A Change of Scenery – Deansgate 06/07/2016

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I love Manchester. The bright and shiny, the gritty and grimy, the heart and soul. I love it all. But – like many – I’ve gotten a bit lazy and comfortable in my drinking habits and it recently dawned on me that I had been frequenting the same (admittedly excellent) bars and pubs. All in the “Northern Quarter”. I needed a change.

I’m not “bored” of the NQ. Excellence never gets boring. But I’ve had plans to do a whole host of other crawls on a number of themes (Basement Bars; Live Music pubs; the list grows….) and other areas that don’t get the hectolitres of splaff that the NQ gets. This piece is – therefore – the first of many.

Deansgate area gets a bit overlooked when it comes to great beer and pubs/bars. But, if you drop the shoulder and give some of the Macro selling outlets the swerve, great beer can be had in belting venues within about 400 yards. Here’s the proof.

Knott Bar – 374, Deansgate, M3 4LY

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Originally part of the Marble empire, opening (I think) in 2002 – then named The Knott Fringe, located on the edge of an area of Manchester originally named Knott Mill, this place has been a staple of Manchester beer pretty much since it opened. Now part of a group that includes “The Bar” in Chorlton & “The Macc” in….(you guessed it!), it hasn’t missed a beat in all those years

This place holds a special place in my family’s heart, being the makers of one of the best Sunday Dinners around. So much so, that if you haven’t booked – or turn up after 2:30 – you may miss out. As we have done on occasion!

Excluding the upstairs balcony (very busy this evening), this is a single room layout which, due to the way it uses its railway arch space, gives the appearance of three separate areas. Slightly bohemian in appearance (with old posters almost performing the role of “feature wallpaper”), the Knott is utterly reliable in both the quality of its beers AND the excellence of its Jukebox (a personal passion).

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(LOOK! A Manchester railway arch that isn’t a brewery! Yet…)

And it regularly stocks Pictish beers. So a place in my heart is assured.

Tonight was no exception.

It takes a lot to tempt me away from a hand-pump featuring Dark Arts by Magic Rock. But I chose well when I went for the Nugget single hop Pale. But this is where Pictish simply rule. Single-Hopped pale ales. And this was no exception. Even out of a plastic “glass”. Disappointing to say the least. And I have no idea why they were using them.

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And whilst the aesthetics of plastic drinking vessels may be arguable, the excellence of the beer isn’t. A simply superb spicy bitterness with a deep citrus. Simply gorgeous. As ever.

A cracker of a bar.

With Jamie T (No. Not that one….) – the cheeky scamp even snuck into a picture! – joining us, a short walk around the corner was in order, whilst I puzzled as to how Castlefield was so busy on a Wednesday evening (James Bay – who? – apparently…)

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Cask – 29, Liverpool Street, M3 4NQ

I simply don’t get why more people don’t rave about this pub. I just don’t. To me, this is one of Manchester’s unsung gems.

It has it all. Great atmosphere, superb selection of genuine continental beers, great bottle/can selection, a simply MONUMENTALLY good Jukebox (the best in Manchester) and four superb handpulls normally populated with local(ish) beers (tonight from Heywood, Harrogate, Huddersfield and er….(h)Ardwick). Anyone who reads my verbage knows what comes next. Mallinsons.

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The pub/bar is again single roomed, but gives the illusion of being two separate spaces, with standing space and wooden tables/chairs near the bar with more alcovey comfy seating to the rear. There’s even a rare bit of outdoor space from this rear area…

The Emley Moor Mild was a Mallinsons that I never had previously. Smooth and chocolately, light bodied and soooo easy drinking. A delight of a beer.

Settling down to chatting, I noticed that Cask had a TV. So another beer was in order whilst catching the first half of Wales v Ronaldo. And WHAT a beer it was. Squawk IPA (ElDorado/Chinook), beautifully citrussy & bitter. Just as a US hopped IPA should be. Quite stunning, yet unsurprising, as Oli Turton has been utterly and consistently excellent with his IPAs. An essential when available.

Cask is one of those places that – once sat – I could safely go through the bar selection. A singularly superb place. And – if you’re hungry – you can even bring in your food from the (superb) chippy next door! (Just don’t forget to dispose of your wrappers….)

Onward….

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The Rising Sun – 22, Queen Street, M2 5HX

Into another postal district we go, bypassing the likes of BrewDog & the Ralph Abercrombie, approximately 200 yards from Cask we find this little Mancunian jewel. And one of Manchester’s oldest pubs.

One of those rarities known as a “cut” pub (because it has two entrances on different streets – a cut through), this single roomed and quite narrow pub can get really busy when there is a footy match on and also after office hours. With a long bar and nice bright decor it belies its 240 year age.

Think about this. This pub was here the year after the American Declaration of Independence!

Generally stocking Northern beers, with 8 hand-pumps (5 in use tonight – a wise move midweek IMO), this may not be CW central, but there’s always something that tickles my proverbial. Tonight, this was Oregon Pale by Weetwood Brewery. A truly delicious fruity hop beer, dry and grapefruity. Nice and refreshing.

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Despite there being two TVs, they aren’t particularly intrusive tonight. We just settled to chat and to the fact that Wales (by this point) had been beaten by two former OT players, just to sour the pill….. 😉

What I really like about the “Sun”, is – despite its location and apart from its age – it has a “local” feel. Like a local pub in the heart of this great city. Something that should be cherished. It isn’t “trendy”, it is what it is, A smart and attractive boozer that serves good and well looked-after beer.

I couldn’t bear any more Ronaldo, so Offski….

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Gaslamp – 50a, Bridge Street, M3 3BW

How many people who go into this fine Manc bar actually look up? Moreover, how many people walking around Manchester look up at ALL and admire the beautiful architecture?

Not many, I bet.

But, if you don’t, you miss this…

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Because what you see in the basement, was formerly the kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Street Childrens’ Mission. Which may explain the tilework downstairs that helps this place – in Summer (not that Manchester HAS a Summer) to be probably the physically coolest place in Town.

Sometimes, when I’m sat in this most excellent bar, you see people walk in for the first time. The look on their faces being “What a GREAT place!” And this never ceases to amaze me. This place cuts across generations. I brought Atilla Jnr (aka The Lovely Daughter) in here one night after she finished work and bought her her first “proper” beer. She loved both the bar AND the beer (“The Mayan” by Ilkley – seeing as you’re asking)

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What was nice to see this evening was – like the Rising Sun – that all of the hand-pumps weren’t in use midweek*.

The two that were on were from BlackJack & Six O’Clock. So both local. There were the usual excellent choices on keg too – Shindigger, Quantum, Brew By Numbers, Mad Hatter etc so all bases covered.

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Not many people seem to know that this is actually a two roomed bar, the one to the rear being a decent size and somewhere for a chat. It’s a room that never seems that busy. Go find it.

The beer Bolt from Six O’Clock being a Nut Brown IPA was lovely. Smooth, a little nutty sweetness and nicely bitter. Quite unctuous and almost creamy. Seriously nice beer.

I love Gaslamp. Quirky, great beers, sweet tunes. It just has it.

And so, to the inevitable end to this adventure. And my favourite bar.

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The Brink – 65, Bridge Street, M3 3BQ

Given that it is my favourite Manchester bar (and that the bus stop is close by for that all important last bus!) this was always going to be the terminus for this evening.

This feels like….home. Warm, welcoming, friendly. Simply a class act.

It also pulls at my hearts’ strings due to the beer purchasing policy of nothing outside of 25 miles from St Ann’s Church. Local, in other words….. More should follow Gareth’s lead.

It’s small. Probably could fit no more than 60 if packed out. With the attractive clean lines and select Mancunian imagery decor, comfy seating and excellent bar policy, it should be rammed. But, tonight, it’s quiet. Which, wanting a beer and a chat, suits.

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5 local beers. Hmmmm……And one of them is one I’ve wanted to try since I saw the clip.

Baton Rouge by Mallinsons.

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Pristine. Red. Hoppy as a rabbits’ tea party. Yum.

The bar has only been open for three months or so and it has quickly become a favourite of many. It’s a place where you chat with people that you’ve never met, that comes with the size. One of it’s many charms.

I was in here recently with a Liverpudlian pal, Les O’Grady who remarked on something that I’ve noted but never really remarked upon – Loos with hot water! A rarity. This bar does all of the things that seem – to me at least – to be very simple. And it does them bloody well.

