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.
A BIG statement. And it may surprise you….
Dark Stout – Barearts 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.
The Black Crossroads – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) / Elusive Brewing (London) – 6.5% abv – Stout – Heaton 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.
Tripel – Tickety 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.
Ace of Spades – Black 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!
DIPA – Cloudwater 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.
American Barleywine 2015 – Torrside 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…..