‘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!

Allgates’ The Road To Wigan Beer 29/03/2013

Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t visited an Allgates Brewery pub. Come to think of it, I hadn’t had a beer in Wigan at all! That day, I went in two really good pubs, one of which was The Anvil, Allgates’ pub in the centre of Wigan.

Whilst I was there, David Mayhall (the brewery owner) passed me a leaflet called ‘The Road To Wigan Beer’ (pun intended).

EPSON MFP image

The idea being that Allgates would have a beer festival lasting 11 days, spread across their whole estate of 7 pubs, all based around the Wigan area. Having been in precisely NO Allgates pubs previously, this festival gave me all the excuse that I needed. So, roping my good buddies Jaz & Col in, we find ourselves on the 13:04 train from Walkden to Wigan for the first stop….

The Anvil

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(pic – qype.co.uk)

Further to the previous visit, damn this was busy again! This may have had something to do with being Good Friday and the Wigan v St Helens derby match!!! Timing could have been better, but it was a fantastic atmosphere – which was helped by the fact that Wigan were winning.

Three drinking areas. A large area off to the right of the entrance, the main drinking area / lobby – which is in front of the bar and a smaller area to the left of the bar, where we sat. The frontage gives the impression that the inside may be older than it actually is. But it is a modern layout and look and is perfectly comfortable and welcoming, with friendly locals. It has also won a SHEDLOAD of Awards……

20130329_140122(Wall of Fame Pt 1 !)

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(Wall of Fame Pt 2! I couldn’t fit them all in one shot!)

As stated, it was damned busy. However, most were watching the Rugby, so the bar was easily gained. Colin went for the Redwillow Faithless XIX whilst Jaz & I opted for the Arbor Ales Oyster Stout at 4.6% abv. What a lovely beer! Slight hint of coffee in the aroma, but in the mouth? Oh joy! Lovely dark roasted flavour with more than a hint of the briny about it. A glorious pint.

Next round was mine. Jaz & Col opted for pints of Allgates All Black Mild, whilst I chose a beer from Redwillow, the previously mentioned Faithless XIX. One of the brewer’s experimental series of beers, I’m not sure as to what is in this beer to render it one of the Faithless range, but it was a golden beer at 3.6% abv. A nice citrus aroma and a refreshing gently bitter citrus flavour with grapefruit hints. A really nice beer that could be drunk repeatedly. However…places to go and pubs to see!

I like The Anvil…a lot. And that’s after only two visits. A deservedly popular town centre pub, with the feel of a local. Ultra reasonable beer prices as well, the guests being around £2.50 or less. If this is how Allgates have their pubs run………speaking of which……We move on, to…..

The Hare & Hounds

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This was where the £3.80 return train ticket started to pay its way! Timing our departure perfectly from The Anvil, a 5 minute train journey and a 5 minute walk away. Located approximately 400 yards south of Hindley train station on Ladies Lane, this is what I would describe as a traditional type local.

2 main drinking areas here. The bar is to the right on entry complete with a good sized drinking area. To the left, is another area, open to the bar area, but distinctly separate.

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Large TV screen on the wall to the left of the bar. Also, the welcome sight of a dartboard. Another really friendly welcome with chatty locals and staff. 4 or 5 ales to choose from including 2 from Allgates (Mosaic & All Black).

My first beer choice here was all too easy. West Coast Blonde Pale Ale from Stringers. Stringers produce two of my favourite bottled beers with Dry Stout & IPA, however, I had never had their beer on draught. This was soon remedied with this golden beer. A citrus zest aroma followed by a nice hoppy bitter beer with a hint – of all things – orange. A nice pint.

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(Nice touch on a cold day!)

The real fire warmed my back at this point and was most welcome. Next beer for me was Black Port by Blackedge Brewery of Horwich at 4.9% abv. I’d had the Black before, but not the Black Port. A stout made with an addition of port. The beer is as black as sin with a tan head and an alluring boozy aroma (the port?) The flavour was simply ‘right up my street’. A lovely smooth mouthfeel, with roasted malts, chocolaty with a slight blackcurrant tinge, roasted, chocolate winey bliss. I think I like it.

We got carried away with chat (or was it that Col was delaying us in the hope of a Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout?) and we missed the next train. Hey ho, a pint of Redemption Pale Ale please! A nice bitter pint, some citrus in the mouth (orange peel?) with a nice dry aftertaste.

Where I live, there are NO decent locals. I would do time to have one like this! A really good pub. Much as we could have stayed, The Bristol Milk Stout wasn’t a-coming, so time for that train ticket to pay its way….on to….

The Jolly Nailor

Jolly Nailor

(pic – nwb.co)

This was a fair walk from Atherton train station, a good 15 minutes I’d say. Located on Market Street, this is another pub with 3 drinking areas. The bar area doubles as a large foyer with some tables and lots of space. To the left of the bar is a nice looking room with lots of tables. To the right of the bar is a larger room which seems to double as a performance space. As we entered, there was a rock band tuning up. Good sound, but flipping loud!

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6 beers on handpull, Thwaites Wainwright, Allgates Pride of Atherton and California with 3 further guests. Tryst Brewery Raj IPA, Dark Star Darkness and Mallinsons Tammie Norie. My first was the Mallinsons.

Golden pale beer, citrus aroma. Nice bitter citrus flavours, grapefruit up there again from the use of Newport (American) hops. 3.9% abv and a lovely refreshing pint at this stage of proceedings!

Next (and finally) Darkness from DarkStar. A black IPA at 3.5%. As with all of that style, a confounding – yet stunning – beer. Lovely darkness (as you could’ve guessed!) with a sharp citrus bitterness, yet roasted coffee in the aftertaste. Gorgeous flavours from such a light beer.

As for the pubs, each offered something different. What they all had in common was excellent beer, served well. Friendly staff and customers and all the pubs looked nice,  well maintained and attractively decorated. A very marginal preference for the Hare & Hounds (and I mean marginal!), nice warm fire and well-behaved dogs allowed. Nice touch.

The beer? I am a darks man, so I’ll err that way. Little between the Blackedge Black Port, DarkStar Darkness and Arbor Oyster Stout. Going back over my notes, I won’t separate them! Again, each different, but all exceptional. As were the pales too.

Allgates have 7 pubs. I’ve now been in three (and hope to do two more this week). All good well maintained pub, friendly locals and service with superb prices.

A winning formula!

Next up? Pubs with Jukeboxes I think! On that note…’til next time.

Slainte!