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 3

“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…

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1. Don’t FallWilson Potter  (Middleton, N. Manchester)- 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

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?)

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2. India Pale AleSquawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

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……!

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3. Hello Spaceboy – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.34  – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

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!

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4. Citra Noir –  Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Black Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

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???

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5. Lupy As A Toucan – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.8% abv – Pacific Pale Ale (my description!) – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

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.

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6. BAM! –  Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.0% abv – Belgian/Pale Ale hybrid – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

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….

Slainte!

My #12BeersOfXmas – #4 – India Pale Ale by Bad Seed Brewery

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“On the 4th day of Xmas, my true love sent to me….”

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#4 India Pale Ale by Bad Seed Brewery

A new brewery for 2013 and the winner of my Golden Pints award in this category. Look at the labelling! Classy, minimal and with that label hanging like the cigarette from a matinee idols mouth. Just damned stylish. The label tells you that it is 7.3% abv and is loaded with Cascade, Columbus & Chinook hops. I salivate as I read it!

Expecting citrus on that nose? Oh yes, apricot, grapefruit and bitter orange flying from that white foamy head, itself sat atop a deep golden beer, with good carbonation. That head is going nowhere! Full-bodied with a huge bitter Seville orange marmalade the first thing to hit the tongue, followed by the desert dry bitterness then that fabulous piney resinous quality laid on top of a gentle caramelised biscuit sweetness. That resinous bitter finish just goes on…..I simply LOVE this beer. Mouthful after mouthful, I don’t want this to end. But, it’s only 330ml. Just when you long for the beery equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper…..I just wish I could get it on cask.

On that note….’til next time…(Tomorrow – Live From Lincolnshire!!!)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – October 2013 – Pt 2

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(Ooh…so bad, but SOOO good!)

Been a busy month all told has October. Yes, I KNOW it’s November/Movember or whatever you want to call it, but in MY head, I haven’t really wrapped up last month! What with the marathon that was The Road To Wigan Beer in all 7 excellent Allgates Brewery pubs, then IndymanBeerCon I had to calm down a bit until the MTB with Harbour Brewing!

Anyhow, there have been some excellent bottles that the metaphorical trumpet needs blowing about, which (I have only just noticed) are all from Yorkshire! So, without further ado….

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). 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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We’ll start on the dark side…..

1. PorterHop Studio Brewery (York, N Yorkshire) – 4.3% abv – Porter – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Almost black with a beige head and aroma of chocolate and cocoa powder. Chocolate malty sweetness in the mouth balanced with quite a degree of bitterness. Quite grassy and a lingering resinous bitterness in the afters. A nice beer indeed for the strength and even better on cask when I had it recently at Pie & Ale!

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2. Holy CowIlkley Brewery (Ilkley, N Yorkshire) – 4.7% abv – Cranberry Milk Stout – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

A deep ruby (not quite black) beer. Slightly spicy and tart aroma (the cranberries ?). Medium bodied creamy texture with chocolate initially in the mouth but with an increasing tartness and a building sweet / sour note from the lactose which stays with you through the glass. The finish was dry with some coffee notes and a degree of bitterness.

When I had this beer on draught at the National Winter Ales fest, I thought it a nice Milk Stout but couldn’t detect the cranberry. Something I couldn’t accuse the bottle of lacking! A truly excellent beer.

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3 Pale AleQuaffing Gravy (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale –  £0 (Sample bottle) (330ml) –  Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Vicky from Yorkshire Ales passed me this one to see what I thought. Given some of the reviews that I had seen on social media, I was tad wary. I’ve seen their website (an impressive piece of work!) and the branding and statements lead one to expect a hop monster. Something it is not. Expectations eh? What it is, is a nice easy drinking pale ale.

Lively golden coloured beer with a white lacey head and an aroma of sherbet lemon with some kiwi. Lemon sherbet too in the mouth on a sweetish biscuit base with a gentle increasing bitterness and a slightly resinous dry finish. A refreshing beer. As I said, on the branding alone, I expected something hoppier, but it’s a nice refreshing beer.

