The Independent Salford Beer Festival – 24/25th October 2014 – Update #1

ISBF Poster

(Design by Andy Heggs – aka HopOnTheBike)

“A mistake on the part of nature
You’re so fabled, so fair, just sit anywhere
I’ve pencil sketched the scene
It’s feeling Byzantine

Mistakes on the part of nature
The living proof of what they’re calling love
On certain sideway streets
Where things that don’t match meet”

(“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” – The New Pornographers)

(Video courtesy of  “Bill James” on YouTube)

Regarded as a bit of a “Supergroup” in North America, The New Pornographers are formed from the combination of a number of singular talents, Carl (AC) Newman (main male vocal), the siren voiced Neko Case (Grammy award winner), the fabulous Kathryn Calder (vocals/keyboards), Dan Bejar – all of who have successful solo careers, but come together every 3 years or so to make the most wonderful pop music.

It may not be the pop of Rihanna or Miley Cyrus or whoever, but what it is, is literate songs allied to superb musicianship that’s as tight as a drum. Look past the name and try a listen – this tune indeed was used on an Amazon Kindle advert.

Now…business!

How do you measure progress? I can assure you, that my building stress levels don’t feel like progress! To the eyes of an outsider, we probably haven’t moved on that far,  but,  putting one foot in front of another is how the biggest voyages start.

There are a lot of decisions/challenges still to be worked out, One big session per day or 2? Pricing for tickets? Size of glassware? Printed tickets or self print (via the likes of Eventbrite?), music/no music, I’m giving myself a headache trying to think about them all!

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the venue. I had been a few times before, but then I went in with different eyes. 151m sq is quite a big space when you clear out a bunch of tables! (Not all, of course!)

There are at least 3 rooms/spaces.

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(The main room)

Admittedly, that picture was taken from the corner of the room, but it’s a big old space. No Velodrome & certainly not a Victoria Baths, but it’ll more than do! To the left of the image there is an- out of shot – serving hatch, but food will be served from the other side in a different area. There’s more than enough room for both vertical and sedentary drinking for the more relaxed drinker (ie : Me!)

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(Food area / serving area)

The aim with the food is to keep it simple. It will be home-made and probably along the lines of Pie/Peas, maybe Chilli/Veg and other stuff yet to be thought about. The likely cook has fed me a few times and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Nothing overly spicy to take away from the main reason for being there!

In front of this serving area is a space with tables about 31 m/sq – a decent space for eating.

The venue is fairly well served by public transport with 2 buses that come from Salford Shopping Centre stopping right outside the door and buses from Manchester stopping a 5 minute walk away along Gerard Road from the stop on Littleton Road. (All this info will be on the website currently being designed & built by my good buddy Darren Turpin – he of the excellent Gtr Mcr Ale News)

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(3rd room at 30 m/sq – more tables for seating/chatting)

However, the main reason for this brief update is….Breweries! Having been in communication with some for quite a while now and having been in touch with others more recently, the following North West / Yorkshire breweries WILL be present and correct!

Allgates, Black Jack, Black Edge, Cheshire Brewhouse, Deeply Vale (A special brewed with Yours Truly!), First Chop, Hornbeam, IndyManBrewHouse, Offbeat, Outstanding, Privateer, Ringway & Runaway (likely, a World First!) – That’s the NW contingent, with more to follow (I certainly want at least one from Liverpool!)

So far, from Yorkshire…Atom Beers, Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing, Brass Castle, (the mighty) Five Towns & Revolutions – again, more to follow!

What I can guarantee is this, there will be at least one (and likely more) “World Firsts” in cask (I’m working on others!). There will certainly be beers that will be the first time you will see them in the Greater Manchester / North West both from Yorkshire and from nearer to home. I should have more of an update by the first week in August, when hopefully, the website may become the forum for these kinds of updates.

Actual Beers will be announced much nearer the festival with the “World First” type beers possible secret until the day…Just to keep you guessing like!

Next week will be contacting re dispense (hand pull & stillage etc), glassware and printing for posters / flyers etc…It never stops!

A big thank you already to Andy Heggs & Darren Turpin, the efforts and help of both made this feel more real from the off!

And an ENORMOUS thank you to the brewers (named above) for their help, advice and lovely beer that’s coming your way. It really will be special – won’t it? I said it earlier on Twitter, but it bears repeating – Beer People Are Good People!

On that note….til next time…

Slainte!

Follow on Twitter @Salfordbeerfest – Go on! You KNOW you want to!

