From Grain To Glass – Allgates Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Joshua Brooks 05/07/2013

20130705_185804(Congratulations Boys – You’re now the proud fathers of a bouncing baby beer!)

The journey began some time in May. when yours truly stumbled across an offer to two noted beer bloggers/writers Tyson the Beerhound and Tandleman from David Mayhall co-owner of Allgates Brewery in Wigan, being naturally curious and a bit of a cheeky blagger(sic), I finagled an invite from Mr Mayhall and so, on the 8th of June, I found myself along With Tyson, Tandleman, David and Jonathan Provost (head brewer) making a beer (read all about it) !

David and Jonathan kept the three of us regularly updated on the progress of the brew and, as the weeks went on, anticipation grew. The aim was to make an Oatmeal Stout at around 5% abv, but to make it hoppy. At the end of the brew day, David generously offered each of the three of us a firkin of the beer for us to sell to the pub/bar of our choice, the proceeds to go to a charity of our choice.

20130705_214821

My choices were fairly simple and were given on the spot. I wanted the beer to go to Joshua Brooks and the charity to be St Anns Hospice in Little Hulton. Joshua Brooks, because it is my favourite bar in Manchester. Over the last year, since I first visited the place, I’ve developed a fondness for the place. The ales are kept well by the managers James, Jon & Nicola, there’s lots of lovely leather seating, the background music is pretty much always to my taste and the beer is excellent value.

I chose St Anns Hospice because nearly 2 years ago, when my Dad passed away from Stomach Cancer, they gave fantastic support (along with Macmillan) to both Dad and us in his last few days. I’m not one to normally support health charities as I am a firm and passionate believer in, and advocate of, the NHS. However, the people at St Anns do a fantastic job in extremely trying and emotional circumstances.

As I said earlier, we were kept updated about the progress of the beer and started to look forward to the day when it was released “into the wild”. Tandleman was the lucky sod who got to taste it first in a pub. He sold his firkin to the CAMRA National Pub of The Year, The Baum, in Rochdale and tasted it on Tuesday before, during and after his local CAMRA Branch meeting. His report whetted my appetite. He’s no mug, and he committed his thoughts on the beer to his excellent blog. Read it here

Tyson has sold his firkin to Trackside in Bury (the bar at the East Lancashire Railway station) and it may hit the bar on Tuesday or Wednesday, I hope to sample it there myself .

However, mine went to Joshua Brooks. I asked that, if possible, it could go on on Friday 05/07/2013 as I REALLY didn’t want to come to Manchester on a school night and have to restrain myself! However, when James tweeted the message on Thursday evening “It’s on!”, I was mortified. I desperately wanted to taste this beer in Joshua Brooks. Some friends also wanted to try it, so we arranged to meet in the pub at 19:00. I felt like an expectant father pacing up and down on a Maternity Ward!

As myself, Colin and his lovely wife Sue entered, it looked quite busy. With a cheery word from the doorman, I hastened to the bar where, someone else had ordered a pint. Irrationally, panic set in. Was there any left? Of course, I needn’t have worried, as the usual dimpled pint mug met the swan neck and the beer was pulled.

20130705_202852(Come to Daddy!)

Black, with a reassuring off white creamy head and a lovely subtle chocolate aroma, initial sensory information was promising much. In the mouth, Daddy was a very proud man indeed! A gorgeously creamy texture, lovely chocolaty notes with a dry, quite bitter hoppy finish. I think it’s safe to say that we achieved what we set out to do. We helped to create a quite creamy, dry & hoppy stout. It is a truly lovely beer that is right up my personal beer street. Conversing with Jaz, whose opinions on beer are usually spot on, summed it up for me. He labelled it as a 5 Star beer. He doesn’t rate many as 5 Star!

Those who drank it really enjoyed it and it was gratifying to receive universally excellent feedback. I was a relieved, happy and refreshed man.

20130705_185753(A cracking line up!)

