Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 1

“I’d like to see you, but really I should stay away and let you settle down, I’ve got no claims to your crown,

I was the boss of you and I loved you, you know I loved you, but it’s all over now”

(“I’m A Cuckoo” – Belle & Sebastian)

Belle & Sebastian. The first tune that I heard (without realising who it was) was the theme tune to the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, which, I think, was Andrew Lincoln’s first TV series following the mighty “This Life” (SUCH a great series!). I never really understood just how HUGE a band could be without having a single massive hit, until I heard this band.

One title “The Boy With The Arab Strap”. That is all! (Introduced me to the poet that is Aiden Moffat!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles too!

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….IMAG0974

1. Waterfall PaleRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £3.05 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Bright golden beer, plenty carbonation and light thin white head doggedly sticking around giving a fruity tart aroma with lemon and kiwi. Light to medium-bodied, this is tart with lemon, a little peach and a touch of kiwi too with a little spiciness tingling the gums. Really refreshing with a nice fruity bitterness kicking in in the finish. A smooth, really easy drinking and refreshing beer, perfect session material at this strength. Another excellent beer from this one man Micro.

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2. Dotty DIPA – Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 7.2% abv – Double IPA – £3.85 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Having rarely had Offbeat beers and NEVER having met the talented “chick” that brews them, these seem to be coming thick and rather fast! AND I bumped into her last week at the World Beers Festival! Shame there was no Offbeat beer there…so I’ll rectify that now eh?

Amber beer with an abundant white head and a big aroma of fruity marmalade. Oooh…this is a hell of a beer! A big warming chewy toffee malty mouthful with a big mixed marmalade flavour. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness which in turn gives way to a hefty whack of pine in the aftertaste. And that’s just the first mouthful! This is superb, each mouthful just amping up the sensations. And the hoppy resinous finish just builds and builds. Fabulous!

IMAG09723. The One – Citra – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 12 for £24 – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Bought on the (official) opening day of the shop located within BlackEdge Brewery’s unit in Horwich (just off Lee Lane), read here for review!

Very pale, straw yellow-gold beer with a lasting white head and a distinctive tart lime and grapefruit aroma. Oh this is LOVELY! A light biscuit malt medium-body, really fresh grapefruit, lemon & lime in the mouth. Beautifully refreshing and tart. I keep licking my lips! My gums are tingling too! Really dry and gently bitter finish with plenty enough piney stuff in the aftertaste. A real cracker and the best pale I’ve had from BlackEdge by a distance. Cask version please? NOW!

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4. Bloody ‘Ell – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.2% abv – Blood Orange IPA – £3.30 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Raj does get some rather interesting beers in his rather bijou little shop. Just to think that when I first went in, it REALLY was a typical convenience store. Now? The beers appear to have multiplied like the rabbits on Lundy! Now, almost certainly the largest selection of UK Craft beers in Manchester. And still growing!

To the beer….

A deep golden almost amber beer with a lingering soft white head and a big orangey aroma with something more delicate like peach blossom. A big IPA (almost DIPA in feel) with more than an initial hint of toffee malt sweetness with lashings of orange in a full-bodied mouthful. The finish isn’t as bitter as I expected with a nice gum tingling spiciness but there is a big piney pay-off with lots of sticky resins in the aftertaste. Oh yes. A lovely beer indeed!

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5. Stronge Extra Stout – Buxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.4% abv – Stout – (see below) (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(I got this when there was an offer at 6 for £12 on Buxton beers at Raj’s – check the website for current price by clicking the hyperlink above)

Named after the (rather excellent) brewer, rather than a statement of strength!

Seriously black beer. Seriously boozy coffee nose. Seriously full-bodied. Seriously smooth. Seriously? Boozy coffee nose leading to more slightly sweet coffee. Smooth as a George Clooney chat-up line and twice as tasty! That smooth coffee underpins a really rather nice coffee overnote followed by a long dry finish. A really smooth grassy hop aftertaste completes the wizardry. Seriously good! #Beergasm!

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6. Cuckoo Number 5 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6% abv – NZ Pale Ale – Swap (330ml) – 0% – Direct From The Brewer (Chilled too!)

For those of you who don’t know by now, this brewery is the brainchild of Jamie Hancock, barkeep supreme at The Port Street Beer House. If I’ve outed him, ah well, I’ll do FAR worse things in the years I have left! At the moment, these are (still?) only available for purchase from the rather fine Cuckoo bar in Prestwich, but not for much longer I suspect if he keeps making beer as good as this!

Deep golden with a light white head and lovely aroma of passion fruit and a little gooseberry. Smooth, really smooth. Medium-bodied and really fruity with a spicy tingle to the gums. More passion fruit, kiwi and some peach in here, like a boozy Um Bongo! Manages the trick of being quite high in alcohol, but really refreshing too. There is only a gentle bitterness in here, really smooth, leading to a beautiful smooth hoppy grassy herbal aftertaste. Quality.

Five Oh are having the launch of the first keg at Port Street on Wednesday I believe (well, I hope so because I’ll be there!). Teat (or even, treat!) yourselves by calling in. If I’m wrong about how good Jamie’s beer is, tell me. (I don’t anticipate any approaches!)

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7. Mystery Beer No 1 (A Bonus Beer if you will!) – Craft Rebellion – 3.8% abv – Saison – Free ! – 0 – In the post!

Craft Rebellion? Shop? Guerilla Marketing Campaign? I don’t know myself, all I know is that one day I got a card from Royal Mail in my postbox…..I kind of like free beer. I can remind the sender of my “rules” and drink free of guilt!

The idea appears to be that you receive a beer and try to guess what it is! I warned them that a) I’m USELESS at guessing and that b) I’d only review it if I really enjoyed it! (As with all that I review) Unwritten contract agreed…..

Ultra pale with, initially, quite a large white lacy head yielding a funky cream soda aroma with a little nose wrinkling spice. Light bodied and effervescent yet smooth drinking. Fruity with some citrus understated and a maybe touch of pineapple, a nice subtle sourness to this too (lemon?) . A really refreshing beer (as a saison should be!) with a dry finish and a nice grassy herbal  reminder in the aftertaste.

It transpires, that the beer is actually a Lemon & Thyme Saison Grisette by Partizan (Click hyperlink and check their website)

Well, I have an early start tomorrow (Saturday) as I go on a bit of an adventure….report to follow!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

NB : If you’ve got any thoughts on the nonsense that I talk or post, let me know in the “comments” box below – entertain me!

 

 

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 1

“You’re holding me back. I wonder why, you do me like that,

But you keep on holding me back. You keep on putting your foot on me,

But I, I’ve got to break away, somehow and someday,

‘Cause I wanna be somebody so bad, so bad, I wanna be somebody, I wanna be somebody so bad.”

(“Is It Because I’m Black” – Syl Johnson)

(Tune courtesy of “maxitaxiphone” on You Tube)

The first time that I heard this tune was in a sample entitled (simply) “Interlude” on the Cypress Hill album “Black Sunday”. I always wondered where the slinky soul groove came from. Then I picked up a copy of Mojo magazine with the free CD “Soul Riot” (strangely, just about the time I bought the Sly Stone album “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” – a classic) and got the true picture. SUCH a truly great tune (and under the radar for many) that deserves recognition for its deep soul groove and lyrics depicting the struggles of Black Americans in the 60s and early 70s.

What brought this up was a Meet The Brewer back in September at the Salford Arms with Rik Garner of First Chop Brewing Arm (read here), in particular, how he came to the name of the first beer listed below, named after the artist who recorded one of his favourite albums of all time, Syl Johnson. Click on the tune above and just …….

Time for business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next! If you haven’t……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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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…

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1. SYLFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 6.2% abv – Black Jaggery IPA – £3.20 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

The story of the naming of this beer just works so well for me, well, you know my love of music & beer interacting! However, as said many times before, it only resonates if the beer is any good! (NB : I believe that Jaggery is an unrefined Indian sugar – sure Rik will correct me if I’m wrong!

Black and lively with a creamy coloured head like a latte and a lovely aroma like crystallised rum, molasses and sweet chocolate. Full-bodied and initially bitter chocolate and gently sweet. Then in come the hops like a police raid on TV, booting down the doors to the palate! The finish is oh so dry and hoppy/grassy with a little lingering bitter chocolate and a loitering resinous aftertaste. Simply a superb Dark IPA! (Man spins a mean piece of vinyl too!)

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2. Thunderstruck – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (500ml) (Possibly £3.50)  – The Ale Man (Manchester)

As I have said previously, like many bloggers, I get some stuff to try for free. Being a beer blogger, that tends to be….you get the picture. I always say the same thing, If it’s good enough, I’ll review it. If not, a quiet word in the shell will suffice with a reason why. This was one such passed by Damian O’Shea a while back.