And, seeing how Linda left some for me, I had to have a Santiam by Track. Holy mother of WOW is it GOOD! So full of fruity citrus and with all of that bitterness you should get in an IPA. Just SO good…..

Friendly knowledgeable staff, great beer, seriously good tunage and excellent local snackage courtesy of Beehive Food all in a small package.

Like I said. My favourite Manc bar. With good reason.

So. There you have it. A 500 yard or so walk with 5 excellent pubs. Each different. All sharing one great virtue. Excellent beer.

You see. There IS life outside that there Northern Quarter. Go explore.

*(A commonsense approach to me. I know that some will whinge about lack of choice, but it seems obvious to me that when you walk in a great bar on a Friday night and drink a seriously “tired” beer, that too many bars have too many beers on when they simply aren’t busy enough.)

 

Home Beers – June 2016 – Pt 1

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RampartBrass Castle Brewery (Malton) / Ossett Brewery (er…. Ossett) – 7% abv – IPA – 330ml can – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

This beer was the standout at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival this year for me, big and juicy. I was surprised to see it in cans though on a recent visit to Bottle. I had to have it.

Deep copper coloured, the light white head  emitting a deep fruity aroma full of caramelised pineapple and bitter orange. Juices duly flowing, it was time for a mouthful……

Oh yes. No change. Just as magnificent in canned format as it was in cask.

Really full bodied with plenty of cakey chewy malt, this is soaked in sticky fruit! Orange marmalade, juicy pineapple, even a little hint of drunken raisins. Really juicy and packing a big fruity hoppy punch as an IPA this strength should.

Nice full bitterness in the finish of this leading to a full on piney resinous hit in the aftertaste.

It would have been easy for this beer to fall down compared to the superb cask at Manchester Central. But not a bit of it. This is just as superb in can. Lush.

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CannonballMagic Rock Brewing (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – IPA – 330ml (can) – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

A beer that I’ve had issues with. One where I’ve never understood some of the fluffing that has gone online about it, having tried it in both keg & bottle form.
The can – having seen it in the corner of my eye – was an impulse buy. A last chance if you will. It has been decent, but decent wasn’t what I was led to expect

Hazy gold from the get go. This light white head just sings an aria to hops. Fruity as hell on the nose like a mashed up cocktail. Kiwi, passion fruit, mango and a little grapefruit – for next a bit more citrus!

 Big and juicy. With all of the above jostling and tumbling for room on the taste buds. Slight sweetness to the chewy cheesecakey malt, but more than offset by the hopload. Juicy with a really lovely balancing bitterness – lacking in some so called IPAs.

That juiciness lasts from gun to tape and gives way at the last to a sticky resinous pine which piggybacks that bitter finish.

A joy. Right up there.

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Single Hop Pale Ale (Centennial)North Riding Brewery (East Ayton, Scarborough) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

Beautiful golden beer with a light white head and a hooter full of lemony citrus.

Yet again, Stuart Neilson nails it. First impressions are medium of body, with a nice biscuity malt base. Then the hops. Lots of hops.

Lemony sharp, with juicy mango and lots of it. Really fruity and juicy. That lemon is quite bracing but in no way detracts from the fact that this is one refreshing beer!

This is one lovely beer. Fruity, dry of finish and with moderate bitterness and a nice hoppy aftertaste. Levels of yum!

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Dane’IshCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.0% abv – Lager – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
Lightly Hazy and golden, this unfined and unfiltered beer has a light foamy white head on it, giving off a slightly fruity aroma with a little peppery spice making my nose wrinkle.
This is a small batch lager to convert the macro boys away from their bland fizzy shite.
Smoothly carbonated, the initial flavours are of forest fruits on a light crusty bread malt base with a light sweetness for those fruity hops to play with. This is a superbly balanced beer, light, spicy and refreshing but with a little spicy kick in the finish.
Finally. Someone has nailed a really good English lager. Nice slightly hoppy and peppery aftertaste too. Shane Swindells should take a bow. This is just as good in bottle as it is in Keg (regularly) at The Brink.
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US IPA (Citra, Summit, Equinox) – North Riding BreweryIPA – 5.5% abv – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Over the last 12 months – leaving aside The Independent Salford Beer Festival (shameless plug for fresh looking website!) – there are two things that I am really proud of. Thjose are finally nagging people enough to get beers from North Riding Brewery of Scarborough and Five Towns of Wakefield into Manchester area bars
Finally, you lot over THIS side of the hill have the chance to see if I’ve been talking utter bollocks about them. And I haven’t, have I?
I’ve had some grief from over in Yorkshire, but it has been worth it. I finally get to try two of my personal heroes beers in my own back yard – on cask, And I’m thrilled.
But what about THIS particular beer?

Oh yes. A proper beast is this. Big, deep golden beer with a lasting soft white head and an immensely fruity aroma full of orange, mango and a little peach.

Juicy, juicy, juicy. In Chris Hall’s parlance, a banger and no mistake. This is full of mango, with orange and peach and not a little gooseberry too in this wee devil. So, so, so juicy.

Big and bold and fruity this. The swallow is nicely bitter as any decent IPA should be. That bitterness being just short of bracing. Perfectly judged.

The finish is juicy and bitter with a big grassy resinous aftertaste. And it’s a joy to drink.

That boy Neilson can brew you know.

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Your BetrayalMarble Brewery (Manchester) – 5% abv – American Pilsner – 330ml – Epicurean (West Didsbury)
At the end of the brewday for Manchester Fold (with Lees & Cloudwater), myself and Connor found ourselves having a couple of beers when we saw a tweet from Marble. “New beer! Free half in 57 Thomas Street!”….
Well…….of course we did!
That was this beer, but in keg. Delicious on draught, now for the bottle….
This recent release from Marble pours a glittering gold with a light white head with an amazing tropical hop aroma. Kiwi, passion fruit, mango. All kinds of yum!
Having had this fresh in release day on Keg, I kind of knew what to expect. BOOM! ALL KINDS OF TROPICAL!
Fruit. So much fruit. Dancing a hula around my mouth. Mango, lychee, passion fruit and a touch of kiwi swaying their grass skirts around my mouth before being lassoed back in line by a bracing and abrupt resinous hop dryness.
If James Kemp and his team day this is a Pilsner, who am I to gainsay? It works. Brilliantly. I, personally, would call this an ultra Pale Ale. And it works on that turf too. You will get few Session IPAs that rock like this!
Dry and sticky resinous aftertaste, don’t ever leave me!
There you have them. 6 utter crackers. If you see them – or their hop variants (in the case of North Riding), do yourself a flavour. Buy them. And say it was my fault!
See you soon at MANCHESTER BEER WEEK!!!!
As I said above, about my pride at finally seeing North Riding & Five Towns in Manchester. When I heard a big Five Towns pale (7%) was on draught at The Smithfield, I was scared that I’d miss it. So an unscheduled trip was in order – even though Atilla’s family were over…….
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Oh I had to have two pints – minimum! Then, I noted there was a smooth operator by Hawkshead on keg. Tonka Imperial Porter. Now then, since the #CraftBeerHour that I hosted for ISBF last year, I have a rep for ludicrous Black & Tans.
So. BIG 7% Five Towns (“One At T’End”) meet BIG Tonka Imperial Porter.
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It was ******* STUNNING! I had a few. And it was neither big, nor clever.
But it was DAMN tasty!
Slainte!

Rats, Rye & A Huddersfield Legend – A Brewday To Remember – 18/03/2016

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Just to recap, I am a cheeky git. That kind of explains how – when I heard that two of my favourite Yorkshire breweries were collaboRATing on a new beer – I wind up inviting myself along to what is (quite possibly) my favourite pub. Anywhere.

That pub is The Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield. And underneath that pub, lies one of THE most hop forward breweries in the UK. Rat Brewery. And just to ensure that hops would be to the fore, the other brewer was my good friend Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield.

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I took a day off from work. I also had to curb my enthusiasm for the beers at The Smithfield the previous evening, because getting to Huddersfield by train isn’t conducive to a lie in. Trust me.

The beer was to be a Rye IPA. I like Rye beers, but have never brewed with it, so had no idea what to expect of the mash. Or how much digging would be required. But, being by Rat & Five Towns, it was going to be hoppy.

I’d never met Robin before. Robin is the brewer at Rat and brews beers that I instinctively reach for when I see them on a bar. One of my biggest regrets at the first #ISBF was that we didn’t have any Rat beer. Remedied at #ISBF2015. When pale, the beers are hoppy, when dark they are gorgeously roasty. Good beer.

