Piccadilly : Let’s Go For A Walk – A #Tryanuary Impulse 

Whims. Funny old things. The older I get, the more likely I am to concede.

There is a tendency – call it laziness – to stick to the tried and tested. The familiar. The places where you know you will get fabulous beer and a warm welcome. A comfort blanket. Something that has been (for want of a better word) a godsend these last 16 months.

But sometimes….. You just want something else.

Thursday evening, on the way home from work, I just had a yen. That impulse. To go for a walk. A beer or two. Follow the Tryanuary spirit, do something I’d not done for a while.

So, with a co-conspirator (Jock) secured, I donned the cans (Bluetooth – not Carling) and caught the 37 into Piccadilly – an area I’d not consciously crawled before…

The Jolly Angler : Ducie Street

From Piccadilly station, walk down the Approach and turn right onto Ducie Street and keep walking – heading right at the eventual fork. There you will find a previously heralded (by me at least) Mancunian gem.

A single room. A single cask conditioned beer. But a whole lot of Mancunian Soul. Something that I find increasingly important as tempus fugit.

I entered in this chilly and slightly windy Manchester evening to the warmth of a blazing real fire. A pint of Hydes Original in hand, I settled down to enjoy the start of an evening of entertaining conversation with Jock (being a boring old toss pot myself, Jock provided the wit).

Hydes Original. I love this beer. A paler shade of Amber reflecting the glow of the fire, an orangey flavour washed around my mouth and all felt right on this “school night”. A sign of a leprechaun above the bar indicating that offensive language wouldn’t be tolerated was a nice touch….

A cluster of obvious regulars at the bar indulging in jovial chat, I could focus on the charm of this place. It isn’t gentrified. It is almost anachronistic – considering the pace of development just yards away. An old fashioned street corner style Mancunian boozer – warm, welcoming, friendly. Just doing the right things.

And doing them so well.

Not enough people wax lyrical about places like this. I now consider that MY job.

Even with the photographs memorialising United legends (with Blue tinges) lining the walls, I still adore this place. Almost the embodiment of the phrase “Use it, don’t lose it”.

Just give the Piccadilly Tap the slopy shoulder. And enjoy something real. And Mancunian.

I took our glasses back. Thanked the barman/landlord. And headed off – although I could happily spend an entire evening in “The Angler”…

Back down Ducie Street, across “Piccadilly” (as the road is actually called) across Aytoun Street and past the magnificent Minshull Street Crown Court onto Richmond Street. At the end of which (Just before the junction with Sackville Street) you’ll find…

The Molly House : Richmond Street

I’ve had some lovely evenings here, but realised that it had been a long while since I’d last been. Way too long in fact.

There is a stripped back charm to this place. Set up over two floors (“The Company Bar” underneath – I’m told – being a separate club venue), upstairs also has a full bar and is where the unisex toilets are located.

Being fond of the odd euphemism myself, the venue is named from an old slang phrase for a brothel, but don’t let that dissuade you from experiencing this lovely place.

I’ve always had good beer in here, tonight was no exception with a new brewer (to me) having two beers on the bar (Rossendale Brewery), two from Howard Town and one from Beartown (a regular outlet).

The Rossendale “Halo Pale” was superb, hoppy and refreshing. And sessionable.

Lots of wood, stripped back floors, a few tables, some window seating, friendly bar staff, a simply MAGNIFICENT selection of spirits and a good reputation for the food (there’s an “open” kitchen in the downstairs room). This is a relaxing place for a beer or three with a very mixed custom reflecting the feel of the place.

And you can’t leave Richmond Street without a shot of the fabulous “Muriel” (sorry Hilda!) that graces the outside wall….

It won’t be so long before my next visit….

Back onto Sackville Street turning right onto Portland Street and across Piccadilly Gardens onto Lever Street. Across Stevenson Square and turn right onto Faraday Street, you will find a little known new place that Tryanuary should draw you to….

