Manchester Northern Quarter Bar Crawl – 19/07/2014

“I’ve been up to Villiers Terrace to see what’s a-happening.
There’s people rolling ’round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine

Been up to Villiers Terrace, I saw what’s a-happening
People rolling ’round on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string
You said people rolled on carpet, but I never thought they’d do those things”

(“Villiers Terrace” – Echo & The Bunnymen)

(Video clip courtesy of ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube)

In 1979 /1980, when I was 14, my favourite bands were Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. Joy Division were a slight hand-me-down from my elder brother, but “The Bunnymen” (as we all called them at the time) were all mine. “The Puppet”, “Pictures On My Wall” & “Rescue” (12″ – naturally) were three of the earliest records that I bought for myself. Where Joy Division seemed to embody the somewhat dour, industrial chic of Manchester, “The Bunnymen” & Ian McCullough in particular, were effortlessly cool, a certain cockiness too, maybe. But just so cool.

I even remember buying my first combat jacket (but not “Camo”) to wear to go and see them, from Afflecks Palace (Yes Manchester hipsters, it really HAS been open THAT long!) There were rumours of a “Mystery Gig” swirling around in late 1980 and I desperately tried to get a ticket. To no avail. I think that I missed the last ticket held by Discount Records (Manchester old ‘Indoor Market’ with its entrance off Pall Mall) by a couple of hours. I was gutted. That concert ended up being recorded and saw release as an EP called “Shine So Hard” (An Atlas Adventure)

Rather controversially (some may think), I disowned the band upon the release of the single that was their commercial breakthrough “The Back of Love”, I remember hearing the track on a John Peel Session and thinking it was a sack of shite (Salford colloquialism!), so when I heard a shinier version as a single…..

I drifted back after that album “Porcupine” when they released the classic “Ocean Rain”, but the album (and period) from which “Villiers Terrace” is taken “Crocodiles”, is still their highlight for me.

The Bunnymen kindled a love of the City of Liverpool – though it was at least another 7 years before I was to visit. Strange to find – a couple of years ago – when I was desperately researching my family tree (prior to Dad passing away), that an entire branch of my family could be traced back to the area of Toxteth St Mary! Never leaves you I suppose!

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I really didn’t MEAN to end up in Manchester, honest! It was just meant to be a little nip in to Great Ale Year Round, to sample the bear I helped to shovel out (that most glam of jobs!). That beer is Station to Station IPA. Brewed by Allgates in collaboration with Five Towns of Wakefield, it was a 5.6% mango fuelled delight. Lightly hazed, it was fruitier than a Carmen Miranda headdress! Utterly lush. Glad that I drank it in a great bar, which is undoubtedly what Dan & Gina Buck have. It was nice to see them back in harness after a well-earned holiday!

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I’m off to the mighty County / Republic of Kernow soon (Perranporth, to be exact), so, given that a) I hadn’t been in The Lowers Turks Head for nigh on 30 years and b) there was a Cornish Beer Festival ongoing, we (well, the Arch-Nemesis is ALWAYS nearby!) opted to start here.

The Lower Turks Head (Shudehill – Opp the Bus Station)

Behind that beautiful historic tiled facade (the pub itself, perhaps dates back to as early as 1745), a lot of money has been spent to make this pub shine!

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Busy as hell in here and almost as warm on this humid July afternoon! 2 floors, classy decor shading, fairly dark with lots of wood. We grabbed pints from Padstow Brewery and headed off for some air!

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(Never smile at…..)

Unfortunately, this pleasant outdoor 1st floor terrace also doubled up as a smoking space, but I NEEDED to feel a breeze! The beer was fine, Padstow Brewery “Pilot” 4% abv. A deep ruby red beer, with a chocolate aroma, a bit like a Snickers, a touch nutty. Light bodied, bit like a mild, quite refreshing, lightly hopped.

Given that I love a local beer or two, I’ll have to pop back in on a more “normal evening to judge the offering, but to be fair, the pub looks great and was BLOODY BUSY!


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The Blue Pig (High Street/Back Turner St)

First time for me in this bar. Opening in 2012, this passed me by a bit – being a bit of a “pub” bloke. I’ve obviously denied myself some rare pleasures, because I love this place! Big open room with a bit of a bohemian feel. Nice flourishes all over the place and it was as busy as a chippy with great tunes (The Walkmen, The Smiths) all but drowned out by the sound of conversation – just the way it should be!