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I made one solitary note on this brewday. It was “Shagging a bag of rye malt”. I had to use it. Didn’t I Robin?

So. 200kg of malt. Including 50kg of rye malt. A LOT of aromatic hops (my hands never smelled so good!). Time to play….

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The mash looked like a Tarka Dhal. Just like a normal Dhal, but a little ‘otter…..

This took a lot of stirring. This was where I became acquainted with the absorbent properties of rye malt.

Near 200kg in a 5bbl plant is a lot of malt. And this beer should certainly have a good backbone to support all of these hops…

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All 14kg (Inc dry hopping) of them! Breaking them up was an aromatic joy!

800g of Admiral went in for Bittering with Cascade, Sorachi & Nelson Sauvin in later additions for flavour and aroma and Citra / Mosaic at flameout. (With a huge amount of Cascade & Citra being dry hopped)

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Transfer to the copper being complete, time for a dig. And WHAT a dig.

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The rye retained an awful lot of liquor, so this felt more like 300kg. It took a lot of digging. But this is where know nothing numpties like me step in. I enjoy digging out, perversely.

It also means that I got the pleasure of adding the hops and steam cleaning my face…. But the smell was worth the scalding….

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At each addition, the smells were beautiful, culminating in the final – flameout – addition of Citra and Mosaic. Holy. Mother. Of…… Stunning. Simply glorious aromas. More than worth the dig.

Welcome to “Rat Out”. A 5.8% Rye IPA. I can’t wait to try it at the East West Beer Festival in May!

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(Supervising Rats)

With that final hop addition, Robin let myself and Malcolm flee the nest and let us had upstairs into the pub. Refreshment was required, this was hot work.

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It would have been rude NOT to sample all 3! And, given that I started with a pint of King Rat (IPA at 5.6%) and a Rat Against The Machine (7% big hoppy IPA), that 4% White Rat more than held its own. A superb tasty session beer.

This was an excellent fun brew day. With stories swapped and chuckling a plenty. I’m very grateful that I was allowed into the Rat lair by Robin. But, after all that, there was  a further, ulterior motive for coming by train.

A Huddersfield Legend.

So Robin, Malcolm & I went for a walk.

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The Star Inn is a tremendous pub in its own right. Featuring, on any given day, a plethora of excellent ales. But, twice a year, it hosts a beer festival.

People I respect, like the Arch Nemesis and Des, have regaled me with tales of this beer festival. Some of my Yorkshire pals have tried to get me over for a couple of years now. So it felt like a privilege to walk in. And I was excited.

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Another of the reasons that I had to come was THIS beer. From the moment that Malcolm told me he was going to brew an IPA with Seville oranges, I knew I had to have it on draught.

“Could I have a pint of Alcazar please?”

“A pint?”

OK. It WAS 7.8%. But I’d earned this pleasure. And a pleasure it was. Big and deeply juicy oranges complemented by massive hopping. Yum. Just yum.

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It’s a lovely old pub is The Star. And it attracts drinkers from all over the North and beyond for these legendary festivals.

It was an utter pleasure (as always) to chat with Charlie (aka The Ale Ambler – a member of Yorkshire’s mighty “A Swift One” blogging collective) a man who has probably forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.

It was also a delight (as usual) to chat with those lovely ladies from Mallinsons (Elaine & Tara) and indulge in a bit of plotting. Of which all shall be revealed at the appropriate time….

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As well as the chatting, there were some stunning beers, from Mallinsons (Maverick), Wild Weather (a cracking Single hopped Sorachi Pale) and Neptune (the luscious Abyss Oatmeal Stout), there was also some gorgeous grub too….

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The Thai Green Curry Chicken was superb. But after that, it time for some sad goodbyes. I hated leaving. I really wanted to stay.

This beer festival is the best pub Festival I’ve been to. By a distance. It helps that it is hosted in a simply gorgeous pub, the likes of which Manchester lacks.

Next time, I’m booking a hotel for the night.

Thank you to Robin, Paul Spencer (Ossett head brewer – for extending the invite), to Malcolm – of course (the beer will feature at the cracking East West Festival) and everyone at The Star.

A great brewday. An iconic pub. And a legendary beer festival. A day I won’t forget.

I love Huddersfield.

MTB with Weird Beard @ Heaton Hops – 14/03/2016

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I kind of gave up on Meet The Brewer (MTB) events a few years back. They got to feel a bit like doing a “Brewery Tour”. I’ve been around a few Micro Breweries and to be honest, they start to blur into one. Once you’ve seen four or five, it gets to be ‘variations on a theme’. A bit samey.

It’s the personalities that make both worth doing. And Gregg Irwin – chief Spreadsheet Ninja, brewer, co-owner of Weird Beard Brew Co – is definitely one of those.

And (let’s get this out of the way NOW shall we?) I rather like the beers that these fellas brew down in West London. I always have. For all of my Northern Beer Fascism, I’ve had a soft spot for these beers since I was introduced to them by The Ale Man, YAY years ago.

Yes. Damian O’Shea. The same. Now thriving in his “Award Winning” bar. Heaton Hops. A bar that has wormed its way into my cold cold heart. By being astonishingly good. It’s simple really!

And I had an agenda….(maybe) more later….

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We had six beers to get through. 4 of them – given my curmudgeonly Northern tendencies – that I had never tried before.

Like I said, Gregg is certainly no wallflower. And there were a few choice epithets sprinkled throughout the evening, to be sure – given his visceral feelings about Mild, we’re unlikely to meet halfway on some. These made the evening all the more entertaining. I certainly shed a laughter tear or five!

Rather amazingly (or not – to some – given the “craft beer” boom) Weird Beard export their tasty wares to 21 countries, 10 of them on a regular basis. They’re even making inroad in that most vin sozzled of countries. France. Apparently, a real growing market for good beer.

So. Where were we? Ah….

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So Damian had persuaded Mr Beard himself to come and chinwag with us. And this was very much a two-way street. There was at least one vegan in the cosy audience, so we had a bit of to and fro on the usage of isinglass as an aid to clarity. We had Gregg’s story as to how Saison 14 (one of the beers tonight) acquired its name – a reference to a score it obtained in a Home Brewing contest – cue withering glare at YT (recent Home Brewing judge….)

The beers started to flow….and Gregg chatted briefly about the birth of each and how the hop bill and other parts of the recipes have changed – sometimes by design, sometimes due to availability of ingredients – over time. Things like how the body that they get into beers like “Little Things That Kill”. How the beers get named – mostly from songs “LTTK” (A track by Bush), “Fade To Black” (Metallica).

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Personally, I can’t wait to taste “Relight My Fire”…..

It is – to me – sad that WB only cask approximately 15% of their output. The joy I used to find in my occasional pint of Decadence Stout – one of the best I’ve ever had – was a rare thing. A truly lovely beer. I think that it is safe to say, that cask wouldn’t be Gregg’s preferred method of dispense. Putting it mildly…..(I just had to get “Mild” in one more time….)

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To my utter delight, Jimmy from Nasi Lemak had set up a mini “street kitchen” outside the bar, so we had some truly excellent grub appearing – at intervals – on the tables (Sweet Potato fries with spicy sauce went superbly with the Choc Mint Stout – “A World Without Dave”)

It would be easy to waffle on about the beer. Safe to say that it was uniformly superb. But, briefly, from “Little Things That Kill” (Light refreshing and hoppy), “A World Without Dave” (Choc, Mint, Lush and creamy), “Fade To Black” (Smooth, Citrussy, a little Coconut – the sole cask), Saison 14 (my personal favourite – surpisingly – Cream Soda smooth, Apricot & Tangerine)

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The final two beers were hastily consumed – as myself and my mentor “Pal” had to scarper sharpish for a train. They were “Sorachi Faceplant” a BIG (8.1%) IPA that was so juicy and dangerously drinkable and “Sadako” Imperial Stout, luscious, creamy, smooth and done absolutely no justice to by being wolfed down. Unlike the spicy chicken that Jimmy wheeled out….

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(Pic : Courtesy of @Deeekos)

This was an excellent evening. There are very few things that would encourage me to travel from Bolton over 20 miles on a school night. But Damian O’Shea, Heaton Hops & Gregg Irwin managed it.

Even if I WAS the butt of a few Irwin jokes…….

And no. With nights like this, Meet The Brewer events DON’T need “Reinventing”.

