Home Beers – June 2016 – Pt 1

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RampartBrass Castle Brewery (Malton) / Ossett Brewery (er…. Ossett) – 7% abv – IPA – 330ml can – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

This beer was the standout at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival this year for me, big and juicy. I was surprised to see it in cans though on a recent visit to Bottle. I had to have it.

Deep copper coloured, the light white head  emitting a deep fruity aroma full of caramelised pineapple and bitter orange. Juices duly flowing, it was time for a mouthful……

Oh yes. No change. Just as magnificent in canned format as it was in cask.

Really full bodied with plenty of cakey chewy malt, this is soaked in sticky fruit! Orange marmalade, juicy pineapple, even a little hint of drunken raisins. Really juicy and packing a big fruity hoppy punch as an IPA this strength should.

Nice full bitterness in the finish of this leading to a full on piney resinous hit in the aftertaste.

It would have been easy for this beer to fall down compared to the superb cask at Manchester Central. But not a bit of it. This is just as superb in can. Lush.

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CannonballMagic Rock Brewing (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – IPA – 330ml (can) – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

A beer that I’ve had issues with. One where I’ve never understood some of the fluffing that has gone online about it, having tried it in both keg & bottle form.
The can – having seen it in the corner of my eye – was an impulse buy. A last chance if you will. It has been decent, but decent wasn’t what I was led to expect

Hazy gold from the get go. This light white head just sings an aria to hops. Fruity as hell on the nose like a mashed up cocktail. Kiwi, passion fruit, mango and a little grapefruit – for next a bit more citrus!

 Big and juicy. With all of the above jostling and tumbling for room on the taste buds. Slight sweetness to the chewy cheesecakey malt, but more than offset by the hopload. Juicy with a really lovely balancing bitterness – lacking in some so called IPAs.

That juiciness lasts from gun to tape and gives way at the last to a sticky resinous pine which piggybacks that bitter finish.

A joy. Right up there.

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Single Hop Pale Ale (Centennial)North Riding Brewery (East Ayton, Scarborough) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

Beautiful golden beer with a light white head and a hooter full of lemony citrus.

Yet again, Stuart Neilson nails it. First impressions are medium of body, with a nice biscuity malt base. Then the hops. Lots of hops.

Lemony sharp, with juicy mango and lots of it. Really fruity and juicy. That lemon is quite bracing but in no way detracts from the fact that this is one refreshing beer!

This is one lovely beer. Fruity, dry of finish and with moderate bitterness and a nice hoppy aftertaste. Levels of yum!

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Dane’IshCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.0% abv – Lager – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
Lightly Hazy and golden, this unfined and unfiltered beer has a light foamy white head on it, giving off a slightly fruity aroma with a little peppery spice making my nose wrinkle.
This is a small batch lager to convert the macro boys away from their bland fizzy shite.
Smoothly carbonated, the initial flavours are of forest fruits on a light crusty bread malt base with a light sweetness for those fruity hops to play with. This is a superbly balanced beer, light, spicy and refreshing but with a little spicy kick in the finish.
Finally. Someone has nailed a really good English lager. Nice slightly hoppy and peppery aftertaste too. Shane Swindells should take a bow. This is just as good in bottle as it is in Keg (regularly) at The Brink.
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US IPA (Citra, Summit, Equinox) – North Riding BreweryIPA – 5.5% abv – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Over the last 12 months – leaving aside The Independent Salford Beer Festival (shameless plug for fresh looking website!) – there are two things that I am really proud of. Thjose are finally nagging people enough to get beers from North Riding Brewery of Scarborough and Five Towns of Wakefield into Manchester area bars
Finally, you lot over THIS side of the hill have the chance to see if I’ve been talking utter bollocks about them. And I haven’t, have I?
I’ve had some grief from over in Yorkshire, but it has been worth it. I finally get to try two of my personal heroes beers in my own back yard – on cask, And I’m thrilled.
But what about THIS particular beer?

Oh yes. A proper beast is this. Big, deep golden beer with a lasting soft white head and an immensely fruity aroma full of orange, mango and a little peach.

Juicy, juicy, juicy. In Chris Hall’s parlance, a banger and no mistake. This is full of mango, with orange and peach and not a little gooseberry too in this wee devil. So, so, so juicy.

Big and bold and fruity this. The swallow is nicely bitter as any decent IPA should be. That bitterness being just short of bracing. Perfectly judged.

The finish is juicy and bitter with a big grassy resinous aftertaste. And it’s a joy to drink.

That boy Neilson can brew you know.

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Your BetrayalMarble Brewery (Manchester) – 5% abv – American Pilsner – 330ml – Epicurean (West Didsbury)
At the end of the brewday for Manchester Fold (with Lees & Cloudwater), myself and Connor found ourselves having a couple of beers when we saw a tweet from Marble. “New beer! Free half in 57 Thomas Street!”….
Well…….of course we did!
That was this beer, but in keg. Delicious on draught, now for the bottle….
This recent release from Marble pours a glittering gold with a light white head with an amazing tropical hop aroma. Kiwi, passion fruit, mango. All kinds of yum!
Having had this fresh in release day on Keg, I kind of knew what to expect. BOOM! ALL KINDS OF TROPICAL!
Fruit. So much fruit. Dancing a hula around my mouth. Mango, lychee, passion fruit and a touch of kiwi swaying their grass skirts around my mouth before being lassoed back in line by a bracing and abrupt resinous hop dryness.
If James Kemp and his team day this is a Pilsner, who am I to gainsay? It works. Brilliantly. I, personally, would call this an ultra Pale Ale. And it works on that turf too. You will get few Session IPAs that rock like this!
Dry and sticky resinous aftertaste, don’t ever leave me!
There you have them. 6 utter crackers. If you see them – or their hop variants (in the case of North Riding), do yourself a flavour. Buy them. And say it was my fault!
See you soon at MANCHESTER BEER WEEK!!!!
As I said above, about my pride at finally seeing North Riding & Five Towns in Manchester. When I heard a big Five Towns pale (7%) was on draught at The Smithfield, I was scared that I’d miss it. So an unscheduled trip was in order – even though Atilla’s family were over…….
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Oh I had to have two pints – minimum! Then, I noted there was a smooth operator by Hawkshead on keg. Tonka Imperial Porter. Now then, since the #CraftBeerHour that I hosted for ISBF last year, I have a rep for ludicrous Black & Tans.
So. BIG 7% Five Towns (“One At T’End”) meet BIG Tonka Imperial Porter.
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It was ******* STUNNING! I had a few. And it was neither big, nor clever.
But it was DAMN tasty!
Slainte!

Home Beers – Feb 2016 – Pt 1

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Am I lucky? Or am I just incredibly selective in what I drink? It really is rare that I open a poor bottle of beer. And THAT is generally because I’ve left it too long before I drink it.

Don’t get me wrong, there IS duff stuff out there, dull and uninspiring. But the purpose of these posts – and this blog in general – is to highlight the good stuff (IMO) for you to try, be that bottles, pubs, bars or breweries/brewtaps. That won’t change. I’m not lucky or indeed overly selective in what I buy. Nor am I a coward in that I say little that is negative about stuff.

I believe, simply, in being constructive. If I have issues, I let the people know who are in the best place to deal with them. Those are the landlord/brewer/owner etc. That works for me. Works with my personal sense of morality and ethics. It’s really easy to go on the likes of Untappd and slaughter a beer. That is not (and never will be) my “way”.

I don’t know why I felt the need to say that. The words fell out of my head on to the keyboard. That now said, I move on, to some REALLY good beers. From the North. As usual. And, just to prepare you, this includes, perhaps the bottled beer that has made the biggest impact on me.

Ever.

A BIG statement. And it may surprise you….

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Dark StoutBarearts Brewery (Todmorden) – 4.8% abv – Stout – 500ml – Barearts Shop (Todmorden)

This REALLY is a special and quirky little shop. An unremarked upon jewel, in a town recovering from recent flooding. Go help. Buy beer.

On pouring this dark beauty, I was assailed with roasted malt aromas, earthy, bitter chocolate and little coffee. A damn fine start from this creamy headed black beer. Smells pulling at my hearts strings….

Smooth in the mouth with a light carbonation, the roasted bitterness hits you from the get go. Bitter chocolate, coffee grinds and a little note of licorice in there in this earthy mouthful. Delicious.

A gentle smoky note creeps in in further mouthfuls, cosying up to that roasted barley in this silky smooth beer. Nice bitterness on the swallow. Lovely dry Stout this.

Finish is dry and roasty with a hoppy aftertaste showing through the bitterness. A lovely beer from this tiny Todmorden brewery. Just hope they weren’t hugely affected by the recent flooding.

