Manchester – A City United By Beer

Lees Logo

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Last week, I witnessed the historic collaboration between Manchester’s oldest and one of its newest breweries. A day I enjoyed hugely, for all kinds of reasons. The day that the festival beer was brewed for Manchester Beer Week – the brainchild of that impudent young blogging pup, Connor Murphy, a young man for whom some form of beery canonisation beckons.

That day can be read about here.

On the day, an alarming thought struck me. “This beer is supposed to be ready for a launch on 26th. A mere 8 days away. It can’t work”

But here we are. On 26th May. A mere 8 days later, invite in hand…..

Rain Bar

(pic : http://www.rain-bar.co.uk/)

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….to drink THIS beer. For the first time.

Being furnished with a couple of tokens on entry, the Arch-Nemesis & I headed for the bar. For a pint – naturally – of Manchester Fold. And settled down to the onerous business of chatting with beery pals of all shades.

It’s hard work this convivial drinking and chatting bollocks you know! With me, the chatting bollocks comes as standard.

I was pleasantly surprised to be remembered by both Michael Lees-Jones and Paul Wood from Lees and had excellent chats with both. I think that there were a few nerves as to how the beer would turn out – especially given it was being drunk only 8 days after the grain hit the mash tun!

After a brief intro from William Lees-Jones, Michael Lees-Jones (Head Brewer) talked and seemed genuinely thrilled as to how the beer had come out. It was obvious that he truly enjoyed the brew day and having a few of us around – showing us the old place. Lees don’t do brewery tours for the public, so that was a big thing for me too.

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Then, a hoarse Paul Jones from Cloudwater (sounding like Vincent Price at his sinister best!) talked about their involvement in this historic beer and gave due and hearty praise to Connor for his efforts in not only putting together this collaboration, but for the whole Manchester Beer Week shebang. A truly impressive effort.

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Given the reason why we were there, Connor made some very salient points about the divide that seems to exist between traditional beer and the more craft side, A divide that (and I agree here) seems daft. For all that more modern breweries may be influenced by the US scene, people easily forget how some of the pathfinders of the US brewing scene were influenced by traditional UK breweries.

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(fellow blogger Mark chatting with Michael Lees-Jones)

The beer itself? Manchester Fold. A tawny coloured ale. It’s fair to say it’s as fragrantly hoppy as Lees have gotten. That’s the Cloudwater influence at work I think. It’s actually a bloody good beer. Full bodied for 4.8%, it’s really well-balanced and brimming with the fruity hoppy character of the Olicana hop. It really comes across as a Lees beer with a distinct Cloudwater stamp on it. And it works. So well.

It was certainly going down well last night!

Given that the consensus that it may have been “a bit green” after only a few days from the brew, this could be superb on the official launch day*. That said, there were 4 x 18 gallon casks sent to Rain Bar. This beer may have been good last night, but it will get even better over the weekend (if they keep it on that is!)

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Really enjoyed talking with Michael & Paul Wood from Lees. Men with a true passion for what they do. Managed to a bit of plot hatching with the blogging Yoda that is Tandleman too (something you can savour at ISBF!) And it’s always a pleasure to speak with Connor, his talented Dad Eamonn (Just check those designs and that website – stunning), not to mention that Prince of men John Clarke and young Mr Johnson too!

*That launch party. Now in The Marble Arch on 10th June promises to be an absolute corker!

Historic Manchester beer. Groundbreaking Manchester event. In THE iconic Manchester pub.

A proud night for all beer loving Mancunians. Again, the boy Murphy done good.

I think Manchester is ready. Roll on Manchester Beer Week.

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Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 1

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(Tonight, tonight…….)

“I like your nerve, I like watching you.

But I don’t watch what I drink, got better things to do”

(“Definitive Gaze” – Magazine)

Been struggling to write recently, with the black dog growling, putting finger to keyboard takes a hell of an effort. But, whilst making a curry this afternoon, I started to listen to an album I haven’t played for nearly 3 years “Real Life & The Hereafter” a retrospective album commemorating the reformation (however temporary) of the greatest of all the bands of the era labelled “post-punk”, Magazine. Just get on Spotify and listen to the album “Real Life”, then tweet me and say “thanks”! I heard the above track….and strode to the keyboard!