They just need good beer, good people (brewers, bloggers, beer & food lovers) and intelligent conversation. Oh. And a liberal sprinkling of beery expletives…

A joy of an evening.

 

Home Beers – Jan 2016 – Pt 2

The aim with these “Home Beers” posts was to keep them to roughly 1 per month. But I couldn’t wait to share this stunning batch. Forgive my eagerness?

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IPA (Mt Hood/Ahtenum)Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5% abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Crisp clean deep and golden. Lasting light foamy white head with lashings of tropical stuff on the nose, mango, peach and lychee? Really juicy….

Oh this is a juicy belter of a beer! Good deep body, nicely balanced malty backbone with this fruitiness say on top. Mango, apricot? A bit of peach and a lovely bite of bitterness in the swallow, lovely and spicy.

An earthiness to this hopping too, really dry with a lovely spicy hop aftertaste following the fruity, peppery finish.

Typically Squawk. All kinds of yum!

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AmberjackNeptune Brewery (Maghull) – 4.5% abv – Amber Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer

This Beer pours a lovely copper colour with a white light head giving off a big citrus aroma, orange juice and zest – like driving along the Costa del Azahar through the citrus groves. Really juicy and fragrant.

Light to medium bodied, this slides down all too easily. Wholemeal bready malt with a touch of spicy dryness (Rye?) overlaid with that orange/peachy fruitiness makes this a beautiful sessionable beer. Really refreshing.

Low on bitterness, this is a really easy drinking beer that belies its strength and feels really light and juicy. The finish is fruity and leads to a dry slightly resinous hoppy aftertaste.

A lovely beer from this new Liverpool brewery…

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Fire DamageTorrside Brewing (New Mills) – 4.9% abv – Stout – 500ml – Harvey Leonards (Glossop)

Black. Generally a good start with a Stout in my book. Nice light tan head too. And a big roasty aroma with a peaty smokiness reminiscent of my favourite peaty single malt – Lagavulin. Win. Win.

Medium bodied. That peaty smoke is quite upfront, but gradually recedes leaving behind a really nice deep malty chocolate flavour. A bit like dark chocolate Hob Nobs.

My. Kind. Of. Beer. That deep dark malty chocolate thing just rolls on and on coating my mouth in a lightly peated choccy biccy flavour.

At that strength, this is something that (on cask) I could repeat. A few times…..

Nice shop / bar too. Report soon.

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IPA (Winter Range) – Cloudwater Brew Co (Manchester) – 8% abv – er… IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Now. I don’t normally embrace the murky. But when it smells like THIS I don’t give a toss. It’s a mango bomb! Oh my, just pureed mango. Give me the pulp. Yum.

Hazy gold, lasting white head. You get the rest?

Yes. Yes. YES! Bring unto me all of your mango and peachy hops! This is a beergasm and no mistake! Um Bongo with beautifully soft carbonation. Full bodied and just such a fruity b*****d! (And I’m sober BTW!)

Big beer. Paradoxically, tastes bigger than the DIPA did when I had it on launch day at the brewery. But that matters not a jot. From the first to last mouthful, it’s just fruity and nicely spicy/bitter with the hop load. And yum. Big yum!

Warming too. That huge fruitiness never lets up and leads to a big resinous hop finish.

Just yes. And an early candidate for bottled beer of the year.

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Summat ElseFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.2% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct from the brewer.

The moment that the lever bottle top was flipped, I was assaulted with sharp and tangy tart aromas of lemon and grapefruit. Like a citrus tsunami crashing against my nostrils from this pale golden beer.

Woah! This is a big beast. There is a big sweet biscuit malty base to this, a bit like a flapjack drizzled with maple syrup. This is then overlaid with a huge fruitiness full of mango and grapefruit tartness. Lightly carbonated, this adds to the impression of a really smooth beer.

It’s described as a Strong Pale Ale. And you don’t forget that with each chewy fruity mouthful with a little apricot in there too at the finish leading to a moderate bitterness. Find of his strong Pale Ales is Mr Bastow. I can see why. This is a brute.

The fruity bitter finish leads to a substantial resinous hop aftertaste that rounds this beer off superbly. This is up there with the best English IPAs for me.

This, really is “Summat Else”. And another early candidate for bottle of the year.

Five Towns are a bit of a Yorkshire secret that Yorkshire folk like to keep to themselves (I was reprimanded by one Yorkshire drinker for recommending their beers last week) With beers like this, the secret should be well and truly OUT.

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Govinda (Chevallier Edition) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops

A beer that I adore. In all its previous incarnations. Original, Brandy cask aged, White Wine barrel aged and now this. With an old and rare strain of malt, regrown and snaffled by Shane Swindells.

How I wanted this beer SO badly.

So. Deep amber coloured with a good soft white head and a huge fruity aroma full of…. caramelised banana…. I was warned that this malt was…. different.

Oh dear. This feels like it should help me sleep…. A full-bodied beer to say the least, this IPA is a different kind of fruity. Agreed in 3 different wooden casks, then blended back to produce this. And this is one special beer.

There’s banana, vines full of raisins, hints of pear and apple all on top of a deep chewy fruit cake malt. Yes, there’s sweetness in here, this is a potent malt. But there is also a tingling smooth bitterness in every mouthful, balancing that malt.

There is a warming feeling too that this beer brings from the barrel ageing. Definite brandy and that fruit cake feels like it has been soaking in rich deep winey flavours.

The finish is long and warming, with plenty of deep grassy hopping in here, smooching in with the warmth.

This is only beer made with Chevallier malt in 2015. And Shane is proud of his baby.

He should be. This is a very special beer. Bottle of the year candidate.

And I have a spare or two that I’m going to age for a year.

I feel lucky.

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A truly superb batch of beers. I couldn’t hold on in case they all went and you couldn’t buy any. I owed you that much!

Back soon.

Slainte!

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 : My “Dance Card”

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Welcome to the beer festival that shows that CAMRA “do” UK Keg! Yes, I KNOW that the Campaign has had numerous kegged beers over the years! BUT…..These are beers brewed in the UK, mostly not designed to be dispensed from a cask. That is BIG news. To be celebrated.

And it has moved from the (“a little bit awkward to get to”) Velodrome – an iconic modern venue – to somewhere infinitely more “Central”. And more historically iconic. A Mancunian architectural masterpiece. And THAT should also be celebrated.

That out of the way, I’m a lucky sod. I get to see the beer list. And it is a big list. And – instantly removing anything from Marstons – there is something for everyone. Even me.

So. Being a “tactical drinker” at beer festivals, I compile a plan of attack – a “dance card” if you will, that panders to my Northern sensitivities. Others may list beers from that there London. Not I. With one exception (noted and explained below) mine are from no further South than Crewe and no further North than Malton.

A narrow focus.

But I care precisely how much?

Here we go, in strength order. Like I said, “tactical drinking”….. And, just in case you’re interested in trying any of these yourself, I’ve included the bar on which to find them. Because I’m nice like that!

No 2 Stout – Stringers Beer – Stout – 4% abv – Bar 3

A beer that I absolutely adored in bottle from the very first sip about 3 years ago. And I have NEVER had in on cask. I have often gazed at the pump clip on the wall at Port Street and whimpered. Envious.

Bitter and roasted. As black as Donald Trump’s evil heart. I will be distraught if I don’t get to try this. My #1 priority.

Admiral Porter – Brewsmith Beer – Porter – 4% abv – Bar 1

Why? Because it’s Brewsmith. And James Smith (see what he did there?) has yet to put out anything less than excellence.

And the Admiral hop gives the lie to those who whinge that UK hops are crap. It’s an aromatic beauty of a thing.

Sorachi Ace – Mallinsons Brewery – (Single Hopped) Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Bar 2

Why? Stupid question. It’s Mallinsons. And it’s a single-hopped Pale Ale.

And – in the words of Carly Simon – “Nobody does it better”. I’ll be having a pint.

At least one….

Talisman IPA – Pictish Brewing – Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Pictish Brewery Bar

A brewery that is in need of better PR. They should be HUGE. Possibly the most underrated brewery in Greater Manchester. Brewers of simply outstanding single-hopped Pale Ales.

Unmissable.

Mr Scruff Pale – Squawk Brewing – Session IPA – 4.6% abv – Bar 3

Oliver Turton has been quietly brewing some of the best beers in Manchester for the last two years. That’s enough reason to do this.

And I love the Centennial hop.

