Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 2 – Manchester, So Much To Answer For

“If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground,

As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight.

Far from home, Elephant Gun let’s take them down one by one….”

(“Elephant Gun” – Beirut)

(Video courtesy of 4AD Records on You Tube)

About 4 years ago, I subscribed to a music download website called E-Music. I’d gotten bored with buying cheap compilations whilst supermarket shopping. Through this website, I rediscovered my love of music but in particular, guitar led music. It was though E-music that I discovered the delights of Spoon (from Austin, Texas), The Decemberists (Portland, Oregon) and Beirut (Albuquerque, New Mexico via New York)

I gleaned from the website that Elephant Gun was a popular track by this band, it was therefore the first that I sampled. I was, quite simply, blown away. Part Mexican marching band, part Eastern European village folk and the most lovely warm and slightly sad voice. That voice is Zach Condon. He is Beirut and played most – if not all – the instruments on that album “Gulag Orkestar”. I was even more flabbergasted when I learned that he wrote most of these songs and arrangements when he was about 16 years old! A young man with an old soul. I love them. The 2nd album “The Flying Club Cup” is more than worth a listen too!

Time for business. The business being beer!

Being a bit of a contrary old git, I hit upon a fantastic idea. Why not write a post about Manchester bottles, whilst firmly ensconced in that there Big Smoke? Yeah, brilliant, until you need to add the weight of 5 bottles and a laptop to the considerable luggage that I was already taking! Silly boy! But, here we are. Never said that I wasn’t an idiot!

Now normally, I do try to post on the E of Eight O’Clock on the Saturday morning (you really can’t beat a bit of morning regularity!), however, my schedule was a bit set back when the hotel “tidied up” the glasses that I brought down from Manchester. They went walkabout for 3 days! Hence, when you view the image for the Elephant Hawk, I was drinking out of tumblers!!! Enough waffling…….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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…

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1. Elephant Hawk IPA – (Collab) Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) & Thirst Class Ale (Richard Conway) – 6.4% abv – IPA– £4.59  – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The inspiration for today’s rather exceptional (IMHO) tune! I’ve met Richard (Jay’s collaborator) on a couple of occasions, nice bloke and another of these devilishly talented members of the Manchester Homebrewing Group. Jay, being an exceptionally talented alechemist himself, has a rather canny knack of choosing excellent collaborators, had he done it again?

An amber (indeed) coloured beer, white head and a big citrus fruit aroma loaded with sharp grapefruit. Then, in the mouth, BOOM! Really full-bodied and fruity with a big caramel biscuit backbone supporting HUGE hops! Hugely piney with more than a hint of apricot to my gob, this is a BIG beer. Gorgeously bitter with and aftertaste that is grassy as hell, big, sticky resins clinging on. A simply superb collaboration! I missed it on cask, but reliable intelligence reports (Arch-Nemesis!) said it was tremendous. I just hope Jay brews it again!

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2. Porter – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Porter– £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“I got a feeling, feeling. You’ve got me rocking and a reeling”! (Sorry, listening to The Four Tops whilst typing!)

Got this as part of a 2 for a £5 offer from Raj, but left this one a while having really enjoyed their IPA. The Darkside was calling the night before I left for London.

A deep ruby brown colour with a thick creamy (texture & colour) head, yielding an aroma including spice and mocha. A full-bodied beer, really smooth and creamy textured, the first flavour that I hit reminded me of chocolate ice cream, then a nice mid strength bitter chocolate with a little choccy caramel sweetness luring you into a quite hoppy and bitter finish. Nice resinous aftertaste too. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Excellent!

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3. Black PortBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.9% abv – Stout – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

Draught cask ale? Loads. But nary a bottle from this Horwich brewer. But bottling commenced before Xmas, I’d just been lazy. The night before I travelled down to reside in this Thames Side hotel for the last week, I hit upon the theme for this blog post, but was missing two Manchester area bottles…..To the rescue came Dan Buck from Great Ale Year! He’s a top bloke!

A black beer (“no shit Sherlock”, I hear you groan!), hugely lively with a massive cream coloured head with a chocolate and slightly sweet boozy note – the Port perhaps? Medium-bodied with initially chocolate in the mouth with some sweetness from the Port coming through. Then my rather defective tastebuds thought they got a sweet touch of strawberry! Later mouthfuls reached the developing big chocolate rounded off by a substantial hoppy character. Well. Defective tastebuds or no, I loved this! More please!

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4. FCB – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.6% abv – Bitter – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I llove Rik Garner’s beers, almost as much as the funky soulful tuneage he blasts out in his DJ sets in his railway arch brewery cum live venue cum nightclub! Keep an eye out for his once a month open nights, they’re superb!

