Bottled Beers – May 2015

Red Shed sign

(Where I am later!)

After May 7th and the shocks contained therein, I struggled a bit. I won’t wibble on about politics, I’ve got too much to do to wallow in self-pity, what with planning for The Independent Salford Beer Fest 2015 and all, but now is a time that I cling to what’s important. People. Hence why we’re having our little bash again in October. Announcements soon.

But, on to bottles…..

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1. Rye IPARunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.9%abv – Rye IPA – 330ml – Andy Heggs

Thank you Mr Heggs! I finagled this from him at the excellent Shebeen 2015 whilst we were sat in Black Jack and I was getting sozzled. And very cheeky.

Copper coloured and with a firm white head, this beer gives of an aroma that reminds me of a spicy fresh-baked wholemeal loaf. But one with a distinct citrus note. Really appetising.

Smooth with very gentle carbonation, the fruity front is mugged by spicy rye dryness. The fruitiness is huge, with orange up top with more than a hint of mango. But that fruitiness can’t escape this thuggish spicy dryness. It’s brutal.

And Oh so bloody moreish.

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2. Out of Step IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 5.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Direct

(Bought direct from the brewer)

I don’t get it. Why don’t we see more of Offbeat’s beers in Manchester? Michelle makes some simply fabulous beers and I can’t se them in Manchester? Ludicrous!

A mid golden beer with a fluffy white lacy head, (slightly hazy due to a misjudged pour), really fruity aroma on this with apricot and grapefruit in the nasal vanguard.

Oh this is nice indeed. This is a full-bodied beer with just right carbonation. The fruitiness in the mouth being more apricot but this time with something a little more tropical, like mango and passion fruit. There is a bracing bitterness in this, which (to me) should be in all IPAs.

There is a cracking resinous finish to this with that fruitiness in there too. This is a belting beer from a criminally overlooked brewery. We need some of her beer in Manchester. And sharp!

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3. Fat Lady StoutRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom) – 4.5%abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton) – £3

A black beer with a creamy coloured head giving off an aroma of bitter chocolate with a hint of licorice.

Medium bodied with an initial sweetness, that soon slides into something more dark roasted and lush. Quite creamy textured, with bitter chocolate front and centre. That bitterness wanders more towards coffee on the swallow and a substantial bitterness takes over.

This is a sessionable dark beer after my own heart, with the dry bitter finish I enjoy in a mid strength Stout. Who needs Guinness when you have beers like this?

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4. PortentousPeter Sidwell – 5%abv – Porter

Peter is (I think) one of the Manchester Home Brewers group. He certainly isn’t commercial at this stage. If I remember rightly, i saw this bottle in his hand at the MBCF and nearly ripped his hand off!

A deep ruby brown beer that is almost black with a light cream head and a  big chocolaty aroma.

A medium bodied beer, the first thing to tickle the tongue is chocolate. This is slightly sweet and really chocolaty. The next is a little winey note, like a smooth red. Then a tongue tickling spice, slightly peppery, like rocket. And all the while, that chocolate….

The aftertaste retains the chocolate, but there is a spicy woody feel to it that completes this nicely. A damn fine Porter. And brewed by a home brewer too!

The best praise that I can give, is that I’d happily pay for this at a bar. It’s that good.

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5. TuringBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne) – £2.45

I was intrigued by the idea of using sage to flavour a beer. I had to give it a go……

A golden, almost amber beer with a light thin white head, lightly carbonated, with a light tropical fruit aroma (passion fruit is noted on the label – that works!)

In the mouth, there is a nice fruitiness to this initially, which meets a bitter herbal counterpart in the sage that is added to this brew, that bitterness almost catches me unawares. That bitterness fades and an almost tea like tannic aftertaste kicks in, really dry.

I  wasn’t sure about sage in a beer, but this light, Pale and refreshing beer works a treat for me. Slainte!

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6. Espresso StoutSquawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.5%abv – Stout – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Like a chalice full of liquid pitch, this is black. A proper Stout. Dark, delightful and dangerous to look at. Almost daring you. “Go on! You know that you want me!”

Made with fresh roasted coffee from Bean Brothers, unsurprisingly, this positively reeks of coffee. As bitter as Nigel Farage as the result was called. There’s a herbal licorice note too in the background.

For a 6.5% beer, this feels quite light and sprightly, at first, a little sweetness then BAM! Eyelid pinning coffee hit…… Yup. That’s definitely a big coffee flavour!  With that underlying big Stout sweetness.

There’s quite a spicy thing at the back of the tongue as the beer slides you towards sleeplessness going down the throat. The roof of the mouth tingling after the swallow.

A fine beer indeed. If a little ill-advised before bedtime!

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7. Scarborough Fair IPAWold Top (Driffield, N Yorkshire) – – 500ml – Birthday Pressie!

Thank you Sue! This bright ultra Pale golden beer has a light white head and a really fruity aroma, tropical fruits with passion fruit and kiwi flying out of the foam.

Full bodied is this beastie,  whilst perversely feeling light. Really fruity with that kiwi well up there, but a big refreshing and tart lemon hit was a more than pleasant surprise! For  a beer at this strength, this is WAY too refreshing and just damned drinkable.

There’s a nice light malty biscuit and a big balancing act going on because these hops are just beautifully tart and give a big dry finish that leaves you wanting more.

An absolute belter and a really nice beery pressie amongst the cognacs & single malts!

That’s it for bottles this month. With EastWestFest tomorrow, Brighton next week and London a week later, the focus will be on pubs (and one very special beer festival!)

On that note….’til next time

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – August 2013

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(Two 5* Performers!)