Lupy Lager – Offbeat Brewery – Lager – 4.7% abv – Bar 2

A cask conditioned lager from one of my very favourite breweries? And it’s a one-off? Damn those CAMRA oiks! I’ll be having words with Miss Kelsall about that…..

Again, unmissable….

Orange and Rosemary Belgian Pale – Bad Seed Brewery – Belgian Pale – 5% abv – Bar 1

Rosemary in beer can be herbal Marmite to some. But I love it. And Bad Seed would be just the brewery to pull this off.

Looking forward to trying this HUGELY.

Bitter Chocolate Stout – Runaway Brewery – Stout – 5% abv – Runaway Bar

A new beer to me from the best and most consistent new brewery in Manchester. Mark Welsby makes good beer. For those with no love of keg, prepare to be converted.

Mancunian Evil Keg Filth of the highest order. And you can quote me on that!

Marmite Stout – Ticketybrew / Quantum BrewingStout – ? abv – Bar 3

Two breweries unafraid to try something different. Or unusual. This beer can be safely said to tick BOTH of those boxes.

This sounds inspired. It’s certainly interesting!

Pale Rye (Name TBC) – Track / Matt Dutton – Pale Ale – ? abv – Bar 3

OK. Track are banging out some tremendous beers with arguably the strongest core range of any Manchester brewery. I’ve been saying for AGES that Sonoma is a Manchester classic.

Factor in a collab with the best home brewer in the UK, Matt Dutton, this is going to be special! I have sampled several of Matt’s beers and he – should he choose to go commercial – is a star in the making. This beer rates as priority #2. Unmissable.

AllDay Coffee IPA – Allgates/Manchester Beer Week – Coffee IPA – 5.1% abv – Bar 1

A Coffee IPA brewed especially for the festival by the most drinkable of breweries and Connor Murphy wearing his MBW head. Read the blog piece and it sounds AMAZING!

Centennial – Torrside Brewing – Porter – 5.4% abv – Bar 3

I have been lucky enough to try beers brewed at home by each of the Torrside triumvirate. It was therefore no surprise at all when they hit the ground running when they launched late last year.

My heart lies in darkness. Torrside make great beers. A marriage made in….

Nouvelle Saison: Beetroot and Horseradish –Alphabet Brew Co – Saison – 6% abv – KeyKeg Bar

I wouldn’t miss this flavour mix for all the tea in….. Intriguing to say the least!

Sorachi Grey – Five Oh Brew Co – IPA – 6.5% abv – Bar 1

If Jamie Hancock puts his beer in cask, it is both a rare event (wonder where he did it first?) and unmissable.

This man brews good beer.

Victoria Export Stout – Bexar County Brewery – Stout – 6.7% abv – Bar 1

My sole selection from south of Crewe. Why? Because I think that I have had 3 beers that this man has brewed. All excellent and two of those (a collab with HDM and his Pecan Coffee Mild) were among the best beers I’ve had in years!

And it’s pronounce BEAR. “The X is silent. The Beer speaks for itself” Indeed….

And finally……

Rampart – Ossett/Brass Castle Collab – IPA – 7% abv – Bar 2

“Heavily hopped West Coast style IPA. Tangy bitterness & intense grapefruit, floral & tropical fruit flavours.” – Case rested!

Well. That’s that. As Rabbie Burns allegedly said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, so (like last year) I’m bound to miss one of these. But it won’t be for the want of trying!

It’s Tryanuary. Get ticking!

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And for those who want to plan ahead, here is the link to the full UK beer list! http://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/uk-beers/

 

 

 

Bottled Beers – July 2015 Pt 1

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Can I bore you for a few minutes? About a facile phrase.

Back end of last week, my attention was brought to a piece by the blogging powerhouse that is Boak & Bailey. A particular paragraph was highlighted

“Of course beer is a business like any other – Richard Burhouse says it is ‘naive that people think breweries wouldn’t want to protect their brands’ – but for consumers who have bought into the admittedly facile mantra that ‘beer people are good people’, and an ideal of community co-operation between ‘little guys’, it is rather saddening.” (Click for the whole article)

Now then. I’m fairly certain (On the basis that I say little that is actually original) that I didn’t coin that phrase. But I have, however, been guilty of using it rather a lot. Let me explain why….

I started this “blog” in September 2012. With a rather innocuous and fumbling review of “Twisted Spire” by Hobsons Brewery (a beer that I still love). Its commencement – the blog – was inspired by a chat with Jaz & Jeff over a few beers in Brew Dog in Manchester. It has therefore now (does the maths) been nearly 3 years that I’ve been peddling this twaddle called an opinion.

Over those 3 years, I have met a phenomenal number of lovely people. People who wouldn’t have entered my affections if it wasn’t for writing about beer. These people are brewers, drinkers, great street food cooks, landlords etc. Good people.

These relationships – allied to the “beer writing”, all helped when I was asked to organise a beer festival for a dear friend last year. That festival became The Independant Salford Beer Festival. Within an hour of my initial panicky tweet about agreeing to do this, I was inundated with offers of help from brewers, drinkers and good Mancunians. I was overwhelmed by kindness. Good people.

In the lead up to the festival, I was stunned by how generous that brewers could be. Both with advice, help and their products. The vast majority of local beer people helped out either physically, or with publicity. Sometimes both. Food and drink bloggers waded in with offers of help. And tweeted their hearts out. All of these people helped the festival to sell out 3 of its 4 sessions. Good people.

I was swamped with offers to volunteer. From beer drinkers from not only Manchester, but also further afield. These people came together and put on a festival that people effused over. And helped to raise over £5k for the Community Centre in which it was held. Good people.

A close friend (Jeff – mentioned above) made a comment recently to me, along the lines that we seem to have found a band of brothers and sisters since that festival that now can call each other “friends” – and in a non-Facebook way. Real friends that seem to share common viewpoints on a variety of subjects. Good people

I love Manchester. I love it’s people. I love the beers brewed here, to the extent that I firmly believe that the brewing scene of Manchester needs bend the knee to no city. And that includes London.

I’m a fairly nice kind of bloke online – where beer is concerned. However, I have – on occasion – come across those from outside this fine city, who opine on this city’s shortcomings and spout nonsense about its beer scene and pubs/bars. Thinking that they know better. They don’t. At the risk of sounding pompous, I will defend this city and it’s beer scene like a lioness defends her cubs. As some have found.

Where am I going with this? I’m not really sure. I rarely am. But what I am sure of, (though the word “facile” may indeed apply to the simplistic phrase that I use, certainly in the context of the B&B piece) is that – in my experience – the people that I have come across over the last 3 years in Manchester, be they brewers, drinkers, and all those in between, people I have met as a direct result of this tosh that I spout, ARE good people.

So. If I may be so bold, Manchester Beer People Are Good People.

If Cornwall wasn’t so bloody far away, I’d invite B&B to come and have a beer in October!

Done. We move on to the important stuff. Northern beers. In bottles. I am a Northern beer fascist!

The Beer

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1. Sorachi AceCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.8%abv – Pale Ale – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

The smell of candied lemons assailed me as I opened this big bottle. I thought of decanting, but I chose the decadence of two glasses. Almost copper coloured in its golden depth. I couldn’t wait…..

Fruity. Really deep and fruity. Deep orange, sticky, resinous. Then something more drying and tart. Big malt spine to this and it is a very balanced beer with the fruit, the resinous hop dry sticky thing and  a decent whack of bitterness too. Then, comes a lemony bite in the aftertaste. Just to finish things off with a flourish.

Classy beer. I’d expect nothing less from Mr Swindells. An underrated brewer if ever there was one.

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2. Oberon (Session IPA) – Wharfe Bank Brewery (Pool in Wharfedale) – 4.2 % abv – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

Pouring an ultra Pale straw gold, this beer has a light white head and an aroma full of peach with a light fresh bready background.

Light to medium bodied, immediately by with peach and orange fruitiness on a freshly baked bread malty base. Right up my street. This fruitiness is then mugged by a bitter hit, courtesy of the Centennial hops. Perfectly judged on that bitterness too, not too much.

The finish is light and clean, with a nice hoppy aftertaste and a nice resinous hint. Not too intrusive.

This is (as you would expect), a really refreshing beer, Smooth, easy drinking and perfect for a warm summers day.

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3. Hoptical IllusionBrass Castle Brewery (Malton, N. Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Sorghum Pale Ale – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

This amber coloured beer is officially “Gluten Free” given its use of the Sorghum grain, the head is light and white and there is a big piney nose on this. Making my mouth water!

