The Established & The New – 2 Bars in Brighton – 18/05/2015

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(Brighton almost blew me away. Literally)

Some of the more perceptive of you may have realised that I care about the more social side. In that regard, I am indeed, a bit of a Socialist. Over the years, I have held a number of roles in the various Unions that protected my rights. So, when a Senior fella from the Union’s London HQ asked me to fill a role at Conference this year, I accepted. With my stress issues, I could never be a rep again, but if there was a little something that I could give back, I would. Willingly.

So it was, that I found myself in Brighton, walking into the teeth of a gale on the seafront.

I don’t travel TOO much. When I do, I like to catch up with people from the areas that I visit. On this occasion, it was my buddy (and my favourite blogger from that there South) Glenn Johnson. And a young man I have grown to rather respect, Karl.

Glenn suggested meeting in the first of the two pub/bars that we went it. And when I finally reached it, having walked up the hill from the seafront, to Surrey Street, it was only then that I realised that I’d been in a Brighton legend before…

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The Evening Star (Surrey Street)

I’m no expert on this pub, but I know that Dark Star started brewing in the cellar in 1994. Last time I was at Conference, I went in and just presumed it was a Freehouse with good beers, which it did (and still has) and didn’t realise it was a/the Dark Star pub.

The pub is a single room with the smallish bar occupying a corner area. Stripped wooden floor, lots of bare wood tables of various shapes and sizes, for a Nationally renowned pub, this had a real feel of a “local”. The conversations were the thing with just a light background tunage going on. It just felt so….me. Just my kind of pub.

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The pub is located on Surrey Street, mere yards from Brighton Train Station. Now then. Those who know Brighton, will know that there is a bit of a slope from the beach, up West Street to the Station. Which I trolled up. Quickly. because I hate being late. And Glenn was travelling from Yapton, some miles away. The only pint to have was the iconic HopHead. Nicely bitter if not as sharp as I was expecting, this was still a damn fine pint with which to slake a thirst.

As I started to drink, Glenn turned up and after a short while, while he froze a bit (I, being a porker, am numb to the cold), we went inside to carry on our chat.

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I was starting to love this pub. Uncluttered, just tables, chairs and damn good beer. The chat flowed. Inevitably, it was about beer. Glenn knows his stuff and we chatted about a wee plan that he has up his sleeve that he is exploring. When it comes off, I’ll be shouting about it! I’m quite excited for him.

Then Karl contacted me with the words “Was it tonight?” “I take it that you’re in The Evening Star?” He turned up and I got him a pin sharp pint of Arise by Burning Sky. Which he adored. An unfiltered session IPA. When the barman said “It IS £4.40 you know?” My response of “That’s OK, I’m from Manchester. This is cheap!” made him chortle. I could have listened to Karl’s stories all night. One of the three most ferociously smart people I know (the others being a close friend of us both and that friend’s recently deceased Dad), he also possesses a great social conscience and bucketloads of empathy. A man of the same tribe.

After Karl had to leave, I downed my excellent pint of a beer from Brick House Brewing of Brighton which I think was called Requiem (a session strength IPA) which was a beauty. Nice and hoppy. They’ve only being going a couple of months. If this is any indicator, they’ll do damned well. A fine beer. We moved on, to a bar of a more recent vintage.

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The Brighton Beer Dispensary (Dean Street)

Glenn suggested this place. What. A. Bar.

Apparently a joint venture between The Late Knights Brewery of SE London and the Brighton Bier Co, this is a small bar that is well worth seeking out (just around the corner from Craft Beer Co)

The place is not much larger than a Micro pub, but with the addition of a Conservatory to the rear that would increase capacity, with much wood and exposed brickwork, including a few tables with high bar stools. And damn friendly and helpful bar staff.

The four hand pumps on the bar were split between the joint owners, with two further casks on gravity from Liverpool Craft (a welcome sight so far south!) and Williams Brothers. Glenn had the Willams Brothers’ “Mystery Stout” which he enjoyed, whilst I (being a “when in Rome” kinda fella) tried the Brighton Bier Co “Thirty Three” Pale Ale. Which was bloody gorgeous. Surprisingly full-bodied for a beer at 3.3%, it was a hoppy and bitter little gem

The food was of the Craft Burger variety and I plumped for a Portobello & Brie burger. A Huge Portobello mushroom topped with Brie with a nice sweet chutney and some greenery. And gorgeous beer battered gherkins! With great chips. It was superb. And went down even better with a Brighton Bier Co South Coast Pale! Big, juicy, resinous and bitter. As hoppy as I could want.

