Bottled Beers – July 2015 – Pt 2

Drink Hebden Bridge

Last week, craving some Yorkshire beers, I dusted down my passport and checked that my inoculations were up to date.

Yes. I was going over the hill. I was crossing the border. I was going to Yorkshire!

I love Hebden Bridge. There is something about the place that just lifts the spirits, there is some beautiful walking to be had too, including one – to and through the village of Heptonstall – that, between my close friends and family, will be forever know as the “Heart Attack Walk”. I kid not.

My primary purpose last sunday though, was to pick up some beer from Five Towns that Malcolm had sorted for me and a couple that Bridestones Brewery (Owners of the aforementioned shop) wanted me to try. My secondary purpose was that, with me hosting the excellent Tuesday event “Craft Beer Hour” on Twitter in the guise of my Alter Ego – SalfordBeerFest – I needed more Yorkshire beer (The theme of the evening being – Breweries to be featured at the festival)

IMAG0336

(Hebden Bridge Arts Festival was in full swing)

The shop is larger than it looks from the frontage and goes back into two quite large rooms. Quite a few beers that are hard to get over here, including Five Towns, Vocation, Bridestones themselves and others, nicely displayed, both on the shelves and dotted around the shop. There are plans to develop the space to incorporate a Craft keg bar in the near future too, This will help to further the burgeoning impression that I have – which is that Hebden is turning into a place worthy of getting off the slow train to Leeds!

With Drink?, The Fox & Goose, Parcel Bar (at the Train Station) and Calan’s Bar (Opp St Pol’s Car Park), there are a number of spots worthy of a wander. I popped in Calan’s Bar (having bumped into Martin from Bridestones in a nearby Coffee Shop!) and had a superb pint of Mallinsons’ Nelson Sauvin in this smart Micro Pub which appears to be doing some great business (5 casks on the bar – all from Yorkshire Micros).

Calans Bar

In short – visit Hebden!

Bottles

IMAG0344

1. Wild Blackberry MildOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 3.8% abv – Mild – 500ml – Heaton Hops

It’s a MILD! Get over it!!! And it’s from one of my favourite brewers too!

Another beer from a recent trip to Damian O’Sheas excellent micro bar.

A barely detectable twinkle of ruby comes through this dark beer with a tan coloured head oozing with hedgerow fruit. Slightly tart.

Yes. As a  mild, this is light bodied. There is a gentle almost chocolaty roast malt character to this refreshing dark beer. This is gradually supplanted by a dark and juicy berry fruit. Really juicy too.

This is a beer I could drink all day. Really light, refreshing and just….. moreish! Milds are, by nature, lightly hopped, but there is a gentle leafy quality in the aftertaste which sits just right with the character of this beer.

Milds appear to be somewhat…. maligned in some quarters as devoid of flavour. As such, some appear to have dropped the word and saw sales soar. People need to get over their prejudices in that case and enjoy these “dark session ales” for what they are.

And this is a fine example.

I love Mild, that most underrated of refreshing drinks. The apparent prejudice around Mild by drinkers nowadays surprises and saddens me. I heard tale recently of one brewery who – upon renaming their Mild, by removing the very word itself from the branding – were experiencing n upswing in sales and demand for their “dark session ale”. It strikes me as sad that, to get drinkers to appreciate this fine beer, you need to lose the word Mild. But the branding change is right in a way, Mild IS a tasty “dark session ale”!

IMAG0348

2. May Day DIPAFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 8.4% abv – Double IPA – 750ml – Direct from the brewers

The “Arch-Nemesis Killer” from the EastWestFest in Wakefield!

Oh. My. God. This is the bottled version of my draught beer of the Year (so far). And. It. Does. Not. Disappoint.

Decanting a honey gold shade and with a smooth and fluffy white head with a citrus tropical cavalcade booming from the glass! Oh. My.

This is a big beer. It’s a DIPA for crying out loud! And this is a style which is sometimes hit & miss for me, but this is an utter bullseye. Big chewy and slightly sweet malt, a bit like a flapjack base on top of which these BIG hops dance like there’s no tomorrow!

That fruitiness. Big mango. Passion fruit. Nectarine. It’s all going on. With a big bracing bitterness punch in the finish. But, big as it is, you finish the mouthful and can’t wait for the next. It really is THAT good.

And guess who’s opening the hop store for a spacial beer for ISBF 2015?

This man makes superb beer. This is one of his best and makes choosing the best bottle this year rather difficult!

IMAG0350

3. On’t RivetBridestones Brewing (Hebden Bridge) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Direct from the brewers.

The above statement serves as a disclaimer! Picked this up from Martin from the brewery at their excellent little shop – soon to be tap-room “Drink” in Hebden Bridge.

A lustrous golden hue with good carbonation giving a good thick white head and a beautiful citrus aroma with orange fruits uppermost – and a light floral note too.

Yup. Yum. Ooh….. Really smooth medium bodied beer with lovely orange and mandarin up front and centre. Really fruity.  And then… Bam! A really bracing bitterness his you all over the mouth. Quite a  pleasant surprise!

But that bitterness! Oof! This is another fruity belter which also happens to slide down all too nicely, leading to quite a herbal resinous sticky finish.

The first “9” to sell out at ISBF was by this lot. Good to have them back!

IMAG0352

4. Graveyard EyesHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, S Wales) – 5.2 % abv – Sorachi Porter – 330ml – £2.90 – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

I KNOW it’s NOT from the North…But read on….

With a faint ruby glow at the edges, this almost black beer comes with a creamy textured, tan coloured head and an aroma that’s hard to describe. Sharp and tart citrus, but earthy too, maybe coffee grinds.  Hugely inviting though!

If it wasn’t for the huge bitter coffee flavour, I’d say this was 9/10ths of the way to a Black IPA!

Initial coffee hit and bitterness is followed closely by a beautiful and sharp, tart citrussy note that makes my tongue tingle, curl and dance all at the same time. Another beer with excellent carbonation, nice and smooth, almost creamy.

But that tingling citrus just doesn’t let go! Really big hoppy finish assisted by a decent bitterness. My first Hopcraft in bottle (I think) and it certainly won’t be the last! Stunningly fresh and tasty

IMAG0353

5. MadagascarGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 5.4% abv – Vanilla Stout – 330ml – £2.50 – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Black, with a ruby tinge at the edges, this beer had a creamy coloured foamy head emitting an aroma reminiscent of a Chomp bar. Chocolate and toffee with something slightly sweeter in there.

Mmmmmm….. Rich and creamy. Yes, there’s some smooth sweet chocolate, a slight hint of rum too. Beautifully smooth beer, then a little subtle vanilla creeps in, sneakily insinuating itself into the flavours.

This is a beer to be tried on cask and no mistake!

The finish had an unsurprising slight vanilla chocolate sweetness to it, but with a gentle herbal hop undertone.

Really nice beer this!

IMAG0356

6. Black MariaBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 5.7% abv – Black IPA – 500ml – £4 – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another dark beer in a week of outstanding dark beers. A very dark ruby and almost black, this has a pale creamy coloured head with loads of citrus and what smells like a touch of licorice….

Oh MUMMY this is glorious! Definitely on the IPA side of Black, there are orchards of fruitiness in this. Grapefruit, apricot and then work! The bitterness strikes. Oof yes! A bitter little cracker this.

Medium to full-bodied, the slightly spiky carbonation helps the hop flavours stay to the fore in this. There is a distinct background note of bitter roast coffee which remains throughout, daring you to have Another mouthful. But the fruitiness draws you back in….

Probably the best dark beer I’ve had from Black Jack. And I’ve had some bloody good ones.

That bitterness stays to the end leading to a substantial tangy hoppy finish and aftertaste. Superb.

Well – The morals of this story are…

1) Get to Hebden Bridge

2) Get these beers – You’ll thank me!

3) Er….That’s all for now!

EastWestFest – 15-16/05/2015

east west colour web

I’ve been saying for over a year now that “Beer People Are Good People”. I’ve said it THAT often, that the predictive text on my phone even predicts that as a hashtag on occasion! My conversations with beery folk of all stripes have led me to that conclusion. And, for me, there are few – if any – better than a gentleman by the name of Malcolm Bastow. The brewer/owner of Five Towns Brewery of Outwood in Wakefield,

Back at the start of 2014 when I first tweeted that I had been coerced into curating a beer festival and shouted “HELP” on Twitter, Malcolm was one of the first to respond. He offered me a great deal on beer. As he has made some of the best beers that I have drunk in the last two years, I tore his proverbial hand off. He came over to The Independent Salford Beer Festival (as it became) with his lovely wife Beverley and I was chuffed to bits when one of the two beers he brought (Raven King) was voted Beer of the Festival, attracting rave reviews from people such as Deeekos (Twitter handle) and Rowan Molyneux. People who really know their stuff.

When he asked me to give him a small hand in a beer festival he was planning in Wakefield, I was both honoured and humbled. I still feel (and I’m not prone to false modesty) that I know little about beer. But he trusted my judgement. Coming from Malcolm, that meant a lot to me.

So I pledged to go to Wakefield. I consulted the Oracle (aka The Arch Nemesis) and booked hotels and trains. The day came. And I was stupidly (for a 50 yr old) excited.

IMAG0084

Getting off the train at Leeds (to change for Wakefield Westgate) we had half an hour to kill. Irrespective of the question, beer was the answer. So we walked the 60 seconds to the Leeds Brewery Tap. On entering this rather modern looking pub, there was a bonus. Sunbeam Brewery had had a Tap Takeover and some of their beers were still on the bar. At the risk of stirring up the recent debate about Craft Beer being the death of Mild, I had to tweet Tony Naylor (the excellent Guardian journo) with an image of Sunbeam Chocolate Mild. Assuredly a Mild that lacks nothing in smooth chocolaty flavour. A “delight”……Hold that happy thought for later!

