Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 : My “Dance Card”

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Welcome to the beer festival that shows that CAMRA “do” UK Keg! Yes, I KNOW that the Campaign has had numerous kegged beers over the years! BUT…..These are beers brewed in the UK, mostly not designed to be dispensed from a cask. That is BIG news. To be celebrated.

And it has moved from the (“a little bit awkward to get to”) Velodrome – an iconic modern venue – to somewhere infinitely more “Central”. And more historically iconic. A Mancunian architectural masterpiece. And THAT should also be celebrated.

That out of the way, I’m a lucky sod. I get to see the beer list. And it is a big list. And – instantly removing anything from Marstons – there is something for everyone. Even me.

So. Being a “tactical drinker” at beer festivals, I compile a plan of attack – a “dance card” if you will, that panders to my Northern sensitivities. Others may list beers from that there London. Not I. With one exception (noted and explained below) mine are from no further South than Crewe and no further North than Malton.

A narrow focus.

But I care precisely how much?

Here we go, in strength order. Like I said, “tactical drinking”….. And, just in case you’re interested in trying any of these yourself, I’ve included the bar on which to find them. Because I’m nice like that!

No 2 Stout – Stringers Beer – Stout – 4% abv – Bar 3

A beer that I absolutely adored in bottle from the very first sip about 3 years ago. And I have NEVER had in on cask. I have often gazed at the pump clip on the wall at Port Street and whimpered. Envious.

Bitter and roasted. As black as Donald Trump’s evil heart. I will be distraught if I don’t get to try this. My #1 priority.

Admiral Porter – Brewsmith Beer – Porter – 4% abv – Bar 1

Why? Because it’s Brewsmith. And James Smith (see what he did there?) has yet to put out anything less than excellence.

And the Admiral hop gives the lie to those who whinge that UK hops are crap. It’s an aromatic beauty of a thing.

Sorachi Ace – Mallinsons Brewery – (Single Hopped) Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Bar 2

Why? Stupid question. It’s Mallinsons. And it’s a single-hopped Pale Ale.

And – in the words of Carly Simon – “Nobody does it better”. I’ll be having a pint.

At least one….

Talisman IPA – Pictish Brewing – Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Pictish Brewery Bar

A brewery that is in need of better PR. They should be HUGE. Possibly the most underrated brewery in Greater Manchester. Brewers of simply outstanding single-hopped Pale Ales.

Unmissable.

Mr Scruff Pale – Squawk Brewing – Session IPA – 4.6% abv – Bar 3

Oliver Turton has been quietly brewing some of the best beers in Manchester for the last two years. That’s enough reason to do this.

And I love the Centennial hop.

Lupy Lager – Offbeat Brewery – Lager – 4.7% abv – Bar 2

A cask conditioned lager from one of my very favourite breweries? And it’s a one-off? Damn those CAMRA oiks! I’ll be having words with Miss Kelsall about that…..

Again, unmissable….

Orange and Rosemary Belgian Pale – Bad Seed Brewery – Belgian Pale – 5% abv – Bar 1

Rosemary in beer can be herbal Marmite to some. But I love it. And Bad Seed would be just the brewery to pull this off.

Looking forward to trying this HUGELY.

Bitter Chocolate Stout – Runaway Brewery – Stout – 5% abv – Runaway Bar

A new beer to me from the best and most consistent new brewery in Manchester. Mark Welsby makes good beer. For those with no love of keg, prepare to be converted.

Mancunian Evil Keg Filth of the highest order. And you can quote me on that!

Marmite Stout – Ticketybrew / Quantum BrewingStout – ? abv – Bar 3

Two breweries unafraid to try something different. Or unusual. This beer can be safely said to tick BOTH of those boxes.

This sounds inspired. It’s certainly interesting!

Pale Rye (Name TBC) – Track / Matt Dutton – Pale Ale – ? abv – Bar 3

OK. Track are banging out some tremendous beers with arguably the strongest core range of any Manchester brewery. I’ve been saying for AGES that Sonoma is a Manchester classic.

Factor in a collab with the best home brewer in the UK, Matt Dutton, this is going to be special! I have sampled several of Matt’s beers and he – should he choose to go commercial – is a star in the making. This beer rates as priority #2. Unmissable.

AllDay Coffee IPA – Allgates/Manchester Beer Week – Coffee IPA – 5.1% abv – Bar 1

A Coffee IPA brewed especially for the festival by the most drinkable of breweries and Connor Murphy wearing his MBW head. Read the blog piece and it sounds AMAZING!

Centennial – Torrside Brewing – Porter – 5.4% abv – Bar 3

I have been lucky enough to try beers brewed at home by each of the Torrside triumvirate. It was therefore no surprise at all when they hit the ground running when they launched late last year.

My heart lies in darkness. Torrside make great beers. A marriage made in….

Nouvelle Saison: Beetroot and Horseradish –Alphabet Brew Co – Saison – 6% abv – KeyKeg Bar

I wouldn’t miss this flavour mix for all the tea in….. Intriguing to say the least!

Sorachi Grey – Five Oh Brew Co – IPA – 6.5% abv – Bar 1

If Jamie Hancock puts his beer in cask, it is both a rare event (wonder where he did it first?) and unmissable.

This man brews good beer.

Victoria Export Stout – Bexar County Brewery – Stout – 6.7% abv – Bar 1

My sole selection from south of Crewe. Why? Because I think that I have had 3 beers that this man has brewed. All excellent and two of those (a collab with HDM and his Pecan Coffee Mild) were among the best beers I’ve had in years!

And it’s pronounce BEAR. “The X is silent. The Beer speaks for itself” Indeed….

And finally……

Rampart – Ossett/Brass Castle Collab – IPA – 7% abv – Bar 2

“Heavily hopped West Coast style IPA. Tangy bitterness & intense grapefruit, floral & tropical fruit flavours.” – Case rested!

