The Inexorable Rising Of A Yeast Driven Brewery – Tickety Brew MTB 25/06/2015 – The Prairie Schooner in Urmston

cropped-by-the-river-2

(Ruthlessly appropriated from Website!)

My relationship with the beers of Tickety Brew didn’t exactly get off to a flying start. The first beer that I tried was Dubbel. I am no connoisseur of Belgian beer, (some would argue of any beer at all!) so the Belgian yeast thing….didn’t gel with me. A bold move, in the age of ever-increasing IBUs and hop rates, but – initially, I just didn’t get it.

I tried the Pale, more my kind of thing. And the yeast thing, didn’t seem to bother me so…..

I loved the idea of a couple making a bold move into brewing. And doing something different. Then there was the branding. Simply astonishingly distinctive.

IMAG1885

You will never mistake a Tickety Brew beer for anything else on a shelf! They nailed it from the off.

There were two moments that sealed their place in my heart.

The first was the ludicrous attack by Halewood International, who – conglomerate that they are – sought to bully a small independent Micro. All over a catchphrase. “Tickety Boo”. For some reason, they thought that people might be confused into buying a tasty beer made with Belgian Yeast, when they actually wanted sweetened alcoholic pap. TB was seriously under threat. A new young brewery, trying to make their way in the world.

Twitter was pissed off. And Twitter does pissed off REALLY well.

Halewood saw sense. Hoorah for Twitter and Hoorah for Tickety Brew!

The next moment was directly beer related.

In 2014, Stockport Beer Festival created a Bar Nouveau, with all new local beers. One of them was Black IPA, by Tickety Brew. It blew me away. It was my favourite beer of the festival. And there were some BLOODY GOOD BEERS there too.

I met Duncan Barton (Owner/Head Brewer) over a beer or 91 at a recent Home Brew Off at Brew Dog. It’s not difficult to dazzle me with technical knowledge of brewing. But he did. And his passion for beer shone through. So, when I heard a rumour about an MTB with the aforementioned Mr Barton. I hopped on the bus (see what I did there Mr H?). And the train.

Two hours later (and NO diversions), I arrived here

IMAG0312

I had never visited the Prairie Schooner. Urmston hasn’t drawn me for over 30 years. But this looked VERY promising. Busy. Good beers on tap. A Meet The Brewer. And a chat with some good friends. Nice outside drinking area too out front!

IMG_2119

I was expecting a little Micro Pub. What I got was a charming distinctly two roomed bar with functional tables and bar stools to the front, with a really cosy space at the rear with some comfy chairs. Really charming place.

There were 5 beers on cask, served on gravity dispense from Slaters; (a rare outing up North for Kent’s) Caveman – with an excellent refreshing Citra Pale Ale and 3 from Stalyvegas’ own…

Following a good beery chat with Jeff, Dec and (Urmston’s own) Mr Heggs, Mr Barton stepped forward. With a pint of the Wit (luckily, he actually lives just around the corner!) And he was a natural. Talking about their formation in 2013 and how it enabled Keri & himself to spend more time with their young family, their decision to go with the Belgian yeast and be Yeast led rather than hop focussed and their gradual expansion to the point where they export their beers to Italy.

A question was asked as to how they trial their beers and experiment, I loved the self-effacing way in which Duncan discussed how they make their experimental “Tickety Few” range by what feels right. No small-scale test brews, just getting on with it. And how several of those beers have ascended to the regular or core range, like Jasmine Green Tea, Coffee & Star Anise Porter & Rose Wheat Beer.

DSC_0326

Q : “Why a railway arch in Stalybridge”? A : Cheaper than Manchester….

This just felt really relaxed and informal. The customers interacting with the brewer, rather than bowing down and worshipping.

Duncan praised his assistant brewer Paul Walker, whilst simultaneously feeling wistful that Paul would be the one to brew a new beer “Manchester Tart”, (loads of raspberries, vanilla……). There were a few murmured “Can’t wait for that”…..

DSC_0339DSC_0338

That is one of the things that has impressed me consistently with the beers that the brewery have put out this last 12 months. A sense of evolution, not revolution. Not following anyone else, but ploughing their own creative furrow. For those that know (and now those that didn’t!), TB have a regular outlet for their beers at the Crown & Kettle in Manchester. I think that I can say without fear, that over the last 9 months or so, each beer from their brewery that I have had on cask, just seems to get better and better. Consistently excellent and constantly improving.

To a stage where they are up there in my favourite 3 breweries (and there is a lot of competition for that in Manchester alone!)

The three TB beers on the bar were Pale (the darkest Pale Ale I think I’ve ever seen), NZ Pale (a MUCH paler offering) and their Wit. Each really refreshing with that slight spicyness from the yeast probably more prominent in the Pale.

I’ve spoken with Keri on a number of occasions now. Bit of an unsung heroine…… And I’ve managed to chat with Duncan a couple of times now too, they’re good people. They work well as a team up in Stalybridge. And churn out some – quite simply – outstandingly good beer.

I have a feeling that they may be putting in an appearance at a certain beer festival in late October….. 😉

IMG_2119

This was an excellent and intimate event. Informative and friendly and relaxed. In keeping with the venue, a classy little place with a personal touch. And excellent beer. And a nice knowledgable crowd of people. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Yup. Beer People Are Good People.

On that note….

Slainte!

DSC_0334DSC_0337

Big thanks to Alison & Andy for the pictures – my camera being crap!

London – April 2015 – Long Time No See

It had been over a year since the last time I had been drinking in the The Big City. Last March in fact (getting tipsy on boats doesn’t QUITE count!), so when the opportunity arose for a 3 day stay, I grabbed it – though somewhat reluctantly.

Reluctantly?

I guess I am a “home bird”. I am also becoming a bit of a professional Northerner, in that – especially where beer is concerned – I don’t feel that we need to doff the cap any more. Some Northern breweries (in my humble…..) easily brew beers that can match – if not better – their Southern brewing brothers and sisters. Yes, I am biased, something which I freely admit.

However, what London DOES have, is some outstanding pubs, the like of which that Manchester (for instance) simply doesn’t have. So what’s an aging boy to do eh? With a couple of evenings to kill. And an Oystercard.

Yup.

IMAG0014

The Cock Tavern (Mare Street, Hackney – approx 100 Yds from Hackney Central Overground Stn)

According to various sources, there may have been a pub on this site since the early 18th century. However, the current premises was rebuilt by Truman’s Brewery in the 1930s. Now though, it is the brewery (and tap) of Howling Hops Brewery, a brewery whose beers are bloody hard to find Oop North. Which is a shame. Because they are superb.