The Peer Hat : Faraday Street

The Arch Nemesis brought us here a few weeks ago following a visit to Fairfield Social Club. Tucked away between Lever Street and Newton Street, it was a complete surprise!

A bar cum live music venue (in the basement, something I’m yet to explore), this is a spacious two roomed pub. Friendly, with plenty of seating for old bones like mine!

If you enter from the Little Lever Street entrance, you walk past the mini music shop. If only I had a turntable….

Yes. Nice local music theme here, but it’s the beer… Skirting the Verdant on keg – YOU shouldn’t if you go – Curse Of Mexico by Black Jack hit the R Spot, nice and punchy sharp for a session beer. Just what Dr ordered.

Like this place. It’s Tryanuary, give it a try. Well worth the effort. It just has a Mancunian feel, my kind of place.

To finish off the evening – it WAS a “school night” after all and I was back out at 5:45 – yes, there IS a morning one…..

Back left onto Faraday Street and cross Lever Street (it’s a long walk this….) back onto Faraday Street and look right….

Pie & Ale : The Hive, Lever Street

Technically, Faraday Street – if you’re looking on Lever Street you’ll miss this. And that would be a a shame.

4 separate areas cleverly divided to give different feels, the name is kind of a mission statement. Pie. And ale. And – from personal experience, very good pies indeed.

Other than the fire alarm, a relatively quiet night. It was 10pm when we got here I suppose. Despite its “tucked away” location, this modern bar can get deceptively busy.

With a mix of high tables, diner style setting and bar seats, the bar has a rotating beer range with one reserved for an eminently missable house beer. With beers from the likes of Turning Point, Brightside, Tickety & First Chop (a very – and welcome – Northern line up), that’s easy.

The “Seven Waves” by Brightside maintained the perfect strike rate tonight. Full flavoured, punchy, with a moderate bitterness, it finished off the night (for me at least) perfectly. A lovely beer.

For the more price conscious, Tuesdays look good….

The “points” of tonight were various. To avoid the simple, the easy. Drinking in Manchester can become a magnificent Groundhog Day. Clichéd. If you let it.

I’m as prone to that as anyone. I have my favourites too. And they are very obvious. But there is so much more to Manchester than the classics. And the trendy.

Sometimes, it’s just time for something different.

And it’s Tryanuary.

So do just that. Try something different. Go give a hug and a kiss to somewhere you’ve never been before. Go with a friend (Cheers Jock), treat them, Share the love.

You won’t regret it.

Back soon. J x

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!

IMAG0714(Cookery Demonstration attracted a few viewers!)

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!

A New Bar For Bolton – Great Ale Year Round

Great Ale Year Round

A couple of months ago – just about the time that my dear friend Gerry floated the idea of a Beer Festival – I took her and her partner (my good friend) Paul to Damian O’Shea’s stall at Urban Market on what was the old site of Victoria Bus Station. A young couple were standing close to the stall and Damian introduced us saying, “You might want to meet these people, they’re opening a bar in Bolton”! My attention being now absolute and undivided, I was introduced to Dan & Gina Buck. We chatted for a short while and I got the distinct impression that they liked good beer.

The plans were to open a bar in the refurbished Market Hall and a brief chat with Dan &  Gina told me that there would be an emphasis on local beers with some more foreign stuff (ie : from South of Crewe) in too, but only good stuff! I was really heartened because, to be fair, Bolton is hardly rammed with great places to drink. Yeah the Sweet Green is OK, Wetherspoons (currently OFF my radar) and Barristers are OK and the Dog & Partridge has a decent pint, but Bradshawgate of a weekend evening resembles mid 80s Beirut! Consequently, when I go out, I head south towards Salford & Manchester. Bright lights, big cities and all that….

The Bucks had been posting teaser pics on Facebook showing how the venue was coming along, which made me all the keener to get in and give it a road test. So. What is it like?