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Quite a bit of cocktail action going down as we entered, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the small (2), yet perfectly locally formed cask offering! Shindigger Pale and Black Jack’s Oddingtons. I hit the Shindigger which was in good nick. A fine fruity refreshing pint. This bar probably has the beer selection spot on. 3 pumps, but 2 on, both local. I like it and I like this bar. Not too cool, just a good feel to it. My note uses the word “decadent”. Probably sums it up! I’ll be back.

Odd Bar

(Photo “nicked” from Odd Bar itself!)

Odd Bar (30/32 Thomas Street)

Just around the corner….Odd Bar. One of a 4 bar chain (Is The Blue Pig part of the group?) First time for me again. Top indie tuneage. Offbeat & Tickety Brew beers on the bar. Good start. A fine pint of Tickety Brew Stout. All the roasted malt you could want and that Belgian Yeast spiciness, luxurious and smooth.
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A Lively bar, dark tones, red and browns lots of photos adorning the walls with some seriously decadent wallpaper. Loved the purple fabric  hanging from the ceiling, made me think of a bedouin tent! Beautiful.

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Nice airy room upstairs too. Like Arnie… I’ll be back! A jukebox too? Maybe another juke crawl soon! Just the one in here as the table we occupied was reserved! On to….

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Common Bar (Edge Street)
From the first moment I walked in to Common to the strains of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” by Magazine, I fell in love with this place. The original bar that spawned the monster that became Port Street, The Beagle, IndyManBeerCon…… Now Manchester institutions all!
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2 main rooms, plenty of seating, lots of exposed brickwork and loads of artworks and posters adorning the walls. It really is just cool as fuck, but without trying too hard at it. Great food too! Two cask beers and a whole bunch of “craft keg” offerings. I went for the Moor Brewery and their Confidence at 4.6% abv. A hazy, ruby red beer with a citrus fruit nose allied to some forest fruit. In mouth, medium-bodied with lemon, grapefruit on top. Sharp and fruity. A damn fine beer. A damn fine bar.
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Terrace Bar (Edge Street/Thomas Street – dual entrance)
Bloody hell but this was rammed! Described elsewhere as “the prettiest ginnel in Manchester”, this 2013 bar has lots more exposed brickwork. The fact that it was really busy says a lot.
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Lots of decent breweries on offer from 6 handpumps. I went for Ringmaster from Magic Rock. I tried, but…no. Not for me. Lacked the sheer zing of Magic Rock for me. Had a swift half of Kernel IPA (Citra, Simcoe, Cascade) on keg, which was a bitter citrus delight. I like the bar, again, some great funky tunes and a fine beer selection shows that they are trying hard. Worth a visit.
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57 Thomas Street (Thomas Street – unsurprisingly!)
This is a small yet perfectly formed bar space which has carved itself its own niche in the Northern Quarter. Single room with a long table (apparently constructed from old floorboards), where alternately, you can see people chatting, drinking and eating or alternately playing various board games. It just is that easy-going and …cool (that “other” C word again!)
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(Beer Porn – Lagonda in all her golden glory!)
A few keg fonts as you enter, but the bar top cask dispense is a distinguishing feature. A physically cool (perfectly so) pint of Lagonda IPA was a delight. A Manchester classic. Fruity and lush. Really refreshing for a 5% beer. Spot.On.
The great thing about the above bars…they’re within 100 yards or less of each other, often opposite!
And then…the longest walk of the evening. All of 200 yards or so!
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Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square)
A bar that should NOT be overlooked in the search for good beer. And I mean DAMN good beer! The feel of a Cantina in this big open room, which really should be fuller than it was! Loads of bench seating with some high window seats to watch the NQ go by. Good food apparently too. Live music venue downstairs has some cracking acts on too!
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Tonight, the beers were Shindigger, Squawk, Titanic & Arbor. Now, you know me! Ordinarily, I go local where I can. And I would have done, were it not for the fact that, leering at me, then winking seductively, was Arbor’s Breakfast Stout. Was it REALLY 7.4%? Did I REALLY have a pint? Oh but it was utterly sublime! More coffee than Starbucks could shake a stirring stick at. Creamy and unctuous. Ohhhhh…..Would have had another, but the chariot was waiting!
A fine afternoon in the company of the Arch-Nemesis as always. Great beers in some fabulous Mancunian bars.
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Brightside Brewery MTB at Great Ale Year Round – Official Opening of Bolton Indoor Market

IMAG0564(See the difference below!)

