A Tryanuary Tour – Bottle Shops To Die For

I had earned my “Brownie Points”. Chores, running around, you name it, I did it. I wanted Saturday left free. I wanted some fresh beers and to try something new. Just one more thing……

Fancy a Vegan Curry for tea? I played my Ace. Job done.

So. Beer.

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Heaton Hops7, School Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport.

My first visit to the City Life Pub of the Year 2015. Well, my first since it won that most deserved of accolades!

Those who pay any form of attention to my wibblings will know that I’ve been a big fan of Damian O’Shea’s businesses since his days on Castlefield Market as The Ale Man. He always did have an eye for great bottle beers. But when he and his partner Charlotte opened this little bar in Heaton Chapel, little did they know….

In this small space, there is a most excellent selection of bottled and canned beers from all over the UK. Of course, my predilections steer more to the North of the compass and I was here in particular, because Damian had held of bottle of Cheshire Brewhouse’s Govinda (Chevallier Edition) for me.

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As I have said on this blog before, this is a small, but beautifully thought out space. With excellent beer. 2 on cask and 8 on keg, from the best of local and not so local breweries. The cask selection tends to be local, but today, he had on a cask of the luscious Milk Stout by Bristol Beer Factory. Atilla had one. I joined her. It was a creamy, slightly sweet and roasty delight. Atilla thought so too.

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The bar seems to be doing brilliantly. No surprise given the location and what Damian & Charlotte offer. A cosy and comfortable bar with an excellent product for sale. Why was I here again?

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Ah yes. THAT was why!

I could stay in this bar all day. But I had appointments elsewhere. I bade my farewells to Damian and we headed off, just as Charlotte and baby Harriet arrived…..

If you haven’t been before, it’s only 4 mins walk from Heaton Chapel train station and the 192 bus from Piccadilly drops you close too. So why not?

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Browtons – 8 Fletcher Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne, OL6 6BY

Is that Simon himself, grinning, as I took my shot? That was a long drive. Good job that I know that this bottle shop is worth it!

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Located in a semi-pedestrianised spot, opposite the famous Ashton Market, the first surprise was the cheap car parking just a couple of minutes walk away.

Simon Browton is a man of excellent taste and has a large, varied and wide ranging selection of bottled and canned beers from some of the best breweries around. Unlike the first time I turned up, he know has an “On” licence too, so you can buy a bottle (chilled or otherwise) and settle in a comfy chair and sip and chat to your hearts’ content.

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Having has a BBF Milk Stout, we opted out of region again and had a nicely chilled bottle of Black Perle by Weird Beard and I just wallowed, puzzled by how full of flavour and full-bodied such a low alcohol beer could be! Beautifully smooth and creamy, with a nice nip of coffee. If there was a brewery that this Northern oik misses from the south, it’s Weird Beard. There! I said it.

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Yup. You can even buy a change of clothing while you are here!

A nice chat with Simon revealed (I think?) possible plans to open a draught bar/bottle shop. If so, knowing Simon, this would be an enormous thing in Ashton. Just this shop is a classy place with friendly “regulars” who we had a chat with about Manchester pubs.

I also thank Simon enormously for his suggestion to drink the Torrside American Barleywine sooner rather than later! The man was SO right as you will see in the next bottle review! Why was I here again? Oh yes…..

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Harvey Leonard’s – 22, Norfolk Street, Glossop, SK13 8BS

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(Thanks to Steven for the pic!)

Then, another long drive. This time to Glossop, because the very nice folk at Harvey Leonard bar/shop had set aside an increrasingly difficult to find beer for me. A Cloudwater DIPA!

The bar was quite busy when we got there and, being unfamiliar with the feel of the place, photos were NOT an option, but this seemed like a nice friendly local bar with the accent on the wine at that moment. But, far from being shunted to one side, the beer selection was front and centre! And there was an excellent selection!

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Thornbridge, Torrside, Buxton….The local Derbyshire breweries were well represented. Quite a bit of Cloudwater too. There was a wide selection from all over, with quite a lot of Northern stuff to tickle my fancy….But I was in a rush….I was hungry (as was Atilla)

The great news is that they’ve move since then to larger premises! 300 bottles (drink in or take-away), 4 key keg taps (rotating) I’m gonna have to come back I see! (And it’s JUST around the corner from Glossop Train Station too!)

Then, to The Globe. And the most ludicrously good value food you’re likely to get. Anywhere. We had a pint and a half of Porter (brewed on site), One Chickpea & Spinach Curry (with a Naan) and Vegan sausages, chips and onion gravy. Just. Over. £9.

Think about that when you go to Harvey Leonard’s!

It was Tryanuary. I had some new beery experiences doing this piece in both Browtons AND Harvey Leonard’s.