A light haze on this deep gold beer. Lively wee bugger too with monstrous white head. Spicy nose with a little orchard, maybe raspberry on the nose. Decent smooth mouthfeel, really refreshing with orange peel, what feels like coriander and a nice hoppy grassy bite in the finish. For me, the best I’ve had from this Suffolk brewery. Really nice refreshing wheat beer.

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3. Moor TopBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2 (part of a deal) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I don’t think that I’d had anything by Buxton prior to popping into The Beer Shop in Heaton Moor about 18 months ago (just prior to starting to blog). I was lured into a swift half whilst browsing. I fell in love! Not had a bottle though….

Hopped with Chinook, this is a pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head giving up a lovely & subtle – yet distinct – grapefruit aroma. Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth with more of that there grassy grapefruit. Really refreshing but with an assertive bitterness teamed with a really nice fruity and resinous finish. The first beer I had on draught from Buxton and just as good in bottle as on draught. And that is high praise indeed.

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4. 01/02 (Amarillo & Orange) – Brew By Numbers (Bermondsey, SE London) – 5.6% abv – Saison – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

May I start by saying that I’m not sure Saisons are “my bag”. Not sure that I really understand quite what they are “for”. I mean, I know that they were made in the Benelux countries and Northern France and were meant to slake the hardest of farm workers thirsts, but…Maybe I’m just a simple soul. However, sometimes I just enjoy a beer for what it is. Here’s one such beer that I was persuaded to buy by its incorporation of my favourite hop, Amarillo!

Straw coloured and highly effervescent with an abundant white head giving off some orange and a distinctive funky note with a bit of fizzy sherbet. Mmmm….The amarillo (bias declared!) is certainly present & correct in this beer. I was just about to note the spicy wheaty characteristics of this, then I noticed that wheat flakes were used! Nice medium-bodied, prickly on the tongue with those bubbles and a nice orange citrus tone drawing you forward to the dry bitterness of the finish with some of that light spice mingling in the aftertaste with the sticky hops. A nice refresher.

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5. Big ChiefRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj’s burgeoning shop. The selection seems to widen and improve week by week to the extent, that some weeks, you can’t move for case upon case of freshly delivered beer! Busy and deservedly so.

I haven’t had much in the way of Redemption (beer or otherwise!), and none at all in bottle, but what I have had has been superb, especially the low-abv Trinity and their Fellowship Porter, both superb beers. The bottle has a head start for me, old-fashioned and substantial. However, opening the bottle showed that the contents were far from old-fashioned!

A “London Murky” adherent? Look past the haze! Quite a hazy deep golden beer with a white head that is hanging around! Big citrus aroma sticking its head out of the foam. Nice big malty base for this beer with a bit of caramel biscuit to hang these hops on. And hops there are! Nicely bitter and fruity with big sticky resins in this. Manages the trick of sliding down real easy whilst feeling bigger than it is! Just the right amount of sweetness for balancing against the bitterness. Nice smooth and full-bodied. My first bottled Redemption will NOT be my last!

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6. Rum In The BlackWilson Potter (Middleton, N Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Stout – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another shop with an increasingly impressive range (increasing in size too!). It’s great to see what looks like a success story happening in my own town. I’m hoping that in a couple of weeks, that they’ll be able to officially let the drinkers spread out onto the tables outside in the market food court. Makes sense to use the tables provided to fullest extent! Nice to see some Wilson Potter in the range. A little birdie tells me that there may be some coming on draught too?

Darkest brown to black beer (you can only tell when held to the light) with a tan head and a lovely chocolatey aroma! Ooh but this is damned fine! Medium bodied with a lovely initially chocolatey mouthful giving way to something I do love in a stout. Nice bitter hoppage! There’s something else there too that my palate can’t quite ID, a little sweetness maybe from the rum? Molasses maybe? Whatever it is, this is up there with their recent pales for me – given my love of all things dark! A lovely roasted and hoppy finish too. Lovely!

It’s now 01:50 on Saturday morning. This blog is done and so am I! Next week will be spent working away in that there big city with, one hopes, the odd bar or two featuring?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

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“She had an horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beat.
When I looked in her eyes they were blue. but nobody home.
Well she could’ve been a killer if she didn’t walk the way she do and she do.
She opened strange doors that we’d never close again.”

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

Strangely – for someone who regards himself as fairly to moderately shy – I like meeting new people, especially ones who have a particularly strong interest in beer. I met two such at Damian O’Sheas excellent stall at the Urban Market in Salford a few weeks back. They were Dan & Gina Buck and have been selling beers at Farmers Markets for a while now. I was quite excited when I learned that they were planning to open a “Micro Bar” in the semi-arid area that is central Bolton, in the refurbished Market. The centre of Bolton isn’t exactly blessed with bars with great beer (IMO, of course) and Bradshawgate IS a bit of an obstacle course resembling downtown Beirut on a Saturday night, but I’m quite excited about what Dan & Gina have planned.

Unless I have something WAY wrong, the aim is to stock mostly (though not exclusively) local beers with an accent on flavour and quality. I for one can’t wait until the opening day, which, at the moment, is set for the 21st of this month. A diary date indeed! (BTW – The couple tweet – and retail – as @GreatAleYear). I’ll certainly be there enjoying a little “warm up” before the Manchester Beer & Cider Fest the next day!

Anyway, down to business…..

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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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…

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1. Rednik StoutBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 4.1% abv – Stout – £2.05 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Stout + Buxton Brewery. My favourite style of beer by one of the best breweries in the UK. What can go wrong? Well, nothing! This is a cracker! (And, at the price, a bloody bargain!)

Just as a good Stout should be, opaque (courtesy of Tandleman that one!), black with a creamy tan head that released a distinct lightly sugared mocha aroma. A nice start.

Medium bodied and smooth in the mouth, the initial dark chocolate flavour combining the bitter with subtle sweetness was followed by a smooth milky coffee which mingled with a light smoky note and some tingling spiciness ending up with a bit of a dry hoppy flourish, grassy but not overpowering the roasted malty stuff. The last word I wrote on my notes was “yum!”

As far as low strength Stouts go, this is as good as it gets. Superb.

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2. A Little Lupy (Single Hopped – Galaxy) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj and his growing Whitefield beer selection. I had the Stormy Point collab beer from Shane last month (see here) and was as impressed as I had been when I had it on draught. Having had one or two of his “12 Bar Blues” series before, I was really looking forward to this.

Poured a lovely glowing golden colour with a thin white head which gave up a fruity hop aroma with peach and tangerine sweet citrus to the fore. Medium bodied, this beer is full of sweet citrus with tangerine up front, cut with a little lemon sharpness. Slips down really easily this. A really refreshing and fruity mouthful, gently bitter, leading to a sharp dry finish with a resinous grassy aftertaste in with the fruit. Another absolute belter at a relatively low gravity! I’m led to believe that he may be doing more single hop variants of this beer. I’m keeping an eye out for those, whilst drooling!

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3. Hit The Fairy LightsWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 4.6% abv – (Festive!) Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another one from Raj and, for Weird Beard, I broke my rule of not drinking “festive” beers. I have had some truly appallingly lazy “Xmas” beers and, as a result, usually shun such things. However, having been so impressed by the output from this West London brewery, I made an exception. And I’m glad I did!

Poured a pale gold with a rapidly diminished white head.  First aroma to hit was a fruity orange, then a gentle aniseed/licorice like note. Medium bodied, an initial flavour of soft citrus, maybe satsuma or orange sits on a nice bready malt backbone then, quite surprisingly a sudden resinous dryness hits with a light bitterness. There is Star Anise added to the boil in this which I got more in the aroma than in the mouth. Still, an impressive beer, and for a “Festive” pale ale, this is the best “Xmas” beer i think I’ve had short of a big Stout!

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4. Scary MonstersRevolutions Brewing / Five Towns Brewery (Collab) – 4.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

One of a number of beers I picked up from a visit last week to Adrian & Vicky’s Snaith emporium, including 2 more with a David Bowie theme from Five Towns (must be fans those Bastows!). Being a fan of Black IPAs, this was the first I reached for.

There is a pale twin of this beer – Super Creeps – but unfortunately, I missed it. Gutted! Being from TWO of my favourite breweries – Oh I know how this is going to go!

A really deep ruby coloured beer, would be almost black without being held up to the light. As soon as I opened this lively bottle, I was hit with a big citrus aroma (and my nose was a foot from the bottle!) Aromas shooting from the glass include tangerine and peach. Another medium bodied beer this, the first thing that I got was the citrus with those fruity aromas matched in the mouth – peach/nectarine and tangerine. This is immediately followed by a bitter note with perhaps licorice and bitter chocolate. The next layer was a tongue curling dry grassyness with some great late revealing hoppage. I don’t want this beer to end! Just brilliant – and unfortunately limited to 700 bottles I believe.

