MTB with Weird Beard @ Heaton Hops – 14/03/2016

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I kind of gave up on Meet The Brewer (MTB) events a few years back. They got to feel a bit like doing a “Brewery Tour”. I’ve been around a few Micro Breweries and to be honest, they start to blur into one. Once you’ve seen four or five, it gets to be ‘variations on a theme’. A bit samey.

It’s the personalities that make both worth doing. And Gregg Irwin – chief Spreadsheet Ninja, brewer, co-owner of Weird Beard Brew Co – is definitely one of those.

And (let’s get this out of the way NOW shall we?) I rather like the beers that these fellas brew down in West London. I always have. For all of my Northern Beer Fascism, I’ve had a soft spot for these beers since I was introduced to them by The Ale Man, YAY years ago.

Yes. Damian O’Shea. The same. Now thriving in his “Award Winning” bar. Heaton Hops. A bar that has wormed its way into my cold cold heart. By being astonishingly good. It’s simple really!

And I had an agenda….(maybe) more later….

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We had six beers to get through. 4 of them – given my curmudgeonly Northern tendencies – that I had never tried before.

Like I said, Gregg is certainly no wallflower. And there were a few choice epithets sprinkled throughout the evening, to be sure – given his visceral feelings about Mild, we’re unlikely to meet halfway on some. These made the evening all the more entertaining. I certainly shed a laughter tear or five!

Rather amazingly (or not – to some – given the “craft beer” boom) Weird Beard export their tasty wares to 21 countries, 10 of them on a regular basis. They’re even making inroad in that most vin sozzled of countries. France. Apparently, a real growing market for good beer.

So. Where were we? Ah….

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So Damian had persuaded Mr Beard himself to come and chinwag with us. And this was very much a two-way street. There was at least one vegan in the cosy audience, so we had a bit of to and fro on the usage of isinglass as an aid to clarity. We had Gregg’s story as to how Saison 14 (one of the beers tonight) acquired its name – a reference to a score it obtained in a Home Brewing contest – cue withering glare at YT (recent Home Brewing judge….)

The beers started to flow….and Gregg chatted briefly about the birth of each and how the hop bill and other parts of the recipes have changed – sometimes by design, sometimes due to availability of ingredients – over time. Things like how the body that they get into beers like “Little Things That Kill”. How the beers get named – mostly from songs “LTTK” (A track by Bush), “Fade To Black” (Metallica).

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Personally, I can’t wait to taste “Relight My Fire”…..

It is – to me – sad that WB only cask approximately 15% of their output. The joy I used to find in my occasional pint of Decadence Stout – one of the best I’ve ever had – was a rare thing. A truly lovely beer. I think that it is safe to say, that cask wouldn’t be Gregg’s preferred method of dispense. Putting it mildly…..(I just had to get “Mild” in one more time….)

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To my utter delight, Jimmy from Nasi Lemak had set up a mini “street kitchen” outside the bar, so we had some truly excellent grub appearing – at intervals – on the tables (Sweet Potato fries with spicy sauce went superbly with the Choc Mint Stout – “A World Without Dave”)

It would be easy to waffle on about the beer. Safe to say that it was uniformly superb. But, briefly, from “Little Things That Kill” (Light refreshing and hoppy), “A World Without Dave” (Choc, Mint, Lush and creamy), “Fade To Black” (Smooth, Citrussy, a little Coconut – the sole cask), Saison 14 (my personal favourite – surpisingly – Cream Soda smooth, Apricot & Tangerine)

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The final two beers were hastily consumed – as myself and my mentor “Pal” had to scarper sharpish for a train. They were “Sorachi Faceplant” a BIG (8.1%) IPA that was so juicy and dangerously drinkable and “Sadako” Imperial Stout, luscious, creamy, smooth and done absolutely no justice to by being wolfed down. Unlike the spicy chicken that Jimmy wheeled out….

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(Pic : Courtesy of @Deeekos)

This was an excellent evening. There are very few things that would encourage me to travel from Bolton over 20 miles on a school night. But Damian O’Shea, Heaton Hops & Gregg Irwin managed it.

Even if I WAS the butt of a few Irwin jokes…….