Previously being from Salford, I now live in Bolton and have done these last 24 years. I think that it is fait to say that the town centre (once you take away the simply magnificent Town Hall / Albert Halls complex) could be just about any other large town centre in the North of England, the shopping in most of which resembles nothing more than chain stores and take-away food outlets – Alice’s Chiipy on Deansgate being a rare example of a quality independent.

It was with this perennial disappointment in mind that my heart leapt when I heard that somebody was opening a Micro Bar in the refurbished Bolton Market. Even for beer loving Boltonians, the centre of Bolton is hardly a Mecca for good beer. Until now. The news that the recent award-winning Brightside Brewing were doing a Meet The Brewer type event at said Micro Bar “Great Ale Year Round” in the weekend when the fully refurbished Market Hall was being officially opened, gave me all the excuse I needed to pop along for a view and a pint or two. As if I needed one!

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(Busy, Busy, Busy)

The Market being conveniently located right next door to Bolton’s bus station (and 5 mins walk from the railway station), I entered and walked pat the enticing aromas of Carrs’ pasty shop into a reassuring sight. Dan & Gina Buck’s bar has been open since the 21st of January (see review here) but the majority of the stalls were waiting for the official opening day which left the likes of Great Ale Year Round and Nigel Lyons’ “The Coffee Grind” looking like a retailing vanguard. Well, no longer. The sight of all of the stalls being open was a joy, even more so as there seemed to be plenty of people shopping at 11am.

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Pleased  though I was to see the market stalls apparently thriving, I was “here for the beer”!

Brightside commenced brewing in 2009 at the back of the then family bakery, putting similar culinary skills to the task of brewing good beer using a self assembled 2.5 Bbl (Beer Barrel – each barrel = 36 Gallons or 288 pints!) plant. The addition of fermenters gave them more capacity. They brew an excellent core range of beers with some irregulars and seasonals and quickly started making inroads into the local beer market. They can now be found on may freehouse bars in the Greater Manchester area.

Having become quite successful at making (and more importantly, selling) excellent beer, the plunge was taken in 2013 to focus totally on brewing. So, selling the bakery, they relocated to an industrial unit in Radcliffe, in the process, becoming my nearest brewery!

I met Carley from the brewery for the first time at the recent Manchester Beer & Cider Festival (reviews here & here) and she struck me as somebody who would be ideally suited to an MTB kind of presentation being engaging and open, but I puzzled as to how an MTB would work in such an open premises. I needn’t have fretted!

Approaching the bar, I noticed (following a quick “hello” to Dan & Gina) that the bar was indeed fairly busy. A quick hello to the nice bloke (and excellent blogger) Paddy McGrath and his buddy Kev and I was chomping at the beery bit to get my hooves on the pint of orangey nectar that is Brightside Amarillo,  burnished gold with a light marmalade aroma giving way to a mandarin orange fruitiness with a crackling piney hop finish. As I discussed with the beery Magus that is Tandleman at the festival, I think we both agreed that Amarillo is our favourite hop!

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(Ever heard the one about the 20ft tall Butcher and the chopping knife?)

It’s great to meet people for the first time, especially when you have similar interests and I really enjoyed my chats with Paddy, Kev (who, for his sins, manages to write an interesting blog about Bolton Wanderers) and their friend Shaun (I DO Hope I got the correct spelling!) who is also an excellent blogger on the foody side of things and made a most excellent cake with Meantime Porter! Nice to see Graham from the local CAMRA Branch and have an all too brief chat.

A pint of Brightside Underworld followed, a lovely reassuringly dark brown beer with lots of chocloate and coffee notes. A comforting beer on a cold day!

This wasn’t an MTB a la Port Street where those who worship at the temple of the hop come to anoint their chosen, this was more of an informal wander aroiund by Carley who came and chatted with all and sundry and came along and chatted with us. One of the things that she mentioned was that the brewery is undergoing a transformation at the moment as preparations are being made to install a new 15Bbl brew kit, neede to cope with demand, both current and furture for their core beers – Odin & Amarillo selling particularly well. Carley seemed to cope really well with the considerable press attention – as did Dan & Gina, with loads of photos and video interviews. I, having a face for radio, tried to keep well out of the way!

