Bottled Ales – June 2014 – Pt 1

“I’ll only ask you once more. You only want to believe
This man is looking for someone to hold his hand, he doesn’t quite ever understand the meaning

Never heard about, Oscar Wilde and never talk about Brendan Behan,
Don’t have to think about Sean O’Casey and don’t care about George Bernard Shaw.
You never hear about Samuel Beckett, you won’t talk about Eugene O’Neill, or Edna O’Brien and Lawrence Stern.

Shut it! You don’t understand it. Shut it! That’s not the way I planned it.

Shut it! Shut you mouth ’til you know the truth!”

(“Burn It Down”  – AKA “Dance Stance” – Dexys Midnight Runners)

(Tune clip courtesy of  Anette Roller on YouTube)

Now THIS could cause an argument. Walk into a Manchester pub and assert that Dexys were the best band in Britain in the late 70s. Then run! By this – being a lover of Soul music – I mean the first incarnation of Dexys. The band that Kevin Rowland drilled relentlessly until they were ready to be unleashed. Until they were a band whose performances, laden with passion and sweat, became things of legend.

OK the “Mean Streets” garb looked a bit contrived, but this was a band that wanted you to know that they MEANT what they were doing. That it mattered to them and they wanted it to matter to you. For an album and a half – they never did get to release that second album they were working up to (“The Projected Passion Revue” eventually seeing a form of release in 2007) – they were simply a force. They were utterly brilliant, dirty, gritty, soulful and real. Before the abomination that was Too-Ry-Ay and performing “Jackie Wilson Said” on TOTP to a backdrop of Jocky Wilson!

They reformed for an album “One Day I’ll Soar” in 2012 and released what was  – for me – the single of that year “She Got A Wiggle” a lyrical portrait of unrequited love. I love it.

There. I’ve said it. I’m a Manc who saw Joy Division & The Fall in their late 70s early & 1980 pomp. And I love Dexys. And Rowland loves Northern Soul too (The origin of the bands name…..oh, go check Wikipedia)

One more reason as to why the latter clip in particular is important to me. One night in Brewdog in Manchester, I met two buddies of mine and a couple of old friends. Of the two buddies, Jeff was en route to see Dexys at The Bridgewater Hall (as were my old friends Phil & Sue). Myself, the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff started to chat….which turned into the chat which pushed me into doing this nonsense. A beer blog was born…over a glass of Human Cannonball!

On that note – 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. The Porter – Anspach & Hobday (Bermondsey , S. London) – 6.7% abv – Porter – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

“Conceived in the 19th Century, refined for the 21st” it says on the bottle. Really? I’ve seen at least one negative comment about their beers recently, but, to be honest, I enjoyed The IPA and was more than happy to give this a try….

This is one lively puppy! A booming mocha coloured head and an aroma that brought back memories of “Old Jamaica” chocolate bars from Cadbury’s – chocolate and slightly rum soaked raisins. A beautiful earthy perfume! Full-bodied and with a slight sweetness, the bittersweet chocolate is what first hits you followed by a bitterness offsetting the sweetness and an earthy hoppiness. Then there is something more….floral….? Then a dry cocoa quality….. The flavours delayering with each mouthful. Refined for the 21st Century? Not sure about that, but this IS bloody good!

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2. White QueenTatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 10% 12 or more btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

If memory serves, I picked this up from Dan & Gina’s increasingly popular bar, after the recent excellent Gourmet Burger & Beer Match hosted by Shaun (aka @FoodGeekUK) They’re getting busier & busier, deservedly so too. Great beers, kept well. Anyway…the bottle….

The label drew me in. Then it caught me. I absolutely love the series of historical novels by Philippa Gregory based around the life of Elizabeth Woodville (“The White Queen!) Simply excellent. The label is classy, minimal, but with a bit of regality in that font.

An intentionally hazy yellow gold brew with a thin white head and an aroma sweet with orange zest, a floral note and a little spice on the nose. Light bodied with a gentle carbonation leading to a smooth mouthfeel. There is an orangey flavour to the fore in the initial mouthful leading on to some clove and maybe a hint of cardamom. Really light and refreshing, fruity with the orange and a beautifully dry finish with a herbal hint in the aftertaste and with very low bitterness. This is so easy drinking. Really nice stab at a wheat beer. Any on cask?

