Hawkshead Brewery – Something in the Water

As I said last week. As a blogger, unlike (so it seems) many, I don’t get sent much in the way of free beer. I don’t go out of my way to get any either. I have a seemingly huge beer stash that has been bought and paid for and that’s quite enough for this simple man. No complications.

In the blogging world, there appears to be an etiquette around these things that I am completely in ignorance of. I like it that way.

I have a really simple rule. If I like it, I’ll review it. That applies to freebies as well as the 99.9% of beers in my stash that are bought. I have to be impressed by a beer in order to review it, that way, if you see a review and buy it on the strength of that review and buy it in good condition, you *should* enjoy it. I like to maintain what little “integrity” (just for you MJ!) these last 4 years have bestowed upon me.

Like I said above, I don’t get sent much. But when I received an e-mail from Hawkshead about 3 special beer that they had brewed, offering me some, I snatched their hands off.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Hawkshead. Almost a byword for reliability. On cask, Windermere Pale is an uber reliable beer to fall back on. Brodies Prime unmissable. NZPA likewise. Cumbrian 5 Hop, Dry Stone Stout, IPA….the list goes on. Pale & hoppy or dark and roasty rich, consistently excellent.

So. When they offered to send me an Imperial Stout, an Imperial Porter and (not my usual) a Sour, I eagerly awaited delivery. Luckily, one of my brood was home when the knock arrived….

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Chuckleberry Sour – 3.5% abv – Berliner Weisse – 330ml

Atilla saw me pouring it and thought that I was having a cranberry juice!

It certainly had the colour! Watermelon pink, this has an aroma with a gentle acidic sourness as you would expect from a Berliner but with a fruitiness that was a cross between watermelon and Raspberry with a shot of cranberry and got the saliva glands motoring!

Yup. This is one palate cleanser and more! It has a light soft fleshy fruitiness, combined with being simultaneously Sour and slightly salty too. An incredibly refreshing and tart mouthful.

I had to check what a chuckleberry was, then I got the redcurrant and understood.

This is ordinarily not my style of beer, but having enjoyed a few sours from Chorlton, this does float my boat. Fruity, slightly salty and tart. An excellent palate livener. Superb

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Tonka – 8.5% abv – Imperial Porter – 330ml

Now then. Those who saw my last bottle post, May recall the ludicrous Black and Tan postscript. Which featured this beer in its keg format. See here…. Time to go solo!

Another deeply dark and alluring beer possessed of a creamy coloured head. The aroma is delicate but full of chocolate with a slight vanilla sweetness and something a little boozy, like rum.

WOW. Holy Mother of WOW.

Good full body on this, masses of nutty chocolate, good bitter chocolate, with a nuttiness that made me think of toasted Brazil nuts. Then there is a distinct blackcurrant fruitiness to the flavour, cola too, which is followed by an earthy, nutty, coffee grind bitterness.

Simply put, this is astonishingly good.

It’s Roasted, fruity, nutty, bitter, just so complex but so god damn repeatable. (Which can only go one way….)

Just. Just. Just………

One of the top three beers of this year. It’s THAT good.

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Northern Imperial Stout – 9.5% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml

Black as a tar pit. Bitumen black. Dark, dangerous, desirable. All the things I want in a beer materialise when I take a sniff.

Deep coffee roast. Licorice. Bitter chocolate. And what smells like a light dusting of cocoa on top just OOZING from this tan coloured head. Daring me to try it. Like a “Come and have a go if you think…..”  A beery hooligan.

Imperial Stouts are my true beery weakness. I just can’t help myself and to hell with the consequences.

This is rich, unctuous and almost oily the way it slides around the mouth. Bitter chocolate and a spicy almost rocket pepperiness are the first impressions as the first mouthful slicks down the throat, coating the mouth and leaving a more than pleasant bitterness.

Back for seconds. More bitter chocolate with added oomph from some espresso action and a building licorice root flavour adding to the impact. This beer is right up my proverbial street.

The further I go and the onion reveals more layers, with some dark and juicy berry fruit too. This is lush. But then again, I’m a sucker for big dark beers.

There is a moderate bitter finish, but the abiding flavours linger well into the aftertaste. That bitter coffee and chocolate.

All. Kinds. Of. Yum.

Hopefully, I’ve managed to elucidate quite how much I enjoyed these three beers. The Sour surprised me, the Imperial Stout impressed me and that Tonka is – to put it simply – one of the 3 best bottled beers that I’ve had this year. Astonishingly good.

And, next weekend, having heard so many good things about their beer events at their Beer Hall in Staveley, I’m finally going. Who knows, if I can grab Matt Clarke, I might try to persuade him to keg something special and ludicrous for #ISBF2016!

You can only try eh?

Booths Supermarket – Best Beer Supermarket in The North

“Inlitterati lumen fidei, God is with us everyday
That illiterate light , is with us every night.
Theologians, they don’t know nothing , about my soul, oh they don’t know…

I’m an ocean, I’m all emotion, I’m a cherry ghost, cherry ghost”

(“Theologians” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of  Luis Rodrigo Barrera on You Tube)

10 years or so ago, Phil, my good friend played me a track called “California Stars”. It is an old Woody Guthrie song and was recreated (along with a whole host of others) to form the album “Mermaid Avenue” as performed by Billy Bragg & Wilco. Little did I know it then, but a love affair was born with a band from Chicago.

In 2004, I saw Wilco at Manchester Academy. The band were fantastic, great musicians all, but together….just fantastic. But the thing that struck me was just how fragile the vocalist (Jeff Tweedy) seemed. There was a vague rumour of an addiction (not eased by the lyrics of songs like “Handshake Drugs”) and I was utterly convinced that he wasn’t long for this world. I committed to seeing them whenever I could and saw them again later that year at Nottinghams’ Rock City. A fabulous live band. With the subsequent addition of the jazz inflected shredding guitar of the mighty Nels Cline, they’re even better.

I saw them most recently on the tour for their most recent album “The Whole Love” – again at Manchester Academy on a day when we buried an old college friend of mine. I don’t know if  the emotion of the day caught up with me, but the performance was one of the greatest of any band I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It started with this track “Art of Almost“, the lead track from the album. I had to share that too. Hold with it until the music fades and Glenn Kotche starts a whipcrack drum beat at about 4:43. Then watch/listen Nels Cline go! (The mans hands BLEED after performances!). Do you know what, the memory of that concert – and the whole day – still gets me.