Well. That’s that. As Rabbie Burns allegedly said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, so (like last year) I’m bound to miss one of these. But it won’t be for the want of trying!

It’s Tryanuary. Get ticking!

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And for those who want to plan ahead, here is the link to the full UK beer list! http://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/uk-beers/

 

 

 

Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2015 – My “Dance Card” Dozen

Next week is the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 – Are you going? If it’s anything like last year, it’s going to be special!

The Velodrome is a simply iconic venue, allied to great beers. LOTS OF GREAT BEERS! An almost overwhelming choice with beers from all over the UK and a huge selection of quality beers just from the North for little old me to amuse myself with!

From nearly 450 casks alone (Not to mention Ciders and the “foreign” beer bar), picking my personal “Dance Card” is going to be really difficult, but I’m going to give it a shot. Here goes…..

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Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum (Stockport) – 8.5% abvImperial Stout. At 8.5% abv, this is going to be a gentle waltz rather than a furious Can Can, but I just have to try it. A dark as sin Imperial Stout with all of the creamyness of Buckwheat. Fermented using Boddingtons yeast and inoculated with Brettanomyces, this is a beer I have looked forward to since we finished stirring the mash. A mash that was even THICKER than Katie Hopkins! This will be the first time that it is served in public. I can’t wait!

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Coconut, Macadamia & Lime PorterAllgates (Wigan) 4.6% abvPorter – One of Allgates “Limited Edition” beers that I’m yet to try on cask and inspired by a cake enjoyed in a Kirkby Lonsdale tea shop! I had a mini-cask of this at Xmas and it was beautiful , smooth & nutty from the toasted coconut and creamy macadamia. The lime element is very subtle and provides a tint of lightness in the dark.

Mallinsons

Experimental CitranellMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – For me, Mallinsons just nail low to mid strength Pale Ales. In this regard they have few equals. With Exp 366, Citra & Centennial hops, this already has my mouth watering!

 

PsychedelicHebden Bridge (Er…Hebden Bridge!) – 5% abvPale Ale – An American style Pale ale just LOADED with 5 Citrus fruits. AND, because it was the first firkin to sell out at ISBF and I didn’t get NEARLY enough of it! It got rave reviews at St Sebastians, so I’m hugely looking forward to this!

Five Oh

Sorachi WickedFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – The first beer to sell out at ISBF and another one that garnered rave reviews. I tried a 1/3rd. It was bloody LUSH!!!! Then, just when I wanted another? It had gone. I was just TOO damned kind to you drinkers! Only the second time that Jamie has casked. You NEED this in your life!

North Riding

JesterNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – Stuart Neilson just makes superb Pale Ales. Fresh and bursting with hops. This is with a new hop variety (Jester) and – if I know Stuart – he won’t have held back on the quantities! A rare appearance over here.

Bridestones

Sprocket Wort OrangeBridestones (Hebden Bridge) / Offbeat (Crewe) – 4.6% abvSpecial Dark Ale – This one is one of the collaboration brews especially for the festival. Chocolate, Orange, Juniper & Sorachi Ace hops? Oh my! I feel another Beergasm coming on!

Cheshire Brewhouse

Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4% abvPale Ale – A crisp blonde ale from Shane Swindells with loads of late-added Keyworth Early hops? Sounds like an early doors beer that is too good to miss, from a brewery whose beers I drink whenever I find them. Because they are THAT good.

Brass Castle

AnnexationBrass Castle (Malton, North Yorks) – 8.4% abvImperial Stout – Inspired by the renewed expansionism of Putin, this looks one NOT to miss! “Smooth like the Volga and as bonkers as Putin”….Works for me! Brass Castle made one of the Beers of the Festival at ISBF and this is another I’ll be reaching for.

Black Flag

FangBlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 4.5% abvPale Ale – Had this in bottle whilst in Cornwall in August and it is an absolute fruity belter. Smooth with a piney kick in the finish. Have never seen them up here. If it’s on, I’ll be damned if I miss this!

Offbeat

Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat (Crewe) – 4.8%IPA – This San Diego inspired IPA is one I’m yet to have from one of my favourite breweries. And from what I’ve heard from some trusted drinkers, is not to be missed. And it won’t be. By me at least!!!

Rat

Workhouse RatRat (Huddersfield) – 4.8% – Smoked Porter – Whenever I see a Rat, I just have to. Because they are just SUCH good beers.

Well, I make that a round Dirty Dozen. Should be enough to keep me entertained next week! If there are any that you particularly fancy, bang it in the comments. Who knows, I might try one or two!

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Part 2

“Music in the ice-box, laughter in the dark,
Echoes in the silence, waiting for the spark,
Hold me while I’m naked, catch me if you can,
Suicide statements are the measure of the man …”

(“Do You Dream In Colour” – Bill Nelson)

(Clip courtesy Robert Jukes on YouTube)

I am a Bill Nelson fan. A true fan in that his is the only “Fan Club” that I ever joined. For a couple of years, you got a magazine (REALLY well produced) every quarter and an exclusive 7″ single with every second magazine. The output of the man was massive!

Simply one of the greatest, yet unsung, British guitarists. Starting solo and quite folky, then hitting a peak with one of the tightest rock bands of the 70s, the awesome Be Bop Deluxe. Tracks like Maid In Heaven, Between The Worlds, Love With The Madman, Ships In The Night……Oh my…..so tight…so melodic…and that guitar could make such sounds

Then, just when they looked to be getting huge in the States, he got …… bored. He went to form a more “modern” and aggressive band Red Noise. Again, utterly superb. But only one album. Check out “Sound on Sound”. Of its time, but still sharp as lemon juice!

“Do You Dream In Colour” was the “hit” single that never was. It was hamstrung in that its release coincided with a strike at the BBC in 1981, so that Top of the Pops wasn’t broadcast. It should have been huge. Bill should have had more success…..

