“It’s a freak out, nothing’s familiar, nothing seems to fit in the scheme of things.
Seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-one’s ever certain what tomorrow brings,
So don’t fall my friend, all nightmares have to end.”
(“Don’t Fall” – The Chameleons)
(Courtesy of You Tube user “HeadfulOfHollow”)
Whilst my musical awakening encompassed the Motown and Rod Stewart of my big sister with the Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath of my eldest and Bowie/Lou Reed & Iggy of my elder brothers, the years when I really discovered the true power of music to inspire, came in the early 1980s. The first 3 concerts I went to were The Damned in October 1979, Joy Division in April 1980 and Crispy Ambulance in approx October 1980 and my first time in a pub – The Millstone on Thomas Street in Manchester.
Margaret Thatcher imprinted her hatred of the last true Working Class and her policies started to destroy the industrial heartland of my home area. Wittingly or no, it was against this backdrop that arguably one of the greatest Manchester bands of the 1980s sprung forth, The Chameleons. I think I still remember hearing “In Shreds” for the first time when my mate Dewey bought it as a 7″ single and was absolutely blown away by the power of both chords and words. Mark Burgess remains one of the greatest songwriters of that era for me and improved album upon album ending their run prior to breakup on a US Major label (Geffen) with the immaculate “Strange Times” in 1986 – Mad Jacks, Tears, Swamp Thing – frequently overlooked Manchester classics.
Yes, I know they originated in Middleton (see Wilson Potter below), but whilst they may never have achieved the mythic status of Joy Division, or the mega sales of New Order or even the hipster cred of A Certain Ratio, they were – for me – one of the greatest Manchester bands. Great songs and powerful tunes.
Right then, I hope you forgive my reminiscing waffle as we get down to business. The business being beer!
If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next! If you haven’t……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…
See above for the inspiration for the name of this beer!
Ultra pale gold this, a white fluffy head with a gloriously sharp fragrance of lemon peel and pith, really zingy. This lemony tip carries on into the mouth where it had a surprisingly full body for such a pale lowish abv beer. Wow this is sharp! The lemon is mellowed off a touch with something a little milder like tangerine or mandarin whilst losing none of its dry bite. Good bitterness to this with a really dry resinous finish with a little bitter lemon in the aftertaste. I though that In Shreds had it, but another Chameleon beer takes the Middleton Crown. An absolute belting session beer. Must have this on draught! (Now to suggest a collab brew with me, Amanda, Kathryn and Mark Burgess! Maybe a wheat beer….Swamp Thing anyone?)
After posting a review of one of the Five Oh Brew Co beers and commenting that they were Manchester’s most recent brewer, the inestimably knowledgable and well-connected John Clarke corrected me by mentioning Squawk, I was hoping to catch Oliver at the Manchester Beer Fest for a chat, but you know how things get when the beer starts to flow……
An amber coloured beer with a small white head and a lovely fruity aroma with some bitter Seville orange. Ooh, this tastes big. A big digestive biccy malt base holding up some lovely sticky citrus hops with marmalade being the first thing that comes to mind. A full-bodied beer and really well-balanced with a nice bitterness in the dry finish and some resinous stuff in with a light orangey marmalade aftertaste. A really nice first beer from this brand new brewery! And, lucky me, I have a Porter lurking in my stash……!
As with a lot of the adventurous small breweries around at this time, Five Towns seem to brew a lot of “one offs” just like this Bowie themed beer. Next time, I’ll try to drink / write them up quicker, so you lot can also taste just how damned good these beers are!
Very pale straw coloured beer, white head and a big grapefruit and lemon aroma, nice and sharp and nose twistingly tart. Light bodied with just sharp sharp hoppage! Ooh is it tart! Really light, sharp light biscuit like an arrowroot or rich tea balancing this sharp grapefruit and bitter lemon hop attack. Nice and bitter with a fabulous resinous aftertaste with more than a trace of that lemon bitterness. Another light cracker from this increasingly excellent Wakefield brewer! More please!
What’s this? Me, champion of all things pale and single hoppy like, from Mallinsons, slurping on a dark ‘un! The world has gone all upside down! To be honest, whilst I was chuffed to bits at the Manchester Beer Fest to get some of Mallinsons Amarillo (a pint, natch!) on cask, I just missed out on the intriguing Citra Noir. So, when I noticed that Raj had some in, I latched onto it like a vampire on a blood bag!
Black ale, cream tan head with a mingled coffee and fruity aroma. OOH. The coffee is a 3 on the strength scale in the mouth, really smooth in this medium-bodied ale. Then a gentle tart citrus quality comes in. A black beer should simply NOT be as refreshing as this! Some ground coffee bitterness in this along with the fruit in the finish and the herbal hoppy resinous stuff in the aftertaste. Yum! Fruity, Coffee and resinous hops. What’s not to like? This is my idea of a sessionable baby Black IPA, can we have a cask in Manchester please ladies? Pretty please???
Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy & Motueka hopped amber coloured beer with an abundant white fluffy head and a tremendously fruity sweet aroma, with peach, pear and pineapple all mingled in. Ooh, big biscuity bready malt with a little sweetness added to the sweet fruity hopping with pineapple a little peach and something that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Then, after a humourous Tweet series with Ade from Saltaire Brewery, Shane and the legend that is Phil Hardy, I got it. Alcoholic Um Bongo! Remember that? “Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in The Congo”? Quite apt really as Congleton is known locally as The Congo!
The finish is nice and dry without being mouth puckeringly so with a lightly peppery herby finish reminiscent of Rocket (Salad AND Um Bongo? I’m really looking after you lot!) Dangerously drinkable for the strength.
With a couple of new beers from this SW postcode brewer in his locker, Damian chucked a couple of samples my way to get my thoughts. I’d happily pay the price above for this! Can I pay it much more of a compliment? To be Frank (I never did like my REAL forename!), I’ve liked each of the beers from Rocky Head that I’ve tried, so…here goes this one!
Golden with a white head and a fruity and lightly spicy aroma that makes my nose twitch! The fruitiness being something akin to a cross between grape and pineapple with something like the funk of a Duvel. Full-bodied, this has something of the best of both worlds, that slight yeasty banana quality of a Belgian with the dryness and slight resinous quality of New World hops, maybe even a hint of rhubarb! Lightly sweet, dry (Very much so in the finish) some boiled sweet in there too. Another good beer from this increasingly impressive London brewery.
Well. That’s another 6 done and a fresh order in for a vat of Andrews Liver Salts! One or two exciting things that I hope come off in the pipeline for the next month or so including a visit to Great Ale Year Round tomorrow for an MTB with my nearest brewer (if I keep saying that, what are the chances of a bacon butty one morning in Radcliffe?)
On that note….’til next time….