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4. Amish MashGreat Heck Brewing Co (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 4.7% abv – American Hopped Weizen – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Now then. Where do we start? A cloudy yellow golden beer with an aroma like a mash-up of lemon and grapefruit with added clove spicy sweetness and spring grass. Medium bodied again, with initial touches of banana and clove but, whoa – a real hoppy hit with this. I know it said it was an American hopped Weizen, but it surprised me nonetheless! Really nice bitterness with this with a herbal, grassy almost piney finish. A “heck” of a surprise (groan!) this. A superb beer!

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5. Mosaic – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.1% abv – (Single hopped) Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

With each bottle of their single hopped pales, I fall increasingly in love with this brewery. I just need to have more on draught!

Pale gold (as you can see!) with a white lacey head and a subtle but distinctive grapefruit aroma. A light malty base with a touch of balancing sweetness to allow the hops to do their thing. And they do! Over that sweetness comes a fabulously dry bitter grapefruit hit with an almost sticky pine. The resinous bitterness continues into a grassy finish with a lasting bitterness. Simply, a stunningly good beer! I’m not going to say it again about how they have………. I want to live in Huddersfield!

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6. BodylineFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.4% abv – India Pale Ale – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Palest gold, almost lagerish colour,  with a hoppy heaven aroma of lemon and mango. A little cheesecake base sweetness with a big overlay of mango and bitter grapefruit and lemon. Gorgeously bitter with a crackingly dry piney aftertaste that stays and stays. Really surprisingly refreshing at this strength. Another superb beer from Mr Bastow!

Just a shame that I STILL haven’t had any on draught!!! And oh have I tried!

Well, that’s it. Other than to note my favourite beers this month!

Draught – Porter No 1Harbour Brewing (Cornwall) (Image at the top!)

Had this at the recent MTB at Port Street and it stopped me in my tracks. Creamy coffee, lovely roasted malty goodness with a building bitterness. Simply the best porter I’ve had for quite a while!

Bottle – Mosaic – Mallinsons Brewery – This was a close run thing with the Weird Beard / Northern Monk collab, but this single hopped pale just was SOOOO good! Read above.

Well, that’s it for now. Next up (following some purchases from The Liquor Shop) will probably be some Greater Manchester Beers. Been wanting to review some more local beers for a while!

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!

Bottles Ales – July 2013 Pt 2

This month has been fairly quiet by my standards! Hence, the accent on diminishing the “cellar” stock. But, they are there to drink, not as decoration of course! So, without further ado, a few more belters that I have picked up on my haphazard wanderings.

The spiel is the same, 1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website. Here goes!

1. Hackney Hopster – London Fields Brewery (Hackney, East London) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.38 (500ml) – Bierhuis

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I must confess that I wasn’t blown away by their Unfiltered Lager when I had it. A good UK lager, but not as exceptional as I’d hoped. THIS however worked a treat! A nice lacy white head led to a sweet citrus aroma bringing tangerines and mandarins to the hooter (slightly more mellow than advertised, and better for it). Those aromas were replicated in the mouth with the tangerine more prominent leading to a lovely dry, hoppy finish. A really refreshing fruity beer. (Nice price too!)

2. Yakima IPAGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck, North Yorkshire) – 7.4% abv – IPA – £1.98 (330ml) – Bierhuis

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I recently found myself in the Nottingham area facing a dodgy bit of traffic one afternoon. A different route was called for and I suggested nipping for lunch in Ossett (5 mins diversion!) via a sneaky reload at Bierhuis. The butty was lovely, but no more than filling the car with some lovely beer, oh no!

Late last year saw my first (and so far only) encounter with beers from this brewer, in the form of Dark Force Treason Stout, which was my “Beer of the Festival” at the SIBA Northern bash in Manchester. I’d heard that they were going to start bottling soon, so was keen to try this when I saw it.