And no. With nights like this, Meet The Brewer events DON’T need “Reinventing”.

They just need good beer, good people (brewers, bloggers, beer & food lovers) and intelligent conversation. Oh. And a liberal sprinkling of beery expletives…

A joy of an evening.

 

Weird Beard Brew Co – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 24/02/2014

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I suppose I should start this blog post with an enormous SLAINTE to Damian O’Shea (aka TheAleManMcr). Without Damian and his peripatetic market stall that has been selling exceptional beers in Manchester for almost a year now, I wouldn’t have come across the fabulous beers brewed by Gregg & Bryan at The Weird Beard Brew Co of Hanwell in West London and, by default, wouldn’t be in a packed Port Street Beer House for a hotly anticipated MTB event.

For a change, I managed to get to Manchester in advance of start time, only to find Port Street RAMMED! Damned if this wasn’t the busiest I have seen on a Monday evening! Once I had spotted the trademark hat, I knew that Gregg Irwin was in the house! A quick hello to Jamie and I was into the first beer (courtesy of the 5 raffle tickets received on entry)

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The Little Things That Kill 3.5% abv – I love this beer. previously only had it on keg and in bottle though. How would the cask stand up? Gregg – after his initial introduction about the brewery (going for just over a year now) – described the beer. Mashed at a high temperature to achieve a fuller body than a beer of this strength should have, it is indeed quite full bodied for a 3.5% beer. Named after a track by the No-Hit wonders Bush (incidentally HUGE in the US – and Gavin Rossdale being the lucky hubby of Gwen Stefani!) Hopped with the lovely (Come & have a go if you disagree) Sorachi Ace, loads of Galaxy, Summit & Apollo this is a fabulously tasty “Session IPA” and one of my favourite beers in the WB canon.

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Single Hop Series No 4 Citra Pilsner 5.5% abv – A pale hazy & golden beer. Initial impression was of some apple both on the nose and in the mouth. Not quite what I was expecting from Citra. Gregg, during his lead into the beer noted this fault and bravely hung it out there and apologised for it. Impressive honesty for which he earns respect. Still, far from a bad beer and quite fruity (if not as intended) with a resinous and lasting bitter finish for a pilsner.

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Five O Clock Shadow – Was next up at the bar and was an unexpected addition for Gregg who had obviously prepped up something else, which, upon tasting, wasn’t up to it. A damned fine replacement though! More bronze then golden, nice orange in the nose (Amarillo perchance ?) and in the mouth too, smooth easy drinking for a relatively strong beer 5%+. Nice and bitter with a little bit of sherbet fizz to it and some sticky resins in the aftertaste. Classy.

Fade To Black – 7% abv During his talk about this, Gregg eulogised about the versatility of the Sorachi Ace hop which is in this beer and (to Gregg)lends a toasted coconut note to the darker roasted beers. Gregg likes his Black IPA on the roasted side and this does indeed lean toward a Stout in its roasty notes and coffee whilst retaining its resinous fruity hop finish. Another cracker and – according to Ratebeer (more later) – is their highest rated beer. Idiots! Mine comes next!!!

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(The busiest I can remember for a MTB!)

The collective (as they describe themselves) are justifiably proud of the fact that (according to ratings on RateBeer) Weird Beard are one of the Top 10 new brewers in THE WORLD! 5th place out of over 2600 breweries is a remarkable achievement. Well done!

Finally we came to the last beer of the event. Weird Beard make some – quite frankly – astonishingly good dark beers. Black Perle (Coffee Milk Stout) was one of my top 3 beers last year on draught (cask) AND bottle. Fade To Black and then it’s BIG brother, Something Something Darkside which earned one of my #Beergasms when I rated it in bottle. This last beer is just about my favourite and was my second favourite bottle of 2013.

Decadence Stout 5.4% abv of roasted coffee and chocolate joy! All I wrote in my notes was “Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice!” (Except – obviously – without the sugar and spice bit!) Beautifully full-bodied, like a mini Imperial, but MASSIVELY drinkable. A lovely mocha note achieved without the use of ANY coffee. The mocha continues into the finish which has a simply joyous bitterness. Just YUM. OK!