The was an excellent beery lineup as usual. With beers from Allgates (Gin Pit), Ilkley (The Mayan) and the excellent Privateer (Vanilla Jack), there was plenty of choice for me and my pals.

After another Quaker House, I opted for a Gin Pit and The Mayan. Rather strangely, the Gin Pit had virtually no head but tasted superb, with more of the slightly astringent juniper flavour than I recalled when I had it at Trackside. A nice refreshing pint, as is standard from Allgates.

Sue, on returning from the conveniences, told me that there were some artists creating a mural on the walls with marker pens. Intrigued, I had a look….

20130705_210146

(The full wall)

20130705_210240

(Detail – Note the Kim Jong Il lookalike!)

….I had a chat with the two guys who were creating the “Muriel” (ah…Hilda Ogden…). I can’t speak for all, but this looks superb.

The Mayan was a beast of a different hue. A chocolate and chipotle chilli stout at 6.5% abv. Black, with a creamy head (both colour and texture) and huge dark chocolate aroma. Lovely and creamy, lots of chocolate, slightly smoky with a gentle spice heat building the deeper I waded in. First time for me with this beer. I’ve previously seen excellent reports from others on this beer. All justified.

After having the Mayan, I bottled it with the Privateer Vanilla Jack not thinking I could do it justice after such a big beer. Colin gave it a big thumbs up and I will drink that one soon, especially as they’re brewing it again. I decided therefore to venture back to the beery cradle for another Quaker House. Mmmm…lovely!

Me and Jaz Quaker House(Cheers!)

A swift incidental half of Harbour Pale Ale (keg) from Cornwall was my final at JB. Hazy and pale with a lovely mango and grapefruit nose and and really refreshing citrus flavours in the mouth. A really good beer and surprisingly refreshing for a 6% abv beer, nicely balanced. (I DO like an incidental!)

Having heard from Nate Dawg, another excellent beer blogger that there might be some beers from Redwell (new Craft brewer from Norfolk) on in Font, I thought we’d better pop in!

Font was as busy as usual. No sign of the Redwell. Maybe it was in bottles, but I wasn’t in a bottle mood. I spied a Pale Ale Citra by Quantum and looked no further. 4.5% abv and er….pale, more Citra mango and grapefruit aroma. Lovely and smooth, lots of citrus flavours and a nice bitter dry finish. Another belter from Mr Krause.

I hadn’t been to Paramount for a while to have my Paramount (Elland 1872) Porter nightcap, so, I did. It is what it is, this beer. Chocolate, coffee, smoke and OH SO creamy and delicious. A deserved award winner and a permanent at Paramount. £2.60 a pint. It felt like I was stealing it!

With Colin & Sue being my chaperones and guaranteeing my safe return home, we headed off for the usual First Bus chariot. The No 37!

An excellent evening with some of my best friends. My baby tasted superb. Excellent conversations and fun lubricated by superb beer. Tandleman would most certainly approve!

(Courtesy of the generosity of David Mayhall, Allgates Brewery & those nice people at Joshua Brooks, a substantial donation will be delivered to At Anns Hospice tomorrow. A sincere thanks to all involved.)

On that note….’til next time (probably a Bristol pubs write-up)

Slainte!

Full Steam Ahead! – A trip on the East Lancashire Railway to Ramsbottom – 29/06/2013

20130629_132516

The genesis of this trip was when I popped to see Matt Holmes of Ramsbottom Craft Brewery. On the way home, I drove past First Chop and promised myself that I would be back soon. How very right I was! The second pull was the chance to arrive on a steam-driven locomotive. I’m no anorak, but there is something inherently romantic about steam trains, don’t you think? Anyway, when I mooted the possibility, a couple of willing victims (Oops! I meant volunteers!) identified themselves, so I set a course for the weekend after payday.