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3. 13 GunsCrafty Dan (Thwaites) (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £1.99 (330ml) – 10% 12 btls or more – The Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

This deep ruby coloured beer has a lively off white head and an aroma reminding me of toast & marmalade. Orangey marmalade flavours continue in the mouth riding on the back of big biscuity sticky malt. A luxurious really smooth full-bodied mouthful, Smooth as silk, but more fruity, this is lovely. Plenty of resinous hops to make the tongue curl and the gums tingle. Yum.
The bitterness on this was dialled down. Not sure if this was due to the fact that I forgot I had this and it lay stored for a couple of months. A damned enjoyable fruity beast nonetheless. I’ll get a fresher one and see if it’s any better!
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4. Düsseldorf Altbeer – Hornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – German-Style Altbeer – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% 12 or more btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
The Arch Nemesis persuaded me to buy this one I think. Darker German style beers usually being too sweet for my tastes. Needless to say, I’ve learned to trust the A-N on beer over the years!
A really deep amber beer with a white head and a spicy chocolatey aroma, bit nutty too…like a Nutella on toast. Ooh… but this is a surprise….
There is a buttered toast maltyness to this, beautifully smooth medium-bodied beer. Then comes the chocolate note, like a light dusting of cocoa powder on a latte. Then a little sweetness kicks in, immediately countered by a hoppy herbal bitterness. That bitterness fades slightly into a herbal grassy aftertaste with a lingering chocolate note. Great balance to this, like all Hornbeam beers that I’ve had. Damned moreish….
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5. Imperial Russian StoutLiverpool Organic Brewery (Er…Liverpool) – 8.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.99 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)
This was another one that’s been stashed for a while….Needed to de-stress the other evening with a lot of stuff re the beer festival rattling round my vacated skull. This did the trick!
Black. Oh so black. Like a liquid black hole, no light comes out of this devil. Other than the lightly scattered cream coloured head. The aroma just oozes out….bitter, VERY bitter chocolate, dark red wine, slightly tannic, and the smell of a newly flexed fresh leather belt, so fresh that you can almost hear the cow “moo”! Spicy too.
Hugely bodied, the first taste that assaults you is that bitter chocolate, then a spicy bitterness followed by a quite powerful licorice bite, sweet yet dry. Second mouthful has the tongue tingling, sweetness, yes, but that bitter licorice is followed by an almost tobacco like tone. The finish has a big boozy feel to it, quite vinous. Sweet, but with a woody edge to it. Warming. I’ll sleep well. (I did BTW!)
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6. Something Something Barrel Aged – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W. London) – 9% abv – BA Imperial BIPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man Manchester (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)
Not seen Damian in a while. Then, last time I was at Raj’s, he popped in doing a delivery and plopped this in my ravenous maw. Surprised & pleased in equal measure, I clutched it to my chest and muttered something like ….”my…precious….
Like a Black Panther, a simply stunning creature to look at. All sleek black sinuous muscle, gorgeous yet malevolent. This beer wants to eat you and your children. That creamy colour head is to lull you into a false sense of security. Approaching it warily, aroma is sweet citrus, but with a darker intent, lurking beneath the sweetness.

Oh boy, the moment the darkness slipped past my lips, the claws came out! Beautifully full-bodied and smooth… Oh so smooth…. There’s burnt toast, bitter chocolate, an earthiness… yet after all that going on… a big sticky almost marmalade citrus jumps to the rescue like Tarzan. This is stunningly good. There is a subtle and building smokiness which is none too intrusive, just there as each mouthful sinks safely down. Yes there is sweetness, but this is just so well balanced with a fruity hop dryness and resins finishing it off. Like the Panther, I’m purring! And sated.

Didn’t realise it had been so long since the last bottle piece! More soon (+ maybe an update on progress for the Beer Fest – follow @salfordbeerfest on Twitter for up to date…..zzzzzzz)
On that note…..’til next time….
Slainte!

 

Sainsbury – Great British Beer Hunt 2013

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This is the third year of this competition, but I have to confess that years 1 & 2 almost passed me by completely. It was only in the aftermath of the 2012 iteration, that I picked up on the 2 winners Mocha by Batemans (slightly sweet, but v moreish) & J W Lees’ Manchester Star – a recreated recipe of a 19th century beer initially created in collaboration with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, I think I still have a bottle of that lurking somewhere!

This year however, I picked up on some of the buzz via Twitter & Facebook and headed to my nearest branch.

The competition works like this. This year, over 150 bottled beers were entered in the four regional competitions (Scot/NI, North, East & West) and, through customer tasting sessions, were whittled down to five from each region. These 20 beers are then stocked across the Sainsbury estate and, via volume of sales, are further whittled down to 12 which go through to a final judging by “beer experts” (sorry, couldn’t help myself – Just can’t get over Worthington White Shield winning Champion Bottle Beer of Britain at GBBF!)