This interior of this pub is best summed up as….wood. The pace is stripped back and basic. And it is all the better for it. Stripped back floorboards, old wooden tables, chairs and bench seating and a lovely L shaped bar with a LOT of hand pumps dispensing Howling Hops own beers.  It feels like a place to drink beer. And chat. Which is what I and my buddy did.

IMAG0009

I paid little mind to the ciders (though there were a few) and bypassed the craft keg (7 I think) and focused on the 8 hand pulls featuring 7 of the brewery’s own beers – brewed downstairs. I had 3. Well….It was an early start!

XX Pale 5% – A fruity pale ale hopped with Columbus, Citra, Centennial & Mosaic with predictably lip smacking results.

IMAG0011

Mild 3.3% – A Dark Mild. Because I like Mild. OK? A nice Mild can be a thing of beauty and not the preserve of the 1950s and the beclothed of cap, whippet toting Northerners of old. Again, 4 hopped (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Citra), this was reminiscent of another of my favourites (All Black by Allgates) but was (an oxymoron for a Mild) slightly more assertive – and it’s a relative term. Either way, a highlight for me. You might say “a Mild for non-Mild drinkers” and I wouldn’t argue.

American Brown Ale 4% – Brown. A dose of rye and licorice on the nose and a crackling dry pint. A corker.
And then I looked in the fridge and noticed some of their own bottles. Up North, these are as rare as the droppings of that legendary wooden steed. So I had to. Didn’t I? And if I’m going to bring one back, it might as well be big.
IMAG0013
And it is.
Now then. For those semi-pro Northerners who aren’t in the know. An Oystercard is a godsend. Especially now that TfL have WANGED up the price for a day Travelcard to £12 or more! So, with that in my pocket, I was off back to Hackney Central, change at Highbury & Islington, Victoria Line to Kings X, Northern Line to Kentish Town, then a C2 bus. In reality, only approx 20 or so minutes. And the bus drops you DIRECTLY outside the door of the next premises.
Was it worth it? Oh yes.
IMAG0015
The Southampton Arms (139, Highgate Road, Kentish Town)
This pub just speaks to my soul. Wooden floors, wooden benches, wooden settles. A mahogany bar. A turntable rather than a CD player or streaming service! 12 hand pumps for beer. Several more for real cider. And proper pub grub. By which I mean, Pork Pies. More on that later.
A place that looks like it’s been here forever, this was apparently reborn in about 2009 and was stripped back to reveal all of that lovely wood. Long, but not particularly wide, the bar is long and festooned with all of those lovely handpulls featuring beers from micro breweries far and wide. A gents with access from outside too, an unusual feature. As is the rather lovely old mirror advertising the wares of the original Lacons Brewery.
It was busy, but we grabbed a table. I reached the bar and started to scan. But my eyes froze and my back leg rose like the tail of a Pointer.
Hobsons Mild. I drink it wherever I find it. It’s quite simply the best brown Mild that I’ve ever had. Refreshing and nutty. And light, at 3.2%. And utterly delicious. As was the 1/2 of Pork, Chicken & Stuffing pie. A steal at £3.60
Now, the Hobsons aside, I am (by nature) a kind of “When in Rome” kind of fella. Therefore, with my predilection for dark beers, the next choice was fairly simple.
Dissident Porter from Gipsy Hill Brewing (West Norwood, SW London) was 4.8%. And Dark. And so damn moreish. First beer from this brewery. Roasted, chocolatey, smooth and Oh. So. Drinkable. I’ll be looking out for this brewery again. excellent beer.
Food was necessary at this point. So we headed back into the city and Holborn via Northern Line to Kings X and Piccadilly Line to Holborn.
Fish, chips & peas with bread & butter and a mug of tea for £10. In London? The joy that is The Fryers Delight on Theobalds Road. A basic caff with excellent grub. And close to the next pub!
IMAG0017
The Lamb (94, Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury)
The Lamb. A Young’s pub. Yet not as it was.
Last time I came in was 10 years ago. The day after the tube bombings. I still have the memory of walking past the destroyed bus at Tavistock Square. Some things never leave you.
Happier times though. The last time I came in, they only sold Young’s beers. So it was a nice surprise to see 2 from Sambrook and a beer (apparently brewed for the pub) from Redemption. Which I had to try. The Bloomsbury Blend was a bit of a surprise, in that it was a nicely flavoured mid-strength bitter, but lacked the assertiveness of some of their other beers that I have had. Nice enough though
Lamb bar
(Nicked from the Young’s Website)
The Lamb is one of those pubs that just HAVE to be visited. It is a Victorian symphony in wood. A beautiful – almost circular – bar with the snob screens being a unique feature to my eyes (those little windows open above the bar – top left of pic) – designed so that bar staff needn’t meet the gaze of Victorian customers.
Jpeg
(All mine this one!)
The pub is, quite simply, a Grade 2 listed gem. Built (acc to Historic England) probably early 18th Century, it may lack the buzzy kudos od some of the craft bars locally, but it takes some beating as a simply beautiful pub.
All of that travelling, on tube, bus and train? £6.40. What’s the word? Bargain.
Next evening, a little less trekking was in order, Victoria line to Euston, then Northern Line to Old Street. Quality beer and food were sought. We were not to be disappointed.
IMAG0020
The Old Fountain (Baldwin Street, EC1 – 3 mins from Old Street tube, City Rd Exit)
This has been a decent beer gaff as far back as I’ve been coming to London. A “cut” pub, in that there is another entrance on Peerless Street, Baldwin Street is directly off City Rd (A501) just to the north of Old Street.
Again, wood is the thing. Lots of it. Sources date this place to about the mid 18th century and it does have the feel of an old ale house about it. And it was bloody busy. With no tables available. And a lovely menu taunting us!
Jpeg
A slightly limp pint of Jarl was dealt with, then a table located, luckily. A zinging pint of Oakham Citra accompanied by a HUGE home-made (and slightly runny) Scotch Egg more than made up for the Jarl! The Citra was all that one of the best pale ales in the country should be. Sharp, clean and massively refreshing.
The house burger was huge and (after the Scotch Egg) just too much. The chips were excellent too.
The pub lists 18 constantly rotating beers on cask and keg. And it was a keg font that caught my eye. From my favourite London brewery. And a beer I hadn’t yet had.
London SmokeFive Points Brew Co (Hackney) was SO unctuous! Smooth like an oil slick. Bitter chocolate, root licorice and just the right hint of smoke. Just a bloody superb beer. From a brewery that don’t muck about, take their time and just get the beers right. 7.8% abv was just about right.
Then. That rare thing in London. A walk.
Jpeg
The Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, off Clerkenwell Road)
Walking along Britton Street and entering The Jerusalem, you wouldn’t think that you were only 1 minute away from the recently redeveloped Farringdon tube station! It’s like stepping into the 19th century.
The building dates from the early 18th Century with its conversion to a pub probably a century later. The pub has a bit of history itself, best read here.
Jpeg
I’ve always felt that this place had the feel of a 17th century coffee-house, it feels unique and I, for one, have never been in a pub quite like it, And I have introduced many of my colleagues to its charms. All have adored it.
It. Is, Small. And can probably handle only about 60 people at most, with punters frequently spilling out from the front and side.
It is owned and run by St Peters Brewery of Bungay in Suffolk. I think that they only have two pubs and the other is a brewery tap. Whatever, it is one hell of a spot and gets busy with an after work city crowd. And rightly so.
In here, I could look no further than the Old Style Porter. Just a beautiful smooth, dark and lusciously roasted beer, with the merest hint of sweetness. It is, quite simply, one of the best porters that I’ve ever had. Moreish in the extreme. I had two. I should have picked up a bottle of Honey Porter too. But I have a memory like Emmental.
Going home the next evening after work, we had an hour or two to kill. Now then, I love the Euston Tap as much as anybody, but the range of breweries just….doesn’t really seem to change much. There never seems anything to excite me. Great beer, granted. But sometimes, I just want something that feels a little bit more, you know….pub like. So I went on a 90 second hike from the front of Euston Station.
IMAG0032
The Bree Louise (Coburg Street, Euston)
If the planners for the HS2 rail link get their way, this pub will be vapourised, obliterated from the map. Some might say “meh”. Me? I like this place. A lot. It has a soul that some nearby places lack. We came here for food and a pint (or 4) and were disappointed by neither,
The pub itself is of the “street corner” type that is sadly missing from my home city. It isn’t huge. And has a chaotic feeling when full of commuters hunting a pint. But the staff are friendly and efficient (incident about a late delivered meal to my mate aside!) and there is a LOAD of cask ale, Probably about 18 on the go.
Jpeg
Now this amount of beer can lead to the odd dud. That is simply unavoidable, save reducing the number of beers. \But as long as they replace a lame pint, that is fine. I had one. And they replaced it without fuss. Brownie points.
COne of the endearing things about this place is the stillage dispense, a rarity in city centres (Yes, I DO know 57 Thomas Street, but that in itself is an oddity) and to look at the bar, you might struggle to make out what beers are on. Which is where the 42 inch screen comes in with a rotating view of beers separated into hand pulled, gravity and keg. A nice touch.
Now this particular evening was noted as a Tap Takeover by Hogs Back Brewery. Not a fan, so I focused on the other 60% of beers on offer. In order, these were :
  • HopHeadDarkStar – Predictable excellence. Pale hoppy and bitter. A refresher.
  • ConquerorWindsor & Eton – The epitome of a Black IPA for me. Bitter, roasted coffee and big citrus bite.
  • Slovenian DreamDownton Brewery – Now this was so pale that I had it as a Pilsner with a nice gentle floral hop character. The brewery has it as a Pale Ale. Works either way. But a Pilsner for me.
  • Wolf of the WoodsTwickenham Brewery – The pick of the bunch. Amber coloured with a chocolatey malt flavour and a good dose of bitterness. A fine beer.

