Bottled Beers – July 2015 – Pt 3

With things just starting to get serious with regard to The Independent Salford Beer Festival, this blog will be entering a substantially quieter period soon, whilst I get on with arrangements for St. Sebastians in October (Tickets out in 5 days exactly!)

So, with one or two other posts in the pipeline, it might be time to give you a break from Beers Manchester…… But for now, while there are great bottles to drink, I’ll tell you about them in my waffling “prose”.

“Darkness, you are my priestess…..”

(A pint at ISBF from me for the first to give me that song & artist in the comments section below! No later than Midnight 27/07/2015)

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1. TobaTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6% abv – Oatmeal Stout – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Properly black beer. Cream head. Chocolate aroma with background coffee note. My kind of beer.

Nice and full creamy texture to this, my first bottle from this new Manchester brewer. Silky smooth and quite creamy, the first flavour to mind is a bitter chocolate, biting and dry. Then an earthiness that I can’t quite nail, but which, allied to a lovely dry bitterness works really well and makes this an excellent Stout. As I said, my kind of beer.

That earthy dryness remains in the finish where a coffee note comes through, again slightly bitter. Beautifully dry creamy lush Stout this.

And another brewer coming to a beer festival near you…..

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2. Sharks Against SurfersHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, St Wales) – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another ultra Pale Ale, all light golden hue and sharp lemony and grapefruit aromas leaping from its lacy white foamy collar.

This is really a surprise. I was expecting a brutal hop mouth battering. Yes it’s fruity, with apricot and orange jelly sweets on a light biscuity base. Really juicy, with that juicy fun chased off by a decent wallop of bitterness – full, but not brutal.

Nice piney finish mingled in with some lingering fruit in the aftertaste.

I would say that this medium to light bodied beer drinks quite lighter than its abv. This is a bloody good mid abv beer. And, for me, hugely sessionable.

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3. Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 8.5% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer time! – All words below are in no way influenced by the fact that I helped to brew this. OK, well….did some shovelling and stirring and shit. OK?

Black. Always a good start with an Impy. Totally black. Like tar. Dark brown collar of creamy foam and a spicy nose tingling aroma with licorice and red wine in the vanguard.

Oh yes indeed! This full-bodied beauty is lovely and unctuously creamy and rich. Vinous, with a rich nuttiness is the first sensation to hit the tongue, the next is as the beer first slips down, quite a bitter coffee taste. Such a mouthful of lovely darkness!

The finish is spicy, lingering hints of red wine, a touch of sour with more bitter espresso, luscious.

And even though I helped to brew it, there is no bias here. This is lush!

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4. Hare of DarknessMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – 7% abv – Black IPA – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Can’t make up my mind about this! Initial dark chocolate aroma on this black beer made me think of a Stout. But there is something more fruity and spicy on the aroma coming out of the thick cream coloured head which tells me it’s a Black IPA. Intriguing.

Full bodied and really creamy smooth. Oh this is SOOOOO good! Bitter chocolate allied to masses of tingling citrus and big hoppage. Oh yes. Bitter coffee too in the swallow and second mouthful. Really earthy. And again, just so smooth.

A little licorice note too. So good. Really dry and hoppy finish to this oxymoron, with a big resinous aftertaste. Great beer this.

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5. Pride & JoyVocation Brewery (Hebden Bridge) – 5.3% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Deep golden / Amber coloured beer with a light white lacey foam head and a huge aroma flying out full of mango, peach and orange zest. Full of promise!

Medium bodied, with decent carbonation, this is fruity Sod! The Mango is the heavyweight here, full and really juicy & tangy. Nectarine and peach too, a tropical fruit bowl of a beer this, delivering in spades on the promise of that aroma.

Really smooth texture to this making it feel quite sessionable. Dangerously so. The finish is really dry with big piney resins in the aftertaste providing a big finish.

Superb.

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6. Crafty RamRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom)- 4.6% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Great Ale Year (Bolton)

An American Pale Ale with fennel eh? Golden beer with a lasting soft white head and…  Oh yes…. There it is…. Fennel. That unmistakable light aniseed fragrance in the aroma.

