The Stockport Beer Festival 01/06/2013 (or, Sir Galahad finds his Holy Gr(ale))

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(pic – gmcr.alenewsnet.com)

This was truly a last-minute decision. OK, it was made the evening before, but you get the point!

I knew this was my lucky day when I turned up late for the train at Farnworth, to find the train was even later! So it was that I found my self at the rear entrance to Stockport Train Station and waited for Jaz (well, who else would drink with me!) A quick nip into Sivoris caff for a spot of brekky and we’re entering that cathedral of footballing excellence, Edgeley Park. Home of the newly relegated Stockport County FC!

I had heard from John Clarke (CAMRA South Manchester), that Jarl by Fyne Ales would be making an appearance. Let me be quite honest, much though I love a beer fest, it was Jarl that dragged me out of my pit that morning and plonked me on that train! Jaz had been winding me up about how gorgeous it was the previous day (Cheers Buddy!), so my hopes were low of locating my beery Grail. Now, where were those beers beginning with the letter F? Then, the metaphorical clouds parted and the sunbeam shone on one particular 18 gallon (kilderkin) cask. JARL! At £2 a bloody pint as well!!!

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(Beer Porn Alert! The Holy Grale!)

I truly felt like Sir Galahad as he laid eyes on the hallowed chalice! Jarl. Beloved in bottle, now on draught. And I had a pint!

Believe me when I say this. I have chased this beer from bar to bar. From the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” (Pt 2 in October!), to haring across Manchester on a rumour (it had sold out!). But now, I finally had it in my trembling mitt! Was it worth it? Bloody stupid question! 3.8% abv and pale as a spring morning, It was sharp, lemon zesty both in nose and palate. It was a citrus festival in my mouth. I love this beer almost as much as my darling Atilla! Yeah. It was a decent pint! So good was it, that I broke a rule. I had two. I had to!

Descending some stairs into the bowels of this footballing Mecca, we ambled to watch an Oompah band. Just behind the bottle bar, I asked a genial gent if he was John Clarke, one of the organisers  of this fest and Editor of Opening Times the S Manchester CAMRA branch mag. I introduced my self and had a really pleasant (but all too brief) chinwag. A damn nice bloke indeed. Interesting bottle selection too, with a De Molen Citra for £3. (I didn’t)20130601_124431

(The Oompah band is there – look harder!)

The Oompah troupe were superb and fun, playing snatches of requests. Good, but my focus was back upstairs, where business needed doing!

That business matter led me to Dark Matter, a 3.8% Mild by Saltaire. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mild by the Shipley alechemists before. This was quite subtle. Some nice gentle roast with more than a tinge of blueberry or blackberry. A nice smoky hint in the aftertaste too. Lovely. I would have had it first, but when Jarl (my Juliet – apologies to David Mayhall for this most blatant of thefts!) calls, this Romeo had to climb to the balcony!

Next up was Coal Porter (See what they did there!) by Elixir Brewing from Livingston. Now THIS is my idea of dark heaven! 5% abv, black (or near as dammit!) with a hint of smoke on the nose. This delivered bitter chocolate in this roasted mouthful, smooth texture with a lingering smokiness. A beautiful porter. Enjoyed whilst sitting in the stands (see below!)

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(A tinge of grassyness!)

Following my second pint of Jarl, I had a small taste of Oat Stout from Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth. At 5.2% this was creamy textured with more than a hint of the hedgerow. A gentle smokiness in the finish was a twist. First from Nook and really nice.

Next up was the Single Hop IPA from Stockport’s own Quantum Brewing. The hop variety in the case being Triskel (French I believe). Golden, fruity aroma (tropical, pineapple?) with that carrying through in the mouth. Nice and juicy with a nice dry finish. Quite subtle this hop. Didn’t taste its strength.

We’d gabbed for a bit and time had passed. It was time for a final beer and I opted for another Fyne Ales. This time (reverting to type!) their Sublime Stout at 6.8% abv. Probably not the wisest of choices at that strength. However, just like the Quantum, it didn’t taste its strength. A lovely smooth roasted mouthful with some mocha on the nose. Creamy wee beastie this with a delicious smokiness that hung about a bit. It was 4 o’clock now and we were being ushered out. One of the perils of separate sessions I suppose.

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(One of the ‘quieter’ moments!)