And that was that. Other than a 45 minute delay at Euston. A further 45 minute delay on the train. The train for Bolton turning into a bus replacement service and the A666 turn off on the M61 being closed. I got home at midnight. Knackered.

London, you wore me out. With the admirable assistance of Virgin Rail & its Northern Rail counterpart. Renationalise the lot of them.

That’s all until next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 4

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team,

or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” Frank Zappa

(Nicked without ceremony from the excellent website www.aswiftone.com)

“Between lightning and thunder, 3 seconds the gap. A warm candle glow keeps this wood room from black,

My cat, she sleeps on an old clippy mat, purring out echoes of faint pitter pat,

As the rain pours down in the yard. Rain, that most haunting sound.

Rain, makes beautiful music and rain brings peace upon all whom it pours.”

(“Rain” – Martin Stephenson & The Daintees)

(Video courtesy of  GTG5573 on You Tube)

No link to a beer this week for the song. This choice was inspired by just looking outside of my window as I started typing!

Some songs and albums just speak of a time in our lives. Some, not many, can do that and remain timeless. One such album (for me) is Boat To Bolivia by Martin Stephenson & The Daintees. It speaks of a time when this particular young man was a-courtin’ the young lady who was to become (and remains) my wife of nearly 25 years (she’s eligible for parole next year!)

Released in 1986, it is choc full of timeless songwriting. Tackling some heavy duty subject matter with a lightness of touch, from Crocodile Cryer through to Rain – (and the reggae inflected bonus title track), this is songwriting to simultaneously wallow and delight in. Just a joy, and one of the few albums my dearest brought into the marriage that we agreed on! Ah. The memories of my darling hobbit – all 4’8″ of her- having to sit on my shoulder so she could see the band at The International II in 1989! Priceless. A great album, often overlooked. Get on Spotify and have a listen!

Anyway – On to the beer eh?

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

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….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

IMAG1128_BURST001

1. Pale – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.69 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Beautifully carbonated and as gold as a Yukon wet dream, with a white head and a pacific hop aroma that makes me want to break out the grass skirt and dance a hula!

Making me drool. Seriously drool! Oooh Matron! Sharp. Really sharp in the mouth with enough grapefruit to start a fruit shop. A really bold beer! Light to medium-bodied, the initial fruitiness is immediately followed by a bitterness tsunami, crested by piney resins, like white foamy horses stamping around your mouth.

Hugely refreshing and full of flavour, go buy one and treat yourself. Oliver Turton done good. Again.

IMAG1132

2. The IPA – Anspach & Hobday (Bermondsey, S London) – 6% abv – IPA – £3.35 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A new one to me, this brewery. However, having read some recent “Bermondsey Mile” posts, including one by my beery buddy TysonTheBeerhound I was expecting something interesting, to say the least. This also came with a “Raj Recommendation” too, so, if it was crap, HIS reputation was on the line with me! So…

An enticing deep golden/amber coloured beer with a lasting white head and restrained fruity yet slightly spicy aroma that carried a buttery note. Intriguing…..

Oh boy does this come alive in the mouth with the hops (Centennial, Galaxy & Columbus) singing loud and proud! Big boned ole beer this, with a good toffeeish malty spine augmented with some ripe orange marmalade leading on to a healthy helping of apricot (2 of your 5 a day in one glass. Result!).

Really smooth this, but certainly punching all of its 6% weight. The bitterness is fairly restrained but what there is, is pounced upon by a big sticky resinous finish. Big. Full-flavoured. And the head clings to the glass to the end. Classy IPA.

