Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt1

“I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys, electric irons and T.V.’s
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.
And all the fat-skinny people. And all the tall-short people.
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people.
I never thought I’d need so many people”

(“Five Years” – David Bowie)

(Video link above courtesy of mack89464 on You Tube)

I have a saying that I use. “Trust me about Music & Beer – I’m pants at everything else!” Self deprecating, possibly, but Family, Friends, Music & Beer are my true loves (the last two being interchangeable). I try to make the lyric at the top of each post one that relates to something below. As you will see, that certainly applies here!

Five Years is taken from the classic David Bowie album “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” and is, in my opinion, the standout track on an album that has been in my all-time Top 10 for the last 30 years. Each of the 11 original tracks from the aforementioned “Five Years” all the way through to “Rock & Roll Suicide” are stone cold classics, burned into my brain since my two elder brothers were playing it 41 years ago. For me, the first of a run of classic albums which, in my opinion, ran all the way through to Low and Heroes (Side 1 of Low – the “pop” side, is still the single best side of ANY album! Anyone who disagrees had better choose his pistol carefully!)

As I am typing this (21:05 on Friday), I’m playing the album. It just never dates. I simply refuse to believe that it only reached #5 in the UK album charts!

Anyway, revelry over. This damn blog is supposed to be about beer…..

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

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

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1. Dirty Blond – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 3.9% abv – Blond Ale – £0 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

I may have said this before, but if I have, forgive me for boring you but it needs re-stating. Since I have been writing this beery drivel, I have been lucky enough to receive bottles for free – not loads, but some – and when I do, I say the same thing each time. If I like it enough, I’ll review it. If I DON’T like it, I communicate my thoughts and reasons directly. My wafflings are there to highlight Good beers for my poor misguided readers to try. There. I say this, because this was passed (along with the Black Shuck from the same brewer) to me some time ago by Damian (The Ale Man) to see what I thought. He liked it himself, but fancied a second opinion.

This is a golden beer (as you can see, Doh!), with a light fluffy white head and a floral, slightly spicy aroma. It’s fairly light bodied in the mouth, fruity, very dry and has a big dry resinous finish. Really refreshing with a substantial grassy aftertaste. What a nice session pale this could be on cask! Hope we see it up in t’ North soon! Damian now has four beers from the Hellhound guys, well worth a try.

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(My only decent 2/3rd pint glass got dropped!)

2. IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 7% abv – IPA – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another one that I received gratis, but this time, direct from the brewery. A most pleasant surprise, as I really love the beers from Hawkshead! I believe they were bottling limited run beers using a new micro bottling plant, this comes hence.

An amber coloured beer with a white head and apricot and orange aroma spilling forth. Slightly sweet on the nose. Toffee too maybe. Ooh….Sweet caramelly biscuit malt but some huge hopping here for balance. Full bodied, some malty sweetness and really fruity with apricot and a hint of grapefruit in here. A big bitter piney finish with piney resins staying on way after the swallow. An absolute cracker and one to be treated with a degree of respect.

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3. Five Years – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Pale Ale / IPA – £3 ish (I think!) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

I love Bowie. I love Five Towns beers. So, a series of Bowie themed beers brewed by Five Towns? A match made in whatever religious destination floats your boat!

Pale gold to straw coloured beer, white head with a mango and orangey aroma. Full bodied nice sponge cakey sweet malt balanced with some serious piney hoppage (Mosaic) Marmalade richness in there too. Mmmm….! Wow this is dry! Really, really fruity and dry. The resinous hops are making my gums tingle! This is almost in DIPA territory without being as sweet as some. Just so moreish…like all Five Towns. Absolutely Lush! If I have my way, we’ll see some of their draught in Manchester. AND SOON!

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4. Topaz (Single hopped Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Blah blah blah – Mallinsons. Blah blah blah – Single hopped Pale Ale….. OK. But I come over all Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough!

Bright & Gold with a white head giving up a honeyed aroma with a little citrus that I couldn’t pick, maybe sweet satsuma? Smooth carbonation and easily slips down the throat, the sweet satsuma/tangerine comes through in the mouth with a substantial bitterness. More assertively bitter than the other SHPs Mallinssns have done, but still a superb beer with a strong bitter finish and resinous aftertaste. Yum, yum and thrice yum!