Ooh…. This is different! There is a deeper grainy flavour to this, really dry, almost (But not quite) rye like, very earthy. Very moreish. The hops are the next thing that you notice, there are plenty of them too, with some lovely tropical fruit flavours dancing around that grain.

The finish is, as you might guess, really dry and slightly spicy with quite a hop hit lingering on. This is a very interesting beer indeed from a brewery whose beers get better with each one that I try.

IMAG03044. EquinoxNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Beer Central (Sheffield) – £3.20

Oh wow! This ultra Pale golden beauty is singing in full voice “smell my fruit”! There is bloody loads going on under this light and soft white head. Carmen Mirandas headwear wasn’t as vivid as this. There’s a bit of gooseberry, plenty of tropical stuff too. Oh my.

In the mouth, this medium bodied belter explodes with flavour. There’s some mango, gooseberry tartness, piney nonsense too. All wrapped up in an envelope of all encompassing bitterness. This, my friends, is an absolute corker! My gums are tingling!

This has just got me smiling from ear to ear. That big old bitterness eventually subsides into a sticky piney aftertaste, waiting patiently, for that bitterness to give it permission to step forward.

What. A. Beer. (And we’ll have a collab special from NRB/Five Towns/Me for you at Salford. You ARE lucky. Oh yes you are!)

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5. Sorachi PaleTickety Brew (Stalybridge) – % abv? — Pale Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer : I got this from the brewery direct. Unlabelled. No idea of abv. No intention to review it. Until I tasted it.

Pale golden in hue with tart lemon and grapefruit aromas simply leaping from the lively white head, this is full of promise from the off!

Medium bodied with a light biscuity malt flavour that just about manages to balance some lovely sharp hoppage. This is one refreshing beer! The tart citric lemon with a dash of lime is making my saliva glands do overtime and almost making me miss that light signature Belgian yeasty spice. Yum.

Lovely juicy beer this, light, sharp and perfect summer drinking – even THIS late in the evening (it was near midnight – on a school night too!) That spiciness returns in the finish, which is very dry but with a nice hoppy remnant to keep it company.

Tickety Brew just keep getting better!

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(Clip – Because I forgot to take a pic – Oops, sorry!)

6. OzarkTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Pale as a spring morning, golden and light with an abundance of white foamy head giving off masses of citrus aroma. Mango, orange and a little hint of lemon sharpness. Tantalising.

Oh this is such a smooth beer in the mouth! Bigging up the mango initially, this is really fruity. As the medium bodied mouthful descends down the throat, I suddenly noticed that the bitterness is really dialed down aiding the impression of smoothness.

Following the swallow is a slide into a nice hoppy slightly resinous finish. Not too abrupt. This is just a really well made Pale Ale from one of the newer “kids on the block” in Manchester.

Glad to have them around!

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7. India Pale Ale (Simcoe) – Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewers

Another disclosure…..Another freebie with no intent to review etc,,,,

Mid golden in colour and with a light and dissipating white head with an aroma full of passion fruit allied with a hint of tangy apricot. A Big fruity aroma.

Full bodied with wholemeal bready malt with the fruity aromas translated well into a juicy fruity mouthful, a veritable grocers box with apricot uppermost. This is supported by tropical fruits and a gentle note of melon.

Finishing off this satisfyingly bitter beer is a big sticky piney aftertaste.

Another excellent IPA from this Ardwick brewery. Seek it out.

IMAG03248. One At T’EndFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct

This man lines his hops. This deep golden, almost amber coloured beer, poured lively, leading to a large white head with whole groves of mango and tropical fruits leaping from the glass. This, is one hoppy aroma!

At 6.7%, this is a big, big beer. Full bodied, there is a real depth of fruity flavour in this. Peach, mango, blood orange all fight for prominence in this totally juicy beer.. The low bitterness aids this beer in slipping down all to easily taking you to a real resinous, sticky finish with marmalade tones adding to that stickiness.

The fruitiness fades in the aftertaste and reminds me of melon and rounds off this beer so well.  A Beergasm. It’s that good!(Last time I checked, there was some of this at Bierhuis in Ossett and Drink at Hebden Bridge)

IMAG03279. MarxBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 3.7% abv – (Oak Smoked) Wheat Beer – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Hazy and golden, with a light fluffy white head. The aroma reflects the oak Smoked wheat and is reminiscent of Smokey Bacon crisps – An unfairly neglected crisp flavour in my eyes!

Yup. That light smokiness carries through into the mouth. Nice carbonation leads to quite a full bodied feel, quite creamy mousse textured. A bit like Angel Delight mashed up with a pack of Frazzles actually!

For all that the thought of bacon may put some off, this is really refreshing and an excellent beer in this current “heatwave”. The smokiness is augmented by a little clove spice and maybe a hint of coriander leaf. Nice beer this – and I love the Salford linkage with some of the Communist Manifesto being inspired by the then conditions of Salford workers. Nice!

And. I’ve only just realised that each of these breweries WILL have a beer at ISBF2015

Well. That shallot for the moment. Maybe one more bottle post before I shut down the blog……for the summer, so I can focus on ISBF2015! Subliminal blogging at it’s worst! (I honestly didn’t know until I’d finished!)

Slainte.

The Established & The New – 2 Bars in Brighton – 18/05/2015

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(Brighton almost blew me away. Literally)

Some of the more perceptive of you may have realised that I care about the more social side. In that regard, I am indeed, a bit of a Socialist. Over the years, I have held a number of roles in the various Unions that protected my rights. So, when a Senior fella from the Union’s London HQ asked me to fill a role at Conference this year, I accepted. With my stress issues, I could never be a rep again, but if there was a little something that I could give back, I would. Willingly.

So it was, that I found myself in Brighton, walking into the teeth of a gale on the seafront.

I don’t travel TOO much. When I do, I like to catch up with people from the areas that I visit. On this occasion, it was my buddy (and my favourite blogger from that there South) Glenn Johnson. And a young man I have grown to rather respect, Karl.

Glenn suggested meeting in the first of the two pub/bars that we went it. And when I finally reached it, having walked up the hill from the seafront, to Surrey Street, it was only then that I realised that I’d been in a Brighton legend before…

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The Evening Star (Surrey Street)

I’m no expert on this pub, but I know that Dark Star started brewing in the cellar in 1994. Last time I was at Conference, I went in and just presumed it was a Freehouse with good beers, which it did (and still has) and didn’t realise it was a/the Dark Star pub.

The pub is a single room with the smallish bar occupying a corner area. Stripped wooden floor, lots of bare wood tables of various shapes and sizes, for a Nationally renowned pub, this had a real feel of a “local”. The conversations were the thing with just a light background tunage going on. It just felt so….me. Just my kind of pub.

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The pub is located on Surrey Street, mere yards from Brighton Train Station. Now then. Those who know Brighton, will know that there is a bit of a slope from the beach, up West Street to the Station. Which I trolled up. Quickly. because I hate being late. And Glenn was travelling from Yapton, some miles away. The only pint to have was the iconic HopHead. Nicely bitter if not as sharp as I was expecting, this was still a damn fine pint with which to slake a thirst.

As I started to drink, Glenn turned up and after a short while, while he froze a bit (I, being a porker, am numb to the cold), we went inside to carry on our chat.

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I was starting to love this pub. Uncluttered, just tables, chairs and damn good beer. The chat flowed. Inevitably, it was about beer. Glenn knows his stuff and we chatted about a wee plan that he has up his sleeve that he is exploring. When it comes off, I’ll be shouting about it! I’m quite excited for him.

Then Karl contacted me with the words “Was it tonight?” “I take it that you’re in The Evening Star?” He turned up and I got him a pin sharp pint of Arise by Burning Sky. Which he adored. An unfiltered session IPA. When the barman said “It IS £4.40 you know?” My response of “That’s OK, I’m from Manchester. This is cheap!” made him chortle. I could have listened to Karl’s stories all night. One of the three most ferociously smart people I know (the others being a close friend of us both and that friend’s recently deceased Dad), he also possesses a great social conscience and bucketloads of empathy. A man of the same tribe.

After Karl had to leave, I downed my excellent pint of a beer from Brick House Brewing of Brighton which I think was called Requiem (a session strength IPA) which was a beauty. Nice and hoppy. They’ve only being going a couple of months. If this is any indicator, they’ll do damned well. A fine beer. We moved on, to a bar of a more recent vintage.

