London – April 2015 – Long Time No See

It had been over a year since the last time I had been drinking in the The Big City. Last March in fact (getting tipsy on boats doesn’t QUITE count!), so when the opportunity arose for a 3 day stay, I grabbed it – though somewhat reluctantly.

Reluctantly?

I guess I am a “home bird”. I am also becoming a bit of a professional Northerner, in that – especially where beer is concerned – I don’t feel that we need to doff the cap any more. Some Northern breweries (in my humble…..) easily brew beers that can match – if not better – their Southern brewing brothers and sisters. Yes, I am biased, something which I freely admit.

However, what London DOES have, is some outstanding pubs, the like of which that Manchester (for instance) simply doesn’t have. So what’s an aging boy to do eh? With a couple of evenings to kill. And an Oystercard.

Yup.

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The Cock Tavern (Mare Street, Hackney – approx 100 Yds from Hackney Central Overground Stn)

According to various sources, there may have been a pub on this site since the early 18th century. However, the current premises was rebuilt by Truman’s Brewery in the 1930s. Now though, it is the brewery (and tap) of Howling Hops Brewery, a brewery whose beers are bloody hard to find Oop North. Which is a shame. Because they are superb.

This interior of this pub is best summed up as….wood. The pace is stripped back and basic. And it is all the better for it. Stripped back floorboards, old wooden tables, chairs and bench seating and a lovely L shaped bar with a LOT of hand pumps dispensing Howling Hops own beers.  It feels like a place to drink beer. And chat. Which is what I and my buddy did.

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I paid little mind to the ciders (though there were a few) and bypassed the craft keg (7 I think) and focused on the 8 hand pulls featuring 7 of the brewery’s own beers – brewed downstairs. I had 3. Well….It was an early start!

XX Pale 5% – A fruity pale ale hopped with Columbus, Citra, Centennial & Mosaic with predictably lip smacking results.

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Mild 3.3% – A Dark Mild. Because I like Mild. OK? A nice Mild can be a thing of beauty and not the preserve of the 1950s and the beclothed of cap, whippet toting Northerners of old. Again, 4 hopped (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Citra), this was reminiscent of another of my favourites (All Black by Allgates) but was (an oxymoron for a Mild) slightly more assertive – and it’s a relative term. Either way, a highlight for me. You might say “a Mild for non-Mild drinkers” and I wouldn’t argue.