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The Black CrossroadsCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) / Elusive Brewing (London) – 6.5% abv – StoutHeaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Black. Just how I like my Stouts. I have dark desires. And I desired this from the moment I saw it on the shelf. Beautiful head. The colour of a milky coffee. And that aroma! Roasty, touch of citrus and coconut. Mmmmmm…. Sorachi in a Stout just rocks my world.

Oh lordy. Oh lordy, lordy, lordy. Now. I bow to few in my admiration of the beers made by Shane Swindells. Anyone who has been within squealing distance of me recently (or so reads THIS tosh that I peddle), knows my feelings about Govinda.

I think he (in collaboration with Andy Parker) had made a dark beer to rival that beauty. There’s a playful fruitiness to this on the first sip. I hesitate to call it citrus. It’s not. But what follows is pure darkness. Like a dark chocolate Bounty bar dipped in ground coffee…. I’m swooning here!

Then, the bitter roast hits the sides of the tongue. Oh my. This works for me! Dirty, roasted, earthy thing that this is. I love it.

The bitter roast is just such a joy and is no doubt aided and abetted in this smash and grab on my tastebuds by some judicious hopping. Neither Shane note Andy are known for stinting in that department…

That bitterness goes through with that dark roast to a hoppy roasty finish and aftertaste.

An established star from the North (to me) collaborating with a rising start from that there South. And they’ve made a dark delight.

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TripelTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 8.2% abv – Belgian Style Tripel – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Sparkling mid gold beer, pouring slightly lively with an abundant white lacy head giving an aroma full of peach, banana and spice, with a little clove upfront.

Mmmmmm… My initial reaction to the first mouthful was to take a metaphorical step back. Woof! This is a big and full bodied thing. With plenty of that indefinable thing…. Oomph.

Fruity. Orange peel, banana, peach all in there, slightly tart, then, once swallowed, a tongue curling and herbal dryness. Really pronounced. Then, a curious warmth started to spread.

The finish is dry and herbal hoppy.

I’m not someone who drinks much in the way of Belgian beer and wouldn’t necessarily know what to compare this with. I’ll have to grab another and Share with Des (ask Deeekos). He’d know.

What I DO know, is that I like this. A lot.

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Ace of SpadesBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 10% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton under Lyne)

Black as the….. You know where I’m going. It’s seriously dark is this beer. The head looks like the cream you pour on top of an Irish Coffee and the smell… Oh the smell… Like the bitterest of chocolate with a little smoke and that new leather sofa smell. Winning….

Indeed…. It’s an Imperial Stout… So you just KNOW that I’m winning at life right about now? This big old body has traces of chocolate dunked in port wine, nice and bitter cocoa, a deep Espresso swills around my mouth too, making my gums tingle.

Yes there is a sweetness that is unavoidable in a beer like this, but that is more than offset by such a hoppy bitterness. Magnificent.

The finish is winey and boozy, but with a big bitter hop aftertaste.

I’m listening to Walk On By by Isaac Hayes. Drink the beer, listen to the tune. You’ll get it. Trust me. This beer just loves those bass notes!

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DIPACloudwater Brew Co (Manchester) – 9% abv – Double IPA – 330ml – Harvey Leonards (Glossop)

I was made up when Steven from Harvey Leonard’s held one of these back for me, becoming quite hard to get. And having had it on cask and keg, it would have been a shame NOT to have had a bottle….

Oh. My. Flip the lid, smell the fruit. This is fruitier on the nose than a Church Street barrow! WOW! Ultra Pale, light white head and that tropical fruit basket aroma… Grapefruit, mango, lemon….

Whilst being full of body (a bit like myself) the trick with this beer is like I said to James Campbell at the brewery on launch day. It tastes way lower on the abv. And is therefore extremely dangerous in its deliciousness.

Nicely lightly carbonated, this smooth operator lets the hops sing. And they DO sing. Again, mango, grapefruit tartness, smooth juicy orange and so much more tropical stuff that’s hard to describe. It’s just bloody gorgeous stuff. Worthy of many of the accolades it attracted in 2015.

Huge hoppy finish, nice rounded bitterness leading to a BIG hoppy aftertaste. Not a mouth wrecker unlike some. Just beautiful.

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American Barleywine 2015Torrside Brewing Co (New Mills) – 10% abv – Barley Wine – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton under Lyme)

For your own sakes, I hope that you have read this far down….

Like a 330ml jewel, this is one deep ruby beer. I swear it is glowing from within…. The aroma is a surprise. Really fruity, surprisingly so, almost like a hoppy Pale Ale, full of rich and sticky orange and something slightly more tropical that I can’t quite define. Yum.

Oh sweet baby Jesus and the orphans!!! WTF is THIS?

Rich. So so rich. Yes, there is a sweetness to this. A rich and chewy toffee malt. But before it can insinuate itself in, it’s overwhelmed by spicy fruit. And by the GODS is this spicy! Bags of juicy raisins, macerated in who knows what, juicy, vinous, but so bloody peppery!

Being honest, this was one HELL of a shock to the system. This is HAMMERED with hops! But the thing is, insanely, it works SO WELL!

The finish is very dry. Almost tongue curlingly so. And the aftertaste is just, so hoppy. Almost herbally so.

A simply magnificent achievement!

To put in simply, without undue hyperbole, this is quite possibly the bottle of beer that has made the biggest impact on my tastebuds in the 3 1/2 years I’ve been sharing with you. The last beer that made as near an impact as this, was a 2/3rd of Human Cannonball by Magic Rock. The beer that effectively started me blogging.

It’s THAT good.

On that note…..

Slainte!

Up The Junction (and other stories….)

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Isn’t it magnificent? Victoria Station on a cold late January morning, or anytime really. A classic monument of a kind no longer built, but refurbished and repurposed these days – witness the former Central Station, now hosting beer festivals as a Conference Centre. At least this place still sees trains within its confines.

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You could almost think it was summer eh? They’ve done an impressive job with the cantilevered glass and steel roof over this old transport interchange. There’s even a Station Bar, but as my good friend Deeekos (very effectively indeed) says here, don’t bother yourself. Work up a thirst and walk to The Smithfield or The Angel if you arrive wanting a beer.

But I wasn’t arriving.

I was leaving…..for Castleford. “Where?” I hear you ask? And “Why?”

Here’s why….

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A pub. In a small West Yorkshire town. The significance of which, I shall try to explain in my faltering prose.

The origins of this trip lay at the end of a brew day nearly 4 weeks earlier, at Cheshire Brewhouse. We, the assembled, agreed something that day, well, Shane did. We brewed a 6.6% abv English-hopped IPA that day. And Shane wanted to sample it from a wooden cask. Which, in the North of England (possibly the whole country) means one pub.

Yup. That one above. The Junction, on Carlton Street.

Where they only serve beers that have been conditioned in wooden casks. Bit of a USP is that….

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And, before I go much further, I owe a debt to Mr David Litten. And the book above, a labour of love if ever there was one.

What the book tells us is that Neil Midgley and Maureen Shaw reopened a run-down pub that had been shut for over two years. And, over time, worked bloody hard – with the help of friends – and brought it back to life. As you will see from pictures below.

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Yes. A roaring real fire. Just one of many lovely touches.

So. Why did myself and Jaz catch that train again? Well, to drink beer, naturally and, having never knowingly drunk beer from wooden casks, my traditionalist core was childishly excited.

There was another reason though. To tie the bow on The Independent Salford Beer Festival and present the certificate and award for the winning beer. To Malcolm Bastow, of Five Towns Brewery.

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Having presented the award to Malcolm, I found myself spoiled. With 2 Cheshire Beerhouse beers and 2 from Five Towns. So I sampled one or …..

With CBs Engine Vein, a best bitter in style, I thought that the beer had an additional richness and depth (and I like Engine Vein in all forms). With the Outside Edge from Five Towns, it dialled down the sharp hopping, softening it somewhat.

It was with the bigger beers that I thought that the wood made the biggest impact, the hoppier ones like the 6.6% abv TRYPA (the Cheshire Brewhouse/Howard Town/Tryanuary collab) and the Niamhs Nemesis from Five Towns at 5.7%.

Again, the wood took the sharper and angular hop edges from Niamhs – a beer that I adore – and gave it more depth, imparted a slight – maybe vanilla – sweet note, just a note mind. It seemed to enhance the fruitier aspects of this beer. If anything, it really improved it and helped to make it feel, well, sessionable. Which is dangerous in a 5.7% beer. Very dangerous indeed.