Oh wow. This is really unusual, but REALLY good! The fennel – with its light anise note – is there, but merges with fruity hoppage and creates a new flavour, something akin to an orangey boiled sweet. Incredibly moreish and very tasty.

Medium bodied and really smooth, the second mouthful brings a touch of apricot to the party and leads to a fruity, mouth-watering finish with a spicy hoppy aftertaste. Lovely stuff. (And another coming to ISBF 2015 with a VERY special beer!)

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7. Three Hop HareFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Straw gold coloured Pale Ale with a light white head and a big citrus aroma full of grapefruit and lemon pith.

What. A. Tart. And. Sharp. Beer. This is full of tart citrus with the aforementioned grapefruit slightly trumped by the lemon. Really juicy and sharp. Gooseberry too. Nelson Sauvin perhaps? Really refreshing beer this, light and VERY sessionable…

This light to medium bodied cracker is dry in the finish, resinous and still sharp in the aftertaste.. Simply a superb Pale Ale. Another from the “Northern Magician”! Rapidly becoming my favourite brewery.

7 belters there! Next post may be about a shop I found in Newark this weekend and the local beers therein.

But, until then….

Slainte!

The East v West Beer Festival (aka EastWestFest) 15 -16 May 2015

 East west Poster

I, my friends (if I may call my sole reader that!), am becoming a bit of a Professional Northerner. Especially when it comes to beer. To my mind, there’s nothing worse than going in a Northern pub (in my case, Manchester) and not seeing a drop of Northern beer. Don’t get me wrong now, there is some simply superb beer being made all over this lovely island, but London seems to get all the press (and blogging) inches.

Nearly a year ago now, I decided to focus (almost) exclusively on beers from the North. Because, for me, the brewers up here have nothing to learn from elsewhere. There is, quite simply, some astonishing beer brewed up in these parts that gets not a lumen of the light that’s shone on the likes of Bermondsey & Hackney.

If I’m honest, as much as I adore the history of The Cousins War (aka The Wars of the Roses) and the banter that flies from each side of the Pennines, but this focus on Northern beer was the genesis of The Independent Salford Beer Festival (#ISBF2014). The beers came from Crewe to Scarborough and were mightily well received if the feedback is to be believed. So much so that we’ll be doing it again. (More on that elsewhere)

I was made up when Malcolm & Beverley Bastow from Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield took the time out and came over to Salford in October. I was even more made up when (via an independent Twitter vote) one of his beers won Beer of the Festival – AND that another Yorkshire beer came second (Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle). Mostly North West drinkers voting for two Yorkshire beers kind of felt like a validation.

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I’d heard a rumbling about a potential Northern Beer themed festival and when Malcolm confirmed that he was organising, I knew it would be something else. You see, for the uninitiated, he makes some bloody good beer in that there shed of his! But I was both humbled and astonished when he approached me to see if I would help in sourcing the beers from this side of The Hill. Even more so when I read that #ISBF2014 was one of the inspirations behind his festival!

I couldn’t say no, could I?

Red Shed from above

The little place you see above is the venue. Wakefield Labour Club. Known locally (and affectionately) as “The Red Shed”. I’m told that it has a capacity of 70. Yes, you read it right! Seventy. Or, me plus 60 others. The festival (as you can see) takes place in just under 2 weeks. As far as I’m aware, it’s pay on the door. Having had sight of the beer list, I’m just hoping that I can get in when I arrive. To say that I’m salivating is an understatement!

So, without further ado…..

From the West :

Brewsmith Beer – Nelson Sauvin (Pale Ale)

Wilson Potter – Don’t Fall (Pale Ale)

First Chop – SYL (Black IPA)

Tickety Brew – Rose Wheat Beer

Squawk Brewing Co – Pale Ale

Shindigger Brewing Co – IPA

Black Jack Beers – New Deck (Golden Bitter)

Allgates Brewery – Shogi Porter

Marble Brewery – Spring (Pale Ale)

Quantum – UK Light (UK hopped Pale Ale)

Thirst Class Ale – Pale & Interesting (Pale Ale)

From the East :

Clark’s – Billy Ruffian (Stout)

Sunbeam – Shepherds Delight (Rose Water infused)

The Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of the Caribbean (Red Rye Ale)

Atom Beers – Schroedinger’s Cat (Pale Ale – Columbus, Chinook, Citra & Mosaic!)

