Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 4

“Have you sought fortune evasive and shy? Drink to the men who protect you and I.

Drink drink drain your glass, raise your glass high.

It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine, I’m thinking that it must be love.

It’s too late to be grateful, It’s too late to be late again.

It’s too late to be hateful, the European cannon is here!”

(“Station to Station– David Bowie)

(Video courtesy of DJ Johnson – YouTube)

My oh my can Adrian Belew play guitar! Possibly a controversial statement, but this is my favourite Bowie album, the one where I think he is at the peak of his (allegedly, chemically inspired) powers.

The lead track is like 3 songs in one and ranges from Kraftwerk and Can inspired Krautrock (a term I despise), through funk & soul to straight out rock & roll, it just……ohhhh!

The album starts with the title track and moves through “Golden Years” with its linkage to the “Young Americans” white soul leading on to “Word On A Wing”, a beautiful love song then to “TVC 15” and “Stay”, both of which give a glimpse of stylistic shifts that would lead to “The Berlin Trilogy” of Low, Heroes & Lodger. “Wild Is The Wind” signs the album off so smoothly with another (probable) love song, although it’s difficult to fathom the lyrics at any stage on this album.

Station To Station has been described as a “transition album”, but for me, it stands as a monument. The greatest work of the greatest and most influential artist. Period.

(Recommended albums? Don’t be silly. They’re all brilliant!)

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!
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1. Chocolate Domination – Hornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 5.7% abv – Strong Dark Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Great to see this hugely underrated brewery available on my patch, they just make some of the most drinkable beers in the area, but without the fanfare that the bloggerati give to some of the trendier “names”. I believe that this particular bottle sold out in no time at all. And no wonder!

Black as a Vikings’ heart, but different, having a creamy tan coloured head and a nose fuuuuuull of sweet chocolate!

In the mouth…..this is LUUUSH! The liquid equivalent of a George Clooney chat up line, this is gorgeous and so so so smoooove! Full-bodied, As the dark delight hits the mouth, it initially tastes slightly sweet, but then does a little trick (steady now!)…..and loses that initial sweetness becoming quite dry and grassy/hoppy as it slides down. Silky smooth this.

Loads of chocolate and a touch of something more gently herbal. Initially I thought it liquorice, but not so sure. The chocolate also starts to taste darker and more bitter the further down the glass I’ve gone. This is just SUCH a good beer. Manchester beers really do ROCK! And after the discount, a bloody steal!

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2. Shipwreck IPA – Bragdy Conwy (Conwy, N. Wales) – 5% abv – IPA – £2.89 (500ml) – 0 – Carringtons (Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton)

I think that this may only be the second bottle I’ve had from this brewery, they’re becoming increasingly available on draught too. The Honey Porter was superb!

Deep gold and initially quite lively with a booming head that quickly settled leaving behind an aroma of orange and honey blossom, sweet, yet with a spicy note.

Quite full-bodied in the mouth this, that carbonation lending a spiky touch, smooth marmalade is what gets me initially, with a touch of that honeyed sweetness. The second mouthful reinforces the orangey flavours and sees the bitterness building, but not massively so.

As I’m going down the glass, this gets smoother and smoother. The finish is gently bittersweet with a savoury herbal aftertaste drying the palate. Really nice beer  this.

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3. Station Best Bitter – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W. Yorkshire) – 4.3% abv – Best Bitter – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A Mallinsons’ beer that isn’t single hopped? Whatever!

As pale as a new spring morning laced with that beautiful morning sun, well carbonated (as always) with the head receding to a thin white foam that’s giving up a rather strange aroma for a “best bitter”, there’s a bit of tart gooseberry in there but also a more delicate floral quality, if no hop hammer, then no less enticing, a delicate touch.

What follows in the mouth is quite quite lovely (that’s not a stutter!). Really smooth, light to medium-bodied, there’s a rich tea biscuit to the backbone upon which the hops do a floral dance (Just where IS Terry Wogan when you need him eh? – A lame attempted quip for the old ‘uns!)

There’s some kiwi perhaps as well as a degree of tartness. So refreshing and light, a perfect summer beer this on the eve of the warm season. A moderate fruity bitterness to this leads to a dry grassy finish. It may not be single hopped, but this is typical Mallinsons, typically tasty, typically refreshing. Beautiful. The term “Best Bitter” doesn’t do this justice!

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4. Munchner – Tickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Gtr Manchester) – 4.5% abv – Munich Style – £1.99 (330ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Simply the classiest labelling. Achieves its objective by drawing the eyes and stands out on any shelf. Like good branding should. But this would be a challenge, as I’m not overly struck on darker German beer styles, finding the ones I’ve had a bit too sweet for my tastes.