Stockport Beer Festival – 30/05/2014

“And here I dreamt I was a soldier and I marched the streets of Birkenau
And I recall in spring the perfume that the air would bring to the indolent town
Where the barkers call the moon down, the carnival was ringing loudly now
And just to lay with you, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do save lay my rifle down”

(“Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect” – The Decemberists)

(Videolink courtesy of Moriah Mahan on YouTube)

I have professed my love for Portland, Oregon’s finest some time ago. Vocalist Colin Meloy just writes lyrics unlike any other I’ve come across, with a lexicon that is positively 19th Century at times and a voice that is, to some, an acquired taste. It is a taste that I HAVE acquired though, which is why they have remained one of my favourite bands ever since I first downloaded The Crane Wife on eMusic and heard the acoustic strum opening of The Crane Wife 3.

(Recommended albums : “Her Majesty The Decemberists” – 2003; “The Crane Wife” – 2006 & “The Hazards of Love” – 2009)

IMAG1350(Oh that “end of season” feeling!)

How the hell did Stockport County end up in The Skrill North league?

This was only my third Stockport Fest. I enjoyed last year hugely but my fondest memories are of the first one I attended. I can’t say what year it was, but it would have been BC (Before Children – aka Pre 1992!) It was THAT long ago, that Sam Smiths Museum Ale was all the rage and Atilla & I (staffing a charity stall) were serving that and Wilsons Bitter. Nobody seemed to pay the Wilsons any mind, which made me smile as there was more for me!

It has to be said, that Stockport always has an interesting beer list. This was enhanced this year by the addition of a Bar Nouveau, stuffed with brand new beers! This was located in the below stand area along with the food and the entertainment. Wanna guess where I ended up?

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With lots of lovely local beers down here, I just parked my well upholstered ass down on a chair and planted roots!

My beers here were….

1. Ringway BreweryReddish Ruby – 4% abv – Red! Off white head and caramel /slightly treacle nose. Medium bodied with some toffee caramel in themouth but not overly sweet. Some blackcurrant hints in this single English hopped beer and it had a nice bitter finish. Makes some damn fine beers does Paul and respect to him for sticking with English hops.
2. Wilson PotterDreaming Dreams – 4%  abv (I do like a slow start!) Typically excellent Wilson Potter pale beer. Golden and crystal clear. Fruity aroma, clean drinking, smooth and really fruity & refreshing – I do love a bit of Amarillo (d’ya get the quote?) (Their excellent “Don’t Fall” – see previous review here – won Beer of the Festival!)
Bit of a break here while I grabbed some excellent beef stew next door!
Bumped into Darren (he of the excellent Manchester drinking reference work “Greater Manchester Ale News“) and his better half Jo. Always nice to chat with people who know their beer (click his link above for news of another festival coming in Chorlton soon!) Also nice to chat with the ever affable John Clarke from the host CAMRA Branch – one of the many local CAMRA members of my acquaintance who talk much beery sense! Back to the beer ticking!
3 . Squawk Brewing Pomegranate Porter – 3.7% abv – Pomegranate? Intriguing!  Dark brown with an off-white head, berry fruit aroma with good roast backbone. Fairly light bodied, really fruity with that Pomegranate, and a smooth chocolaty hint. Beautiful! Slight sweet yet dry finish.
4. Deeply ValeDeeply Red – 4.2% – Very red indeed! Off white head with gentle red fruit and light spice aroma. Very fruity and very smooth, with a slight spice and astringency from the Rye used. A fine beer.
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(A bit of steel bandage!)
The we turn to the dark side!!!!!
5. Shindigger CraftBlack IPA – 5.5% – At that strength, I held back a bit before trying it. So much so that I had a minor scare when I thought that it had gone! However (and this would be my only minor complaint of the day…) this was somewhat down to the pumping of the beer being a bit of an issue. This beer was beeeeeeautifully black, with a creamy white head and a fantastic citrus aroma with a darker roasted edge. Oh but in the mouth! A devilish blend of roast and citrus. An earthiness of dark roast and licorice with leavening of grapefruit citrus. Beautiful.
6. (And my final beer from Bar Nouveau!) Tickety Brew – Black IPA – 5.5% abv – Black with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Cream colour head with a fruity citrus nose and slight spicy tint. Oh this Is lovely! Spritzy, citrus, a hint of blackcurrant with a roasted base. Hugely fruity, dry finish, low bitterness with that Belgian yeast popping up to say ‘hello’  at the end. Bit of chocolate too. Lovely.
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(bit busier upstairs!)
Whilst it was still quite busy upstairs, it was as nothing compared to the Saturday last year!
7. Shindigger CraftWest Coast IPA  – 5.2% abv – A golden pale with a nose of orange fruits. Full-bodied, really fruity with the citrus edged by a light gooseberry tartness. Refreshing, and again a spritz to it, with a really hoppy finish. Lovely.
My final beer was another newbie for me but from an “old” friend of a brewery….
8. Blackjack BeersFarmhouse Brown – 4.8% abv. Quite a rye-ish aroma to this, that made my nose wrinkle. Really tasty, a lot of fruit, but hugely dry with a real earthy quality. Savoury and again, surprisingly zingy. Mmmm.
There were one or two more consumed, but these were the pick of the bunch for me. All of the beers in the Bar Nouveau were excellent, but there was just something tongue tingling about that Tickety Brew that edged it for me.
A couple of diversions prior to the train led us to….
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The Armoury – (Shaw Heath, Stockport) – Just a quick pint of Robbies Brazilian Blonde in here. Ok, yet unexceptional given the previous fluid intake! However, the pub is a thing of beauty with loads of wood and some mock Tudor detailing inside.
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As I said, just a swift one in here before moving on to….
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Ye Olde Vic – (Chatham Street, Stockport) where I had a refreshing and fruity pint of Solstice by 3 Tuns Brewery (Bishops Castle, Shropshire). A refreshing citrussy and sharp pale ale from this rarely seen brewery (in these parts anyway!)
Myself and the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) carried on for a bit whilst our excellent companions  headed off elsewhere.
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An excellent pint of K*ntish Beard by Weird Beard in Joshua Brooks was our prize for walking from Piccadilly to this excellent (and great value!) bar…..
One or two more followed …… We’ll leave it there shall we?
In short. another excellent beer selection at Stockport. One of the best CAMRA beer festivals. Well worth the journey next year!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Brightside Brewery MTB at Great Ale Year Round – Official Opening of Bolton Indoor Market