IMAG1145

3. Lupy As A Toucan (Amarillo, Citra, Galaxy, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 – 15% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Last Tuesday, I received some intel that a firkin of Deeply Vale’s Tipsy Porridge Stout had been tapped at Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent wee micro bar. Being like a lemming faced with a cliff….It was all lush too…DV8 barrel aged in 20 yr old Bruchladdich cask….A Beergasm…. Whilst there – just before I left – this puppy caught my eye, One of Shane Swindells’ “Lupy” range that I was yet to try….

A deep gold beer with a full white fluffy head and a hugely fruity aroma with peach and pineapple sweetness in the vanguard, Um Bongo time again!

In the mush…. Mmmm…Really fruity! The first mouthful yields a luscious peachyness upfront, then a full-on bitterness, feels like there’s more to this…so, peeling back another onion layer….orange and tangerine, followed by that wave of bitterness again. This is another lovely beer…Oops..another layer…some mango too. Then that bitterness as night follows day….Really dry bitter and grassy finish to this too. Another cracker from Mr Swindells in “The Congo” (Rhymes with “Um Bongo”…No? Ach nuts! I’m no poet. And I know it!)

IMAG1148

4. Niamh’s Nemesis – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.7% – Strong Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery – 0 – 

Is there a pub out there that would do me a favour, near Manchester. Get some of this beer in!

This was among 13 other bottles that I liberated from Malcolm Bastow’ s boxes when I recently popped in to collect some casks for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer Festival. Thank you Malcolm! (On a winner immediately with the Gaelic name!)

A golden beer with a nice white lacy head and an aroma bursting with grapefruit and apricot tartness.

Really fruity again this. Full of body, with a light biscuity malt, bitter fruitiness gatecrashes in with more grapefruit and some nice tart gooseberry (hopped with Nelson Sauvin & Cascade). Fruity mouthful after fruity mouthful, this is one superb Pale Ale. I could swear I got a taste of rhubarb in there too…..

Each mouthful is followed by a good strong bitterness and the finish is really dry with those piney beasties just lurking around the corner in that aftertaste, for the unwary. This is really easy drinking, perilously so at the strength. Another corker from Outwood!

IMAG1149

5. Mystery Beer 002 – Craft Rebellion (Who knows?) – 5.9% abv – Milk Stout – £0 (500ml) – 0 – Direct by mail

Nice shape to this bottle! The second beer to try that I’ve received from this shop. The idea of the Mystery being that you try it and see if you can figure who it is. Of course, I’m rubbish, ‘cos I’d never have had the 001 (Saison) as Partizan! Saisons may not be my personal luggage of choice….a Milk Stout however….

“Oooooooh….STOP!” (Listening to “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies as I drink this!)

Impenetrably black. (Always a good start with a stout!) A beautifully full cappucino coloured head and a nose full of…freshly roasted coffee!…Yummy!

Bloody hell this is SO good! The first thing I get is a full-bodied, creamy smooth mouthful with that bitter coffee, like the reveille being sounded on Sgt Bilko, eye-opening!

Then, like another one of those onion layer things….that lactic sweetness pops its head out and says “Hello!”  This is lush! That milky sweetness slips down oh so beautifully and reveals something slightly warming as it slides. The finish for this is slightly sweet with that bitter roast for balance. A cracking Stout!

IMAG1150

6. Smoked Porter – Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) / Northern Monk Brew Co (Holbeck, Leeds) – 6% abv – Smoked Porter – £1.80(I think!) (500ml) – Saltaire Brewery Bottle Shop

Another collaboration from those nomadic monks, this time staying a little closer to their Yorkshire roots. (Should be brewing in their own brewery in Holbeck about now!). Have enjoyed each beer thoroughly so far, I couldn’t see a collaboration with the reliably excellent Saltaire being any different!

Almost totally black beer with a latte coloured head and an aroma with some treacle toffee and a gentle whiff of wood smoke.

This is full-bodied and really silky smooth in the mouth (oat malt). Slightly sweet, there is definitely something of the bonfire about this beer, treacle toffee certainly and a definite subtle smokiness. There is a gentler bitterness to the finish, quite dialled down on the scale, but nonetheless, there is a grassy note in the finish along with that subtle smoke. It’s a cool evening tonight and this is perfect! Please brew this again fellas, this autumn would be nice!

Another cracking batch there. Next post might be a wee brief review of the CAMRA Bolton Beer Fest from this weekend.

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

A Thirst & A Fresh Oyster(card) – A Wandering Week in London – March 2014


” I had entered into a marriage in the summer of my 21st year and the bells rang for our wedding,

Only now do I remember it clear, alright, alright, alright.

No more a rake and no more a bachelor, I was wedded and it whetted my thirst,

Until her womb started spilling out babies, only then did I reckon my curse,

Alright, alright, alright!”

(“The Rake Song” – The Decemberists)

(Video courtesy of http://www.decemberists.com/)

As I mentioned in my last post, I fell in love with music again having discovered the online store / club E-Music. This website led me to discover a whole wealth of bands that I would probably never had otherwise heard. Chief among these bands was The Decemberists from Portland in Oregon.

From the moment that I heard the jangly entry notes of “The Crane Wife 3” I was hooked and fell in love with the lyrical worlds spun by Colin Meloy and this fabulous band. Tracks like “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”, “We Both Go Down Together”, “Yankee Bayonet” the list goes on….I can just wallow for hours in lyrical beauty backed by expert musicianship that straddles between folk and almost Prog Rock (One track was described to me as “Steeleye Span meets Black Sabbath”!). Meloy has a way with words and sometimes writes in an antiquated verbal manner using words that you’d never hear elsewhere.

With topics ranging from unrequited love “Angel Won’t You Call Me” through bloody murder ballads “Shankil Butchers” (sic) to infanticide (“The Rake Song” see above), you’ll never be bored!

Suffice to say, The Decemberists are my favourite band with never a slack track in their 6 full-length albums (+ several EPs) so far. They may be recording a new album as I type and – should they hit the UK on tour, I will certainly fill the gaping hole in my music CV and see them live. Given what I have seen online, their performances are never less than enthralling!

With the end of this musical revelry, I shall get on with the matter in hand. Beer and great places to drink it!

2 weeks ago today (Wednesday), “The Boss” asked for volunteers to work in London for a week with odd shifts being the order of the week. Now, I am a bit of a home bird – having missed nearly the first 18 months of my youngest so due to living and working away –  I’m not all that keen to spend time away. The bait on this hook for me was to visit pubs and bars that I have regularly read others like Nate, Chris Hall & Tandleman write about and make me drool. So, with a (forced) smile on my face and beer in my heart, I was on the train to Euston one drizzly Sunday.

Let’s Begin!

Arriving at approx 7pm on a Sunday evening, with a London Transport Travelcard in hand, I unpacked my considerable luggage and pondered my first move. Only then did I consider the erratic opening hours of London pubs of a weekend! Fortunately, a well placed tweet revealed that – if I was quick – A certain mighty (yet mini) hostelry might be open!