Worthington White Shield? Champion Bottle Conditioned Beer 2013? I now know something that I was unaware of a week ago. That CAMRA judges have a sense of humour! Can somebody, somewhere, please enlighten me as to the entry criteria for these awards? White Shield has been through more hands than a well-wrapped parcel at a kiddies party, PLEASE????

OK. The beer is quite decent. But the best?

Rant Over.

Moving swiftly on to better beers than that!

Trying to keep the formatting consistent….. It goes like this….

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. Here goes!

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1. Smokey JoeGeeves Brewery (Barnsley, South Yorkshire) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.12 (500ml) – Bierhuis of Ossett, West Yorkshire

Look on their website and read the back story to the brewery. I mean, Brewing on a narrowboat? Nice!

This is a black beer with a beige head and an enticing chocolaty aroma. Medium bodied with a smooth chocolate malty base, quite creamy, which led to a building smokiness which gradually overtook the chocolate ever so subtly. Only the second beer I’ve had from this Barnsley brewery (cask conditioned Red Diesel at Soup Kitchen being the other) both were impressive. May pick up some more soon!

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2. Espresso Stout – Bad Seed Brewery (Malton, North Yorkshire) – 7.3% abv – Stout – £2.30 – Bierhuis of Ossett, West Yorkshire

Doesn’t that branding look good? Simple, clean and tells you what to expect. Why can’t all beer labels be this smart? And the hanging tag just adds to the class! However, if the beer tastes crap, what’s the point?

Fortunately, this beer MORE than lives up to the branding! For me, the standard by which coffee flavoured beers were to be judged was Dark Star Espresso.No longer! This beer poured black with a beige foam head and a sweetish coffee aroma. This beer came alive in the mouth. A lovely creamy texture, the only way I can describe the flavour is that they have taken the aforementioned Espresso by Dark Star,  and throttled it to within an inch of its life. THEN they have applied the defibrillators via another shot of espresso! The coffee flavours dance around your mouth then grab your eyelids and yank them back! At the end of it all, there is a lasting bitter finish with lingering coffee.

The Bad Seed guys have been brewing and bottling for just over two months now. I can safely say that based on the two beers I’ve had so far, they have most certainly hit the ground running!

I don’t often give a beer a 5 out of 5……. But this is one of THREE exceptions this month.

20130815_173624(I enjoyed this SO much, I forgot to take a pic at the time! Oops!)

3. Old Engine Oil (Engineers Reserve)Harviestoun Brewery (Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland) – 9% abv – Strong Porter – Fathers Day Boxed Gift Pack – Direct (£32 for 12 mixed) 330ml

(Not that I gave my two youngest a shove, but…) This was part of a Fathers Day from my two youngest. The pack included two each of this, Ola Dubh 12, 16 & 18 and 4 Old Engine Oil. Dark paradise!

This beer poured oh so black with a head the colour of Caramac (remember that?) and an aroma of darkest chocolate with a hint of port wine. Ooohhh but in the mouth? Party Time! Glorious dark rum flavoured chocolate and a nuttiness reminiscent of roasted brazil nuts. Nicely warming with a lingering slightly sweet mocha and a dry finish. I consider ALL of my boxes ticked!

I have ONE bottle left. I think I’ll save it for when the nights grow darker! Bloody lovely stuff!!!

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4. Pale AleRocky Head Brewery (Southfields, London, SW18) – 6.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

The Rocky Head Brewery were brought to my attention by Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man –  Twitter @Thealemanmcr) along with Weird Beard. I enjoyed their Anglo-American Pale Ale recently, so was looking forward to this. Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some Sundays and frequently has tasting samples of selected beers. His selections are eclectic but uniformly excellent. Go say hello!

This beer was pale gold with a lively head and had an inviting apricot and grapefruit citrus aroma. Fruity and bitter in the mouth with that grapefruit being prominent. Medium bodied, really sharp and hoppy with a sustained dry bitter finish. A lovely hoppy pale. The only problem I have with this beer, is that it tastes lower than 6.5% and is therefore a dangerous beast indeed! Another nice beer from this relatively new London brewer. One to look out for!

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5. The Little Things That KillWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, West London) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – Review Sample – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

The first time I have had a bottle of this. Hardly a leap in the dark as I had a taster at Damian’s stall on Sunday! WOW! Hops! Lots of HOPS!!!

Being an unfiltered beer, this was a hazy gold when poured with a lively white head, but WOW with those grapefruit and pineapple citrus aromas! For me, this is fuller bodied than their Mariana Trench at 5.1% bizarrely, with huge citrus hop flavours, grapefruit and lemon zest prominent, dancing on my taste buds. Clean sharp bitter finish with the lemon zest flavour pleasantly lingering.

Nearest comparator for me is Jarl by Fyne Ales. It is THAT good! Another 5 rating! (These “rare” 5 ratings are like buses……)

Being given beers to review is a fairly new thing to me, but when they are THIS good, reviewing is easy!

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6. Yorkshire AleOld Bear Brewery (Keighley, West Yorkshire) – 4,2% abv – Best Bitter – Review Sample – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Another beer passed for review, this time by Adrian & Vicky Pettit of Yorkshire Ales. I could get used to this! Picked up on my recent visit https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/two-yorkshire-favourites-yorkshire-ales-revolutions-brewing/

The Official Beer of Yorkshire Day. This is a golden beer with good carbonation and a white lacy head. Malty toffee caramel on nose. Quite malty and nutty, a bit like a beery Snickers bar (but not so sweet!), a nice fruitiness too (damson or plum). A nice bitter finish to this. A throwback beer in a way, bucking the trend for über hopped beers. Reminds me how good John Smiths cask used to be in the early 80s! Good solid Yorkshire malty bitter.

Right then, enough blathering for now. Next post should be Beavertown MTB at Port Street next week.

On that note….til next time!

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – May 2013

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(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!

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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!

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(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!)

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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!

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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!

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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)

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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!