We could get into the “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” situation / mythology – but I’ll let you find that for yourself. The band are MORE than worth a listen.

Recommended albums : I can’t. They’re all superb. My favourite tracks however : “Impossible Germany” (Sky Blue Sky); “Art of Almost” & “One Sunday Morning” – simply heartbreakingly beautiful – (The Whole Love) & “A Shot In The Arm” (Summerteeth)

On to the beer eh?

Today, I’m going off on a beery tangent – shop wise.

I am a huge supporter of small independent beer shops. They provide knowledgeable service, combined with beers you simply won’t find in any supermarket. I don’t think that there is an exception to that rule. But I love E H Booths – or simply Booths as they are now. They are a Northern chain and are positioned (I would say) at The Waitrose end of the spectrum. The artisanal foods that they stock, the breads, the deli counter, they rock my boat….but oh, the beer….

It was about 2003 and I was driving along Penwortham Way from Preston toward Leyland when I spotted (from the corner of my eye), a supermarket just off a roundabout and resolved to go in, which I did. I walked in with no preconceptions, no basket, no trolley and strolled – purposefully – towards the alcohol section. Bypassing the wines & spirits, I arrived at the beer section. My jaw dropped. I had simply never seen so many beers in a shop. The first thing I noticed was Alaskan Smoked Porter…..I went to get a trolley…..and walked out with nearly £100 of beers I had (mostly) never seen, never mind drunk, previously. The birth of another love affair….

With my beer shopping being focused on small independent shops, I hadn’t been into their excellent Media City outlet – my next closest being Chorley – for a while. That is, until I wandered into a Twitter conversation which seemed to offer up a live online community tasting session. Inspired by the launch of 4 own branded beers sourced from the 4 counties in which they operate (Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire & Yorkshire), they were hosting this session tasting 2 of those 4 beers with the #BoothsCheers hashtag and sending the two chosen beers to a number of people to join in, I butted in and they sent me two, but, on the day of the tasting, I missed the delivery, so, improvising, I went to Media City to pick the two up – and walked out with 19 bottles!

I chatted with a couple of the staff including the manager of the Alcohol section (really friendly) who helped me to find a couple of beers I couldn’t locate, the service is impeccable. I even tried to blag a raffle prize for the Salford Beer Festival…….well…he didn’t say no and even said he’d like to come….that’s ticket number 1 sold then!

As far as supermarket chains are concerned, they have no competitor in the North West. Yes, I’ve heard of the exceptional range at Londis on Penny Lane in Liverpool, but that’s one outlet. But with stock only slightly varying depending on store size, you get beers here that you won’t in any other Northern supermarket. May be the reason why they were my Beer Supermarket of 2013 in my Golden Pints! I’ve tasted a small selection of my haul….Prices are generally around the £1.79 to £2.29 mark, with an offer on many at 4 for £6 at the moment, during their “Beer Festival”

Connor Murphy on his excellent Beer Battered blog wrote a piece on Booths recently as part of his ‘Supermarket Ale Trail’ series – read here

And before you say anything…This is most certainly NOT an advertorial….Confidentially speaking….some local blogs do that…I don’t. These were all paid for. By me!


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1. Route 66Eden Brewery (St Andrews, Scotland) – 5.1% abv – Lager

This was a bright straw yellow gold and had a slight chill haze, with a white head and a  slight fruity aroma with peach and a hint of spice.
In the mouth, this is medium-bodied with a good rich tea malt base and was quite fruity and dry with a note that reminded me of grape skins. That biscuity malt gave a slight sweetness that was offset by quite a bitter kick. A really refreshing mouthful with a substantial spicy hop finish and a lingering herbal hop grassy aftertaste. First from this Brewery and a really good British Lager.

I *may* have bought one or two more from Eden’s range……maybe….

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2. YankeeRoosters Brewing Co (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale
Only my second from Roosters in bottle (following the excellent High Tea). I was delighted to see both this and their Coffee Porter “Londinium” on the shelves and MAY have snapped up a bottle or 2…..
A beautiful bright golden with a white fluffy head and a full booming aroma with sweet lemon and tart gooseberry, enough to make my saliva gland go into overdrive!
Medium-bodied and fruity with a kind of lemon sherbet on a base of fresh white bread, this is so smooth and easy drinking. Each mouthful as fruity and zingy as the first. Perfect summer drinking. Fresh as a daisy, sweet fruity and very moreish. A classy Pale Ale. I could go at this all night….
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3. Marie JauneIlkley Brewery (Ilkley, N Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale
The one thing that can be said about Yorkshire Micros…They were never going to leave “Le Grand Depart” of the Tour De France uncommemorated, were they? To be fair, I’ve had some belting beers loosely Tour themed. This was another..
Golden, white head, subtle fruity aroma with a little peach or nectarine.

This is quite full bodied for the strength with a good solid biscuity malt body, some grape fruitiness, nicely sharp, clean and fresh tasting, along with a gentle peach leading to a subtle bitterness. Really dry tart aftertaste too. This was smoothly carbonated lending itself to a really smooth easy drinking beer. Lovely.

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4. Cherry StoutTyne Bank Brewery (Newcastle Upon Tyne) – 5.2% abv – Stout
This was a really pleasant surprise on the shelves near the lift. Tyne Bank are a rarity to me. Last time I had any was IndyManBeerCon in 2012! So I had to…didn’t I? Especially with my love of the Darkside!
Black with a slight ruby glow and a light mocha coloured head and an aroma of light coffee with a gentle whiff of cherry.

Full bodied smooth in the mouth, initial flavour is Bournville chocolate, sweet but with a certain depth. Then in comes some cherry – not overpowering, unlike some beers that use it – which complements the chocolate really well with a slightly sour tinge. This is excellent.

The Oatmeal lends the beer a silkiness which adds to the sense of balance. Mouthful after mouthful, this is a lovely smooth flavoursome beer. Silky from the oats, with that cherry ohhh …… And at a couple of quid, feels like shoplifting!

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5. “Jack Brand” Innovation IPAAdnams Brewery (Southwold, Suffolk) – 6.7% abv – IPA
Having heard a lot about the Adnams “craft” range (and this beer in particular) from luminaries like Nathaniel Southwood, I was keen to try this and rather pleased when I saw it on the shelves – especially at £1.99!
Deep golden coloured beer with a light white head and booming citrus aroma all apricot and grapefruit, so fragrant.