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1. Govinda India Pale Ale (Barrel Aged Head Brewers Reserve) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8%abv – IPA – £No Idea (500ml) – The Ale Man (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)

A deep copper coloured beer with a tight soft white head with an aroma full of banana toffee laced with a boozy caramel note (aged in Brandy barrel), so inviting.

Second sniff reminds me more of a rich Christmassy fruit cake. Oh Yum!

Oh bloody hell this is SUCH A GREAT BEER. PROPER BEERGASM MATERIAL!!! A full-bodied rich and smooth mouthful. Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours just give way to a spicy hop and a very gentle (But present) bitterness. That said, this is such a smooth beer.

In the second mouthful and further, the earthy character of the hops takes more of a front seat with a building spiciness and peppery note. The aftertaste is peppery hop and a slightly smoky spirit warmth. Beautiful. There is apparently another barrel aged version of this beast. You NEED this in your glass!

#Beergasm Number 1 This week!
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2. Bohemian Antipodean PaleOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.65 (500ml) – Tottering Temple (Horwich)
Pale gold with a light white head and gentle carbonation giving really big tropical fruit aromas of mango & kiwi.

Oh my! Nice medium bodied beer this with a fabulously fruity party going on! Peach, mango, kiwi, passion fruit followed by a HUGE bracing piney sticky bitterness. Wow!

This is absolutely PACKED with flavour and feels much bigger than its strength. Further mouthfuls just confirm initial impressions. This bitterness builds to a dry finish with a really assertive piney aftertaste. Superb.

You need THIS as well!
#Beergasm Number 2!
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3. Stout PorterSeven Bro7hers Brewery (Salford) – 5.2%abv – StoutGreat Ale Year Round – £3 (330ml)
My first in bottle from this Salford brewery who – after their initial (feather ruffling) launch publicity – have settled to make some rather nice well judged beers on cask. But in bottle….
A black beer with a ruby tinge around the edges, a creamy tan coloured head and…. A subtle yet distinct aroma of… licorice & Anise. Very intriguing!

Initially tasting a little sweetness, this mouthful developed into something with a more dry and Roasted malt character, slightly bitter, but not overly, leaving the room free for some spicy licorice and herbal sweetness of the anise. A very nice mouthful indeed.

A second mouthful held more of the same, but I found a nutty note coming through in the aftertaste that was surprising and most pleasant and which gradually gave best to that gentle aniseed finish. This could work really well on draught and I need to try it soon. Salford has another brewery worth the candle it would seem!

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4. PilsShindigger Brewing Co (Here, there & everywhere!) – 5.1% abv – Pilsner -£? (330ml) – Direct from the brewer
No disclaimer needed, I did actually pay for this, I just haven’t noted a price up top as I don’t know what the retail price would be!
As Pale a gold add you could possibly wish for work a light white head and aroma of…. Mango! A Lager with a tropical fruit aroma? Hmmm.

This is now one of the few beers that I’ve had in cask, keg and bottle. Cask at ISBF, keg at MTB and now…. And it’s a bloody lovely beer too (as were the cask & keg)

First impressions in the mouth? Light, massively refreshing, clean and crisp as all good pilsner should be. With the addition of fruity hops which are more dialled down, but plenty enough! Smooth too, with a nice cereal / bready  malt backbone coming through later.

I told the fellas at the time of ISBF that this struck me as an ultra Pale Ale as much as a Lager in its cask incarnation. The bottle version reminds me (kind of) of Caesar Augustus by Williams Brothers which is a Lager / IPA hybrid (and bloody good too!)

I’m waiting for George & Paul to take a misstep. No danger yet of that. Another belter.

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5. OktoberfestRunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Dark Lager – £3 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round
A deep copper colour to this with a foamy off white head and an intriguing fruity aroma, some plum, a bit of barley sugar and something more… Boozy… Maybe a hint of golden rum or molasses.

Not being a big fan of darker German beers, I approached this with trepidation, I dislike Bock beers for example. Just don’t “get” them at all. However…..

Initial sweetness with some barley sugar (crystal malt?) and quite fruity, again plum but with something else too, maybe the merest hint of banana caramel. That sweetness quickly fades as a drying quality asserts itself with a feeling of rye curling the tongue.

Really smooth andfull bodied this. Those molasses come more to the fore in the second gob full. Big wholemeal bready malty base in this supporting that sweet fruitiness. And a big hint of marzipan cakiness too, giving this a seasonal feel.

A departure for Mark this. And he’s carried it off too. This could barrel age well methinks!

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6. Sorachi Ace StoutFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6.5% abv (I think!) – Strong Stout – Direct.
I originally picked this up at the same time that I personally collected the pin of cask conditioned version for ISBF. No labels either. I was strictly instructed NOT to drink it for a couple of weeks as it had JUST been bottled and wouldn’t yet be ready. Oh I am SO glad I waited. This was one of the stars of the show at ISBF. I was drooling as I picked up the bottle opener!
Pitch black. Reassuringly so. A nice tight tan coloured and creamy looking head on this as well with an aroma that just oozes…. Bitter chocolate and (of all things) rum like an Old Jamaica chocolate bar from the 70s. Do they still make them?

Oh shit this is just SO creamy and unctuous! Coffee. Strong coffee. That bitter chocolate too. Smooth and silky, seductive, I’m hearing Ike’s Rap II by Isaac Hayes (as sampled by Portishead for Glory Box), deep melodic bass notes. Slinky. Like this beer.

But there is a lightness of hopping that lifts this beer too. A fabulous grassy dryness and a little light fruitiness. Just a little. Because this beer wallows and luxuriates in its delightful dark depths. Got a lot of love at ISBF did this. I can sure see why.

A beautiful thing.