TheRake_005_1(pic courtesy – http://boroughmarket.org.uk/)

The Rake – (Winchester Walk, Borough Market)

I don’t get down to Capital City much these days, but the last time I came, I popped in The Rake and it made a big impression for such a small bar, great cask ales, brilliant keg range and a bewildering array of bottles beers too from far and er…. wide.

I went twice during the week once on the Sunday, then on the Wednesday. The Sunday visit was quiet as it was virtually closing time when I got there. The guys working the bar and cellar were good as gold and twice as friendly as I was served with a Chockwork Orange Stout from Brecon Brewery (Welsh Beer Festival that weekend). Not hugely orangey, but a fine full-bodied Stout.

IMAG0793

This was, perforce, a flying visit, but I just had to have a read of the Wall of Fame. This is an enormous white wall where brewers sign and comment about the bar, a quirky but unique feature, then again, this small single room bar (the beer garden is larger!) is unique and quirky itself!

I called in again on the Wednesday. My original idea was to drag a colleague all the way from Vauxhall to Leyton for some Brodies at their tap The King William IV. However, the mighty Dave let me know that there was a Rake “Tap Takeover” by Brodies that night. Bit of a no brainer really!

Myself & my buddy Phil settled down to pints of really light, pale gold, refreshing and citrussy London Fields Pale Ale which, at 3.9% abv, were just the ticket after a rather longer than expected walk from Vauxhall. With tart grapefruit and a hint of lemon, a superb sharp pint.

Bethnal Green Bitter was next at 4% and was again a cracking pint. Amber coloured and full-bodied for the strength, biscuity malt and gentle grapefruit making for an excellent sessionable beer.

IMAG0833

This small single room bar was getting really busy, so we were lucky to grab a table in the outside area / beer garden on this beautiful bright late afternoon. A couple of halves of fruity, sharp and roasty dark Dalston Black followed and were consumed with resinous relish!

IMAG0834

(Hackney Red IPA)

Chatted for quite a while with a couple who shared our table. Demien a Colombian tattoo artist with a fabulous orchid on his neck (national flower of Colombia dontcha know!), the evening just flowed as we chatted about anything and everything with Demien and Sara (his Dallas based girlfriend), a lovely way to spend a couple of hours in great company and with Brodies excellent beers. Having had a sniff of Sara’s Hackney Red IPA, I just had to have one! Spicy and citrus tart. Gorgeous.

Rolling back to Sunday, chanced my luck by trying the Market Porter which I thought was about to close. A stunningly good pint of gloriously roasty Harveys Porter was had. Dark and delicious as was the fabulous tuneage, with some early Black Keys and some Nick Cave. Sunday Bonus!!!

IMAG0843

Pelt Trader (Dowgate Hill, just at side of Cannon Street station)

A couple of hours on Monday saw me venture into the City. I’d heard many great things about this bar from luminaries such as Nate Dawg, Chris Hall and Tandleman, so it would have been remiss not to give it a spin!

Nice, cool and spacious railway arch built into the underside of Cannon Street Station. Fairly quiet at the time I went in, but got steadily busier. Being owned/run by the people behind the excellent Euston Tap (and given the excellent things that I’d been hearing), I had no fear for the beer quality. This was borne out by stunningly good pints of Oakham Citra and Quantum American Light. (Can’t escape Jay’s beers…even in London it would seem!)

IMAG0802

(Looks suspiciously like a pelt!)

As with The Rake, Pelt Trader has all the elements in place for me. Nice building (lots of exposed brickwork, broken up with artifacts here & there – a Kayak?), with REALLY friendly staff (had a chat with a guy I presumed was a bar manager) and – most importantly – damn fine beer.

IMAG0815

Draft House (Seething Lane, nr Tower Hill tube)

Just a quick one in here. A quick taste of a Purity Black Ale was less than sound, so plumped for a rather nice and refreshing Outlandish Pale Ale by Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire). Pale gold, light and refreshing and nice and hoppy. Bargain of the week at £2.70 a pint!

The neon may be attractive to some, but was harsh on my eyes. Nice big open room with (probably) a bit of an accent on food. Loads of tables and a nice attractive exterior. can’t escape that neon though! 6 handpumps though meant quite a bit of choice with Sambrooks, Marble & Twickenham breweries also represented.

Stretching my legs a bit, headed up to Shoreditch to a bar that had been recommended. So, on a hunt for some Five Points on cask, I headed to The Crown & Shuttle on Shoreditch High Street.

Crown and shuttle

(pic – crownandshuttle.co.uk)

Again, loads of exposed brick in this bar that was so long, it had the feeling of a tunnel. Busy for a Monday evening. Large choice of beer both cask and keg, with no Five Points to be found, yours truly settled for a Galaxy Burst by Alechemy on cask.

Lovely friendly staff, they could even understand my dialect! The Alechemy was lovely, full of spring grass on the nose, full-bodied with lashings of tangerine and orange an d a nice piney finish with a gentle bitterness. Top tunes too! Sly Stone, Marvelettes, Detroit Spinners. My boxes were all ticked! Cracking bar.

IMAG0828

(Tuesday? – Must be Hackney then!)

Tuesday was dedicated to seeing an old friend that I hadn’t seen for nigh on 25 years! Living (as she does) in Leyton, we arranged to meet in the Pembury Tavern

Located on Amhurst Road, this angular pub was reasonably quiet as I entered. A plethora of hand pumps, most from the Milton Brewery of Cambridge

Pembury bar-panorama

(pic : https://www.individualpubs.co.uk/pembury/)

Settling down a a lovely fruity and refreshing pint of Milton Tiki at 3.8%, I took in the view. My kind of pub. Leaving aside the single roomed aspect, loads of space close to and in front of the bar, plenty of tables to the sides with seats and benches, there was just such a relaxed vibe here. Then my friend Andrea arrived and all considerations of decor etc went right out the window! Catching up with her (and spilling a few stories to her cute daughter – doing her homework!) was utterly precious. Transpires that she knew the regulars and staff ever so well.

This pub just FEELS welcoming and friendly. Certainly family and (well-behaved) pet friendly. Great pizzas (according to my lovely friend) and well….it just felt right. Certainly right enough to have another pint of Tiki! Unfortunately, I had to move on as I was due to meet Dave from The Rake at the next pub (cue Keystone Cops like farce!)

IMAG0830

A swift Twitter poll decided my next move after a number of people (including the redoubtable Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy) suggested The Cock Tavern on Mare Street in Hackney.