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The bar was originally supposed to open on 14th February (the date that the Hall officially opens I think), but, having brought THEIR opening forward, my good buddy Colin & I strode into the Market. The first thing to notice is the large seating area just outside the bar, loads of space which will be filled once the planned food vendors move in. A really nice space, the Market will do well here.

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(Great bottle selection)

The bar is fairly small (well, it IS a Micro Bar!) with firkins on stillage behind. The bar and a few bar stools take up one half of the space with a couple of small tables and the bottle shelves and fridge taking up the other half. Speaking of bottles….

With a selection from the likes of Brightside, Quantum, First Chop, Tickety Brew, Cheshire Brewhouse to name the locals, plus offerings from London luminaries such as Beavertown and Five Points, the UK selection is impressive. Add to that 3 from Brooklyn, some Sierra Nevada, Jever, some Timmermans fruit beers AND Cider from local producers Red Bank, the choices are superb. (We tried a drop of the Red Bank “Rum” Cider and it was lovely & smooth!)

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There are currently 2 cask conditioned beers which Dan informs me will be constantly rotated. The two on offer today were Solstice from Brightside of Radcliffe (a Golden Ale at 4.5% abv) and Dark Revenge from Manchester’s Privateer Beers (a 4.5% abv mild). It’s fair to say that both were on absolutely CRACKING form!

Having had Dark Revenge previously on several occasions (I adore it!), I opted first for the Brightside. A beautiful clear pale gold with a fabulous fruity aroma, this was superbly refreshing and citrussy with just the right amount of biscuity malt for balance. I didn’t want the glass to empty! next up was the Dark Revenge. The name kind of gives away the complexion of this beer. I asked to pull this and made a complete “dog’s” of it. But what I couldn’t spoil was the taste. A lovely creamy dark roasty thing of a beer with smooth chocolate, the merest hint of coffee and a lovely dry finish. Superb.

Needless to say, Colin & I hung around for a couple more and chatted awhile with punters and Dan & Gina. Nice to see Paddy & Rachel (Rachel for the first time) and have a wee chat whilst Paddy selected some excellent bottles – a man of taste! Two excellent bloggers (click the hyperlinks!)

It was nice to hear that the first day had been busy. Given the efforts that I know that Dan & Gina had put in, deservedly so. As further food and drink units open up, it can only go from strength to…er….strength! I hope so, because this place gives Bolton somewhere nice and relaxed to have an excellent beer – and the best bottled beer selection in a bar for MILES around.

Immediate plans are to have some “Meet The Brewer” type events with the likes of Brightside, Privateer & First Chop. Excellent local brewers more than worth a listen. I’ll be going for sure! Another – more imminent – arrival will be a lager font, the lager being the excellent German Paulaner (beloved of Manchester Xmas Markets!) and at some point shortly perhaps, a 3rd hand-pump allowing the range to increase. Here’s hoping!

Saying our goodbyes, both Colin & I agreed that Dan & Gina had done a cracking job and we can’t wait to go back.

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!

Ramsbottom Craft Brewery – June 2013

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The Bury area, totally under my radar, has become a mini brewery mecca. The area is home to Brightside (recently relocated to Radcliffe), Deeply ValeFirst Chop (soon to commence brewing in their own premises in Salford), Irwell Works, Leyden (at The Lord Raglan in Nangreaves), Outstanding and (since December 2011) Ramsbottom Craft Brewery.

As is becoming a bit of a theme now, I stumbled upon a Twitter ‘exchange’ between Tyson The Beerhound and Matt Holmes, the owner and brewer at Ramsbottom Craft. At the end of this exchange, tentative arrangements were made to pop round at an indeterminate date when Matt may be brewing. One evening I saw a tweet addressed to myself and Tyson, along the lines of  “brewing tomorrow, fancy popping round…..? Well. You know me and temptation!