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A lot of materials for this pub were sourced over a lond period of time. Piecemeal. I’m ashamed, actually, no I’m not actually ashamed as such, to say that I didn’t (nerdily) get a picture of the most unusual “swan necks” I’ve ever seen. The beer engines were sourced from a long gone brewery estate (Melbourne Brewery) and are lovely things indeed, nearly 80 years old!

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(Roger Protz does like his wooden casks! Pic courtesy http://thejunctionpubcastleford.com/)

This pub feels warm. It feels loved. It feels, yes, special.

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3 real fires. Lots of reclaimed wooden furniture and knick knacks. Old brewery paraphernalia, it all goes to the feel of this place. Feeling welcome. There were locals and people who had travelled many miles to be here. This is, simultaneously, both a local and a national destination pub.

I got to have a pint of the TRYPA. A big fruity beer, hoppy yet with a rounded richness, the softening effect of the wood lending a complexity to the beer with added spice and a little vanilla again. A beautiful beer, brewed at a brewery that many think is really going places. Garnering National newspaper attention recently with Govinda too. A really underrated brewery. But not by me.

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Another real fire….

This turned into a gathering of friends. People like Steve (from Sheffield), Bob, Scott, Malcolm himself, Andy (Captain Tryanuary himself!), Deeekos, Jaz. None of us living anywhere near around the corner. Some had travelled 60 miles or so to be there. ALL of them loved this place.

Neil & Maureen (and I don’t know them personally) haven’t done anything overly complicated here. They’ve worked bloody hard. For an extended period of time. To breathe life into a moribund hostelry. To turn it into a cherished local. To give it that intangible thing that I so cherish (missing in almost all newer bars).

It’s called Soul.

And this place has it by the (wooden) barrel load.

It was, sadly, an all too brief visit. 5 hours (or so) does this pub no justice. But nonetheless, we said our farewells. As we headed to the train. With a little character from a previous blog post.

Meet Jack.

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Remember him? He’s quite soft when fed….

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Then it was into Tapped Leeds – nice to bump into Martin from Bridestones/Hebden Brew Co – then (stupidly) Cafe Beermoth back in Mancunia. And those Sirens of Beer – Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall (among many other good beer people of the parish – I’m sure Mr Clarke remembers my request?) – unsurprisingly, I was late home. That’s what being around good people does to you.

And no hashtag.

 

 

Home Beers – Jan 2016 : Pt 1

Happy New Year everyone! And Happy #Tryanuary!

I, for one, have absolutely NO intention of giving in to the detox mania that is hauling thousands in to a month of misery.

Be Happy. Happiness is seriously underrated.

Anyway, in the spirit of Tryanuary, I’ve been a bit busy. You’ll start seeing (and in some instances, tasting) the results shortly. Furthermore, in the same spirit, here are six recommendations for (hopefully) something new for you to try this month. Some will be limited, so better be quick!

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It’s Rather Hoppy DarlingCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewer. 

As Pale as a spring morning, golden and bright with a light white head pushing out a huge citrus and tropical aroma like a fruit salad chewy sweet, pineapple, kiwi, mango. Just so juicy on the nose!

Oh dear, oh dear is this GOOD! This thing is wearing a grass skirt and dancing a hula! Mango, passion fruit, kiwi dancing all around the mouth with a light digestive biscuit base. Just. So. Fruity.

The swallow is followed by a bracing bitterness and leaving a big hoppy resinous aftertaste. This is the first Beergasm of 2016 and no mistake!

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Citra PaleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Heaton Hops

Very pale golden colour, lively from the bottle shop was decanted, but nice white lacy head nonetheless with a big aroma booming out full of apricot, grapefruit and a squeeze of lemon.

Got my saliva glands going…..

Oh baby…. This is one pithy little beast.

Medium bodied, this beer hits you with tart astringent fruit, grapefruit and lemon to the fore here. The carbonation having softened after the decant, this is really smooth, fruity, but ultra dry.

Really dry. A tongue curler!

That Belgian yeast aids that dryness with a little peppery spice and helps to accentuate the dry slightly resinous hoppy finish.

Another special beer from Stalyvegas.

And only 60. I’m lucky. Grab one if you can.

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APABrewsmith Beers (Ramsbottom) – 5.0% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Direct from the brewer.

Brewsmith are in the early days of their bottled beers being in the wild. But, so far, so excellent. Everything top notch so far. But how will this stack against the Bitter, Oatmeal Stout & Gyle 50?

Mid golden in colour, a light thin white head emitting a lovely fragrance of tropical fruits, with peach, passion fruit and a hint of mango hitting the nose.

In the mouth? Light carbonation and a medium body. Really smooth on the tongue with lashings of mango and peach assailing the tongue, swiftly followed by a resinous hit of hop bitterness.

The second mouthful confirms the impressions of the first, but the hopping tastes and feels even more resinous and grassy following that tropical dance.

This is another superb beer from a brewery that have produced a range of bottles that just get more impressive as they go on.

Moderate strength Pale Ales and Stout? I wouldn’t look an awful lot further.

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  MadagascarGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck – N Yorkshire) – 5.4% abv – Vanilla Wheat Stout – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

A deep and dark brown, almost black, beer, with a warm ruby glow, a light mocha coloured head giving an aroma reminiscent of vanilla toffee ice cream, with a little molasses or rum note. Appetising.

Oh yes. Really smooth, medium to full bodied beer this is. Really beautifully chocolaty in the mouth with a sweet cocoa malt allied to a slightly more bitter chocolate. A little sweet vanilla intrudes as you run it around the mouth. Such an easy drinking beer this.

The second and subsequent mouthfuls reveal a little rum hint following the sweet chocolate taking you towards a dry chocolate and herbal hop finish.

Another lovely beer bought from an excellent shop/bar, Drink in Hebden Bridge which fell victim to the recent devastating floods that hit that beautiful old town.

Hope they’re cleaned up and sorted soon. Am sure to visit Hebden Bridge for a few beers shortly. This’ll be my first stop.

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NowtFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Stout – 750ml – Direct from the brewer.

This beer pours as black as Hades cellar, had a lacy coffee coloured head and gave off am aroma full of dark bitter chocolate, licorice and the merest hint of smokiness. In short, seductive.

Yes. Yes. YES! I feel like Meg Ryan in the cafe table scene! Oh shit but this is bloody stunning!!!

Full bodied and unctuous, this is creamy smooth. Hitting the bullseye with an initial bitter chocolate hit, this is quickly embraced by some seriously spicy licorice, just oozing out.

That licorice is augmented by that light smoky touch. What shocks slightly (although it REALLY shouldn’t!) is such a hoppy bitterness that follows it. And stays. Then the smokiness returns lingering through to a slightly sweet, yet dry smoky and bitter hoppy finish.

I yield to none in my love of Malcolm Bastow’s Pale Ales, but this is right up there with his best pales.

And THAT is (as The Velvelettes sang) really saying something.

Beergasm.

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XS Imperial StoutSaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 8.9% abv –Imperial Stout – 330ml – Bought from the brewery shop

I’ve held onto this for over 9 months since I bought this Hell black beer, with the slightest of fiery red tinge at the edges with a thin beige head and an aroma oozing out with vine fruits, old leather and a little sweet licorice.  Mmmmmm…..

Now then. It’s no surprise that I’m find of Imperial Stouts, but this is sooooo good! Rich, smooth, loaded with vine fruit that tastes like it’s soused with dark rum. Bitter espresso in here, with chocolate and a languorous smoky trace. This is just love…..ly!

Ooohhhhh, but this is so good. Those dark fruit flavours laden with sweet raisin just tingle, or maybe that’s the late hopping with Bramling Cross, but I’m just sinking in this here chair and luxuriating….

Yeah. Nice beer……  #Understatement

Bottled Beers – July 2015 Pt 1

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Can I bore you for a few minutes? About a facile phrase.

Back end of last week, my attention was brought to a piece by the blogging powerhouse that is Boak & Bailey. A particular paragraph was highlighted

“Of course beer is a business like any other – Richard Burhouse says it is ‘naive that people think breweries wouldn’t want to protect their brands’ – but for consumers who have bought into the admittedly facile mantra that ‘beer people are good people’, and an ideal of community co-operation between ‘little guys’, it is rather saddening.” (Click for the whole article)

Now then. I’m fairly certain (On the basis that I say little that is actually original) that I didn’t coin that phrase. But I have, however, been guilty of using it rather a lot. Let me explain why….

I started this “blog” in September 2012. With a rather innocuous and fumbling review of “Twisted Spire” by Hobsons Brewery (a beer that I still love). Its commencement – the blog – was inspired by a chat with Jaz & Jeff over a few beers in Brew Dog in Manchester. It has therefore now (does the maths) been nearly 3 years that I’ve been peddling this twaddle called an opinion.