Glenn had to get himself back home at this point. It’s nice to meet good beery folk. And Glenn is certainly one of those. Proving that “Beer People Are Good People”. There’s another mini crawl in Manchester just waiting for him!

More “Thirty Three” was followed by a can from the well stocked fridge (how remiss of me to omit the excellent keg and fridge choices!) – a Holy Cowbell India Stout from Beavertown. Just wow! A hoppy Stout counterpart for 8 Ball. I gave my Dubliner associate (Denis) a taste. He was bowled over. By an English brewed Stout. Wonders will never cease!

After that, time was up. I love this bar. A little pearl in the Brighton oyster. And well worth a visit.

Thanks to Glenn for the mini tour. And Karl for making the effort. Good people.

That’s it for a wee while. Well, London Part 2 next weekend!

Tune

“I want to forget how conviction fits
But can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me?
It can’t all be wedding cake
It can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it
Can’t let go of it, uh huh.

Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever,
That’s why you will not survive”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon. Clip courtesy “Alphamatrix1” on YouTube)

This track is from the album GaGaGaGaGa. It was the first thing that I heard by Spoon. From the first brass stab, I was hooked. In the US they are (kind of) known as the kings of minimal Indie. If you listen, you can hear why. There is no frippery, no fat. The tunes are pared down and lean. No wasted guitar or keyboard. The music is almost skeletal. Now that may read weird, having used “The Underdog”, but listen to them on Spotify and see what I mean.

It was at the time that I found Spoon and bands like The Decemberists and The New Pornographers ( as well as getting deeper into Wilco) that I became utterly disillusioned with current UK guitar based music. To be frank, it bores me. I haven’t had my ears prick up to anything from these shores since the first Arctic Monkeys album.

Go on. Tell me. “My loss”!

Whilst this song may seem to have nothing to do with the piece above it, I guess that it’s here because I want to get back to a personal space where I’m less ….. I suppose…arsed? To acknowledge that there are things worth giving a shit about. And some that aren’t.

Cutting the latter out of my psyche might mean that I add a few more years to this existence. That, or stronger blood pressure meds!

Toodles!

Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 2

“I want to forget how conviction fits, but can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me? Oh oh oh oh
It can’t all be wedding cake, it can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it, can’t let go of it,

‘Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever, that’s why you will not survive!”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon)

(Clip courtesy Alphamatrix1 on YouTube)

As much as I love beer, I love music. Sometimes, I get all “High Fidelity” and start to make that dreaded nerd fest thing “The All-Time” list. Of course, tastes change over time, but some things stay the same. As John Peel used to say about The (mighty) Fall “Always different, always the same”. This phrase was used on Monday in The Guardian in an article about the new single by Spoon, which led me to this article where Britt Daniel, from the band, gave a brief run down of some of the standout tunes in their 21 year career so far.

Spoon are a band that I return to repeatedly when my musical palate feels a bit jaded. I’m not sure where the phrase “The kings of minimal indie” came from, and it’s probably not entirely accurate about what they do, but it fits, in that there isn’t anything in the tunes that shouldn’t be there. They’re stripped down, rhythmically tight, alternately subtle and powerful, delicate and driven.

It may sound rather stupid, but one of my favourite moments in Manchester in the last 2 years was being stood in Common Bar on Edge St one weekday evening, when the DJ played “Got Nuffin‘ and I found myself shambling drunkenly over to the DJ to say “Thank You”. Just one of (if not the) best bands out there, for me, at the moment. I just hope that they announce a date in Manchester for the new album!

Now for the beer…..

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. BronzeThe Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Wales) – 4.5% abv – Bitter – £2.19 (500ml) – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)

Amber coloured beer with a lovely white foamy head and hedgerow fruit aroma, plum, damson with a real spicy note along with toffee biscuit.