Unfortunately that fine Beerhound couldn’t make it due to work commitments. However, I was on holiday so, one sunny afternoon, I find myself lost in Ramsbottom!

Having driven onto the street listed on the website, it was all residential! Confused. I was utterly convinced I was looking for an industrial unit! A quick exchange with Tyson corrected that impression, so I headed back and knocked at the front door of a house I had recently passed. The door was opened and I was met by a genial young man (Matt) and the delicious unmistakable smells of an operating brewery!

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(The Mash Tun)

Not long after finishing our initial introductions (we had never previously met!), it was obvious that something was slightly wrong! At that point Matt was ‘sparging’ (a bit like rinsing the malt to get all available sugars from the grains) and the transfer of the ‘wort’ (the extracted sugars that form the basis of the finished beer) wasn’t going smoothly! There appeared to be a blockage, so, stirring implement in hand, Matt dived in (not literally!) to the Tun and got it sorted, freed the blockage and the process went smoothly! This issue was not unconnected with the large amount of grain in the Tun, the aim being for a wort to produce a finished beer of around 6% abv. These are indeed ‘Hand Crafted’ ales! (I – sort of – mucked in with a bit of  ‘re-circulation’ of the wort, good fun!)

Having never gone the ‘tinned wort’ route as a home brewer, Matt dived straight in with full grain brewing, using only whole leaf hops. Sourcing his stainless steel ware from Germany, he built his own brewery doing all the plumbing, cladding and wiring himself. He registered with HMRC (boo!) in December 2011 and commenced brewing pretty much from that date.

The Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), Mash Tun, Copper and his various fermenting vessels (6) and his bottles and casks are all stored and housed within his converted garage, and he produces quite a variety of beer in this 2 1/4 Bbl kit! Beers flavoured with Chilli and Lemongrass, Ginger, Cocoa nibs……

A native Midlander transported “oop north”, Matt is truly a one-man outfit doing the brewing, sales & distribution all himself, though, by his own admission, brewing is to the fore at the moment. Brew it, phone calls, then move it appears to be the way. Impressively, he fits this all around his day job as an Estate Agent too!

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(A bit of sparging)

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Matt’s beers are either cask or bottle conditioned and I noted a number of filled 9 gallon firkins, 2 of which had his Chilligrass Wheat Beer ready for a local Ramsbottom Bar/Restaurant The Hearth of The Ram and a number of bottles ready for packaging / orders. The bottles can be purchased either direct from Matt or from Summerseat Garden Centre

Matt’s Cask Conditioned offerings can be occasionally located at the (aforementioned) Hearth of The Ram and The Major pub in Ramsbottom, The Coach & Horses in Edenfield (nr Ramsbottom), The Masons Arms in Rawtenstall, The Magnet in Stockport, The Angel in Manchester, Trackside in Bury and others in the Blackburn area.

I sensed that Matt was a busy chap this afternoon, but he graciously let me have a taste of one of his mainstays (and I think he needed a refresher after his travails!), Rammy Ale,  a nice copper coloured bitter with a good balance and dry lightly hoppy finish. With driving, I couldn’t sample any more beer, so having not had any of his beers before today, I picked up a few bottles for later tasting and said my farewells to let Matt get on with the brew.

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It really is amazing quite what you can fit into a small space, and there is a little room for expansion, but, as things take off further, Matt may need to consider larger premises. Check the website at http://ramsbottombrewery.com/. Matt runs a “Beer Club” where – within a certain radius – for £30 a quarter, he’ll deliver a mixed case of RCB beers.

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Later that week, I tried a bottle of the Chilligrass Wheat Beer. Extremely pale (well, it is an all wheat beer!) at 4.4% abv there was some lemony citrus and spice on the nose. In the mouth, I got the refreshing characteristics of the wheat with a sharp peppery chilli kick! It certainly lives up to its name and definitely woke up my sleepy taste buds!