Over those 3 years, I have met a phenomenal number of lovely people. People who wouldn’t have entered my affections if it wasn’t for writing about beer. These people are brewers, drinkers, great street food cooks, landlords etc. Good people.

These relationships – allied to the “beer writing”, all helped when I was asked to organise a beer festival for a dear friend last year. That festival became The Independant Salford Beer Festival. Within an hour of my initial panicky tweet about agreeing to do this, I was inundated with offers of help from brewers, drinkers and good Mancunians. I was overwhelmed by kindness. Good people.

In the lead up to the festival, I was stunned by how generous that brewers could be. Both with advice, help and their products. The vast majority of local beer people helped out either physically, or with publicity. Sometimes both. Food and drink bloggers waded in with offers of help. And tweeted their hearts out. All of these people helped the festival to sell out 3 of its 4 sessions. Good people.

I was swamped with offers to volunteer. From beer drinkers from not only Manchester, but also further afield. These people came together and put on a festival that people effused over. And helped to raise over £5k for the Community Centre in which it was held. Good people.

A close friend (Jeff – mentioned above) made a comment recently to me, along the lines that we seem to have found a band of brothers and sisters since that festival that now can call each other “friends” – and in a non-Facebook way. Real friends that seem to share common viewpoints on a variety of subjects. Good people

I love Manchester. I love it’s people. I love the beers brewed here, to the extent that I firmly believe that the brewing scene of Manchester needs bend the knee to no city. And that includes London.

I’m a fairly nice kind of bloke online – where beer is concerned. However, I have – on occasion – come across those from outside this fine city, who opine on this city’s shortcomings and spout nonsense about its beer scene and pubs/bars. Thinking that they know better. They don’t. At the risk of sounding pompous, I will defend this city and it’s beer scene like a lioness defends her cubs. As some have found.

Where am I going with this? I’m not really sure. I rarely am. But what I am sure of, (though the word “facile” may indeed apply to the simplistic phrase that I use, certainly in the context of the B&B piece) is that – in my experience – the people that I have come across over the last 3 years in Manchester, be they brewers, drinkers, and all those in between, people I have met as a direct result of this tosh that I spout, ARE good people.

So. If I may be so bold, Manchester Beer People Are Good People.

If Cornwall wasn’t so bloody far away, I’d invite B&B to come and have a beer in October!

Done. We move on to the important stuff. Northern beers. In bottles. I am a Northern beer fascist!

The Beer

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1. Sorachi AceCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.8%abv – Pale Ale – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

The smell of candied lemons assailed me as I opened this big bottle. I thought of decanting, but I chose the decadence of two glasses. Almost copper coloured in its golden depth. I couldn’t wait…..

Fruity. Really deep and fruity. Deep orange, sticky, resinous. Then something more drying and tart. Big malt spine to this and it is a very balanced beer with the fruit, the resinous hop dry sticky thing and  a decent whack of bitterness too. Then, comes a lemony bite in the aftertaste. Just to finish things off with a flourish.

Classy beer. I’d expect nothing less from Mr Swindells. An underrated brewer if ever there was one.

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2. Oberon (Session IPA) – Wharfe Bank Brewery (Pool in Wharfedale) – 4.2 % abv – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

Pouring an ultra Pale straw gold, this beer has a light white head and an aroma full of peach with a light fresh bready background.

Light to medium bodied, immediately by with peach and orange fruitiness on a freshly baked bread malty base. Right up my street. This fruitiness is then mugged by a bitter hit, courtesy of the Centennial hops. Perfectly judged on that bitterness too, not too much.

The finish is light and clean, with a nice hoppy aftertaste and a nice resinous hint. Not too intrusive.

This is (as you would expect), a really refreshing beer, Smooth, easy drinking and perfect for a warm summers day.

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3. Hoptical IllusionBrass Castle Brewery (Malton, N. Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Sorghum Pale Ale – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

This amber coloured beer is officially “Gluten Free” given its use of the Sorghum grain, the head is light and white and there is a big piney nose on this. Making my mouth water!

Ooh…. This is different! There is a deeper grainy flavour to this, really dry, almost (But not quite) rye like, very earthy. Very moreish. The hops are the next thing that you notice, there are plenty of them too, with some lovely tropical fruit flavours dancing around that grain.

The finish is, as you might guess, really dry and slightly spicy with quite a hop hit lingering on. This is a very interesting beer indeed from a brewery whose beers get better with each one that I try.

IMAG03044. EquinoxNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Beer Central (Sheffield) – £3.20

Oh wow! This ultra Pale golden beauty is singing in full voice “smell my fruit”! There is bloody loads going on under this light and soft white head. Carmen Mirandas headwear wasn’t as vivid as this. There’s a bit of gooseberry, plenty of tropical stuff too. Oh my.

In the mouth, this medium bodied belter explodes with flavour. There’s some mango, gooseberry tartness, piney nonsense too. All wrapped up in an envelope of all encompassing bitterness. This, my friends, is an absolute corker! My gums are tingling!

This has just got me smiling from ear to ear. That big old bitterness eventually subsides into a sticky piney aftertaste, waiting patiently, for that bitterness to give it permission to step forward.

What. A. Beer. (And we’ll have a collab special from NRB/Five Towns/Me for you at Salford. You ARE lucky. Oh yes you are!)

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5. Sorachi PaleTickety Brew (Stalybridge) – % abv? — Pale Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer : I got this from the brewery direct. Unlabelled. No idea of abv. No intention to review it. Until I tasted it.

Pale golden in hue with tart lemon and grapefruit aromas simply leaping from the lively white head, this is full of promise from the off!

Medium bodied with a light biscuity malt flavour that just about manages to balance some lovely sharp hoppage. This is one refreshing beer! The tart citric lemon with a dash of lime is making my saliva glands do overtime and almost making me miss that light signature Belgian yeasty spice. Yum.

Lovely juicy beer this, light, sharp and perfect summer drinking – even THIS late in the evening (it was near midnight – on a school night too!) That spiciness returns in the finish, which is very dry but with a nice hoppy remnant to keep it company.

Tickety Brew just keep getting better!

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(Clip – Because I forgot to take a pic – Oops, sorry!)

6. OzarkTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Pale as a spring morning, golden and light with an abundance of white foamy head giving off masses of citrus aroma. Mango, orange and a little hint of lemon sharpness. Tantalising.

Oh this is such a smooth beer in the mouth! Bigging up the mango initially, this is really fruity. As the medium bodied mouthful descends down the throat, I suddenly noticed that the bitterness is really dialed down aiding the impression of smoothness.

Following the swallow is a slide into a nice hoppy slightly resinous finish. Not too abrupt. This is just a really well made Pale Ale from one of the newer “kids on the block” in Manchester.

Glad to have them around!

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7. India Pale Ale (Simcoe) – Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewers

Another disclosure…..Another freebie with no intent to review etc,,,,

Mid golden in colour and with a light and dissipating white head with an aroma full of passion fruit allied with a hint of tangy apricot. A Big fruity aroma.

Full bodied with wholemeal bready malt with the fruity aromas translated well into a juicy fruity mouthful, a veritable grocers box with apricot uppermost. This is supported by tropical fruits and a gentle note of melon.

Finishing off this satisfyingly bitter beer is a big sticky piney aftertaste.

Another excellent IPA from this Ardwick brewery. Seek it out.

IMAG03248. One At T’EndFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct

This man lines his hops. This deep golden, almost amber coloured beer, poured lively, leading to a large white head with whole groves of mango and tropical fruits leaping from the glass. This, is one hoppy aroma!

At 6.7%, this is a big, big beer. Full bodied, there is a real depth of fruity flavour in this. Peach, mango, blood orange all fight for prominence in this totally juicy beer.. The low bitterness aids this beer in slipping down all to easily taking you to a real resinous, sticky finish with marmalade tones adding to that stickiness.

The fruitiness fades in the aftertaste and reminds me of melon and rounds off this beer so well.  A Beergasm. It’s that good!(Last time I checked, there was some of this at Bierhuis in Ossett and Drink at Hebden Bridge)

IMAG03279. MarxBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 3.7% abv – (Oak Smoked) Wheat Beer – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Hazy and golden, with a light fluffy white head. The aroma reflects the oak Smoked wheat and is reminiscent of Smokey Bacon crisps – An unfairly neglected crisp flavour in my eyes!

Yup. That light smokiness carries through into the mouth. Nice carbonation leads to quite a full bodied feel, quite creamy mousse textured. A bit like Angel Delight mashed up with a pack of Frazzles actually!