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

Now, for two start-ups! One a shop/micro bar – opening soon! The other……a World first review for a new brewery!

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5. Gamma Ray – Beavertown Brewery – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – or soon to be!)

I was ashamed to say that, until the Beavertown MTB at Port Street last year, I hadn’t had any of their beers. I went to the MTB purely on the recommendations of two people whose good taste I trust implicitly, Jeff & Jaz (See what I did there!). The beers were universally superb and the first that I had that evening, was this, on keg. I loved it,

When Dan from Great Ale Year Round said that he had some for launch day, I got in early!

Hazy gold, light white head clinging to the glass, the initial aroma was a lovely sweet mango with maybe just a hint of tart grapefruit in the background.

Smooth as a freshly ironed smooth thing in the mouth, more fruity mango, slightly sweet and biscuity backbone leading to a dry herbal hoppy finish. Each mouthful is just SO smooth, I could almost forget that it was bottled! So fruity yet so dry and grassy. Damn, why have I waited for so long to buy some of these? (Got an 8 Ball and a Smog Rocket lined up too. Lucky me!)

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6. Cuckoo Number 2Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – IPA – £4 (330ml) – Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

“Drum roll please!” – I do believe that this may be the first review of a beer by this fledgling brewer. I feel quite honoured at that! And quite daunted. Ah bollocks to the wittering!

I picked up on this brewer on Twitter the other day and made some enquiries. I swiftly realised that his beers were limited in availability and currently retail in only one location. Cuckoo on Bury New Road in Prestwich. Being the excitable type, myself and the ever lovely Atilla popped up to snaffle one for review. And at £4 for a 7% beer, from a bar, I was made up with the price! I think we’ll be back. Atilla liked the look (and smell) of the food! Busy bar, nice friendly staff. No draught ales, but Brightside & this brewer in bottle. Good enough for me!

However, it’s all about the beer. Is it any good? Damn right it is!

Starting with the bottle. No branding, just a tag, dangling like a cigarette from Alain Delon’s lips. Minimalist and damn classy! (I’m sure the brewer wouldn’t agree!). reminded me a touch of Bad Seed in that respect, with that hanging tag. But THE DAMN BEER! Oh….OK….

Amber coloured with a light white fluffy head and a lovely big citrus aroma (hopped with Warrior, Columbus & Citra) with deep grapefruit tones and a background note of toffee. A full-bodied beer with initial big grapefruit flavours mellowing in the swallow to more of a peachy tone, then it warmly slides down the throat, caressing your insides like an internal fleecy blanket. Then you breathe after the swallow and the resinous pine floods into the mouth like a wave on a beach. The finish is simultaneously fruity and dry with a more gentle resinous note hanging around like a barfly.

An impressive first beer for me from this brewer. I was lucky enough to also pick up a Smoky Stout from the brewer himself which I’ll let settle and have next week. If it’s anywhere near as good as this, you’ll be hearing about it!

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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

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

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

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

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

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

IMAG0106(The lull before the musical storm!)

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

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

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

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

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

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

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

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

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

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

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 1

20131008_155421(The Splendour that is The Victoria Baths)

Doing this bloggy type thingy, one of the first things I wrote about was The Independent Manchester Beer Convention or IndyManBeerCon. A Beer Festival revelation, not only featuring some of the best beers that the UK had to offer, but held within the legendary Victoria Baths on Hathersage Rd. I remember getting my first drink and taking 45 minutes just to drink in the wondrous surroundings. The building may have been in need of substantial further refurbishment, but (and I don’t use this word lightly) I was awestruck. Stunning stained glass windows, beautiful balconies, lots of almost secret rooms. Ohh…….

Organised by the people behind Port Street Beer House, A Place Called Common & The Beagle, I was chuffed to bits to hear that the sequel was to have the same location. Another opportunity to say WOW!

For 2013, The “Convention” was to expand into 4 days from last years two. That was to be expected. Last year was incredibly popular, rightly so. The combination of the excellent beers, superlative “Street Food” and that oh so sumptuous location was a winner from the moment the doors first opened. Last year, I attended as a punter on the Friday and worked the bar on the Saturday. It was, quite simply, the most fun I’d had with my clothes on!

I had to ask myself, “Could they better last years’ effort?”

I assisted with one of the “Set Up” sessions on Tuesday. Partly (let’s be honest!) for a free session ticket. However, my main motivation was to see what the place looked like BEFORE the “beer locusts” arrived on the Thursday evening, draining everything in their path!

20131008_124305(Room 1 – The beers had just started to arrive)

The logistics of this organisation are simply boggling. Before the beer started arriving, the first job to do was washing and drying glassware. And there was A LOT OF IT! Just as we got started, Magic Rock and Marble arrived with their beer deliveries. Magic Rock had their own room (the room in which Brewdog were located last year), so that was easy. The Marble beers had to be delivered to their bar which was in room 1 – thank the gods for cask carriers!

20131008_124421(No. Those are empties. Is it just me, or does this look like a shrine?)

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(The REAL “Angel of the North”!)

What, with more glass deliveries – yes, I smashed a couple, sorry! – price labelling (casks), multiple brewery deliveries and bar construction, let’s just say, we were kept fully occupied!

20131008_132243(Bar under construction)

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(Room 3)

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(Room 2 – View toward Food Vendor area)

I enjoyed this hugely. Met some nice volunteers. Got to meet Claudia, Duncan, Rosie and Jamie from the Port Street empire (nice to put names to faces that you see so often!), it was just, FUN.

Thursday

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(Room 2 – early on)

I hate being late. Especially when it’s my own fault. However, I couldn’t turn up covered in emulsion paint, could I? Trust me, It is NOT a good look! So, by the time that Jaz (Arch-Nemesis), Chris (Sacrificial Lamb) and I got in, the place was already busy. Having not eaten since breakfast though, first priority was food. The Meat Paella from Las Paelleras fitted the bill. Lots of lovely beery soaky plump rice grains with oodles of paprika and chorizo and chicken……drool……superb value at £5.

Firstly, with the beer, we need to talk about the measures. These are all priced for the 1/3rd of a pint. As you enter the building you pay/show your ticket, and are given a beer menu for that particular day. You are also given a stemmed glass marked with a line for the 1/3rd pint measure. Trust me, this works. The glass is lovely and delicate (Translation? Easy to smash on the way home!). This measure gives you the opportunity to try more beers. Personally? I just think that it’s more civilised than swilling pints!

At the bottom of the beer list is a wee map, showing where the various locations for functions are located. After a few, trust me, it would be easy to get lost whilst admiring this gorgeous interior!

First beer of the evening had to be light in alcohol, refreshing and hoppy. Quantum NZ Light at 3.6% abv was all that and more. Pale gold, fruity hop nose with the flavours of kiwi and passion fruit in the mouth. Tasty and damned refreshing. Having sat down to enjoy my Quantum with the paella, I was struck by the music. The sound of saxophone. And there they were, up on the balcony. Live music, nice touch. (Of course…if I had been paying attention to the website….)

It was getting a little busier at the bar in room 2, but service was till swift, so I stayed in here for another. Beadica’s Well (Barrel Aged) by Thornbridge. Whilst I hardly have beergasms over Thornbridge’s pale output, the darks generally rock my world. This was no exception. Black with a light creamy head. Smoky wood and toffee nose leading to more woody smoke, some treacle notes with some warming spirit drifting up your nose. Performed the trick of tasting above it’s relatively moderate 5.3% abv strength.

IMAG0029(Bar in Room 1)

Next came a walk into Room 1 to sample one of the IMBC Collaboration beers. Farmhouse IPA with Marble Brewery. At 7.4%, for the price of just a single token, this was a bargain! First on the nose, I got  quite hoppy notes with some yeasty Belgian funk. But in the mouth, the Saison character takes over. Quite spicy, yeasty and with a touch of peachy fruity sweetness. Superb.

IMAG0041(Room 3 – The Music Room)

Into Room 3 now for something a little different. Tea Saison from Buxton Brewery. Made with Cherry and Cranberry fruit teas allegedly! But where fruit teas can be a flavour let-down, this was anything but! Really tart and fruity aroma, the taste was akin to a Kriek, tart and mouth puckering. Really fruity and tart/sour with a finish that was sharp and as dry as a bone. Probably my second favourite of the evening.