Full bodied and just SO SMOOTH. The first mouthful is all big juicy malt sweetness with a fruitiness which is more like a grapefruit marmalade, sticky and juicy. There’s a barley sugar element to this but it’s more than balanced by the fruit and a restrained bitterness.

The finish is really quite dry with a fresh-cut grass and insistent resinous pine. A really good IPA in its own right, but probably the best “craft” offering I’ve had so far from one of the regionals. Yeah. Just about sums it up.

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6. Black IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 5.6% abv – Black IPA (er…)
This was the first of the beers in the #BoothsCheers Twitter Tasting. But, give that I missed the delivery, I bought this and the Golden Ale (also excellent). It was more than worth it.
Black with a cream coloured head, the aroma on this was all sugared grapefruit with something a bit…darker…lurking in the shadows of that place between the nose and the mouth…
In the mouth, this was full-bodied, with the instant shock of mango and grapefruit coming from a black beer brought back down to dark reality by a touch of treacle, a lashing of licorice and more than a chunk of bitter chocolate. This flavour fiesta is rounded off by a substantial resinous aftertaste. Just a cracking beer. I do like a Black IPA me, I do! As Connor put it at the time….”Everything a Black IPA should be” – I’m such a plagiarist!
Well, that’s it. If you’re going to shop in a supermarket for beer, honestly, look no further. We’re a lucky bunch in the North!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!


Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 3

Johnny was an actor, oh you must have known? He wore his new Max Factor, nearly stole the show,

You go and tell me he’s not the only one. Ah, night creatures, strangest features, white faces and painted eyes.

Tongue teasers, oh you young deceivers, night creatures on your heels so high… “

(“Night Creatures” – Be Bop Deluxe)

(Tune courtesy of  “Notle Miroma” on You Tube)

One evening, some time in 1979, this particular 14-year-old boy was furtively listening (through earphones) to The John Peel Show on Radio One, when he played a track which caught my attention. I think it was “Art, Empire, Industry” by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. It blew me away with its energy and fizz, a melding of synthesizers and punk energy. I went to Virgin Records on Market St in Manchester and bought what I thought was the track I heard. The single I bought was “Revolt Into Style” and was the start of a love affair with all things Nelson.

Gradually, I learned of his previous band, Be Bop Deluxe. Emanating from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, they started out as a Glam Rock band with the album Axe Victim (from which the above track is taken) before making what – for me – is their masterpiece, Futurama. Containing the fabulously complex “Between The Worlds” and the short but mighty “Maid In Heaven”, the delicate “Jean Cocteau” (A Nelson hero) it’s a magnificent Rock album up there with any UK album of the mid-70s for me.

I’m not too big to say that I wept, the night I finally heard “Maid In Heaven” live, along with a whole host of Be Bop tracks when Nelson played a back catalogue concert in  Manchester a few years back, songs I never thought that I’d hear live, guitar solos I never thought I’d experience in the flesh. Bill self-records and releases these days and has a prodigious output, many tracks reflecting his futuristic wonder of the 50s and 60s (his childhood). But in the words of Bowie “Boy could he play guitar”

Moving swiftly on to the usual subject matter…bottled beers…

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Eastoft Elderberry Stout – Axholme Brewing Co (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Surprise! We start, with a dark beer!

Black beer with a creamy tan head and a delicate floral aroma with a roasty hint. Medium bodied, the floral characteristics come through in the mouth backed up by a smooth almost chocolatey roasted malt character. There is a pleasing light bitterness in the finish followed by a light herbal grassy note and a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste. An unusual yet really pleasant stout.

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2. Dark Hopfler – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 2.5% abv – Dark Milk Ale – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Knowing that Weird Beard like to name their beers after some kind of musical link, I am hereby making an assumption that this is some reference to Mark Knopfler. If so…

I HATE Dire Straits! Any tune by them reminds me of 1985, being stuck in a hospital bed (after having my nose fixed – not that you’d tell!) and I could hear was “Money For Bleeding Nothing”! On repeat. REPEATEDLY!!!

Moving swiftly on! This is a black beer with lively carbonation giving a fluffy latte coloured head with huge citrus hop aromas of grapefruit mingled with a really milky coffee.

Surprisingly full-bodied for such a light beer, not as thin as I would have expected at this strength. The hops are in your face with apricot and mango in the vanguard. This is followed by a very subtle milky coffee and a burnt toast undernote with a little lactose sweetness (just a little) creeping past the defences near the end. A sweet milky finish leads to quite a resinous finish. Dark Milk Ale just about describes it! Would love to try this on handpull through a sparkler!

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3. Anubis Porter – Raw Brewing Company (Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5.2% abv – Porter – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% off 12 Bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Shall we get the dark stuff out of the way eh?

Having had Raw on cask before, primarily at Joshua Brooks, I was keen to try this bottle that I picked up on the Opening Day (read here) of the Blackedge Brewery bottle shop!

Virtually black beer with a thin cream coloured head and a full chocolate and toffee caramel aroma. Mmmm….medium bodied, initial flavour was a nice bitter chocolate with a malty caramel toffee backbone, slightly sweet yet with quite a bite to it. For a non-bottle conditioned beer, this is excellent! This is added to with a pronounced bitterness from the hops and quite a grassy aftertaste with that deep chocolate toffee staying throughout. An excellent first bottle from a brewery that I’ve enjoyed on cask.

And now, for some lighter stuff!

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4. India Pale Ale (Amarillo) – The Kernel Brewery (Bermondsey, S London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.29 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

My favourite hop. In a single hop IPA. By one of the most renowned breweries in London. A no-brainer really when Raj pointed this bad boy out to me!

Hazy and dark golden beer with a white head and a full-on fragrant orange marmalade aroma, booking out of the glass! I took a moment to calm down.

Full-bodied (unsurprisingly) with rich sweet marmalade sliding all over the tongue, using it as its own playground, the marmalade doesn’t retreat in the face of a encroaching bitterness that’s really satisfying. The bitterness itself leads to a big resinous pine and fruity finish. Each mouthful left me wanting more! And I do want more.

A classy beer using my favourite hop to its maximum. Superb!

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5. Shipwreck IPA – Liverpool Organic Brewery (er..Liverpool!) – 6.5% abv – IPA – Swap with a colleague (500ml) – 0 – Direct from the Brewery

A colleague from the office (Cheers Dave!), picked this up whilst on a tour of the brewery last weekend, for which I am truly grateful. (The swap, was for a bottle of Saltaire/NMB Co Smoked Porter – a review of which, next weekend perhaps?)