American Brown Ale 4% – Brown. A dose of rye and licorice on the nose and a crackling dry pint. A corker.
And then I looked in the fridge and noticed some of their own bottles. Up North, these are as rare as the droppings of that legendary wooden steed. So I had to. Didn’t I? And if I’m going to bring one back, it might as well be big.
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And it is.
Now then. For those semi-pro Northerners who aren’t in the know. An Oystercard is a godsend. Especially now that TfL have WANGED up the price for a day Travelcard to £12 or more! So, with that in my pocket, I was off back to Hackney Central, change at Highbury & Islington, Victoria Line to Kings X, Northern Line to Kentish Town, then a C2 bus. In reality, only approx 20 or so minutes. And the bus drops you DIRECTLY outside the door of the next premises.
Was it worth it? Oh yes.
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The Southampton Arms (139, Highgate Road, Kentish Town)
This pub just speaks to my soul. Wooden floors, wooden benches, wooden settles. A mahogany bar. A turntable rather than a CD player or streaming service! 12 hand pumps for beer. Several more for real cider. And proper pub grub. By which I mean, Pork Pies. More on that later.
A place that looks like it’s been here forever, this was apparently reborn in about 2009 and was stripped back to reveal all of that lovely wood. Long, but not particularly wide, the bar is long and festooned with all of those lovely handpulls featuring beers from micro breweries far and wide. A gents with access from outside too, an unusual feature. As is the rather lovely old mirror advertising the wares of the original Lacons Brewery.
It was busy, but we grabbed a table. I reached the bar and started to scan. But my eyes froze and my back leg rose like the tail of a Pointer.
Hobsons Mild. I drink it wherever I find it. It’s quite simply the best brown Mild that I’ve ever had. Refreshing and nutty. And light, at 3.2%. And utterly delicious. As was the 1/2 of Pork, Chicken & Stuffing pie. A steal at £3.60
Now, the Hobsons aside, I am (by nature) a kind of “When in Rome” kind of fella. Therefore, with my predilection for dark beers, the next choice was fairly simple.
Dissident Porter from Gipsy Hill Brewing (West Norwood, SW London) was 4.8%. And Dark. And so damn moreish. First beer from this brewery. Roasted, chocolatey, smooth and Oh. So. Drinkable. I’ll be looking out for this brewery again. excellent beer.
Food was necessary at this point. So we headed back into the city and Holborn via Northern Line to Kings X and Piccadilly Line to Holborn.
Fish, chips & peas with bread & butter and a mug of tea for £10. In London? The joy that is The Fryers Delight on Theobalds Road. A basic caff with excellent grub. And close to the next pub!
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The Lamb (94, Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury)
The Lamb. A Young’s pub. Yet not as it was.
Last time I came in was 10 years ago. The day after the tube bombings. I still have the memory of walking past the destroyed bus at Tavistock Square. Some things never leave you.
Happier times though. The last time I came in, they only sold Young’s beers. So it was a nice surprise to see 2 from Sambrook and a beer (apparently brewed for the pub) from Redemption. Which I had to try. The Bloomsbury Blend was a bit of a surprise, in that it was a nicely flavoured mid-strength bitter, but lacked the assertiveness of some of their other beers that I have had. Nice enough though
Lamb bar
(Nicked from the Young’s Website)
The Lamb is one of those pubs that just HAVE to be visited. It is a Victorian symphony in wood. A beautiful – almost circular – bar with the snob screens being a unique feature to my eyes (those little windows open above the bar – top left of pic) – designed so that bar staff needn’t meet the gaze of Victorian customers.
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(All mine this one!)
The pub is, quite simply, a Grade 2 listed gem. Built (acc to Historic England) probably early 18th Century, it may lack the buzzy kudos od some of the craft bars locally, but it takes some beating as a simply beautiful pub.
All of that travelling, on tube, bus and train? £6.40. What’s the word? Bargain.
Next evening, a little less trekking was in order, Victoria line to Euston, then Northern Line to Old Street. Quality beer and food were sought. We were not to be disappointed.
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The Old Fountain (Baldwin Street, EC1 – 3 mins from Old Street tube, City Rd Exit)
This has been a decent beer gaff as far back as I’ve been coming to London. A “cut” pub, in that there is another entrance on Peerless Street, Baldwin Street is directly off City Rd (A501) just to the north of Old Street.
Again, wood is the thing. Lots of it. Sources date this place to about the mid 18th century and it does have the feel of an old ale house about it. And it was bloody busy. With no tables available. And a lovely menu taunting us!
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A slightly limp pint of Jarl was dealt with, then a table located, luckily. A zinging pint of Oakham Citra accompanied by a HUGE home-made (and slightly runny) Scotch Egg more than made up for the Jarl! The Citra was all that one of the best pale ales in the country should be. Sharp, clean and massively refreshing.
The house burger was huge and (after the Scotch Egg) just too much. The chips were excellent too.
The pub lists 18 constantly rotating beers on cask and keg. And it was a keg font that caught my eye. From my favourite London brewery. And a beer I hadn’t yet had.
London SmokeFive Points Brew Co (Hackney) was SO unctuous! Smooth like an oil slick. Bitter chocolate, root licorice and just the right hint of smoke. Just a bloody superb beer. From a brewery that don’t muck about, take their time and just get the beers right. 7.8% abv was just about right.
Then. That rare thing in London. A walk.
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The Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, off Clerkenwell Road)
Walking along Britton Street and entering The Jerusalem, you wouldn’t think that you were only 1 minute away from the recently redeveloped Farringdon tube station! It’s like stepping into the 19th century.
The building dates from the early 18th Century with its conversion to a pub probably a century later. The pub has a bit of history itself, best read here.
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I’ve always felt that this place had the feel of a 17th century coffee-house, it feels unique and I, for one, have never been in a pub quite like it, And I have introduced many of my colleagues to its charms. All have adored it.
It. Is, Small. And can probably handle only about 60 people at most, with punters frequently spilling out from the front and side.
It is owned and run by St Peters Brewery of Bungay in Suffolk. I think that they only have two pubs and the other is a brewery tap. Whatever, it is one hell of a spot and gets busy with an after work city crowd. And rightly so.
In here, I could look no further than the Old Style Porter. Just a beautiful smooth, dark and lusciously roasted beer, with the merest hint of sweetness. It is, quite simply, one of the best porters that I’ve ever had. Moreish in the extreme. I had two. I should have picked up a bottle of Honey Porter too. But I have a memory like Emmental.
Going home the next evening after work, we had an hour or two to kill. Now then, I love the Euston Tap as much as anybody, but the range of breweries just….doesn’t really seem to change much. There never seems anything to excite me. Great beer, granted. But sometimes, I just want something that feels a little bit more, you know….pub like. So I went on a 90 second hike from the front of Euston Station.
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The Bree Louise (Coburg Street, Euston)
If the planners for the HS2 rail link get their way, this pub will be vapourised, obliterated from the map. Some might say “meh”. Me? I like this place. A lot. It has a soul that some nearby places lack. We came here for food and a pint (or 4) and were disappointed by neither,
The pub itself is of the “street corner” type that is sadly missing from my home city. It isn’t huge. And has a chaotic feeling when full of commuters hunting a pint. But the staff are friendly and efficient (incident about a late delivered meal to my mate aside!) and there is a LOAD of cask ale, Probably about 18 on the go.
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Now this amount of beer can lead to the odd dud. That is simply unavoidable, save reducing the number of beers. \But as long as they replace a lame pint, that is fine. I had one. And they replaced it without fuss. Brownie points.
COne of the endearing things about this place is the stillage dispense, a rarity in city centres (Yes, I DO know 57 Thomas Street, but that in itself is an oddity) and to look at the bar, you might struggle to make out what beers are on. Which is where the 42 inch screen comes in with a rotating view of beers separated into hand pulled, gravity and keg. A nice touch.
Now this particular evening was noted as a Tap Takeover by Hogs Back Brewery. Not a fan, so I focused on the other 60% of beers on offer. In order, these were :
  • HopHeadDarkStar – Predictable excellence. Pale hoppy and bitter. A refresher.
  • ConquerorWindsor & Eton – The epitome of a Black IPA for me. Bitter, roasted coffee and big citrus bite.
  • Slovenian DreamDownton Brewery – Now this was so pale that I had it as a Pilsner with a nice gentle floral hop character. The brewery has it as a Pale Ale. Works either way. But a Pilsner for me.
  • Wolf of the WoodsTwickenham Brewery – The pick of the bunch. Amber coloured with a chocolatey malt flavour and a good dose of bitterness. A fine beer.

And that was that. Other than a 45 minute delay at Euston. A further 45 minute delay on the train. The train for Bolton turning into a bus replacement service and the A666 turn off on the M61 being closed. I got home at midnight. Knackered.

London, you wore me out. With the admirable assistance of Virgin Rail & its Northern Rail counterpart. Renationalise the lot of them.

That’s all until next time….

Slainte!

A New Bar For Bolton – Great Ale Year Round

Great Ale Year Round

A couple of months ago – just about the time that my dear friend Gerry floated the idea of a Beer Festival – I took her and her partner (my good friend) Paul to Damian O’Shea’s stall at Urban Market on what was the old site of Victoria Bus Station. A young couple were standing close to the stall and Damian introduced us saying, “You might want to meet these people, they’re opening a bar in Bolton”! My attention being now absolute and undivided, I was introduced to Dan & Gina Buck. We chatted for a short while and I got the distinct impression that they liked good beer.

The plans were to open a bar in the refurbished Market Hall and a brief chat with Dan &  Gina told me that there would be an emphasis on local beers with some more foreign stuff (ie : from South of Crewe) in too, but only good stuff! I was really heartened because, to be fair, Bolton is hardly rammed with great places to drink. Yeah the Sweet Green is OK, Wetherspoons (currently OFF my radar) and Barristers are OK and the Dog & Partridge has a decent pint, but Bradshawgate of a weekend evening resembles mid 80s Beirut! Consequently, when I go out, I head south towards Salford & Manchester. Bright lights, big cities and all that….