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The Brighton Beer Dispensary (Dean Street)

Glenn suggested this place. What. A. Bar.

Apparently a joint venture between The Late Knights Brewery of SE London and the Brighton Bier Co, this is a small bar that is well worth seeking out (just around the corner from Craft Beer Co)

The place is not much larger than a Micro pub, but with the addition of a Conservatory to the rear that would increase capacity, with much wood and exposed brickwork, including a few tables with high bar stools. And damn friendly and helpful bar staff.

The four hand pumps on the bar were split between the joint owners, with two further casks on gravity from Liverpool Craft (a welcome sight so far south!) and Williams Brothers. Glenn had the Willams Brothers’ “Mystery Stout” which he enjoyed, whilst I (being a “when in Rome” kinda fella) tried the Brighton Bier Co “Thirty Three” Pale Ale. Which was bloody gorgeous. Surprisingly full-bodied for a beer at 3.3%, it was a hoppy and bitter little gem

The food was of the Craft Burger variety and I plumped for a Portobello & Brie burger. A Huge Portobello mushroom topped with Brie with a nice sweet chutney and some greenery. And gorgeous beer battered gherkins! With great chips. It was superb. And went down even better with a Brighton Bier Co South Coast Pale! Big, juicy, resinous and bitter. As hoppy as I could want.

Glenn had to get himself back home at this point. It’s nice to meet good beery folk. And Glenn is certainly one of those. Proving that “Beer People Are Good People”. There’s another mini crawl in Manchester just waiting for him!

More “Thirty Three” was followed by a can from the well stocked fridge (how remiss of me to omit the excellent keg and fridge choices!) – a Holy Cowbell India Stout from Beavertown. Just wow! A hoppy Stout counterpart for 8 Ball. I gave my Dubliner associate (Denis) a taste. He was bowled over. By an English brewed Stout. Wonders will never cease!

After that, time was up. I love this bar. A little pearl in the Brighton oyster. And well worth a visit.

Thanks to Glenn for the mini tour. And Karl for making the effort. Good people.

That’s it for a wee while. Well, London Part 2 next weekend!

Tune

“I want to forget how conviction fits
But can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me?
It can’t all be wedding cake
It can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it
Can’t let go of it, uh huh.

Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever,
That’s why you will not survive”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon. Clip courtesy “Alphamatrix1” on YouTube)

This track is from the album GaGaGaGaGa. It was the first thing that I heard by Spoon. From the first brass stab, I was hooked. In the US they are (kind of) known as the kings of minimal Indie. If you listen, you can hear why. There is no frippery, no fat. The tunes are pared down and lean. No wasted guitar or keyboard. The music is almost skeletal. Now that may read weird, having used “The Underdog”, but listen to them on Spotify and see what I mean.

It was at the time that I found Spoon and bands like The Decemberists and The New Pornographers ( as well as getting deeper into Wilco) that I became utterly disillusioned with current UK guitar based music. To be frank, it bores me. I haven’t had my ears prick up to anything from these shores since the first Arctic Monkeys album.

Go on. Tell me. “My loss”!

Whilst this song may seem to have nothing to do with the piece above it, I guess that it’s here because I want to get back to a personal space where I’m less ….. I suppose…arsed? To acknowledge that there are things worth giving a shit about. And some that aren’t.

Cutting the latter out of my psyche might mean that I add a few more years to this existence. That, or stronger blood pressure meds!

Toodles!

Bottled Beers – May 2015

Red Shed sign

(Where I am later!)

After May 7th and the shocks contained therein, I struggled a bit. I won’t wibble on about politics, I’ve got too much to do to wallow in self-pity, what with planning for The Independent Salford Beer Fest 2015 and all, but now is a time that I cling to what’s important. People. Hence why we’re having our little bash again in October. Announcements soon.

But, on to bottles…..

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1. Rye IPARunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.9%abv – Rye IPA – 330ml – Andy Heggs

Thank you Mr Heggs! I finagled this from him at the excellent Shebeen 2015 whilst we were sat in Black Jack and I was getting sozzled. And very cheeky.

Copper coloured and with a firm white head, this beer gives of an aroma that reminds me of a spicy fresh-baked wholemeal loaf. But one with a distinct citrus note. Really appetising.

Smooth with very gentle carbonation, the fruity front is mugged by spicy rye dryness. The fruitiness is huge, with orange up top with more than a hint of mango. But that fruitiness can’t escape this thuggish spicy dryness. It’s brutal.

And Oh so bloody moreish.

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2. Out of Step IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 5.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Direct

(Bought direct from the brewer)

I don’t get it. Why don’t we see more of Offbeat’s beers in Manchester? Michelle makes some simply fabulous beers and I can’t se them in Manchester? Ludicrous!

A mid golden beer with a fluffy white lacy head, (slightly hazy due to a misjudged pour), really fruity aroma on this with apricot and grapefruit in the nasal vanguard.

Oh this is nice indeed. This is a full-bodied beer with just right carbonation. The fruitiness in the mouth being more apricot but this time with something a little more tropical, like mango and passion fruit. There is a bracing bitterness in this, which (to me) should be in all IPAs.

There is a cracking resinous finish to this with that fruitiness in there too. This is a belting beer from a criminally overlooked brewery. We need some of her beer in Manchester. And sharp!

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3. Fat Lady StoutRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom) – 4.5%abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton) – £3

A black beer with a creamy coloured head giving off an aroma of bitter chocolate with a hint of licorice.

Medium bodied with an initial sweetness, that soon slides into something more dark roasted and lush. Quite creamy textured, with bitter chocolate front and centre. That bitterness wanders more towards coffee on the swallow and a substantial bitterness takes over.

This is a sessionable dark beer after my own heart, with the dry bitter finish I enjoy in a mid strength Stout. Who needs Guinness when you have beers like this?

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4. PortentousPeter Sidwell – 5%abv – Porter

Peter is (I think) one of the Manchester Home Brewers group. He certainly isn’t commercial at this stage. If I remember rightly, i saw this bottle in his hand at the MBCF and nearly ripped his hand off!

A deep ruby brown beer that is almost black with a light cream head and a  big chocolaty aroma.

A medium bodied beer, the first thing to tickle the tongue is chocolate. This is slightly sweet and really chocolaty. The next is a little winey note, like a smooth red. Then a tongue tickling spice, slightly peppery, like rocket. And all the while, that chocolate….

The aftertaste retains the chocolate, but there is a spicy woody feel to it that completes this nicely. A damn fine Porter. And brewed by a home brewer too!

The best praise that I can give, is that I’d happily pay for this at a bar. It’s that good.

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5. TuringBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne) – £2.45

I was intrigued by the idea of using sage to flavour a beer. I had to give it a go……

A golden, almost amber beer with a light thin white head, lightly carbonated, with a light tropical fruit aroma (passion fruit is noted on the label – that works!)

In the mouth, there is a nice fruitiness to this initially, which meets a bitter herbal counterpart in the sage that is added to this brew, that bitterness almost catches me unawares. That bitterness fades and an almost tea like tannic aftertaste kicks in, really dry.

I  wasn’t sure about sage in a beer, but this light, Pale and refreshing beer works a treat for me. Slainte!

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6. Espresso StoutSquawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.5%abv – Stout – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Like a chalice full of liquid pitch, this is black. A proper Stout. Dark, delightful and dangerous to look at. Almost daring you. “Go on! You know that you want me!”

Made with fresh roasted coffee from Bean Brothers, unsurprisingly, this positively reeks of coffee. As bitter as Nigel Farage as the result was called. There’s a herbal licorice note too in the background.

For a 6.5% beer, this feels quite light and sprightly, at first, a little sweetness then BAM! Eyelid pinning coffee hit…… Yup. That’s definitely a big coffee flavour!  With that underlying big Stout sweetness.

There’s quite a spicy thing at the back of the tongue as the beer slides you towards sleeplessness going down the throat. The roof of the mouth tingling after the swallow.

A fine beer indeed. If a little ill-advised before bedtime!

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7. Scarborough Fair IPAWold Top (Driffield, N Yorkshire) – – 500ml – Birthday Pressie!

Thank you Sue! This bright ultra Pale golden beer has a light white head and a really fruity aroma, tropical fruits with passion fruit and kiwi flying out of the foam.

Full bodied is this beastie,  whilst perversely feeling light. Really fruity with that kiwi well up there, but a big refreshing and tart lemon hit was a more than pleasant surprise! For  a beer at this strength, this is WAY too refreshing and just damned drinkable.