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5. Elixium –  Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) / Elixir Brew Co (Collab) – 5.9% abv – Porter – £4.15 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

From the latest and most welcome addition to Bolton’s fairly parlous town centre drinking scene, a cracking wee bar with great local draught beer and an excellent bottle selection!

Black with a beige tan head and a deeply chocolatey aroma. Full bodied, chocolatey, like a real 75-90% bitter chocolate,a slight London Porterish sourness (original porters being sour beers) initial light sweetness, roasty and quite an appealing bitterness to it. A cracking earthy hoppy dryness in the finish. Breathe in after a mouthful and a light smokiness wafts over your mouth. Another cracker comes forth from Hempshaw Lane!

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6. Hivemind – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.6% abv – Honey Red Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

An amber to red coloured beer, white head with a fresh zingy citrus aroma – nectarine upfront – fruity and sweet. Full-bodied, sharp and citrussy in the mouth, grapefruit tartness and quite resinous and a finish both tart and piney. A little honeyed sweetness in the aftertaste along with the piney resinous stuff. Some honeyed beers can be cloying and just TOO sweet, this is quite simply a corker and the use of honey is really well judged. I like it!

Well, that’s all folks! Well, for another week anyway!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Stockport Beer Festival 01/06/2013 (or, Sir Galahad finds his Holy Gr(ale))

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(pic – gmcr.alenewsnet.com)

This was truly a last-minute decision. OK, it was made the evening before, but you get the point!

I knew this was my lucky day when I turned up late for the train at Farnworth, to find the train was even later! So it was that I found my self at the rear entrance to Stockport Train Station and waited for Jaz (well, who else would drink with me!) A quick nip into Sivoris caff for a spot of brekky and we’re entering that cathedral of footballing excellence, Edgeley Park. Home of the newly relegated Stockport County FC!

I had heard from John Clarke (CAMRA South Manchester), that Jarl by Fyne Ales would be making an appearance. Let me be quite honest, much though I love a beer fest, it was Jarl that dragged me out of my pit that morning and plonked me on that train! Jaz had been winding me up about how gorgeous it was the previous day (Cheers Buddy!), so my hopes were low of locating my beery Grail. Now, where were those beers beginning with the letter F? Then, the metaphorical clouds parted and the sunbeam shone on one particular 18 gallon (kilderkin) cask. JARL! At £2 a bloody pint as well!!!

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(Beer Porn Alert! The Holy Grale!)

I truly felt like Sir Galahad as he laid eyes on the hallowed chalice! Jarl. Beloved in bottle, now on draught. And I had a pint!

Believe me when I say this. I have chased this beer from bar to bar. From the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” (Pt 2 in October!), to haring across Manchester on a rumour (it had sold out!). But now, I finally had it in my trembling mitt! Was it worth it? Bloody stupid question! 3.8% abv and pale as a spring morning, It was sharp, lemon zesty both in nose and palate. It was a citrus festival in my mouth. I love this beer almost as much as my darling Atilla! Yeah. It was a decent pint! So good was it, that I broke a rule. I had two. I had to!

Descending some stairs into the bowels of this footballing Mecca, we ambled to watch an Oompah band. Just behind the bottle bar, I asked a genial gent if he was John Clarke, one of the organisers  of this fest and Editor of Opening Times the S Manchester CAMRA branch mag. I introduced my self and had a really pleasant (but all too brief) chinwag. A damn nice bloke indeed. Interesting bottle selection too, with a De Molen Citra for £3. (I didn’t)20130601_124431

(The Oompah band is there – look harder!)

The Oompah troupe were superb and fun, playing snatches of requests. Good, but my focus was back upstairs, where business needed doing!

That business matter led me to Dark Matter, a 3.8% Mild by Saltaire. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mild by the Shipley alechemists before. This was quite subtle. Some nice gentle roast with more than a tinge of blueberry or blackberry. A nice smoky hint in the aftertaste too. Lovely. I would have had it first, but when Jarl (my Juliet – apologies to David Mayhall for this most blatant of thefts!) calls, this Romeo had to climb to the balcony!

Next up was Coal Porter (See what they did there!) by Elixir Brewing from Livingston. Now THIS is my idea of dark heaven! 5% abv, black (or near as dammit!) with a hint of smoke on the nose. This delivered bitter chocolate in this roasted mouthful, smooth texture with a lingering smokiness. A beautiful porter. Enjoyed whilst sitting in the stands (see below!)