3 most excellent local independent beer businesses. Support them. They deserve it, because they’re good. And have soul. Unlike you local supermarket.

But, for all the hoopla last month, these places ALL deserve your custom 12 months of the year.

Because they are bloody good.

Back soon.

Slainte!

Bottled Beers – January 2015 – Pt 1

“They say an end can be a start, it feels like I’ve been buried yet I’m still alive
It’s like a bad day that never ends.
I feel the chaos around me, a thing I don’t try to deny
I’d better learn to accept that there are things in my life I can’t control”

(“If I Ever Feel Better” – Phoenix)

(Clip courtesy of B.D White – via YouTube)

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For me, this is possibly the ultimate earworm – well, in its original form anyway. From a band that have – criminally – never had a hit single in the UK. I am also yet to discover so sad a song set against SUCH an uplifting melody.

Taken from their debut album “United”, this track – again, for me – explodes any myth that the French can’t make great pop music. For a while indeed, French music dominated dancefloors in the late 90s and early to mid 00s with the likes of Daft Punk (former band mates with members of Phoenix in “Darlin'”) and Justice.

I could have easily just used a clip of the single, but chose the one above to fit in two of the greatest French musical exports of the last 20 years. For a whole variety of reasons (and not just the obvious) at this particular moment, this feels right to me.

And the moment – at approximately 05:57 – when the band kick in again gives the lie to anyone who says that French bands can’t rock. A truly awesome mash-up.

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Thinking of changing the focus of this blog. Maybe a few more pub pieces and less bottles. If you don’t like that idea, let me know, my head is in a weird place at the moment and I’m even more open to persuasion than normal!

Also, I need to track down some excellent fresh new Northern beers, this one has a few “interlopers”!

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  1. Manchester Sun– Beer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 5.3% abv – Golden Bitter – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Golden beer with a persistent white head giving off a gentle fruity aroma with maybe a hint of plum & raisin.

Quite full-bodied in the mouth, that fruitiness carries on onto the palate with more forest fruit and more than a hint of marmalade. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness and a dry finish with some grassy hops in the aftertaste.

This is what used to be called a “Premium Bitter” and would be a smidgen from a fully fledged IPA for me. Either way, an excellent beer. And do you know what REALLY impresses me, Steve says on the label what he set out to do, and – in his first two bottles – he has nailed it.

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  1. Dry Hopped Lager(Galaxy) – Adnams (Jack Brand – Southwold, Suffolk) – 4.2%abv – Lager – 330ml – Swap with my friend Simon (for a bottle of Thwaites’ 13 Guns)

Yes. A lager. From one of the Regional big boys too! One of TWO this post! A lucky find over Xmas, for which I thank Simon.

Bright and golden (as you would expect), its lingering fluffy white head giving off an aroma of fresh apples with a citric hint of lime sharpness.

In the mouth, a rich tea biscuity sweetness gives way to a light and refreshing fruity mouthful, Orchard fruits with a little lemon and a subtle floral flavour wafts across the tongue too. This is possibly one of the nicest UK lagers I have tasted thus far. Beautifully refreshing. and a joyous thing. A summer beer in midwinter!

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  1. Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja(Citra Pilsner) – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell) – 5.5% abv – Pilsner – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Yep. Another Pale golden Lager! This has a lingering white head and an aroma that is quite restrained, fresh-baked white bread being my first thought.

In the mouth, this comes to life! Medium bodied, This has a surprising depth of flavour with like a citrus jam stickiness and a quite fabulous hoppy hit post swallow. That fruitiness just keeps coming, with a little more citrus asserting itself in further mouthfuls.

This could almost convert me to Lager!

Fruity, refreshing, with a crackling grassy hop dry finish. Yum. Weird Beard strike another home run!

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  1. Dragons Tears– Black Jack Beers (Manchester) – 5.2% abv – Jasmine Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Now then, the first #Beergasm of 2015!

Hazy and golden beer with a thin but persistent white head and a slightly spicy fragrant aroma (presumably the Jasmine)

Oh but this is LOVELY! A typically good Saison in that it is terrifically refreshing, getting the saliva glands working overtime, with that yeastiness powder coating the tongue as the beer slides down.

This is quite full bodied and has that delicate almost floral spice of the Jasmine adding to the lightness of touch. A beautifully refreshing mouthful from young Mr Hamilton & chums!

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  1. Rum In The Black– Wilson Potter (Middleton) – 4.2% abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

Black, with a milky coffee coloured head and a nose of Chocolate. Sweet and seductive.

Medium bodied, a little sweetness in the mouth gives way swiftly to a more bitter chocolate,smooth and moreish with a slight smoky note in the swallow.

Following mouthfuls give up hints of the rum in the title but with that sweetness surpassed by a lovely gentle bitter hoppy finish.