First mouthful is really fruity, with all that hedgerow fruit immediately apparent with a touch of blackcurrant too. Firm cheesecake biscuity malt underlay with a big carpet of fruity bitterness on top of it all.

That bitterness satays (or even “stays”!) awhile before giving space for a big grassy, almost oaky, hop aftertaste. A really big fruity bitter beer. Celt do some much more “experimental” beer, but it’s great to see them getting a beer as traditional as this, just right. Much maligned is bitter, as a style, but this, for me, is a fine example.
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2. Mild With No NameBillericay Brewing (Essex) – 5.5% abv – Strong Mild (Hmmm!) – £3.50 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
Another bottle, another “traditional” British beer style! But all may not be as labelled with this particular beer…..
Very dark beer, almost black with a tan coloured head and an aroma groaning with milk chocolate.

Full-bodied beer, lush and creamy textured. Full on chocolate assails the taste buds with this dark puppy. Chocolate digestives provide the body here then more sweet chocolate fills the mouth, coating the sides before subsiding and yielding primacy to a gentle bitterness and quite a big grassy hop finish.

Not sure that I would call this a mild personally, more Porter territory for me, but a fine beer nonetheless.

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3. Le IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorks) / Dark Star (Brighton, W Sussex) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £1.99 – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)
Amber coloured beer with a thin white head and a fruity aroma, but quite sweet, pineapple maybe?Caramel biscuit malt in this full-bodied mouthful, again fruity, but sticky like pineapple jam mixed with marmalade. Quite a bitterness follows that swallow, with a good resinous pine dollop to round off the aftertaste. Whilst it tastes every fraction of its strength, this is smooth and very easy to drink. Dangerously so, at the strength!  (Short but sweet!)IMAG17904. Rye Pale AleLiverpool Craft Brewery (Liverpool) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (ish!) (330ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

A small supermarket, on a fairly quiet throroughfare. Walk in past the checkout. And there, in the fridges off to the right, is more local beer (and “craft” from around the country) than anyone should have any right to expect! It’s bloody marvellous the range you can fit into such a small space! (And I didn’t even check out the shelves in the rest of the shop!)

A slightly hazy deep golden beer with a lasting soft creamy looking white head and quite a delicate citrus fruit aroma (maybe tangerine) with something more floral.

An interesting fruitiness to this beer, apricot maybe with more of that tangerine. But that Rye spice leads to an almost arid dryness. Really sudden. Further mouthfuls are the same, quite lush fruitiness ended quite suddenly with tongue curling dryness. Big hoppy finish to round it off. Quite unusual, but this really works for me!

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5. Le Gran DepartFive Towns Brewery (Outwood, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From The Brewer (Bought)
My stated aim. I WILL see more beers by Five Towns in the Manchester area! The only problem with this? Malcolm Bastow’s beers are THAT full of lovely hoppy goodness, that those damned Yorkies keep it all for themselves! If ever there was reason for another War of The Roses…… Anyway, so far, they will be the only brewery with TWO beers at The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Which means….that I am SO good to you lot! It really does!!! At the moment, if you want to buy his stuff, head online to Bierhuis (Ossett) & Yorkshire Ales (Snaith & Malton). They can hook you up! (Great shops both – popping in soon)
Extremely pale golden beer with a light white head and a big citrus aroma (with some bitter orange in there) – a Five Towns hallmark.
Light-bodied and very fruity with grapefruit, gooseberry, a little lemon sharpness too. Each mouthful leaves me wanting more of that uber-dry finish that follows the fruit down the throat. In later mouthfuls, an orangey character became more pronounced. A hugely refreshing beer with a good dollop of bitterness and that pine needle resinous wash at the end of the swallow. Another Outwood cracker from Mr Bastow!
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6. Pale AleRunaway Brewery (Manchester City Centre) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the brewer (swap)
I first had this (it was one of my major reasons for going!) at a recent Black Jack open event at their brewery. Mark Welsby’s brewery is the merest of cockstrides from Black Jack. Fortunately really, because when I wanted to pop in and see Mark, I had to ask the Black Jack collective for directions!
Bright and pale gold with a lacey white head and a brash boastful aroma all sharp and tart like a withering Lily Savage one liner put down. Grapefruit and lemon asserting themselves in nasal dominance.

