Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 2

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(Coming soon to a throat near….er…me!)

“We all know you are soft ‘cos we’ve all seen you dancing,

We all know you are hard ‘cos we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again,

You’re the boy with the filthy laugh, you’re the boy with the Arab Strap”

(“The Boy With The Arab Strap” – Belle & Sebastian)

Remember the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, if you do, The Boy With The Arab Strap was the theme tune. Surely one of the greatest Indie tracks of the last 20 years with some absolute killer lines, including the best fade out lines I’ve ever heard!*

Austerity is beginning to bite hard on the BM Millions (or lack of) so I have barely ventured forth across the moat into the big wide world of draught beer. My thoughts have been mostly taken up with an idea floated by my friend Gerry….to set up a small beer festival! This being to raise funds to help a local Community Centre in Salford which is run by Gerry herself.

There are distinct ups and downs to this proposition. Ups? The tweets of support and offers both of help and of beer supply from the good brewers (and drinkers) of Greater Manchester and beyond. As I’ve said previously, the good nature of people in the local beer world is to be marvelled at and I, for one, have really appreciated every tweet and message I have received! Downs? The mere thought of the WORD “logistics” is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat!

The general idea will be to feature beers from the North, Lancashire, Gtr Manchester and Yorkshire. Micros Only. In the New Year, I’ll be spreading my beery tentacles and tapping the “Great & the Good” on the shoulders for advice. Don’t be surprised when it happens to you!

Back to the matter at hand eh? As usual, the good and the indifferent have passed my lips this month, but, if you’ve read this before, I only try to highlight the truly good for your pleasure! A bit like a beery Santa’s list (but 2 or 3 times per month!)

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. Natural ProgressionWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – Strong Bitter (?) – £2.23 (3 for £7 – 500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

There’s not an awful lot that I can say more about these excellent brewers (I hate the term “Brewsters”!), they just make excellent tasty beers, continue to do so and finally seem to be getting a little traction in Manchester City Centre. Much deserved. And, if the mighty Tandleman likes them, then who am I to argue?

I picked this up on a recent visit along with 2 others (In Shreds & Is This The Way – see elsewhere on the blog) and it is a fine amber beer with a white lacy head and had an aroma containing raisin and maybe plum. Full-bodied in the mouth, the flavours that stood out were more subtle raisin and a little plum, followed by a big bitter finish with a good herbal grassyness in the aftertaste. This isn’t a beer that boasts and brags from the rooftops about its IBU score. Just damned tasty. Another excellent beer from these Middleton brewers.

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2. Hello VeloWold Top Brewery (Driffield, E Yorkshire) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £1.98 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Picked up this one on my last visit to Yorkshire Ales. If I remember aright, one of Vickys suggestions when I was looking for a final bottle or two to round out my purchase. That visit feels like AGES ago! I was worried, that having held onto it for quite a while, it may have lost some of its sparkle and zest. I needn’t have fretted!

Brewed to commemorate the award of Le Grand Depart for 2014 (the start of Le Tour de France), this beer was ultra pale with the white head being only a shade or two pale than the body! The aroma upon pouring was quite sharp with some lemon and maybe a touch of grapefruit to my mind (not what I would expect of First Gold & Goldings!) Medium-bodied with some initial light sweetness followed by a building bitterness and some more sharp citrus.Not overpowering, but really palate refreshing. A bitter and dry finish being followed by some earthy grassyness in the aftertaste. A nice surprise this, really refreshing. They will be brewing this again in the summer. Appropriate, because this would be a perfect summers day beer, thirst quenching.

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3. Pale (Simcoe, Columbus, Chinook) – Partizan Brewing (Bermondsey, SE London) – 4.7% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another beer that had been stashed for some time. And yet another that I needn’t have worried about! A very pale golden beer, lively white head with abundant citrus aromas of passion fruit, grapefruit, some zingy lemon and a hit of pine. Again, medium-bodied with more citrus joy, grapefruit and lemon tartness with a hint of kiwi later on. There is some light malteser sweetness in here, but the hops have the throne in this palace! A really refreshing zippy beer, with a very dry bitter and resinous finish. Easily up there with the best of the London Pale Ales that I’ve had this year!

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4. Fresh – The Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Wild Beer are a brewery that have crept under my radar a bit. The first beer I can recall having was the coolab (I’ll stick with that spelling!) with Fyne Ales, the ludicrously refreshing Cool As A Cucumber. Last month, I reviewed a bottled I’d had for months (Wildebeest), this is only the second bottle I have had. I want more.

Golden, with a lively foamy white head and an appetising apricot and grapefruit citrus aroma. Tart grapefruit and pine in the mouth, really fresh and refreshingly zingy and tart with citrus. Some bready malt sweetness for balance, but a big bitter and resinous finish with the green stuff lingering. A really refreshing lively beer. Moreish in the extreme for a 5.5% beer. Raj has a few more. I think I’d better treat myself in the New Year!

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5. Chinook (Single Hopped) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Here he goes again…blah blah Mallinsons….blah blah Single hopped Pale Ales….blah blah blah…. Well what can I do? Do you want me to lie and say that they are crap? Well I won’t, so there!

Pale gold with quickly diminished white head. Aroma of peach with a hint of bitter grapefruit. In the mouth, medium bodied and smooth, with the peach and grapefruit, a touch of kiwi and a bitter hit of pine grassyness. That citrus mellows into more of a tangerine as you go further down the glass. The beer has a bitter finish with lingering citrus and pine in the aftertaste. Refreshing bitter and dry. In short, a damned fine Pale Ale. I’ll say it again, I wish I lived in Huddersfield!

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6. HOPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Spinningfields, Manchester)

Firstly, It was great to see Damian (The Ale Man) inundated with custom on Saturday, even given the somewhat windy conditions. A nice busy spot near the Nat West Bank. I’m pleased, because he’s a decent bloke selling outstandingly good beer (see my mini haul at the top of the page!) and long may this continue!

Anyway, to Mr Garner’s beer! With a name like HOP, I wonder what it’s going to taste like? Pale gold and lively out of the bottle, the white head yielding an immediate grapefruit citrus aroma hit with a little lemony bitterness too. Medium bodied, plenty of hops with a nice balancing hint of sweetness, fruity with grapefruit and lemon tangoing across the tongue with maybe a bit of apricot as it slips down. Plenty of bitterness and a big resinous aftertaste. Superb Salford beer. Hurrah for my hometown! I’ve heard that Rik maybe having an open day at  the brewery on 25th Jan with a bar and all. I’m gate crashing! His beers are simply too good to miss! (I was up in Ramsbottom last week. If you get there, try the First Chop bar. Then thank me!)

Well. That’s more waffle than you’ll get in an Amsterdam Pancake Huis! And for now…..

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

*If you listen to the song to the end, the last line that is easily audible is “…as the cigarette catches…and sets off the smoke alarm” then it fades away. However, turn up the volume and you will hear the killer final lines…”What do you make of the cool set in London? You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks. She’s a waitress and she’s got style.” All delivered in Stuart Murdoch’s sugar sweet and world-weary tone. Gorgeous!

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.

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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!