#Beergasm Number 3!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Part 2

” If you’re lonely, I will call. If you’re poorly, I will send poetry.

I love you. I am the milkman of human kindness. I will leave an extra pint”

(“The Milkman of Human Kindness” – Billy Bragg)

Isn’t it strange how some things just grab you? Strangely, I found myself in tears with this song. It gets me every time!

Many people look at Billy Bragg  and just think of  “that left-wing loony”, the rent-a-mouth who is rolled out every time that the press want a socialist to pass comment on events that they can sneer at. Let’s face it, few in today’s “Labour” Party fit that particular bill! But that view of Billy misses a huge fact. He is one of the greatest songwriters of my generation, in a kind of spartan way, up there with Costello for me.

What it also misses, is some of the great love songs he has written – just listen to “Must I Paint You A Picture” and see what I mean! Delicacy and poise, where all people expect is thrashing guitars and a snarl. It also misses the warmth of a live Bragg performance. Having seen him live on more than a few occasions now, my faith in human nature never fails to be partially restored on exiting the venue. The man gives a shit. And I love him for it. Rant over!

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….this is the format…

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….

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1. Stout – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Stout – £4.20 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

It wasn’t so long ago that I hadn’t heard of Squawk or Oliver Turton, grateful to John Clarke the Sage of South Manchester CAMRA for bringing them to my attention. The first couple, (India Pale Ale & Porter) have been a superb start, so I leapt on this when I saw it on the opening day at BlackEdge Brewery’s excellent new bottle shop! (Read more here)

Black. (No shit!)

Not a massive head, but what there is is tan coloured. Bit worried about this, but needn’t have! The aroma is of a chocolate neither sweet nor overly bitter with an earthiness to it. Full-bodied, the beer has a slight sweetness with chocolate and a slightly bitter coffee note, really smooth and creamy texture with a finishing bitterness which is rather nice! The aftertaste has more of that roasted bitterness with a grassy hop note.  A great beer on a cool spring evening. Another cracking beer from this Manchester brewery!

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2. High TeaRoosters Brewery (Collab with Melissa Cole) (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 6.2% – Jasmine Green Tea IPA – £4.59 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

I read a lot about this Yorkshire brewery and, to be honest, I haven’t had much of their beer and when I have, it has been at the tail end of the evening, when – if I’m honest – the taste buds have been a wee bit over worked (ONE way of putting it!). Following a twitter conversation with David BishopI decided that I needed to give Roosters a try when I’m…err….sober. So…I alighted on High Tea..Jasmine…Melissa Cole…so far so good!

A pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head and a fruity aroma that I’m struggling to identify. Oooh this is nice! Full-bodied and smooth, a bready malt base supports this fruitiness that carries through with the green tea following in line.

The flavour reveals in onion like layers. First the fruitiness, then the tea and then a more floral delicate flavour reveals itself and after every mouthful there’s a drying bitter almost tannic finish with the fruitiness and the tea holding on throughout. If only green tea tasted this good on its own, I’d drink it!

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3. DBA – Cheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4.6& abv – Strong English Ale – £3.59 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Let’s hear it for a good old English ale! Personally, I would call this a strong bitter, a maligned drink in these “C-Word” obsessed times. I love New World hoppage as much as the next drinker, but I am starting to feel like traditional beer styles are being written off – a dangerous thing in my opinion. I love a good creamy Mild and a well executed bitter can be every bit as rewarding as a big IPA. Sod it, it’s all opinion eh? Shane Swindells is adept at many styles, so this was more than worth a dabble…

Mid brown beer with a white head and quite a fruity aroma, hedgerow fruit like damson and plum. Medium bodied, this is really fruity with lots of plum and a hint of blackberry and vine fruits – actually, with hints that are rather reminiscent of Vimto! – leaving a rather curious warming feeling given its relatively light strength. A proper strong English bitter, not something I drink much of these days, but I’d certainly drink THIS again!

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4. Dark Rum – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.6% abv – Porter – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% off 12 or more bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Another gleaned from my recent visit to the new BlackEdge Brewery outlet. A cracking place if you’re near Horwich (or even browsing around at Middlebrook!).

Unsurprisingly black with a light tan head and a chocolate and slightly smoky aroma. Oh yes! First flavour impression was of a treacle toffee, then that the treacle was coated in chocolate, then was soaked in some rum….layered like an onion!

Full-bodied and smooth, the light chocolate carries on through each mouthful but with each, the sweetness of the rum comes through more and more. The finish is quite dry and there is a distinct grassy hoppy aftertaste. Glad I waited for this. Superb. Need another bottle!

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5. Cuckoo Number 6 – Five Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, N Manchester) – 7% abv – US IPA – Swap (330ml) – 0 – Direct from the brewer himself!

I’m immensely proud that (I think) I was the first blogger to review one of the fine beers brewed by Jamie Hancock, ex of Port Street Beer House – now of Beermoth on Tib Street. He has now, commercially, brewed a number of beers in different styles that have met with almost universal acclaim – certainly within my earshot anyway! With a little investment in larger brew kit, he’ll be going far.And soon! You heard it here 41st!

I was gutted that I couldn’t make his Keg launch on Wednesday of a variant of his excellent Smoked Stout, I don’t say that lightly either. I was therefore forced into the welcoming embrace of this beer….. which was…

Deep gold with a lasting white head and an aroma with Lemon and maybe Apricot. OOH! Big dirty hoppage in here!

Big body with some jaffa cake marmalade sweetness immediately pounced on and wrestled to the ground by resinous hops! Fruity with orange and apricot in the bitterness, this is a full on flavoured beer, but again, really smooth and easy drinking.

Each beer Jamie makes just gets better and better. The finish is fruity and dry with that resinous afterteaste lurking in the shadows. A superb beer!