The Bucks had been posting teaser pics on Facebook showing how the venue was coming along, which made me all the keener to get in and give it a road test. So. What is it like?

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The bar was originally supposed to open on 14th February (the date that the Hall officially opens I think), but, having brought THEIR opening forward, my good buddy Colin & I strode into the Market. The first thing to notice is the large seating area just outside the bar, loads of space which will be filled once the planned food vendors move in. A really nice space, the Market will do well here.

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(Great bottle selection)

The bar is fairly small (well, it IS a Micro Bar!) with firkins on stillage behind. The bar and a few bar stools take up one half of the space with a couple of small tables and the bottle shelves and fridge taking up the other half. Speaking of bottles….

With a selection from the likes of Brightside, Quantum, First Chop, Tickety Brew, Cheshire Brewhouse to name the locals, plus offerings from London luminaries such as Beavertown and Five Points, the UK selection is impressive. Add to that 3 from Brooklyn, some Sierra Nevada, Jever, some Timmermans fruit beers AND Cider from local producers Red Bank, the choices are superb. (We tried a drop of the Red Bank “Rum” Cider and it was lovely & smooth!)

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There are currently 2 cask conditioned beers which Dan informs me will be constantly rotated. The two on offer today were Solstice from Brightside of Radcliffe (a Golden Ale at 4.5% abv) and Dark Revenge from Manchester’s Privateer Beers (a 4.5% abv mild). It’s fair to say that both were on absolutely CRACKING form!

Having had Dark Revenge previously on several occasions (I adore it!), I opted first for the Brightside. A beautiful clear pale gold with a fabulous fruity aroma, this was superbly refreshing and citrussy with just the right amount of biscuity malt for balance. I didn’t want the glass to empty! next up was the Dark Revenge. The name kind of gives away the complexion of this beer. I asked to pull this and made a complete “dog’s” of it. But what I couldn’t spoil was the taste. A lovely creamy dark roasty thing of a beer with smooth chocolate, the merest hint of coffee and a lovely dry finish. Superb.

Needless to say, Colin & I hung around for a couple more and chatted awhile with punters and Dan & Gina. Nice to see Paddy & Rachel (Rachel for the first time) and have a wee chat whilst Paddy selected some excellent bottles – a man of taste! Two excellent bloggers (click the hyperlinks!)

It was nice to hear that the first day had been busy. Given the efforts that I know that Dan & Gina had put in, deservedly so. As further food and drink units open up, it can only go from strength to…er….strength! I hope so, because this place gives Bolton somewhere nice and relaxed to have an excellent beer – and the best bottled beer selection in a bar for MILES around.

Immediate plans are to have some “Meet The Brewer” type events with the likes of Brightside, Privateer & First Chop. Excellent local brewers more than worth a listen. I’ll be going for sure! Another – more imminent – arrival will be a lager font, the lager being the excellent German Paulaner (beloved of Manchester Xmas Markets!) and at some point shortly perhaps, a 3rd hand-pump allowing the range to increase. Here’s hoping!

Saying our goodbyes, both Colin & I agreed that Dan & Gina had done a cracking job and we can’t wait to go back.

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

My Golden Pints 2013

Golden Pints Logo(Bloody Conformist!)

15 1/2 months ago, I decided that there weren’t enough people talking bollocks about beer, so I decided to join them by talking even MORE bollocks about it! What have I learned in that time?

1. That people LOVE talking bollocks about beer in even greater numbers than 15 1/2 months ago, and

2. That there are some lovely people in that number.

Last year, I just listed my favourite draught (NOT DRAFT!!!!) and bottled beers, because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I thought I would expend more words by following the acknowledged format! So, at 06:00 on Monday 23/12/2013, here goes….