Amber coloured beer with a light white head a toffeeish nose with a hint of fruit, maybe orange. Full bodied with big caramelly malt laying a base for the fruitiness of the hops, with more orange and peach for me leading to a good strong bitterness and a substantial fruity, grassy and pine aftertaste which tingles on the tongue. A really fruity big-boned beer this. Had this on draught at The Angel some months back, this is just as good.

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6. NZPA – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £3.75 (A swap) (330ml) – 0 – From the brewery shop

This, quite possibly, comes within my top 5 pale ales. I’ve had it on a number of occasions and wherever I have it (incl Wetherspoons) it is universally potent and tasty with booming fruity hops. I was chuffed to bits therefore, when my good pal (and colleague) Chris picked one up following a rather strenuous bike ride that started – and ended – in Staveley. Being a perfectly sensible chap, he nipped in the Beer Hall and (amongst other delights) picked this up for me. Damned fine fellow!

Just look at that colour! A beautifully bright golden beer with good carbonation, giving a generous lasting white head which yielded a beautiful citrussy aroma bursting with grapefruit, kiwi and a hint of mango.

This is every bit as lovely as the cask version that I’ve adored for so long! Full-bodied and smooth in texture the fresh tart citrus leaps onto the tongue with the grapefruit being the Silverback here, dominant and powerful without being overwhelming. An excellent assertive bitterness to this too, just like the cask version, which is followed by an aftertaste both dry and resinous. Every bit as good as on cask. Superb!

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7. Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (3 for £7.50) (330ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A disclaimer on this one. This was passed by this new Manchester area brewer  (currently “Gypsy Brewing” at Outstanding Brewery in Bury) for free via my buddy Dan at Great Ale Year Round. Usual rules applying. I only review if I enjoy it. And BOY did I enjoy it!

Firstly, the branding.

Plays to my prejudices with a slightly distressed looking blue and white combo, with their woven motif. Something in the back of my mind also has The Shindiggers being one of the earliest of Manchester gangs? (I’m probably wrong!) Either way, the name has a whiff of romance about it for me.

The beer? A deep gold with excellent carbonation and a lasting white head releasing aromas of citrus fruits, with apricot and grapefruit prominent. Mmmm…Really smooth considering it’s from the bottle. Really balanced too, with a good light biscuity malt backbone being ridden by lovely citrussy hops, with initially grapefruit then a more subdued tangerine or orange coming through. In later mouthfuls, I thought I got a lemon note too. Nice bitterness adding to this refreshing beer with a finish that retains the fruit but adds a substantial resinous pine dryness.

What an excellent beer for a first in bottle! (Will be seeking it out on draught on The Road To Wigan Beer tomorrow!)

Next up? The Road To Wigan Beer – Pt 3 (for me) – The pub crawl by bus! Tomorrow!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 2

“On the pad before my eyes, paper cries, tellin’ lies.

The promises you gave from the grave of a broken heart. Hmmm

Every day I spend my time, drinkin’ wine, feelin’ fine,

Waitin’ here to find the sign that I can understand,

Yes I am, oh.”

(“In A Broken Dream” – Python Lee Jackson)

This song was originally released in 1970, but by the time of its UK re-release in 1972, Rod Stewart was banging out some of the finest blues-rock singles of the age, songs that MORE than stand the test of time, even now. “Maggie May”, “Reason To Believe”, “Handbags & Gladrags”, “You Wear It Well” not to mention the all-time classic single “Stay With Me” that he recorded as a member of possibly the most lashed up and lashed together of all rock and roll bands “The Faces”. Pistols at dawn for anybody who denies the greatness of that run of classics! To think that he was paid for his vocal on my featured lyric….with a set of seat covers for his car!

Anyway, down to business…..that being BEER of course…..

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. Brodies Prime Export – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 8.5% abv – Strong Dark Ale – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another of the batch that I received unexpectedly in the post. Sometimes, I can’t believe my luck!

Liquid ebony to the eye and twice as pretty! A light cream coloured head yielding an aroma containing deep dark bitter chocolate and some nose wrinkling spicy hop? Ooohhh! In the mouth this is full-bodied (as you would expect), but far from glutinous. A perfect balance of sweet & bitter. Licorice, bitter chocolate, a touch of cognac, and sweet strong coffee assail the taste-buds  and give the insides of the belly a warm luxurious massage! Licorice and chocolate linger into the finish with quite a hoppy perky aftertaste. I love Brodies Prime, but this is EVEN better!

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2. Monster Mash – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Strong Mild – £2.48 – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

Damn! I could have used the lyric from the classic Bobby Pickett & The Cryptkickers for the header (“I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight…”)

OK, I’ll get on with it….. Dark brown almost black was this puppy, with a creamy tan coloured head and a milk  chocolatey aroma with a hint of sweet coffee. It was full-bodied and creamy in the mouth, with chocolate at first on the tongue, then some bitter coffee and lovely toasty flavours in with the roast. This led to a dry finish with a little bitterness and a lingering coffee note in the aftertaste. Another Wakefield belter from Mr Bastow!

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(Now THAT’S what I call Amber!)

3. American Amber Ale – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale – £4.19 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The first time that I drank this, was on draught at Port Street Beer House. Astonishingly good (as have been all of Jay’s beers that I have tried), it was somewhat darker than anything resembling amber, buy BOY did it taste good! But in bottle?

No worries there! Yup! It’s an amber coloured beer alright, with a white head and a big citrussy aroma, the dominant whiffs being tangerine and peach. Full bodied and really fruity (tangerine, tart grapefruit) with a bready malt base supporting those fruity hops (all SEVEN) and rounded off with a nicely bitter finish and an aftertaste with lingering fruit and sticky piney resins. Yet another superb beer from the Hempshore Lane laboratory!

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4. Clearwater Pale AleAxholme Brewery (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.59 (less discount for 12 or more) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A brewery whose beers can be found rarely but increasingly in certain select pubs like The New Oxford in Salford, Mike & Jules Richards create some fine beers, but like many smaller brewers, rarely find their way this neck of the woods. Shame really!

Pale gold with ever such a light haze and an aroma yielding  some peach and maybe grape to the nose. Medium bodied and lacking a little in carbonation, but really refreshing with almost a cask feel to it. Quite dry with peach and tangerine flavours to the fore giving way to quite a dry finish, with a gentle bitterness at the back of the tongue. A nice beer from the North of Lincolnshire.