For all that the thought of bacon may put some off, this is really refreshing and an excellent beer in this current “heatwave”. The smokiness is augmented by a little clove spice and maybe a hint of coriander leaf. Nice beer this – and I love the Salford linkage with some of the Communist Manifesto being inspired by the then conditions of Salford workers. Nice!

And. I’ve only just realised that each of these breweries WILL have a beer at ISBF2015

Well. That shallot for the moment. Maybe one more bottle post before I shut down the blog……for the summer, so I can focus on ISBF2015! Subliminal blogging at it’s worst! (I honestly didn’t know until I’d finished!)

Slainte.

Bottled Beers – April 2015 – Pt 2

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I’m going to bookend this piece with 2 “thoughts” – for those who like my music related wafflings, they’ll be back soon enough.

Firstly, the CAMRA Bolton Beer Festival. I went last weekend and was chuffed to bits to see it substantially busier than the same time last year. I now appreciate far more the effort that goes into curating a beer festival. You need a team (as I also learned!) and this team selected some excellent beers. So much so, that this is the best small CAMRA festival I’ve been to. Well worth the visit next year. Congratulations to Graham, Pete, Linda, Jez and everyone else involved.

And now….to business…..

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Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.0%abv – Blonde Ale – 500ml – From the Brewery.

Luckily for me, a family outing took me close to Congleton last weekend. My reward, picking up some of Mr Swindells’ excellent beers – and nearly becoming a light lunch for a one year old terrier / guard dog of doom!

A slightly hazy light golden beer with a decent white tight foamy head and an aroma with lemon, orange and a hint of gooseberry.
Light initial sweetness yielding ground to a little tart lemon & lime and quite a sticky dry resinous touch in the aftertaste. Quite abrupt that! Bit of a surprise.

Further down the glass, a rather lovely marmalade flavour comes through which is right up my street!

This medium bodied beer works the trick. Nice and fruity, gently tart and hugely refreshing. A superb beer for a summer’s day relaxing outside in a nice beer garden.

If all 4% beers tasted something like this, I’d have no complaints. Yum.

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(I REALLY need a new camera!)
Tractor Beer IITickety Brew (Tickety Few – Stalyvegas) – 3.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)
Oh my is this a lively beastie! Ultra Pale golden beer, abundant head and a huge aroma kicking or loads of lime citrus and gooseberry. Mouth wateringly aromatic.

Light bodied as you would expect from such a low abv beer. The carbonation lends it a fuller texture than I was expecting. The flavours are sharp citrus with some lime and lemon in there, making this really refreshing and it cut through my dulled taste buds.

The finish is short and dry with a little of that fruit and a spicy dryness imparted by that Belgian yeast that TB use

As it says on the label “super light” and very easy drinking. A Ronseal beer (which is a GOOD thing!)

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EllaMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4%abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Heaton Hops
Ahhhh….It feels like AGES since I’ve had a bottle of Mallinsons!
Pale gold, almost straw coloured, with a good lacy white head and an aroma that is like a lung full of tangerine and apricot vapours.

And those flavours are totally present in this light to medium bodied beer. WOW! This is a sharp and tart little number and no mustangs! (Or mistake. Depending on your predictive text!) Initial fruity sweetness and then BANG. A crackling bitterness mugs the fruitiness and stomps on it!

This is a massively refreshing and snappy beer. That fruitiness dries off swiftly leaving a residue of sticky pine coating the tongue. Just a brilliant Pale Ale. From the Queens of Huddersfield.

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Play Your Cards Rye’tBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Copper Rye Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Not too sure about that copper bit. This is almost a red Ale with a nice white collar pushing out a dark fruity nose with more than a note of peppery spice in there.

Yup. Fruity. Burnt orange, lending a bitterness along with (strangely) a hint of strawberry? This is medium bodied and Oh. So. Dry. Rye & Dry. Seem to go together don’t they?

This gets the saliva glands going and almost immediately throws up a huge STOP sign. Nicely spicy from the Rye too. A big drying finish with a lingering splash of orange.

A superb beer. These Black Jack bottles just get better. (But if they can beat their own Deerhunter…… THAT would be an achievement!)
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IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6%abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops
A new beer from Shindigger. A pleasingly gradual expansion of their range, this is a deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a decent white head and a deep and spicy orange marmalade aroma. Yum.

Medium bodied, the oranges almost ooze out of this into the mouth. So juicy. Good malt backbone with a light toffee flavour allowing the fruitiness to rise above. There is also a slightly fragrant quality that I can’t quite identify. This marmalade character lingers for some time, fading only slightly, allowing a medium bitterness in to play.

The whole package is wrapped up with a resinous bow, slightly sticky and a little peppery. This is another excellent beer. They are yet to miss a beat for me.

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Satanic MillsBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton U Lyne)
A deep deep dark ruby, almost black beer, with a cream coloured tight creamy head and a nose full of chocolate, a little sweet coffee and a nose wrinkling spicy touch.

Smooth and creamy in the mouth, quite full bodied this. The first flavour to register is a bittersweet chocolate, then a note of rum and maybe raisins (anybody remember “Old Jamaica” chocolate? No? I REALLY am an old git!) with a deep fruity tone.
A second sip gives more of the same, but introduces a little peppery spice to the tongue. This is really smooth. The chocolate and fruit lead to a dry chocolatey finish. A satisfying beer for a cool spring evening.
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Grounds for DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.8%abv – Belgian Tripel – 500ml – Direct from the Brewery
My Beer of the Festival at ISBF. I only managed a sneaky half. And I organised it. Bad planning! I was horrified that it ran out before I could snaffle more. So Malcolm sorted me out a 750ml bottle. The Atilla drank that! Some things just aren’t meant to be…..Or are they?
Fermented with the yeast used by Brasserie Orval in their eponymous classic, this poured a hazy straw gold with an abundant but swiftly diminished white head and the aromas of…. peach, banana, a little clove…. Just… Mmmmmm….

This. Is. A. Big. Beer. Yum! Initial sweetness, sticky with bitter orange and peach then more fruitiness with banana bringing up the rear with a proper spicy hit riding it with a whip over the first fence! (I drank this on Grand National evening, forgive me!)

That fruitiness is almost overwhelming!  I don’t really know Belgian beers all that well, but I absolutely adore this. Fruity, spicy and warming as it slides into my belly. On a cool spring evening, with a good book, what could be better!

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Carl Northern Alchemy
Now. That bookend.
Some of you may know Andy Heggs, he of the excellent video blog series Hop On The Bike. Well, on one of his trips, he and his fellow Hoppers collaborated on a beer at a brewery called Northern Alchemy in Newcastle. The beer that they created – a Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA no less – is being launched at Font Bar on Sunday. All proceeds to go to the admirable charity Forever Manchester.
As a regular proponent of the maxim “Beer People Are Good People”, it didn’t surprise me at all, when several beery linked people donated a number of items to be used as raffle prizes. Take it from me that there are some astonishingly good prizes in there!
This event is easy to attend. And let’s face it, it’s in FONT!!! If you needed any more reason to go for Christ’s Sake????
You can read my review of a sneaky advanced bottle of the Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA below. Tickets for this event are free. Click on the link hereThis event deserves to be a HUGE success. For the following reasons…
  • It’s for a brilliant and worthwhile charity.
  • There are loads of great prizes that you could win
  • It’s in FONT for crying out LOUD!!!
  • You can even MEET THE BREWER
  • Read on….

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Marmalade & Assam Tea IPANorthern Alchemy & Hop On The Bike – 7.3%abv – IPA – 330ml

The moment I popped the crown cap off, I was assaulted by orange zest aromas. From the bottle! Drool.

This is a murky dark amber in the glass, the white head in clinging and persistent and the smell is just….. Deep orange with a toffee undernote for it to ride.

Oh my giddy f***ING aunt but this is astonishingly good! Chewy and full-bodied, the first sip is like the best use of marmalade since Paddington last licked his paw. So good. Then the tannins from the tea give your drooling tongue a rub down and dry it off. Oh dear…

This is SO dry it’s almost rye like. The fruitiness floods your tongue from front to back and it is a real orange marmalade bass note. This is like a Peter Hook bass line, made beer.

The finish is sticky fruity and oh so resinous. It’s an absolute belter.

Go to Font on Sunday. Drink excellent beer. Spend money. Win Prizes. And do amazing things for this excellent charity.
Win. Win and thrice WIN!
On that note….I’m off to Peterborough to gorge myself on Oakham beers at a family 40th.
Hopefully see you on Sunday!
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2015

Bottles don’t appear to have been a priority in the last few weeks. Which isn’t of itself a bad thing. It’s always nice to get out to some excellent hostelries, as I have done for the last month or so.