Gregg did touch on a subject close to the hearts of the WB collective – The subject of the renaming of their stunning Camden Beard to K*ntish Town Beard and the dispute with Camden Town over the naming of the beer. Camden Town, as a new brewer, should really know better than to bully a London fellow brewer over a word that is a district of their city. Not only that, but home of the beers collaborators, Brew Dog Camden (THAT word again!).

I’m sorry, but Camden behaved like tossers and deserve no better than to be ranked alongside the likes of Red Bull (Redwell of Norwich) and Crabbies / Halewood International (our own Tickety Brew of Stalyvegas) as corporate bullies! As for the alleged attempt to register the word “Camden” as a trademark? Does the A-Z mapping company have to reprint all of their TENS OF THOUSANDS of maps?

Finally plucked up the courage to say hello to Gregg and his lovely wife Alison. Gregg even remembered serving me a pint (it HAD to be) of Decadence at IndyMan and even remembered our discussion about the hops therein. I just WISH that I had such a good memory! Just a damned good bloke. (and, as they say, “behind every good man….”)

With an extra pint of LTTK (So Damn Good!) it was time to chat and soon to bugger off! A quick shout out to some damned nice guys I chatted with. Paddy & Kev (whose blog just tickles me!) & Mark Welsby who I’d seen at these things on many occasions and never chatted with. Hoping that his new venture takes off soon!

Time to go (via a deserted Soup Kitchen for a sneaky pint of Ilkley Gold!) and grab the bus – which tonight failed to show! Cheers to Jeff & Jaz for their always fabulous company!

On that note….’til next time…(In that there London all next week…hmmm…what can a boy do down there?)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt1

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“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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 – August 2013 Pt 2

“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think…

OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS! 1,2,3,4…”

(Oh Bondage, Up Yours – X-Ray Spex)

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(Hooray For Tickety Brew!)

Just a quick celebratory note! For those who are unaware, Tickety Brew of Stalyvegas were recently contacted by lawyers acting on behalf of the conglomerate Halewood International – the owner of the Crabbies Ginger Beer brand. The substance of the contact was that Halewood had “trademarked” the phrase “TicketyBoo” and appeared to have issues when our own local micro-brewer applied to register their name as a trademark. This caused concern, and no little stress, for Tickety Brew’s owners who were not in any position to contest any potential “Cease & Desist” style demand.

It was heartening to see social media – in particular, Twitter – swing behind the brewing David, possessing, as it did, an empty slingshot! Just like the battle that Redwell of Norwich had with Red Bull (purveyors of over-sweet chemical swill), the beer-loving denizens of the social media platform showed their feelings and made them plain.

It is therefore extremely gratifying to note, it appears that sanity has ruled the day and Tickety will remain a small Greater Manchester brewer making tasty beer and that they can keep their name and distinct visual branding. Chuffed to bits for Duncan & Keri and will be reviewing their beers soon! Go visit their classy looking website for more details at http://ticketybrew.co.uk/

Right then, that’s settled!

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…

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1. Hook Island Red – The Five Points Brewing Co (Hackney, London) – 6% abv – Red Ale – £3 ish (was a “swap”!) – Damian O’Shea (aka @TheAleManMcr) at Castlefield Market, Mcr.

A deep ruby red, this has a lovely spicy hop and toffee aroma. A lovely dark toffeeish caramelly (is that a word?) malt balanced by some terrifically spicy hopping with some nuttiness too in the mouth. Bit like a slicy (or even “spicy”!) rye beer this. A cracklingly bitter dryness in the finish for this beer from an increasingly impressive brewery. More soon!

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(I can still hear the shriekings of Poly Styrene……!)

2. IdentityRevolutions Brewing Co (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 6% abv – Extra Strong Bitter (XSB) – Part of a case from the brewery direct

X-Ray Spex were one of the second wave of punk bands. There first single was blast of feminist fresh air entitled “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” and as a 12-year-old music loving sponge, it rocked my world! A punk band in name, but with other influences at play – not every band would have a Laura Logic playing sax! Identity was a later single from their album Germ Free Adolescents and was similarly incendiary in musical style. Was truly saddened when Poly (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) passed away in 2011. A true trail blazer and icon.