Another excellent beer from the increasingly impressive Wilson Potter.

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  1. Bristletoe– Bristol Beer Factory (Er,,,,Bristol) – 4.7% abv – Oatmeal Porter – 500ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

This is black. No shit Sherlock. It also has a rather attractive beige foam collar and a lovely slightly sweet chocolate & coffee aroma. Mocha if you will. It smells nice and….. “dark”.

Taste wise? The chocolate is almost a given. And it is chocolatey, medium-bodied and smooth from the Oatmeal, the first thing is a slight sweetness from the chocolate which fades to a dry and quite hoppy finish, really satisfying mouthful.

At times, it feels like a little lactic like a Milk Stout – never a bad thing in my particular book. It’s the body and the slight sweetness which reminds me that this is a Porter.

Never had a bad beer from BBF. This continues that streak.

Shortly after this, whilst I was having a late night watching the AFC playoff game, I decided to give something a try. The West Indies Porter by Guinness. I took one mouthful (unfortunately) and poured it down the drain. I wanted to like it. I actually have no problem with Guinness, but it was vile. Just caramel. Try it if you want, after all, I was tempted at £1.50 a bottle for a 6% beer. But remember, you were warned!

Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 03/10/2013 – 13/10/2013

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I have a lot to thank my Arch-Nemesis (Jaz) for. One of those things is the rekindling of my love for beer and pubs (resulting in these wafflings, I suppose!) Another thing that I have him to thank for, is my discovering the pubs – and beers – of Allgates Brewery. Over the last year, I have sampled many of their beers, all of which have been very tasty and full of flavour – from the Mild made with NZ hops (AllBlack) through the citrussy, zingy Ostara all the way to the Oatmeal Stout which I had a small part in the making of. I suppose – to cut a long story short – they are now, without question, my favourite brewery. But, I NEVER use one word where 2000 will do, do I?

Allgates, the Brewery & Pub Company is owned by two partners, David Mayhall & Ian Thorpe. They own 7 working pubs, all 7 being based in – or around – the Wigan metropolitan area. The ethos of these pubs is simple. They are rooted in – and are very much of – the local community. They offer excellent, locally brewed beers, alongside a wide range of superlative (and imaginatively sourced) guest beers from the best breweries in the UK, often supporting the youngest and freshest Microbreweries.

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Another key matter that distinguishes Allgates’ pubs from their competition, is the pricing of their beers – both their own AND guest beers. To say that they are good value is to massively understate the effect that ordering a guest beer in an Allgates pub can have on the unwary. As an example. I ordered 2 pints of Motueka (single hopped Pale Ale) by Arbor from Bristol. An ale that would cost upwards of £3.40 in Manchester. I paid £4.20. That is £2.10 a pint!!! Obscenely cheap. In bloody good condition too! (Which, if you stay awake, you may read about later!)

In March this year, along with Jaz & my other good friend Col, I had a go at the previous RTWB, trying 3 Allgates pubs, The Anvil (technically, the Brewery Tap), The Hare & Hounds in Hindley and The Jolly Nailor in Atherton. 3 cracking pubs, but each distinctly different from the others. The beers in this “festival” were uniformly excellent. Not a single bum note to be had. I have subsequently had a number of Sunday Lunches in a further Allgates pub, The Crooke Hall Inn (Crook Village) on the bank of the Leeds – Liverpool canal. Another fabulous pub, with great food!

The principle of The Road To Wigan Beer is that it is simply a different kind of Beer Festival. One that is spread across all 7 pubs (in this instance) across 11 days. The trick is, to try to get to all 7 pubs. How? I hear you ask! The answer……(as I was advised by young Mr Mayhall…) by BUS!!! It transpires, that a bus had been organised for some regulars to get around all 7 pubs in the one day. Being somewhat of a cheeky little tyke, I had to ask, didn’t I?

Road To Wigan Beer Oct 2013

So, the Arch-Nemesis & I find ourselves meeting at Wigan Wallgate and watching (what seemed like) the entire town, clad in Cherry & White, emigrating to Old Trafford for the Rugby League “Super League Grand Final”, of which, more later! Grabbing a swift pork pie from Galloways, we strolled into (for us) the first pub of the day. The Allgates Brewery Tap, The Anvil.

Wigan pub ,The Anvil, built 1894(pic – www.beer-meister.co.uk)

The Anvil is a large pub occupying a corner plot on Dorning Street, just around the corner from Wigan Bus Station and a 2 minute walk from the brewery itself. A single roomed pub but with distinctly separate drinking areas giving it the feel of a multi-roomed premises. Each time that I have been in, it’s always been busy both with ale drinkers from far and wide and, predominantly, locals attracted by the excellent beer, keen prices and a core clientele with betting slips in hand and more than an eye on the TV watching the sports. This is a busy pub. It also sells damn fine beer. Like my first pint of the day…..