  • Best UK Cask beerAllgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Yes Tyson, you guessed correctly! Simply the best Stout I think I have ever tasted. Can I be accused of bias because (along with Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound) I helped to brew it (well, stir the mash and shovel out the Mash Tun!), yes I can. Am I? No. I double checked on numerous occasions with my Jiminy Cricket (Jaz, the “Arch-Nemesis’) and he agreed and he’s NOT biased. A gloriously roasted, bitter, hoppy and luxuriously smooth alchemical concoction nursed to glorious fruition by Jonathan Provost, David Mayhall and the guys at Allgates. My proudest moment of the last 14 years. Thank you. (Honourable Mentions – Buxton Brewery – Imperial Black. Simply astonishingly good one night at Port Street, and Weird Beard – Black Perle. At 3.5%, simply WOW. A gorgeous Coffee Milk Stout at the strength)
  • Best UK Keg Beer – Ilkley BreweryDinner Ale – Unlike the vast majority of the beery blogosphere, I am not particularly well-travelled. My drinking has been pretty much limited to the North and – in particular – to cask conditioned and bottled beers. However, thanks to the miracles of Beer Festivals and the mighty Port Street Beer House, I have managed to sample a number of UK kegged beers, some absolute crackers among them. However, the one that stood out was Dinner Ale at the Leeds International Beer Festival. The most zingy and refreshing keg beer I’ve had all year. Refreshing is a quality that is seriously underrated.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerRevolutions BrewingManifesto – Creamy, luxurious, bitter chocolate, espresso, smoky, warming. Simply a classy strong Stout brewed without fanfare and just damn great. I love it and I love Revolutions Music & Beer ethos. Short and sweet (for a change!) (Honourable mention to Weird Beard – Decadence Stout. Bloody gorgeous bitter and hoppy Stout)
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer – Brouwerij Emelisse – Imperial Stout (Sorachi Ace) – Bought by the arch-nemesis at The Marble Arch at the end of a refreshing evening. Vinous yet delicate. Brutal yet gentle. I was astonished at the delicate flavours of this beer. Light and floral yet with all the heft of an Impy Stout. Do I have a clue what I’m talking about? Probably not, but I enjoyed it hugely.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Not really my bag….Next!
  • Best Collaboration Brew – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – For the reasons above stated. It was a Collaboration and the best beer I have had this year, therefore….
  • Best Overall Beer – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout  – By definition….
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelWeird Beard – Just superb design which would fail utterly if it wasn’t backed up by a consistently superb product. “Follow The Beard” indeed…..(Honourable mention to Bad Seed Brewery – Just minimal and classy)
  • Best UK BreweryAllgates Brewery – From my first sip of All Black Mild, I fell in love. Simply great drinkable beer. Consistently tasty, consistently excellent and immensely good value . Beer brewed without compromise but with that sometimes elusive quality. Sheer drinkability. Another underrated quality. (HUGE Honourable mentions to Five Towns, Mallinsons, Revolutions (all Yorkshire), Quantum & Wilson Potter from whom I’ve always drunk exceptional beer)
  • Best Overseas Brewery – I envy others better travelled than I. No Opinion.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – Bad Seed Brewery – Given that many of the beers I have drunk this year are from breweries new to me, I COULD have cheated. However, Bad Seed launched this year and whilst I have had nothing on draught by them, their bottles have been nothing short of first-rate. Chuffed to bits that they seem to be getting wide distribution. Let’s have something from them on cask in 2014! (HM to Five Points – All 3 beers being superb)
  • Pub/Bar of the Year – I’m going to cheat. I’m going for a bar AND a pub. BarJoshua Brooks (Manchester) – I could easily give this to Port Street Beer House. Many would and justifiably so. But I am contrary. I LOVE Joshua Brooks. Yes its a big old space. But it ticks loads of my boxes. Comfy seating, great tunes, friendly staff and a simply fabulous beer selection (recently upped to 8 handpulls I believe). And also the best damn value in Manchester on a Friday night. £2.70 a pint! For cracking cask conditioned ales from the greatest and the best breweries in the UK.  Pub Hare & Hounds (Hindley, Wigan) – The local I never had. Just a humble local boozer (Allgates) with a real fire, a dartboard, friendly locals and a landlady and landlord (Nigel & Adele) who keep an excellent pint and a friendly welcome. I just feel at home here and that’s what a good pub should be about. (Wigan CAMRA branch. Sort yourselves out and get this pub into the GBG. A travesty!)
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013Pie & Ale by Bakerie (Manchester) – A tad expensive on occasion perhaps, but great beer (mostly local) selection kept well. A great bar, deservedly popular (great pies too!)
  • Beer Festival of The Year – I was going to go for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer which was, quite simply, the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on this year and introduced me to breweries I’ve seen nowhere else (Bexar County Brew anyone?) and the bus journey was something to behold. If it runs again (the bus) you simply must try and get on it! However, I’m going to go all soft and go for IndyManBeerCon. Fabulous location, great beer, excellent entertainment. Met some lovely people and enjoyed the festival hugely. Yes, I had some issues, which I hope have been taken on board, but they shouldn’t (and don’t) detract from what was a great feat. More breweries for 2014 please!
  • Supermarket of the YearBooths. Knocks everyone else in the North into a cocked hat. Including Waitrose,
  • Independent Retailer of the Year – Yorkshire Ales – Probably the most difficult category to call for me. I genuinely agonised over this. There are some truly excellent retailers over this side of the hill, Damian O’Shea (Ale Man Manchester), Beermoth, The Liquor Shop as well as the Bierhuis in Ossett. Honourable mentions to all. BUT. Adrian & Vicky Pettit have a lovely little shop in Snaith with an emphasis on local produce. It’s this local ethos that swings it for me, They’re damn nice people too.
  • Online Retailer of the Year – I’m lucky. I shop local and in person. No Opinion.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine Opening Times (South Manchester CAMRA)- From Pub Curmudgeon to Stagger, just a great read.
  • Best Beer Blog or WebsiteGlenn Johnson’s blog. – Neither flash nor fancy. Just descriptions good beer (mostly!) in pubs that I’d love to go in, in places I’m unlikely to visit. Whilst I’m spoilt in Greater Manchester, I’m still jealous. (HMs to David Mayhall (his evisceration of Brew Dog “Equity For Punks” being the single most retweeted RT I’ve put out!) Nathaniel Southwood who manages the feat of being informative whilst making me chuckle repeatedly, Tandleman & Tyson I doff my cap to both! I wish I wrote as well as all of these fellas)
  • Best Beer AppPerfect Pint. Tells me what beer is currently on in my favourite pubs. Works for me!
  • Simon Johnson Award For Best Beer Twitterer – The mighty Nathaniel Southwood. Smart, opinionated, witty, frequently ranting. Always spot on. (HM to JazzyJollyJaunt without whose inspiration (and tolerance!) I wouldn’t be doing this. Thank you.)
  • Best Brewery Website/Social Media Weird Beard
  • Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – Black Country Pork Scratchings and Hobsons Twisted Spire at the River & Rail in Hampton Loade on the banks of the Severn. Time and place. I am a rather simple soul!

Well. That’s it from me. There’s a lot of good beer out there. Let’s hope for even more in 2014. Have a great festive season.

Slainte!

The Heart of Darkness – Warming Beers For Winter (a.k.a. Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 3!)

1385318340020(A small – yet perfectly formed – haul from @TheAleManMcr, coming soon to a publication near you!)

If you have followed my sozzled ramblings for any length of time, you’ll know that my heart is – generally – given over to the darker side of beer. In winter, that becomes even more so. The only variation is that Milds tend to be pushed slightly aside whilst I reach for those heavier, more potent and maltier brews, Porters, Stouts and their steroid abusing children, Imperial Stouts.

There really is something that warms the cockles and makes me feel seasonal about these (mostly) black beers. Maybe it’s the roasted malt, perhaps it’s the chocolate or maybe (in more extreme cases) it’s just the bloody alcohol! Whatever it is, when the chill winds start to blow, it’s for these magnificent roasty wee beasties that I yearn.

Whilst I was thinking of committing my darker thoughts to a blog post, a blogger that I follow (Glenn Johnson) got in first, read his posts here. Whilst reading it, I gathered my thoughts and rooted through the stash. I had been storing a few just for this time of year and it was time to break them out! Spoiler alert though, a beer in this list that is likely to finish in my Top 3 bottles. Dark beers, who’d have thought!!!

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… We’ll do this one, in ascending order of ABV shall we?