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5. Black Betty – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.4% abv – Black IPA – £3.49 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

About a year ago, I had never even HEARD the term “Black IPA” never mind tasted one! And now……Black is indeed the new Pale! This was a Beavertown beer that I’d heard loads of good verbage about, but was yet to try…..

Black with a chocolate-brown tinge at the head when held up to the light, the head is a tan colour but quickly faded to traces, giving up a powerful citrus aroma of grapefruit mingled with something earthier and spicier like licorice root. Making this old boy’s saliva glands go into overdrive! Once it passes the lips it is like a dark grenade! In the mouth the citrus is peach and mandarin and really sharp, with the carbonation enhancing the tingling of the gums. Entwined with that – like a vine – is that licorice again with a bitter chocolate note. This is the first time that I have had this beer in any form and it is bloody marvellous! A superb balance of sweetness and hoppy bitterness and resins. The finish is dry and bitter with lingering pine and bitter chocolate. A class act!

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6. Broken Dream – Siren Craft Brew (Finchhampstead, Berkshire) – 6.5% abv – Breakfast Stout – £0 (330ml) (£3.60 in shop) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I popped in this afternoon whilst in Bolton and had a superb pint of Deeply Vale DV8 (funnily enough, another Breakfast Stout) and it was great to see Dan & Gina doing well in their brave but welcome (ad)venture. Some MTBs coming up too!

Dan passed me this to see what I thought (knowing my love of most things dark!) and I am so glad he did!

A true stout. Black and opaque, a dark tan creamy head with an aroma of mocha with memories of chocolate flavoured ice cream sauce topping! Mmmm….Full bodied and ever so chocolatey! Really creamy and smooth on the tongue. The chocolate fades (if that is the right word) into more of a mocha feel with coffee increasingly making its eye-opening presence felt. The mocha sweetness is balanced with some nice grassy hopping which comes into play nearer the finish which has a blend of chocolate sweetness and hoppy dryness. I wasn’t that impressed when I tried this at the recent beer fest (unlike their awesome Soundwave), but this is more than a class above. A corker! (And a steal at the price!)

Being a total empty head, I forgot my beers of the month for January….so here goes….

Draught – AmarilloBrightside Brewing (Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester) Pale and VERY interesting, the orangey hop character of the Amarillo shone through in this fruity marvel. A deserves SIBA Gold Medal winner. Apparently, they’re having this on draught at the Great Ale Year Round MTB next week. Can’t wait!!!

Bottle – StrannikNorthern Monk Brew Co – “Creamy full-bodied and oh so bad…..I feel like I’m committing adultery with a beer!” – Enough said!”

That’s enough of my wittering & waffling for one week I think!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

PS : (I lied!) Allgates Brewery have brewed more of the luscious Quaker House Oatmeal Stout (My beer of the year 2013!), can’t wait to wrap my chops around that beauty again!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt1

“I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys, electric irons and T.V.’s
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.
And all the fat-skinny people. And all the tall-short people.
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people.
I never thought I’d need so many people”

(“Five Years” – David Bowie)

(Video link above courtesy of mack89464 on You Tube)

I have a saying that I use. “Trust me about Music & Beer – I’m pants at everything else!” Self deprecating, possibly, but Family, Friends, Music & Beer are my true loves (the last two being interchangeable). I try to make the lyric at the top of each post one that relates to something below. As you will see, that certainly applies here!

Five Years is taken from the classic David Bowie album “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” and is, in my opinion, the standout track on an album that has been in my all-time Top 10 for the last 30 years. Each of the 11 original tracks from the aforementioned “Five Years” all the way through to “Rock & Roll Suicide” are stone cold classics, burned into my brain since my two elder brothers were playing it 41 years ago. For me, the first of a run of classic albums which, in my opinion, ran all the way through to Low and Heroes (Side 1 of Low – the “pop” side, is still the single best side of ANY album! Anyone who disagrees had better choose his pistol carefully!)

As I am typing this (21:05 on Friday), I’m playing the album. It just never dates. I simply refuse to believe that it only reached #5 in the UK album charts!

Anyway, revelry over. This damn blog is supposed to be about beer…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next. If you haven’t, you’ll soon learn! ……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. Dirty Blond – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 3.9% abv – Blond Ale – £0 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

I may have said this before, but if I have, forgive me for boring you but it needs re-stating. Since I have been writing this beery drivel, I have been lucky enough to receive bottles for free – not loads, but some – and when I do, I say the same thing each time. If I like it enough, I’ll review it. If I DON’T like it, I communicate my thoughts and reasons directly. My wafflings are there to highlight Good beers for my poor misguided readers to try. There. I say this, because this was passed (along with the Black Shuck from the same brewer) to me some time ago by Damian (The Ale Man) to see what I thought. He liked it himself, but fancied a second opinion.

This is a golden beer (as you can see, Doh!), with a light fluffy white head and a floral, slightly spicy aroma. It’s fairly light bodied in the mouth, fruity, very dry and has a big dry resinous finish. Really refreshing with a substantial grassy aftertaste. What a nice session pale this could be on cask! Hope we see it up in t’ North soon! Damian now has four beers from the Hellhound guys, well worth a try.

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(My only decent 2/3rd pint glass got dropped!)

2. IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 7% abv – IPA – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another one that I received gratis, but this time, direct from the brewery. A most pleasant surprise, as I really love the beers from Hawkshead! I believe they were bottling limited run beers using a new micro bottling plant, this comes hence.

An amber coloured beer with a white head and apricot and orange aroma spilling forth. Slightly sweet on the nose. Toffee too maybe. Ooh….Sweet caramelly biscuit malt but some huge hopping here for balance. Full bodied, some malty sweetness and really fruity with apricot and a hint of grapefruit in here. A big bitter piney finish with piney resins staying on way after the swallow. An absolute cracker and one to be treated with a degree of respect.

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3. Five Years – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Pale Ale / IPA – £3 ish (I think!) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

I love Bowie. I love Five Towns beers. So, a series of Bowie themed beers brewed by Five Towns? A match made in whatever religious destination floats your boat!

Pale gold to straw coloured beer, white head with a mango and orangey aroma. Full bodied nice sponge cakey sweet malt balanced with some serious piney hoppage (Mosaic) Marmalade richness in there too. Mmmm….! Wow this is dry! Really, really fruity and dry. The resinous hops are making my gums tingle! This is almost in DIPA territory without being as sweet as some. Just so moreish…like all Five Towns. Absolutely Lush! If I have my way, we’ll see some of their draught in Manchester. AND SOON!