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the delights of this two floored pub (with an ACE roof terrace!) as we had to hurtle back into the station – being on restrictive “Advanced” tickets!

Back on the train we go. I made a mental note to contact Virgin Rail about the fact that there is free WiFi on their East Coast Service. Ahem….West Coast Mainline please!

1/2 an hour later. There we were. Wakefield Labour Club. Affectionately referred to locally as “The Red Shed”.

IMAG0087

Because it’s red. And a shed.

From outside I heard someone say “The Mancs are here”! Feeling suitably charmed, we sauntered in, to be greeted by Beverley doing the honours with glasses and tokens. That glass….

IMAG0110

Nice innit? And, in a bold move (that I may yet replicate at #ISBF2015), the only choice of glassware. Nobody grumbled. And very few gave them back. No surprise there then!

I could prattle on about the beer (which WAS excellent) for pages and pages (as you well know), but what marked this day, for me, was the sheer friendliness. Chatting with people I have never met. And laughter. And stories. The banter (mostly at my expense!). It felt like I belonged. And it felt good. I felt at home.

It’s hard to single people out, but I hugely enjoyed my chat with Andrew Helm from Revolutions Brewing of Castleford. We share similar tastes in politics……and the more important things in life, like beer and music. Another of life’s good guys, we eventually got around to talking beer. And a planned collab for our little Salford bash. No secrets to be spilled, but it will be both big and dark. And have a solid music theme. I’m excited. (Great news to hear that he’s delivered a load of beer to the Piccadilly Tap!)

IMAG0086

(OH, if only people had….)

Malcolm seems to pull good people into his orbit of friendship. It was great (not to mention instructive) to talk with the likes of Charlie & David (two of the guys from the excellent “A Swift One” blogging collective), Alex (a lady involved with the superb Leeds International fest), Bob – a gent, Scott (GBK) Nightingale there were just too many to remember. Especially when you have a Swiss cheese for a brain, like me.

IMAG0089

(Because remembering this stuff matters)

As far as the beer is concerned, I focussed on Yorkshire beers. For 3 reasons.

  1. Because I love it.
  2. Because I can’t get much of it over here.
  3. As research for ISBF2015.

I learned the following.

  1. There are some really promising new breweries springing up under the shadow of the White Rose (Whippet & Learn To Brew)
  2. I definitely want Rat, Blue Bee & Sunbeam breweries represented at St. Sebastians’ this year.
  3. Judging by the comments, we brew some damn good beer over here too!

There was a raffle in each session. Both the Arch Nemesis and Deeekos won prizes. The Arch Nemesis wished that he hadn’t – it was a Tetley Bitter T-Shirt that he spent the rest of the day trying to give away! I, of course, won sod all. Other than the chance to drink some simply great beer.

My beery highlights?

Sunbeam AlesShepherds Delight. A tawny coloured beer with more than a hint of Turkish Delight to it. Intriguing and delicious.

Revolutions BrewingThe Golden Age Of Wireless. A golden mild. With vanilla. It just worked. Beautifully smooth.

Allgates (or Turks Head Brewing Co!) – Shogi Porter. Listed as a Porter, but the huge quantities of Sorachi Ace hops turned it into a Black IPA. A fine beer indeed.

Blue BeeReal. Pale, sharp and lemony. My #2 of the day.

Whippet Brewing CoTest Brew No. 1 – A smooth smoky Stout. Yum.

Atom BeersSchroedinger’s Cat. Pale, light and super hoppy. A delight.

Brewsmith Nelson Sauvin Pale. Just as it should be. Tart and refreshing.

Thirst Class AlePale & Interesting. A pale ale that started good and finished even better. More refreshment, just when my taste buds had started to jade a little.

And then we get to my personal favourite.

Five Towns BreweryMay Day DIPA

I am living proof this evening, that drinking copious amounts of Double IPA is neither big nor clever. But it was, quite simply, ASTONISHINGLY GOOD.

In the main (non-festival) bar, they had one of Malcolm’s beers on. Strange Brew, a strong pale ale at 7%. I wanted one. But the final pint was sold to the guy in front of me. Cursing with a smile on my face, I retreated. It was 9pm.

At 9pm – being the final session – Malcolm made the strategic decision to lower the price of the beer. From £3 a pint, to £1. And, even at 8.4% abv, that included the May Day. Well. If I couldn’t have Strange Brew….

So I hit it. Hard. Repeatedly. My head said that it was that thing known as A Bad Idea. But it smelt divine. Big, bold and citrussy. It tasted like heaven should taste. Nectar. And it was 50 BLOODY PENCE A HALF!

I didn’t stop hitting it till chucking out time. This morning.

To describe it….Big, bold and citrussy. Tropical. Bitter and resinous of finish. It felt light enough to almost session. It was Ruinous. A complete and utter Beergasm. If a beer can leave Charlie (The Ale Ambler) with a smile on his face, it is good enough for me. To sum it up, it knocked me down sideways and lifted me up again. It was astonishingly good indeed.

We, the Greater Manchester tendency wobbled off to our respective hotel rooms. With lopsided grins.

It was a fantastic day.

IMAG0093

And the Arch Nemesis got rid of that T-Shirt. As you can see!

Now. Being the consummate host, Malcolm had arranged to come to a couple of local beer landmarks with us. I was MORE than up for it. I felt great this morning. But the May Day had wreaked havoc with the Arch Nemesis! But, being the sympathetic soul that I am, I dragged him out on a route march! To….

IMAG0099

20150517_120257

20150517_120407

20150517_120350

The Fernandes Brewery Tap (5, Avison Yard, Wakefield WF1 1UA)

We were there before opening. I was thirsty. Unlike my weary accomplice…..

What. A. Gorgeous. Pub. The pictures simply do not do this place justice. All the wood that you could shake a….er….stick at. a stunning place to drink beer on a Sunday (what felt like) Morning. Both the Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of The Caribbean and the Fernandes’ own Malt Shovel Mild were superb. Friendly service. The whole package. Malcolm met us hot from taking down his festival. I’m glad he suggested this place.

IMAG0101

Harry’s Bar (107B Westgate, Wakefield WF1 1EL)

A gem of a place. A small bar with extremely friendly staff. And great beer. Well worth the stiff walk from Fernandes. And close to Westgate train station – crucial, given that our train was going in 40 minutes!

IMAG0103

8 hand-pulled beers. A cider. And TWO of Malcolm’s own beers (one is the “house beer”). I tried the Five Towns “Mi Usual” which, given Mr Bastow’s penchant for the stronger brews, is hardly his “usual” being only 3.7% abv. It was a sharp, lemony treat. Light and refreshing after that hike!

IMAG0104

Also on the bar, was a beer from a brewery that my Arch Nemesis has spoken of in reverential tones on many an occasion. But one that I was yet to try. So I did.

Tigertops Brewery (Wakefield) – Outland IPA. A big, fruity and chewy IPA. Boldly hopped and simply superb.

If you are in Wakefield, you need to try to make time for BOTH of these bars. They are special.

We had to dash. We got to Westgate station only to discover that we actually had an extra 20 minutes. I’d cocked up on the times. My ailing associate scowled. Ailingly.

Again, I thank Malcolm & Beverley for making us just so welcome. And at home. All their friends too, those mentioned above and those that the May Day is to blame for any omission.

This really was a special little festival. That was for some local good causes. People coming together to make a difference. And that shit matters. More so now than ever. Being in a Labour Club made it feel even more right.

It was special both for the beer, but even more for the people that were there. It was small, in an age of increasingly mega festivals. It was intimate. It was fun.

It’s now a fixture on my beer calendar. It should be on yours too.

Better wrap this up ‘cos I’m off to Brighton tomorrow at the crack of a Sparrows’ doo-dah.

Beer may feature.

So, for now…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2015

Bottles don’t appear to have been a priority in the last few weeks. Which isn’t of itself a bad thing. It’s always nice to get out to some excellent hostelries, as I have done for the last month or so.

However, I have also been lucky enough to come across some absolutely belting beers (including the best bottle I’ve had this year so far!) So, with neither further blather nor ado….Let’s begin!

IMAG2728

Body SnatcherBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2 %abv – BitterBrowtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

A golden beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma slightly sweet and fruity with peach and a hint of apple.

Medium bodied, this beer has that slightly sweet fruity initial flavour with again peach  and some stewed plum and forest fruit and a flowery fragrant flavour that I can’t quite pick, backed up with a bracing bitterness.

That sweetness gives way to quite a grassy and resinous aftertaste and finish. This takes me back to beers from my youth, maybe just a wee bit more bitter. And that’s no bad thing!

IMAG2725
Small SaisonBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale straw yellow beer with a light persistent fluffy head giving a spicy yeasty nose with notes of banana and a little gooseberry.

Oh yes. This’ll do Monkey! Tart, dry and spicy. Banana again upfront, but soon retreats in the face of some sharp and tart lemon notes which in turn yield ground to that yeasty Saison spiciness. Yum.

Second mouthful and there’s a little Sauvignon Blanc winey sharpness and tartness, that tartness leading to a short and very dry spicy finish. An incredibly refreshing beer.

IMAG2736
Triptych No 3Wiper and True (Bristol) – 6.7%abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)

Copper golden in colour, lively carbonation giving a big white head and an aroma reminding me of orange toffee.

Big bodied beer this. Smooth textured and really fruity with peach, orange marmalade and a hint of blackcurrant lurking at the back, also an almost yeasty dryness to finish on the swallow. Mmmm….

This beer doesn’t hide its strength as it’s quite warming as it slides down. More fruit in the second mouthful, with plum and more hedgerow blackberry sitting on top of the marmalade, jammy and spicy. The finish is fruity and dry leading to a sticky herbal and slightly resinous aftertaste. A proper English IPA. Big and fruity and beautiful.