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1. Railway PorterFive Points Brewing Co (Hackney, E. London) – 4.8% abv – Porter – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market – Greengate, Salford)

I like Five Points beers. Starting commercial brewing only 8 months ago in Hackney, they came to my attention on a visit to Damian O’Shea’s stall, which was then at Castlefield Market (He does a few now, including – this weekend – at Spinningfields in Manchester, go say Hello!). First beer I tried was a trial brew of a Red Rye ale (Which I think may have become their “Hook Island Red”), it was superb. The Pale Ale soon followed, easily as good. Now I’ve been waiting to try this, having recently had an exceptional (cask conditioned) pint at Font in Chorlton recently.

A black beer with a lovely creamy tan head and a chocolate & coffee aroma. A lovely smooth, creamy, full-bodied mouthful, initially smooth and chocolaty, then  a bitter chocolate hit and then a lovely and slightly bitter roasted coffee leading to a nice earthy bitterness. The chocolate and coffee merge into a smooth mocha which slouched awhile in the aftertaste. Easily as good as on cask. Lovely.

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2. Manifesto – Revolutions Brew Co (Castleford, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – Stout – Mixed case (500ml) – Direct from the Brewers

I know that I reviewed this beer earlier this year, but another review seemed inevitable when I discovered this buried in the stash. And ’tis the season……..

Black as sin with a tan coloured head and a dark chocolate and slightly smoky roasted aroma. Full bodied and creamily smooth , with firstly, dark and seductive bitter chocolate, then overlaid with a  lively espresso, then a light smoky note. Very dry and bitter with the smokiness intensifying and a warming feeling with maybe a rum note. Just the beer for a cold winters evening  in a nice cosy Manchester pub. This is simply a bloody delightful stout. Possibly the best I’ve had in bottle.

I have just noticed that Revolutions have a batch ready in cask. Come ON Manchester! There HAS to be a pub to bring some over here!!!
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3. Mud City StoutSadlers Ales (Stourbridge, W Midlands) – 6.6% abv – Stout – £1.49 (500ml) – Home Bargains, Farnworth

Now and again, you can come across some absolute BARGAINS in “bargain” shops. For instance, B&M Bargains stock Citra by Oakham at £1.79, however, when I saw THIS puppy at THAT price Atilla got more in the trolley than she bargained for!

A really deep ruby coloured beer that was as close to black as it could be with another tan cream head but with an aroma reminding me of molasses and dark rum with a sweet vanilla note. Full-bodied and creamy smooth. A little sweetish vanilla upfront more than balanced with a following bitter chocolate and cocoa flavour that followed and blended with it and gave a nice slight warmth. A big malty beer this, comforting with that vanilla sweetness and big chocolate flavours leading to a gentle bitter finish. Really impressive, shame I have never seen it on draught.

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4. Ola Dubh 16 – Harviestoun Brewery (Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland) – 8% abv – Whisky Barrel-Aged Porter – Mixed Case – Mail Order from the Brewery

One that has been left for a while this. Part of a Fathers Day gift from my youngest 2 kids, I was chuffed to bits when it arrived, the pack included two each of this, Ola Dubh 12, & 18 , Engineers Reserve and 4 Old Engine Oil. Dark paradise!

Based on Old Engine Oil, one of my favourite Porters. Poured black with a creamy tan head and an aroma mingling dark chocolate, leather and fresh tobacco. Really full-bodied with chocolate, a swish of peaty whisky and a distinctive nutty note that brought to mind brazil nuts (my favourite!) and a lightly burnt buttered toast. The finish was nutty and smoky lifted slightly with some grassy herby notes. My notes finished with the words “bloody lovely stuff”. Just about sums it up!

My arch-nemesis tells me (whenever I mention this beer) that he has been privileged to have this beer in cask conditioned form. You could REALLY fall out with someone!

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5. Smoked Imperial Treacle StoutQuantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 9.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £5.15 –  (500ml)The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collaboration beer with the crew behind The IndyManBeerCon that was available cask conditioned at that festival. I had my first taste there and it was simply stunning. Treacly, gooey, bitter, fruity…it was a siren of a beer and it well and truly had me smashed upon its rocks! I was surprised to hear of it in bottled form, thinking (mistakenly, obviously) that it was a festival “one-off”. Glad it’s not!

I thank Raj at The Liquor Shop for stashing a couple for me (BTW – Bear in mind that Raj discounts 10% for 12 and 15% for 24 bottles). A pitch black beer with a beige head and a gentle smoked aroma mixed with something more delicate, yet elusive, a floral character perhaps. In the mouth though….Ooooohhhh! Wasn’t sure if Jay had brewed this or if it was refined, it was THAT viscous! Dark chocolate, burnt toffee and warming port wine were my first notes, then a building smokiness with that floral note coming through in the mouth as well as well as a woody note. Really warming beer with a surprisingly resinous finish cutting through. With 5 different hops and 8 (EIGHT) different malts, this is a BIG beer. It’s also bloody brilliant. A dark monster from the evil genius that is Mr Jay Krause!

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6. WildebeestThe Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 11% abv – Imperial Stout – £8 (330ml) – The Colston Yard (Bristol) (Try Beermoth in Manchester)

This had been stashed since July, when I found myself in Bristol on a training course. Stashed for cold nights like these.

No light comes from this beer, it’s like a boozy black hole. What tan coloured head that there was quickly dissipated but it had a big espresso aroma with a hint of sweet vanilla. Described as an Imperial Espresso Chocolate Vanilla Stout. In that respect, this is a Ronseal beer as it gives you loads of those flavours. In the first oily mouthful I could get each of those tastes. Dense, oily and sticky with bitter espresso and chocolate and something a little fruitier, maybe a hint of blackberry. This was a lovely warming sleeping draught of a beer with a surprisingly big grassy bitter finish. Warning. NOT one to have as the first beer of the evening!

Well, that’s it for now…maybe some paler beers next!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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Well. That’s that. IndyManBeerCon is over for another year. Anybody still hung over? Thought so! This year, I worked two sessions earning two tickets for sessions to drink at. With the one minor quibble (re Volunteering – more later….) I had an absolute blast. Judging by the semi-orgasmic commentary on Twitter, you lot did too! Many couldn’t get there owing to not buying tickets early enough. Lesson learned eh?

Anyway – I’m not the best at waxing lyrical, I’ll leave the floral purple prose to others better qualified. I’ll just talk my usual bollocks!

I’ve already given you my thoughts on the first set-up session and Thursday, so I’ll cut to the chase…..