Atomic BlondeRevolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) A 4.5% abv blonde beer sticking to the core Revolutions themes, Music themed beer and a fine beer at that! This was only the second of their beers that I have had on handpull over here. Have had loads in bottle and they have been uniformly superb, full-flavoured, tasty, balanced beers. This was no exception. Pale gold with a fruity aroma, medium bodied and full of fruity bitter flavour with gooseberry and apple (or so I thought), sharp and zesty with a hint of tartness. Fresh, refreshing with a supremely dry bitter finish, absolutely cracking nick. The only problem was, it went down too damn quick! With a few minutes before the bus showed up, I hazarded a swift half of something else….

Odyssey BlondeFallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) Another “Blonde” beer, this time at 4.1% abv, super pale beer, with a spicy, almost savoury aroma which I couldn’t quite pick, fresh clean and spicy/bitter, the kicker came in the aftertaste with quite a hit of wood smoke! No doubt about it and very unexpected in a paler beer like this, unusual, damned tasty and also hurried down as I was told by David that the bus was here! Though I hate rushing good beer (and the Fallen was VERY good!), there was nothing else for it but to bolt it down and follow the throng! A good start on the beer front!

Onto the bus we go. It felt a bit like the works outing scene from Carry On At Your Convenience, replacing Londoners with the most genial bunch of people, Wiganers to a man/woman, that it’s been my pleasure to be on a bus with. On the top deck the banter was immediately flowing, I was soon chuckling and grinning from ear to ear listening to people that I was soon to get to know far better! The bus was headed to the most westerly Allgates pub…

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The Crooke Hall Inn is situated in Crooke Village and the pub is located on the picturesque banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Unfortunately, the access road couldn’t accommodate the girth of our historic white, orange and brown GM Buses double-decker, so we bailed out outside a Marstons pub for a 5 minute walk to the pub. A true Multi-Roomed pub with 4 separate drinking areas (including the bar area) and a beer garden area to die for on the canal side.

Been here a few times now, the last Allgates pub I’d “discovered”. My family has enjoyed a few excellent Sunday Roast dinners here over the last few months (of course, the excellent All Black Mild had nothing to do with my choice of venue, Oh No! *fingers crossed*). As with all their pubs, the landlord – in this case Gregg – keeps a fine cellar with excellent ale. Knowing this, I had high hopes for a beer that I knew he had on….

EP – Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) Now, I’ve written about my love of both Andy & Marks’ beers and their musical leanings/ethos. A short conversation with Andy left me in no doubt about his love of both beer and good music (of all kinds). All the beers are brewed to strengths consistent with music formats (3.3% abv / 33RPM, 4.5% abv / 45RPM, 6.0% / C60 ……), the EP is at 3.9% abv, being halfway between a vinyl single and an album. More importantly, the beer tasted just as good as I expected it to. A golden beer with a slightly resinous grassy hop aroma, it was clean fresh and hoppy with a hint of a bitter lemon character in there.

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Texan Pecan Coffee MildBexar County Brewery (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) – For me, one of the beers of the day. Unfiltered and 3.7% abv, a hazy, murky brown beer comes from the pump, but give it a moment, then a sniff and Cafe au Lait comes over on the nose. In the mouth, more coffee, quite gentle, then a real nutty overtone. A “Ronseal” beer (does exactly what it says…..) and a belter that would go down well (even with the light abv) in some of the better Manchester “craft” pubs. As I finished and popped for a quick chat with Jonathan (Allgates head brewer), about current happenings at the brewery, it was apparent that I’d finished my beer too soon. Ah well, a swift half is called for again….

Bitter KiwiBristol Beer Factory (er…Bristol?) (5% abv) Pale gold again with big grapefruit hop aromas, really zesty fruity in the mouth too, zingy sharp hoppy flavours. Bloody good (if ill-advised – at 5%!) beer, as BBF normally is!

Ding, ding…..back onto that bus, with a further passenger, Gregg, the landlord from The Crooke!

A good 25min or so drive now. We were due to go to The Union in Tyldesley next, but the driver obviously had other ideas!

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The Jolly Nailor sits on an imposing corner plot on Market Street in Atherton. Quite a large pub with three distinct drinking areas, again, a proper multi-room. Again, as with all Allgates pubs, several handpumps dispensing both Allgates own and guest beers. Last time I came, on the previous “Road” trip (read here), there was a rock band warming up. The pub has live music on each Friday and Saturday, good nights, so I’m reliably informed. I was “here for the beer” so, in that spirit….