Venturing into the Turkish Baths room now for a Dark Arts by Magic Rock – Kegged, therefore slightly too cold for my tastes, this is still a damned tasty strong stout with a firm dark roast malt body and the spiky flavours of bitter chocolate and coffee. A really good beer. Here is where I firmly come down on the cask conditioned side. Texture and temperature. I just think that cask (for me) wins hands down. Do I have all knowledge? Do I bollocks! I just happen to believe that cask conditioned, Dark Arts is a classic and one of my all-time favourites. On keg, it’s simply a really nice strong stout. And cold.

At this point, I went for a looksie into Room 3 where there was a band playing. They were called All We Are, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in company, I could have listened to them all evening. They sounded simply superb.

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Back to room 2 now. Weird Wit Black Jack Brewery collaboration with Weird Beard of Hanwell, W London. At 5% this was hazy gold with a gentle fruity aroma. This got going when it hit your taste buds! Quite full-bodied for a 5% beer, fruity, you could taste the melon as well, but this was simultaneously quite bitter with a marked resinous finish.  tasted a bit like a hybrid of a saison and an IPA. And in a VERY good way!

Stepping up on the abv now, next up was Blackberry King of Clubs by Black Jack Brewery Black and really fruity aroma. This was full of blackberry flavour. A full bodied dark roasted stout full of bitter coffee, chocolate and tart berries. Joint Beer of the Evening in my book! Along with…

Oh yes! From the moment that I saw this coming into the building on Tuesday, I just HAD to have some! Imperial Treacle Stout by Quantum (IMBC Collab beer) It says 8.6% on the menu, but 9.1% on the clip. Ooooohhhh smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back in time for breakfast! Unctuous, silky, oily and oh so bad for you. I REALLY don’t think anyone else should touch this beer. Leave it all for me. There’s a love! Black, alternately sweet with that gooey treacle, then bitter, then fruity. It was just soooo good, er…I mean terrible……er…Just leave it all for me. OK! Young Mr Krause has played another blinder! Cheers Jay.

To be honest, I took it really easy last night. I just enjoyed myself. Long chats with Peter (aka Tandleman) and his lovely lady Eileen to whom I could listen all evening dispensing beery pearls of wisdom (Eileen, of course ;-)) and some cracking chats with Matt from Privateer Beers (should have had his Dark Revenge here, CMON!) and his lovely friends Helen & Maria (I think?). Matt may be moving his brewery soon and it was nice to see him, especially talking positively about the future of the brewery. Helen has connections with the West Riding Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, a place I love of old. Long chat with Helen, birds of a feather views wise.

In summary. The venue is stunning. The beers were excellent and (mostly) well priced. The food was superb and laid on by the Guerilla Eats street food collective. The entertainment was first-rate (I don’t recall music last year?) The PSBH empire have raised the bar again. I could wax even more lyrical, but there are others more eloquent than I who will do that far better.

There is room to breathe – unlike most other fests. Room to chat (and be heard). It;s just civilised.  I enjoyed myself so much, that I completely lost track of time! So much so, that I finally paid attention to one of Matt’s (Privateer) prompts and realised that I had just over 10 minutes to get to Piccadilly and my last bus home (the look in Jaz’s eye indicated that his futon was NOT an option!)

TAXI!!!

Back to work there  (hopefully behind a bar) later – say hello. I’ll (probably be the oldest bloke behind the bars! And no beard!!!)

I’m hearing that there are still some tickets for Sunday going. Do yourself (and your taste buds) a favour. Come on down. Good food, great beer and a SPECTACULAR venue – worth the entry fee alone. Check http://www.indymanbeercon.co.uk/ for details!

On that note (and this may be further added to on Sunday!)…til then

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt 3


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(Destination Tastebuds. The New Batch!)

“Well Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born, he played it from the night time, to the peaceful early morn.

He soothed the souls of psychos and the men who had the horn and they all looked very happy in the morning”

(Sally MacLennane – The Pogues)

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…

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1. DOCFirst Chop Brewing Arm – (Salford, Lancashire – Call me old-fashioned!) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (or 3 for £8) 500ml – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

It’s nice to meet people who make the beers that you really enjoy. That goes double for Rik Garner, the owner/Alechemist behind First Chop whom I met at a recent MTB at The Salford Arms. The fact that he brews great beer in my home town, just makes it that much more special!

This beer is one of those Pale Ales that could be confused for a lager, if on looks alone. Once you bring your nose close to the glass, those illusions are shattered by the lemon and grapefruit hoppy aromas. This is really fresh and zippy with lemon in the mouth balanced on a medium malt body with a touch of rich tea biscuit sweetness. This is a spankingly good beer. In fact, this is everything that a Pale Ale should be, fresh, well hopped and refreshingly dry with a superb fruity bitter finish.

I like this. A lot!

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2. Baby BlueFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Pale beer that was exceedingly lively when opened. Nice tart gooseberry nose with a hint of yeastyness (shook about on journey!) Medium bodied, with a drying tart fruitiness loaded with gooseberry and grapefruit also a twist of bitter lemon as I headed toward the slightly grassy bitter finish. Another belter from this increasingly impressive brewery.

AND it’s the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer starting this week. That nice Mr Mayhall has a clutch of beers from over that there hill. Including some from Five Towns! I’ll be hunting down my first pint on draught!

And now, we walk on the Dark Side!

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3. Dalston BlackBrodies Brewery (Leyton, East London) – 7% abv – Black IPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

A black beer with a head that stayed all the way down the glass. Instant aroma of bitter chocolate, coffee & licorice. Not the usual citrus, but none the less a big aroma. Nice full body and that bitter chocolate and licorice come through in the mouth, especially that bitter chocolate. WOW it’s bitter! A nice spicy bitter finish. And that bitter chocolate still hung around for a bit. A simply superb flavour-packed beer.

My first bottle by Brodies. Must get some more!

4. Black PerleWeird Beard (Hanwell, W London) – 3.5% abv – Coffee Milk Stout – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

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I’ve had this 2 or 3 times on cask this year so far and It rates as one of my top 5 beers of 2013. A lovely full-bodied creamy lactic coffee mouthful. I was therefore quite surprised to learn in a chat with Gregg Irwin (Brewer – whilst he was at Leeds International Beer Fest) that the abv is only 3.5%! To make a beer THAT good at THAT strength is a work of genius!

Only problem was how would the beer translate from the bottle? Very well indeed, if you ask me! Good body on this black beer with a tan coloured head and the sour tang to the coffee aroma that you would expect in a Milk Stout.

A nice mouthfeel from this low strength beer. The gentle coffee flavour is really smooth and the slight sourness of the lactose in addition makes for a gorgeous silky mouthful. Lovely sweet/sour balance, with a nice edging of bitterness in the finish. As stated, in both variants, one of my favourite beers so far this year!

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5. Imperial BlackBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.95 (330ml) – The Beer Shop (Heaton Moor, Stockport)

I’d just bought 5 Litres of Three Swords by Kirkstall when I spotted this wee devil. I’d had this on draught at Port Street one evening and it was ASTONISHINGLY good! Currently ranking as the 2nd best draught of this year for me, a simply awesome beer. Full of citrus, dark fruits and chocolate. And as smooth as Des Lynam!

The bottle lives up to the cask version standard! Nice tan head, lovely crisp sweet lemony/grapefruit aromas. More fruity in the mouth with a backdrop of some bitter cocoa. Lovely full texture with the gums now tingling. As I progress down the glass, the cocoa turns more toward black coffee with a hint of brown sugar – verging on treacle – sweetness. A gorgeous bitter finish to round it off.  Just a bloody good beer. Pistols at dawn for anybody who says different. OK!

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6. HefeweizenBad Seed Brewery (Malton, N Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (Direct from brewer) 330ml

A new beer from this increasingly impressive new North Yorkshire brewer. Having had four of their beers so far, each has been seriously impressive so I had high hopes for this.

Cloudy gold in the glass with an aroma reminding me of banana Toffo (anybody remember the multi flavoured packs of Toffo? Yes OK, I’m getting long in the tooth!). Superbly refreshing and spritzy with gentle flavour of orange or peel in the mouth with a little tingling clove sweetness.  Some nice hints of banana toffee (Toffo !) too. A surprising turn considering the full-on flavoured beers they have already turned out. But, just a damned refreshing wheat beer. Job done!

Another excellent batch of beers that I can whole-heartedly recommend. Not sure if Damian O’Shea still sells the Brodies, but you could always pick it up at Beermoth!

Beers of the Month Time!

Draught – Has to be Dinner Ale by Ilkley Brewery. An astonishing beer at 3.3%. Had it on keg at Leeds International and it simply ROCKED MY WORLD! Lovely sharp lemon hop flavours standing out in this hugely impressive beer.