IMAG2738
JOEFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 4.7%abv – Coffee IPAEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown beer with a light and fluffy white head and an aroma of woah….. Cold coffee. Mmmmmm…….

And oh yes…. That coffee comes through loud and clear! Lovely smooth and bitter coffee flavour in full effect but with quite a spicy hop kick at the end.

Smooth and medium bodied in the mouth, this is as good as it was on cask. The coffee is potent enough, the bitterness of the brew being added to by the grassy hops that come through in the finish.

When I first heard of this, it sounded ludicrous. But it works. Really well. Black coffee and hops. What’s not to love?

IMAG2761
Mint Choc StoutTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 5.2% abv – StoutEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown almost black beer with a cream coloured lacey head with a light aroma of chocolate powder and spearmint.

Another of their limited bottle “Tickety Few” range, this is medium bodied and really smooth. The flavours are really subtle and take a while to reveal their charms. First up is the chocolate, which manages the trick of not being too sweet.

Second mouthful gives a little of the mint which is very subtle and takes some finding. This may be down to using mint leaves as opposed to any extracts, which is to be applauded.

Further mouthfuls build on the minty hint and the beer takes on a pleasing kind of light mint Aero quality. The signature Belgian yeast lends its hand to a rapidly drying finish and also imparts a spicy note to proceedings.

Another really nice beer from this increasingly impressive brewery. I’d love to try this on cask.

IMAG2768
Calibration SourChorlton Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.3% abv – SourBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale golden and lightly hazy with a decent white head and a lightly sour and Orangey citrus aroma from the addition of Amarillo hops.

Hmmm…. A palate cleanser and no mistake. The first sip had me salivating like a rabid dog! This is surprisingly enjoyable (and I say that because Sour beers aren’t exactly my “go to” style)

Yes it is sharp and has a saliva inducing acidity, but this beer isn’t as enamel stripping as some sours that I’ve had. This has a distinct citrus fruitiness working in harmony with the sourness making it a very thirst quenching and (I go back to that phrase) surprisingly enjoyable!

The lingering aftertaste is quite marmaladey and dry.

An excellent beer. Looking forward to Dark Matter now!

IMAG2770
Imperial IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) 9.5% abv – Imperial IPA – Epicurean(W Didsbury)

Deep golden, almost copper coloured beer with an abundant yet quickly dissipating white head with a booming peach and Mango aroma with a hint of mandarin.

Drinks a lot easier than such a beer should! First sip reveals fruity sweetness, deep and quite savoury, heavy with mango. Almost a medicinal note – my mind off cure!

Warming and soothing add it slides down the throat too. I swear this could be just the thing to cure my little chest problem!

Big chewy malt base that these hops dance on that fruitiness is ever-present and fades only slightly into a big sticky resinous aftertaste. Impressive.

IMAG2772
Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

A bright golden beer with thick white head and a hugely fruity nose with gooseberry and a little orange in there.

Oh bloody hell this is good! That gooseberry upfront is bloody tart in this medium bodied belter. The fruitiness dries out almost immediately making me pocket my lips and suck in my cheeks like a Les Dawson housewife sketch! Wow that is dry!

That arid fruitiness is backed up by a bracing bitterness too and the whole is tied up with a resinous bow of an aftertaste and finish.

I had this as one of my beers at MBCF this year. That was good, but this is so much better! Woof!

IMAG2774
Smokehouse PorterCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.2%abv – Porter – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
I had to hunt this beast down, having been told by a colleague who saw it in the Cheshire Smokehouse in Altrincham. It was worth it!

A big dark brown almost black beer with a creamy beige head and an aroma full of chocolate and dark fruits with just a hint of wood smoke.

Oh my. This is a proper beer.

Full bodied beer this. An initial chocolate sweetness slides into a chewy fruitiness full of dark fruit. This, in turn, yields palate space to a little salty tang before that smokiness pushes to the front. At this point, my gums are tingling.

A second mouthful and the dates make their chewy fruitiness more felt, merging and blending with the chocolate to make more than the sum of their parts. In the aftertaste, I don’t know if it’s from the dates, but this starts to have a dessert wine note to it, slightly – but not overly – sweet and gently warming.

This is one hell of a beer. And one which feels as if it would just love to be drunk along with a slab of rich fruit cake. And I have another bottle. Which I’m saving for Xmas. To go with……

Bloody gorgeous stuff.

IMAG2682
OAPNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) / Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 9.6%abv – Double IPA – Direct from the brewers.
I spoke to Malcolm Bastow shortly before his retirement from his career as a mental health nurse. He was going to focus on brewing full-time. Obviously, this required commemorating with a beer, so he arranged a collab with the fellow hop fiend Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough. I saw Stuarts’ tweet mentioning OAP DIPA. And given that they collaborated on my favourite DIPA so far, the mighty 300, I had to have it.

Quote the bottle label “May Cause Confusion” – Hmmm…. This Amber coloured beer has a light white fluffy head with a full aroma of mango and peach tropical fruitiness.

Oh me oh my!!! This is a bar room bully!!! Full bodied is an understatement, this is certainly a big beer. And knowing how much Stuart Neilson & Malcolm Bastow like their hops, I should have expected no less!

Christ on a bike, there is a bit of everything in here!  There is tropical peach & mango, there is a bit of grapefruit, there is a while bloody forest of resinous pine, this is just so damn juicy and….. Well…. BIG!

Chewy malt, with a little toffee biscuit sweetness, meets a hop store used without restraint. This is bloody gorgeous. And maybe the best DIPA I’ve had yet (and they brewed the previous best with their 300 collab!)

Just a big juddering, knee-trembling beergasm! The best bottle so far this year. (And I’ve had a few!)

Now, for breakfast and some serious loin girding, prior to this lunchtime’s Road To Wigan Beer bus. COME ON!!!!
Tune
“Beneath the stars there are the bars that serve the bitter drink
The barman smiles at me, his wife she gives a secret wink

They listen patiently to me, my story I unfold
I see their faces change, the lights grow dim I’m losing hold”

(“Life In The Air Age” – Be Bop Deluxe – Clip courtesy of #BeBopDeluxe via YouTube)
In about March 1979, whilst listening to John Peel on a feeble transistor radio under my blankets in a cold Salford bedroom, he played a track which rocked my 13 year old world. It was called “Art Empire Industry” and was from the album “Sound On Sound” by a band called Red Noise. Thus began my love affair with the music of Bill Nelson.
Eventually, over a number of retrospective purchases, I acquired his entire oeuvre to that point. The man can play guitar. He made a guitar sound like seagulls, trains, space ships. His playing entranced me. Be Bop Deluxe, were a rock band that Nelson formed in Yorkshire in about 1972. They only had one real hit single “Ships In The Night” which was taken from the Sunburst Finish album, as was the track above (although this is the live version from the Live In The Air Age live album (which was to promote the Sunburst Finish & Modern Music albums)
Bill Nelson was one of the first 5 live artists I saw & when he toured “Quit Dreaming” at Manchester Poly (Cavendish Hall) in May 1981. I last saw him perform tracks from his entire back catalogue at the Manchester Academy in 2004. To finally hear Be Bop Tracks performed live, by the man himself, brought me to tears.
The reason I’ve included this track, other than the fact that I adore it? Bill is originally from Wakefield. Five Towns territory.

Cornish Bottled Beers – August 2014

“Oh, God of Progress, have you degraded or forgot us?
Where have your laws gone? I think about it now

Ancient hieroglyphic or the South Pacific
Typically terrific, busy and prolific
Classical devotion, architect promotion
Lacking in emotion, think about it now

Chicago, the New Age, but what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?
Oh, Columbia
Amusement or treasure, these optimistic pleasures
Like the Ferris wheel.”

(“Come On Feel The Illinoise” – Sufjan Stevens)

(Clip courtesy of Sufjan Stevens on YouTube)

If I was pushed to name my favourite song/track, this would be it.

With the release of his album “Michigan”, Sufjan Stevens announced a “50 States Project”. That was, to record an album themed to each of the 50 states of the US. 50 albums. Think about it. Given how prolific Stevens was at that point, the music press took him seriously. “Illinois” (from which the above track – with its nod to Slade – is taken) was supposed to be the second in the series….until he revealed that it was all a marketing gimmick and he had no intention…..

The above paragraph is meant to highlight the sheer ambition of Stevens’ music. This damned track is so multi-layered, so huge, so sprawling, so bloody BUSY! Few could get away with it. Sufjan Stevens can though. And speaking of getting away with stuff, few could make a song about one of (if not THE) most prolific mass murderers in US history –  John Wayne Gacy – sound like a thing of sad beauty.

Some of the tracks are little but snippets, but this is simply a HUGE album. 21 tracks from “UFO Sighting” through to “Jacksonville”, the banjo plucking “Decatur”, the lovely “Chicago”. A hugely underrated and chronically overlooked album.

And, as I said, my favourite track.

_______________________________________

(Baner Peran – St Piran’s Flag)

When in Rome…..

Back in August, I went on holiday for a week to Perranporth in the beautiful county of Kernow (Cornwall, for those not in contact with their inner Celt!). Now Perranporth isn’t exactly overburdened with great drinking holes, so I spent most of my time in a caravan….on top of a cliff…..at the tail end of a hurricane influenced weather system. Not ideal. However, to brighten things up, a colleague – who isn’t a beer nerd – mentioned an off-licence in the village as being worth a shuftie.

So, one morning, I went for a short walk. Which turned into a 5 mile round trip! When I got there, the place had had a window shattered and was being attended to by Devon & Cornwall’s finest. A false start.