A deep amber beer with a nice fine white head and an aroma (for me) with toffee and raisins. The flavours were a slightly sweet raisin with a caramelised biscuit. This was a full-bodied beer (which you would expect at the strength) which had some nice resinous hop flourish. Other Yakima hopped beers I’d had, had been a bit ruinous with the piney stuff, but this had a nice warming balance to it.

3. EncoreLacons Brewery (Great Yarmouth, Norfolk) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the Brewery (500ml)

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One of the quite surprising things about doing this here “Beer Blogging” has been when a brewery asks if you’d like to try some of their beers. Lacons being one of those who contacted me, a brewer that came to my attention via the excellent Twitter feed / blog of Nathaniel Southwood (aka NateDawg).

A while later, I received a card through the door from Parcelforce. Nipping to the “drop off point” (ie : the local Post Office) I collected said package. Unfortunately, Parcelforce brutalised the packaging, so, 3 bottles sent, 2 received intact. B*stards!

Anyhow (whinge over!) This is an amber coloured beer with a white head which diminished fairly quickly. A light citrus fruity nose leading to a medium body which was clean and refreshing with citrus flavours (a light sugared grapefruit)  and a surprisingly slight smoky note with a nice dry gentle hoppy finish. A pleasing first encounter with this resurrected Norfolk brewer. (Note : Prior to takeover – and eventual closure by Whitbread, Lacons had a sizeable tied house estate, including a good number in London. Note the mirror in this review...https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-southampton-arms-gospel-oak-london/)

4. AAPA (Anglo American Pale Ale) – Rocky Head Brewery (Wandsworth, SW London) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man Manchester

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Another beer sourced from the excellent stall run by Damian O’Shea at Castlefield Market.

A lively golden beer with a light haze with a gentle citrus aroma featuring grapefruit, mango and apricot touches. In the mouth this was medium bodied with more citrus hop stuff with a bit of sharp lemon and grapefruit cutting through. Nicely bitter with a nice dry, hoppy finish. One to watch for on draught this and very nice first from this brewery!

5. Beat RedRevolutions Brewing Co (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Red Ale – £2.39 (500ml) – Bierhuis

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I’ve had a few bottles of Revolutions beers recently and a choice encounter with their Clash London Porter in Soup Kitchen. Some superb beers. I recently had the good fortune to meet Andrew from the brewery in Manchester and had a couple of beers with him. A really top bloke with superb taste in music, as you may expect if you follow the themed names of the beers!

This is a deep ruby coloured beer with a nice spicy hop aroma. Some biscuity malt sweetness more than offset with some spicy hop flavours. I thought I got a hint of chocolate as well!  Nice bitterness with a lasting herbal grassy hop aftertaste. Another really nice beer, nearly made me “Twist & Crawl” (cue cringing attempt at musical punnage!)

6. India Pale AleBad Seed Brewery – 7.3% abv – IPA – £2.34 (330ml) – Bierhuis

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I dearly hope that the name is connected to a Nick Cave reference! This was another fruit of my recent traffic enforced “diversion” to Ossett! A deep gold almost amber beer with a full-on dirty hop aroma courtesy of Columbus, Cascade and Chinook varieties. Fruity marmalade as well on the nose followed by a huge dry hoppiness in the mouth, plenty of citrus fruit here balance by a lovely sweet malt backbone. Don’t be fooled though, the hops are the star attraction here, really bitter and resinous. A fabulous lingering piney resin taste in the aftertaste.

This beer prompts a slight change in my “Beers of the Month”. It is THAT good!

Anyway, better get off before my Sunday Dinner ends up in the dog!

Back in the fresh air next week at The Marble 125 Years celebration next Saturday. See you there!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

An astonishingly hoppy beer from this new Malton brewer. (And wait ’til I tell you about the Espresso Stout – WOOF!)