A nice bloke Matt. Cares passionately about what he brews, is obviously a dab had with the DIY and plumbing and indulges in some experimentation with his beers (Can’t wait to try the Thai Wit!), both beers I tried were full of flavour  with my personal preference being the lip licking  fiery Chilligrass. I’ll certainly be looking out for his beers on draught at The Angel.

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

The Stockport Beer Festival 01/06/2013 (or, Sir Galahad finds his Holy Gr(ale))

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(pic – gmcr.alenewsnet.com)

This was truly a last-minute decision. OK, it was made the evening before, but you get the point!

I knew this was my lucky day when I turned up late for the train at Farnworth, to find the train was even later! So it was that I found my self at the rear entrance to Stockport Train Station and waited for Jaz (well, who else would drink with me!) A quick nip into Sivoris caff for a spot of brekky and we’re entering that cathedral of footballing excellence, Edgeley Park. Home of the newly relegated Stockport County FC!

I had heard from John Clarke (CAMRA South Manchester), that Jarl by Fyne Ales would be making an appearance. Let me be quite honest, much though I love a beer fest, it was Jarl that dragged me out of my pit that morning and plonked me on that train! Jaz had been winding me up about how gorgeous it was the previous day (Cheers Buddy!), so my hopes were low of locating my beery Grail. Now, where were those beers beginning with the letter F? Then, the metaphorical clouds parted and the sunbeam shone on one particular 18 gallon (kilderkin) cask. JARL! At £2 a bloody pint as well!!!

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(Beer Porn Alert! The Holy Grale!)

I truly felt like Sir Galahad as he laid eyes on the hallowed chalice! Jarl. Beloved in bottle, now on draught. And I had a pint!

Believe me when I say this. I have chased this beer from bar to bar. From the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” (Pt 2 in October!), to haring across Manchester on a rumour (it had sold out!). But now, I finally had it in my trembling mitt! Was it worth it? Bloody stupid question! 3.8% abv and pale as a spring morning, It was sharp, lemon zesty both in nose and palate. It was a citrus festival in my mouth. I love this beer almost as much as my darling Atilla! Yeah. It was a decent pint! So good was it, that I broke a rule. I had two. I had to!

Descending some stairs into the bowels of this footballing Mecca, we ambled to watch an Oompah band. Just behind the bottle bar, I asked a genial gent if he was John Clarke, one of the organisers  of this fest and Editor of Opening Times the S Manchester CAMRA branch mag. I introduced my self and had a really pleasant (but all too brief) chinwag. A damn nice bloke indeed. Interesting bottle selection too, with a De Molen Citra for £3. (I didn’t)20130601_124431

(The Oompah band is there – look harder!)

The Oompah troupe were superb and fun, playing snatches of requests. Good, but my focus was back upstairs, where business needed doing!

That business matter led me to Dark Matter, a 3.8% Mild by Saltaire. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mild by the Shipley alechemists before. This was quite subtle. Some nice gentle roast with more than a tinge of blueberry or blackberry. A nice smoky hint in the aftertaste too. Lovely. I would have had it first, but when Jarl (my Juliet – apologies to David Mayhall for this most blatant of thefts!) calls, this Romeo had to climb to the balcony!

Next up was Coal Porter (See what they did there!) by Elixir Brewing from Livingston. Now THIS is my idea of dark heaven! 5% abv, black (or near as dammit!) with a hint of smoke on the nose. This delivered bitter chocolate in this roasted mouthful, smooth texture with a lingering smokiness. A beautiful porter. Enjoyed whilst sitting in the stands (see below!)

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(A tinge of grassyness!)

Following my second pint of Jarl, I had a small taste of Oat Stout from Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth. At 5.2% this was creamy textured with more than a hint of the hedgerow. A gentle smokiness in the finish was a twist. First from Nook and really nice.