In summary : All the beers I had were uniformly in superb condition. They were also ludicrously inexpensive! £2 a pint for Jarl? The idea of sitting in the stands was great. However, this is where my one quibble surfaces. The area where the beers were served had the feel of a narrow corridor, in no way helped by the punters tendency to hang around once they’d made their purchases. This made it somewhat difficult to move about in there. I know, I know that you can’t actually FORCE the imbibing throng to relocate once they’d made their choices, but at times, I felt uncomfortable. There!

That said, after a 20 odd year gap between fests (I served at a charity bar at the old Town Hall fest), I’ll be back! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Departing felt like I was actually leaving a footy match! At this juncture, Jaz revealed a plan to visit a nearby boozer Ye Olde Vic.

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Located on Chatham Street, walking in felt like a time warp! Dark, warm and friendly, I settled in instantly to a pint of Oracle by Salopian Brewery, a first by this brewer for me! A pale beer that was lovely, sharp, crisp  and hoppy.

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This isn’t a multiroom, but has that multiroom feel. I think there were 7 hand pumps, with beers from Thornbridge, Oakham, Magic Rock featuring. However, I went for Jade by Liverpool Organic. This was a nice clean pint with flowery notes. Probably a bit too delicate at this stage. I think after my efforts, I needed something more assertive. This beer would be one to start with. Refreshing though.

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(Now. Where DID I put those pumpclips? Ah yes, the ceiling!)

Time for the train back to Manchester. Now, a sensible boy would’ve IMMEDIATELY caught a connection to Bolton. But I said “sensible”!

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So, Jaz guided us into Pie & Ale by Bakerie. Located on Lever Street, this is a decidedly modern affair and looks designed to catch a fairly trendy crowd. So, what am I doing here? To the rear bar we go and Lo! Handpumps! And what’s more, local beers from Wilson Potter and Brightside! Alongside a couple of Wells & Young’s offerings and a Liverpool Chocolate Porter.

Here I chose Natural Progression by Wilson Potter. You will (if you’ve read this blog before) know what I think of the beers brewed by these ladies. Smooth, tasty and clean. This was no exception. A nice fruity smooth mouthful. 4.8%. It’s great to see more of their beers around Manchester. Seems like their beers are on in this place quite frequently. Good to know!

Next up, Odin by Brightside Brewing (now of Radcliffe!). A really refreshing beer this. Bright, pale, zippy and nicely hopped. Initially thought it was a ‘real’ lager it was THAT pale (as you can see!). A blonde beer to look out for from another excellent local brewery.

20130601_191043(A zesty blonde indeed!)

Pie & Ale is an excellent addition to the Northern Quarter. If the food is anywhere near as good as the beer……..friendly knowledgeable staff, siiting booths and bench seating. I like this place!

Quickly skipping my greedily ordered Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt (I had to!) We finished off the evening in Port Street Beer House (where else) with an Oakham Green Devil IPA. More hops than a Watership Down audition. Stunningly fruity and hoppy. Enough said. A classic.

Not the most sensible day out, but bloody enjoyable!

Back in Manchester on Friday and Wigan on Saturday with some brewing luminaries at Allgates (I’ll be making the tea!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales April 2013

I’ve quite enjoyed this month. A quick visit to Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales at the end of March, helped to replenish my supplies with some excellent beers from Yorkshire (See below!) and a ‘spur of the moment’ visit to Booths – at the end of the month –  revealed a few beers I haven’t seen in supermarkets over here before – at great value. Really pleasing. I hope in May to pop to Snaith again as well as nipping over to Ossett to Bier Huis (need some more Green Goddess by Ilkley – again, see below).

I haven’t anticipated my visits down the A1 to my out-laws as much in many a year!

The downside to this month being a chat at my local doctors surgery.

Nurse : “Your cholesterol is high, your blood pressure is high and you are overweight. What is your diet like?”

BM “Not brilliant, eat a lot of good stuff but a lot of junk”

Nurse “What about your alcohol consumption?”

BM “Can we go back to that diet again!”

Well. What do you think I’m going to do? Write a blog about mineral water and decaffeinated tea???

Anyway, back to that most historically healthy of drinks. Beer!

You known how this works. I tell you about the beer, how it tasted (to me), where I bought it from and how much it cost. Needless to say, I enjoyed them all. As would you, (in all likelihood) if you bought them.

As mentioned earlier, At the end of last month, I detoured the family jalopy off the A1 towards Snaith and Yorkshire Ales. This really is a pretty little shop stocking some superb beers (almost) exclusively from Yorkshire. Adrian & Vicky were their usual friendly selves. Next time, I hope to chat more. However, if they’re as busy as they deserve to be, that could be difficult!