The Haven site bar I was at was all Skinners. Dispiriting. So I jumped in the jalopy (lesson learned!) and popped down to that “offie”. Called “The Corkscrew”, the name was suitably descriptive in that it majored on wines. However, the beer selection was ace! All local. Yes, of course, there was St Austell & Skinners – not to mention Sharps, but there were a few Micros in there too, so……

 A few days later, we went to Truro, where I was lucky to stumble across a specialist beer shop named The Beer Cellar…..A place loaded with great craft beer….I could have gone daft…but instead restricted myself to some Cornish Micros…as I said “When in Rome”. So here’s my best 6….Don’t ask for prices……I can’t remember…I was too busy trying to keep that caravan on the ground in a Force 12!!!!

IMAG1898 (1)

1. White Cross IPABlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 5.7% abv – IPA – £1.95 (330ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

If I’d have known that these guys were SO CLOSE to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

Golden beer, decent fluffy white head and a beautiful citrus aroma with lots of Mango and a little peach in there too.

Full-bodied and really smooth on the tongue this packs a good tropical fruit punch with the mango, peach and a little kiwi in there too. This leads into a nice bitterness without being overpowering.

That fruitiness intensified with each sip, the bitterness leading to a quite punchy resinous pine hit in the aftertaste that lingers until the next fruity mouthful. A little belter this. A proper IPA.

IMAG19462. Pale AleHarbour Brewing Co (Trekillick, N Cornwall) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.35 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

I love the classy labelling of Harbour beers. Clean lines, bold, upfront, but so classy.

I also like the bold citrus aromas banging out of this deep golden beer! Lots of orange and fruity mango leaping from the white head!

Smooth as the proverbial bottom, this full-bodied beer slides into the mouth with some bitter orange marmalade muscle on a big digestive biscuit malt skeleton, this is simply a lovely beer.

There is a quite gentle bitterness to this that slouches to one side and allows the hoppy resins to rise to the occasion in a grassy /piney hop aftertaste. A seriously nice beer, picked up at a ludicrous price at a shop recommended by a work colleague.

An unusual one as well, in that Harbour’s Pale Ale is stronger than their IPA! Both lovely beers.

IMAG1947 (1)3. An HowlPenpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 5.6% abv – Strong Golden Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

With it’s translation from Celtic meaning “The Sun”, this is a crystal clear deep golden ale with an abundant white foamy head and a spicy nose full of orange peel, marmalade, with a touch of melon in there somewhere. In the mouth? Wow! All of the above and more!

Big and bold orange marmalade fruity mouthful. Full bodied with a nice smooth texture, almost creamy feeling strangely, a big bready malty feel in this, yet quite light and is well-balanced by that fruity hoppy character!

This has a lovely deep fruity flavour and it makes my mouth all tingly. Considering the bold fruity hoppy flavours, the bitterness isn’t as big as I’d expect, making this feel even smoother. The finish is slightly sweet, yet with a gentle pithy bitterness followed by a lovely grassy hop aftertaste.

An absolute cracker!

 IMAG2018

4. 1913 StoutSt Austell Brewery (St Austell, Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – Stout – £2.50 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)

I haven’t drunk any St Austell beers for years (aside from the excellent Korev lager). Tribute isn’t my personal cup of Darjeeling and you don’t get much else up here. I didn’t even know that they did a dark beer, so I leapt on this like a vampire on a blood bag! Well. you know what I’m like with Stouts and Porters!

Black. Very black. Always a good sign with a Stout! Thin creamy tan head with a gentle, chocolate aroma with a light smoky edge.

Full-bodied and quite creamy textured, beautiful Roasted Barley bitterness as the beer hits the tongue, a touch of sweetness followed with a light waft of smokiness.

Next mouthful a chocolate character, slightly bitter develops following the roast & smoke. Beautifully smooth and creamy, the beer finishes sweet, with a chocolate and slightly herbal grassy hop aftertaste. A very pleasant surprise this.

IMAG20205. Double IPAFirebrand Brewing Co (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 7.5% abv – Double IPA –  £? (330ml) – Beer Cellar(Truro)

Deep golden verging on amber. Light white head and an aroma full of sticky citrus & tropical fruit, orange, peach, passion fruit…

Ooh… Full bodied as you would expect. Lightly carbonated leading to a really smooth feel in the mouth. The first taste I get is something really tropical, passion fruit I think, this is followed by quite a big bitterness and then sticky pine. All really smooth.

Second sip reinforced the first, but a little mango and more peachy presence. All the while finished off with that bitterness and dry sticky piney stuff. A Big beer. First beer from this brewer for me. Don’t drink that many DIPAs,  but this is very nice indeed!

IMAG2083

6. 1830 IPA (Historic IPA) – Penpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 6.5% abv – IPA – £? – Beer Cellar(Truro)

Pouring a slightly hazy deep golden colour, this has a clinging creamy textured white head and aromas of woodland fruits like plum and a spicy note to the nose.

Oh but this is lovely! Full of autumnal fruitiness, this is a full-bodied mouthful with the initial Malteser like sweetness immediately countered with spicy hopping, a lot of spicy hopping. Leaving your mouth coated in oaky, fruity splendour. The longer I do this stuff, the more I learn to enjoy these big English hopped IPAs and this is a belter. But off to Cornwall if you want it people!

Well. That’s it. I suppose I’ve learned one thing whilst I was in Perranporth. There’s an awful lot of good stuff being brewed in that there Cornwall, a lot of good stuff indeed.

Now, for those of you that don’t know (and I didn’t, until I finished this post!). Firebrand, Penpont & Beer Cellar are all owned/run by the same people. So, whilst I note that Eebria were certainly stocking Black Flag and Firebrand beers until recently, your best shot at getting some of these beers is through Beer CellarGive it a go. You know you want to!

On that solicitous note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 1

“I’d like to see you, but really I should stay away and let you settle down, I’ve got no claims to your crown,

I was the boss of you and I loved you, you know I loved you, but it’s all over now”

(“I’m A Cuckoo” – Belle & Sebastian)

Belle & Sebastian. The first tune that I heard (without realising who it was) was the theme tune to the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, which, I think, was Andrew Lincoln’s first TV series following the mighty “This Life” (SUCH a great series!). I never really understood just how HUGE a band could be without having a single massive hit, until I heard this band.

One title “The Boy With The Arab Strap”. That is all! (Introduced me to the poet that is Aiden Moffat!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles too!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……The format is slightly changed….

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….IMAG0974

1. Waterfall PaleRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £3.05 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Bright golden beer, plenty carbonation and light thin white head doggedly sticking around giving a fruity tart aroma with lemon and kiwi. Light to medium-bodied, this is tart with lemon, a little peach and a touch of kiwi too with a little spiciness tingling the gums. Really refreshing with a nice fruity bitterness kicking in in the finish. A smooth, really easy drinking and refreshing beer, perfect session material at this strength. Another excellent beer from this one man Micro.

IMAG0908

2. Dotty DIPA – Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 7.2% abv – Double IPA – £3.85 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Having rarely had Offbeat beers and NEVER having met the talented “chick” that brews them, these seem to be coming thick and rather fast! AND I bumped into her last week at the World Beers Festival! Shame there was no Offbeat beer there…so I’ll rectify that now eh?

Amber beer with an abundant white head and a big aroma of fruity marmalade. Oooh…this is a hell of a beer! A big warming chewy toffee malty mouthful with a big mixed marmalade flavour. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness which in turn gives way to a hefty whack of pine in the aftertaste. And that’s just the first mouthful! This is superb, each mouthful just amping up the sensations. And the hoppy resinous finish just builds and builds. Fabulous!

IMAG09723. The One – Citra – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 12 for £24 – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Bought on the (official) opening day of the shop located within BlackEdge Brewery’s unit in Horwich (just off Lee Lane), read here for review!

Very pale, straw yellow-gold beer with a lasting white head and a distinctive tart lime and grapefruit aroma. Oh this is LOVELY! A light biscuit malt medium-body, really fresh grapefruit, lemon & lime in the mouth. Beautifully refreshing and tart. I keep licking my lips! My gums are tingling too! Really dry and gently bitter finish with plenty enough piney stuff in the aftertaste. A real cracker and the best pale I’ve had from BlackEdge by a distance. Cask version please? NOW!

IMAG0912

4. Bloody ‘Ell – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.2% abv – Blood Orange IPA – £3.30 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Raj does get some rather interesting beers in his rather bijou little shop. Just to think that when I first went in, it REALLY was a typical convenience store. Now? The beers appear to have multiplied like the rabbits on Lundy! Now, almost certainly the largest selection of UK Craft beers in Manchester. And still growing!

To the beer….

A deep golden almost amber beer with a lingering soft white head and a big orangey aroma with something more delicate like peach blossom. A big IPA (almost DIPA in feel) with more than an initial hint of toffee malt sweetness with lashings of orange in a full-bodied mouthful. The finish isn’t as bitter as I expected with a nice gum tingling spiciness but there is a big piney pay-off with lots of sticky resins in the aftertaste. Oh yes. A lovely beer indeed!

IMAG0973

5. Stronge Extra Stout – Buxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.4% abv – Stout – (see below) (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(I got this when there was an offer at 6 for £12 on Buxton beers at Raj’s – check the website for current price by clicking the hyperlink above)

Named after the (rather excellent) brewer, rather than a statement of strength!

Seriously black beer. Seriously boozy coffee nose. Seriously full-bodied. Seriously smooth. Seriously? Boozy coffee nose leading to more slightly sweet coffee. Smooth as a George Clooney chat-up line and twice as tasty! That smooth coffee underpins a really rather nice coffee overnote followed by a long dry finish. A really smooth grassy hop aftertaste completes the wizardry. Seriously good! #Beergasm!