Quite the deep dark ruby colour, with a thin white head and an aroma mainly toffeeish, but with the scent of something ….deeper? A gentle sweeter perfume?

In the mouth, this is medium-bodied with a really fine carbonation of tiny bubble. Yes, there is a toffeeish caramel sweetness to this (like those caramel tasting biccies you get with a posh coffee?), but is really well-balanced with some delicate perfumed hopping and is actually, surprisingly rather refreshing with the Belgian funk note of the yeast holding off until further down the glass. I normally don’t enjoy the darker German styles, but this is really rather lovely.

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5. Outwood Gold  Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery 

Now THIS is what I call minimalist labelling. There isn’t one! The benefits of getting the beer so fresh from the brewery eh?

Another really pale straw coloured beer, from the maestro from Outwood, Wakefield that is Malcolm Bastow.

A lively carbonation with fine bubbles giving an abundant white fluffy head and a fresh zesty aroma of sugared grapefruit and satsuma. A light white bready malt allowing the hops to shine here, with initial flavours of tangerine with a little lime sharpness in there on the edge. Subsequent mouthfuls build on this citrus and display a refined touch with a gentle bitterness that remains just that. The finish is dry and slightly tart with a drying hoppy aftertaste, slightly resinous.

Another damned classy pale from Mr B!

Sorry to bore you all, but no rants this week!

That’s it for this week, only 5, but a classy 5 nonetheless. Probably a couple more posts before the next bottle run, Stockport Beer Festival was excellent yesterday, maybe another old pub stroll and possibly a piece about watching two of my favourite breweries collaborating (Allgates & Five Towns)….but they’re for another day…….

On that note….’til next time…..

Slainte!

 

 

 

The Best Little Beerhouse in Texas (well, Stockport!) 08/12/2012

Following on from the previous Saturday outing, I had received my replacement bank cards. I fancied something a little different. U14s football match was cancelled. So my youngest and I fancied a drive. OK, beer WAS involved (isn’t it always!). Giving your friend and mine a call, we arranged to pick Jaz up in Manchester and head over to Stalyvegas for the Farmers Market – with the promise of a ‘surprise’ later.

It was lovely to meet the ladies from Wilson Potter Brewery who had a stand at the Market Hall. It’s always nice to put faces to Twitter handles. Once I had asked for “another bottle of ‘In The Black'”, my cover was certainly blown! I am sure that my friends will enjoy the Xmas Stocking fillers that I bought (I’m certainly looking forward to the ‘Pudding Porter’!)

There were some nice craft stalls in the hall, but (other than the VERY spicy sandwich pickle), nothing else tickled my fancy, so, Wilson Potter beers in hand, it was time for the ‘SURPRISE’! Back onto the M60 for a few miles, some jiggery-pokery around Jct 3 and we were parked up outside….

The Beer Shop

The Beer Shop, Heaton Mersey

(courtesy Panoromio / Phil Rowbotham)

Kingsleigh Road in Heaton Moor is just like any suburban road in South Manchester. Nice houses, some flats, a bloody big Tesco at the end….until you get to close to the junction with Mauldeth Road. There, at No 13 is The Beer Shop. It’s a small premises in the middle of a terrace of other retail businesses. But, for me, what lies inside is quite special!

I was introduced to this liquid utopia by Jeff (Take a Bow young man!) who told me that if I was in the area, I should give it a try for some rarer beers. By ‘eck he wasn’t wrong!

I first went in the summer. Parking up, the owner was in the process of putting some metal tables outside. This looked a tad unusual. Why would an off-licence put tables outside? Then I went inside.

First thing to hit the eyes were, more tables. Only THEN did the reason become apparent. Handpumps. FIVE of them! I had come to buy bottles, but, when offered the chance of a thirst slaking half, I crumbled. That half was Moor Top from Buxton Brewery, a fabulously quenching pale ale at 3.6% (and my introduction to Buxtons fine beers).

After a lengthy chat with the owner (busy re-organising his storage), I fulfilled my mission and bought some bottles. Lots of them. Amongst this haul were a number of darks, including the fabulous Tsar, also from Buxton Brewery (see previous review), two Sierra Nevada beers (Stout and Porter) and various others. I was astonished to find that they also do off sales of the draught beers in 3, 5 and up to 20 litre boxes. “I’ll be back”! I said.

Next occasion was on the day of a friends’ BBQ in New Mills. 5 litres of High Wire by Magic Rock was secured. Judging by the reception it got at the BBQ, I should have brought a 20! A fabulous pale hoppy ale at 5.5%, this cemented my love of all things Magic Rock.

Anyway, back to 08/12/2012! I obviously knew what to expect. However, my ale loving companion didn’t. His eyes were opened by 6 (SIX) draught ales, 5 on handpull and one from the cask.