That grapefruit tartness carries on in the mouth, building with each sip. And with each sip comes a growing bitterness. Sliding down really easily, like a beer of this strength should. Really crisp and refreshing and moreish. Nice hoppy bitter too. A fabulous session pale ale!

That’s it for now. Enjoy this summer with some great beer.
Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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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!

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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)

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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!

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(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!

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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!

The Southampton Arms, Gospel Oak, London

southampton-arms4(pic – http://www.londoniscool.com)

As I’ve said on many an occasion, I can resist anything except temptation, so when given an opportunity to try a new pub (to me) in London, even thinking of resistance was futile!

Now I’d wanted to try this pub for ages, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself, until now!

Tube to Kentish Town on the Northern Line then a C2 (or 214) bus drops you outside the door. Entry reveals this to be a single roomed  bar, narrow(ish) but fairly long. The door to the rear leads to the beer garden and an externally located Gentleman’s facility, via an upright piano!

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(View from the bar to the front)

10 hand pulled ales from breweries as geographically diverse as Fyne Ales and Dark Star and 8 real ciders and perries. Something for everyone here (inc 2 craft keg : Magic Rock 8 Ball and Camden Hells). In fact, if it wasn’t for a small selection of spirits, this would almost be a beer house! On first inspection, it certainly looked like my idea of a bar!

First up for me, was a small Dark Star 1810 Porter. This had a nice roasted malt and chocolate aroma and was lovely dry and chocolatey with more than a trace of bitterness in the finish. This was superb accompanied by some PROPER pub food, Pork pie and mustard. Lovely!

I (sort of) introduced myself to Alex behind the bar who was the essence of personable and managed to serve all the customers speedily whilst maintaining a friendly chat.

20130529_130809(‘Get in my belly!’)

Whilst chatting with Alex and one of the regulars, I started to notice some of the detail around the bar, including something that astonished me. No jukebox, CDs or MP3s here. Oh no. The excellent music (Ray Charles for starters) came courtesy of a VINYL TURNTABLE! I started to fall in love with this place!

Next up, a wee Cwtch by Tiny Rebel. First time I’ve had their beers. A red ale weighing in at 4.6%, this had a lovely mango citrus hop aroma which carried through into the mouth, lovely and smooth with a nice citrus bitterness. I’ll be looking out for them up North!

20130529_131803(A lovely original Lacons Brewery mirror – recently revived in Gt Yarmouth)

(One for Nate!)

A Kent Brewery Maori (NZ hopped) at 4.5% was a pale almost lager like beer. Delicately fruity and really refreshing with a dry grassy finish. Not sure what category this would fall into, but it was crisp, refreshing and delicious.

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Tempted to try a small Dark Star Revelations, I gave in to the smooth bronze beer with the hoppyness not initially apparent, but becoming more assertive the further the glass emptied. Superb.

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This place has a whole lot going for it. A stripped down basic boozer I thought as I entered. Slowly, its quirky charms revealed themselves, bit by bit. Value wise, I think I’ve had none better in London. Most of the ales were £3.30. The food was reasonably priced for a small yet tasty looking offering. My portion of pork pie was superb for the price.

The Southampton Arms. Overall, a fabulous bar. Excellent ales, friendly locals and bar staff (Thanks Alex for the chat – hope you get to Leeds International & IndyManBeerCon).

A serious recommendation. Only 10 minutes (or so) from Euston. Give it a bash!

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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.

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(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.

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(‘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

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(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

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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!

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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.

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(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.

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(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!

‘Manchester. A Beer Is Born!’ JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale Launch / Joshua Brooks 17/04/2013

So. A random e-mail leads me to the VERY windy streets of Manchester and a clearing of my schedules to taste a new beer by Middleton based JW Lees. This being held in Rain Bar (Rainy City – geddit!), bizarrely, Lees’ sole outlet in the centre of Manchester.

Rain Bar(pic – fancyapint.com)

The entrance to the bar was cordoned, this being a private function, so wristbands on, er, wrists, myself and my arch-nemesis Jaz set off to the bar where conversation was already flowing (Well, Tandleman was at the bar too, so it would be!). We settled ourselves down to watch the slide show of iconic Manchester photographs that had been pulled together by Kevin Cummins.

