aroma didn’t prepare me for the flavour. Fabulously earthy with bitter chocolate and licorice in the mouth. A lovely warming feel as the beer sank into my eager tummy! A nice bitter aftertaste with (what seemed to me) more than a hint of creme brulee or caramelised banana. Just a bloody good example of this great beer style. YUM!!!

2. Green Goddess by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley) – 5.5% abv – Belgian Green Hop IPA – (500ml) A swap with my mate Jaz for a bottle of Oakham Green Devil IPA – (so £3.50 to me)


(Dance To The Music!)

Jaz bought this from Beermoth, the boutique beer shop on Tib St in Manchester. I think it was over £5. So, for my £3.50 Green Devil, I got a bit of a bargain! (Not ‘arf!!!)

It is (like Siberia Saison) the product of a collaboration between the beer writer Melissa Cole (I got her excellent book ‘Let Me Tell You About Beer’ for my birthday last week!) and Ilkley brewery from, er…Ilkley. I had the cask conditioned version of this beer at Common in Manchester’s Northern Quarter last November and was suitably impressed. I wondered how the bottled version would fare….

I needn’t have worried! Bottle conditioned, it was lively out of the bottle and poured a deep golden colour. The aroma had that Belgian funk to it with some fresh herbal notes and initially I was reminded slightly of Duvel. However, in my humble…….this is SO much better. The taste? WOW! Break out that bass guitar and give it a damn good slap! More of that Belgian funky stuff going on, so much so, I had to reach for the tunes and slap on some Sly Stone! Some nice resinous hoppy grassy stuff going on courtesy of those fresh green hops. Nice grassy dryness after as well. Easily as good, if not better than when I had it on draught.

I believe they may still have some at Bierhuis in Ossett. Guess who I tweeted before I published this????

3. Stateside IPA by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – IPA – £2.80 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales


A lovely gold colour here with a powerful citrus hop aroma, I thought I detected apricot. Hell, what do I know! Given the aroma, I was expecting a punch in the kisser from all those American hops. What I got was a lot more subtle, but damned tasty.

Lots of smooth fruity hop flavour from those Yank hops (Cascade, Magnum, Galena & Summit – for those even nerdier than me!) all that American hop muscle supported by a nice juicy malt backbone. A superbly well-balanced and dangerously drinkable beer. (I’m just about to have another one!)

Saltaire. Brewers of one of my favourite Stouts (Triple Chocoholic). Another brewery yet to make a false step for me. (Gonna try to get over to one of their Saturday sessions later this year – train schedules permitting!)

4. Ponte Carlo by Five Towns Brewing (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.6% abv – Stout – £2.60 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales


(Dodgy pic alert!)

A black beer made with the addition of Pontefract cakes (ie : Licorice). This may sound STUPID, but this had a very dark aroma reminiscent of an Imperial Stout, vinous and spicy.

The added licorice REALLY comes through on the back of that roasted malt base. Dry, spicy and oh so bloody moreish. A dry spicy espresso taste as the aftertaste faded. A rally lovely beer (as was their Peculiar with rhubarb and ginger!)

5. Gold by Tatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.8% abv – Golden Ale – £2.19 (500ml) from Booths at Media City, Salford


Now, back over the Pennines! Obscure from Tatton was my favourite bottle of last year. I still love it. A glorious black beer. I thought it was about time that I tried one of their paler offerings.

Pouring a dark gold colour with a nice lacy white head. A malty aroma with a hint of orange zest. Lovely juicy malt flavours with some toffeeness in there. Nice and smooth mouthful. Some nice hoppy dryness in the finish to give it a really nice balance.

On the back of this, I bought some of their Ruck & Maul porter from Booths last night. Can’t wait!

6. Bon Don Doon by Wilson Potter (Middleton, Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Blonde Ale – £7 for 3 bottles (500ml) – direct from the brewer.


A lovely pale golden coloured beer. An interesting almost sherbet like aroma from the hops, quite zesty like a sherbet lemon. Smooth in the mouth, nicely balanced with some hoppy flavours I can’t quite pin down. A nice, dry almost grassy aftertaste. Another refreshing beer from this brewer.

Nice to see some of their draught beers around Manchester. I had the In The Black stout in The Salford Arms the other evening which was lovely and smooth. Excellent local brewers.

7. Kala by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6.2% abv – Black IPA – £2.90 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales


Back to the east of the Pennines again. This deep ruby almost black beer (trust me, hold it to the light!) has a lovely beige head with a nice – but not overpowering – citrus aroma from the Cascade and Citra hops. A complex combination of flavours here. Citrussy hop combined with something much darker, some bitter chocolate and licorice I thought. With 5 different malts and 6 different hops, you’re certainly getting your moneys worth here!

This beer is simply chock full of flavour and superbly balanced. Full of flavour with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Black IPAs aren’t loved by all, but this is superb. Saltaire, I doff my (metaphorical) cap!

More pub related blather soon!

On that note…….’til next time!