IMAG0564(See the difference below!)

Previously being from Salford, I now live in Bolton and have done these last 24 years. I think that it is fait to say that the town centre (once you take away the simply magnificent Town Hall / Albert Halls complex) could be just about any other large town centre in the North of England, the shopping in most of which resembles nothing more than chain stores and take-away food outlets – Alice’s Chiipy on Deansgate being a rare example of a quality independent.

It was with this perennial disappointment in mind that my heart leapt when I heard that somebody was opening a Micro Bar in the refurbished Bolton Market. Even for beer loving Boltonians, the centre of Bolton is hardly a Mecca for good beer. Until now. The news that the recent award-winning Brightside Brewing were doing a Meet The Brewer type event at said Micro Bar “Great Ale Year Round” in the weekend when the fully refurbished Market Hall was being officially opened, gave me all the excuse I needed to pop along for a view and a pint or two. As if I needed one!

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(Busy, Busy, Busy)

The Market being conveniently located right next door to Bolton’s bus station (and 5 mins walk from the railway station), I entered and walked pat the enticing aromas of Carrs’ pasty shop into a reassuring sight. Dan & Gina Buck’s bar has been open since the 21st of January (see review here) but the majority of the stalls were waiting for the official opening day which left the likes of Great Ale Year Round and Nigel Lyons’ “The Coffee Grind” looking like a retailing vanguard. Well, no longer. The sight of all of the stalls being open was a joy, even more so as there seemed to be plenty of people shopping at 11am.

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Pleased  though I was to see the market stalls apparently thriving, I was “here for the beer”!

Brightside commenced brewing in 2009 at the back of the then family bakery, putting similar culinary skills to the task of brewing good beer using a self assembled 2.5 Bbl (Beer Barrel – each barrel = 36 Gallons or 288 pints!) plant. The addition of fermenters gave them more capacity. They brew an excellent core range of beers with some irregulars and seasonals and quickly started making inroads into the local beer market. They can now be found on may freehouse bars in the Greater Manchester area.

Having become quite successful at making (and more importantly, selling) excellent beer, the plunge was taken in 2013 to focus totally on brewing. So, selling the bakery, they relocated to an industrial unit in Radcliffe, in the process, becoming my nearest brewery!