However, I have also been lucky enough to come across some absolutely belting beers (including the best bottle I’ve had this year so far!) So, with neither further blather nor ado….Let’s begin!

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Body SnatcherBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2 %abv – BitterBrowtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

A golden beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma slightly sweet and fruity with peach and a hint of apple.

Medium bodied, this beer has that slightly sweet fruity initial flavour with again peach  and some stewed plum and forest fruit and a flowery fragrant flavour that I can’t quite pick, backed up with a bracing bitterness.

That sweetness gives way to quite a grassy and resinous aftertaste and finish. This takes me back to beers from my youth, maybe just a wee bit more bitter. And that’s no bad thing!

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Small SaisonBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale straw yellow beer with a light persistent fluffy head giving a spicy yeasty nose with notes of banana and a little gooseberry.

Oh yes. This’ll do Monkey! Tart, dry and spicy. Banana again upfront, but soon retreats in the face of some sharp and tart lemon notes which in turn yield ground to that yeasty Saison spiciness. Yum.

Second mouthful and there’s a little Sauvignon Blanc winey sharpness and tartness, that tartness leading to a short and very dry spicy finish. An incredibly refreshing beer.

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Triptych No 3Wiper and True (Bristol) – 6.7%abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)

Copper golden in colour, lively carbonation giving a big white head and an aroma reminding me of orange toffee.

Big bodied beer this. Smooth textured and really fruity with peach, orange marmalade and a hint of blackcurrant lurking at the back, also an almost yeasty dryness to finish on the swallow. Mmmm….

This beer doesn’t hide its strength as it’s quite warming as it slides down. More fruit in the second mouthful, with plum and more hedgerow blackberry sitting on top of the marmalade, jammy and spicy. The finish is fruity and dry leading to a sticky herbal and slightly resinous aftertaste. A proper English IPA. Big and fruity and beautiful.

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JOEFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 4.7%abv – Coffee IPAEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown beer with a light and fluffy white head and an aroma of woah….. Cold coffee. Mmmmmm…….

And oh yes…. That coffee comes through loud and clear! Lovely smooth and bitter coffee flavour in full effect but with quite a spicy hop kick at the end.

Smooth and medium bodied in the mouth, this is as good as it was on cask. The coffee is potent enough, the bitterness of the brew being added to by the grassy hops that come through in the finish.

When I first heard of this, it sounded ludicrous. But it works. Really well. Black coffee and hops. What’s not to love?

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Mint Choc StoutTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 5.2% abv – StoutEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown almost black beer with a cream coloured lacey head with a light aroma of chocolate powder and spearmint.

Another of their limited bottle “Tickety Few” range, this is medium bodied and really smooth. The flavours are really subtle and take a while to reveal their charms. First up is the chocolate, which manages the trick of not being too sweet.

Second mouthful gives a little of the mint which is very subtle and takes some finding. This may be down to using mint leaves as opposed to any extracts, which is to be applauded.

Further mouthfuls build on the minty hint and the beer takes on a pleasing kind of light mint Aero quality. The signature Belgian yeast lends its hand to a rapidly drying finish and also imparts a spicy note to proceedings.

Another really nice beer from this increasingly impressive brewery. I’d love to try this on cask.

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Calibration SourChorlton Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.3% abv – SourBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale golden and lightly hazy with a decent white head and a lightly sour and Orangey citrus aroma from the addition of Amarillo hops.

Hmmm…. A palate cleanser and no mistake. The first sip had me salivating like a rabid dog! This is surprisingly enjoyable (and I say that because Sour beers aren’t exactly my “go to” style)

Yes it is sharp and has a saliva inducing acidity, but this beer isn’t as enamel stripping as some sours that I’ve had. This has a distinct citrus fruitiness working in harmony with the sourness making it a very thirst quenching and (I go back to that phrase) surprisingly enjoyable!

The lingering aftertaste is quite marmaladey and dry.

An excellent beer. Looking forward to Dark Matter now!

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Imperial IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) 9.5% abv – Imperial IPA – Epicurean(W Didsbury)

Deep golden, almost copper coloured beer with an abundant yet quickly dissipating white head with a booming peach and Mango aroma with a hint of mandarin.

Drinks a lot easier than such a beer should! First sip reveals fruity sweetness, deep and quite savoury, heavy with mango. Almost a medicinal note – my mind off cure!

Warming and soothing add it slides down the throat too. I swear this could be just the thing to cure my little chest problem!

Big chewy malt base that these hops dance on that fruitiness is ever-present and fades only slightly into a big sticky resinous aftertaste. Impressive.

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Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

A bright golden beer with thick white head and a hugely fruity nose with gooseberry and a little orange in there.

Oh bloody hell this is good! That gooseberry upfront is bloody tart in this medium bodied belter. The fruitiness dries out almost immediately making me pocket my lips and suck in my cheeks like a Les Dawson housewife sketch! Wow that is dry!

That arid fruitiness is backed up by a bracing bitterness too and the whole is tied up with a resinous bow of an aftertaste and finish.

I had this as one of my beers at MBCF this year. That was good, but this is so much better! Woof!

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Smokehouse PorterCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.2%abv – Porter – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
I had to hunt this beast down, having been told by a colleague who saw it in the Cheshire Smokehouse in Altrincham. It was worth it!

A big dark brown almost black beer with a creamy beige head and an aroma full of chocolate and dark fruits with just a hint of wood smoke.

Oh my. This is a proper beer.

Full bodied beer this. An initial chocolate sweetness slides into a chewy fruitiness full of dark fruit. This, in turn, yields palate space to a little salty tang before that smokiness pushes to the front. At this point, my gums are tingling.

A second mouthful and the dates make their chewy fruitiness more felt, merging and blending with the chocolate to make more than the sum of their parts. In the aftertaste, I don’t know if it’s from the dates, but this starts to have a dessert wine note to it, slightly – but not overly – sweet and gently warming.

This is one hell of a beer. And one which feels as if it would just love to be drunk along with a slab of rich fruit cake. And I have another bottle. Which I’m saving for Xmas. To go with……

Bloody gorgeous stuff.

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OAPNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) / Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 9.6%abv – Double IPA – Direct from the brewers.
I spoke to Malcolm Bastow shortly before his retirement from his career as a mental health nurse. He was going to focus on brewing full-time. Obviously, this required commemorating with a beer, so he arranged a collab with the fellow hop fiend Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough. I saw Stuarts’ tweet mentioning OAP DIPA. And given that they collaborated on my favourite DIPA so far, the mighty 300, I had to have it.

Quote the bottle label “May Cause Confusion” – Hmmm…. This Amber coloured beer has a light white fluffy head with a full aroma of mango and peach tropical fruitiness.

Oh me oh my!!! This is a bar room bully!!! Full bodied is an understatement, this is certainly a big beer. And knowing how much Stuart Neilson & Malcolm Bastow like their hops, I should have expected no less!

Christ on a bike, there is a bit of everything in here!  There is tropical peach & mango, there is a bit of grapefruit, there is a while bloody forest of resinous pine, this is just so damn juicy and….. Well…. BIG!

Chewy malt, with a little toffee biscuit sweetness, meets a hop store used without restraint. This is bloody gorgeous. And maybe the best DIPA I’ve had yet (and they brewed the previous best with their 300 collab!)

Just a big juddering, knee-trembling beergasm! The best bottle so far this year. (And I’ve had a few!)

Now, for breakfast and some serious loin girding, prior to this lunchtime’s Road To Wigan Beer bus. COME ON!!!!
Tune
“Beneath the stars there are the bars that serve the bitter drink
The barman smiles at me, his wife she gives a secret wink

They listen patiently to me, my story I unfold
I see their faces change, the lights grow dim I’m losing hold”

(“Life In The Air Age” – Be Bop Deluxe – Clip courtesy of #BeBopDeluxe via YouTube)
In about March 1979, whilst listening to John Peel on a feeble transistor radio under my blankets in a cold Salford bedroom, he played a track which rocked my 13 year old world. It was called “Art Empire Industry” and was from the album “Sound On Sound” by a band called Red Noise. Thus began my love affair with the music of Bill Nelson.
Eventually, over a number of retrospective purchases, I acquired his entire oeuvre to that point. The man can play guitar. He made a guitar sound like seagulls, trains, space ships. His playing entranced me. Be Bop Deluxe, were a rock band that Nelson formed in Yorkshire in about 1972. They only had one real hit single “Ships In The Night” which was taken from the Sunburst Finish album, as was the track above (although this is the live version from the Live In The Air Age live album (which was to promote the Sunburst Finish & Modern Music albums)
Bill Nelson was one of the first 5 live artists I saw & when he toured “Quit Dreaming” at Manchester Poly (Cavendish Hall) in May 1981. I last saw him perform tracks from his entire back catalogue at the Manchester Academy in 2004. To finally hear Be Bop Tracks performed live, by the man himself, brought me to tears.
The reason I’ve included this track, other than the fact that I adore it? Bill is originally from Wakefield. Five Towns territory.