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4. Topaz (Single hopped Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Blah blah blah – Mallinsons. Blah blah blah – Single hopped Pale Ale….. OK. But I come over all Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough!

Bright & Gold with a white head giving up a honeyed aroma with a little citrus that I couldn’t pick, maybe sweet satsuma? Smooth carbonation and easily slips down the throat, the sweet satsuma/tangerine comes through in the mouth with a substantial bitterness. More assertively bitter than the other SHPs Mallinssns have done, but still a superb beer with a strong bitter finish and resinous aftertaste. Yum, yum and thrice yum!

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5. Elixium –  Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) / Elixir Brew Co (Collab) – 5.9% abv – Porter – £4.15 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

From the latest and most welcome addition to Bolton’s fairly parlous town centre drinking scene, a cracking wee bar with great local draught beer and an excellent bottle selection!

Black with a beige tan head and a deeply chocolatey aroma. Full bodied, chocolatey, like a real 75-90% bitter chocolate,a slight London Porterish sourness (original porters being sour beers) initial light sweetness, roasty and quite an appealing bitterness to it. A cracking earthy hoppy dryness in the finish. Breathe in after a mouthful and a light smokiness wafts over your mouth. Another cracker comes forth from Hempshaw Lane!

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6. Hivemind – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.6% abv – Honey Red Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

An amber to red coloured beer, white head with a fresh zingy citrus aroma – nectarine upfront – fruity and sweet. Full-bodied, sharp and citrussy in the mouth, grapefruit tartness and quite resinous and a finish both tart and piney. A little honeyed sweetness in the aftertaste along with the piney resinous stuff. Some honeyed beers can be cloying and just TOO sweet, this is quite simply a corker and the use of honey is really well judged. I like it!

Well, that’s all folks! Well, for another week anyway!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Sainsbury – Great British Beer Hunt 2013

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This is the third year of this competition, but I have to confess that years 1 & 2 almost passed me by completely. It was only in the aftermath of the 2012 iteration, that I picked up on the 2 winners Mocha by Batemans (slightly sweet, but v moreish) & J W Lees’ Manchester Star – a recreated recipe of a 19th century beer initially created in collaboration with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, I think I still have a bottle of that lurking somewhere!

This year however, I picked up on some of the buzz via Twitter & Facebook and headed to my nearest branch.

The competition works like this. This year, over 150 bottled beers were entered in the four regional competitions (Scot/NI, North, East & West) and, through customer tasting sessions, were whittled down to five from each region. These 20 beers are then stocked across the Sainsbury estate and, via volume of sales, are further whittled down to 12 which go through to a final judging by “beer experts” (sorry, couldn’t help myself – Just can’t get over Worthington White Shield winning Champion Bottle Beer of Britain at GBBF!)

Prize for 1st place? Shelf space in over 250 stores. 2nd place? 100 stores. A significant deal for almost any Micro!

Walking in to my branch at Bolton, the beers were clearly on display and separated from the main booze aisles. Now, despite a thoroughly undeserved reputation as a bit of a lush, there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to attempt all 20 beers! So I got selective. I bought 10 or so different bottles (in varying quantities) Here’s the best of the bunch that I bought.

One further point. My usual format for listing changes here, as all the beers were bought from the one retailer and all cost the same price – a ludicrously cheap £1.50!!!

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1. Windermere PaleHawkshead Brewery (Staveley , Cumbria) – 4% abv –  Pale Ale – 500ml

Firstly (and I feel like I’m back at school here!), I misplaced my photo of the poured bottle. I did take one, honest sir……it was there this morning……

Pale as a spring morning but with the pungent aroma of autumns harvest of that beast of a hop, Citra! If you have ever had this on draught….It’s just as pale, just as hoppy. Sweet and sharp on the nose with pineapple and grapefruit, light bodied but absolutely PACKED with hoppy flavours with more grapefruit having the edge. A nice slightly sweet rich tea biscuit base allows the hops to party. Nice very dry bitter finish. Slightly boosted in strength to 4% (draught on cask being 3.5% abv) but loses none of its refreshing ability. More please!

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2 Gonny No Brew ThatWilliams Bros Brewing (Alloa, Scotland) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml

I thought that at this strength, that this beer might suffer in comparison. Not a bit of it! Pale and gold with a pineapple marmaladey nose. Quite full-bodied for this strength with a doughy bread base balanced by a cutting orangey bitterness. A nice fruity bittersweet finish. Nice beer at this strength.

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3. Crafty Dan – Daniel Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 6% abv – Strong Pale Ale – 500ml

Brewed on a smaller brew kit used for Thwaites seasonal range, this is one of quite a few Thwaites beers I’ve had this year which is seriously impressive. Deep gold, abundant white foam head with an aroma of orange marmalade on warm bread. In the mouth, more slightly bitter Seville marmalade hops with a nice big biscuit malt base. Hints of warming rum or Curacao. A nice bitterness in the finish with a spicy orange tang. A Blackburn Belter!

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4. India Pale AleHarbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – IPA – 500ml

One of two Harbour beers that I bought. Not had much of their stuff, but what I have had has been impressive, but on keg. This was a bronze coloured beer full of citrus aromas. Medium bodied and really citrus fruity with gum tingling piney resins swirling around the mouth. A really nice hoppy bitter beer with sufficient malty sweetness for just the right balance – with the hops on top that is! Very tasty indeed!

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5. Porter No 6Harbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 6.8% abv – Porter – 330ml

Just to ramp the strength back up and to introduce some shade into all this light stuff! The second from Harbour. A deep ruby, nearly black beer with a surprising raisin wine aroma (for this strength). A mouthful of caramel maltyness with a nice coffee and sweet chocolate flavouring. This was quite warming as it slipped down – again, surprisingly so at this strength point. A touch sweeter that I usually like my porters, but a truly cracking bottle!

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6. WayfarerOrkney Brewery (Cawdor, Nairnshire, Scotland) – 4.4% abv – IPA – 500ml

A really pale beer with a distinctive citrus aroma, reminiscent of bitter lemon. Balanced malt base but overlaid with cascade and amarillo hop zing, more grapefuit and lemon puckering the lips. Really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly resinous finish. First Orkney I’ve had in a while. A cracker.