NB : Currently, they are promoting an offer of £5 next day delivery for up to 12 bottles. This reduces to £0 if you order 24. That’s right, FREE. Just saying……

1. Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – Imperial Russian Stout -£3.50 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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(Great label!)

A deep dark coffee aroma on the black beer with a light tan coloured head. The aroma didn’t prepare me for the flavour. Fabulously earthy with bitter chocolate and licorice in the mouth. A lovely warming feel as the beer sank into my eager tummy! A nice bitter aftertaste with (what seemed to me) more than a hint of creme brulee or caramelised banana. Just a bloody good example of this great beer style. YUM!!!

2. Green Goddess by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley) – 5.5% abv – Belgian Green Hop IPA – (500ml) A swap with my mate Jaz for a bottle of Oakham Green Devil IPA – (so £3.50 to me)

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(Dance To The Music!)

Jaz bought this from Beermoth, the boutique beer shop on Tib St in Manchester. I think it was over £5. So, for my £3.50 Green Devil, I got a bit of a bargain! (Not ‘arf!!!)

It is (like Siberia Saison) the product of a collaboration between the beer writer Melissa Cole (I got her excellent book ‘Let Me Tell You About Beer’ for my birthday last week!) and Ilkley brewery from, er…Ilkley. I had the cask conditioned version of this beer at Common in Manchester’s Northern Quarter last November and was suitably impressed. I wondered how the bottled version would fare….

I needn’t have worried! Bottle conditioned, it was lively out of the bottle and poured a deep golden colour. The aroma had that Belgian funk to it with some fresh herbal notes and initially I was reminded slightly of Duvel. However, in my humble…….this is SO much better. The taste? WOW! Break out that bass guitar and give it a damn good slap! More of that Belgian funky stuff going on, so much so, I had to reach for the tunes and slap on some Sly Stone! Some nice resinous hoppy grassy stuff going on courtesy of those fresh green hops. Nice grassy dryness after as well. Easily as good, if not better than when I had it on draught.

I believe they may still have some at Bierhuis in Ossett. Guess who I tweeted before I published this????

3. Stateside IPA by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – IPA – £2.80 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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A lovely gold colour here with a powerful citrus hop aroma, I thought I detected apricot. Hell, what do I know! Given the aroma, I was expecting a punch in the kisser from all those American hops. What I got was a lot more subtle, but damned tasty.

Lots of smooth fruity hop flavour from those Yank hops (Cascade, Magnum, Galena & Summit – for those even nerdier than me!) all that American hop muscle supported by a nice juicy malt backbone. A superbly well-balanced and dangerously drinkable beer. (I’m just about to have another one!)

Saltaire. Brewers of one of my favourite Stouts (Triple Chocoholic). Another brewery yet to make a false step for me. (Gonna try to get over to one of their Saturday sessions later this year – train schedules permitting!)

4. Ponte Carlo by Five Towns Brewing (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.6% abv – Stout – £2.60 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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(Dodgy pic alert!)

A black beer made with the addition of Pontefract cakes (ie : Licorice). This may sound STUPID, but this had a very dark aroma reminiscent of an Imperial Stout, vinous and spicy.

The added licorice REALLY comes through on the back of that roasted malt base. Dry, spicy and oh so bloody moreish. A dry spicy espresso taste as the aftertaste faded. A rally lovely beer (as was their Peculiar with rhubarb and ginger!)

5. Gold by Tatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.8% abv – Golden Ale – £2.19 (500ml) from Booths at Media City, Salford

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Now, back over the Pennines! Obscure from Tatton was my favourite bottle of last year. I still love it. A glorious black beer. I thought it was about time that I tried one of their paler offerings.

Pouring a dark gold colour with a nice lacy white head. A malty aroma with a hint of orange zest. Lovely juicy malt flavours with some toffeeness in there. Nice and smooth mouthful. Some nice hoppy dryness in the finish to give it a really nice balance.

On the back of this, I bought some of their Ruck & Maul porter from Booths last night. Can’t wait!

6. Bon Don Doon by Wilson Potter (Middleton, Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Blonde Ale – £7 for 3 bottles (500ml) – direct from the brewer.

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A lovely pale golden coloured beer. An interesting almost sherbet like aroma from the hops, quite zesty like a sherbet lemon. Smooth in the mouth, nicely balanced with some hoppy flavours I can’t quite pin down. A nice, dry almost grassy aftertaste. Another refreshing beer from this brewer.

Nice to see some of their draught beers around Manchester. I had the In The Black stout in The Salford Arms the other evening which was lovely and smooth. Excellent local brewers.