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The beer was turning over really quickly and, whilst I was there, both the Amarillo and Underworld both sold out! These were replaced by Deep Purple by Prospect Brewery (Standish, near Wigan) (check out their bus tour around 7 Wigan pubs during the Wigan Beer Fest at Month end!)  and DV8 by another cracking Bury Brewery, Deeply Vale. It would have been rude indeed not to try both! Nice to see lots of local breweries being supported, bith by Dan & Gina and by the drinkers. They were loving them!

The Deep Purple was a golden brown beer, refreshing with a building gentle smoky quality as the glass was emptied, a nice drop. The DV8 I have had several times and was again a roasted, dark, oaty joyous mouthful. Both beer I hope to return to time and again. By the time I left, even the Deep Purple was struggling and had indeed run out!

The bar was justly very busy, with both bottles and draught flying out. Gratifying to see. It was also nice to see full use being made of the central courtyard tables with beer being served in plastic “glasses” to accommodate this. A sensible measure. Keeping this facility open for both bar, coffee and food vendors can only benefit the facility as a whole and increase trade for all. Would be nice to see this continue.

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Time was moving on all too quickly, so gathering myself up (and gathering some cracking bottles from their excellent and growing selection – gonna need more shelves soon!), it was time to say my farewells. Fortunately, on this breezy and chilly day, the lovely Carley generously offered me a lift. Of course, it would have been rude to refuse!

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On that note….’til next time… (Connor’s CAMRGB Twissup next week. Yay!)

Slainte!

Truly, Madly, Deeply Vale – Deeply Vale Brewery MTB – Salford Arms 02/10/2013

20100320-215227-860359(What a CRACKING Saturday Line-Up! courtesy http://www.Songkick.com)

“You don’t have to weird, to be wired”

(“Totally Wired” – The Fall)

Deeply Vale is a valley located to the east of Nangreaves, Bury (due east of Jct 1 of the M66 northbound).  Between 1976 and 1979 it was the site, of one of the legendary Free Festivals and at its peak (1978/1979), 20,000 people were attracted to listen to the likes of Steve Hillage, Nik Turner (ex Hawkwind) and local “New Wave” bands like The Fall and The Durutti Column. It was one of (if not THE) first festivals where the hippy counter-culture intersected with Punk.

For those of you at a tender age, I was JUST too young to attend the 1979 Festival (my first “gig” – The Damned – being on 10th December 1979) and it was a source of deep regret. However, given it’s relatively remote location, I probably would never have made it back to Salford!

The Deeply Vale Brewery therefore, has quite a romantic name in local terms (although Greater Manchester Police CID in 1979 may not have agreed. They were – legend has it – kept from the site!). The name is derived from the fact that James’ (Brewer/Owner) family originate from that area.

Fall Deeply Vale Fest(pic – http://www.elirecords.co.uk A VERY young Mark E Smith @ Deeply Vale in 1978)

Founded in 2012 near the centre of Bury by James Stewart and his parents, the brewery has quickly gained a reputation from drinkers and licensees alike for the excellence and consistency of his beers including the multi-award winning Breakfast Stout DV8.

James started to think about commercially brewing (being a full mash home brewer from a young age) whilst working at the noted Bury alehouse Trackside and started to look for premises eventually finding one on the Peel Industrial Estate. Brewing commenced in 2012 and they now make a core range of beers including Still Walking (sampled later) a 3.8% “bitter”, Golden Vale at 4.2% and DV8, the strongest at 4.8% abv.

Turning up at The Salford Arms I said a quick “Hello” to somebody I recognised from Twitter. This was Helen, partner of James Stewart the brewer. Jaz turned up along with a few others (including a fine turnout from the Bolton CAMRA Branch!) and I began to think that this might just be better attended than the last events. By the time we all settled in the front room, there were 15 or more people, which was gratifying to see and at least stopped James & Helen from feeling lonely! Then someone leaned over toward me and I realised it was Darren, who created the Gtr Manchester Ale News website / internet magazine. We’d been trying to meet for a pint for ages! We had a cracking chat,certainly a man who knows his beer.