Heaton Hops – 30/03/2015 – A Classy Micro Pub

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(I thought that it never rained in South Manchester?)

I am a lucky man sometimes. It certainly felt that way, when I received an invite to a “soft opening” of a brand new bar being opened by Damian O’Shea (of “The Ale Man Manchester” fame). My plans were made to meet Andy (of “Hop On The Bike” infamy) on the concourse at Piccadilly Station – complete with rose in lapel.

Then…..Public Transport shall we say….intervened.

It was hardly an auspicious start for this opening to take place in such foul weather. Let me honest here…..If it wasn’t a bar being opened by Damian and his partner Charlotte, I wouldn’t have stepped on the bus. But I did. And I could have nearly walked quicker! As it was, I got off on Bridge Street in Manchester and marched to Piccadilly…well in advance of the bus that I’d left.

Then….

I caught the wrong train. And ended up at Manchester Airport. Yes. I know. I AM an utter idiot. Right time, wrong platform it would appear. Should have gone to Specsavers eh? Right. Back on the same train and return to Piccadilly and start with a clean slate. And more caution!

So I now find myself on Heaton Moor Road, crossing the A6 from Heaton Chapel train station onto School Lane. In the pouring rain. (I’m SUCH a poet!)

I tell you. Odysseus had less of a journey to get a beer! Homer (No. Not the yellow one!) would be proud of me. And be readying his stylus and wax tablet for a sequel!

The windows were steamy. A good sign that it was busy.

Opening the door. First impressions? Classy. Neutral paintwork on the walls, REAL wood cladding on the ceiling and upper portions of the walls, pendant lighting. It looked great. To be honest, anything less would have been disappointing. I’ve known Damian as a customer for nearly 3 years and this was what I expected from him. It looked really good and serves as a lesson in how to do this – no names mentioned.

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(Busy)

It is (by its very nature as a converted shop) small. Including a downstairs area, the capacity is 60, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, a situation that is arrived at by the provision of a number of distressed wood tables giving plenty of seating, which was all occupied as I entered and strode to the bar.

Beers. 2 on cask and 8 on keg. But I needed a pint. And, for an opening night, to have cask beers from two local breweries, Brewsmith & Thirst Class Ale, was like music to my eyes and tastebuds. So, for me, as local as it gets with a pint of Green Bullet by Thirst Class Ale of Stockport – Nicely bitter with a fruity pine flavour and a resinous finish. I enjoyed it. I had a few.

On either side wall, there are shelves and shelving full of some of the best of British Craft brewing. The first thing that I saw was a few bottles of Smokehouse Porter by Cheshire Brewhouse. Now those who know me, will know that some of those were simply BOUND to end up in my bag!

Heaton Hops Thirst Class

(Photo courtesy of Richard Conway – aka Thirst Class Ale)

Next to the Smokehouse Porter were some bottles of my Best Bottle of 2014 – (Barrel Aged) Govinda, again by Cheshire Brewhouse. Next to that, Smoked Treacle Imperial Stout by Quantum. All 3 beers should be in any serious local beer drinkers stashes – they’re in mine. But I concede that I’m rarely serious!

The beer was going down well, assisted by my pal Des shoving up and letting me sit down and drip dry. The conversation flowed as much as the beer. As I’ve said on many occasions. “Beer People Are Good People” and these are the kinds of people that Damian has been serving from his stall these last few years. They like what he does (and sells) and many, like Des and Steve (Beer Nouveau) and myself, came from 15 miles or more to enjoy this new venue. And oh how we did.

I had a look downstairs where Damian & Charlotte have created a room from what would have been cellar space, again, a nice cool look to it. just calm and clean. Spot lighting – the only way given the low ceiling – gives it a warm feel. A nice cosy space.IMAG2766

(Downstairs)

Somebody had said that this was where “the cool kids” were tonight. If so, I don’t know where I fitted in! But there were a number of faces that I knew from Des & Steve, Andy, Richard (Thirst Class) and a number of the Manchester Home Brewer group, my old buddy Jeff, Paul & George (aka Shindigger). It was just a lovely relaxed gathering

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The Craft Keg selection was a pleasure to see too, with the local likes of Runaway, Shindigger, Cloudwater & Marble in among the likes of Weird Beard. Again, certain other new bars could take note of the number of local beers on offer. I found myself amazed that I had never had the Smoked Porter by Runaway on keg previously, so that was duly remedied. Repeatedly. A gentle smoky nose and a lovely creamy texture giving up a big roasty and lightly smoked character. Beautiful beer that.

I also had my first taste of a Cloudwater beer, their Table Beer. Refreshing and with a spicy almost Belgian yeasty note it felt like a wheat/pale ale hybrid and wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Being the talk of the town at the moment, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked what I think of Cloudwater. I shall reserve until I try a few more of their beers, but this wasn’t a bad start.

I also picked up a few bottles. Because, it would a) Be rude not to, and b) This is also an excellent bottle shop! So expect to hear more about some Cheshire Brewhouse, Offbeat, First Chop & Shindigger sometime soon!

In baseball terminology, I think that Damian & Charlotte have hit the ball out of the park here in many ways. The bar looks great. The beer choice is excellent. The background music was superb too – I abruptly broke off a conversation to exclaim “”Canopy” – The Cave Singers. Bloody hell this is a TUNE”! Most of all, by choosing this location. A bar of this type is bound to do well in The Heatons. And, for Northern oiks like me, it’s only a 3 minute walk from Heaton Chapel train station.

All in all – a result.

Postscript : It seems fitting that – given my disastrous journey TO Heaton Hops, that the return journey should also be a bit of a “mare”. A delayed train meant that I would have missed my last bus. Thanks therefore to Paul from Shindigger and his Uber account for getting me home!

Tune

“I have learnt there’s a magical spot at the hop
Come with me to the church on the corner the hop
There’s nuts and there’s crisps and there’s c-c-c-cola on tap
A good time had by those boys and those girls at the hop

Tell me what do you say (tell me what do you say)
Tell me what do you say….I tell you
Life begins at the hop, boys and girls”

(“Live Begins At The Hop” – XTC  – Clip courtesy thecatkeaton on You Tube)

In my library, there could only be one tune to finish this piece with! The mighty XTC on TOTP, things like this used to make my Thursday evenings worth staying in for when I was 14!

One of the greatest bands. Period.

Well. I better get off and gird my loins for Saturday and the Easter 2015 Road To Wigan Beer bus marathon. Come along and have beers you’ll have never tried before and the most fun you could have with your clothes on!

Slainte!

The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 Pt 1

“Kiss me goodnight and say my prayers, leave the light on at the top of the stairs
Tell me the names of the stars up in the sky.
A tree taps on the window pane, that feeling smothers me again
Daddy is it true that we all have to die?

At the top of the stairs
Is darkness”

(Tank Park Salute – Billy Bragg) *

Billy Bragg writes great songs. Like religion & politics, don’t argue with me over a pint on that one fact.

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(Just in case I forgot where I was drinking!)

Manchester is a great city. Whilst I have never been able to call it my actual home (hailing from Salford and now living in Bolton), it has been both my spiritual and cultural home from birth. I have experienced highs and lows, loved and lost in this great city. Many of my formative life experiences took place here, from shopping in Lewis’ as a kid (always forced to dress in “Sunday Best” – even though it was always Saturday!), to my “Stag” do in 1990 and beyond. This city is in my heart and soul and always will be.

It now also has a Beer Festival that can stand proud – shoulder to shoulder – with the best that CAMRA can offer.

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My day started with an early meet for some grub in a new “street food” style start up on Church Street, Northern Soul. The name harks to a musical genre that is one of my foundation stones and I was pleased to hear the exclusively “Northern” tuneage as I entered. Let me be quite clear. I am 50 this year, so, having not as many years left as some, I decided that I needed to try something new. After all, it IS #Tryanuary! That something, was Mac & Cheese. And these fellas made my heart sing whilst simultaneously hardening my arteries with a huge dose of dairy delight!

Mac & Cheese. With pulled pork. On a toastie. It’s up there. Oh yes. Good effort fellas!