Amber coloured beer with a nice fluffy white head clinging on with an aroma of peach and tangerine with some grassyness. Quite medium bodied for the strength with more hints of peach or nectarine, a little orange and a tiny hint of raspberry, quite a degree of bitterness with a nice pineyness (a word?) to it. The finish is bitter with a crackling resinous pine aftertaste. Another belter. This could develop into a standby beer – my ultimate accolade, as I rarely drink the same beer twice! (But I’m not a ticker. Oh No!)

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5. Dubbel – Tickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 6.5% abv – Belgian-Style Dubbel – £2.89 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another from Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent stall on Bolton Market. I need to visit more and keep up with their expanding range!

A really deep ruby coloured beer with quite a fruity sweet nose with a hint of chocolate. Quite refreshing for such a relatively high abv beer, medium bodied, there is a bit of boiled sweet in this as well as some fruity plum and a little spicyness which becomes more prominent in the aftertaste and the lingering tingle in the gums. I like TB and this was the one beer that I held back on, unsure if I’d like a dubbel – not sure I’ve tried many to be fair, but this is my favourite of their beers so far.

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6. Cuckoo Number 7 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Bergamot & Peppercorn Saison– £4 (500ml) – Prestwich Beer Festival but also (possibly) Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

I first sampled this whan that nice man Darren Turpin (accompanied by the lovely Jo, opened the bottle that he purchased at the Prestwich beer Festival. I really enjoyed the taste that I got, but yearned for a somewhat larger measure. So I bought one!

An effervescent golden beer with a floral aroma and a hint of fruity peach, the head diminishing rapidly. That lovely delicate aroma leads you to a full body and more floral notes (that’ll be the bergamot then!) with more tropical fruit. The slight surprise (which shouldn’t be really!) comes when the gums start to tingle. Ahh…those lovely peppercorns! This beer has it all. A certain Belgian yeastyness, lovely and fruity, delicate bergamot and tingling spice. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!

So there you go. My idiocy in carrying an additional 10 Kilos or so of weight in my luggage is laid bare. All to be a bit perverse and laud Mancunian Beers in “Craft Central”! Was it worth it?

On that note…’til next time…(Notes from my week down here)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

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“She had an horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beat.
When I looked in her eyes they were blue. but nobody home.
Well she could’ve been a killer if she didn’t walk the way she do and she do.
She opened strange doors that we’d never close again.”

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

Strangely – for someone who regards himself as fairly to moderately shy – I like meeting new people, especially ones who have a particularly strong interest in beer. I met two such at Damian O’Sheas excellent stall at the Urban Market in Salford a few weeks back. They were Dan & Gina Buck and have been selling beers at Farmers Markets for a while now. I was quite excited when I learned that they were planning to open a “Micro Bar” in the semi-arid area that is central Bolton, in the refurbished Market. The centre of Bolton isn’t exactly blessed with bars with great beer (IMO, of course) and Bradshawgate IS a bit of an obstacle course resembling downtown Beirut on a Saturday night, but I’m quite excited about what Dan & Gina have planned.

Unless I have something WAY wrong, the aim is to stock mostly (though not exclusively) local beers with an accent on flavour and quality. I for one can’t wait until the opening day, which, at the moment, is set for the 21st of this month. A diary date indeed! (BTW – The couple tweet – and retail – as @GreatAleYear). I’ll certainly be there enjoying a little “warm up” before the Manchester Beer & Cider Fest the next day!

Anyway, down to business…..

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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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…

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1. Rednik StoutBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 4.1% abv – Stout – £2.05 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Stout + Buxton Brewery. My favourite style of beer by one of the best breweries in the UK. What can go wrong? Well, nothing! This is a cracker! (And, at the price, a bloody bargain!)

Just as a good Stout should be, opaque (courtesy of Tandleman that one!), black with a creamy tan head that released a distinct lightly sugared mocha aroma. A nice start.

Medium bodied and smooth in the mouth, the initial dark chocolate flavour combining the bitter with subtle sweetness was followed by a smooth milky coffee which mingled with a light smoky note and some tingling spiciness ending up with a bit of a dry hoppy flourish, grassy but not overpowering the roasted malty stuff. The last word I wrote on my notes was “yum!”

As far as low strength Stouts go, this is as good as it gets. Superb.

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2. A Little Lupy (Single Hopped – Galaxy) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj and his growing Whitefield beer selection. I had the Stormy Point collab beer from Shane last month (see here) and was as impressed as I had been when I had it on draught. Having had one or two of his “12 Bar Blues” series before, I was really looking forward to this.

Poured a lovely glowing golden colour with a thin white head which gave up a fruity hop aroma with peach and tangerine sweet citrus to the fore. Medium bodied, this beer is full of sweet citrus with tangerine up front, cut with a little lemon sharpness. Slips down really easily this. A really refreshing and fruity mouthful, gently bitter, leading to a sharp dry finish with a resinous grassy aftertaste in with the fruit. Another absolute belter at a relatively low gravity! I’m led to believe that he may be doing more single hop variants of this beer. I’m keeping an eye out for those, whilst drooling!