Opened by Lees in 1999, I must have walked past this warehouse on numerous occasions in the 80s without paying it any mind. The name, the industrial link, the minimalism of all that exposed brickwork. It’s Manchester to its core this place. I like it.

The evening was beginning to take shape with the appearance at the bar of Kevin Cummins, Mark Radcliffe and Bez, the latter pair putting in a publicity shoot appearance behind it on the pumps.

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(I’m sure young Radcliffe’s in there somewhere!)

The Manchester themed canapes (the Black Pudding parcels were tremendous!) were doing the rounds as William Lees-Jones gave us a presentation on the beer and what inspired it. A pale beer with initial fresh hoppy aroma, easy drinking at 3.7% abv and quite refreshing, it evolved from a couple of the seasonals that the brewery released in 2011/2012. The intention – according to W L-J – is to push this nationally. It has been a while since a Manchester beer had such a presence nationally and I wish them well. (BTW – I preferred the draught markedly over the bottled version, which is slightly different and is 4.1%)

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(Manchester Pale Ale – Take a Bow!)

Williams’ speech over, Mark Radcliffe took over and was hugely entertaining (isn’t he always?) and hosted a 10 question quiz, with the prize being a years’ supply of the beer (and a years’ supply of curry too!). I lasted 5 questions!

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(The WRONG answer!)

Quiz over, the genial Bez took over custodianship of the decks and the Manchester tunes got funkier “Shack Up” by A Certain Ratio? Oh yes, back to my youth!

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(And The Bottled Version)

Quite a distinctive branding and label for this beer, which stands out from other Lees products. Simple and explanatory, which may help in the supermarket off-trade.

An enjoyable evening made better by chatting to a couple of Lees’ publicans from different generations. One from the Ring O’Bells in Middleton and a young couple from The Victoria in Holmes Chapel. Good company both.

The whole presentation was slick and firmly rooted in Manchester. The photographs were stunning (all from local amateurs), the quiz (even as A or B) was fiendishly difficult and the music was superb (even if it drifted away from Manc artists toward the end!)

A good launch. Wish them well. (Now then, where IS that bottle of Manchester Star?) And thank you to Niamh from Tangerine PR for the invites!

Collecting our ‘goodie bags’ (I’m a sucker for these things!), myself and Jaz sloped off for t’watch us some footie. This led us to ……

Joshua Brooks.

Last night was possibly unique for me. A ‘Freehouse’ with 5 outstandingly good ales on the bar. AND 4 OF THEM WERE DARKS!!!! As Van Morrison once sang “I’m in HEAVEN’!

20130417_200443(The Dark Side indeed!)

Being a glutton for punishment, I sampled them all.

First up was the ‘Liquid Mint Aero’ that is Thornbridge Baize. 5.5% abv, black with a minty and vanilla aroma. A gloriously well balance stout with more than a hint of mint (poetry comes as standard!) and chocolate without being cloyingly sweet. A hell of an achievement this beer!

Next, one of the two darks on from Titanic Brewery. Firstly the Cappuccino Stout at 4.5%. I raved about this when I first had this last year. Lovely stout with some nice coffee bitterness.

Next was Darkness by the relentlessly excellent Dark Star brewery. A black IPA at the low abv of 3.5%, a superb achievement to get so much flavour into such a low alcohol beer, coffeeish, citrussy, confounding. But a reaaaaally nice beer.

Finally, Titanic Chocolate & Vanilla Stout. Again, as with the Cappuccino, this uses Titanic’s dry Stout as the basis and runs off in another direction. Smooth an dreamily creamy. Choccy, Ice Creamy, I just adore this beer. It’s up there with Triple Chocoholic by Saltaire and Dark Arts by Magic Rock for me. It completes my ‘Holy Trinity’ of stouts!

Nice to chat with James again and even better when United drop points (WHAT a goal by Diame!) and The Blues slutch a win against Wigan.

With the beer selection that JBs has, allied to the superb condition in which it is always served, this bar should be packed night after night. I don’t know when drinkers are going to catch up, but, until they do, I’ll pick my favourite leather chair, enjoy the excellent tunes and sink a pint or three!

An excellent evening, as ever, with Mr Jaz with some excellent beers all told!

On that note…..Until next time….

Slainte!