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(A tinge of grassyness!)

Following my second pint of Jarl, I had a small taste of Oat Stout from Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth. At 5.2% this was creamy textured with more than a hint of the hedgerow. A gentle smokiness in the finish was a twist. First from Nook and really nice.

Next up was the Single Hop IPA from Stockport’s own Quantum Brewing. The hop variety in the case being Triskel (French I believe). Golden, fruity aroma (tropical, pineapple?) with that carrying through in the mouth. Nice and juicy with a nice dry finish. Quite subtle this hop. Didn’t taste its strength.

We’d gabbed for a bit and time had passed. It was time for a final beer and I opted for another Fyne Ales. This time (reverting to type!) their Sublime Stout at 6.8% abv. Probably not the wisest of choices at that strength. However, just like the Quantum, it didn’t taste its strength. A lovely smooth roasted mouthful with some mocha on the nose. Creamy wee beastie this with a delicious smokiness that hung about a bit. It was 4 o’clock now and we were being ushered out. One of the perils of separate sessions I suppose.

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(One of the ‘quieter’ moments!)

In summary : All the beers I had were uniformly in superb condition. They were also ludicrously inexpensive! £2 a pint for Jarl? The idea of sitting in the stands was great. However, this is where my one quibble surfaces. The area where the beers were served had the feel of a narrow corridor, in no way helped by the punters tendency to hang around once they’d made their purchases. This made it somewhat difficult to move about in there. I know, I know that you can’t actually FORCE the imbibing throng to relocate once they’d made their choices, but at times, I felt uncomfortable. There!

That said, after a 20 odd year gap between fests (I served at a charity bar at the old Town Hall fest), I’ll be back! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Departing felt like I was actually leaving a footy match! At this juncture, Jaz revealed a plan to visit a nearby boozer Ye Olde Vic.

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Located on Chatham Street, walking in felt like a time warp! Dark, warm and friendly, I settled in instantly to a pint of Oracle by Salopian Brewery, a first by this brewer for me! A pale beer that was lovely, sharp, crisp  and hoppy.

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This isn’t a multiroom, but has that multiroom feel. I think there were 7 hand pumps, with beers from Thornbridge, Oakham, Magic Rock featuring. However, I went for Jade by Liverpool Organic. This was a nice clean pint with flowery notes. Probably a bit too delicate at this stage. I think after my efforts, I needed something more assertive. This beer would be one to start with. Refreshing though.

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(Now. Where DID I put those pumpclips? Ah yes, the ceiling!)

Time for the train back to Manchester. Now, a sensible boy would’ve IMMEDIATELY caught a connection to Bolton. But I said “sensible”!

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So, Jaz guided us into Pie & Ale by Bakerie. Located on Lever Street, this is a decidedly modern affair and looks designed to catch a fairly trendy crowd. So, what am I doing here? To the rear bar we go and Lo! Handpumps! And what’s more, local beers from Wilson Potter and Brightside! Alongside a couple of Wells & Young’s offerings and a Liverpool Chocolate Porter.

Here I chose Natural Progression by Wilson Potter. You will (if you’ve read this blog before) know what I think of the beers brewed by these ladies. Smooth, tasty and clean. This was no exception. A nice fruity smooth mouthful. 4.8%. It’s great to see more of their beers around Manchester. Seems like their beers are on in this place quite frequently. Good to know!

Next up, Odin by Brightside Brewing (now of Radcliffe!). A really refreshing beer this. Bright, pale, zippy and nicely hopped. Initially thought it was a ‘real’ lager it was THAT pale (as you can see!). A blonde beer to look out for from another excellent local brewery.

20130601_191043(A zesty blonde indeed!)

Pie & Ale is an excellent addition to the Northern Quarter. If the food is anywhere near as good as the beer……..friendly knowledgeable staff, siiting booths and bench seating. I like this place!

Quickly skipping my greedily ordered Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt (I had to!) We finished off the evening in Port Street Beer House (where else) with an Oakham Green Devil IPA. More hops than a Watership Down audition. Stunningly fruity and hoppy. Enough said. A classic.

Not the most sensible day out, but bloody enjoyable!

Back in Manchester on Friday and Wigan on Saturday with some brewing luminaries at Allgates (I’ll be making the tea!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!