There’s a nice light malty biscuit and a big balancing act going on because these hops are just beautifully tart and give a big dry finish that leaves you wanting more.

An absolute belter and a really nice beery pressie amongst the cognacs & single malts!

That’s it for bottles this month. With EastWestFest tomorrow, Brighton next week and London a week later, the focus will be on pubs (and one very special beer festival!)

On that note….’til next time

Slainte!

Bottled Beers – April 2015 – Pt 2

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I’m going to bookend this piece with 2 “thoughts” – for those who like my music related wafflings, they’ll be back soon enough.

Firstly, the CAMRA Bolton Beer Festival. I went last weekend and was chuffed to bits to see it substantially busier than the same time last year. I now appreciate far more the effort that goes into curating a beer festival. You need a team (as I also learned!) and this team selected some excellent beers. So much so, that this is the best small CAMRA festival I’ve been to. Well worth the visit next year. Congratulations to Graham, Pete, Linda, Jez and everyone else involved.

And now….to business…..

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Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.0%abv – Blonde Ale – 500ml – From the Brewery.

Luckily for me, a family outing took me close to Congleton last weekend. My reward, picking up some of Mr Swindells’ excellent beers – and nearly becoming a light lunch for a one year old terrier / guard dog of doom!

A slightly hazy light golden beer with a decent white tight foamy head and an aroma with lemon, orange and a hint of gooseberry.
Light initial sweetness yielding ground to a little tart lemon & lime and quite a sticky dry resinous touch in the aftertaste. Quite abrupt that! Bit of a surprise.

Further down the glass, a rather lovely marmalade flavour comes through which is right up my street!

This medium bodied beer works the trick. Nice and fruity, gently tart and hugely refreshing. A superb beer for a summer’s day relaxing outside in a nice beer garden.

If all 4% beers tasted something like this, I’d have no complaints. Yum.

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(I REALLY need a new camera!)
Tractor Beer IITickety Brew (Tickety Few – Stalyvegas) – 3.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)
Oh my is this a lively beastie! Ultra Pale golden beer, abundant head and a huge aroma kicking or loads of lime citrus and gooseberry. Mouth wateringly aromatic.

Light bodied as you would expect from such a low abv beer. The carbonation lends it a fuller texture than I was expecting. The flavours are sharp citrus with some lime and lemon in there, making this really refreshing and it cut through my dulled taste buds.

The finish is short and dry with a little of that fruit and a spicy dryness imparted by that Belgian yeast that TB use

As it says on the label “super light” and very easy drinking. A Ronseal beer (which is a GOOD thing!)

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EllaMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4%abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Heaton Hops
Ahhhh….It feels like AGES since I’ve had a bottle of Mallinsons!
Pale gold, almost straw coloured, with a good lacy white head and an aroma that is like a lung full of tangerine and apricot vapours.

And those flavours are totally present in this light to medium bodied beer. WOW! This is a sharp and tart little number and no mustangs! (Or mistake. Depending on your predictive text!) Initial fruity sweetness and then BANG. A crackling bitterness mugs the fruitiness and stomps on it!

This is a massively refreshing and snappy beer. That fruitiness dries off swiftly leaving a residue of sticky pine coating the tongue. Just a brilliant Pale Ale. From the Queens of Huddersfield.

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Play Your Cards Rye’tBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Copper Rye Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Not too sure about that copper bit. This is almost a red Ale with a nice white collar pushing out a dark fruity nose with more than a note of peppery spice in there.

Yup. Fruity. Burnt orange, lending a bitterness along with (strangely) a hint of strawberry? This is medium bodied and Oh. So. Dry. Rye & Dry. Seem to go together don’t they?

This gets the saliva glands going and almost immediately throws up a huge STOP sign. Nicely spicy from the Rye too. A big drying finish with a lingering splash of orange.

A superb beer. These Black Jack bottles just get better. (But if they can beat their own Deerhunter…… THAT would be an achievement!)
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IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6%abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops
A new beer from Shindigger. A pleasingly gradual expansion of their range, this is a deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a decent white head and a deep and spicy orange marmalade aroma. Yum.

Medium bodied, the oranges almost ooze out of this into the mouth. So juicy. Good malt backbone with a light toffee flavour allowing the fruitiness to rise above. There is also a slightly fragrant quality that I can’t quite identify. This marmalade character lingers for some time, fading only slightly, allowing a medium bitterness in to play.

The whole package is wrapped up with a resinous bow, slightly sticky and a little peppery. This is another excellent beer. They are yet to miss a beat for me.

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Satanic MillsBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton U Lyne)
A deep deep dark ruby, almost black beer, with a cream coloured tight creamy head and a nose full of chocolate, a little sweet coffee and a nose wrinkling spicy touch.

Smooth and creamy in the mouth, quite full bodied this. The first flavour to register is a bittersweet chocolate, then a note of rum and maybe raisins (anybody remember “Old Jamaica” chocolate? No? I REALLY am an old git!) with a deep fruity tone.
A second sip gives more of the same, but introduces a little peppery spice to the tongue. This is really smooth. The chocolate and fruit lead to a dry chocolatey finish. A satisfying beer for a cool spring evening.
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Grounds for DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.8%abv – Belgian Tripel – 500ml – Direct from the Brewery
My Beer of the Festival at ISBF. I only managed a sneaky half. And I organised it. Bad planning! I was horrified that it ran out before I could snaffle more. So Malcolm sorted me out a 750ml bottle. The Atilla drank that! Some things just aren’t meant to be…..Or are they?
Fermented with the yeast used by Brasserie Orval in their eponymous classic, this poured a hazy straw gold with an abundant but swiftly diminished white head and the aromas of…. peach, banana, a little clove…. Just… Mmmmmm….

This. Is. A. Big. Beer. Yum! Initial sweetness, sticky with bitter orange and peach then more fruitiness with banana bringing up the rear with a proper spicy hit riding it with a whip over the first fence! (I drank this on Grand National evening, forgive me!)

That fruitiness is almost overwhelming!  I don’t really know Belgian beers all that well, but I absolutely adore this. Fruity, spicy and warming as it slides into my belly. On a cool spring evening, with a good book, what could be better!

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Carl Northern Alchemy
Now. That bookend.
Some of you may know Andy Heggs, he of the excellent video blog series Hop On The Bike. Well, on one of his trips, he and his fellow Hoppers collaborated on a beer at a brewery called Northern Alchemy in Newcastle. The beer that they created – a Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA no less – is being launched at Font Bar on Sunday. All proceeds to go to the admirable charity Forever Manchester.
As a regular proponent of the maxim “Beer People Are Good People”, it didn’t surprise me at all, when several beery linked people donated a number of items to be used as raffle prizes. Take it from me that there are some astonishingly good prizes in there!
This event is easy to attend. And let’s face it, it’s in FONT!!! If you needed any more reason to go for Christ’s Sake????
You can read my review of a sneaky advanced bottle of the Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA below. Tickets for this event are free. Click on the link hereThis event deserves to be a HUGE success. For the following reasons…
  • It’s for a brilliant and worthwhile charity.
  • There are loads of great prizes that you could win
  • It’s in FONT for crying out LOUD!!!
  • You can even MEET THE BREWER
  • Read on….

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Marmalade & Assam Tea IPANorthern Alchemy & Hop On The Bike – 7.3%abv – IPA – 330ml

The moment I popped the crown cap off, I was assaulted by orange zest aromas. From the bottle! Drool.

This is a murky dark amber in the glass, the white head in clinging and persistent and the smell is just….. Deep orange with a toffee undernote for it to ride.

Oh my giddy f***ING aunt but this is astonishingly good! Chewy and full-bodied, the first sip is like the best use of marmalade since Paddington last licked his paw. So good. Then the tannins from the tea give your drooling tongue a rub down and dry it off. Oh dear…

This is SO dry it’s almost rye like. The fruitiness floods your tongue from front to back and it is a real orange marmalade bass note. This is like a Peter Hook bass line, made beer.

The finish is sticky fruity and oh so resinous. It’s an absolute belter.

Go to Font on Sunday. Drink excellent beer. Spend money. Win Prizes. And do amazing things for this excellent charity.
Win. Win and thrice WIN!
On that note….I’m off to Peterborough to gorge myself on Oakham beers at a family 40th.
Hopefully see you on Sunday!
Slainte!