This was Wednesday. That meant Trade Day. With the Arch-Nemesis having the week off, we had to go. After all, I have beery arm-twisting to do, what with #ISBF2015 in the planning stages!

But first, in true #Tryanuary spirit, a new pub to try. This was the Abel Heywood on Turner Street. Hydes 3rd City Centre outlet. It looks lovely, with lots of dark wood, comfy chairs, it has a nice pubby feel. The beer was Hydes (there IS a handpull for a Guest Beer I think) and was OK without being spectacular. IN good nick, but I wanted more punchy flavour than I got from either pint that I tried. Shame. But a lovely pub nonetheless. Boutique Hotel upstairs too!

Having tagged along with some reprobates, Darren, Damian & Des, we sauntered off for the tram and a mere 20 minutes later was outside the Velodrome.

The best and simplest way to sum up my initial feelings was that the Regional CAMRA people had listened to the gripes from last year. OK, you can’t move the toilets, but at least a sizeable percentage of good beers were on the concourse, NEAR the loos!

On the Wednesday, I spent almost all of my time at ground level and Bars 3 & 4. Because I was yakking. And talking. And chatting. And not drinking very much at all! I set myself a list of 12 beers to try (read here) and managed to get through 6 of them that afternoon. They were all glorious in their different ways.

The first beer that I was going for was one that breaks my Beer Fest Rule #1. Tactical drinking means going from light in alcohol and progressing through the range of abvs to something considerably….heavier. In late November, The Arch-Nemesis & I did a bit of stirring & shovelling at Quantum to help brew an Imperial Buckwheat Stout (read here). So, to guarantee a taste, it had to be first. However, then I saw Experimental Citranell from Mallinsons and plans changed. Sharp, fruity and bitter, it was a perfect livener from a brewery that just can’t go wrong.

I simply HAD to sample the Imperial Buckwheat Stout next. Didn’t I? Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans! That beer was SO smooth and SO bloody drinkable, it should carry a health warning! It most certainly didn’t taste anything LIKE 8.5%! So Smooth, it just slid down effortlessly. Creamy textured and so roastily good. Jay just makes damn good beer.

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Having finally met the majesterial Shane Swindells, and being in need of something light after the head spinning IBS, I opted for Cheshire Set from Cheshire Brewhouse, pale, light and spritzy, nice and sharp tasting with the Keyworth Early hops, this was a beauty. A beer that – if it was the only beer on a bar – I could drink all night and have no complaints. Had a long chat with Shane, a thoroughly entertaining bloke who just happens to make some of the best beers in the North. IMO of course! I wandered for a few minutes and when I returned, it was to the comment “He knows his stuff, he does” from the Arch-Nemesis. Jaz is a good judge of people as well as beer.

Another on my list was  Jester from North Riding, another punchy, fruity Pale Ale from Mr Neilson with big tropical citrus flavours and crackling bitter dry finish. Was a nice surprise to see one of Stuarts’ beers over here, only made me even more gutted not to see his old mucker Five Towns beers missing. One of these days eh…..?

Next up was the  smooth & nutty Coconut, Macadamia & Lime Porter from the ever reliable Allgates. Beautiful nutty aroma promising and delivering all the way down the glass. Silky smooth and loaded with toasty coconut and creamy Macadamia, my favourite nut.

The final beer I had was another Imperial Stout, similar in strength to the Quantum,  but this actually tasted all of its 8.2% (and was none the worse for it) Annexation by Brass Castle. Roasted. Potent. Port Wine. Worked for me and contributed to my rather hollow feeling at work the next morning! Was glad to (just) catch Ian from the brewery and prep him for another beer for my little October bash – remember, the Hazelnut Mild went down a storm!

First impressions? Lots of tables on ground level. Result. Friendly service. Loads of great company and lots of arms twisted for next October. A great afternoon/evening with good beer and good people. To be fair (and I think most posts I have seen DO reflect this) the organisers listened. And, in my opinion (for what it’s worth) got it spot on.

I really enjoyed talking to some great local brewers. Shane, Richard from Thirst Class Ale, Steve (Beer Nouveau), Matt & Dom from Rammy Craft and many more. So many, that it got in the way of my drinking! I think that it’s called “networking”! More beer in Part 2.

Slainte!

*On a sad note, this piece is dedicated to a dear close friend who passed away recently after a long, incredibly brave and dignified battle with Cancer. A man who brightened the days of many and helped me – in particular – through some seriously shit times. He loved a bit of Billy Bragg and this song just seemed to fit. A class act and an inspirational friend.

Sleep well Phil.

Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2015 – My “Dance Card” Dozen

Next week is the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 – Are you going? If it’s anything like last year, it’s going to be special!

The Velodrome is a simply iconic venue, allied to great beers. LOTS OF GREAT BEERS! An almost overwhelming choice with beers from all over the UK and a huge selection of quality beers just from the North for little old me to amuse myself with!

From nearly 450 casks alone (Not to mention Ciders and the “foreign” beer bar), picking my personal “Dance Card” is going to be really difficult, but I’m going to give it a shot. Here goes…..

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Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum (Stockport) – 8.5% abvImperial Stout. At 8.5% abv, this is going to be a gentle waltz rather than a furious Can Can, but I just have to try it. A dark as sin Imperial Stout with all of the creamyness of Buckwheat. Fermented using Boddingtons yeast and inoculated with Brettanomyces, this is a beer I have looked forward to since we finished stirring the mash. A mash that was even THICKER than Katie Hopkins! This will be the first time that it is served in public. I can’t wait!

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Coconut, Macadamia & Lime PorterAllgates (Wigan) 4.6% abvPorter – One of Allgates “Limited Edition” beers that I’m yet to try on cask and inspired by a cake enjoyed in a Kirkby Lonsdale tea shop! I had a mini-cask of this at Xmas and it was beautiful , smooth & nutty from the toasted coconut and creamy macadamia. The lime element is very subtle and provides a tint of lightness in the dark.

Mallinsons

Experimental CitranellMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – For me, Mallinsons just nail low to mid strength Pale Ales. In this regard they have few equals. With Exp 366, Citra & Centennial hops, this already has my mouth watering!

 

PsychedelicHebden Bridge (Er…Hebden Bridge!) – 5% abvPale Ale – An American style Pale ale just LOADED with 5 Citrus fruits. AND, because it was the first firkin to sell out at ISBF and I didn’t get NEARLY enough of it! It got rave reviews at St Sebastians, so I’m hugely looking forward to this!

Five Oh

Sorachi WickedFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – The first beer to sell out at ISBF and another one that garnered rave reviews. I tried a 1/3rd. It was bloody LUSH!!!! Then, just when I wanted another? It had gone. I was just TOO damned kind to you drinkers! Only the second time that Jamie has casked. You NEED this in your life!

North Riding

JesterNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – Stuart Neilson just makes superb Pale Ales. Fresh and bursting with hops. This is with a new hop variety (Jester) and – if I know Stuart – he won’t have held back on the quantities! A rare appearance over here.

Bridestones

Sprocket Wort OrangeBridestones (Hebden Bridge) / Offbeat (Crewe) – 4.6% abvSpecial Dark Ale – This one is one of the collaboration brews especially for the festival. Chocolate, Orange, Juniper & Sorachi Ace hops? Oh my! I feel another Beergasm coming on!

Cheshire Brewhouse

Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4% abvPale Ale – A crisp blonde ale from Shane Swindells with loads of late-added Keyworth Early hops? Sounds like an early doors beer that is too good to miss, from a brewery whose beers I drink whenever I find them. Because they are THAT good.

Brass Castle

AnnexationBrass Castle (Malton, North Yorks) – 8.4% abvImperial Stout – Inspired by the renewed expansionism of Putin, this looks one NOT to miss! “Smooth like the Volga and as bonkers as Putin”….Works for me! Brass Castle made one of the Beers of the Festival at ISBF and this is another I’ll be reaching for.

Black Flag

FangBlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 4.5% abvPale Ale – Had this in bottle whilst in Cornwall in August and it is an absolute fruity belter. Smooth with a piney kick in the finish. Have never seen them up here. If it’s on, I’ll be damned if I miss this!

Offbeat

Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat (Crewe) – 4.8%IPA – This San Diego inspired IPA is one I’m yet to have from one of my favourite breweries. And from what I’ve heard from some trusted drinkers, is not to be missed. And it won’t be. By me at least!!!

Rat

Workhouse RatRat (Huddersfield) – 4.8% – Smoked Porter – Whenever I see a Rat, I just have to. Because they are just SUCH good beers.

Well, I make that a round Dirty Dozen. Should be enough to keep me entertained next week! If there are any that you particularly fancy, bang it in the comments. Who knows, I might try one or two!