This is the brewery tap for Howling Hops Brewery. Haven’t had much by them, so was really looking forward to a pint or 2. That plan was rodgered when my colleague I was expecting on Wednesday, arrived on Tuesday and expected me for company. This left me with one pint worth of time. After a number of tweets to Dave, I realised that I made one almighty balls up. He was in The Pembury!!!

Being a Northern chap and therefore of good grace (Well, a fellow Lancastrian and all!) he hauled himself down to the Cock for a swift pint! Top bloke who took my apologies in good heart and with the aforementioned good grace. The Milk Stout it was for both of us and it was absolutely LUSH! Gorgeously roasted and with that hint of lactose sweet/sour, it was a lovely pint. I will have to see if my good buddy The Ale Man has some stashed away!

The Cock deserved a longer stay. Felt like a proper local, but on the edge of the big city. Dark inside with wood panelled walls, lots of dark wood seating on the exposed wood floor, it really is a lovely pub. Next time I’m down, I’ll make a bee-line! However, I had my colleague waiting in Pelt Trader……Oops

More Keystone Cops stuff here as my buddy needed to eat. So I suggested Cask on Charlwood Street, but by the time I stood outside Pimlico Tube station, he’d give up and headed back to t’hotel! Not to be discouraged, I just got a step on. I was a tad peckish too by this point!

IMAG0831

(Cask was busy!)

Much to my chagrin, I don’t bump into too much cask ale by Mallinsons in Manchester. To my delight, there were THREE on at Cask! Unfortunately, I had a monstrously early start so couldn’t do all three to go with my scrummy Stilton & Bacon burger….Citra & Alias were more than fine enough The Citra brought out the best in that hop with lovely tart grapefruit clearing that Stilton palate. The Alias had plenty of fruit along with a pronounced bitterness which, if anything, lifted it above the lovely Citra! 2 Single hopped pales by one of my favourite breweries! Beer Heaven!

Really friendly & helpful staff here – could have stayed ’til closing…..damn that early start!

Thursday saw me (via little advanced St Patrick’s Night drink with some swanky Irish associates!) at The Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak. I love this long bar and it was really busy this evening. Fortunately we managed to grab a table so I could enjoy a lovely slightly bitter and gorgeously roasted pint of Long Nines Stout by Hopcraft. I didn’t care that it was 6% abv. It was lush! The only shame tonight, was that I couldn’t hear the Jimmy Cliff album being played on the turntable! Great bar, friendly staff and locals. (Didn’t realise that it was the same people who owned The Cock Tavern in Hackney!)

A damned long week. Would’ve liked to have visited more bars/pubs, but you know what they say “Work is the curse of the drinking classes!”

In summary though, the thing that made this week the undoubted pleasure it was, was meeting new people, both from the other side of the bar (unfailingly friendly), or chance encounters. This beer malarkey is all about the people. They were lovely! (Now. where IS that Shadwell based tattooist…..just fancy a chalice glass on my arm…..)

Well…..that’s it with London for a while I suppose…

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – October 2013

IMAG0123(Straight Outta  er…Prestwich!)

“You know an I’d ruther be sloppy drunk, Sip a-tin from the can.

Now than to be out in the street, a-runnin’ from the man”

“Bring Another Half Pint” – Sonny Boy Williamson

Been a busy month this month. What with Allgates’ Road To Wigan Beer, IndymanBeerCon and the MTB with Deeply Vale of Bury, that I’ve barely paid any mind to the bottles I have been guzzling. Time to address that! Also,located another wee shop selling good beer in the Manchester area, The Liquor Shop in Prestwich. More about that later.

In the meantime….

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…

20131007_201751

1. Citra (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Another single-hopped pale ale from Mallinsons? Yeah? What about it? Any more whining and I’ll drag you round the back of the bar and pour lager down your throat! And it won’t be Czech either!!!

This was a super pale beer that barely touches gold on the spectrum. Quite a delicate grapefruit citrus aroma. Medium bodied and smooth drinking with a touch of sweet biscuit malt balanced by the bitter lemon/grapefruit and piney notes. Nicely bitter without being a hop assault, a more delicate touch with this hop and better for it. Nice bitter resins linger on after the glass has been drained. Another cracker. No, I won’t say how they’ve nailed single-hopped pale ales again. I won’t!……Doh!!!

IMAG0118

2. Piepowder IPAYorkshire Ales (Rudgate Brewery – York) – 5.2% abv – IPA – £0 (Test sample) (£2.75 from shop – 500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

One of a series of beers with their shop own label, but brewed (in this case) by Rudgate. A golden beer with a slightly surprising almost forest fruit note on the nose with a little spice. Medium bodied with plenty of toffee malt in the mouth balanced with a good degree of bitterness. The bitterness continuing into an aftertaste with hints of fresh-cut grass. Not a US-style hoppy beast by any stretch but a good full=flavoured beer.

IMAG0127(You can see how people, would confuse this with a certain sticky Ginger Beer, can’t you?)

3. Pale AleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Gtr Manchester) – 5.5% – Pale Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Hooray for Tickety Brew! There was a time, not so long ago when their survival was in doubt (but we won’t go there, will we Keri!). At the time at which that all kicked off, I was still yet to try one of their beers. It was probably that that stirred my indignation! Anyway, waffling over…to the beer!

This was copper coloured with a diminishing white head and a fruity cream soda / banana ice cream aroma. In the mouth I got more banana tinged toffee, a touch of Belgian style wit yeastyness. Back on the pale ale track with the finish which was quite fruity with a dry grassy hop bitterness to it. A more than pleasant beer. I’m looking forward to the Blonde! Nice distinctive labelling. Classy!

IMAG0128(Woah Tiger!)

4. Drink MeMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – Rye Pale Ale – 5.8% abv – £2.29 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

#3 & 4 came almost as a surprise. I was struggling a bit last week with stuff too boring to relate. I was stirring myself after a mid afternoon nap and sent a tweet about fancying a beer. I got a response from the above shop and determined to visit them the next day. A small atypical local shop dealing in all of life’s last-minute essentials. But, also beer. And unusually good beer at that. I could have bought loads, but stuck to the North West choices (Drink Local ain’t just a slogan. Oh No!)

Like the Tickety, had never had a Mad Hatter. My but this a lively sod! Had to use two glasses! A copper coloured beer with a spicy aroma and (another) hints of banana. Medium bodied and quite peppery with some treacle toffee matched with some resinous hopping. A yeasty note as well, but the bottle did erupt on opening! Given the rather full carbonation, this was a really nice first from this brewer. I can drool over the other 3 now. And, like the Tickety, nice labelling carrying the Alice in Wonderland thing through onto the packaging. Nice touch!

IMAG0119

5. Hop DitchRocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 6.0% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer from Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market. Does one at the old Victoria Bus Station too (Greengate)! This beer was golden with quite an assertive citrus nose. Quite dry in the mouth with a mouth puckering hit of lemon and grapefruit. Light biscuit sweetness for some balance here, but this is about the hops and damn fine they are too both in the aroma and the bitter finish with a lingering piney resin lingering. Another excellent beer from this London brewer.