North Riding Brewpub – Hunters Dream (Strong Mild)

Blue Bee Brewery – Real (A Sorachi Pale Ale)

Brown Cow – Yorkshire Sovereign (Pale Ale)

Revolutions Brewing – The Golden Age of Wireless (Mild) I DO love a musical reference!

Steel City Brewing – Troika Red IPA

Whippet Brew Co – Brew Number One!

Learn To Brew – Young, Gifted and Pale (Pale Ale) (+ a mystery beer!) – I DO love a musical reference!

and last….but not least, your hosts….

Five Towns Brewery – May Day. Fully loaded brew, with Citra, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, Chinook and Equinox hops, Double IPA.

It’s a rare Beer Festival when there is THIS much Northern beer and I haven’t so much as sniffed 75% of it!

I’m going (Train & Hotel booked!) along with Yoda (aka the Arch-Nemesis) and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked forward to a beer festival this much in years!

It’s all in a good cause too, so come along and have a beer or seven and help support some good causes by er…..drinking great beer!!!!

Tune

“Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.

News guy wept and told us earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying.

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” – Bowie)

(Clip courtesy Sante3d via YouTube)

For Malcolm & Beverley (As fans)

For everybody else – Do I REALLY need to explain this?

That’s all for now people. See you next week?

Slainte!

The Independent Salford Beer Festival – 24/25th October 2014 – Update #1

ISBF Poster

(Design by Andy Heggs – aka HopOnTheBike)

“A mistake on the part of nature
You’re so fabled, so fair, just sit anywhere
I’ve pencil sketched the scene
It’s feeling Byzantine

Mistakes on the part of nature
The living proof of what they’re calling love
On certain sideway streets
Where things that don’t match meet”

(“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” – The New Pornographers)

(Video courtesy of  “Bill James” on YouTube)

Regarded as a bit of a “Supergroup” in North America, The New Pornographers are formed from the combination of a number of singular talents, Carl (AC) Newman (main male vocal), the siren voiced Neko Case (Grammy award winner), the fabulous Kathryn Calder (vocals/keyboards), Dan Bejar – all of who have successful solo careers, but come together every 3 years or so to make the most wonderful pop music.

It may not be the pop of Rihanna or Miley Cyrus or whoever, but what it is, is literate songs allied to superb musicianship that’s as tight as a drum. Look past the name and try a listen – this tune indeed was used on an Amazon Kindle advert.

Now…business!

How do you measure progress? I can assure you, that my building stress levels don’t feel like progress! To the eyes of an outsider, we probably haven’t moved on that far,  but,  putting one foot in front of another is how the biggest voyages start.

There are a lot of decisions/challenges still to be worked out, One big session per day or 2? Pricing for tickets? Size of glassware? Printed tickets or self print (via the likes of Eventbrite?), music/no music, I’m giving myself a headache trying to think about them all!

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the venue. I had been a few times before, but then I went in with different eyes. 151m sq is quite a big space when you clear out a bunch of tables! (Not all, of course!)

There are at least 3 rooms/spaces.

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(The main room)

Admittedly, that picture was taken from the corner of the room, but it’s a big old space. No Velodrome & certainly not a Victoria Baths, but it’ll more than do! To the left of the image there is an- out of shot – serving hatch, but food will be served from the other side in a different area. There’s more than enough room for both vertical and sedentary drinking for the more relaxed drinker (ie : Me!)

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(Food area / serving area)

The aim with the food is to keep it simple. It will be home-made and probably along the lines of Pie/Peas, maybe Chilli/Veg and other stuff yet to be thought about. The likely cook has fed me a few times and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Nothing overly spicy to take away from the main reason for being there!

In front of this serving area is a space with tables about 31 m/sq – a decent space for eating.