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3. Hit The Fairy LightsWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 4.6% abv – (Festive!) Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another one from Raj and, for Weird Beard, I broke my rule of not drinking “festive” beers. I have had some truly appallingly lazy “Xmas” beers and, as a result, usually shun such things. However, having been so impressed by the output from this West London brewery, I made an exception. And I’m glad I did!

Poured a pale gold with a rapidly diminished white head.  First aroma to hit was a fruity orange, then a gentle aniseed/licorice like note. Medium bodied, an initial flavour of soft citrus, maybe satsuma or orange sits on a nice bready malt backbone then, quite surprisingly a sudden resinous dryness hits with a light bitterness. There is Star Anise added to the boil in this which I got more in the aroma than in the mouth. Still, an impressive beer, and for a “Festive” pale ale, this is the best “Xmas” beer i think I’ve had short of a big Stout!

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4. Scary MonstersRevolutions Brewing / Five Towns Brewery (Collab) – 4.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

One of a number of beers I picked up from a visit last week to Adrian & Vicky’s Snaith emporium, including 2 more with a David Bowie theme from Five Towns (must be fans those Bastows!). Being a fan of Black IPAs, this was the first I reached for.

There is a pale twin of this beer – Super Creeps – but unfortunately, I missed it. Gutted! Being from TWO of my favourite breweries – Oh I know how this is going to go!

A really deep ruby coloured beer, would be almost black without being held up to the light. As soon as I opened this lively bottle, I was hit with a big citrus aroma (and my nose was a foot from the bottle!) Aromas shooting from the glass include tangerine and peach. Another medium bodied beer this, the first thing that I got was the citrus with those fruity aromas matched in the mouth – peach/nectarine and tangerine. This is immediately followed by a bitter note with perhaps licorice and bitter chocolate. The next layer was a tongue curling dry grassyness with some great late revealing hoppage. I don’t want this beer to end! Just brilliant – and unfortunately limited to 700 bottles I believe.

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

Now, for two start-ups! One a shop/micro bar – opening soon! The other……a World first review for a new brewery!

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5. Gamma Ray – Beavertown Brewery – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – or soon to be!)

I was ashamed to say that, until the Beavertown MTB at Port Street last year, I hadn’t had any of their beers. I went to the MTB purely on the recommendations of two people whose good taste I trust implicitly, Jeff & Jaz (See what I did there!). The beers were universally superb and the first that I had that evening, was this, on keg. I loved it,

When Dan from Great Ale Year Round said that he had some for launch day, I got in early!

Hazy gold, light white head clinging to the glass, the initial aroma was a lovely sweet mango with maybe just a hint of tart grapefruit in the background.

Smooth as a freshly ironed smooth thing in the mouth, more fruity mango, slightly sweet and biscuity backbone leading to a dry herbal hoppy finish. Each mouthful is just SO smooth, I could almost forget that it was bottled! So fruity yet so dry and grassy. Damn, why have I waited for so long to buy some of these? (Got an 8 Ball and a Smog Rocket lined up too. Lucky me!)

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6. Cuckoo Number 2Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – IPA – £4 (330ml) – Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

“Drum roll please!” – I do believe that this may be the first review of a beer by this fledgling brewer. I feel quite honoured at that! And quite daunted. Ah bollocks to the wittering!

I picked up on this brewer on Twitter the other day and made some enquiries. I swiftly realised that his beers were limited in availability and currently retail in only one location. Cuckoo on Bury New Road in Prestwich. Being the excitable type, myself and the ever lovely Atilla popped up to snaffle one for review. And at £4 for a 7% beer, from a bar, I was made up with the price! I think we’ll be back. Atilla liked the look (and smell) of the food! Busy bar, nice friendly staff. No draught ales, but Brightside & this brewer in bottle. Good enough for me!

However, it’s all about the beer. Is it any good? Damn right it is!

Starting with the bottle. No branding, just a tag, dangling like a cigarette from Alain Delon’s lips. Minimalist and damn classy! (I’m sure the brewer wouldn’t agree!). reminded me a touch of Bad Seed in that respect, with that hanging tag. But THE DAMN BEER! Oh….OK….

Amber coloured with a light white fluffy head and a lovely big citrus aroma (hopped with Warrior, Columbus & Citra) with deep grapefruit tones and a background note of toffee. A full-bodied beer with initial big grapefruit flavours mellowing in the swallow to more of a peachy tone, then it warmly slides down the throat, caressing your insides like an internal fleecy blanket. Then you breathe after the swallow and the resinous pine floods into the mouth like a wave on a beach. The finish is simultaneously fruity and dry with a more gentle resinous note hanging around like a barfly.

An impressive first beer for me from this brewer. I was lucky enough to also pick up a Smoky Stout from the brewer himself which I’ll let settle and have next week. If it’s anywhere near as good as this, you’ll be hearing about it!

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!