IMAG0970

6. Cuckoo Number 5 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6% abv – NZ Pale Ale – Swap (330ml) – 0% – Direct From The Brewer (Chilled too!)

For those of you who don’t know by now, this brewery is the brainchild of Jamie Hancock, barkeep supreme at The Port Street Beer House. If I’ve outed him, ah well, I’ll do FAR worse things in the years I have left! At the moment, these are (still?) only available for purchase from the rather fine Cuckoo bar in Prestwich, but not for much longer I suspect if he keeps making beer as good as this!

Deep golden with a light white head and lovely aroma of passion fruit and a little gooseberry. Smooth, really smooth. Medium-bodied and really fruity with a spicy tingle to the gums. More passion fruit, kiwi and some peach in here, like a boozy Um Bongo! Manages the trick of being quite high in alcohol, but really refreshing too. There is only a gentle bitterness in here, really smooth, leading to a beautiful smooth hoppy grassy herbal aftertaste. Quality.

Five Oh are having the launch of the first keg at Port Street on Wednesday I believe (well, I hope so because I’ll be there!). Teat (or even, treat!) yourselves by calling in. If I’m wrong about how good Jamie’s beer is, tell me. (I don’t anticipate any approaches!)

IMAG0911

7. Mystery Beer No 1 (A Bonus Beer if you will!) – Craft Rebellion – 3.8% abv – Saison – Free ! – 0 – In the post!

Craft Rebellion? Shop? Guerilla Marketing Campaign? I don’t know myself, all I know is that one day I got a card from Royal Mail in my postbox…..I kind of like free beer. I can remind the sender of my “rules” and drink free of guilt!

The idea appears to be that you receive a beer and try to guess what it is! I warned them that a) I’m USELESS at guessing and that b) I’d only review it if I really enjoyed it! (As with all that I review) Unwritten contract agreed…..

Ultra pale with, initially, quite a large white lacy head yielding a funky cream soda aroma with a little nose wrinkling spice. Light bodied and effervescent yet smooth drinking. Fruity with some citrus understated and a maybe touch of pineapple, a nice subtle sourness to this too (lemon?) . A really refreshing beer (as a saison should be!) with a dry finish and a nice grassy herbal  reminder in the aftertaste.

It transpires, that the beer is actually a Lemon & Thyme Saison Grisette by Partizan (Click hyperlink and check their website)

Well, I have an early start tomorrow (Saturday) as I go on a bit of an adventure….report to follow!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

NB : If you’ve got any thoughts on the nonsense that I talk or post, let me know in the “comments” box below – entertain me!

 

 

Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 2

1383915310033

1384288988627(Coming Soon – Warmers for Winter!)

“There ain’t a curfew on hard living in this poorly painted town. So leave the bottle where you found it

and let me lay here on the ground. Waking up drunk makes me happy and lately you just bring me down”

(Waking Up Drunk – Titus Andronicus)

According to those most reliable of people – Weather Forecasters – it is due to get rather cold this week, with snow in Scotland and parts of the beautiful North converted into Val d’Isere overnight (Sans fondue & Kronenbourg!) Time to stock up on those heart & soul warming dark beers then! And by that, I don’t mean the tired old excuses for Xmas beers that are already being dusted down on supermarket shelves – Bah Humbug? Indeed!

However, they can wait for the next post!

For now, I am back to the old formula, good beer from wherever I can get it! So, without further ado….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

IMAG0296(Straight Outta Toxteth!)

1. Imperious IPAMad Hatter Brewing – (Toxteth, Liverpool – but moving soon!) – 9% abv – Double IPA – £2.79 (I think!) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I’ve always felt an affinity with Liverpool. Never really could understand why. It’s not the football, I’m a Manchester blue. I was born in Salford of Manchester / Salford parents, so not my folks. It was only a couple of years ago, prior to Dad passing away that I got the family history bug, that I learned of my heritage. Tracking back through Ancestry.co.uk, I found my great great great…..grandmum, Elizabeth Lee (I think she was called) and she lived and died adjacent to the parish church of Toxteth St Mary. Hardly enough to qualify me as a Scouser, but it sure explains some stuff to me! Zzzzzzzz……to the beer!

Mmmm…..Picked up on my first visit to Raj’s emporium with its expanding portfolio of craft beers, this is the third beer I’ve had from this (currently) Toxteth based brewery who only commenced operations this year after years of home brewing. They have built a really good reputation in a short space of time and whilst the others I have had have been good, this beer certainly gives substance to the reputation.

Bottle conditioned and lively on opening, deep gold with big lacy white head a light haze to it. This gave off a HUGE mango fruity aroma! Full bodied, this tasted like someone had cornered the mango crop and wanged it all into this single bottle. WOW! A big malt base with a good dose of cheesecake base sweetness to this but it’s the hops that do the talking here (Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo & Galaxy) and add a grapefruit dry tartness to the sweetness and big citrus of the initial mango, some piney resins too carrying on into a resinous finish with a slight note (I thought) of my old school friend, the licorice root. A stunning beer.

IMAG0313

2. Is This The WayWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 5.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.33 (3 for £7) (500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

This was another one that I picked up on an all too brief visit to the brewery one Saturday afternoon. Now, I am (pretty much) an omnivore as far as beer is concerned, from Hop Monsters and Imperial Stouts to Light Milds, if they’re good, I drink them and – more to the point – enjoy them. I have read recently on one blog that “Balanced Beer” is equivalent to “Boring Beer”. I couldn’t disagree more. Sometimes I want a (hoppy) smack in the mouth, others to be laid low by an oily, mouth coating and warming Stout and others, by something with lots of flavour, with good hopping, that you could have a few pints of whilst having a natter with some friends. Wilson Potter brew such beers. And I love them for it!

An amber coloured (bottle conditioned) beer with a white head giving off a spicy orange marmalade aroma. Full bodied with a bready base supporting that marmalade orangey hop flavour from the Amarillo (get the pun in the name?) the sweetness of the malt balanced with the spicy orange notes and the bitterness with a really pleasant lingering resinous note in the dry finish. Refreshing and tasty beer. Just wish I could have stayed in their brewery to sample some more!

IMAG0316(Now…to the Darkside!)

3. @ One With The WorldYorkshire Ales (brewed by Rudgate of York) – 4.4% abv – Strong Mild – (500ml) (£2.75 but Bottle passed for opinion) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E. Yorkshire)

Now and again, I’m lucky enough to have bottles passed or sent to me for review. My attitude is always the same. If I like them enough, I review them. If not, a discreet message to the sender explaining why. This “own label” bottle was passed to me by Vicky Pettit of Yorkshire Ales, who must know which of my beer buttons to press, because this is such a nice beer.

Deep ruby in colour with a tan head and a big aroma of vine fruits with some raisin upfront in the mix. IN the mouth, this was medium bodied with, initially, chocolate to the fore, then blending with caramel like a Rolo then, later, with the raisins coming back to say goodbye. The fruitiness fades gradually to a gentle bitter finish. A lovely autumnal beer. The third own label bottled beer they have produced, all really tasty. (BTW – Not many left!)

IMAG0317(“The NFL – brought to you by Quantum American Light”)

4. American Light – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.69 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Each bottle coming out of Hempshaw Lane gets steadily more impressive. Last post, I reviewed the excellent Small Beer at 2.7%, this time I’ve gone and (barely) upped the abv.

This is golden and hazy with a HUGE citrus aroma with lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit from the hops (Cascade, Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and Amarillo). A little initial sweet touch is swiftly jumped on by bitter lemon and grapefruit getting the saliva glands working overtime, before the piney resins kick in. The finish is still really fruity and bitter with a drying resinous aftertaste. Superb!

IMAG0321

(Beergasm alert!)

5. Decadence Stout – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W. London) – 5.5% abv – Stout – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Bought on a recent visit and testament to the expanding range at Raj’s emporium. I had this on cask at IndymanBeerCon where I was served it by Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers. A lush beer on cask, but I hadn’t had it since as I balk at paying £5.20 a pint in Manchester! Anyway, when I saw it in Raj’s shop, I just had to. And I’m glad I did!

Pouring a deepest black with a creamy tan head, this had a massive chocolate aroma with light notes of cafe au lait (OK, milky coffee!). In the mouth? Full bodied with initially chocolate, then sweet coffee then some resinous hops. I haven’t got the purple prose to do this beer justice, it is simply a stunningly good stout. The biggest compliment that I can pay is that it is nearly up there with the Quaker House that we brewed at Allgates which is (honestly, no bias) the best beer that I have had this year. Creamy, chocolatey and bitter hoppy. What’s not to love?

One of – if not THE best bottles i have had this year. Thank you Gregg and pals!

IMAG0320

6. Still Thinking About That HefeweizenStill Thinking (M McGrorty) – Home Brewer – Stirling, Scotland) – 5% abv – Hefeweizen – A swap with the brewer!

A keen home brewer is Michael. Being mutual Twitter followers, I noticed one of his conversations with the Beer O’Clock Show one evening talking about his full-mash home-brewed beers. I was intrigued. hearing that he was in Manchester area one evening, we met up at Port Street and, for the price of a (admittedly, very limited) Ilkley Speyside Siberia, I got two of his beers, Monarch (a Saison style beer) and the Hefeweizen. Whilst I remember enjoying the Monarch and can recall a surprisingly resinous end note (very enjoyable), I made no notes! So, to the Hefe….

A lively pale yellow beer with a good expected haze, abundant white head and an aroma which had a herbal note, but was predominantly banana and American Cream Soda. Medium bodied, this beer had an initial banana sweetness, then a touch of sweet bubblegum, then some herbal notes with coriander the only one my limited palate could recognise. A touch of clove spice near the end before the dry finish. A really refreshing beer this. Unlike ANY home-brew I’ve ever had!