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

I got there a couple of minutes late. I hate being late! Got let in by the ever genial Duncan (looking mildly stressed) and entered the Volunteers Room to be given our “Pre-Match” talk. I’ll communicate my thoughts directly I think!

After that, I was behind the bar in Room 3 and, to be honest, had a fantastic time. The volunteers were fun and professional. Matt was a genial and efficient Manager and the brewers in our room were great. We had Kees Bubberman from Emelisse, Colin Stronge from Buxton, Jon from Arbor of Bristol and Jeff Rosenmeier from Lovibonds. The volunteers all enjoyed the graft and working with Bex was an absolute blast!

A quick sampling of those beers that I didn’t know and I was able to advise if asked. And we all were. The customers were, universally, friendly and knew what they wanted and, more to the point, enjoyed the beers. It was easy to identify a few favourites though. If I had a £ for each time I was asked for a Buxton Tea Saison!!! The Emelisse Innovations 25 proved popular also and I recommended it to people wanting something a little lighter. This 2.5% beer seemed to confound a few. The punters LOVED it, but most seemed to think it was a 6 or 7% beer. Certainly full of hoppy flavour for a beer at 2.5%!

From the serving of the 1st beer to putting the final glass in the glass wash tray, it was such fun. But no more volunteering. Next year, I’ll just be a paying punter and appreciate all the hard work that the volunteers and staff do – from the OTHER side of the bar!

Saturday

An early start. Met up with The Arch-Nemesis for swift couple at the ever excellent Joshua Brooks. The Five Points Brewery Pale Ale being in exceptionally good nick. A 4.4% burst of citrus fruit bitterness, dry refreshing and damned moreish! A personal favourite and a steal at £2.60!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

Quite busy on entry. A quick scan of the bar revealed a suitable candidate to start….

Citra by Brodies Brewery from Room 2. At 3.1% abv, hazy gold with a piney and grapefruit nose. Light bodied and refreshing with kiwi fruit and some more resinous pine. Refreshing and a cracker to start.

Wandered into Room 3 and stepping up a gear or two in strength. Decadence Stout by Weird Beard (5,5%). Full bodied black beer that was as smooth as Kojak’s head! Black as sin with some light coffee on the nose. Creamy in the mouth with lots of roasted flavour, chocolate and a little bitter coffee and toast. Luscious. Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers was behind the bar, really nice bloke brewing excellent beer (Have a few of their bottles stashed)

IMAG0106(The lull before the musical storm!)

Room 3 (AKA The Music Room AKA The Ladies Pool) was sponsored by Dark Star. It would have been churlish not to sample one of their beers, especially when it was a Green Hopped IPA! At 6.5% abv, this was upping the strength again, where was this going to end? Badly of course! Not that this beer was bad, OH NO! Pale gold, resinous pine on the nose. Mamma this was bitter! Load of fruity hops, firm biscuity base with even more resinous goodness. Lingering. I LOVE Green Hopped beers!

Next (and a HUGE Slainte! to The Beerhound for this one! Cheers Tyson!) I popped into Room 1 to check out some cask conditioned Italian beer from Toccalmatto. I missed their MTB at Port Street but heard it was a cracker. So when Tyson tweeted about some cask conditioned beer! When The Beerhound barks, you need to listen! The beer I tried was Zona Cesarini an IPA at 6.6% abv. Golden, fruity spicy aroma. Lots of hoppy goodness in the mush, oh yes, this is hoppy! Really fruity beer with long-lasting bitterness and a really grassy resinous aftertaste. One of the best of the week.

Next. Room 2. Briefly. Brodies Brewery Apricot Sour. SWEET BABY JESUS AND THE ORPHANS!!!! This was SOUR! Each time I took a mouthful I banged on the table! A Ronseal beer. With added sourness. A 3.1% abv tart palate livener!

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

Back to room 1 for a Redchurch Brewery Old Ford Export Stout. Is it REALLY 7.5%? Almost a “barrel aged” aroma, maybe rum, with this sinfully black beer. Deep bitter chocolate, some espresso and really rather bitter with an unexpectedly resinous dry finish. A kegged cracker!

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Next came another Stout, from Room2 this time. Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley at 6% abv. A big Stout which was cask conditioned, black with plenty of boozy wood on the nose, Slightly sweet in the mouth with bitterness kicking in later down the glass. A warm glow following the slightly boozy aftertaste.

Staying on the Dark Side of the street, I then ventured into caffeinated territory. Coffee In The Morning, a Breakfast Stout from Tap East in Stratford. 5.5% abv, black with an instant whack of fresh ground coffee to wake the nose up. A “Ronseal” beer this, fairly light bodied, but with loads of coffee bitterness. First beer I’ve had from this crew (I believe linked to Utobeer (Borough Market) and The Rake (possibly the coolest small bar in London!). If a coffee beer is what you want, this certainly does the job!

Time for a change. Back to Room 2 for something a bit, well, paler. Otters Tears (6% abv) from Thornbridge. If Otters cry tears like this, then get me Tarka and peel him an onion! This was mid gold with a nice earthy hoppy aroma. Really nice and bitter/hoppy in the mouth with maybe a hint of apricot fruit. A crackling bitter and resinous finish that lindered (or even “lingered”!). Nicest pale ale I’ve had from Thornbridge this!

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb5p0ch-lqM

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

Then came the (non-liquid) highlight of the evening. The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Walking in from the upper level (changing stalls) to the rear of the stage, in high theatre, they strutted in playing their instruments. When they got to the stage however, up went the bass drum and they let rip! An absolutely inspired piece of booking! Funky, uplifting and just bloody great musicians. A highlight.

Next, the ill-advised delights of Emelisse Brewery Imperial Russian Stout (11% abv) At this point, my notes came over all expletive laced! Black. Very black. Burnt toast, vinous and with an arse kicking coffee whiff. I staggered at the smell alone! Then the taste. Still boozy but with sweet coffee, bitterness, smoky with some more of that burnt toast. My notes finished Oooooohhhhhhh! Do I need say more? (I had another! But not before …..)

Blonde by Emelisse Brewery. 6.8% abv. Hazy pale with an aroma a bit like a fruity custard (or was my hooter broke?) Orchard fruit in the mouth, really fruity yet simultaneously bitter and piney resins in the finish. That Mr Bubberman can make damn good beer! (His collab Impy Stout with Marble earlier this year – made with Sorachi Ace – was a classic too!)