I met Carley from the brewery for the first time at the recent Manchester Beer & Cider Festival (reviews here & here) and she struck me as somebody who would be ideally suited to an MTB kind of presentation being engaging and open, but I puzzled as to how an MTB would work in such an open premises. I needn’t have fretted!

Approaching the bar, I noticed (following a quick “hello” to Dan & Gina) that the bar was indeed fairly busy. A quick hello to the nice bloke (and excellent blogger) Paddy McGrath and his buddy Kev and I was chomping at the beery bit to get my hooves on the pint of orangey nectar that is Brightside Amarillo,  burnished gold with a light marmalade aroma giving way to a mandarin orange fruitiness with a crackling piney hop finish. As I discussed with the beery Magus that is Tandleman at the festival, I think we both agreed that Amarillo is our favourite hop!

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(Ever heard the one about the 20ft tall Butcher and the chopping knife?)

It’s great to meet people for the first time, especially when you have similar interests and I really enjoyed my chats with Paddy, Kev (who, for his sins, manages to write an interesting blog about Bolton Wanderers) and their friend Shaun (I DO Hope I got the correct spelling!) who is also an excellent blogger on the foody side of things and made a most excellent cake with Meantime Porter! Nice to see Graham from the local CAMRA Branch and have an all too brief chat.

A pint of Brightside Underworld followed, a lovely reassuringly dark brown beer with lots of chocloate and coffee notes. A comforting beer on a cold day!

This wasn’t an MTB a la Port Street where those who worship at the temple of the hop come to anoint their chosen, this was more of an informal wander aroiund by Carley who came and chatted with all and sundry and came along and chatted with us. One of the things that she mentioned was that the brewery is undergoing a transformation at the moment as preparations are being made to install a new 15Bbl brew kit, neede to cope with demand, both current and furture for their core beers – Odin & Amarillo selling particularly well. Carley seemed to cope really well with the considerable press attention – as did Dan & Gina, with loads of photos and video interviews. I, having a face for radio, tried to keep well out of the way!

IMAG0714(Cookery Demonstration attracted a few viewers!)

The beer was turning over really quickly and, whilst I was there, both the Amarillo and Underworld both sold out! These were replaced by Deep Purple by Prospect Brewery (Standish, near Wigan) (check out their bus tour around 7 Wigan pubs during the Wigan Beer Fest at Month end!)  and DV8 by another cracking Bury Brewery, Deeply Vale. It would have been rude indeed not to try both! Nice to see lots of local breweries being supported, bith by Dan & Gina and by the drinkers. They were loving them!

The Deep Purple was a golden brown beer, refreshing with a building gentle smoky quality as the glass was emptied, a nice drop. The DV8 I have had several times and was again a roasted, dark, oaty joyous mouthful. Both beer I hope to return to time and again. By the time I left, even the Deep Purple was struggling and had indeed run out!

The bar was justly very busy, with both bottles and draught flying out. Gratifying to see. It was also nice to see full use being made of the central courtyard tables with beer being served in plastic “glasses” to accommodate this. A sensible measure. Keeping this facility open for both bar, coffee and food vendors can only benefit the facility as a whole and increase trade for all. Would be nice to see this continue.

IMAG0710(Busy, busy, busy)

Time was moving on all too quickly, so gathering myself up (and gathering some cracking bottles from their excellent and growing selection – gonna need more shelves soon!), it was time to say my farewells. Fortunately, on this breezy and chilly day, the lovely Carley generously offered me a lift. Of course, it would have been rude to refuse!

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On that note….’til next time… (Connor’s CAMRGB Twissup next week. Yay!)

Slainte!

Victoria & Albert in Horwich, Old Fashioned Service – A Short Note

Vicandalbert(Image courtesy of perfectpint.co.uk)

As has been noted by one or two people recently, I seem to write about bottles these days. I haven’t been going anywhere that I haven’t already written about I suppose. Churning over old ground – even if there are new beers to report – can get boring and despite my rambling manner, I don’t want to bore you (yes, really!)

I went out last night with the sole intention of meeting a young blogger whose posts I enjoy and who seems to share the same beery tastes as myself. That blogger being Paddy Mc Grath whose blog All Beer No Belly details his efforts to drink great beers whilst maintaining his weight (something which some of us could NEVER achieve!)

It was a fairly brief evening if hugely entertaining for my part. We met in The Victoria & Albert pub on Lee Lane in Horwich and the evening started with a pint of In Shreds by Wilson Potter. Both the aroma and taste indicated a beer which was not quite perfect, indeed it was “on the turn”. I persevered for a sip or two, giving no indication of a problem. After a moment or two, the barman approached us and asked if the beer was OK, to which I replied that it wasn’t quite right. The barman immediately took both pints and offered replacements. I must emphasise that WE didn’t complain about the beer, he was honest and knowledgeable enough to know that it wasn’t right.