Just one more thing to note. After all of their bottles that I have drunk and eulogised over, I have finally had, courtesy of Allgates Brewery’s rather enlightened guest beer policy, a pint of a Five Towns Brewery beer on draught. Sampled at the Hare & Hounds at Hindley, Guero was an ultra Pale Ale at 2.9% and was a citrussy delight. I could wax more lyrical, but the best testament I could give to it, is that whilst I was there, most of the locals that entered were ordering it. In a Wigan pub! As Allgates seem to pick up a few casks on a regular basis, I’m looking forward to some more. If you find any knocking about, try it and (in the words of the rapper Drake) Thank Me Later!

IMAG0260

So. There you go. Another batch with my wafflings spilled all over them! Next up…some of those more wintery dark brews methinks.

So, on that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Harbour Brewing Company – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 28/10/2013

Harbour wall(Courtesy – http://www.harbourbrewing.com/)

Let’s start this post with my usual disarming honesty. Until recently, I hadn’t had much by Harbour. I may have had a Pale at The Euston Tap, but little else. Most of what I had heard about Harbour was good. Amongst my closer victims (er…sorry…friends!), they had a seriously good reputation. I was, therefore, rather happy when I saw two of their beers featuring in the Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt!

Those two beers were the IPA and Porter #6. They were truly superb and two of my favourites of the 12 or so that I bought (https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/sainsbury-great-british-beer-hunt-2013/) so when I saw that they were doing an MTB at Port Street, I had to go, didn’t I?

Brewing started in 2012. Rhys Powell (Brewer – formerly of Sharps in rock, Cornwall) and Eddie Lofthouse (business side – formerly running the family hotel in Polzeath) came together over shared love of beer and surfing…(cue gratuious surfboard pic!)…

Harbour Surfboard(Courtesy – http://www.harbourbrewing.com/)

….they use a 10Bbl brew kit with a number of fermenting vessels (4 if I remember rightly). They supply their beer all over the country. Sounds like we get so much of it because, with St Austell controlling many of the pubs in the county, the locals drink lots of brown (relatively) boring stuff!

Getting a ticket for this however, proved somewhat easier than getting there! After catching 4 (FOUR) buses – something to do with leaving my ticket at home! – I finally got to PSBH with just a minute or so to spare. Fortunately, the ever considerate Arch-Nemesis had already lined up the first beer of the evening….

Light Ale #2 (cask) – 3.5% abv – A copper coloured beer with a subtle grapefruit aroma. Light bodied but with some malt toffee notes and lovely marmalade orangey citrus hoppy freshness. Full of hoppy goodness, this was a really light refreshing start and – to be honest – my idea of a session beer. I could happily drink this all night! But then….along comes the next beer……

Aji Limon Pale Ale (cask) – 6% abv – Rhys (Brewer) introduced this as a variation on one of their standard beers (Pale Ale). The variation being that it was barrel aged for 6 or 7 weeks over Aji Limon chillies, not the hottest of capsicums, the aim being to bring a lemony lime citrus note to the beer with a building warmth the further down the glass you go. 6  weeks or so being optimal, before the heat builds too much. Hopped with Citra, Centennial & Chinook with a touch of Crystal malt for a sweet note.

IMAG0171

Pale gold with a lemon and more gentle mandarin citrus aroma, this beer had more bready backbone to it. Some lovely lemon citrus in this with a bit of paler fruit, maybe melon? Rhys was right too. The further down the glass you got, the warmth increased but was never overwhelming. A lovely pale beer and certainly the best beer that I’ve had that has used chillies.

Next up…

Double IPA (keg) – 7.2% abv – Introduced by Rhys as the big brother of the Pale Ale upon which the Aji Limon was based. Pale lager malt, Citra, Centennial & Chinook (accent on Centennial). The aim with this being to showcase the hops. Like several brewers, Rhys prefers this kind of beer on keg, his thinking being that without the carbonation, the beer could be cloying. Not sure I agree with that, I’d love to try this on cask!

Had to let this warm a bit (being kegged). Hazy gold beer, big hoppy nose once it warmed a touch, a slight malty sweetness pushed out of the way by some seriously big grassy hops. Nicely big and bitter, really hoppy with a huge resinous grassy finish.

Then….my higlight (or even “highlight”!) of the evening….

Porter #1 – 5.5% abv – Rhys’ interpretation of what an 18th Century London Porter may have tasted like. More upping of the malt bass and a tuning down of the hoppy treble on this number. A lot of brown malt. Describer as Rhys as having more sweetness with lots of coffee notes. Eddie (having arrived by now) made an excelloent point about the use of a sparkler on the pump (something that may not be prevalent down there in Kernow!) with Rhys noting the “Guinness” like appearance (underselling it – in my opinion!). Although they had Porter #6 in the GBBH, they have only done 5 with #5 not actually having been brewed yet. The #6 being like a big brother to #1, although (contrary to a Rhys quip!) I’m sure they didn’t up it to 6.8% with the addition of vodka!!!

IMAG0200_BURST002_COVER(Mmmmmmm……..Porter #1)

My beer of the evening, this. A deepest ruby coloured beer with a fabulous creamy head in both colour and texture. A gentle creamy coffee aroma gave way to a fabulously smooth roasted experience with cafe au lait, some dark toffee notes and a gentle building bitterness. I can’t say if it’s a great example of an 18th century Porter, but it sure as hell works for me in the 21st! The best Porter I’ve had in a long while – and I LIKE Porters!

IMAG0197

(Eddie shoots the breeze with the punters)

Then we came to the final beer of the evening. Generally, the beers at these events sign off with a relatively big beer. This was no exception.

Imperial Chocolate Stout – 8.5% abv (keg) – This beer was as black as sin with the cream coloured head dissipating quite quickly with an aroma of bozzy bitter chocolate. Lots of bitter chocolate in the mouth and a vanilla note with a boozy port wine feel. I detected some blackcurrant and cranberry in their too before a really nice dry grassy finish. Another belter.

There was a bit of a discussion about the availability of their beers on draught in their own area. The shame being, with the predominance of the likes of St Austell, Sharps & Skinners, the tastes appear to be for boring brown and amber beers, to the extent that Rhys has made their own amber for the local market. Price is also a big issue with outlets seeking the lowest possible. This may account for why so much of their beer makes its way across “the border”! I, for one, am not complaining!!!

Their was also a surprising yet pleasant afternote to the Sainsbury competition. Harbour will be having their Porter and India Pale Ale in over 250 Sainsbury outlets. Despite not being one of the winners! Just goes to show, quality (sometimes) does shine through!

Another excellent evening at Port Street with good friends and superb beer. They do do this thing quite well on Port Street. Met a nice couple from Ashton – Malcolm & Hazel – Hazel kept passing us her beer, bit too strong I think. Not that WE were complaining, Oh No!

After a brief (possibly sozzled on my part!) chat with Eddie from Harbour and Claudia from the Port Street empire, it was time for walkies with a couple of pleasant pints in The Castle (that REALLY is a nice job they’ve done reclaiming the upstairs room!) and the gorgeous Crown & Kettle. All over too soon.

Just wish we had got those damn tickets for the Kernel MTB when we could!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The 2nd Leeds International Beer Festival – 06/09/2013

Leeds Town Hall

(pic : Victorianweb.org)

“Why did we ever come so far? I knew I’d seen it all before.

Tall buildings reach up in vain. Tinseltown is in the rain”

(Tinseltown In The Rain – The Blue Nile)

How I love the voice of Paul Buchanan! And, for a fully paid up Lancastrian, how I love the beautiful city of Leeds. Stunning architecture, excellent shopping (or so I’m told!) friendly people, great bars. I, it would seem, am well catered for!

It was almost a year to the day when the doors opened at Leeds Town Hall for the 1st Leeds International Beer Festival, which, from recall, was a two-day event held – almost in its entirety – within the main ballroom of the building. The festival was the first to open my eyes as to how these events can evolve into a great experience across all demographics – Young/Not so, Male/Female etc – and I loved it (see here https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/the-first-leeds-international-beer-festival-08092012/ for one of my earlier efforts!)

Having left Bolton at an unfeasibly early hour, Manchester was living up to its nickname of The Rainy City. I packed my raincoat, yet hoped that the other side of “the hill” would be somewhat brighter. Sadly, the White Rose was not in bloom today. So coat on and hood up, a brisk walk to the Town Hall was in order.

20130906_121039(Early doors)

I was aware that the festival had been expanded to 4 days. I’d also read that there would be more beers, from more breweries than last year. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sight that greeted me on approach to the magnificent Town Hall. The area around the town hall was fenced off  for access purposes. There were huts/sheds, marquees, mobile catering trucks, even a Tipi! Last year, there was ONE facility outdoors – Fish &.  All became apparent on entry. The food vendors were all outside this year.

Entering the “compound”, I got my glass and (monopoly style!) beer money/tokens from different huts outside. Ignoring the food vendors for the moment, I entered the main building to be confronted by the magnificent room above, simply stunning, with its feature at the far end, the mightily impressive pipe organ. It was immediately apparent, that there were more beer providers this year, including a substantial number from London on the London Brewers Alliance bar, featuring liquid joys from Weird Beard, Five Points, Partizan, Pressure Drop and more. More later…

However, being from the western side of those hills, my first decision was easy once I spotted a couple of pumps from Quantum. No Mr Krause this year (on MY visit at least), but I toasted him with a glass of his English Pale Ale. A hazy golden 3.9% ale with a “Saisonnesque” aroma laden with yeasty funk notes. A tad warm this, but a lovely fruity balanced pale with contrasting sweet pineapple and tart gooseberry in the mouth with a very dry, lightly bitter, finish. An excellent primer!

