Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

1387627933220

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

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

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

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

Anyway, down to business…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

IMAG0470

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

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

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

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

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

IMAG0510

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

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

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

IMAG0512

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

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

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

IMAG0517

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

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

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

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

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

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

IMAG0518

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

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

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

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

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

IMAG0508

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

Beavertown Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 19/08/2013

print layout labels

(Welcome to Beavertown!)

I have a confession to make. I am a Beavertown Virgin! Or I was, until Logan Plant (Brewer) and Byron Knight (Ringmaster and hat wearer supreme!) rolled in and rocked up at Port Street last night!

If you’ve never been to one of these events, a brief introduction. For some time now, the guys at Port Street Beer House have periodically, on a Monday evening (when  otherwise shut) been inviting some of the best brewers in the UK (and further afield) to come in and showcase their beers. This is done in a structured fashion. You buy a ticket up front (these events ALWAYS sell out!) for which, upon entry, you receive 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each of these entitles you to a sample measure of each of – generally – 5 beers presented by the brewers throughout the evening. The brewers introduce each beer, talk about the genesis of each and give an overall potted history of their business. There!

Having forgotten all about the matchday traffic, then stressing out having got caught up in it, there’s something calming and reassuring about the organisation that Port Street bring to these events. Once I’d obtained my raffle tickets / beer tokens, I was much calmer. Once I had been presented with my first beer (Gamma Ray ) by Jaz, I just knew I was in for a good evening!

The Gamma Ray at 5.4% abv was a hazy gold coloured Pale Ale with a full aroma of mango citrus from the hops (Magnum, Columbus, Bravo & Amarillo), quite full bodied for the strength with loads of resinous piney hop stuff going on! Really fruity & refreshing with a wonderful dry bitter finish. A superb start.

20130819_200443

(Logan & Byron – Comedy Superstars!)

Then came the comedy! Logan and Byron bounced off each other all night, on occasion, like Run DMC but powered by hops! They explained their coming together in 2011 and the origin of the brewery being – until recently – attached to and an integral part of Duke’s Brew & Que a BBQ joint on Downham Rd in De Beauvoir Town, Hackney. “Beavertown” coming from the Cockney corruption of their locale. They brew on a 4 Bbl (Beer Barrel = 36 Gallons) kit and after originally having only 4 FVs (Fermenting Vessels) they now – following on from their recent relocation – have treble that number and are brewing 8 (EIGHT) times this week!

Logan apologised for any errors down to tiredness due to their hectic schedule, but he needn’t have worried. Both guys were on fire with the banter. Both obviously passionate about what they do, Logan was introduced as the brewer and Byron as the man behind Duke’s. Showing how integrated both sides of the business are, there  were several ideas given for food matching with each beer, something they obviously think carefully about and – more importantly – enjoy hugely.

20130819_200847

(Gamma Ray & Barley Champagne Saison)

Next beer up was the Bloody ‘Ell, a blood orange IPA at 7.4% abv arrived at by LOTS of ZESTING! Not an obvious fruit beer and truly more of an IPA. They used 25Kg of blood oranges in this brew with an extra pale malt, handpeeling the zest and adding the squeezed juice at the end of the boil. Byron described how well this went with a Duck a l’Orange burger in Edinburgh (Or Dick a l’Orange – eh Logan?). This beer was another crackling hoppy pale, with the oranges coming through subtly almost like a marmalade essence in there coming through at the end following the zippy and bitter hops. The trick with this, like many of their beers (as I was to discover) is that they taste light, fresh and WELL below their strength!

The third beer (and last of the pales) was Barley Champagne at 8.7% abv, made with a French Saison yeast and Bramley apple juice from their nearest orchard in Kent. A real lightness of touch again here, for me, a gentle yeasty funk with a tart sweetness from the apples coming through. Again a fresh fruity beer with dangerous alcohol levels hidden somewhere! Stronger, but comparable with Ilkley Siberia for me – never a bad thing in my book!

CHOW TIME! Smoky hot dogs fully loaded with slaw, jalapenos, fried onions and mustard. Genius! Just what Dr Beers ordered!

Now sliding across the street to the Dark Side…….

20130819_201242(8 Ball & Black Yeti)

Next up was Black Yeti, a Stout at 5.6% abv. Brewed with one of the brewers from Camden, they used a lot of paler roasted malt in this with a late dump of hops in the boil. Firmly on my home ground with this! Black, smooth, beautifully so. Smoky, lovely bitterness and a substantial coffee note for me. BUT not a coffee bean in sight! Nice dry bitterness in the finish too.  A classy beer and a definite winner for me!

Logan quickly talked about the “All Seeing Eye” imagery and the likeness to the imagery on the US Dollar bill. A really clever branding that features – in various twists – on many of their beers. Like Byron said, a “Cease & Desist” from the US Treasury would do their publicity wonders! They are using local artists now for their newer beers coming up with smart individual designs, but always with the pyramid in there. Superb designs that would transfer well to T-Shirts and other merchandise. Byron also related an interesting description of the term Craft Beer mentioned to him by Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. A beer is “Craft Beer” when you know the brewer!

20130819_201321(Oh My!)

Imperial Lord Smog Almighty. A Smoked Porter. 10% abv. The biggest abv beer that Beavertown have brewed. A natural extension from another beer “Smog Rocket”. Sounds like it had its historic origins in a collaboration with Brewdog called Catherine’s Pony (named after Catherine The Great – A LEGENDARY fondness for equine capers! Cue LOADS of horsey puns). They take great pride in being the first UK Brewery to collaborate with the Aberdonian Pranksters, rightly so.

Containing more smoked malt, Jaggery, tons of hops (110 IBUs!!!). They had a face off with Brewdog in Shoreditch with this beer and “Kicked Their ASSES!!!”

This is a TREMENDOUS BEER! Oh my! Creamy as a Cornish scone, viscous, oily, quite bitter with sublime coffee notes. Buttered rye toast, a bit of whisky in there too which is surprising as it hadn’t been barrel-aged! Reminded me of one of my all-time favourite porters, Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18, but stronger. What a serious beer this is, but with a wink in the eye and a grin on its face!

One to watch out for will be the collaboration brew with Wild Beer, a sour provisionally titled “Wild Beaver”, coming soon! Maybe one that my buddy Damian O’Shea could get for his stall???

I had a chat with both Logan & Byron. Top blokes who hosted this superbly, confident public speakers who must have had a LOT of recent practice. Came across really well and obviously care hugely about what they do and how it’s perceived, which last night was very well indeed.

Cheers fellas. You busted my Beavertown cherry and put a lop-sided grin on my face! (Or was that the Imperial Lord Smog Almighty?)

Finished off the evening with a beer that wasn’t subject to presentation, the 8 Ball Rye IPA, lovely rich and spicy with even more hoppy goodness! The evening was rendered complete once I’d had a chat with Connor Murphy of the “Beer Battered” blog and the mighty Tyson the Beerhound, even introducing the two! A quick chat with a focus on the recent Tickety Brew / Crabbies nonsense – keep an eye out for this, ‘cos if it doesn’t sort soon, Manchester should make some noise!!!

20130819_214131

 

(Coming Soon!)

Right then, my back is creasing in agony after all this typing, so time to head for the fridge to see what goodies can anaesthetise me!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!