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(The Cask Selection – NB selectively placed 1/2 of Heartless!)

They were…Infusion Pale Ale from Conwy Brewery from North Wales, Heartless Chocolate Stout from Redwillow of Macclesfield, Dissolution IPA from Kirkstall of Leeds, Moor Top from Buxton and Drunken Duck by George Wright of St Helens. From the cask was another George Wright beer, Spalt 51. Now THAT is a line up! I ordered a Heartless and Jaz ordered a Spalt 51. The Heartless was in fabulous nick. 4.9% abv, black as sin, smooth, dark and with a hint of dark chocolate and lots of lovely roasted malt flavour, another beer from Redwillow that ticks all my boxes! Jaz commented very favourably on his Spalt 51 also.

Having the car, this was the last beer for me. My companion however had other plans! He proceeded to dispatch a Kirkstall Dissolution, a gloriously bitter and hoppy IPA at 5.5% and a Heartless. Suitably slaked, we set about out bottled requirements.

You can refer to the website (click the link on the name) for a stock list. Safe to say that the bottled selection comprises a substantial number of beers that are VERY hard to come by in your usual “Offy”. There are some that I’ve only seen VERY rarely. There are a large number of American Craft Beers stocked from brewers like Brooklyn, Flying Dog, Odell, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Ska, Stone, Anchor, the list goes on. There are also a substantial number of German, Belgian and Dutch beers as well a a select number of British craft beers. There’s even Little Creatures Brewery from Oz!

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Given the size of the shop, the selection is quite large but select. Given even the shortest conversation with the owner, it’s obvious that he loves beer and cares passionately about what he sells. He is more than happy to chat and advise on beer selection to match your taste, even maybe to expand your beer horizons!

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Before we get to the beer selection, further important items to note. Firstly, there is no food on site. However, last time I checked, there was an arrangement with a local Nepalese take-away that will deliver to the shop. AND you can eat in! How cool is that??? Secondly, please note the opening hours listed below. This establishment does NOT open in the mornings!

Anyhow. The selection! Firstly, Ska Brewing (Durango, Colorado US) Steel Toe Milk Stout, Odell St Lupulin ‘Extra’ Pale Ale, Stone Brewing – Oak Aged, Arrogant Bastard Ale,  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10%!), Flying Dog Brewery – Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout (all USA) and Smokey and The Band-Aid smoked rye porter from Buxton Brewery.

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(Bottled Utopia!)

I then started to look for something slightly more….expensive. Something I may not have had before. I have heard Jeff and Jaz both extolling the virtues of the Norwegian craft brewers at Nogne, so I thought I’d give one a go. I opted for the Imperial Stout at 9% abv. Then, Jaz pulls out a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace! Oh dear……..I know I shouldn’t have, but I persuaded myself that I deserved something THAT special! (Check the website for the price!)

Talking about pricings. These are very competitive. The only comparable place locally for me is Micro Bar in Manchester Arndale Market. For comparable beers, the prices in The Beer Shop are certainly lower. Yes, you have to drive, or get the 197 bus from Albert Square (drops you close to the bottom of Kingsleigh Rd/ Mauldeth Rd Jct), but it is SO worth it.

Just remember the opening times!

They are :

Tuesday to Thursday 16:00 to 22:00
Friday 14:00 to 22:00
Saturday 12:00 to 22:00
Sunday 14:00 to 22:00

Slainte!

Castlefield Area Stroll – 22/11/2012

Feeling the need to stretch my legs (and my horizons!), it was high time I left the comforting bosom of the Northern Quarter for something different. Initial consultations with the mighty Jaz (well, this IS a democracy!) settled my decision (Democracy, eh???) and Castlefield was chosen. Reasons being a) I hadn’t written about any of the bars yet, b) At least one that I hadn’t visited yet, and c) Simply because….ok?

This time, in a slight twist to the usual, we had some company (Rob, Paul and Chris)! All my companions demontrated dedication to the cause, above and beyond…..the weather was FOUL!

Being furthest away, the meeting point was The Wharf in Castlefield basin. Having never been before, it was strangely tricky to find for such a large building. What a trek!

Located in the Castlefield canal basin (among the flats and offices etc) and formerly known as Jacksons Wharf, it is a large pub on two levels and seems to do quite a bit of food trade. Tonight, not rammed busy, but we unfortunately encountered a mixed group engaged in a Golf drinking game. As The Wharf constituted the 7th hole, it was getting a tad raucous! (More of them later!!!)

With there being 4 of us at this point, a traditional “whip” seemed in order. So off to the bar for 2 pints of a ginger flavoured beer from York Brewery, a pint of Weetwood Blonde and a Hornbeam Top Hop (mine). £14.50! Average over £3.60 a pint. This is expensive, even for Manchester. However, The Wharf patently must have its market. It certainly boasts a large selection of ales, having all 12 handpumps occupied, many with beers from local micros.