Arranging to meet Jaz & Jeff (my own craft beer Fresh Princes!) at 12:45 at Trackside (the bar at the Bury end of the ELR), I somehow found myself in Bury a full hour early! Now then, what’s a boy to do? A brief perusal of the Good Beer Guide (hereinafter GBG!) told me that there was a bar called Automatic in the building that was the old Derby Hall….Hmmmm……

Automatic

20130629_113401

I’ve been to the former Derby Hall (now Bury Met) 3 times. First, 07/04/1980. I was 14 and got myself to Bury to see Joy Division at a now legendary gig which was abandoned after 3 songs, one of which was fronted by Alan Hempsall (vocalist with Crispy Ambulance, one of the great unsung Manchester bands!). History tells us that Ian Curtis had a seizure that evening, meaning that the band tried to struggle on once he’d left the stage. Next thing I saw was a pint pot (dimpled!) hurtling towards Tony Wilson who was trying to calm a near riot. I never did get to see a full set by my favourite band. My major musical regret. It was my second gig.

Anyhow, I digress. Walking into Automatic, I had the feeling of walking into a posher small Wetherspoons. Looking every bit the eaterie, two distinctly separate areas here, with the Malt Bar being closed. The main room was all classy colours and wooden tables, clean lines (always handy in a pub, I find!), a bit “restauranty”, but nice enough.

20130629_114509

Noticing the rather scrummy looking Pork Pies, I ordered the “pie & pint” offer (value at £5) with the pint being the house beer, Silver Fox by Outstanding Brewery. The staff pulled a fair bit off (1st pint of the day, I presumed) and served me mine. Hmm…a bit hazy. Not smelling “off”, I gave it a go. Nope. Not as good as Outstanding beers are usually, I took it back and they swapped without quibble – earning some ‘Brownie points’. Next was a beer from a local brewery I had never tried, Steam Plate Bitter from Irwell Works Brewery, described as a Best Bitter at 4.3% abv. Pale gold, with a slightly buttery hop aroma. More like a blonde this for me, more butteriness in the mouth with a clean dry and gently bitter finish.

Nice bar. Local ales (Pennine and Little Valley completing the four handpumps) and a good-looking menu. Nice place.

By this point, Jeff had joined me and fancied some fodder, so we upped and headed off to our next watering hole…..

Trackside

20130629_123509

Located just behind the entrance of the ELR Station on Bolton Road (and accessed via the side road), another new bar to me. Housed alongside Platform 2, this single roomed pub, is long and narrow, with the bar to the rear and had the feel of an ancient English longhouse (read Beowulf) but with 10 handpumped ales.

20130629_123456

(One happy boy!)

So many beers, so little time! We were scheduled for the 13:30 to Ramsbottom, so chose swiftly, but wisely in my case! Allgates Gin Pit at 4.3% abv. A lovely clear golden beer, nice smooth and bitter with more than a hint of what I can only think was the juniper berries that are steeped in the brew. A lovely refreshing pint. Typically Allgates, typically excellent.

Next up, another brewery I hadn’t tasted previously. Hopstar from Darwen with their Lancashire Gold at 4% abv. Golden coloured beer (what else!) that was clean gently hoppy and really refreshing too. I’ll be back for more Hopstar.

20130629_132522(“The train now standing at Platform 4…..”)

The next leg of our journey now beckoned. With Jaz having now joined us (and wolfing his first beer down), we jumped platforms for the train to Ramsbottom. As did a seeming Stag Do dressed in a naval theme! Oh dear, won’t be the last time we see these jolly Jack Tars!

Not the longest of journeys this, but beautiful and scenic. Swiftly passing through Summerseat, where even the air smelled expensive, we were soon in Ramsbottom. Here, I will freely admit, I lost my bearings, being swiftly corrected by Jeff as where I thought was First Chop, was actually an Estate Agents!

First Chop

pub-no-3375-first-chop-ramsbottom-greater-manchest

(pic moblog.net)

With Jeff the Sherpa leading the way, we finally got there! Two room, with the other being below ground level, this looked like a smart contemporary bar which wouldn’t have been out of place in the Northern Quarter.