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7. Infra RedHardknott Brewery (Millom, Cumbria) – 6.2% abv – Red IPA (I suppose!) – 330ml

This almost exploded as I opened it. A ruby red beer with an aroma of cough candy, spicy and slightly yeasty. Again, in the mouth, the cough candy of the crystal malt is evident, but with quite a bitter hoppy hit. Quite bitter and spicy in the finish with a spicy hop lingering.

There you go. I didn’t burden you with the ones that I didn’t quite get. The Querkus Smoked Porter was particularly disappointing and the Hunters Devon Dreamer was a bit yeasty (may have shaken and not settled to be fair)

I know that this is now a bit late in the game, but if you bought any of the above, you’d be doing yourselves a favour IMO! And, you only have until next Wednesday. What are you waiting for???

If you ask me for my favourites….I’d have to say the Crafty Dan, and the Harbour Porter. The others just being shaded, but only just! Certainly, if the Bolton stores’ sales are anything to go by, the Hawkshead Windermere Pale has been selling well. Just look at the picture at the top!

On that note…’til next time…(probably Hornbeam MTB at The Salford Arms tomorrow evening!)

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!

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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(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

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(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.

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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.

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(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

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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.

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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!

Joshua Brooks – Just The Ticket! 03/05/2013

It had been a stressful week at the ‘coal face’. That said, I had absolutely no intention of hitting the 37 towards Manchester on this particular Friday evening, none whatsoever! All those good intentions evaporated, when I received reports that one of my favourite bars had 4 (FOUR) dark beers out of 5 on their bar. So, once I had cleaned up the drool and hit the bus, I find myself walking up Princess Street, toward the junction with Charles Street, where sits that little patch of beery heaven that is….

Joshua Brooks

Oxford Road Corridor Pt 1 - 19/10/2012

As I was crossing Portland Street, I checked my Twitter feed. Horror of horrors, one of the 4 had expired. That one being the Blackberry Stout by Waen Brewery, a brewery and a beer I hadn’t yet sampled. I was suitably gutted. However, the fear of missing out on any other increased my pace. 90 seconds later I was at the bar. The other 3 were still present and correct. James, the bar manager, advised me to get on the Waen Brewery Chilli Plum Porter before that went too. A 6.1% abv to start the evening? Ah well. It HAD been a stressful week after all!

As the beer was being pulled, I surveyed the scene. Busy. VERY busy. I hadn’t seen Joshua Brooks this busy upstairs and it was a delight to see. No tables/chairs to be had, so vertical was our drinking stance (having been joined by my arch-nemesis, Jaz).

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Now the venue has been open since 1993 and has been (and remains) an ultra successful nightclub, the venue for which is downstairs. Having only been introduced to the place last year, I’m probably a tad senior to brave the venue in full swing, but last year, James showed me downstairs and it reminds me of great venues from my youth from the minimalism of The Hacienda, to the intimate feel of The Boardwalk and The Venue (all venues on the Whitworth Street corridor). It looks a belting venue and justifiably popular.

The upstairs bar (where I find myself!) is an open plan space with (very) comfy semi-circular leather sofas to the right of the bar and further leather sofas in the centre with other tables and chairs dotted around. there is a balcony area outside with a view over the River Medlock across to that Manchester institution The Lass O’Gowrie. There is a drop down screen for major sporting events and an excellent (and somewhat tricky) quiz night on occasions.

Back to that Chilli Plum Porter! As stated earlier, I hadn’t previously tried any beers from Waen Brewery so was eager to tuck into this (having missed the Blackberry Stout!). I wasn’t to be disappointed as i pushed through the lush creamy head into a very creamy stout, full of body, with a subtle touch of plum identifiable and a touch of tongue tingling warmth coming through the further down the glass I progressed. A truly lovely beer. As I finished the beer, I swooped onto one of the semi-circular sofas like a seagull on a stray chip!

I dropped down the strength next with a Black Ice from Titanic Brewery from the Potteries. James told me this was a black Wheat Beer. I didn’t get that at all. What I tasted was more like a light Black IPA. 4.1% abv, some nice roasted malt notes, but that hoppy dryness like a counterpoint to mess with your head. A nice beer indeed. Darkness from Dark Star (for me) is the daddy of this lower abv Black IPA style, but this doesn’t fall far short.

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(Black Ice – slipping down easily!)

Next up, another new brewery for me, Lurchs Liquor Stout from Muirhouse Brewery of Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Back up to 5% abv with this black beer. Creamy head with a roasted almost buttery aroma. described as a rich stout packed with dark malts, this (to me) was dry with a pronounced fruity note. Dry indeed in the afters. Lush and creamy in the mouth. Another brewery to look out for.

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(Lurch has cute dimples!)

Seeing as I was here, I thought I’d go through the bar. Rude not to really! So next up, was the beer that replaced the Waen Blackberry Stout, Seamless from Redwillow. A 3.6% abv pale beer. Expecting big hops, but got some banana split notes and butterscotch in the aroma. refreshing, but probably one for a starter rather than end of session.

Finally, Janners Pride from Waen Brewery to complete my sweep. Not a style of beer I would ordinarily go for, being a brown beer at 4% abv. Nice though, quite malty with a smoky tinge to the flavour, with a bitter finish.

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(A fine selection!)

Did I mention that the ales are all £2.60 on a Friday evening? No? Let that be our secret! There is another secret that you’ll have to ask me about!

Probably now my favourite bar. Excellent beer, excellently priced. Good staff and excellent background music. Ticks all my boxes really. But what is it with those dimpled glasses?

Having finished the ales, we bade farewell and strolled along to The Waterhouse and sneaked in a pint of American Red by Hawkshead. Red, American hops. Just the thing at the end of the night! Gorgeously sharp and bitter with lashings of them Yank hoppy things. Another bargain at £2.29!

The time had come for the companions to go their separate ways, Jaz to his city centre condo, me to my seat on the 37!

I like Joshua Brooks. (Did I tell you that?) Take that as a recommendation.

On that note, ’til next time.

Slainte!

A quiet (!) night in Bolton – 10/03/2013

Having a weeks holiday booked has its advantages. One of which, is the chance to do something unusual. That is, to pop out for a pint in the town I now call home, Bolton, Lancashire.

The Lancashire bit is important. Bolton, historically being a mill town, has always felt like part of Lancashire. It is, despite what those bureaucrats did with their Greater Manchester construct, a Lancashire town.

That’s the good bit over. Bolton can also be a dodgy place to socialise of an evening. I know of some horror stories which have kept me out of Bolton for over a year. But hey, give every dog a chance!