Bottled – Bloody loads, I’ll split into Pale and Dark.

Pale – Revolutions / North Riding Brewpub – Punch The Clock (DIPA) At 78RPM / 7.8% – This was such a big bold flavoured Double IPA. A bit like Revolutions breaking out the guitar and turning the amp up to 11. Loads of citrussy hops, loads of malt. Superb!

Dark –  (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Bearded Lady – Magic Rock Brewing – A simply stunning Imperial Stout. Read about both these beers here – https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/bottled-ales-september-2013-pt1/

On that note…’til next time (Deeply Vale MTB at The Salford Arms on Wednesday – Come say hello to the old git with the Nexus 7!)

Slainte!

The Marble Arch, Manchester. 125 Years Beer Festival

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I’ve been drinking in The Marble Arch since the mid 1980s on and off, pretty much from when it became a “Free House”. From when the “stripping back” was in progress and had only just started to reveal the gem you can see now. Before the brewery. Before the back room was used. It was a decent boozer with one of the better selections of beers in the city. This and the City Arms on Kennedy St were the two best freehouses (if you can call the City that) in Manchester.

I didn’t realise that the pub itself was so old until the celebrations started to be planned. A little research via http://manchesterhistory.net reveals a pub on the site even earlier than 1888!

Adshead Map 1851(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

This map shows a pub called the Wellington Inn on the corner of Gould Street and Rochdale Road a full 37 years prior to the current building being erected. It is safe to assume that the current building may have replaced this earlier pub.

As you can see from the plaque at the top of the side elevation of the pub, the current building dates from 1888 (hence the 125 Years celebration!). The “stripping back” (the word “strip” may feature later!) revealed such an architectural gem, that it attained Grade II listed status in 1998.

Yes, I know. You all KNOW it’s a beautiful pub! You know ALL about the legendary sloping mosaic tiled floor. All about the tiled ceilings with exposed original metal work. You probably already know about how the brewery started making their own beers in 1997…….zzzzzzz. Ok, Ok…….

The Event

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The Beer Festival forms but a part of the celebrations throughout 2013. Albeit a 4 day part! Tickets were released earlier in the year and it was really a case of getting in quick. You knew it was going to be busy. And because the pub is fairly narrow, you just KNEW it was going to be rammed….didn’t you!

Tickets were a reasonable £5 for which you received a commemorative 1/2 or pint glass. Payment was via tokens (£1 or 25p in value) purchased upon entry. Basic principle being the more that you bought, the more “free” tokens you received (£20 buying £22.50 etc…)

Jeff had bought the tickets and we arranged to meet in Manchester, myself and Jaz arriving first. Needless to say, it was BLOODY HEAVING! However, the organisation was really efficient, so you had your glass, tokens and “venue map” in hand in no time and could fight your way through the throng to get to the business end.

“The bar” was effectively spread out over 5 areas. The main pub itself with its large array of handpumps and keg fonts. Today, in the main room, this was supplemented by pop-up bars from Magic Rock and “The Portable Street Beer House” courtesy of your friends and mine at Port St, the latter dispensing kegged beers from The Marble Brewery in Albuquerque in New Mexico! The there were two further “bar” areas in the old back room (in bygone….former site of the brewery) AND……..Black Jack Brewery, where Rob Hamilton had opened his gate and doors for a further bit of fresh air drinking (more later)

20130803_154541(I LOVE it when brewers can chat with the punters!)

Thinking strategically, I decided on something light and refreshing to start with. Chalkboards above the bar displayed what appeared to be the beers that would be available over the course of the 4 days (slightly confusing/frustrating), but a scan of the bar revealed some relatively low strength delights. Including my first pint….

Jacobs Ladder (Cask Conditioned) by Buxton Brewery at 2.7% abv! Pale gold, with a sharp citrus aroma. Some lovely sharp tropical hop flavours in here. A really refreshing beer and another 3 points in the bag for Buxton (C’mon, the footy season has just started!)

Zenith (Cask Conditioned) by SummerWine from Holmfirth was next for me at 4% abv. Another juicy sharp pale ale. Fragrant with peppery hops, a lovely, slightly resinous, hoppy refreshing mouthful with a lovely dry bitter finish. This day was getting good! Then…….

Cannonball (Dry hopped with Simcoe – Cask Conditioned) by Magic Rock. At 7.4% abv, was a bit early in the day, but REALLY wanted to have a pop at this before it went. It just didn’t work for me. Slightly warm, musty smelling in the glass, there were definitely hops in there, but no zing like I expect from Simcoe (a powerful hop that I adore), the only flavour I could get was that of red delicious apples. If I wanted that, I’d go for a cider……..Not for me. Didn’t finish it. (Not done THAT in a while!)

Draft by Marble got me back on track at 3.9%. Cool, pale light and hoppy. Just what was needed after that mis-step.

It was getting uncomfortable busy, and, consequentially warm. So, with one more arrival possible (having been joined by both Jeff and Terry by this stage, Jaz & I sloped off to see what was happening at Black Jack.

20130803_192223(“Underneath the Arches….”…aww c’mon, SING!)

Damn! That is one devil of a slope on Gould Street! Scene of many a legendary uphill trek from what used to be a cracking pub, The Queens Arms on Red Bank, up to The Marble. Now, we were looking for another brewery. Luckily, young Mr H had provided some useful signage and we were soon in an open airy courtyard with some lovely smelling food on the go.

About 6 or 7 handpumps in here, mostly dispensing Robs fine beers, I was on a cool keg tip here….I spied a beer from a London brewer that I’d heard loads about, but was yet to sample. Redchurch Brewery with Hackney Gold at 5.5% abv. Gold obviously not being a colour description for this amber to tawny coloured brew. Nice malty spine with generous hopping (Cascade and Nelson Sauvin). Took me a while to get into this, but it really grew on me.

This truly came into its own when I ordered a Salt Beef, Piccalilli and Mustard sandwich from The Moocher pop up truck! Lovely tender pulled salty beef, nice crunch from the veg and a bit of mustard heat on beautiful artisan bread. The spiciness of the Hackney Gold earned its spurs here and was a cracking foil to the sarnie.

Having obtained a freely available seat just along from a gaggle of current and former Port Street people including Will, now well into his career change, (brewing at SummerWine – nice chat earlier!), we settled in for a few more

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Being a warm day, I stayed with the keg offerings at Black Jack. Next up was Black Jacks’ own Mosaic, a single hopped pale ale at 5.2% abv. Golden and slightly sweeter than I expected, it didn’t take long for the piney hops to come through. Nice and refreshing again. Whilst mostly hop-forward (to quote a phrase!) Rob makes some lovely balanced beers here!

Sticking with Mr Hamilton’s fine beers, I had a Schafkopf next, Robs’ take on a German Wheat beer (I think!) which was a bloody good stab, if I may be so bold! Refreshing, quite sharp with a yeasty and herbal tinge to it. A really good UK take on a German wheat beer.

At this point, the Table football became free and provided Terry and I an energetic diversion (modesty forbids from mentioning the winners name! Close game though) and we worked up a slight thirst.

Now. Those who regularly read these waffling verbal wanderings of mine, may have noted an omission from the days efforts. No dark beer! I just HAD to put that right, didn’t I? I did it with one of my favourite beers from 2013 (previously had on cask), but this time on keg. Black Perle by Weird Beard Brewing from that there London. Being a “Coffee Milk Stout”, it was as black as you would expect. 4.5% abv, it had a gentle coffee aroma and in the mouth the coffee came though like a strong latte, shot through with a little lactic sweetness. Lovely. (As has happened before, another beer I prefer on Cask – a texture thing – but a really nice beer)

The siren call of an Imperial Stout was almost physically lifting me from the bench seating, so, bidding farewell to Mr Hamilton, we set up back up Everest (oops) Gould Street, back to the press of humanity at HQ, The Marble Arch.

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(Dancing? In an ale house? oh yes!)

Here, the entertainment mooted in the advertising was in full swing, with a 4-piece band playing their takes on Irish classics. The percussion was provided by courtesy of an enormous bass drum slung over the shoulder and hanging low, bringing to mind (for those of a certain vintage) the Viz character Buster Gonad (with his unfeasibly large testicles)! They were making a joyous racket (the band not Buster…..), but we had to head indoors for “refreshment”. Now, the idea was to snaffle a final beer. That being the Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout (at 11% abv, my sleeping draft of choice!) however, something I had wanted to try (from the complete opposite end of the abv range) was spied on cask.