20130629_140742

With a slightly smaller selection than Trackside, 4 ales on handpull, with a real cider and a smattering of craft keg. More than enough for me to be getting by! First up for me was one of their own, FCB (First Chop Bitter ?) at 3.6% abv. A bronze colour, this had quite a floral hop aroma and was clean, bitter with a nice dry finish. Brewed at Outstanding in Bury, now that the First Chop Brewing arm have their own brewery (finally!) in Salford, will this now be brewed there?

Next up was another First Chop – well, ‘When in Rome’! AVA at 3.5% abv was pale gold with a lovely tropical fruit hop aroma. Flavour came through with lovely earthy hops and sweet pineapple notes. Superbly refreshing.

20130629_142026

(Would sir like the cask menu?)

Food time! A juicy and spicy Harissa Burger at around a fiver. Excellent.

More beer please! Allgates Pretoria at 3.9% abv. Golden, citrus hop aroma, refreshingly bitter with a clean dry and fruity bitter finish. A really good session beer this, and first time for me I think. (There’s me banging on about not finding Allgates in Freehouses, then 2 on the same day!)

My notes show another AVA….but moving swiftly on…..

I just wish I lived in Ramsbottom. A cracking bar this, small yet perfectly formed. Excellent looking food offering, 4 ales, and a substantial number of real ciders too. Yep, a belter!

A short walk away……

Irwell Works Brewery

20130629_161210

Some of my family have been raving about this place for a while. It was therefore an essential visit. A small side room as you enter (to the left) and up the stairs into the main open room.

20130629_161342

Busy as a chippy in here! As bustling as possible. 8 pumps, 1 of them a cider, 6 Irwell Works own beers and a guest from Bank Top. Once I saw a Stout, there was no looking elsewhere, was there? Let’s be sensible about this! Irwell Works Iron Works Stout at 4.4% abv. Sweet coffee aroma, lots of roasted flavour with a touch of residual sweetness in the mouth. In excellent nick and a cracking pint (or 2!)

20130629_163554(Juliet Balcony anyone?)

A nice busy bar, well worth the visit. Modern, lots of white walls, child friendly. Anything else you want to know?

The train was calling. The last service was at 17:10 and was disappointingly pulled by a diesel! Never mind eh?

Back into Manchester and an ill-advised (by me!) walk to…..

 Joshua Brooks.

You know my thoughts on this bar by now. Reliably excellent beer at an excellent price, with excellent tunes as well. My choice to take my firkin of Allgates Quaker House Oatmeak (or even Oatmeal!) Stout. Next Friday night people!

Hawkshead Lakeland Lager at 5%abv. Cask conditioned lager. Seem to be drinking this a bit recently. Pale gold, butter popcorn aroma. Slightly toffeeish flavour, bit of butterscotch with a clean dry finish.

Pictish Summer Solstice was next at 4.7% abv. A really nicely balanced pale bitter hoppy beer. My favourite of the two. Tune of the day in here, a cover of The Antlers’ “Parentheses” by Tricky, bit of a surprise!

We then nipped into The Font to round off the evening/day.

Rock The Kazbek at 4.0% abv by Redemption from Tottenham. Nice enough pale ale, quite bitter, good condition, but not exceptional for me. Next (and finally) came Cresta Black Stout by Tempest Brewing from Kelso. This was MORE like what the doctor ordered! Black, roasted and lovely stout. A nice finish to the day!

Yes, it was indeed a long day. Not been drinking in Rammy or Bury for years. Was hoping to meet Tyson The Beerhound and Darren from GM Ale News, but, sadly, neither were possible. Never mind eh? We’ll catch up another time (especially with the Quaker House “in the wild” this week!)

An excellent day. Good friends, great beers and great bars in which to drink them. “Back of the net” ass they say!

On that note….’til next time! (Friday night at Joshua Brooks!)

Slainte!