7. Kala by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6.2% abv – Black IPA – £2.90 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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Back to the east of the Pennines again. This deep ruby almost black beer (trust me, hold it to the light!) has a lovely beige head with a nice – but not overpowering – citrus aroma from the Cascade and Citra hops. A complex combination of flavours here. Citrussy hop combined with something much darker, some bitter chocolate and licorice I thought. With 5 different malts and 6 different hops, you’re certainly getting your moneys worth here!

This beer is simply chock full of flavour and superbly balanced. Full of flavour with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Black IPAs aren’t loved by all, but this is superb. Saltaire, I doff my (metaphorical) cap!

More pub related blather soon!

On that note…….’til next time!

Slainte!

Captured! – A Visit To Privateer Beers 26/03/2013

A few month ago, I was introduced to the beer made by Privateer Beers by Tom at The Salford Arms (A great place for good beer!). The beer was dark, seductive and damned tasty. That beer was called Dark Revenge. I had been abducted by The Privateer. Subsequently, I had the Roebuck, a paler beer at another excellent drinkerie, Joshua Brooks. Another excellent beer, brewed in the centre of Manchester, no less! I had to learn more.

After a brief, but fun and informative chat in Sand Bar (where Privateer supply the ‘house beer’ Tarantula) last week with the owner, Matt , I find a tweet inviting myself and (arch-nemesis) Jaz to pop along to the brewery! This was almost Vito Corleone territory…..as if I could refuse…….

20130326_185644(Insert own pirate related pun ….here)

Good grief…it was weather for ‘brass monkeys’. This was amplified by both the walk from Piccadilly and the fact that the streets off Fairfield Street are like wind tunnels. Eventually, we crossed the Mancunian Way onto the other side of the aptly named Temperance Street, where young Matt has his brewing playground!

As well as ironically locating a brewery on Temperance Street (in an arch under the railway line at No 80), one of the great things here, is that Matt built the brewery. Once the building was sourced in early 2012, he spent 6 months or so building the kit, testing etc. Brewed by himself and Peter Curran (ex brewer at Moorhouses of Burnley), the beers were released into the wild in about October 2012 and are served in a number of pubs in the area. They have also travelled as far as Kent, Berkshire, Suffolk, London and the North East. Impressive from a standing start less than 6 months ago! I personally have had the beers in 4 bars in the area and they have been uniformly superb. This makes my ‘Drink Local’ philosophy a joy!

All of the engineering, plumbing etc is his handiwork. And mightily impressive it is too! Five main vessels in here, the hot liquor tank and mash tun (where the malted barley is steeped in hot liquor to make the sugary stuff – wort), which then goes to the ‘copper’ (brewing vessel – where the hops impart their distinct aromas and flavours) and two fermenting vessels (where the yeast gets to play and make the beer!)

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(Hot Liquor – water – Tank & Mash Tun)

The copper is 6 1/2 Bbl (beer barrels – 1 = 36 Gallons), which means that each ‘brew’ can be as much as nearly 1900 pints. Breaking this down, this means that they can produce 26 x 9 gallon firkins (the cask that goes to the pubs) for each brew. Each brew is transferred from the copper to the Fermenting Vessels (FVs) where the yeast does its job – sometimes TOO vigorously!

20130326_190057(The Copper and 2 FVs – Those glasses didn’t stay empty for long!)

Once you include the empty casks and those that are filled and ready to move, you soon learn that they make the most out of this small space. The space above the office is used to store hops and empty casks. There is a small room to the right of the cooling unit which is used as the malt store. This place is compact and, for the time being, does the job.

Matt (Jervis, the owner) is a very entertaining and convivial host and gave a chat about the beers, a brief history of the brewery and answered some questions whilst showing off his baby – the  brewery itself. His brewing ‘mission’ is to brew tasty beer at a strength no greater than 5% abv. This is admirable at a time when many brewers seem to equate flavour with high strength and massively hopped beers. On occasions, I like those beers too, but mostly I want a beer that is balanced, that I can taste without falling over every second pint. In my experience, this is what Privateer do. And do well.

The beers are also, currently, all cask conditioned. Huzzah!

The current core range consists of Roebuck (an amber brew, nicely hopped with Centennial hops) at 3.8% abv; Dainty Blonde (a pale, blonde beer) at 4.2% abv and Dark Revenge (a strong Mild) at 4.5%. This is augmented by the house beer made for Sand Bar on Grosvenor Street, a 3.5% Mild called Tarantula, which is delicious.

Now. For the beer……..