IMAG0155

6. Bad HabitWeird Beard / Northern Monk Brew Co  (Collaboration – West London meets Bradford!) – 8.6% abv – Belgian Tripel – £4.00 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

I don’t usually do Belgian beers. Bit of a blank on my liquid CV. I’ve had the odd one, Duvel, Rodenbach Grand Cru (and its little brother) and a few more. Very nice they were too, but I’ve always had a rather Anglo beer sensibility. I need a tutor perhaps! However, having had beers by both of these brewers (and enjoying them), I thought I’d give it a go! (Selfless, I know!)

As you can see, another lively wee bugger this! Copper/golden in colour with huge carbonation and a yeasty and slightly sherbet lemon aroma with some cut grass and hint of clove. In the mouth however…BOOM! I wasn’t expecting THAT! Full bodied, yes. Atypical banana split toffee & clove, yes. But bugger me sideways this was hoppy and bitter! Spicy, resinous and mouth dryingly bitter. A corker! Like I said, I don’t really know Belgian beers that well. Maybe this shouldn’t taste like this. But I bloody LOVE it!

3 excellent retailers. 6 excellent beers. Can’t ask much more than that!

More to come….

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

20131008_155421

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!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

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!

IMAG0078

(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!

IMAG0074

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!

A Toast To An Old Friend 24/04/2013

I went to 6th form college over 30 years ago.Whilst there, I met some great people who went on to become good close friends. Some of us drifted apart through work and geography. Two such people were Martin ‘Doigy’ & Jan Doig. Good people, caring, loving and friendly. And utterly devoted to each other. About two years ago, social media placed us back in contact and we’d shoot the breeze on Facebook (with Doigy) and Twitter (with Jan).

Eventually, an opportunity was engineered to meet up and we did this in The Knott. To my delight, they hadn’t changed. Then living in Cambridgeshire, geographically we were separated, but culturally, we were of a piece. For his sins, Doigy had become an avid beer ‘ticker’ who maintained a meticulous list of the beers he tasted. To my joy, he was also a devotee of “The Dark Side”. Milds, Stouts and Porters were his thing, as they are mine. Doigy also had a love of Northern Soul music, another of my passions. Doigy, Jan & I spent a pleasant couple of hours in The Knott and I made a loose approach to Doigy to come and join Me & Jaz at an upcoming beer festival.

Sadly, we buried Martin on 25/10/2011. He was 47. A good, extremely fit man taken in his prime.

Yesterday would have been his 49th birthday, so along with two of his good friends, Col & Jaz (who knew him far better than I) we met up on his birthday to toast his life and memory with 3 particular bottled beers and to visit two Manchester pubs that he would’ve adored.

doigy spud jan jc(Doigy wasn’t ALWAYS that small! Pic – courtesy of Bob The Chiropodist)

Colin & I started our deliberations a touch earlier, with a beer Doigy would’ve enjoyed. In The Black from Wilson Potter at The Salford Arms. This is the first time that I’ve had this 4.2% stout in ‘the wild’. It didn’t disappoint. Smooth creamy and lovely mocha ish flavours.

20130424_181621

(In The Black indeed!)

He keeps a good pint does Tom. Great to see their beer in Manchester now. A swift pint of another beer from another of my favourite brewers, Dainty Blonde by Privateer. Pale, delicately floral with a hint of elderflower. Really refreshing. Now we had to move on. We said a hasty farewell to Tom and headed to Jaz’s bachelor pad!

The most abiding legend about Doigy was The Toast Mountain. He simply loved his toast. This love was used as a jump off point for some home brewing friends to create a beer in his honour. The obvious name for this beer (a stout, of course!) was ‘Doigys Toast‘. It was therefore most appropriate that this should be the first beer of the evening.

20130424_194706

(‘Doigys Toast‘. A Toast to the Toastmeister!)

Made by a home brewer noted as “Bradys Brews”,rather scarily there is no %abv noted, but a very dark brown to black beer came out of the bottle with abundant cream coloured, but quickly dissipating head. This one scared me, because I was worried, that having had it for so long in storage, it would be like Sarsons. Pleased to say that it was anything but! A deep dark aroma of licorice and spice, a thin texture, but more licorice in the mouth and a chocolate tinge. Just a little. Tasted a touch ‘yeasty’ toward the end, but all-in-all a decent beer with which to toast a decent man.

We moved on to a beer that Doigy stated was his favourite. Mrs Simpsons Thriller in Vanilla by Brown Cow Brewery 5.1% abv

20130424_202144

(His all-time favourite)

A very dark brown beer. Again, the head quickly vanished. A hint of vanilla in the aroma and (possibly?) treacle. Slightly thin in the mouth, but lovely roasted malt flavours, slight bitterness with a vanilla twist. Not as ‘full-on’ as some vanilla beers, but nice for all that.

Next (and last of the bottles) is Bad Kitty Vanilla Porter by Brass Castle Brewery 5.5% abv

20130424_210110

Doigy would have loved this beer! Black with more than a hint of vanilla, a touch of Bournville chocolate, not TOO bitter but plenty of nice dry vanilla, not too sweet though. The head again dissipated quite quickly, so probably wrong temperature or glassware issues, because, having had this before, lack of head wasn’t previously  problem. Despite that, this is still a damn fine beer. Both of the above were sourced from that excellent shop Yorkshire Ales in Snaith, East Yorkshire.

At this juncture, we went for a short walk to a bar that Doigy would’ve loved. The Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(recycled pic alert!)

Pretty much guaranteed a good pint in here. I was delighted to note that there was still some Citra from Oakham Ales  on, so at 4.2% I dived in. My first time for this beer on draught that I have loved from a distance in bottled version. Loads of citrus from the eponymous hop on a biscuity malt base. Yum! However, Col fancied a swap, so I then got the bonus of a Dark Star Brewing Carafa Jade. A red ale made with German Carafa barley and NZ Pacific Jade hops, this was a spicy zingy beer with lots of citrus hop aroma. Bloody lovely! They know their stuff in here. Good knowledgable bar staff serving excellent beer.

Just the one here, as The Crown & Kettle was calling!

20130125_133354[1]

For my last of this evening, my eyes alighted on Off Kilter Porter by Offbeat Brewery of Crewe. Lovely and creamy black beer with lush choc and coffee in the mouth, maybe a spicy hop touch too. Really smooth and quite quite gorgeous.

20130424_223843

(Off Kilter going down well!)