I was slightly disappointed in that the reason I went to this pub was for the Wilson Potter beer, having only tried it once, that being in the brewery itself and was keen to try it in the wild. The level of service MORE than made up for my disappointment.

To be brief (not my usual habit…!), the pub is a fairly open plan affair with a some comfy seating and  4 distinct drinking areas served by a single bar. That bar has 6 handpumps (all in use) stocked mostly with Micro Brewery beers including a permanent beer from the nearby Blackedge Brewery.

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I had 4 of the 6 last night. All were in excellent condition and were very tasty indeed. They were DV8 Stout from Deeply Vale of Bury (luscious, creamy, dark roasted and slightly smoky) American Pale from Blackedge (pale, fruity, very refreshing and moreish), Pint from Marble (hugely citrussy and refreshing) and a seasonal beer from Thwaites – Good Elf (fruity and spicy with warming clove).

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(A sample board – http://www.vicandalbert.co.uk)

I can fully understand why this has been Bolton CAMRA pub of the year for the last two years. With excellent service like this and such an excellent selection of well-kept beers, I will most certainly be back!

A huge thanks to Paddy for a) ensuring that I didn’t drink alone and b) for his most excellent company.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

(Thanks to Tandleman for inspiring me to write this with his piece on The Crown & Kettle – read it here)

Truly, Madly, Deeply Vale – Deeply Vale Brewery MTB – Salford Arms 02/10/2013

20100320-215227-860359(What a CRACKING Saturday Line-Up! courtesy http://www.Songkick.com)

“You don’t have to weird, to be wired”

(“Totally Wired” – The Fall)

Deeply Vale is a valley located to the east of Nangreaves, Bury (due east of Jct 1 of the M66 northbound).  Between 1976 and 1979 it was the site, of one of the legendary Free Festivals and at its peak (1978/1979), 20,000 people were attracted to listen to the likes of Steve Hillage, Nik Turner (ex Hawkwind) and local “New Wave” bands like The Fall and The Durutti Column. It was one of (if not THE) first festivals where the hippy counter-culture intersected with Punk.

For those of you at a tender age, I was JUST too young to attend the 1979 Festival (my first “gig” – The Damned – being on 10th December 1979) and it was a source of deep regret. However, given it’s relatively remote location, I probably would never have made it back to Salford!

The Deeply Vale Brewery therefore, has quite a romantic name in local terms (although Greater Manchester Police CID in 1979 may not have agreed. They were – legend has it – kept from the site!). The name is derived from the fact that James’ (Brewer/Owner) family originate from that area.

Fall Deeply Vale Fest(pic – http://www.elirecords.co.uk A VERY young Mark E Smith @ Deeply Vale in 1978)

Founded in 2012 near the centre of Bury by James Stewart and his parents, the brewery has quickly gained a reputation from drinkers and licensees alike for the excellence and consistency of his beers including the multi-award winning Breakfast Stout DV8.

James started to think about commercially brewing (being a full mash home brewer from a young age) whilst working at the noted Bury alehouse Trackside and started to look for premises eventually finding one on the Peel Industrial Estate. Brewing commenced in 2012 and they now make a core range of beers including Still Walking (sampled later) a 3.8% “bitter”, Golden Vale at 4.2% and DV8, the strongest at 4.8% abv.

Turning up at The Salford Arms I said a quick “Hello” to somebody I recognised from Twitter. This was Helen, partner of James Stewart the brewer. Jaz turned up along with a few others (including a fine turnout from the Bolton CAMRA Branch!) and I began to think that this might just be better attended than the last events. By the time we all settled in the front room, there were 15 or more people, which was gratifying to see and at least stopped James & Helen from feeling lonely! Then someone leaned over toward me and I realised it was Darren, who created the Gtr Manchester Ale News website / internet magazine. We’d been trying to meet for a pint for ages! We had a cracking chat,certainly a man who knows his beer.