20130906_121102

The beauty of this festival (and IndyManBeerCon – its almost “sister” festival), is the opportunity to chat to the alchemists who make these fine brews. It was with this in mind, that I abandoned my usual social reserve and approached the London Brewers Alliance bar where I spotted two gentlemen sporting the latest in promotional “beer wear” fashion T-Shirts, Logan Pant from Beavertown of Hackney and Gregg Irwin from Weird Beard of Hanwell. Both nice blokes, passionate about what they do and banging out some astonishingly good beers.

Whilst chatting, a certain Mr Bailey from Hardknott of Cumbria wandered over to further discuss with Gregg what may turn into a future collaboration brew. Keep your eyes peeled for that one! A brief chat with Dave (get me, all familiar like!) revealed another really nice bloke who also loves what he does. He’s also bloody good at it. One of his beers (Infra Red) has been chosen as one of the 20 beers by Sainsbury for their annual Great British Beer Hunt (beertoday.co.uk). Wish them well with this, if successful, this may be the spark for a considerable expansion for their excellent brewery.

20130906_135225

Getting slightly busier by now, it was time for another beer, this time Railway Porter from the excellent Five Points Brewing Co of Hackney. I’ve had a few of their bottles from Damian O’Sheas’ excellent stall at Castlefield Market. Now for some draught on keg. A very dark brown beer which I left to warm slightly. Bitter chocolate and spicy hop nose on this, with more gentle bitter chocolate in the mouth, Nice hopping led to a dry bitter finish. Nice! I caught up with Ed from the brewery later, another top bloke taking time out to chat to customers!

Being a thoroughly sensible (some may substitute “boring” if they wish!) I stayed at the lower end of the abv scale now with Mary Jane by Ilkley Brewery at 3.5%. Another golden beer with an aroma of fresh mown grass whilst also slightly fruity. This was really refreshing and clean with some melon and kiwi hints. Nice dry finish for this which would be great beer for a session. But not the best from Ilkley today….oh no!

20130906_152247

(“Oh I do like to be beside….er…wait a minute…!)

Having had a brief breath of fresh air (still raining!), it was time to wander back in for a Kirkstall Pale Ale at 4% abv. Another nice juicy golden beer with a light fruity hop aroma with a flavour which, to me, seemed to feature white grape and kiwi. Another really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly bitter hoppy ending.

One of the things that stands out for me about this new breed of festivals is the friendly nature of the people that you meet. Today we met a lovely retired couple from near Skipton. Janet and Derek were their names. I sat with them at our table for most of the afternoon and the chats were a joy. Both sharing an obvious love for good beer, Janet loving her Hophead and American Pale from Darkstar and Derek swapping tasting notes (and occasional sips!). Derek and I had chats encompassing politics, craft beer (and the rather poor regard from some parts of CAMRA – making him think of lapsing his card) and a whole gamut of other stuff. One of a few things that made my day. If they read this – Thank You!

20130906_165420

(A class act!)

This was a slow easy drinking day. No rushing, just good conversation, good food – including the odd Scotch Egg – and superb beer. Which brings me to my beer of the day!

I had a chat with the guys at the Ilkley bar earlier, including Nick, one of the brewers. I shared my thoughts on – amongst other things – the barrel aged Speyside variant of their classic Saison, Siberia. I was then pointed in the direction of the kegged Dinner Ale, which I had previously tried in bottle and been left feeling that there was something missing – even at 3.3% abv. I had had it after something stronger, so my taste buds may have been impaired because THIS is a CRACKER!

To look at it, you’d immediately think “Lager”. It is REALLY pale. Again, being kegged, I let it warm slightly as it was quite cold. I am so glad I did. Hugely lively at the font, by the time it had warmed slightly I was getting a delicate floral aroma with fruity hints of maybe sugared lemon of tangerine. In the mouth there was a hint of perhaps elderflower before a quite zingy lemon hit me square in the mush! Quite a dry shock that but a beer that rewarded with every sip. Just goes to show that it ain’t always the abv monsters that win the day. Today, Ilkley’s David beat the Goliaths!!!

20130906_164004(A walkabout reveals some beautiful and touching memorials)

I was conscious (no…really!) that I hadn’t had a good look around the venue at all there was to offer. For instance, I didn’t venture at all into the American Craft bar (to be found en route to the – ahem – conveniences). But I did nip outside into the Micro Ham Tipi (a “pop up” from Friends of Ham – more later)

20130906_155610

20130906_155600

A quick scan of the pop up bar within revealed 6 beers from the Wild Beer Co in Somerset. I had already sampled the Collab beer with Fyne Ales “Cool as a Cucumber” at the Marble fest on cask. I therefore hit up a fresh hop beer called er….”Fresh” at 5.5% abv. Another hazy golden beer (unfiltered) which was sharp, fresh and fruity with traces of mandarin. A really bitter spicy green hop resinous finish with this. Coped well with the excellent pulled pork sarnie from the Castros pop up. A really excellent mouthful.

20130906_155556

(It’s like a little village!)

Time was marching on and with only 30 minutes to go, it was time for something ludicrous to burn those tokens! Holy Hoppin’ Hell from Weird Beard at 9.7% abv, a Double IPA. This is a seriously BIG DIPA. Sweet malt. LOTS of sweet malt. Intensely fruity and chewy like an orange caramel toffee. Warming with lots of lingering resinous hoppiness.

Just time for a quick palate cleanser now. A casked Sambrooks Red Rye at 4.something % (last digit obscured – not my vision!!!). Ruby red beer with dark fruity nose. The bitter rye character came through with some blackberry. An excellent palate cleanser following the Holy Hoppin’ sensory slaughter!

This, my chums, is a fabulous festival of beer. Celebrating what is best about the current progressive UK beer scene in a stunning venue. with huge room to move and breathe, it feels both civilised and incredibly friendly. The brewers are approachable and generous with their time. This event has expanded beyond belief from last year and the organisers are to be applauded for the bravery in this. I feel sure that they will be rewarded today by a bumper crowd.

It’s still on. What are you waiting for???

20130907_120413

(All that – and a lovely glass too!)

Two things really made my day. One was the conversation and company with/of Janet and Derek as stated above. The other was meeting an old friend.

I hadn’t seen Bob in nearly 20 years. We went to college together and were buddies for quite a long while but drifted apart as you sometimes do. It sounds a cliché, but he really hadn’t changed. Still loving live music (he has always had excellent and eclectic taste) and an admirable taste in beer, it was a joy to catch up and chat – albeit, all too briefly. I do hope to get over to Leeds again soon to renew acquaintance in less time straitened circumstances.

A quick beer with Bob in both North Bar and Friends of Ham ensued, both bars being excellent with great beer and cracking funky tunage. I hope to reacquaint my self with both of them soon! Bob runs an excellent music website. If you like good tunes, check it out here.

So. All that was left was to say farewell and catch that there train back over the hill, get to Bolton, open the door and “Hi honey, I’m home!”

A truly excellent day out with friends old and new.

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt1

20130901_214107

“So when you see me coming, you better whistle or start humming, ’cause otherwise, I’ll tell you now that I’ll just walk right by.

‘Cause lover, when I drink, I’m dozy but I fancy getting cosy and I heard a rumour that I may have caught your eye. “

(Meanwhile, At The Bar, A Drunkard Muses – Arab Strap)

Aidan Moffat – Poet, Genius!

In the miserable knowledge that I am confined, by budgetary restraints, to BM Mansions, I resort to the tried and tasted method of cheering up. Listening to Arab Strap and raiding the (ahem) cellars! By this route, we come to a few more bottled beers worthy of a shufty.

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

20130822_223728

1. PaleFive Points Brewing Co (Hackney, East London) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

I had this beer a month or so ago at Font bar and enjoyed it hugely. When I saw it in bottle at Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market, I really needed to give it a whirl. So….

Gold in the glass with a lively white head, releasing aromas laden with mango and sweet pink grapefruit. Medium bodied, that grapefruit comes to the fore in the mouth with a sting of lemon zest. Smooth drinking with some resins and a lovely bitterness with some grapefruit lingering to mutate into a lovely, slightly herby, bitter dry finish. At this strength, I could drink this all night on draught!

20130822_213135

2. Fade To Black –  Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, West London) – 6.3% abv – Black IPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

Another product from Damian’s super Sunday stall at Castlefield. Go to this excellent market if you get the chance. Superb food stalls, vintage clothing, even second-hand vinyl when I went last weekend! Beer AND Music – heavenly!

Unsurprisingly, a black beer! Cafe creme head with a candied citrus nose with prominent lemon and sugared grapefruit. Into the mouth and there is espresso with simultaneous citrus! I love this beer, confoundingly satisfying! The body and texture of a creamy stout or porter with fruity hoppiness. A cracker for what is now a firm favourite brewer with no backward steps.

20130830_212104

3. Davy Jones’ LockerFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, West Yorkshire) – 3.8% abv – Bitter – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Picked up on my most recent visit to Adrian & Vicky Pettit’s excellent shop, Yorkshire Ales. I like this brewers beers. A lot. However, on pouring this, I started to worry. Was this one of those “boring brown beers”? Well, I should have learned to NOT judge a book by the cover!!! One sniff of that glass put me at ease and got me salivating…..mango, pineapple with maybe a sprinkling of caster sugar on a grapefruit segment. Mmmmm….

Unsurprisingly fairly light bodied given the alcohol levels, but oodles of upfront hoppage in here. More mango and a more than a touch of grapefruit. Superbly bitter, fruity with a grassy dry finish. A cracking refreshing beer. Another cracker from Mr Malcolm Bastow.

20130831_215528

4. IPARodhams Brewery (Otley, West Yorkshire) – 6.2% – IPA – £2.61 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

On that same visit to Yorkshire Ales, this caught my eye. No idea why, because that is hardly the most eye-catching label! But catch it it did. So in the box it went.