The venue is fairly well served by public transport with 2 buses that come from Salford Shopping Centre stopping right outside the door and buses from Manchester stopping a 5 minute walk away along Gerard Road from the stop on Littleton Road. (All this info will be on the website currently being designed & built by my good buddy Darren Turpin – he of the excellent Gtr Mcr Ale News)

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(3rd room at 30 m/sq – more tables for seating/chatting)

However, the main reason for this brief update is….Breweries! Having been in communication with some for quite a while now and having been in touch with others more recently, the following North West / Yorkshire breweries WILL be present and correct!

Allgates, Black Jack, Black Edge, Cheshire Brewhouse, Deeply Vale (A special brewed with Yours Truly!), First Chop, Hornbeam, IndyManBrewHouse, Offbeat, Outstanding, Privateer, Ringway & Runaway (likely, a World First!) – That’s the NW contingent, with more to follow (I certainly want at least one from Liverpool!)

So far, from Yorkshire…Atom Beers, Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing, Brass Castle, (the mighty) Five Towns & Revolutions – again, more to follow!

What I can guarantee is this, there will be at least one (and likely more) “World Firsts” in cask (I’m working on others!). There will certainly be beers that will be the first time you will see them in the Greater Manchester / North West both from Yorkshire and from nearer to home. I should have more of an update by the first week in August, when hopefully, the website may become the forum for these kinds of updates.

Actual Beers will be announced much nearer the festival with the “World First” type beers possible secret until the day…Just to keep you guessing like!

Next week will be contacting re dispense (hand pull & stillage etc), glassware and printing for posters / flyers etc…It never stops!

A big thank you already to Andy Heggs & Darren Turpin, the efforts and help of both made this feel more real from the off!

And an ENORMOUS thank you to the brewers (named above) for their help, advice and lovely beer that’s coming your way. It really will be special – won’t it? I said it earlier on Twitter, but it bears repeating – Beer People Are Good People!

On that note….til next time…

Slainte!

Follow on Twitter @Salfordbeerfest – Go on! You KNOW you want to!

Bottled Ales – June 2014 – Pt 3

“Face drawn in acts of courage, penny drops, the same old story”

(“Atom Rock” – Quando Quango)

(Audio clip courtesy of GilMahadeva on YouTube)

Not the height of lyrical sophistication, I’ll grant you, but Quando Quango were more for the feet than the heart! QQ were a Factory Records band in those heady days that were pre Happy Mondays. When dancing at the Hacienda was one of the early to mid 80s escapes from Thatcherite drudgery and miserablism. To step onto the dance floor of the pre-rave Fac 51 and dance to tunes such as “Love Tempo” (QQ again) & “White Lines” just melted your cares away (not to mention the Glenn Miller break and the night ending Theme from Thunderbirds!)

This tune is notable for Johnny Marr’s smooth guitar work (still in The Smiths at this point – I think) as much as the dance rhythms and latino spiked brass stabs. The band only released one album, but were hugely loved in both Manchester & New York and had core members of Gonny Rietveld, her brother Reiner (from Rotterdam) and the then Hacienda DJ Mike Pickering (later to form M People). It has to be said, that in their brief – almost butterfly like – existence, they reached some influential ears, in one interview at the time, the legendary hip-hop producer Arthur Baker was asked for one band he would like to produce, his answer……….

Just enjoy the tune…..provokes some seriously shady “dad dancing” in MY house!

On to the beer….where would we be without it?

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. Dark AlchemyAtom Beers (Kingston-upon-Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.9% abv – Porter – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A brewery first encountered (by me) on the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” festival, I was eagerly looking forward to trying my first in bottle – and intrigued by the idea of a Porter without hops!

The beer is Black. With the faintest of ruddy glows at the bottom of the glass when held to the light. Thin beige coffee coloured head, with an aroma featuring chocolate, coffee and quite a spicy note, slightly perfumed…Cardomom perhaps (then I checked the bottle and saw that cardamom featured!).

Now this is one intriguing beer! Quite full-bodied considering the strength with good carbonation, there’s a lot going on with this beer and no mistake.

Firstly, there is a lovely smooth chocolate flavour….then there is quite a perfumed flavour which comes from the cardamom. This is followed by something more earthy and herbal and finishes off slightly warming as it slides. The aftertaste remains chocolatey with almost a Turkish Delight kind of flavour. Not a standard porter by any means, but I think I love this! (I think I’m going to have to add this lot to my Beer Fest list!)