Cool as a Cucumber a collaboration between Fyne Ales and The Wild Beer Co. I love Fyne. I hadn’t had anything from Wild Beer yet (though a bottle of Wildebeest is lurking in my stash) A beer with cucumber was sufficiently intriguing to sample with a pint. Oh that cucumber is there alright. The beer tasted as if it was liquified and the green colour removed. It was an absolutely refreshing, fresh cleansing beer. With the cucumber, I’m not sure I would want more than 2, but it was a stunning effort which worked. A real palate cleanser.

Now. The entertainment again. The landlady informed us that the bar was closed for a while and asked the drinkers to step back for a while. Then we saw why!

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To the joyous strains of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”, on come 3 dancers, clad in towels. The men in the audience strained for a view! This near burlesque was a fabulous piece of theatre to say the least! A fun diversion.

Back outside to that big drum and some jolly Irish tunage. Finally, my sleeping draft de nuit. The Emelisse. The fact that it is an Imperial Russian Stout, tells you that is as black as sin. It had a gorgeous deep smoky aroma which carried through in the mouth. Sweet yet dry. Smoky, oily, vinous and warming. A gorgeous end to a superb day.

From the moment I had a paella in Piccadilly Gardens from a street food stall, to the moment I walked from The Marble with a smile on my face, this was a truly lovely day. A well-organised fest (albeit VERY busy), with superb beer, great food and excellent entertainment. To top it off, time spent chatting and laughing with old friends. Isn’t that what this beer lark is all about, eh?

Thanks to the organisers, Marble, Rob at Black Jack, The Moocher for that superb Salt Beef sarnie. Above all, Terry, Jeff and Jaz. Without whom…….

This fest is still on today. Get down there and treat yourself!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – May 2013

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(Yorkshire brewers all!)

As I have said on many occasions, both on this blog and in many a conversation, this is truly a Golden Age for beer in the UK. You can walk into lots of bars / pubs around the country and sample exceptional beers from far and wide. For that, drinkers should rejoice.

However, I am increasingly conscious of the amount of comment given to beers from outside of the UK. Be they from the USA, Belgium, Germany, Italy or wherever, these undoubtedly excellent beers get praised to the clouds. But there is an absolute wealth of beers being brewed by small micros in this country that are superb in their own right. Also many of which are not in thrall to American techniques or styles.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, I adore good beer wherever it may be sourced from. As you will see below, one of the best beers I’ve had recently was made by Sierra Nevada in California. But there is THAT much excellent beer being brewed by UK micros (yes, many using New World hops in many instances!), that that is where my future focus will be when I review bottles. UK Microbreweries.

With my recent visits to both Yorkshire Ales of Snaith and Bierhuis of Ossett, it’s obvious to me that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the number of breweries in one county alone, Yorkshire. I won’t be able to try them all. But I’ll have a bash!

There. Now here’s some belters that I’ve drunk recently……. The format remains the same. I give you the beer, who brews it and where, the alcoholic strength, the style of beer, where I bought if from, bottle size and how much I paid for it. Simples!

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1. Clash London Porter by Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I like the ethos of Revolutions. “Music-inspired beer. Craft brewed in Yorkshire”. All of their beers have a musical themed name. They also brew to abv strength associated with music formats. 3.3% (33 rpm), 4.5% (45 rpm), 6.0% (C60 cassette) etc…. So before I taste the beer, I’m favourably disposed. My first bottle I tried was the Manifesto Strong Stout. That was my bottle of the month in April. Could this live up to that standard?

A slightly sweet coffee aroma to this dark ruby coloured beer. Cream coloured head. Some coffee flavour from the roasted malts, smooth in the mouth and a nice hoppy dryness in the finish. The finish was redolent of a good IPA in its dryness with some hoppy grassy tones. A superb beer that I would put as a dark beer for IPA lovers wanting to visit The Dark Side, like a porter with an IPA touch. A 4.5 beer (The Manifesto was a 5 – I’ve already started a campaign to get a firkin or 2 of that over here!)

I’ve also snaffled a bottle of their Devolution Amber Ale (named after the great De-Evolution – DEVO –  from Akron, Ohio). Can’t wait!

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(A lively devil!)

2. The Chief by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Double IPA – £3.78 (500ml) – Bierhuis

It’s good to see an increasing number of Ilkley beers ‘over the hill’ now. Booths stock a good range and I even saw Mary Jane at Sainsbury in Bolton today. Things are looking up for Ilkley lovers! However, unless you live in Manchester city centre and can pop into Beermoth on Tib Street, you won’t get some of their ‘specials’. However, this doesn’t appear to be a problem for specialist beer retailers in Yorkshire. On a recent camping trip, I was advised by the owner of Bierhuis (David) that I was only about 20 mins away. How COULD I resist? It was here that I picked up this beer up (David put a couple aside for me).

This beer was a rich gold (almost bronze) colour and had an aroma of boiled sweets, very fruity with a touch of (what I thought was) Belgian yeasty funk. This beer kicked off when it got in the mouth! WOW! Incredibly hoppy (DOUBLE IPA remember) Apricot flavour in there for sure, mango maybe? A piney resinous hoppyness in a very bitter finish. Lip smackingly good. A fabulous beer that was worth every penny of that price! (4.5 SO nearly a 5!)

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3. Barista Espresso Stout by Summer Wine Brewery (Holmfirth, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Espresso Stout – £3 (330ml) – Port Street Beer House

I drink this almost everywhere I see it on draught. A great beer. But I’d never had it in bottle. So, when I saw an offer of 6 assorted bottles for £18 at Port Street one hazy evening, what was I to do?

This was another lively devil on pouring. A tan coloured head gave off an aroma just like when you tear open a packet of ground coffee. Just like that! But with a hint of spicyness. A lovely smooth texture in the mouth where those coffee flavours came to the fore but with a little touch of roasted malt sweetness. I love this beer on draught and the same applies with the bottled version. Another 4.5 beer!

20130513_213347(I get to use Colin’s JW Lees ‘Grip’ glass!)

4. Lotus IPA by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £2.21 (500ml) – Bierhuis

Not being bottle conditioned, I was surprised by the liveliness of this beastie. Golden, with an abundance of grapefruit citrus zing on the nose. In the mouth, this was more balanced than the aroma hinted at. Grapefruit yes, but mellower and balanced with a malty digestive biscuit like sweetness. As smooth as cream in the mouth with a dry grassy bitter finish. This gets a 5 rating on value alone! Superb. Thank you Bierhuis!

20130514_211258(The IndyManBeerCon glass seemed appropriate!)

5. Orval by Brasserie Orval (Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium) – 6.2% abv – Trappist Beer – £3.20 (330ml) – Pendle Witch PH, Atherton.

Confession. I had never had an Orval prior to this.

Another lively beast. This russet coloured beer had an incredibly jammy fruit nose with, perhaps, a hint of rhubarb. In the mouth there was the expected Belgian yeasty tones, but with an array of flavours at different stages. Firstly stewed apples and pears and a pear drop sweet flavour. Later on, there was a warming almost medicinal linctus tone which was surprising to me in a 6.2% beer. Initially underwhelmed, by the bottom of the glass I was a convert. A truly lovely beer. (4.5)

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6. Narwhal by Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, California, USA) – 10.2% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.69 (375 ml) – Bierhuis

Somewhere beyond black, there is a darker hue. This beer is even darker than that. If sin is this black, I don’t ever want to be virtuous! I opened the bottle and sniffed. Boozy port and spice. I poured it into my new 2/3 pint glass (for which I’m VERY thankful)  to further wallow in those aromas. A milk coffee coloured head, beneath which lurked a REALLY bitter chocolate flavour allied to a vinous warmth. There were touches of licorice root with sweet espresso and a glorious dry bitter spicy finish. To say this beer is “up my street” doesn’t even come close! 5 out of 5! (I’d give it 10 if I could!)

At THAT price, I felt  like I’d stolen it! Again, thank you Bierhuis!

Given what I said at the top, these may be the last couple of non-UK beers I review in a while. But what a pair to go out on, eh? 5 out of 5

Beer Of The Month

Bottled – As if you hadn’t guessed! Narwhal by Sierra Nevada. For the reasons stated above. A superb Imperial Stout.

DraughtImperial Black (Black IPA) by Buxton Brewery 7.5% abv (Port Street Beer House 26/05/2013). I am incredibly grateful to Jamie H that he got 4 halves of this out of the end of the cask! Smooth as silk, black as sin. Incredibly fruity whilst still having some roasted stuff in there. This was an awesome beer. I will drink it wherever I find it. It is THAT good!

On that excited note……’til next time!

Slainte!

A Day Trip To Stockport – 18/05/2013

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I’m quite nosey me! (Bolton speak!) So when I picked up that Jaz and a group of his colleagues were planning a group tour of Robinsons (henceforth, Robbies) Brewery in Stockport, it set the limited grey matter working. I hadn’t been drinking in Stockport since the mid 80s and this struck me as an ideal opportunity to fill this knowledge gap (at least partly). Jaz made the right noises and I was in!