Prize for 1st place? Shelf space in over 250 stores. 2nd place? 100 stores. A significant deal for almost any Micro!

Walking in to my branch at Bolton, the beers were clearly on display and separated from the main booze aisles. Now, despite a thoroughly undeserved reputation as a bit of a lush, there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to attempt all 20 beers! So I got selective. I bought 10 or so different bottles (in varying quantities) Here’s the best of the bunch that I bought.

One further point. My usual format for listing changes here, as all the beers were bought from the one retailer and all cost the same price – a ludicrously cheap £1.50!!!

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1. Windermere PaleHawkshead Brewery (Staveley , Cumbria) – 4% abv –  Pale Ale – 500ml

Firstly (and I feel like I’m back at school here!), I misplaced my photo of the poured bottle. I did take one, honest sir……it was there this morning……

Pale as a spring morning but with the pungent aroma of autumns harvest of that beast of a hop, Citra! If you have ever had this on draught….It’s just as pale, just as hoppy. Sweet and sharp on the nose with pineapple and grapefruit, light bodied but absolutely PACKED with hoppy flavours with more grapefruit having the edge. A nice slightly sweet rich tea biscuit base allows the hops to party. Nice very dry bitter finish. Slightly boosted in strength to 4% (draught on cask being 3.5% abv) but loses none of its refreshing ability. More please!

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2 Gonny No Brew ThatWilliams Bros Brewing (Alloa, Scotland) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml

I thought that at this strength, that this beer might suffer in comparison. Not a bit of it! Pale and gold with a pineapple marmaladey nose. Quite full-bodied for this strength with a doughy bread base balanced by a cutting orangey bitterness. A nice fruity bittersweet finish. Nice beer at this strength.

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3. Crafty Dan – Daniel Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 6% abv – Strong Pale Ale – 500ml

Brewed on a smaller brew kit used for Thwaites seasonal range, this is one of quite a few Thwaites beers I’ve had this year which is seriously impressive. Deep gold, abundant white foam head with an aroma of orange marmalade on warm bread. In the mouth, more slightly bitter Seville marmalade hops with a nice big biscuit malt base. Hints of warming rum or Curacao. A nice bitterness in the finish with a spicy orange tang. A Blackburn Belter!

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4. India Pale AleHarbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – IPA – 500ml

One of two Harbour beers that I bought. Not had much of their stuff, but what I have had has been impressive, but on keg. This was a bronze coloured beer full of citrus aromas. Medium bodied and really citrus fruity with gum tingling piney resins swirling around the mouth. A really nice hoppy bitter beer with sufficient malty sweetness for just the right balance – with the hops on top that is! Very tasty indeed!

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5. Porter No 6Harbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 6.8% abv – Porter – 330ml

Just to ramp the strength back up and to introduce some shade into all this light stuff! The second from Harbour. A deep ruby, nearly black beer with a surprising raisin wine aroma (for this strength). A mouthful of caramel maltyness with a nice coffee and sweet chocolate flavouring. This was quite warming as it slipped down – again, surprisingly so at this strength point. A touch sweeter that I usually like my porters, but a truly cracking bottle!

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6. WayfarerOrkney Brewery (Cawdor, Nairnshire, Scotland) – 4.4% abv – IPA – 500ml

A really pale beer with a distinctive citrus aroma, reminiscent of bitter lemon. Balanced malt base but overlaid with cascade and amarillo hop zing, more grapefuit and lemon puckering the lips. Really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly resinous finish. First Orkney I’ve had in a while. A cracker.

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7. Infra RedHardknott Brewery (Millom, Cumbria) – 6.2% abv – Red IPA (I suppose!) – 330ml

This almost exploded as I opened it. A ruby red beer with an aroma of cough candy, spicy and slightly yeasty. Again, in the mouth, the cough candy of the crystal malt is evident, but with quite a bitter hoppy hit. Quite bitter and spicy in the finish with a spicy hop lingering.

There you go. I didn’t burden you with the ones that I didn’t quite get. The Querkus Smoked Porter was particularly disappointing and the Hunters Devon Dreamer was a bit yeasty (may have shaken and not settled to be fair)

I know that this is now a bit late in the game, but if you bought any of the above, you’d be doing yourselves a favour IMO! And, you only have until next Wednesday. What are you waiting for???

If you ask me for my favourites….I’d have to say the Crafty Dan, and the Harbour Porter. The others just being shaded, but only just! Certainly, if the Bolton stores’ sales are anything to go by, the Hawkshead Windermere Pale has been selling well. Just look at the picture at the top!

On that note…’til next time…(probably Hornbeam MTB at The Salford Arms tomorrow evening!)

Slainte!