James then gave us a brief chat about the genesis of the brewery, the recipes of the beers and the range of distribution. Distribution outside the immediate North West is handled by Mark Dade’s Boggart organisation and James handles a lot of the local distribution himself taking the beer into Lancashire and Cheshire with further outlets in Liverpool. James regularly has his beers featured in several Manchester pubs like The Angel, Marble Arch,  Soup Kitchen, Corbieres. I first sampled Deeply in The Smithfield on Swan St with Still Walking which I described as “a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish” (read more here!)

still walking clip

The brewery operates on a 2.5 barrel plant (1 barrel = 36 gallons or 4 firkins) and he brews 2 or 3 times a week spending the rest of the time doing the admin or distributing the beer around the area. What was really good to hear was the little “co-operative” that appears to exist between 3 Micros, Deeply Vale, Privateer & Ringway. They help each other out, distribute each others beers and even help to break new markets (The Ringway brewer – being  a Geordie – will be looking to break the Co-Op beers into the vibrant Newcastle beer scene.

Rather than 4 halves of different beers, given that James doesn’t bottle yet, we had but two beers on draught on the bar. First up was Still Walking, the “hoppy session ale”, a Pale Ale to my eyes. A lovely clear golden beer with a gentle fruity grapefruit nose (Cascade hops). A fruity easy drinking beer, medium bodied and really smooth with just the right amount of bitterness in the finish. A lovely refreshing easy drinking session beer.

By this point, this had become like a bit of a round table chat between like-minded people. This was really fun and quite intimate. Lots of people asking questions and voicing opinions, all in the spirit of the evening, which was really convivial.

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(One “almost built” brewery!)

Next beer up was the one of which James said he was most proud of. Being a fellow lover of dark beers and Stouts in particular, I’m with him on that one! DV8 is the beer in question, describer by James as a Breakfast Stout as it is, effectively, an Oatmeal Stout. A fabulous smoky aroma to this. Wonderfully full-bodied and creamy, lots of chocolate in here with the undertone of smokiness. A tremendous Stout, one that we should see more of around Manchester. As the nights draw in and the wind starts to blow, this is the time when a beer like this, in front of a real fire would go down a treat. Just need to find such a place in Manchester. Ideas anyone?

DV8 clip

One of the questions that came up was regarding bottling. james intends to put together a small bottling plant himself, rather than sending the beer elsewhere for packaging. A smart move really. Keeping quality control of his beers from start tp finish. Tying into this is the possibility of using his skills – possibly moving the small plant in his Dads’ garage into the brewery – is the idea (floated from the room) of doing seasonal beers. James was already considering an Imperial Stout and one that caught MY imagination was the thought of a Chocolate & Cinnamon Stout or a Xmas pud Stout? I offered to do some serious mashing, always willing to help, me! For a bottle or two of course!

Tysons Deeply pic(pic – TysonsBeerBlog.Blogspot.Com)

A further gloriously creamy pint of DV8 followed whilst Darren, Jaz & I had a further chat. I seriously like Darren’s internet ‘paper, always informative and definitely worth a read if you drink around the Manchester area, check it out here. Darren had to make a move, so Jaz and I also said our farewells to James & Helen and Ken & Tom from the pub and moved on to the Mark Addy where my pint of the beautiful Dark Revenge by Privateer had something missing, a little lacking in condition. Not as good as that beer usually is for sure. Jaz was more than happy with his Gin Pit by Allgates.

We then popped in for a final beer (& a bit) to a bar I haven’t been in for ages. The Gaslamp

Located in the former kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Childrens Mission (you can still see the name in the brickwork above the entrance!) this is just one seriously cool bar! Quite quiet but with some cracking eclectic tuneage. A great beer on draught too. Kitty Hawk by Privateer. This was MORE like it! The only thing was, I couldn’t quite bottom the flavour! Certainly made me think this one, good body to it for a 4%, I presume it was the hops, but there was a real savoury element to this, almost a touch salty? Whatever it was, both Jaz & I LOVED it. They do make some cracking beers on that there Temperance Street! (AND – Rumour has it that they may be on the move! Stay tuned!

Having missed my bus, it was time for a quick half of Harbour Breakfast Stout on keg. Quite oily and heavy, this (at 8.5% abv) was more like an Imperial with lots of strong bitter coffee/chocolate and a high degree of bitterness in the finish. A proper sleeping draught!!!

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, as did this particular evening. One of the best MTBs I had been to. A lovely friendly chatty couple (James & Helen), excellent company from the Bolton contingent (Pete, Linda & Graham) and meeting Darren. Yes. A good evening all round!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!