Anyway, reminiscing over!

Another musically themed beer (of course!) by those lovely boys at Revolutions, this is a tawny coloured beer with a generous white head and a floral hop aroma with a bit of toffee in there too. Full bodied with plenty of maltiness offset by some really nice dry bitterness an a nice spicy hop bite, I detected a gentle nuttiness which reminded me of walnuts too, really nice note. A fireside beer this…..I’m feeling a nice warm Yorkshire Dales pub on an autumn evening…I can dream can’t I? A proper strong bitter – not had one of THOSE for a while!

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3. Bleddyn 1075 – The Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Wales) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £2.29 (500ml) – Booths Supermarket, Chorley

An off-hand purchase from a swift pit stop, I’m SO glad I bought this! A golden to copper coloured beer with floral nose tingling spicy hops booming from the glass. In the mouth, a tongue-curling bitterness grabs and delights as bitter & twisted grapefruit flavours assail the taste buds supported by some lovely malty backbone.

But this is about the hoppage and, at this strength, I’m not sure that I have had a more assertive IPA. Given the OG (Original Gravity – an indication of the weight of malt goodies that go in the beer), I’m astonished it’s not sweeter than this! Crackling dry finish. A PROPER IPA. Lots of malt, LOADS of hops! (Classy website too – click the link above) A well earned 5*!

20130822_193824(Current reading material artfully displayed with a 5* beer!)

4. Simcoe (Single Hop)Mallinsons Brewing Company (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.0% abv – Pale Ale – £1.98 (500ml) – The Bottle Stop, Bramhall, Stockport

This wasn’t planned. At a friends BBQ last weekend, I took a 5 litre carry out of Kirkstall Three Swords Pale Ale (purchased from the ever excellent Beer Shop), but by departure, there was still some in the bag. A colleague offered this as a swap. Knowing Mallinsons beers like I do (and not having had this previously) I snatched his hand off!

A beer that was bullion gold in colour with a fabulous zingy mango aroma from a light white foam head. A marvellous mouthful of mango, grapefruit and lemon pith drying the tongue and refreshing the mouth simultaneously. Tara Mallinson and Elaine Yendall have – for me – absolutely nailed low gravity single hopped pale ales. This is as tasty a low gravity pale ale as you can get (IMO) – get some, and in the words of Drake “Thank me later”!

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5. Fade to BlackWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, West London)- 6.3% – Black IPA – £3 ish (was a swap)Damian O’Shea (aka @TheAleManMcr) at Castlefield Market

If you live close to Manchester, go see Damian on a Sunday at Castlefield Market, (but check on Twitter, he’s not there EVERY Sunday!), a top bloke selling some amazing beers. Including this little beauty!

Black. Always a good start in my book! Latte coloured head with a candied citrus nose with sugared grapefruit. Some deep coffee in the background strangely supporting zippy citrus. This beer has the texture of a creamy stout or porter with some belting hoppy fruitiness. I know that, for some, Black IPAs may be a bit of a stretch, but trust me, allow your mind to be bent by beers such as this and you will NOT regret it! Trust me!

Right then – Beer of the Month time again!

Draught? – Hmmm….. in with a run up the stands rails is…..Imperial Lord Smog Almighty from Beavertown Brewery at 10% abv. This was the monster produced from under Logan Plant’s magicians hat at the end of the recent MTB at Port Street. Blew me away. Notes here…https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/beavertown-brewery-meet-the-brewer-port-street-beer-house-19082013/

Bottled? – A tricky one this, with 4 5* rated beers this month. But, decisions need to be made! (“Ip, dip, doo, the cat got the flu…..”) Oh bugger it…… Old Engine Oil (Engineers Reserve) a 9% abv by Harviestoun Brewery. Porter created for Those Damn Yankees! Read here if you want…https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/bottled-ales-august-2013/

Right! That’s it for this month. I’m off camping by the banks of the Severn next week so, unless I come across something truly outstanding, media silence may be the order of….

And if you see a whale clad in T-Shirt & Jeans floating down the Severn, hook me out, there’s a love!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!