Harts DesireHarthill Village Brewery (Harthill, nr Sheffield) (4.4% abv) – Another new brewery to me. The Harts Desire was a mid-brown beer with a spicy fruity (mango/apricot) hop aroma. Medium bodied with some biscuit malt overlaid with fruity hops (gentle apricot). This had a dry bitter finish with a hint of licorice root in the aftertaste. Another superb beer in great condition. Followed by….

Citra BurstAlechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) Citra is the Marmite of hops. Me? I love it! This was no different. A golden beer with the bitter grapefruit aroma characteristic of single hopped Citra beers. Loads of toffee maltiness giving this excellent balance with a hint of vanilla, I thought. Big bitter finish with a lingering hint of toffee in the big zesty grapefruit aftertaste.

20131005_145602(A selection of previous ales at The Jolly Nailor)

With a bit of time left, a swift half was called for….

HopspurRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 4.5% abv Amber coloured beer with a surprisingly citrussy aroma. Biscuit malt but quite bitter with more than a hint of grapefruit, good clean bitter finish. Another good beer from the makers of the superlative Trinity Pale Ale.

Now, Jaz was gutted to see a new beer clip on the pumps. So, not wanting to miss out, the sod got another half in……

GalaxyTwo Roses Brewery (Darton, nr Barnsley, S Yorkshire) – 4% abv pale beer, slightly hazy with a super aroma of mango and passion fruit. Fruity and slightly resinous in the mouth with a tremendously bitter finish. Had the bottles from TR before, but first time on draught. Superb!

Ding, ding…….

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Back onto the bus to….Tyldesley and….

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The Union Arms, Castle Street, Tyldesley – A deceptively large pub, with a central bar and three drinking areas, with one, slightly elevated, being set for food. The, now about 45 strong, bus load swarmed into the pub. The first time that it took more than a minute or two to get served, but it was more than worth it….

MotuekaArbor Brewery (Bristol) 3.8% single hopped pale ale. The jaw dropper here was the price. £2.10 a pint! I have paid nearly £1.50 MORE for this in Manchester. Ludicrously good value for a super fruity pale gold beer with abundant grapefruit aromas. Light biscuit malt with super fruity hoppy taste. Nice bitter finish too. Nice chat with two guys we hadn’t met before, Tony & Jay.

Onwards……

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The White Lion, Leigh Road, Leigh.

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(Value? I kid you not!)

Nice cosy traditional pub with three separate rooms. Lots of wood, warm and friendly. being on her own, the landlady rang for reinforcements! Down came Harry the landlord! Friendly as hell behind the bar, but what mattered even more was the top quality of the beer, in this case…..

#10 Smoked Porter – Shamblemoose Brewery (Haslemere, Surrey) – A new brewery for me and a lovely black beer with a gentle coffee aroma. The smokiness really came through in the mouth with some dark roasted coffee in there too. Lovely, full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Really goo (or even “good”) ale!

The pace was slowing now (but not for all!), I was taking more time to chat and simply enjoy the ale….but Tempus Fugit and all that latin stuff……..

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The Hare & Hounds , Ladies Lane, Hindley.

If I could have a local pub, let it be like this. I LOVE the Hare! A dog friendly pub, with cracking beer, a real fire  and friendly locals. Four walled heaven!

Scouting the bar after a quick smile at Nigel, the landlord, my eyes hit another brewery I hadn’t had before….

ParklifeWindsor & Eton Brewery 3.2% abv – The lightest beer of the day. Well received by others. Copper coloured, gentle citrus aroma with some fruitiness in the mouth. Not bad, per se, I suppose, but given all I had heard about this brewery, I expected, well…more. As I said, some really enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t overly struck.

Moving on to another brewery I had never had…..

Drops of JupiterBumpmill Brewery (Alfreton, Derbyshire) 4% abv. Instantly getting the music reference (“Drops of Jupiter” being an album by the US band Train), I was warming to the beer before I had it in my maw. Pale gold again, nice full citrus aroma. Loads of fruity grapefruit citrus in the mouth. Refreshing, really fruity and a nice bitter finish. MUCH more like it!

First half of the Rugby was in here. Not going well. Lots of handling errors and mistakes by Wigan allowing Warrington a 16-2 lead. An unconverted try just before halftime lightened the spirits and fired optimisms’ flames!

Not enough time here for me. So I’ll be back on Tuesday! Moving on (and getting a little darker now……)

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The Victoria, Haigh Village, Wigan – First time at this pub for me (and the final Allgates pub. I now have the whole set! Two main rooms with a corridor linking the two. We got in with 5 minutes of the second half of the Grand Final played. Better from Wigan…… Pool table in the right-sided room where most settled to watch the finale….

Here I had….