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6. 300Five Towns Brewery /North Riding Brewpub (Wakefield/Scarborough) – 7.3% abv – DIPA – £0 – 0% – Direct from the brewery

I’ve liked the beers made by Malcolm Bastow from the first sip. This man can brew on that 2.5 barrel kit in his “shed”. Beers from 2.9% to an Imperial Stout, all fabulous. Why pubs and shops over this side of the hill aren’t knocking down his door still phases me, only Allgates seem to have got the message about his beers. Wigan drinkers are lucky sods and there’s another 4 casks over here for The Road To Wigan Beer next week! If I had a shop or pub….. And don’t get me started about the tremendous beers made by Stuart Neilson  at his Scarborough brewpub!

Bright and pale gold with a nice white head and a huge mango aroma, really fruity, making my mouth water!

Really full-bodied. There’s plenty of bready malt lending a slight sweetness supporting a massively fruity hop charge, oh but this is HOPPY!  With bucket loads of mango dancing around my mouth, it was coated with a tropical fruity goodness. Mouthful after fruity mouthful!

This merits a #Beergasm and no mistake! A gentle, barely perceptible bitterness among the fruity hop assault leads to a  pine and big grassy finish. An absolute belter up there with any DIPA I’ve had.

“Let’s Give Them Something To Drink” Indeed!

A really strong batch of beers this week, but this is probably the best bottle I’ve had so far this year – and THAT is saying something!

Right then…I’m off for a cold shower!

On that note…’til next time…(The Road To Wigan Beer next week – on the bus!!!)

Slainte!

P.S. Given the recent excellent blogging efforts of  Glenn Johnson on Weight Loss whilst still drinking and the continuing excellence of Paddy McGrath, I have been shamed into following in their rather large footsteps and will henceforth be trying to lose weight whilst drinking excellent beer. At the end of each week’s bottle post I shall not how I’m doing and am doing this by merely curtailing my snacking habits.

Last Monday 07/04/2014, I weighed a ludicrous 17st 12lbs. This morning, I am down to 17st 3lbs. A good start I suppose!

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!)

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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!

 

 

3 Bar Surprise – An Evening in Manchester – 27/03/2014

“He’s cold to the kiss. In ignorance he’s dangerous, in innocence he’s bliss.

And he stalks the night with sonar senses and he holds you tight.

Masturbates the madness in you”

(“Mad Jack” – The Chameleons)

(Live Video courtesy of alkalidocklive – You Tube)

(The video link was a judgement call. The passion of live performance over the sound quality of the album track. Repeated games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide and Live Performance wins every time!)

I know that I’ve mentioned my love of the 3 albums of the first incarnation of The Chameleons, for me, one of the seminal post-punk bands. They reached their creative peak (in my opinion) with their final album, “Strange Times”, ironically, recorded with a major label, Geffen. Songs like “Swamp Thing”, “Tears”, “Soul In Isolation” and the above track “Mad Jack”, when listened to nearly 30 years later have – for me – more than stood the test of time.

Embarrassingly, I must have played my cassette of Strange Times to death and STILL never got the lyrics of “Mad Jack” right! I mean, to young ears, “Masturbates” does sound like “Must have been”, right? What this blog piece has made me do is log on to iTunes and fling some cash the way of Cupertino to download the album. An 80s rock classic. Treat yourself to some passionate lyrics and tight playing!

Now, in a slight diversion from the norm, no bottles today!

1) There’s been 4 bottle posts this month and I don’t want to a) bore you TOO much, and b) A snap decision whilst tilting glass to lips the other evening. A surprising evening!

The aim of this particular Thursday evening mission was to swap some bottles with the legend that is Jamie from Port Street Beer House, who, for those who don’t know, also brews some excellent beers (see previous reviews) under the guise of the “Five Oh Brew Co“. From the moment he ventured to have a chat with a certain ageing nerd holding a Nexus 7, I’ve always got on with Jamie. The bonus is in the fact that he is a top bar keep who knows his stuff (as do all at Port Street) and is damned passionate about beer. So much so, that he stuck his metaphorical head above the brewing parapet and brewed himself. Damned well too.

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So, bottle swaps done, the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) and I settle down to a pint of Pale by the Indy Man Brew House (brewed with the mighty Black Jack).  Living up to name, this was a very pale golden beer at 4%abv with simply LOADS of citrus going on! Tart and refreshing, I was damned pleased I went this route rather than the dark side. This beer would grace any bar and would be an excellent “house beer” should Port Street ever consider one. A gentle fruity bitterness in this light-bodied beer was followed by some drying fruity resinous stuff that just completed the pint nicely. Excellent. I followed this with a pint of Kipling by Thornbridge.

To be upfront, I adore the dark stuff that comes from Bakewell, but the pales? Never quite got the hype myself – not from Thornbridge, but Social Media – nice? Yes, good well made beer. But the purple prose that I have seen seems unjustified in the beers that I have had. Same here with Kipling. A lovely looking pale golden pint with a drool provoking lemony aroma. In the mouth? Just…nice. The fruitiness in the talk didn’t strut enough for me. Maybe I need to recalibrate my expectations. Over a pint of St Petersburg. Now THERE’S a beer!

With a cheery handshake with Mr Hancock and a bagful of bottles (the Nemesis had a few for me too!), we strolled off to the second of a planned 3 stops (well, it WAS a “school night”!)

Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square, Manchester)

I don’t get into Manchester often enough. I certainly don’t get into this hybrid bar/canteen/club often enough. Their beer range improves each time I enter. This evening was NO exception and contained a Manchester brewery I was yet to try on draught!

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(FOUR Dark Beers – Heaven!)