James then gave us a brief chat about the genesis of the brewery, the recipes of the beers and the range of distribution. Distribution outside the immediate North West is handled by Mark Dade’s Boggart organisation and James handles a lot of the local distribution himself taking the beer into Lancashire and Cheshire with further outlets in Liverpool. James regularly has his beers featured in several Manchester pubs like The Angel, Marble Arch,  Soup Kitchen, Corbieres. I first sampled Deeply in The Smithfield on Swan St with Still Walking which I described as “a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish” (read more here!)

still walking clip

The brewery operates on a 2.5 barrel plant (1 barrel = 36 gallons or 4 firkins) and he brews 2 or 3 times a week spending the rest of the time doing the admin or distributing the beer around the area. What was really good to hear was the little “co-operative” that appears to exist between 3 Micros, Deeply Vale, Privateer & Ringway. They help each other out, distribute each others beers and even help to break new markets (The Ringway brewer – being  a Geordie – will be looking to break the Co-Op beers into the vibrant Newcastle beer scene.

Rather than 4 halves of different beers, given that James doesn’t bottle yet, we had but two beers on draught on the bar. First up was Still Walking, the “hoppy session ale”, a Pale Ale to my eyes. A lovely clear golden beer with a gentle fruity grapefruit nose (Cascade hops). A fruity easy drinking beer, medium bodied and really smooth with just the right amount of bitterness in the finish. A lovely refreshing easy drinking session beer.

By this point, this had become like a bit of a round table chat between like-minded people. This was really fun and quite intimate. Lots of people asking questions and voicing opinions, all in the spirit of the evening, which was really convivial.

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(One “almost built” brewery!)

Next beer up was the one of which James said he was most proud of. Being a fellow lover of dark beers and Stouts in particular, I’m with him on that one! DV8 is the beer in question, describer by James as a Breakfast Stout as it is, effectively, an Oatmeal Stout. A fabulous smoky aroma to this. Wonderfully full-bodied and creamy, lots of chocolate in here with the undertone of smokiness. A tremendous Stout, one that we should see more of around Manchester. As the nights draw in and the wind starts to blow, this is the time when a beer like this, in front of a real fire would go down a treat. Just need to find such a place in Manchester. Ideas anyone?

DV8 clip

One of the questions that came up was regarding bottling. james intends to put together a small bottling plant himself, rather than sending the beer elsewhere for packaging. A smart move really. Keeping quality control of his beers from start tp finish. Tying into this is the possibility of using his skills – possibly moving the small plant in his Dads’ garage into the brewery – is the idea (floated from the room) of doing seasonal beers. James was already considering an Imperial Stout and one that caught MY imagination was the thought of a Chocolate & Cinnamon Stout or a Xmas pud Stout? I offered to do some serious mashing, always willing to help, me! For a bottle or two of course!

Tysons Deeply pic(pic – TysonsBeerBlog.Blogspot.Com)

A further gloriously creamy pint of DV8 followed whilst Darren, Jaz & I had a further chat. I seriously like Darren’s internet ‘paper, always informative and definitely worth a read if you drink around the Manchester area, check it out here. Darren had to make a move, so Jaz and I also said our farewells to James & Helen and Ken & Tom from the pub and moved on to the Mark Addy where my pint of the beautiful Dark Revenge by Privateer had something missing, a little lacking in condition. Not as good as that beer usually is for sure. Jaz was more than happy with his Gin Pit by Allgates.

We then popped in for a final beer (& a bit) to a bar I haven’t been in for ages. The Gaslamp

Located in the former kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Childrens Mission (you can still see the name in the brickwork above the entrance!) this is just one seriously cool bar! Quite quiet but with some cracking eclectic tuneage. A great beer on draught too. Kitty Hawk by Privateer. This was MORE like it! The only thing was, I couldn’t quite bottom the flavour! Certainly made me think this one, good body to it for a 4%, I presume it was the hops, but there was a real savoury element to this, almost a touch salty? Whatever it was, both Jaz & I LOVED it. They do make some cracking beers on that there Temperance Street! (AND – Rumour has it that they may be on the move! Stay tuned!

Having missed my bus, it was time for a quick half of Harbour Breakfast Stout on keg. Quite oily and heavy, this (at 8.5% abv) was more like an Imperial with lots of strong bitter coffee/chocolate and a high degree of bitterness in the finish. A proper sleeping draught!!!

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, as did this particular evening. One of the best MTBs I had been to. A lovely friendly chatty couple (James & Helen), excellent company from the Bolton contingent (Pete, Linda & Graham) and meeting Darren. Yes. A good evening all round!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

Ramsbottom Craft Brewery – June 2013

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The Bury area, totally under my radar, has become a mini brewery mecca. The area is home to Brightside (recently relocated to Radcliffe), Deeply ValeFirst Chop (soon to commence brewing in their own premises in Salford), Irwell Works, Leyden (at The Lord Raglan in Nangreaves), Outstanding and (since December 2011) Ramsbottom Craft Brewery.