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Being a wee bit (ahem) refreshed by this point, my schnozzle may have lost its “beerhound” sharpness as I didn’t get much aroma from this, but it was a damned tasty pint. Pale gold with a tight white head, crackling with grapefruit sharpness. Really fruity and refreshing. At the strength, it stood up really well.

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(all eyes on the screen!)

Back end of the second half was all Wigan as the pressure was poured on. A couple of tries close to the posts (both converted) took Wigan ahead to ecstatic scenes in the pub as they emerged as 30-16 winners. 24 points without reply in the second half!

Jubilant happy faces as we got back on the bus (just WHO took that sneaky pic in the pub?) we were back to where it all began 8 1/2 hours before….

20131005_203232(Once more unto the breach…..!)

Ostara was on. I simply had to do it! 3.6% of fruity hoppy heaven. One of my Beers of The Year so far. We’ll leave it there shall we. There was a train to be caught and I seriously hope that I made sense to David by this point!

I think I can say that, without exception, that in my opinion (for the little that THAT is worth!), each of the beers that I drank / sampled was in excellent condition. There was only one beer that I didn’t truly enjoy, the rest were all excellent. If I had to choose favourites on the day – which is difficult, I would say two from early on, The Atomic Blonde from Revolutions Brewing at The Anvil and the Texan Pecan Coffee Mild from Bexar County Brewery. Both superb, tasty beers, as were they all.

But this is, in my experience, what you get from Allgates’ pubs. Great beers in excellent condition, in a friendly, traditional pub environment. Just the kind of places that we should be treasuring. I do, that’s why I’ll be back in The Anvil and Hare & Hounds tomorrow evening!

This was a total blast! I met and chatted with many people I had never previously met. All with broad Wigan accents. I do believe that there may have even been a bit of Wigan dialect spoke on the bus! A huge thanks to David & Ian, Jonathan for humouring me by listening to my blathering on,”Stig” for sorting the bus and everyone else who contributed to this most excellent of days.

There is still a week to go on The Road To Wigan Beer. Treat yourself. A return ticket to Wigan can put you within a 3 minute walk of both The Anvil and (on the return leg..) The Hare & Hounds. Give it a go…and thank me later!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says “Good People Drink Good Beer.” Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public bar and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Because too much is never enough…..Or my good friend Col couldn’t make Saturday’s Epic Crawl, we decided to pop into a couple of Allgates pubs along our train line (Manchester – Wigan) and sample some new beers that I didn’t get to try on Saturday. Greedy, but hey…….

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Back to The Anvil, being in the centre of Wigan, within 3 minutes of Wallgate Station, Reasonably busy for a Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Jarl by Fyne Ales had sold out, as expected. However, more than adequate compensation was to be found…..

HankTiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, Gwent) A 4% abv pale ale that was really pale and full of the sharp grapefruit aromas of Citra. Really balanced with plenty of biscuit sweetness cut through with that grapefruit tang. This mellowed as I went down the glass and tangerine came through. A good beer in cracking form. 

Tempus Fugit. We had a train to catch to the next and final pub, but we certainly had time for a couple more…..

American Pale AleClarence & Fredericks (Croydon, S London) 4.1% abv. Deep gold with a creamy white head, a little tartness in the aroma which was more than represented in the mouth! Bitter orange seville marmalade with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry, nice smooth texture and full of mouth puckering fruity hop flavour. The aftertaste had quite a resinous hit. Only the second beer I’ve had from this brewer. Both excellent.

Just about time for a cheeky half before the train…..

Blackhouse (Smoked Porter) – Fallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) – A hazy deep brown beer with a chocolate caramel nose (made me think of a liquified Cadburys Caramel). The flavour matched the nose with addition of the late appearance of a warm smoky note. Really smooth and creamy. Shame I only had time for a half!

A swift walk to Wallgate Station for the 20:27 toward Manchester and the second stop on the line. From there, a 5 minute walk downhill to…

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The Hare & Hounds is just a proper local. The kind of pub which just gives you a warm hug of familiarity when you push open the door. Again, I was hoping for Jarl, but it seems like I was a day early. Col however, was as happy as a pig in muck, ‘cos he’d come for the next beer (and that alone)

Mud BrawlerBoggart Brewery (North Manchester) A 4.4% Vanilla Porter which feels like a Stout. Very dark brown , a creamy coloured head with a milky coffee and vanilla aroma. Full bodied smooth drinking beer with vanilla on a dark roast choclolaty coffee malt base. As good as I had it at the brewery tap, The MicroBar in Manchester. Winner of top gong at Peterborough 2013. I can see why.

OstaraAllgates Brewery (Wigan, Lancashire) Sometimes, you just don’t need to go for a guest beer, when there is something as good as this. Pale gold, with a zesty grapefruit / apricot nose. Really fruity in the mouth with bitter citrus over a slightly sweet malted milk biscuit base. Nice bitter finish with bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. Just one of my very favourite beers. Kept very well.