Was it a good night? Popes being Catholic and bears fouling wooded areas spring to mind. Yes it was. The whole shebang more than surpassed last year. The range of beers over the three days that I attended were superb. More international beers being a bonus. Excellent crowds, swift service by staff who knew their stuff (including us volunteers!)

I managed to see part sets of 2 or 3 bands in The Ladies Pool which were all excellent, with Harlequin Dynamite the icing on a very sweet cake indeed!

Meeting some people I know only from Twitter was a total bonus (take a bow Otto!). The brewers were free with their time and very friendly indeed, especially those from The Ladies Pool on Friday.

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

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

Leeds Town Hall

(pic : Victorianweb.org)

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

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

(Tinseltown In The Rain – The Blue Nile)

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

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

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

20130906_121039(Early doors)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(A class act!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(It’s like a little village!)

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

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

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

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

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(All that – and a lovely glass too!)

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

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

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

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

A truly excellent day out with friends old and new.

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt1

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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!

 

Beer & Music (Pubs with Jukeboxes Pt2) 06/08/2013

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After a couple of days “drying out” following the Marble 125 celebrations at The Marble Arch, I had all the excuse I needed when Col let me know he had the night off (he works nights). So we found ourselves embarking on a beery adventure, burning with optimisms flame! (Any XTC fans out there? No? I’ll move on….)

Having decided to find a few more pubs with Jukes, the best place to start, is with (IMHO) the best Jukebox in town. Which also happens to be in a cracking bar. Cask.

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Cask is a wee bit like the Tardis. Small and blue on the outside, but deceptively spacious on the inside. Located at 29, Liverpool Road on the edge of the trendy Castlefield district, It’s like a little slice of audio heaven with one of the most eclectic jukeboxes I know. In my opinion, it has no rival in Manchester.

On striding in, Col & I were confronted with 3 ales (the bar being immediately in front of you as you enter via the corner doors). Col went for the Celt Experience beer Iron Age, I chose Citraville APA (3.9% abv) from Ole Slewfoot Brewery from North Walsham, Norfolk (a brewery I was yet to taste) the other beer being from Dentons’ own Hornbeam (Summer IPA). The Citraville (as the name implied) used the citra hop to create a gentle grapefruit citrus aroma and a mouthful of restrained pithy grapefruit hop with a touch of biscuit sweetness for balance. A cracking start on the beer front indeed.

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I have been in this bar plenty of times, but not frequently enough recently. However, on each occasion, I had never had a seat beyond the bar area. Tonight, I boldly went where………. The place really opens up in this back room, in more ways than one. There is a lovely canopied patio area / beer garden outside which was well populated and quite a few tables with comfy chairs in here.  And BOOKS, games as well (Connect 4 anyone? No? Cowards!!!) a brave book selection as some of them were of recent vintage, proven as Col perused the James May & Oz Clarke beer book!

Whilst not exactly being a multi-roomed pub, the three distinct areas (including the beer garden) provide a little something for everyone. As stated, the beer was superb, the tunes? Great Juke with plenty of roots reggae, loads of eclectic indie, bit of rock, a really good selection and my shout for best in town. My tunes were Odessa by Caribou from the Swim album (a surprise & a particular favourite) and Morning Rain from Manchesters’ own I Am Kloot from the Natural History album. Tunes both!

By this time, we had been joined by my arch nemesis (also enjoying an Ole Slewfoot) and it was time to move onward….(via the excellent chippy next door!) to….

The Knott

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Now a Manchester institution located at the top end of Deansgate near the junction with Whitworth St, famed both for its beers and the superb food served, The Knott is justly popular. With the 3 of us striding in on this sunny evening (yes, this IS Manchester. Honest!), we headed straight for the bar. Another good selection including beers from Oakham (Green Devil IPA), Magic Rock (High Wire) and Hawkshead amongst others. I went for a beer I was yet to sample from Hawkshead. Bitter.

A golden beer with a lightly floral nose (reminding me of the Sorachi Ace hop) led to a refreshing light fruity beer with a nice floral and bitter dry finish. A lovely beer for a summers evening.

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For those unaware, The Knott is built into a (still working) railway arch which accounts for its vaulted ceilings. Another single room with a multi-room feel, the room opens up as you pass the bar. Plenty of ales and craft beers to satisfy the most discerning…….. The tunes in here were Wide Eyes by Local Natives from the Gorilla Manor album (superb!) and Next Girl by The Black Keys from Attack & Release. Superb tunage (IMHO of course!)

At this point, we had a bit of leg work to do. Walking up Whitworth St and bypassing the many arch inhabiting bars thereon, we walked past the Hacienda Apartments and bemoaned the loss of that once great club, when, on nights like these, some wag would always open the rear door onto the canal and cool down in the murky water!

Turning up the back streets, bypassing Font (sighs!) we were destined for another railway arch, this time occupied by a bar I was yet to try.

The Thirsty Scholar

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Slightly disappointingly, the theme was sacrificed at this juncture. No Juke. However, there was a very energetic, almost skiffle, band on giving it their all, so we stuck with it. Thetwo ale choices in here were both from Blakemere from Northwich in Cheshire. Navajo & Pinnacle. I plumped for the Navajo. A mistake. If that was supposed to  have hoppy citrus notes that is. I asked for a swap for Pinnacle, but for a moment, thought I wasn’t going to get one. However, it was replaced for a Pinnacle and I retired to the outside bench seating content. (With the band still banging out the tunes!)

Being inside a railway arch, the bar opens out to left and right as you approach the bar. The performance stage is to the right of the bar as you enter. Quite a nice wee place really with a rep for live music (which was for free BTW) but with DJs at weekends. Glad I popped in.