As is becoming a bit of a theme now, I stumbled upon a Twitter ‘exchange’ between Tyson The Beerhound and Matt Holmes, the owner and brewer at Ramsbottom Craft. At the end of this exchange, tentative arrangements were made to pop round at an indeterminate date when Matt may be brewing. One evening I saw a tweet addressed to myself and Tyson, along the lines of  “brewing tomorrow, fancy popping round…..? Well. You know me and temptation!

Unfortunately that fine Beerhound couldn’t make it due to work commitments. However, I was on holiday so, one sunny afternoon, I find myself lost in Ramsbottom!

Having driven onto the street listed on the website, it was all residential! Confused. I was utterly convinced I was looking for an industrial unit! A quick exchange with Tyson corrected that impression, so I headed back and knocked at the front door of a house I had recently passed. The door was opened and I was met by a genial young man (Matt) and the delicious unmistakable smells of an operating brewery!

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(The Mash Tun)

Not long after finishing our initial introductions (we had never previously met!), it was obvious that something was slightly wrong! At that point Matt was ‘sparging’ (a bit like rinsing the malt to get all available sugars from the grains) and the transfer of the ‘wort’ (the extracted sugars that form the basis of the finished beer) wasn’t going smoothly! There appeared to be a blockage, so, stirring implement in hand, Matt dived in (not literally!) to the Tun and got it sorted, freed the blockage and the process went smoothly! This issue was not unconnected with the large amount of grain in the Tun, the aim being for a wort to produce a finished beer of around 6% abv. These are indeed ‘Hand Crafted’ ales! (I – sort of – mucked in with a bit of  ‘re-circulation’ of the wort, good fun!)

Having never gone the ‘tinned wort’ route as a home brewer, Matt dived straight in with full grain brewing, using only whole leaf hops. Sourcing his stainless steel ware from Germany, he built his own brewery doing all the plumbing, cladding and wiring himself. He registered with HMRC (boo!) in December 2011 and commenced brewing pretty much from that date.

The Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), Mash Tun, Copper and his various fermenting vessels (6) and his bottles and casks are all stored and housed within his converted garage, and he produces quite a variety of beer in this 2 1/4 Bbl kit! Beers flavoured with Chilli and Lemongrass, Ginger, Cocoa nibs……

A native Midlander transported “oop north”, Matt is truly a one-man outfit doing the brewing, sales & distribution all himself, though, by his own admission, brewing is to the fore at the moment. Brew it, phone calls, then move it appears to be the way. Impressively, he fits this all around his day job as an Estate Agent too!

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(A bit of sparging)

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Matt’s beers are either cask or bottle conditioned and I noted a number of filled 9 gallon firkins, 2 of which had his Chilligrass Wheat Beer ready for a local Ramsbottom Bar/Restaurant The Hearth of The Ram and a number of bottles ready for packaging / orders. The bottles can be purchased either direct from Matt or from Summerseat Garden Centre

Matt’s Cask Conditioned offerings can be occasionally located at the (aforementioned) Hearth of The Ram and The Major pub in Ramsbottom, The Coach & Horses in Edenfield (nr Ramsbottom), The Masons Arms in Rawtenstall, The Magnet in Stockport, The Angel in Manchester, Trackside in Bury and others in the Blackburn area.

I sensed that Matt was a busy chap this afternoon, but he graciously let me have a taste of one of his mainstays (and I think he needed a refresher after his travails!), Rammy Ale,  a nice copper coloured bitter with a good balance and dry lightly hoppy finish. With driving, I couldn’t sample any more beer, so having not had any of his beers before today, I picked up a few bottles for later tasting and said my farewells to let Matt get on with the brew.

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It really is amazing quite what you can fit into a small space, and there is a little room for expansion, but, as things take off further, Matt may need to consider larger premises. Check the website at http://ramsbottombrewery.com/. Matt runs a “Beer Club” where – within a certain radius – for £30 a quarter, he’ll deliver a mixed case of RCB beers.

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Later that week, I tried a bottle of the Chilligrass Wheat Beer. Extremely pale (well, it is an all wheat beer!) at 4.4% abv there was some lemony citrus and spice on the nose. In the mouth, I got the refreshing characteristics of the wheat with a sharp peppery chilli kick! It certainly lives up to its name and definitely woke up my sleepy taste buds!