An incredibly pale gold beer, almost lagerishly pale. A reassuringly nose twitching citrus aroma, with tingling lemon and grapefruit. A bloody lively devil this, the top flew off when flipped. In the mouth, more tart lemon and grapefruit citrus in a smooth medium body. Bitter. Desert dryingly bitter. Some warmth filtered through following a bitter grassy herbal finish. Did I say it was dry? OK. Excellent first for me from this Otley brewer.

20130831_230051

5. Punch The ClockRevolutions Brewing Co / North Riding Brewpub (Collaboration) – 7.8% abv – Double IPA – £3.87 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I love beer. I love music (any kind of music…….). It stands to reason therefore, that I love Revolutions! Another brewery that just gets better with every sip. I also like the beers I have had by Stuart Neilson from North Riding Brewpub in Scarborough. This simply couldn’t go wrong!

A deep golden beer with HUGE citrus aromas. Drooling by now, I put my lips to the glass for a sip. A big biscuity malty backbone with a fabulous full-on dirty hop citrus bang! Citra in there? Like all Revolutions beers, really well-balanced. Loads of Malt? Loads of hops! Simples!! Lovely bitter grapefruit flavours with a big bitter finish and really dry grassy aftertaste. The best beer of this style I’ve had in ages. A real big DIPA……and named after a Costello album. Boys, you spoil me!

20130901_214107

6. (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Bearded LadyMagic Rock Brewing (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 10.5% abv – Imperial Brown Stout – £11 (660ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market)

With all of that pale stuff, some balance was required. This beer provides that balance….and a bit more! But first, that bottle. Just the look of it stunned me. Sealed with black wax over the crown cap, the bottle looks and feels as if it’s etched. It is simply stunning. The beer had a lot to live up to!

In the words of the mighty Tandleman, this is a proper stout, there’s no seeing through this bugger! Black. Pitch black. Not bad for a Brown Stout! A fabulous creamy cappucino head boasting bitter chocolate, Tia Maria and smoky, boozy aromas. A beergasm! (I felt like Meg Ryan playing footsie under the table with Billy Crystal!)

Once I’d cleaned up and calmed down, I got to taste it! More bitter chocolate with deep coffee tones and an enveloping boozy warmth. Then the whiskey soaked wood rises up and through your nostrils like a dragons’ breath!

Sweet, bitter, smoky and warming. My vocabulary feels inadequate. It is. A work of Dark Art(s) both inside and out. Like the Revolutions/North Riding, worth every penny!

Well, (takes a deep breath!) that’s it for now.

Favourite pale? Revolutions / North Riding. An absolute crackerjack of a DIPA.

Favourite Dark? Go figure!

On that note….’til next time!

(If you’re going to Leeds International Beer Fest on Friday, I’ll be the Manc in the corner, drooling and talking gibberish. Please, save me from myself!)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – May 2013

20130527_175648

(Yorkshire brewers all!)

As I have said on many occasions, both on this blog and in many a conversation, this is truly a Golden Age for beer in the UK. You can walk into lots of bars / pubs around the country and sample exceptional beers from far and wide. For that, drinkers should rejoice.

However, I am increasingly conscious of the amount of comment given to beers from outside of the UK. Be they from the USA, Belgium, Germany, Italy or wherever, these undoubtedly excellent beers get praised to the clouds. But there is an absolute wealth of beers being brewed by small micros in this country that are superb in their own right. Also many of which are not in thrall to American techniques or styles.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, I adore good beer wherever it may be sourced from. As you will see below, one of the best beers I’ve had recently was made by Sierra Nevada in California. But there is THAT much excellent beer being brewed by UK micros (yes, many using New World hops in many instances!), that that is where my future focus will be when I review bottles. UK Microbreweries.

With my recent visits to both Yorkshire Ales of Snaith and Bierhuis of Ossett, it’s obvious to me that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the number of breweries in one county alone, Yorkshire. I won’t be able to try them all. But I’ll have a bash!

There. Now here’s some belters that I’ve drunk recently……. The format remains the same. I give you the beer, who brews it and where, the alcoholic strength, the style of beer, where I bought if from, bottle size and how much I paid for it. Simples!

20130506_223233

1. Clash London Porter by Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I like the ethos of Revolutions. “Music-inspired beer. Craft brewed in Yorkshire”. All of their beers have a musical themed name. They also brew to abv strength associated with music formats. 3.3% (33 rpm), 4.5% (45 rpm), 6.0% (C60 cassette) etc…. So before I taste the beer, I’m favourably disposed. My first bottle I tried was the Manifesto Strong Stout. That was my bottle of the month in April. Could this live up to that standard?

A slightly sweet coffee aroma to this dark ruby coloured beer. Cream coloured head. Some coffee flavour from the roasted malts, smooth in the mouth and a nice hoppy dryness in the finish. The finish was redolent of a good IPA in its dryness with some hoppy grassy tones. A superb beer that I would put as a dark beer for IPA lovers wanting to visit The Dark Side, like a porter with an IPA touch. A 4.5 beer (The Manifesto was a 5 – I’ve already started a campaign to get a firkin or 2 of that over here!)

I’ve also snaffled a bottle of their Devolution Amber Ale (named after the great De-Evolution – DEVO –  from Akron, Ohio). Can’t wait!

20130511_220039

(A lively devil!)

2. The Chief by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Double IPA – £3.78 (500ml) – Bierhuis

It’s good to see an increasing number of Ilkley beers ‘over the hill’ now. Booths stock a good range and I even saw Mary Jane at Sainsbury in Bolton today. Things are looking up for Ilkley lovers! However, unless you live in Manchester city centre and can pop into Beermoth on Tib Street, you won’t get some of their ‘specials’. However, this doesn’t appear to be a problem for specialist beer retailers in Yorkshire. On a recent camping trip, I was advised by the owner of Bierhuis (David) that I was only about 20 mins away. How COULD I resist? It was here that I picked up this beer up (David put a couple aside for me).

This beer was a rich gold (almost bronze) colour and had an aroma of boiled sweets, very fruity with a touch of (what I thought was) Belgian yeasty funk. This beer kicked off when it got in the mouth! WOW! Incredibly hoppy (DOUBLE IPA remember) Apricot flavour in there for sure, mango maybe? A piney resinous hoppyness in a very bitter finish. Lip smackingly good. A fabulous beer that was worth every penny of that price! (4.5 SO nearly a 5!)

20130512_195219

3. Barista Espresso Stout by Summer Wine Brewery (Holmfirth, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Espresso Stout – £3 (330ml) – Port Street Beer House

I drink this almost everywhere I see it on draught. A great beer. But I’d never had it in bottle. So, when I saw an offer of 6 assorted bottles for £18 at Port Street one hazy evening, what was I to do?

This was another lively devil on pouring. A tan coloured head gave off an aroma just like when you tear open a packet of ground coffee. Just like that! But with a hint of spicyness. A lovely smooth texture in the mouth where those coffee flavours came to the fore but with a little touch of roasted malt sweetness. I love this beer on draught and the same applies with the bottled version. Another 4.5 beer!

20130513_213347(I get to use Colin’s JW Lees ‘Grip’ glass!)

4. Lotus IPA by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £2.21 (500ml) – Bierhuis

Not being bottle conditioned, I was surprised by the liveliness of this beastie. Golden, with an abundance of grapefruit citrus zing on the nose. In the mouth, this was more balanced than the aroma hinted at. Grapefruit yes, but mellower and balanced with a malty digestive biscuit like sweetness. As smooth as cream in the mouth with a dry grassy bitter finish. This gets a 5 rating on value alone! Superb. Thank you Bierhuis!

20130514_211258(The IndyManBeerCon glass seemed appropriate!)

5. Orval by Brasserie Orval (Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium) – 6.2% abv – Trappist Beer – £3.20 (330ml) – Pendle Witch PH, Atherton.

Confession. I had never had an Orval prior to this.

Another lively beast. This russet coloured beer had an incredibly jammy fruit nose with, perhaps, a hint of rhubarb. In the mouth there was the expected Belgian yeasty tones, but with an array of flavours at different stages. Firstly stewed apples and pears and a pear drop sweet flavour. Later on, there was a warming almost medicinal linctus tone which was surprising to me in a 6.2% beer. Initially underwhelmed, by the bottom of the glass I was a convert. A truly lovely beer. (4.5)

20130523_210515

6. Narwhal by Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, California, USA) – 10.2% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.69 (375 ml) – Bierhuis

Somewhere beyond black, there is a darker hue. This beer is even darker than that. If sin is this black, I don’t ever want to be virtuous! I opened the bottle and sniffed. Boozy port and spice. I poured it into my new 2/3 pint glass (for which I’m VERY thankful)  to further wallow in those aromas. A milk coffee coloured head, beneath which lurked a REALLY bitter chocolate flavour allied to a vinous warmth. There were touches of licorice root with sweet espresso and a glorious dry bitter spicy finish. To say this beer is “up my street” doesn’t even come close! 5 out of 5! (I’d give it 10 if I could!)

At THAT price, I felt  like I’d stolen it! Again, thank you Bierhuis!

Given what I said at the top, these may be the last couple of non-UK beers I review in a while. But what a pair to go out on, eh? 5 out of 5

Beer Of The Month

Bottled – As if you hadn’t guessed! Narwhal by Sierra Nevada. For the reasons stated above. A superb Imperial Stout.

DraughtImperial Black (Black IPA) by Buxton Brewery 7.5% abv (Port Street Beer House 26/05/2013). I am incredibly grateful to Jamie H that he got 4 halves of this out of the end of the cask! Smooth as silk, black as sin. Incredibly fruity whilst still having some roasted stuff in there. This was an awesome beer. I will drink it wherever I find it. It is THAT good!

On that excited note……’til next time!

Slainte!