The Pinnacle was a 4.4% nice Brown Ale. Creamy and nutty and with a nicely bitter hoppy finish. A nice pint. By this point, Mr Anonymous had joined us from his evening exertions and (with Font close by) batted his sad puppy dog eyes, desirous of some “craft”. I must be getting soft in my old age! Off to Font we go then…… 

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TheFont-exterior

(pic : curryandbeer.co.uk)

Hardly a chore of course! No juke but as usual, great tunes. Obviously not as busy as at weekends, the bar was easily gained as my eyes lit up! Pale Ale by Five Points Brewing! Easy decision that then! Gold and slightly hazy. A sharp grapefruit and fruity mango nose on this puppy. Grapefruit upfront in the mouth with a touch of malt sweetness for balance. A short bitter and hoppy fruity finish. This was packed with flavour, far more than any beer at 4.4% abv has a right to. A really zingy refreshing beer. Beer of the evening for me.

Short walk to the final destination of the evening, past the Thirsty Scholar to its neighbour…

The Salisbury

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Not been in here for 20 odd years! Used to be a really good boozer this, with reliable selection of  good ales. Located on Wakefield Street, just down a dip off Oxford Road, you could easily miss this. Handy for Oxford Rd train station though, as steps lead up to it from outside the pub!

Another single space with a multi room feel. Bar and some seating to the left on entry with the room stretching out ahead. There is a rare red cloth pool table to the right facing the bar. The jukebox (unfortunately digital and modern in design) has a distinct  rock/metal bias. This does have a rep as a “Rock” pub. No bad thing! I grabbed a pint of All American Summer Pale from Caledonian at 4.1%. The beer was uninspiring. IN good condition, with a vaguely fruity nose and flavour, NOT what I was expecting from the words “All American”. Hops were called for, and unfortunately were not present in sufficient numbers for me. Nice enough, but bland.

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A nice relaxed feel to the Salisbury. Tunage from Led Zep (Misty Mountain Hop – Classic) and AC-DC (Back in Black). I was a happy boy. It has changed drastically over the years, but was relaxed enough, even if the beer range was somewhat….generic. Robinsons, Everards, Caledonian etc…

Being a school night, I had to drag Col away toward the chariot, sadly by-passing the siren call of Elland 1872 in Paramount (sob!)

Friends, music & beer. A good evening.

Beer of the Evening was Pale Ale by Five Points Brewing (Closely followed by the Citraville APA by Ole Slewfoot)

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – July 2013

Some more nice beers for you to read about and, maybe, pick up yourselves. The spiel is the same, 1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The Price (including discount, where applicable). 5. Where from,   6. If a website for the vendor exists, I’ll include a hyperlink. So, here goes!

1. CCC IPAQuantum Brewing8.1% abvPale Ale£? (The price of a pint) (500ml)- From the Brewer Direct

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Picking this up from the brewery simply means it doesn’t get much fresher does it? A copper coloured beer with an aroma containing pineapples and a hint of orangey boiled sweets. This yielded to a really smooth mouthful of pineapple and some resinous citrus flavours with more than a bit of pine in there, balancing some very juicy malt. The only problem I had with this was that it was just TOO damn drinkable for that strength! (Update – The CCC comes from the hop varieties used, Centennial, Citra and Columbus)

Another belter from Mr Krause. To be honest, I’m not altogether sure where you can buy this. Try Beermoth on Tib Street in Manchester at a guess. But if you see it, treat yourself.

2. Indulgence – Mallinsons Brewing Company – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (CAMRA membership discount applies)

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This lively bottle conditioned beer has a lovely pineapple and grapefruit citrus hop nose (again, owing to the combination of the hops). Citrus hops to the fore in the flavour as well with some resinous grapefruit prominent, balanced by a light biscuity malt backbone. A nice fruity dry finish with a lingering piney resin. A lovely light refreshing beer.

Another excellent pale ale from these Huddersfield brewers.

3. (Trial Brew) Red RyeThe Five Points Brewing Co – 6% abv – Red Rye Ale – Swap (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market)

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This one came as a surprise from my friend and all-round arch nemesis, Jaz. I have had a few rye beers recently and they have all been really nice. But when the label says “Trial Brew” ?

This was a ruddy brown coloured beer with an aroma of toffee apples and flowery hints. More caramel toffee in the mouth with some spicy touches and gorgeous bitter spicy hops, (Chinook, Columbus and Simcoe hopped. I love Simcoe!). Superb hoppy, dry herbal, grassy finish. If this is a “Trial Brew”, I would love to see the finished product!

4. DevolutionRevolutions Brewing Company – 4.5% abv – Amber Ale – £2.61 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (CAMRA membership discount applies)

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Another music themed beer from Revolutions. This time, referencing a band whose single “Jocko Homo” was one of the first singles (7″ vinyl things….) that I ever bought back in the late 70s!

Amber beer (no kidding!), with a butterscotch toffee aroma. Caramel toffee and digestive biscuit in the mouth with a nice, more gentle, bitterness from this well-balanced beer. The finish was smooth, dry with a gentle lingering hop on the tongue. Another really good beer from these Castleford brewers. Need more of their stuff on draught over this side of the hill. Not that I’m greedy, I want some more Manifesto as well!

5. Galaxy BluesCheshire Brewhouse – 5.2% abv – Pale Ale – £3 ish (I think!) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market)

20130715_231546(Get that psychedelic label!)

I spotted this on Damian (The Ale Man) O’Shea’s stall whilst at Castlefield Market recently. This being on the back of a comment by young  Mr Krause (Quantum). I’ll have to thank him when I next see him!

A golden coloured bottle conditioned beer with shed loads of tropical hop aromas (for me, nectarine and mango). A lovely rich tea malt backbone for the fruity hops to cling to. Another really refreshing fruity beer this, with a lasting herbal hoppy dry finish. Not had much by this brewer on draught. Must find some!

Beers of The Month (so far!)

Draught – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout by Allgates Brewery

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Am I biased? Yes! Would the fact that I helped to make this influence me? No! This was just a bloody superb, creamy, dry and hoppy black beer. Possibly a one-off, I had it at Joshua Brooks, The Hare & Hounds at Hindley (an Allgates pub) and Bar Fringe. I caught each at different stages of time from first being put on the bar and they were all superb with a slight sweetness creeping in as the beer aged.

I simply couldn’t get enough!

Bottle – Red Rye (Trial Brew) by Five Points Brew Co.

Just an astonishingly good rye beer from a brewer completely new to me. (See above)

Am hoping to lay my lips on a very special beer from Ilkley soon, Siberia aged in Speyside whisky casks. One of my favourite beers may just have got better!

On that note…’til next time..

Slainte!