Finally, to lubricate the excellent conversation we were having with Nigel (mine host), his good lady and some of the regulars (see what I mean about friendly?) …a beer I had the other evening

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Feeling slightly less (ahem) “refreshed” as I was by close of play on Saturday, I thought I’d give this another bash – and was glad I did! A pale golden “blonde” ale. Nice fruity nose with passion fruit and kiwi. A lovely slightly dry bitter finish. I think I appreciated it a bit more tonight!

That’s it! In the words of the great boxer Roberto Duran (having taken a fight full of punishment from Sugar Ray Leonard) “No Mas”!!!

I’m off for a cup of tea and girding my loins for The Independent Manchester Beer Convention tomorrow. Having volunteered for yesterdays “set-up” session, having seen many of the beers delivered, I can say but one thing. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you’re in for a treat!

Slainte!

A Bristol Stroll (or two!) 08-09/07/2013

I’m not overly fond of working away. Bit of a “home bird” really. But when the boss asked me to spend a few days in Bristol, I remembered how long it had been since I’d last been. 11 years. The drinking was THAT bad back then, that I spent a whole night in a Walkabout drinking Steinlager on a 2 for 1 special. Grim doesn’t do it justice.

Obviously, things would have improved. After all, I’ve enjoyed the delights of breweries like Arbor, Bristol Beer Factory, RCH etc up here. So the pubs must be better than the sham Aussie theme bar, right?

Well, I’d picked up a few tips from beery folks like Glenn Johnson (fellow blogger) and Karen from The Evening Star in Brighton, via Twitter, so on with the walking shoes!

Now then. I was staying nearly 10 miles north of the city, near the M5, so public transport was essential. Luckily, there were 2 buses into the city stopping right outside my hotel, so, rather hot and bothered in near 30c temperatures, I embarked on the single most uncomfortable bus journey I’ve ever been on. Bloody hell, I needed a pint when I got to town!

Now, Glenn writes a good blog. I’ve never met the chap (something I would love to rectify!), but I trust his judgement. So when he recommended me The Barley Mow http://beer-writings.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/a-mini-bristol-pub-crawl.html I paid attention. And made it my first port of call. And got lost. TWICE!

Having disembarked the No 1 bus near Temple Meads Station, I asked a few people waiting for another bus for directions. Nobody had a clue! Out with the google maps. A good 10 minute walk behind Temple Meads (and across a rickety-feeling metal clad bridge) located on Barton Road is…..

The Barley Mow

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Oh but I was thirsty when I got here! Lovely cool feeling pub. Lots of blue painted panelling inside this single roomed venue, with tables both out front and in a rear beer garden (fairly busy in the sun). On the bar were 8 handpumps with offerings from Bristol Beer Factory (It’s one of their pubs), Arbor, Moor and some from further afield including Marble and Alechemy. I was hot (very) and thirsty (VERY!).  I wanted something pale and refreshing, Being a BBF pub, I chose Independence. A 4.6% abv US style Pale Ale. Copper coloured and refreshingly hoppy. A damn tasty beer to cool me down.

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(A fine selection)

Now. One of the other reasons I came here. Glenn told me about the juicy burger that he had. As well as being thirsty, I was also more than a tad peckish, being a bit past my tea-time. Cheeseburger, a side of patatas bravas and a pint of Moor Rypa (a collaboration with Beavertown of London.)

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(Yum!)

The burger was lovely and juicy, with a lovely dollop of melted cheese and a generous scoop of sautéed red onions. Really juicy and tasty. Cheers Glenn! The Moor went well with the burger, quite a spicy and hoppy rye ale at 4% abv. Actually, as far as I can remember, this may have been my first Moor on cask! Damn tasty.

The bar staff were really friendly too, so, being mellowed by the beers and the indie musical backdrop (low volume), I allowed myself to be talked into a half of BBF Southville Hop on keg at 6.5% abv (there were about 8 craft kegged offerings too!). Coming in a BBF chalice 1/2  pint glass. This was pale and gorgeously, assertively hoppy but smooth with it. Lovely beer.

(I won’t mention the 3 bottles of BBF Bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout eh? No, I’ll keep that to myself!)

One of the bar staff had a boyfriend from Chorley and we had a bit of a chat. I took the opportunity to ask directions back to Debenhams (to locate my bus stop). Armed with the knowledge, I set off to locates my bus stop, fully intending another bar. I then found myself catastrophically lost! I must have walked for about an hour before I figured out where I was (yes, yes, I KNOW I was in Bristol!). All hopes of another bar evaporated . Always tomorrow, eh?