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2. Amarillo Gold – Saltaire Brewery (Saltaire, W Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A pale straw gold coloured beer with a lacy white head and a nice mellow orange marmalade aroma.

The nice and gentle carbonation gives a smooth medium bodied mouthful with a good dose of Seville orange, bitter yet subtle. The fruitiness continues mouthful after mouthful with that bitterness building with each swallow. Hugely enjoyable and refreshing.

The finish is increasingly bitter with  a good resinous whack in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Probably the best mid strength Pale I’ve had from Saltaire. And that’s saying something!

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3. Brewers GoldBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Tottering Temple (Brewery Shop)

One of a few bottles that I picked up from their excellent shop on a recent visit to mither Wayne & Shaun about the upcoming Independent Salford Beer Festival !

Pale gold beer with lively carbonation giving a decent fluffy white head and an aroma delicate with citrus, orange.

Medium bodied beer same fruitiness, like bitter marmalade. And this IS bitter. Really clean tasting beer, refreshing with a hint of fresh apple in with the quite assertive bitterness.

A beer that I would describe as a bitter. And a damn good one at that. Did I mention Bitter? Not a swear word you know!

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4. Mayflower Gold – Billericay Brewing Co (Billericay, Essex) – 6.5% abv – Pale Ale – £4.50 (375 ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

You have absolutely NO IDEA how much I was tempted to use the lyrics of “Billericay Dickie” by Ian Dury at the top of this piece! What a great bawdy humoured classic!

Coming in a very attractive cork stoppered 375ml bottle. This is a slightly hazy, almost bronze coloured amber beer, with a big citrus fruit and floral aroma from a thin white head.

A big body on this, with loads of sweet biscuit malt and lashings of citrus hops with orange up front, this is almost more of an IPA than a straight pale ale for me. A slight savoury note too with this, like a light rauch smokiness, this is dangerously easy drinking – having it before a night out sure doesn’t feel wise!

The fruitiness mellows as I’m progressing down the glass, the bitterness is low too, which aids the easy drinking bit. Really rather pleasant!

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5. MotuekaMallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A golden coloured beer, with a lasting white head and a big tropical fruit aroma with kiwi and passion fruit to the fore, really fragrant.

This is light to medium bodied with a light fresh bready malt balancing the tropical fruit which comes through strongly in the mouth and is allied to quite an assertive bitterness.

Beautifully fruity and refreshing, there are hints of peach too in later mouthfuls. This is yet another beautiful single hopped Pale Ale from the Queens of the style.

Summary. Tropical fruity. Bitter. Lingering resinous aftertaste. Lovely. I kind of expect nothing less from these ladies.

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6. SessionRingway Brewery (N Reddish, Stockport) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

Bright and deep golden beer with a plentiful white head that shares aromas from the forest, blackcurrant and blackberry, fruity with a toffee biscuit backing vocal.

Once again from Ringway, a really smooth easy drinking beer. Quite full-bodied for its modest strength, the biscuity malt & the forest fruit flavours come through in the mouth too like a promise fulfilled. A bracing bitterness at the end of each mouthful too, a proper session bitter this one. Another belter from Paul who describes his beers as “easy drinking” a phrase which hits the mark at bull’s eye.

One question. Has “Bitter” become a swear word in the drinking community? It isn’t with me. There’s something about a nice pint of bitter which just really…..satisfies and comforts in equal measure.

Before I go, a slight rant.

I keep hearing the phrase “twiggy” when describing beer made with British hops, a phrase that is as worthy of derision as are the tastebuds of the people that spout it. To quote Jeanette Winterson “Orange is not the only fruit”! There are more fruits in the supermarket than lemons, grapefruit and the rest. Yes, I like those flavours too, but try something different and actually try TASTING it before JUDGING it! (I’ve had a shit week, my tolerance levels are stuck on Empty!)

So, rant over, there we go!

At some point soon, I might have to have a “blog holiday” and focus four square on The Independent Salford Beer Festival if it’s going to work!

On that note….until next time….

Slainte!