Being a bit of a stickler for all things local (where possible), I was delighted to see Squawk Brewing Porter. Had that and their IPA in bottle and both were superb. With my pub strolling outings becoming decreasingly frequent (not having done a “Hector Rivera” QUITE yet!), I don’t see the new brewers offerings in the wild. Tonight however…

Dark…..Creamy coloured and textured head with a lovely smooth chocolatey aroma. Oooh! More chocolate in this smooth full-bodied beer, some coffee hints too with a nice hoppy finish in with a gentle bitterness. I would have had another, but….my eye was wandering…..decisions decisions…..the angel on my shoulder was saying “stay local”

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(Damn that neon!)

Black Jack – Red Rye Saison was the shout. 7% abv!!! On a school night! Hugely irresponsible, but OH WHAT A BEER! Far too refreshing for a beer of this strength. A little of that yeasty funk, spice and tartness form the rye and as red as David Moyes’ redundancy cheque! Just superb. But a bit stupid! Ah well….tomorrow was another day, eh?

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Comment : Soup Kitchen is getting a wee bit like Joshua Brooks. If this selection continues along the excellent lines of tonight, could well become a “go to” bar for the NQ. Great beers and superb tunes from Mr DJ – good food too so I’m told. The full package then!

Now…..just one more eh Mr Nemesis?

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Twenty Twenty Two (Little Lever Street, Manchester. M1 1EZ)

This is a hard beastie to find. I had been once before, guided by the Arch-Nemesis. From memory, the beer was from Outstanding of Bury (just the one on cask) and they had a superb bottle range. It was the sheer physical “coolness” of the space on a mid-summer afternoon that got me. That temperature drop you get when you go subterranean (see Gaslamp). Abiding memory was of a great art space with nice beer and awesome tunes (“I’ll Take Care of You” Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX stood out)

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Tonight. Upon walking down the steps it was obvious that we had stumbled across something. This place was busier than Port Street, and you don’t say that about many bars midweek!

2 hand pumps on the bar too (along with 4 keg fonts from Outstanding) Nemesis went for the Outstanding whilst I went for TEA by First Chop. First time on draught for me. Amber to brown with a lovely somewhat earthy leafy aroma. Of course! TEA! Duh! Full bodied with good fruitiness and an earthy dry finish. I was possibly hoodwinked by the name into imagining tannins in the brew as there was quite a dryness on the tongue, almost reminiscent of Earl Grey. Worked well for me!

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(TWO TABLE-TENNIS TABLES!!!)

What we had stumbled into was the launch party for “BCN MCR” A design exhibition featuring the best art designers from both Manchester & Barcelona. This cool & trendy crowd had just been invaded by a two-man Dad’s Army! We must have upped the average age by 2 years!

Got to say, being no art connoisseur myself, I really enjoyed wandering around checking out the posters and installations.

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(Manchester weather – in poster form)

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Well. A surprising evening both on the beer front and culturally too.  3 excellent bars and superb beers – and one sluggish old man in the morning!

Anybody fancy a game of ping-pong?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 2 – Manchester, So Much To Answer For

“If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground,

As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight.

Far from home, Elephant Gun let’s take them down one by one….”

(“Elephant Gun” – Beirut)

(Video courtesy of 4AD Records on You Tube)

About 4 years ago, I subscribed to a music download website called E-Music. I’d gotten bored with buying cheap compilations whilst supermarket shopping. Through this website, I rediscovered my love of music but in particular, guitar led music. It was though E-music that I discovered the delights of Spoon (from Austin, Texas), The Decemberists (Portland, Oregon) and Beirut (Albuquerque, New Mexico via New York)

I gleaned from the website that Elephant Gun was a popular track by this band, it was therefore the first that I sampled. I was, quite simply, blown away. Part Mexican marching band, part Eastern European village folk and the most lovely warm and slightly sad voice. That voice is Zach Condon. He is Beirut and played most – if not all – the instruments on that album “Gulag Orkestar”. I was even more flabbergasted when I learned that he wrote most of these songs and arrangements when he was about 16 years old! A young man with an old soul. I love them. The 2nd album “The Flying Club Cup” is more than worth a listen too!

Time for business. The business being beer!

Being a bit of a contrary old git, I hit upon a fantastic idea. Why not write a post about Manchester bottles, whilst firmly ensconced in that there Big Smoke? Yeah, brilliant, until you need to add the weight of 5 bottles and a laptop to the considerable luggage that I was already taking! Silly boy! But, here we are. Never said that I wasn’t an idiot!

Now normally, I do try to post on the E of Eight O’Clock on the Saturday morning (you really can’t beat a bit of morning regularity!), however, my schedule was a bit set back when the hotel “tidied up” the glasses that I brought down from Manchester. They went walkabout for 3 days! Hence, when you view the image for the Elephant Hawk, I was drinking out of tumblers!!! Enough waffling…….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……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. Elephant Hawk IPA – (Collab) Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) & Thirst Class Ale (Richard Conway) – 6.4% abv – IPA– £4.59  – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The inspiration for today’s rather exceptional (IMHO) tune! I’ve met Richard (Jay’s collaborator) on a couple of occasions, nice bloke and another of these devilishly talented members of the Manchester Homebrewing Group. Jay, being an exceptionally talented alechemist himself, has a rather canny knack of choosing excellent collaborators, had he done it again?

An amber (indeed) coloured beer, white head and a big citrus fruit aroma loaded with sharp grapefruit. Then, in the mouth, BOOM! Really full-bodied and fruity with a big caramel biscuit backbone supporting HUGE hops! Hugely piney with more than a hint of apricot to my gob, this is a BIG beer. Gorgeously bitter with and aftertaste that is grassy as hell, big, sticky resins clinging on. A simply superb collaboration! I missed it on cask, but reliable intelligence reports (Arch-Nemesis!) said it was tremendous. I just hope Jay brews it again!

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2. Porter – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Porter– £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“I got a feeling, feeling. You’ve got me rocking and a reeling”! (Sorry, listening to The Four Tops whilst typing!)