A nice bloke Matt. Cares passionately about what he brews, is obviously a dab had with the DIY and plumbing and indulges in some experimentation with his beers (Can’t wait to try the Thai Wit!), both beers I tried were full of flavour  with my personal preference being the lip licking  fiery Chilligrass. I’ll certainly be looking out for his beers on draught at The Angel.

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

Manchester NQ – 16/01/2013

Midweek Beer in the Northern Quarter

Sub zero in Manchester. What kind of fool would want to travel to Manchester for a pint in such cold? You guessed it!

Stepping into The Marble Arch on Rochdale Road, you stand for a moment to drink in all of the original features of this unique pub. The glazed tile walls, Victorian fireplace, lovely ornate bar, the ‘ski slope’ descent to the bar! (It takes some believing!)

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(A grand entrance!)

My intention was to drink just Manchester area beers, but that died on my breath as there was a beer waiting for me from Hand Drawn Monkey in Huddersfield! So, that was that!

Pale Ale Experiment #2, (the said beer) is a 4% abv pale refreshing and lightly bitter ale. Moving onto the ‘Dark Side’, I had to try the Marble Brewery Stouter Stout and revel in its satanic blackness! Dry, creamy and earthy, with some gentle charred coffee bitterness.  Mmmmm…..

I do like a little stroll, so, wandering down Rochdale Road, past the site of the former Pot of Beer (an old friend!) we approached The Angel.

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Somewhat overlooked by the huge new Co-Op HQ, The pub has a restaurant upstairs with a good reputation and the pub itself has had a few rebirths over the years, but is now settled as a free-house

Always guaranteed an eclectic selection in here. Open plan in an L shape with the bar on the left, the room has a peculiar (and unique, for Manchester) feature. A baby grand piano!

20130116_202440[1] (Fancy a tinkle?)

Quite quiet in here with some nice background music, I settled down to a nice pint of Culloden Stout from BrewHouse Brewery at 5.6% abv. Dry, slightly bitter with a hint of vanilla. The pub has around 7 beers on at any one time and frequently has some hard to find gems.

Moving on, we crossed over Rochdale Rd and popped into The Smithfield on Swan St, another pub with an unusual feature for the city centre, a pool table!

20130116_205637[1](A City Centre rarity!)

Another open plan pub, this has a small square mezzanine with some ‘shabby chic’ comfy chairs (VERY comfy!) and has an arrangement of comfy chairs located at the end around the large screen TV (for Sports). This has the feel (and clientele) of a true ‘local’ pub and is very friendly.

The usual good selection of beers on show, I opted for a beer from Bury, namely Deeply Vale ‘Still Walking’ bitter. 3.8% abv, a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish.

Bar Fringe up next, as eclectic as you want it to be! There is always a decorative surprise in here (as well as a decent beer or two!) The Mezzanine Motorbike being a personal favourite!

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(Eclectic Decoration – Fringe Style!)

A nice pale and hoppy Frost Giant from Sadlers Brewery in the West Midlands at 3.8%abv was the choice in here. I do like friendly bar staff, and the gravelly voice bloke behind the pumps certainly was that! Normally 2 or 3 ales on in here, with a large array of draught Belgian and German beers.

On this bitterly cold night, the next walk was short, across Oldham Road to The Crown & Kettle.

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A beautiful building inside & out. High ceilings and ornate details. 3 distinct rooms in here, a main room, small off room and a snug to the rear. Some nice classical prints on the walls. My preference is for the small room just off the bar area with a nice coal-effect fire.

Now warming up, I enjoyed a Peerless Brewery Hop Nob at 3.8% abv a pale, quite malty beer with some subtly flavoursome hops in there. Some soft soul music in the background, nice!

Finally, The Castle on Oldham Street. The only pub I’ve ever been refused service – a LONG time ago – by an old misery landlord! Times have changed! This pub is an old friend and has undergone a transformation in the last two years. The large rear room is now a performance space and the upstairs has been opened up into another public room.

The pub has a large selection of Robinson’s beers and some interesting guests. Tonight, I had a Lurcher Stout at 4.8% by Green Jack Brewery from Lowestoft. Smooth, creamy and lush! Chocolate flavours from the dark roasted malt and subtly smoky. And more friendly bar staff! A nice end to the evening.

Now then, where did I park that bus?

‘Til next time.

Slainte!