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Now, this also brought me within the gravitational pull of a certain Mr Jay Krause, Owner, Brewer and all-round hop alchemist at Quantum Brewing – I just had to ask! Didn’t I? Being the ‘good egg’ that he undoubtedly is, he invited Jaz & myself round. Whoo-Hoo! Two breweries in one day. Bargain!

So, I find myself on the train (for a change) and (meeting Jaz at Piccadilly) we set off on the 11:15 Virgin train to London Euston and a mere 10 minutes later, we’re walking up Wellington Road. Bugger me, but that is a hell of a gradient! It’s hardly the Col de la Madeleine, but I was bloody knackered before it levelled off on Hempshaw Lane where the aforementioned Mr Krause weaves his magic.

Let’s say, I struggled to find Quantum, initially! Then I remembered something Jay said about location, retraced my steps and lo! There be casks!

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(Anyone for beer barrel Jenga?)

Jay started this operation in 2011 and has quickly gained a reputation for full flavoured beers with often unusual ingredients – his Blood Orange Pale Ale has entered into legend! (And was the first beer Jaz asked about!) I first saw him at the Leeds International Beer Fest last year behind the bar and enjoyed his Stout hugely. Since then, I’ve had several of his beers and they have all been excellent, in particular his Keyworths Early using an old hop variety that could well make a comeback.

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(LtoR – Hot Liquor Tank and Copper)

Anyhoo! Located in an industrial unit off Hempshaw Lane, just outside (and UPHILL of) Stockport centre, Jay is unmistakably a one man band. I fail to comprehend how I can find so much of his beer in the Manchester area, with the size of his operation. He looks like a hell of an engineer having adapted his own mash tun to suit his own needs. 

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(Self built Mash Tun!)

He dispenses his beer in a variety of formats, Cask, KeyKeg and bottle. The bottles aren’t bottle conditioned, which will certainly help when it comes to chilling them slightly!

A 5 Bbl plant means that he can brew up to 1440 pints per brew, that’s 20 9 gallon firkins (cask) or nearly 1500 bottles! It’s good to hear that he’s making it pay, though he’s some distance off being a ‘beer baron’! This is his day job and he makes it pay by producing excellent beer which is showcased in some of Manchester’s best bars (Port Street, Joshua Brooks and Font, to name but 3!)

I was intrigued to see some of his wooden casks used for some specials. Smoked Porter aged in Caol Ila whisky cask anyone? (Trust me to miss THAT one!)

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As mentioned earlier, he produces a wide variety of tasty beers. In that vein, he allowed Jaz and myself to sample a Saison that is about to be released into ‘the wild’. This is one lovely beer! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with a lovely fruitiness and dry finish. This may be making its way in the world this week. Jaz & I both loved it. The knowledge that it’ll be served in Joshua Brooks was gratefully received. (James’ll tip us the wink, won’t you?)

As stated, Jay’s is a small, true Micro Brewery and he does all the key tasks himself, even down to the bottling. He’s one busy boy and we were really grateful that he took time out to chat with us and answer my idiot novice questions with good grace and a smile! (And a HUGE thanks for the CCC and American Amber! Reviewed soon – as long as Jaz doesn’t drink them first – they’re stored at his flat!)

A genuinely nice bloke running a human scale brewing operation. Look out for his beers, you will NOT be disappointed! (A collaboration brew is in the offing with Allgates, Jay, Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound – Two top brewers and two fables tasters – I may even sit in the bleachers and watch the fun! Watch this space, it’s gonna be superb!)

Now, for the polar opposite?

But first, we had a bit of time to spare before our 13:30 appointment at the brewing behemoth that is Robinsons, so we strolled along to the market place to have a look at the High Peak Beer Co.

I didn’t expect such a small unit! But a superb selection of beers from near and far. Had a bit of chat with (who I presume to be) the owner. Certainly knows his beer this man! Aims to snaffle himself a pub in the peak within the next 5 years with maybe a brew plant out the back. I like it! Said he’d be looking at a bit of a camping facility as well. I’m there already! Picked myself up a bottle of Axe Edge by Buxton Brewery. A cheery wave and we were off to meet our fellow beer tourists in the local Wetherspoons)

Had a nice pint of GWB Meerkat Mild here. Big ol’ Spoons, huge floor area, but 3 milds on, including George Wrights and Titanic. More later.

A short walk from Wetherspoons and we find ourselves at…..

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(Shiny new Visitors centre!)

We were given a few minutes to gather ourselves together (and, no doubt, peruse purchasing opportunities!)

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20130518_133834(Putting the cart before the – absent – horse!)

The Visitor Centre is fairly new. Lots of interactive displays around the walls with an accent on the history and heritage of the brewery. Lots of merchandise for sale from chutneys to t-shirts with most of Robbies bottled beer available to purchase, including the new “collaboration” beer with Iron Maiden, Trooper, which featured prominently as you would expect.

We were gathered together by our tour guide and shown the highways and byways of this, quite large, brewery.

Being a ‘tower’ type brewery (the process flows down with gravity!), there were a LOT of steps. If you have fitness issues (like me!) be prepared for recovery time!

There was a big accent on a recent major brewery refurb, with lots of new, efficient, kit being bought from Germany at great expense. Bright and shiny it was indeed. Industrial. This is a big business. They retained examples of most of the old kit too, which made for a nice contrast, starting at the old and new grist mills (grain grinders). Here we were shown samples of the various malts and encouraged to taste. I loved the bitter coffee flavours of the chocolate malt (surprised?)

We were also encouraged to smell sample a variety of hops. In Robbies case, mostly British with one jar of US (Amarillo). Robbies predominantly use Goldings in their beers.

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(Grist to the mill!)

The Mash Tun and Lauter Tun were next and from this point, you get an idea of the sheer huge scale of this operation. These vessels are HUGE, like icebergs, you only see what’s on the surface.

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(Old & New)

Onward to the brewing vessel (or Copper) where the hops are added to impart their aromas and bitter characteristics. Again, think of icebergs!

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Via the Hop Back room (where the spent hops are removed – like the spent grains at other stages – and sent to farms for animal feed) we were taken to the fermenting vessels. Robbies have loads of FVs and again, they are HUGE! I had to take snaps of working FVs and empty to give you the scale. The FV is where the yeast comes to the party, shakes its booty and turns all those lovely sugars into even lovelier alcohol. There were some gorgeous fruity smells in here with maybe 4 FVs at work. (Robbies also have separate vessels used to brew Fentimans botanic drinks)

20130518_144655(The yeast having a party. Check out the patterns!)

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(An empty FV. That must be 15ft deep!!! That’s a whole lot of happy juice!)

With a quick peep into a Control Room, which looked like the tidiest, cleanest office you’ll EVER work in, we were pretty much done. This is a high-tech, leaner, more environmentally friendly operation than ever.

Then were off to the bar to spend our “tokens”, each of which equated to a 1/3rd of beer. I chose a 1/3rd each of Uncle Sams pale ale, Trooper (The Iron Maiden beer) and Fredericks on keg at 6.5%. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly struck by any of them. A slight preference for the Uncle Sams which was reasonably hoppy and bitter. The Trooper was a maltier brew and fine for what it is. The Fredericks was overly cold and, for 6.5%, I didn’t get much at all.

The bar/restaurant area was quite a nice space. If open to the public (aside from tours) this could be a nice little earner. The beer is in good nick (as you would expect) and the food (limited to sandwiches today) looked quite good.

A couple of observations –

1. This a slick tour around a grand old institution which has been brought bang up to date. The tour is pretty much pitched at the curious novice with little or no knowledge. For that market, it is a fabulous lesson in the chemistry of beer. I spoke to a couple of people afterwards who found it really informative. For me (a relative novice with a modicum of knowledge), I would have liked more detail. For one thing, I asked a basic question about the cost of the refurb. The guide didn’t have the answer to hand. Things like that should be standard. With just a little extra polish, what was quite a good tour, could be a lot better.

2. Robbies are obviously on the rise, both nationally and internationally. The hook up with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden is VERY astute. This could help Robbies penetrate abroad with that HUGE Iron Maiden fan base and also into live music venues. There has been a big push with Trooper and in all likelihood, it will pay off. Massively.

Moving onwards and (literally) upwards, we popped back into the Spoons to meet up with some more people and (after a nice pint of George Wrights Mild & a sour pint of Titanic Mild – taken off on mentioning!) we were off to….