Got this as part of a 2 for a £5 offer from Raj, but left this one a while having really enjoyed their IPA. The Darkside was calling the night before I left for London.

A deep ruby brown colour with a thick creamy (texture & colour) head, yielding an aroma including spice and mocha. A full-bodied beer, really smooth and creamy textured, the first flavour that I hit reminded me of chocolate ice cream, then a nice mid strength bitter chocolate with a little choccy caramel sweetness luring you into a quite hoppy and bitter finish. Nice resinous aftertaste too. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Excellent!

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3. Black PortBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.9% abv – Stout – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

Draught cask ale? Loads. But nary a bottle from this Horwich brewer. But bottling commenced before Xmas, I’d just been lazy. The night before I travelled down to reside in this Thames Side hotel for the last week, I hit upon the theme for this blog post, but was missing two Manchester area bottles…..To the rescue came Dan Buck from Great Ale Year! He’s a top bloke!

A black beer (“no shit Sherlock”, I hear you groan!), hugely lively with a massive cream coloured head with a chocolate and slightly sweet boozy note – the Port perhaps? Medium-bodied with initially chocolate in the mouth with some sweetness from the Port coming through. Then my rather defective tastebuds thought they got a sweet touch of strawberry! Later mouthfuls reached the developing big chocolate rounded off by a substantial hoppy character. Well. Defective tastebuds or no, I loved this! More please!

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4. FCB – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.6% abv – Bitter – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I llove Rik Garner’s beers, almost as much as the funky soulful tuneage he blasts out in his DJ sets in his railway arch brewery cum live venue cum nightclub! Keep an eye out for his once a month open nights, they’re superb!

Amber coloured beer with a nice fluffy white head clinging on with an aroma of peach and tangerine with some grassyness. Quite medium bodied for the strength with more hints of peach or nectarine, a little orange and a tiny hint of raspberry, quite a degree of bitterness with a nice pineyness (a word?) to it. The finish is bitter with a crackling resinous pine aftertaste. Another belter. This could develop into a standby beer – my ultimate accolade, as I rarely drink the same beer twice! (But I’m not a ticker. Oh No!)

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5. Dubbel – Tickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 6.5% abv – Belgian-Style Dubbel – £2.89 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another from Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent stall on Bolton Market. I need to visit more and keep up with their expanding range!

A really deep ruby coloured beer with quite a fruity sweet nose with a hint of chocolate. Quite refreshing for such a relatively high abv beer, medium bodied, there is a bit of boiled sweet in this as well as some fruity plum and a little spicyness which becomes more prominent in the aftertaste and the lingering tingle in the gums. I like TB and this was the one beer that I held back on, unsure if I’d like a dubbel – not sure I’ve tried many to be fair, but this is my favourite of their beers so far.

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6. Cuckoo Number 7 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Bergamot & Peppercorn Saison– £4 (500ml) – Prestwich Beer Festival but also (possibly) Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

I first sampled this whan that nice man Darren Turpin (accompanied by the lovely Jo, opened the bottle that he purchased at the Prestwich beer Festival. I really enjoyed the taste that I got, but yearned for a somewhat larger measure. So I bought one!

An effervescent golden beer with a floral aroma and a hint of fruity peach, the head diminishing rapidly. That lovely delicate aroma leads you to a full body and more floral notes (that’ll be the bergamot then!) with more tropical fruit. The slight surprise (which shouldn’t be really!) comes when the gums start to tingle. Ahh…those lovely peppercorns! This beer has it all. A certain Belgian yeastyness, lovely and fruity, delicate bergamot and tingling spice. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!

So there you go. My idiocy in carrying an additional 10 Kilos or so of weight in my luggage is laid bare. All to be a bit perverse and laud Mancunian Beers in “Craft Central”! Was it worth it?

On that note…’til next time…(Notes from my week down here)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 3 (aka Where There’s Smoke….)

Continue reading

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

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“She had an horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beat.
When I looked in her eyes they were blue. but nobody home.
Well she could’ve been a killer if she didn’t walk the way she do and she do.
She opened strange doors that we’d never close again.”

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

Strangely – for someone who regards himself as fairly to moderately shy – I like meeting new people, especially ones who have a particularly strong interest in beer. I met two such at Damian O’Sheas excellent stall at the Urban Market in Salford a few weeks back. They were Dan & Gina Buck and have been selling beers at Farmers Markets for a while now. I was quite excited when I learned that they were planning to open a “Micro Bar” in the semi-arid area that is central Bolton, in the refurbished Market. The centre of Bolton isn’t exactly blessed with bars with great beer (IMO, of course) and Bradshawgate IS a bit of an obstacle course resembling downtown Beirut on a Saturday night, but I’m quite excited about what Dan & Gina have planned.

Unless I have something WAY wrong, the aim is to stock mostly (though not exclusively) local beers with an accent on flavour and quality. I for one can’t wait until the opening day, which, at the moment, is set for the 21st of this month. A diary date indeed! (BTW – The couple tweet – and retail – as @GreatAleYear). I’ll certainly be there enjoying a little “warm up” before the Manchester Beer & Cider Fest the next day!

Anyway, down to business…..

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 – 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. Rednik StoutBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 4.1% abv – Stout – £2.05 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Stout + Buxton Brewery. My favourite style of beer by one of the best breweries in the UK. What can go wrong? Well, nothing! This is a cracker! (And, at the price, a bloody bargain!)

Just as a good Stout should be, opaque (courtesy of Tandleman that one!), black with a creamy tan head that released a distinct lightly sugared mocha aroma. A nice start.

Medium bodied and smooth in the mouth, the initial dark chocolate flavour combining the bitter with subtle sweetness was followed by a smooth milky coffee which mingled with a light smoky note and some tingling spiciness ending up with a bit of a dry hoppy flourish, grassy but not overpowering the roasted malty stuff. The last word I wrote on my notes was “yum!”