Colin, having ordered the Rat In The Hat from the Rat Brewery, started to eye my Off Kilter Porter covetously. Being the kind of guy that I am (and in the spirit of the evening!) I swapped. The Cat was a nice fruity hoppy beer, golden in colour with a slight haze, refreshing.

20130424_225318

(Nice selection with 3 from Ossett)

That was that for another evening. Another excellent evening with good beer, good friends and good conversation. And doffing our collective caps to a top bloke.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte Doigy!

A Few More Bottles – 01/03/2013

Not much exercise this month. Have relied on the ‘cellar’ to keep me entertained. Here’s some sozzled thoughts!

1. Brooklyn Brewery, Sorachi Ace – 7.6% abv – 750ml – £11.50 – The Beer Shop, Heaton Moor

20130217_200349

This holds the distinction of being the single most expensive bottle of beer I’ve ever bought. I blame Jaz totally for this one! On our last visit to The Beer Shop, he pulled this one off the shelf AFTER I had made my purchases. Between raw jealousy and with the persuasive salesmanship of the owner, I succumbed and brought out the Visa card!

The beer is a saison and comes (as you can see (!) in a champagne style bottle, cork stoppered, therefore giving that primal cork popping pleasure. Being 750ml and given my lack of a 1 litre glass, I had to decant this bottle conditioned beer.

The beer poured a slightly hazy pale golden colour with some citrus peel and candied fruit on the nose, also maybe a hint of coriander? A flavour reminiscent of something like Duvel (probably due to the Bel;gian yeast used) slightly herby and grassy fresh. There was no dominant flavour overall, just a well balanced refreshing beer with a dry grassy finish. Also, a slightly surprising warmth afterwards. Expensively refreshing. I would buy it again, but NOT in a bar, given some of the £20+ prices I’ve seen!

2. Williams Bros, Caesar Augustus – 4.1% abv – 500ml – 3 for £5 Sainsbury

(Unforgiveably, image nicked from Brewery website!)

Described by the brewer as a Lager/IPA Hybrid, this has been a valued favourite for some time. A REALLY pale beer with a white head, as you would expect from a lager. What you wouldn’t expect is the incredibly sharp floral/hoppy aroma, some resinous, citrus fuity aroma to savour. The flavour seemed to err more to the hoppy IPA style, but retained a slight malty sweetness to it.

A gloriously bitter finish to this beer with full use made of the various new world hops.

An excellent beer in its own right, but at 3 for £5? Ludicrously good value.

3. Redwillow Brewery, Smokeless – 5.7% abv – Port Street Beer House – £3 (Special Offer 6 bottles)

20130219_223627

Isn’t there always a story? This beer starts one night in Port Street. Drink had been taken when I spied a poster with a beery offer of 6 beers from a selection for £18. Magic Rock, Redwillow and Summer Wine were the breweries on offer. What’s a thirsty boy to do? Unfortunately, I was in no position to carry them back to Bolton so I left them at Jaz’s house. For about a month.

When I finally retrieved them from that most perilous of locations, I tucked into this beastie with haste.

A smoked porter, this poured the usually expected dark ruby to near black, a minimal cream coloured head, quickly gone. Aroma of bitter dark chocolate added to by a light smoke. In the mouth, this was creamy textured with a dark malteserish flavour, a nice smokiness coming through at the end of the mouthful. Another excellent beer from this Macclesfield brewer.

Now, the only time I had had this on draught, I was advised by my buddy that it was not quite at peak. This beer therefore, is something of a rarity in that it was excellent. I need to reappraise this beer on draught. And soon.

4. Summer Wine Brewery, Rouge – 5.7% abv – Port Street Beer House – £3 (Special Offer 6 bottles)

20130220_210301

(I LOVE my IndyManBeerCon glass!)

Another one from the Port Street Bargain Hunt! I’ve had quite a few of their beers, but this was a first time with this red ale.

This poured a red brown with a pale head, which stayed the length of the drink. The aroma was spicy hop with a sour edge. In the mouth? WOW this is tongue curlingly dry dry dry (a good thing, for me!) My, but this is hopped! There was  a hint of grassy green hop freshness. A beer full of flavour and wonderful for it!

Did I mention this was dry?

5. (Appropriately!) Five Towns Brewery, Peculiar w/Rhubarb and Ginger – 6% abv – Yorkshire Ales – £2.85

20130223_210733

(Lively little devil!)

This was one of my haul from my visit to Yorkshire Ales in Snaith. Lively on pouring, a golden colour with an abundant head. Aroma of stewed rhubarb with a spicy note. Once in the mouth, there was the ginger alright! Nice and spicy, without overwhelming the palate (a bit gingery like Marble Ginger, for those who know). Strangely, I thought I detected a bit of banana split sweet in the mouth along with a slight sourness from the rhubarb. Finished off with my mouth warmed by more of that there ginger.

A really nice beer, my first from this brewery. I’ll focus on them a bit more next time I pop in and see Adrian & Vicky!

And to finish….

6. Mallinsons Brewery, Citra – 3.9% abv – Yorkshire Ales – £2.50

20130226_203200

Another one from my Snaith haul. My first Mallinsons in bottle and one of their ‘Single Hop’ range.

On popping the crown cap, BOOM! Grapefruit and mango aroma, before I’d even poured it! Poured very pale, like Liquid Gold (anyone for Dance Yourself Dizzy? No, thought so!). Full of lovely bright hoppy flavours and surprisingly more subtle with the grapefruit in the mouth. Incredibly flavoursome and moreish.

Just one downside. I only bought the one. DOH!

Beers of the Month (Ooh, a New Feature!)

Draught

A close run thing this. But (and there’s always a BUT!), The best beer was one I had twice. Firstly at The Molly House (mislabelled, damn them!) and later at the mighty Joshua Brooks. Redwillow Faithless XVII, the Beetroot Stout was just so earthy, slightly sweet and just bloody GORGEOUS. Officially now my favourite brewer.

An honourable mention though for the always reliable Paramount (Elland 1872) Porter and Ilkley Siberia. Both unmissable when on.

Bottle

Again, close. But edging it is the Ego by North Riding Brewpub. Allsorts going on in this one (including Licorice!). See the Yorkshire Ales posting for the review.

Running it close was the bottled version of Elland 1872 Porter. See the Yorkshire Ales posting for the review (again!)

Well, I’ve bored you enough for one night. Also, I’ve got to get myself ready for a visit to Wilson Potter tomorrow to sample some of their lovely ales. And I hope to tell you ALL about it (if I don’t lose the Nexus!)

Slainte!

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

20130125_114828[1]

I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

20130125_120351[1]

The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

20130125_115827[1]

Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

20130125_133354[1]

(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

20130125_142020[1](Digging that chandelier!)

20130125_134405[1]

(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

20130125_140545[1]

Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

20130125_173046[1](Starting to get busy now!)

3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!