Next up was the Single Hop IPA from Stockport’s own Quantum Brewing. The hop variety in the case being Triskel (French I believe). Golden, fruity aroma (tropical, pineapple?) with that carrying through in the mouth. Nice and juicy with a nice dry finish. Quite subtle this hop. Didn’t taste its strength.

We’d gabbed for a bit and time had passed. It was time for a final beer and I opted for another Fyne Ales. This time (reverting to type!) their Sublime Stout at 6.8% abv. Probably not the wisest of choices at that strength. However, just like the Quantum, it didn’t taste its strength. A lovely smooth roasted mouthful with some mocha on the nose. Creamy wee beastie this with a delicious smokiness that hung about a bit. It was 4 o’clock now and we were being ushered out. One of the perils of separate sessions I suppose.

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(One of the ‘quieter’ moments!)

In summary : All the beers I had were uniformly in superb condition. They were also ludicrously inexpensive! £2 a pint for Jarl? The idea of sitting in the stands was great. However, this is where my one quibble surfaces. The area where the beers were served had the feel of a narrow corridor, in no way helped by the punters tendency to hang around once they’d made their purchases. This made it somewhat difficult to move about in there. I know, I know that you can’t actually FORCE the imbibing throng to relocate once they’d made their choices, but at times, I felt uncomfortable. There!

That said, after a 20 odd year gap between fests (I served at a charity bar at the old Town Hall fest), I’ll be back! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Departing felt like I was actually leaving a footy match! At this juncture, Jaz revealed a plan to visit a nearby boozer Ye Olde Vic.

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Located on Chatham Street, walking in felt like a time warp! Dark, warm and friendly, I settled in instantly to a pint of Oracle by Salopian Brewery, a first by this brewer for me! A pale beer that was lovely, sharp, crisp  and hoppy.

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This isn’t a multiroom, but has that multiroom feel. I think there were 7 hand pumps, with beers from Thornbridge, Oakham, Magic Rock featuring. However, I went for Jade by Liverpool Organic. This was a nice clean pint with flowery notes. Probably a bit too delicate at this stage. I think after my efforts, I needed something more assertive. This beer would be one to start with. Refreshing though.

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(Now. Where DID I put those pumpclips? Ah yes, the ceiling!)

Time for the train back to Manchester. Now, a sensible boy would’ve IMMEDIATELY caught a connection to Bolton. But I said “sensible”!

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So, Jaz guided us into Pie & Ale by Bakerie. Located on Lever Street, this is a decidedly modern affair and looks designed to catch a fairly trendy crowd. So, what am I doing here? To the rear bar we go and Lo! Handpumps! And what’s more, local beers from Wilson Potter and Brightside! Alongside a couple of Wells & Young’s offerings and a Liverpool Chocolate Porter.

Here I chose Natural Progression by Wilson Potter. You will (if you’ve read this blog before) know what I think of the beers brewed by these ladies. Smooth, tasty and clean. This was no exception. A nice fruity smooth mouthful. 4.8%. It’s great to see more of their beers around Manchester. Seems like their beers are on in this place quite frequently. Good to know!

Next up, Odin by Brightside Brewing (now of Radcliffe!). A really refreshing beer this. Bright, pale, zippy and nicely hopped. Initially thought it was a ‘real’ lager it was THAT pale (as you can see!). A blonde beer to look out for from another excellent local brewery.

20130601_191043(A zesty blonde indeed!)

Pie & Ale is an excellent addition to the Northern Quarter. If the food is anywhere near as good as the beer……..friendly knowledgeable staff, siiting booths and bench seating. I like this place!

Quickly skipping my greedily ordered Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt (I had to!) We finished off the evening in Port Street Beer House (where else) with an Oakham Green Devil IPA. More hops than a Watership Down audition. Stunningly fruity and hoppy. Enough said. A classic.

Not the most sensible day out, but bloody enjoyable!

Back in Manchester on Friday and Wigan on Saturday with some brewing luminaries at Allgates (I’ll be making the tea!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!