As far as low strength Stouts go, this is as good as it gets. Superb.

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2. A Little Lupy (Single Hopped – Galaxy) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj and his growing Whitefield beer selection. I had the Stormy Point collab beer from Shane last month (see here) and was as impressed as I had been when I had it on draught. Having had one or two of his “12 Bar Blues” series before, I was really looking forward to this.

Poured a lovely glowing golden colour with a thin white head which gave up a fruity hop aroma with peach and tangerine sweet citrus to the fore. Medium bodied, this beer is full of sweet citrus with tangerine up front, cut with a little lemon sharpness. Slips down really easily this. A really refreshing and fruity mouthful, gently bitter, leading to a sharp dry finish with a resinous grassy aftertaste in with the fruit. Another absolute belter at a relatively low gravity! I’m led to believe that he may be doing more single hop variants of this beer. I’m keeping an eye out for those, whilst drooling!

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3. Hit The Fairy LightsWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 4.6% abv – (Festive!) Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another one from Raj and, for Weird Beard, I broke my rule of not drinking “festive” beers. I have had some truly appallingly lazy “Xmas” beers and, as a result, usually shun such things. However, having been so impressed by the output from this West London brewery, I made an exception. And I’m glad I did!

Poured a pale gold with a rapidly diminished white head.  First aroma to hit was a fruity orange, then a gentle aniseed/licorice like note. Medium bodied, an initial flavour of soft citrus, maybe satsuma or orange sits on a nice bready malt backbone then, quite surprisingly a sudden resinous dryness hits with a light bitterness. There is Star Anise added to the boil in this which I got more in the aroma than in the mouth. Still, an impressive beer, and for a “Festive” pale ale, this is the best “Xmas” beer i think I’ve had short of a big Stout!

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4. Scary MonstersRevolutions Brewing / Five Towns Brewery (Collab) – 4.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

One of a number of beers I picked up from a visit last week to Adrian & Vicky’s Snaith emporium, including 2 more with a David Bowie theme from Five Towns (must be fans those Bastows!). Being a fan of Black IPAs, this was the first I reached for.

There is a pale twin of this beer – Super Creeps – but unfortunately, I missed it. Gutted! Being from TWO of my favourite breweries – Oh I know how this is going to go!

A really deep ruby coloured beer, would be almost black without being held up to the light. As soon as I opened this lively bottle, I was hit with a big citrus aroma (and my nose was a foot from the bottle!) Aromas shooting from the glass include tangerine and peach. Another medium bodied beer this, the first thing that I got was the citrus with those fruity aromas matched in the mouth – peach/nectarine and tangerine. This is immediately followed by a bitter note with perhaps licorice and bitter chocolate. The next layer was a tongue curling dry grassyness with some great late revealing hoppage. I don’t want this beer to end! Just brilliant – and unfortunately limited to 700 bottles I believe.

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

Now, for two start-ups! One a shop/micro bar – opening soon! The other……a World first review for a new brewery!

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5. Gamma Ray – Beavertown Brewery – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – or soon to be!)

I was ashamed to say that, until the Beavertown MTB at Port Street last year, I hadn’t had any of their beers. I went to the MTB purely on the recommendations of two people whose good taste I trust implicitly, Jeff & Jaz (See what I did there!). The beers were universally superb and the first that I had that evening, was this, on keg. I loved it,

When Dan from Great Ale Year Round said that he had some for launch day, I got in early!

Hazy gold, light white head clinging to the glass, the initial aroma was a lovely sweet mango with maybe just a hint of tart grapefruit in the background.

Smooth as a freshly ironed smooth thing in the mouth, more fruity mango, slightly sweet and biscuity backbone leading to a dry herbal hoppy finish. Each mouthful is just SO smooth, I could almost forget that it was bottled! So fruity yet so dry and grassy. Damn, why have I waited for so long to buy some of these? (Got an 8 Ball and a Smog Rocket lined up too. Lucky me!)

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6. Cuckoo Number 2Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – IPA – £4 (330ml) – Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

“Drum roll please!” – I do believe that this may be the first review of a beer by this fledgling brewer. I feel quite honoured at that! And quite daunted. Ah bollocks to the wittering!

I picked up on this brewer on Twitter the other day and made some enquiries. I swiftly realised that his beers were limited in availability and currently retail in only one location. Cuckoo on Bury New Road in Prestwich. Being the excitable type, myself and the ever lovely Atilla popped up to snaffle one for review. And at £4 for a 7% beer, from a bar, I was made up with the price! I think we’ll be back. Atilla liked the look (and smell) of the food! Busy bar, nice friendly staff. No draught ales, but Brightside & this brewer in bottle. Good enough for me!

However, it’s all about the beer. Is it any good? Damn right it is!

Starting with the bottle. No branding, just a tag, dangling like a cigarette from Alain Delon’s lips. Minimalist and damn classy! (I’m sure the brewer wouldn’t agree!). reminded me a touch of Bad Seed in that respect, with that hanging tag. But THE DAMN BEER! Oh….OK….

Amber coloured with a light white fluffy head and a lovely big citrus aroma (hopped with Warrior, Columbus & Citra) with deep grapefruit tones and a background note of toffee. A full-bodied beer with initial big grapefruit flavours mellowing in the swallow to more of a peachy tone, then it warmly slides down the throat, caressing your insides like an internal fleecy blanket. Then you breathe after the swallow and the resinous pine floods into the mouth like a wave on a beach. The finish is simultaneously fruity and dry with a more gentle resinous note hanging around like a barfly.

An impressive first beer for me from this brewer. I was lucky enough to also pick up a Smoky Stout from the brewer himself which I’ll let settle and have next week. If it’s anywhere near as good as this, you’ll be hearing about it!

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!