Tonight, my buddy Colin and I decided to just do a couple of pubs and try a place we’ve not been in for over 20 years, The Dog & Partridge – about which I had been heaaring good things on the beer front.

Keeping it simple, we started off in Bolton’s lone Wetherspoons – The Spinning Jenny.

A typical Wetherspoon, but with a couple of separate spaces/(almost) rooms. My darling Atilla is none too fond of this place, thinking it a bit shabby and tired. I see what she says, but beer quality can overcome a lot for me. I can count on the fingers of one hand the ‘Spoons in which I’ve never had a bad pint. This is one of them.

Approaching the bar, I spotted two dark beers, including a Beartown, but my eyes were drawn to the other side of the bar, where lurked the mighty NZPA from Hawkshead Brewery. Not the smartest of moves at 6% abv, but it just had to be done. Especially with my CAMRA discount vouchers bringing the price down to £1.79! Outrageous!!!

Potent and massively citrus in aroma (owing to those 4 New Zealand Hops). Flavours of apricot and grapefruit coat the tongue and party in the mouth. A truly superb beer. Another belter from Hawkshead.

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(A Fireplace? In a ‘Spoons?)

The chance for another presented itself, so I hit the Beartown Black Bear at 5%abv. A strong mild (no kidding!). Some fruit on the nose with nice dark roasted flavours in the mouth. Quite thin in texture for a 5%, but nice roast tapering off into a touch of sweet/sour. Probably a bad idea straight after the NZPA!!! Will look to try this again elsewhere.

Moving on now. I had been in contact with Graham from the local CAMRA branch and arranged to have a pint in the Dog & Partridge – a pub we used to frequent as a Thwaites pub over 20 years ago.

Dog & Partridge

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(pic – Google)

Located on Bank Street, just down the slope from the famous Prestons of Bolton. Never the most glamourous of locations, but (a plus for me) a defined multi-roomed pub. A large space off to the right – used tonight for live acoustic music. A small snug type room with a larger room at the back, which is where we sat.

Looking across the bar, my eyes lighted on Hop from Blackedge Brewery of Horwich.

A 3.8 %abv pale brew. Some citrus on the nose. Didn’t get (what I would call) much citrus in the mouth, but what I did get was a wonderful dry hoppyness, really clean and refreshing. I had this a couple of months back in the New Oxford and didn’t quite get it. I now know different. Superb session beer.

Then had a Moorhouses Black Cat. OK, but not at its best. When it is, it’s a superb beer. Possibly coming toward the barrel end methinks. Some roasted character in there, but a slight sourness. As I said, not bad, just not perfect either.

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(The REAL ‘King’ of Rock n’ Roll!)

Quite enjoyed the folky/rock strains coming through from the other room. This particular Dog is looking a bit shaggy now, but some interesting ‘Muriels’ (I love a good Hilda Ogden malapropism!) reflecting the pubs musical slant. That said, I’ll be back. 2 or 3 good beer venues close by.

Nice friendly barman as well. Asked for tasters, instantly provided. Nice.

Other beers on included Thwaites Wainwights and Bank Top Flat Cap. Good selection for a small venue.

Moving on, Colin fancied nipping into Barristers for a pint. Who am I to deny him!

Barristers

Attached to the much larger Swan Hotel at the end of Bradshawgate, this has been a bit of a real ale haven for a number years now. It’s previous name of ‘The Malt & Hops Bar’ giving the game away.

Barristers

(pic – courtesy of beerintheevening.com)

A one room bar, with an internal courtyard which leads to the facilities (contained within the aforementioned Swan). The bar has a bit of a Victorian look to it with a lot of wood in evidence. The room curves around the bar with more than adequate seating available, including a couple of nooks with some comfy chairs.

Looking for something dark, my eyes hit upon Double Stout by Hook Norton. At 4.8% abv, I’ve had this in bottle and thought it OK. Time for draught. Mmmmmm! Black, creamy head, some coffee notes on the nose. Lovely dark malty flavours, reminiscent of overdone buttery toast. Gorgeous and vying for ‘pint of the night’ with the Hawkshead!

£6.70 for three pints was none too shabby either!

At this point we bade farewell to Graham who had a bus to catch. Only 5 minutes later did I realise why, 11:10! Good grief, where did the hours go? An excellent and interesting beery related chat, was nice to meet him. Who knows, I might start to pop out to some Branch Meetings soon!

At this point (and against all my better judgement!) Colin dragged me (kicking and screaming) back into The Spinning Mule. Another NZPA? Who am I to say no!

A pleasant evening – even when accosted by an over refreshed guy in the Spoons earlier!

On that note….

Slainte!

A Few Bottle Tastings

Just a couple of nice ones so far this month.

1. Rudgate Chocolate Stout 5% abv – Booths – £1.99

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A surprise purchase from Booths at Media City this one! Hadn’t seen Rudgate there before. Deep ruby to black beer. A Malteser and caramac aroma. Dry chocolate in the mouthy, dark but not overly bitter. Nicely flavoured with chocolate not dominating the drink, a bit more subtle than some. Nice dry cocoa flavour lingered for a short while. A really nice choc stout.

2 Saltaire Triple Chocoholic – 4.8% abv – Booths – £1.99

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Yes, I have a sweet tooth! Black beer with noticeable chocolate syrup (ice cream topping) aroma. Smooth in the mouth with sweet chocolate flavour up front, lovely dark chocolatey malty base. Made with 3 sources of chocolate flavour, hence the Triple. Made to out chocolate the Youngs Dbl Choc Stout, which it does, in spades! Still one of my favourite beers, but the Rudgate pushes it close.

3. Two Roses Brewery – Black Beauty Stout – 5% abv – A gift form Jaz via Ashton Farmers Market.

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Black beer with a creamy head. Aroma had some lactic type Milk Stoutiness with an added whiff of licorice. This Vegan friendly beer was lovely and dark with a nice roast dark malt, a hint of coffee and a slight dry smokiness in the finish. A lovely beer and my first from this brewery. I’ll make up for that next time I pop into Yorkshire Ales!

4. Wilson Potter – Gingery Does It – 3.5% abv – Direct from the brewers.

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A very pale golden beer. Pale head. Slight citrus aroma with hint of spicing to come. A nicely gentle hoppiness with ginger nibbling on your tongue. A really refreshing nicely warming beer in the mouth. Really refreshing. Gingery in the way of Marble Ginger – but more refreshing. Must buy some more.