(A quiet moment at The Wharf!)

For this, The Wharf is to be applauded. The Hornbeam was a nice mid-brown bitter, fragrant hops on the nose, quite hoppy flavour with a nice dry finish. An excellent start on the taste front. But £14.50……! We move on….

The Knott Bar

The Knott has been a favoured meeting point for my work associates for a number of years, owing to its excellent beers and good food. The prices are average for Town and it  is an excellent meeting spot due to its proximity to both regional rail line (Deansgate) and Metrolink (GMex). Tonight it was reasonably busy for a Thursday. This was where we met Paul. Again, our Golfing game crew were here (the 8th hole) and some of them looked as if they were considerably “over par”!

Settling down to beer selection, Jaz & I went for a Hardknott Cool Fusion. A pale beer at 4.4% abv with a hint of ginger in the nose. The beer texture was somewhat lifeless, strange given that it was dispensed via beer engine, rather than direct from cask. The beer flavour was excellent with ginger to the fore with plenty of malt balance. A fine beer.

In common with most of the better bars in Manchester, The Knott has an excellent jukebox and as much as I would have liked to settle for another and some fine music….we have to move on. The Golfing crew headed to their 9th hole The Atlas opposite The Knott. However, we were destined to walk other fairways to…..

Cask

This bar is incredibly deceptive. The entrance and the frontage is so small, you could easily walk past. I’ve been a few times and nearly missed it tonight! Jukebox going strong, with The Black Keys juxtaposed with Joy Division….works for me!

(Unlike England, all wickets intact at Cask!)

We settled down to the beer selection, 3 on tonight with Redwillow, Pictish and Facers. I opted for the Shameless from the mighty Redwillow Brewery of Macclesfield. This pale cracker is a double IPA at 5.9% abv. Aromas of hoppy apricots giving way to lovely creamy hop bitterness. I don’t know what hops Mr Mackenzie put in this, but I detected more apricot and American hoppy flavours. A lovely beer and, notwithstanding the darks that come later, the best beer of the evening for me. With beers like this, I could be brought over from The Dark Side!!! The other 4 had the Pictish Brewers Gold, which was enjoyed hugely. Cask deserves more than one pint to be drunk, but, being a ‘stroll’……..

The Britons Protection

Briton

(Pic courtesy of…ah..you can see!)

The BP is a Manchester classic old fashioned boozer. Walking through the crowded front entrance, the pub was very busy on this miserable evening (performance at The Bridgewater?)

Quick scan of the bar reveals 4 ales on, but my eyes went no further that Conwy Brewery Honey Porter. Never had a Conwy on draught (though have had some bottles). We got the beers and settled in the corridor behind the bar as the other two rooms were quite busy too. This pub is a decorative gem with all this wood and stained glass! Simply gorgeous. I could come in even if the beer was pants…which it certainly wasn’t! 3 went for the Conwy, 2 went for the Coach House Farriers Best Bitter.

The Conwy is a dark brown porter. Some honey sweetness on the nose along with the dark roasted malt. The flavour was slightly honeyed, not sweet at all with a lovely smooth texture and nice roasted taste with a slight bitterness in the finish. A really nice subtle beer. I’ll be looking out for Conwy draught products again!

With all these people in the bar it was damn HOT! I was sweating like Lee Evans in a sauna!!! We needed to get into the cool night air and (passing the Peveril – another evening, maybe) we headed to…..

The Paramount

No need for descriptives for this fine Wetherspoon emporium. Straight to the bar. DARK HEAVEN! As well as the (Elland) Paramount Porter, there was Greenfield Black 5 AND Titanic Plum Porter! I was struggling to choose. But opted for the Titanic. Plums? Tick! Roasted Malt flavours? Tick! Good value at £2.09? Hell yes! Another excellent draught beer from the ever reliable Stoke brewers. (Just waiting for some more Chocolate & Vanilla Stout on draught please!!!).

(Welcome to The Dark Side…Mwuuhhaahaa!!!)

What’s this I see? All 5 strollers drinking dark beer? Heavens to Murgatroyd!!!! The inevitable second beer in this fine hostelry was a doozy for me. Paramount Porter. 6.5% of Porter heaven. Creamy, slightly bitter, licorice and coffee roast. This is a 5 star beer at a 1 star price. £2.40!!!

Getting late. Chris, being off to Hamburg on a jolly on Friday morning, was dropped at St Peters Sq Metrolink. I fancied one more at Waterhouse, but was outvoted. Let’s just say, it got messy, buses were missed…….TAXI!

‘Til next time.

Slainte!