Matt had tapped two 9s. One of Dainty Blonde and one of a new brew (which will be added to the core range) called Red Duke, a red beer at 4.8% abv. Being there first, myself and Jaz had the pleasure of having the Dainty Blonde to ourselves! A lovely, smooth blonde beer. Well balanced, nicely hopped with Amarillo hops for a nice slightly citrus aroma with a gentle bitterness.

As we finished our Blonde, a number of other guests arrived including Graham and Lin from Bolton CAMRA Branch and a group of local amateur brewers. The conversations started to flow (as did the beer). Then we were introduced to the Red Duke. Matt acknowledged that this wasn’t the reddest of reds, but it was red enough in comparison with the Dainty Blonde.

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(Blonde meets the Red)

The Red Duke is a red/brown beer which has a maltier base that the Blonde. A slightly more complex beer with flavours of toffee and caramel in there nicely offset with the American (Centennial & Amarillo) hops. Jaz enjoyed it and told me that I would too. He wasn’t wrong either (he knows me FAR too well!)

One of the ambitions that Matt has is ‘Vertical Integration’ (my words). Matt has run a pub or two and there is total sense in the quality control afforded by controlling everything from grain to glass. I hope they get themselves a bar soon as I like his philosophy around drinking  and I’d like to see the results.

Other than Graham and Matt (obviously Jaz!), I hadn’t met any of the other people there before. I personally had some excellent and fun chats with a few of the brewers group who knew their beers (and far more than me about how they are made!!!). Good people, who I’m sure I’ll meet again. I would like to try real home brewing at some point, but I think I’d need to extend my house first! (And hide the kit from my darling Atilla!)

Before I realised it, it was 22:50 and I had to get to my chariot (at latest) by 23:40! So a hasty but heartfelt thanks to Matt, a quick cheerio to everyone else and myself, Jaz and Simon (met tonight for first time!) hot footed to Port Street for a quick sleeping draught. I wanted a Stout, but the thought of having to quickly drink a Thornbridge St Petersburg simply terrified me, so ….

Quantum – Keyworths Early. An excellent and slightly complex beer from Mr Krause! Don’t know what the hops are in this but a nice fruity dryness to the finish. Another brewery without a mis-step for me!

Was nice to put some faces to twitter names last night, including seeing David from Sweden late on in Port Street. Unfortunbaately far too late to have a chat due to rushing for the chariot home!

Once again, an excellent evening. Some good beer lubricating some really good chatting. Isn’t this what beer is all about?

Now, when was that lovely T-Shirt being made in XXL, Matt?

Slainte!

Recent Bottle Tastings

Just 3 to point out from recent sampling.

  • Tandle Hill by Wilson Potter 3.9% abv (Direct from the Brewers – £7 for 3 500 ml bottles)

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A golden coloured, bottle conditioned beer with lively carbonation. A floral hoppy aroma. A dry and refreshingly bitter beer with a lingering grassy fresh dry aftertaste. Looking forward to getting some more soon. Superb local brewer. Would LOVE to see their beer on draught in Manchester.

  • Green Devil IPA by Oakham Brewery 6%abv (£3.50 for 660ml from Brewery Tap P.H. in Peterborough)

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I have some friends in Peterborough. My buddy Rob was popping down to see them, so, it felt like an opportunity to source this beer. As it happens, he got the last two from the pub shelves. They themselves were unsure as to next time they’ll get it in. Oakham aren’t even sure about the next time they’ll bottle it!

Anyway, this golden coloured bottle conditioned beer gave out an abundant tropical citrus smell with pineapple and some pink grapefruit. Lovely! Nice, sharp and bitter with some more tropical stuff in the taste, pineapple and grapefruit again upfront. Really smooth with a lingering dry fruitiness. This was like a souped up Citra with extra warming properties. Some complexity in the aftertaste, grassyness and I thought a touch of something darker like a herby licorice. Some peachy too. Bugger it, maybe my senses are shot! A damn fine beer.

  • Dry Stout by Stringers Brewery 4.5% abv (£2.19 for 500ml from Booths at Media City, Salford)

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I can’t believe I’ve never rated this superb stout before! I always grab a couple of bottles of this when I go to Booths, as well as their equally superb IPA.

A carbon black beer with a tan head. A gorgeous earthy dark roasty aroma. Loads of roasted malt flavours with a touch of smokiness and a dry bitter finish. This is one of my favourite bottled stouts. Unfortunately, I’m still yet to have it on draught. I live in hope. If anybody notices this on draught within 20 miles of Bolton, TWEET ME!!!