The next day, I took precautions. I got an early lift into the city, located my bus stop and left a trail of breadcrumbs! Walking past the Bristol outpost of the Aberdonian hype merchants (incidentally, REALLY well located by the river!), I crossed the Avon in search of some casked pleasures. Taking the first right after the river, then a left, I was soon on (the rather narrow) Thomas Lane, where I found….

The Seven Stars

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By this time, I was again hot, bothered and thirsty. I liked the look of this place before I walked in. Tucked away on a narrow connecting street with tables nestling on the lane in the shade of St Thomas Church. The pub was single roomed in an L shape with the unusual sight of a pool table to the rear. I plonked myself down at a table before I checked the beers. Traditional freehouse this, nary a sniff of craft keg, but a superb 12 ales to be chosen from.

My choice was from a brewery I had never previously tried, Cavendish Stout by Shardlow Brewery from Derbyshire. Nice dark brown, malty body with a slightly sweet finish I thought, given the flavour and the transparency, I’d have it as more of a sweetish poster than a stout. Did the job though! A mini beer fest was on at the pub with beers from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, nice idea.

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Being in the mood for something more…pale and hoppy now, I spied two from Oakham – Green Devil and Tranquility. On the basis that I’d had the Green Devil, I opted for the Tranquility at 6.5% abv. But hold on! Is that an Imperial Russian Stout? Trotsky from Potbelly Brewery at 7.5% abv. A half of each seemed in order!

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First, the Oakham. Really hoppy this, pale gold, lots of grapefruit citrus hops. Nice bitter finish too with a good bit of juicy malt for balance. The Trotsky was black, spicy and winey. Lots of roasted malt with more than a hint of licorice in the spice. Bittersweet finish. Nice, but ill-advised at this stage! Again, nice bar staff and friendly chatty regulars who seemed to know their beer. Given the lack of food, I asked for directions to another pub, Cornubia, which were freely given. Nice friendly pub.

Cornubia

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A hidden gem tucked away behind offices on Temple Street. A few tables on decking outside this single roomed pub – again, L shaped. Some quirky items dotted about, including what looked like an empty parrot cage! Friendly staff again. I was faced with a fine choice of beers, including 3 from Fyne in Scotland. I chose a Fyne Maverick, a dark bitter at 4.2% abv. Nice and bitter without being as assertively hopped as the Jarls and Avalanches. Slightly maltier than I expected, but quite refreshing for a dark beer! Good eclectic tunage in here, from Lynyrd Skynyrd, through Sly Stone to The Carpenters!

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(They may have sold an ale or two in Cornubia!)

This is obviously a pub that serves a wide variety of ales. The walls were simply covered in pump clips! Nice hand made pork pie in here too with some “interesting” chutneys. Including one called “Devon inferno”. Well, I had to! (And it was as hot as the pie was meaty!)

Just the one in here, didn’t want to be caught out with the buses again. One more bar to try too! Walking straight back over the river, past the aforementioned Brewdog, a straight line took me back to Rupert Street. Hmmm….where is this pub……what’s with those damned steps……?

I started to remember something from all those years ago. These “Christmas Steps” looked very steep and awfully familiar! I hauled myself up. Facing me was Zero Degrees, a relatively recent Bristol feature, but I turned right along (and up) Colston Street to….

Colston Yard

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Ever had that Deja Vu feeling? I’ve been here before. But it never looked like this! Last time I came here was over 10 years ago. It was then the Smiles’ Brewery Tap and a much smaller pub. Now, it’s owned by the equally local Butcombe Brewery. On approach, I noted the shaded tables outside, I needed to cool down again!

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Quite contemporary inside with olives and reds. Some leather pouffe style seats alongside the regular tables. Without being a multi-roomed affair, there were a few distinctly separated areas within this bar. 5 ales. 3 from Butcombe and two from Everards. With the “when in Rome” maxim to the fore, I went for a Matthew Pale Ale at 3.8% abv. I was glad that I did! Fresh, fruity (Amarillo) and refreshingly hoppy, what a nice light pint!

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Nice food as well. Notwithstanding that my first choices weren’t available, a Vegetarian tapas platter more than did the trick! Some seriously interesting bottles in here with local Wild Beer Co well represented (I picked up an 11% Wildebeest!). On another evening I would have been tempted by a bottle of Alaskan Smoked porter, but, on this occasion, I went for a half of something lighter.

That was the Beach House Pilsner from Old Dominion Brewery of Dover, Delaware in the US of A. Like a cross between Urquell and our very own Black Jack Lager, fruity/floral, golden crisp and refreshing.

Really nice bar this. For which I thank Karen Wickham profusely!

I fancied a relatively early night, so I (sh)ambled toward those “Christmas Steps”…remember, all downhill from here….!

20130709_193538(down, down, down…)

Back next week. Maybe the Meat tapas platter next time!

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!