The Crown

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(A Stockport Institution)

A lovely old pub. Lots of leather and wood inside with a vast number of handpumps (too many to count!), I plumped for a pint of Millstone Stout and we eventually settled our, now enlarged group into the room to the right of the bar – where lurked two handpulls dedicated to real cider.

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(rear room)

The Millstone Stout at 4.5% was lovely. Creamy full texture, slight coffee in that nice roasted flavour with a dry finish. A really good stout. and just what was needed.

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(Nice & busy on a Saturday afternoon!)

The consensus was to move on at this point. So that’s what we did!

The Magnet

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Another pub after my own heart. Multi-roomed with a plethora of handpulls. Busy again with chatter the order of the day (as well as Tittertons Pork Pies!). Well behaved dogs allowed in as well, which was a nice touch. Busy at the bar, I plumped for a BlackJack Canasta Mild at 3.8% abv. Dark, buttery roasted aroma with a nice texture, lots of roasted malt flavour with a nice dry finish.

20130518_173826(Busy bar – lots of handpulls!)

Ina slightly lower level was a pool table, where we settled our rabble down to a game of killer. I lost (as you would expect!). The pub has a lot going for it, lots of good beer and choice of rooms with different atmospheres. The only slight issue I had, was there was a little wear and tear showing, especially with the plaster work. I wonder if the money is available to do this work? Not to take away too much from what is an excellent boozer.

We stayed for one more here, so I had an Oakham beer. Sock Monkey at 5% abv. Golden and bright, a citrus grapefruit aroma from what I thought was citra hops, a lovely mouthful of biscuity sweetness balanced with a grapefruit hoppyness. Typically Oakham, typically excellent. If we hadn’t stayed, I probably wouldn’t have spotted the nice decking area outside!

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(Well. Summer IS on the way. Isn’t it?)

Back to Manchester on Northern Rails’ finest. A quick snack from Sainsbury in Piccadilly station and off to a pub I’ve not been to in yonks!

The Bulls Head

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Judging by the beer selection, this is a Marstons pub. Fortunately for me, Jaz had chosen wisely and got me a pint of Marstons Single Hop Amarillo at 4% abv. Pale, gold and with abundant fruity hop aroma. Nice and refreshing. 2nd Single hop Marstons I’ve had recently. Enjoyed both.

Last time I came in, the pub was two roomed. Now it’s one open space with the large bar to the rear. Nice leaded windows, muted dark colours, reds and browns, quite warm feeling. Nice slightly elevated are to the front with (what looked like) a real fire range.

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It was here that the group split up. Some for home, some for food and some (guess who?) for Joshua Brooks! (Via Jaz flat to drop bottles off – amazed they got back!)

Joshua Brooks

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The magnet that pulled us in was the Baby Belgian by Offbeat Brewery. At 8% I bottled it (not literally – I’d have spilt some!), the indefatigable Jaz went that way, I went for the Last Porter Call by Titanic. Fruity, very fruity. Damsons or plums. Not much discernable roasty stuff going on. But then, it WAS late in the day! A nice beer at 4.9%.

Oakham Brewery Bishops Farewell was next. 2 Oakham in one day. Yay! Again, pale, hoppy and balanced with sweet biscuit malt. Another Oakham, another excellent pale bitter brew!

One more for my baby and one for the road. The baby in question, being another Baby Belgian for Jaz the Indefatigable (now looking rather fatigued!), the one for the road being Obsidian black IPA by Hop Studio from York. As far as the stuff in bars goes, the beer of the day. Both citrus AND coffee on the nose with bitter hops in the mouth and a slightly bitter coffee in the aftertaste. REALLY good this!

I know what to expect from Joshua Brooks (as should you, by now!) Tonight was fairly busy again, with a few coming in just before I left, for a beer prior to going downstairs to the club. More excellent beer.

At this point, I had to dash for my chariot. Past lots of young things on their way to JBs

An excellent day out, finished off nicely. The Old parts of Stockport are actually rather pretty, nice town. Hope to be back soon to explore more.

Beer of the day. Unfair really, but it was the taste of Saison from Quantum. Lovely. In the pubs it was Obsidian by Hop Studio. An excellent Black IPA. Last beer of the evening as well. How weird is that!

On that note….If you, like I, are at the BlackJack MTB at Port Street on Monday, say hello! If not….’til next time…

Slainte!

London Calling – Craft Beer Bars In The Big City 07/03/2013

Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth (or the ready meal aisle), an invite to a swanky function in “The City”, presented this thirsty Northern Boy with an opportunity simply too good to pass up. Some new bars in virgin territory! Plonking the BM bags in t’hotel room, my buddy and I find ourselves walking along Tachbrook Street in Pimlico towards….

Cask Bar SW1

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Located at the corner of Charlwood and Tachbrook Streets, this is a bar I’ve wanted to visit ever since I drank at its sister bar in Brighton nearly 2 years ago. A large open plan room, with plenty of seating. fairly modern looking bar with some interesting artwork on the walls

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(Modern bar)

Being utterly famished, we ordered a couple of their special “heat” burgers (excellent!) and perused the bar. A goodly selection indeed including 2 each from DarkStar, Thornbridge and Buxton, there were at least 8 ales on plus 10 or so on craft keg. 2 DarkStar Sussex Extra Stouts at 4.5% were ordered whilst we awaited the food. Lovely and creamy, dark and handsome beer with a slight coffee tinge to it, an excellent start.

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(Interesting Artwork)

The burgers arrived, nice and spicy and needed something to deal with the spice, Buxton Dark Nights did the trick! A US Style Porter at 4.6%abv, dark brown some roasted flavour, but really well hopped. Wowsers! This, to me, is how a porter really should be, roasted malt and bitter.

My buddy was taking time to accustom himself to the Buxton, I had however demolished mine and looked for a wee half of something. Thornbridge St Petersburg Imperial Stout? Don’t mind if I do! Lovely dark coffee aroma from that tan coloured head, coffee, licorice flavours and SO much more. If you’ve never had it, it’s a beer to try before you die. Add it to your lists! (BTW, it was getting V Busy by 6 O’clock!)

Moving on, we met some associates from The Emerald Isle and had a break with a couple of Guinness. However, my craft beer muse was calling, so I grabbed a cab ‘cos my poor feet were aching in new shoes, and stopped at…..

The Holborn Whippet

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Located at the Kingsway end of the lovely Sicilian Avenue, 2 distinct rooms either side of a central bar. No handpumps here, but air dispense (like the Euston Tap, I think). Very friendly and helpful staff in here! More Buxton was had here, on this occasion Rednik Stout at 4.1% abv. Nutty, smooth and bloody gorgeous! Buxton can’t do wrong in my eyes.

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(The Whippet Cask Selection – ‘beer from the brick’ indeed!)

Introducing my companion to new beers, we next had a Kirkstall Black Band Porter at 5.5%. First time I had this was at the Leeds International fest last September. Again, lovely and smooth almost more of a stout were it not for the bitter edge, nice roasted coffee flavour. Another winner.

My pal was slacking by this time, so I sought another sneaky half. I spied a Kernel Pale Ale. But damn! Just emptied! Never mind, the really friendly barman swiftly changes for another by Kernel. 5.6%, pale and bloody seriously hoppy with a whole citrus grove leaping from the (1/2) glass! Tremendously sharp and refreshing (in a slightly boozy way!)

Jumping the tube now, one change and we were heading south of the river toward London Bridge and the world famous Borough Market. Located around the back of the market is Winchester Walk. There, in the shadow of the historic Southwark Cathedral lurks…….

The Rake

Such a tiny wee bar, but with an inordinate amount of character! Immediately welcomed by friendly bar staff, including a Northerner from Burnley! 3 ales on handpump with a number of kegged offerings. Focussing on the handpumps, we went for Ilkley Stout Mary. Another brewery that can do no wrong for me. Lovely, smooth, creamy. Some cappuccino with a light smoky hint. Yum!

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Fyne Ales are a brewery I’ve longed to drink on cask. Two here! This is probably what finished me off! I forsook the charms of Avalanche to dally with a pint of Superior IPA.

A pint of stupidity at 7.1% abv, this was one fabulously hoppy strong beer! Full on citrus flavours with grapefruit right up there. A fyne (groan!) end to the evening!

We got chatting to a couple from them there States, seemed to be the bar owners. Great chatting to them. Check the white boarded wall out when you go. Brewers from far and wide signing. A quirky touch!

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(A small section of ‘The Wall’)

Another great bar, one hell of a find and one to which I shall return next time I’m down. Takes some finding, but it’s well worth it!

With the exception of the strong Fyne and St Petersburg, prices were pretty much what you would pay in some Manchester bars, £3.60 a pint or thereabouts.

Great bars, great beer. I love this mallarkey!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!