One of the things that has kept a smile on my face has been the never-ending surprise I get every time I meet somebody involved in the business of either brewing or retailing micro brewery beers. Such nice and friendly people. One recently was Dan (I didn’t catch his surname) who is looking to open a Micro Pub/Bar in the refurbished Bolton Market. Had a chat with him at the stall (now) at Urban Market (Located on the site of the old Victoria Bus Station) run by another decent fella Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man) and am excited by his plans for the unit – will be great to have a decent local beer selection in Bolton!

Anyway….to the business at hand….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

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1. Black JesusGreat Heck Brewery (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 6.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.25 (330ml) (10% disc for 12 btls) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Was a HUGE surprise to find this beer at Raj’s shop! Possibly the only stockist of this particular brewery’s beers in (certainly) Greater Manchester. This is the third beer that they have bottled with two more planned. The first two (Yakima IPA & Amish Mash) were both delicious, so I had high hopes for this (especially having heard some good reports about it on draught!

A black beer with a tan head and a sharp yet deep complex aroma with both citrus grapefruit and a touch of licorice! Mmmm…. Nice and full-bodied, almost creamy, in the mouth, the first flavour to hit was the grapefruit, swiftly followed with a piney hit and a good degree of bitterness then came the more earthy notes with a healthy dose of licorice. A 330 ml bottle doesn’t do this beer justice. Some commentators describe a Black IPA as a Stout with hops. This particular beer is as close to a mash-up of Stout and IPA as I’ve tasted. It’s bloody gorgeous!

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2. MoonrakerJ W Lees (Middleton, N Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Strong Ale – £1.25 (4 for £5) (500ml) – ASDA stores everywhere!

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Col popped around for a beer or two and we had a little tasting session, this was one of the beers that he brought round that we didn’t get the chance to taste.

A really deep ruby beer, if you don’t hold it up to the light it appears totally black. A really lovely creamy head on this when poured, it had a deep vine fruit aroma with a nose wrinkling touch of spice. Full bodied, initially sweet with chocolate then raisins with some barley sugar sweets (remember them?) then some spiciness. The initial sweetness gradually gave way to a building dryness with a gentle bitterness with some licorice in the aftertaste. A really nice winter warmer, just need a pub with a fireplace!

I haven’t, historically, drunk an awful lot of Moonraker, but I do remember that it was a stronger beer than this, I certainly recall it being at 7.5% at one point. This is a really nice beer (and an utter steal at the offer price!), but I do wish that breweries would leave well alone with their recipes. There are a number of beers that have reduced strength over the years (in one format or another) and beer drinkers do notice these things. That said, a good source tells me that Lees’ annual winter brew “Harvest Ale” is one to look out for, I’m looking!

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3. Stormy PointCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) (Collab with @PDTNC aka Ade from Saltaire Brewery) – 6.7% abv – Dark IPA – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Picked this up on my recent visit (mentioned above) to see Damian O’Shea at a rather chilly Urban Market event at the old Victoria Bus Station. Unfortunately quiet when I turned up, some excellent long stall there, not the least of which was Damian’s usual excellent selection of superb beers. He had a few from Shane Swindells’ Cheshire Brewhouse (including a few gift sets), so I snaffled a bottle or two.

I had this on cask at the recent Boothstown Beer Festival. It was the best beer I had by a distance combining the earthyness of a dark, with the citrus of a big IPA. I’m yet to have anything less than excellent from this brewery, so I was looking forward to this, whilst stemming the drool!

Darkest ruby with a lovely sexy ruddy glow to it, a nice tan head releasing fruity aromas of sweet mango & tart grapefruit. Full bodied and almost creamy in the mouth, earthy yet citrussy. Fruity with mango to the fore but earthy with hints of coffee and licorice. A Kalahari dry finish with lots of resinous pine in the aftertaste, For a 6.7% beer, I could drink this all day. OK. I’d probably fall over, but I’d have a lovely time getting there!

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4. Red Rose Rye – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.7% abv – Red Rye Ale – £3.69 (500ml) –  The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

This beer was brewed in collaboration with Manchester Homebrewers at Jay’s Hempshaw Lane beery Fantasia. If the homebrewers are some of the guys I’ve met at Privateer & Port St, they’re a cracking bunch of fellas and certainly know their hops from their barley!

This was a lively wee beast! Deep red with an abundant white foamy head, with a perplexing yet really enticing aroma, really fruity but with an additional quite subtle perfumed floral note that I couldn’t quite pick but that reminded me (slightly) of Parma Violets (Do they still make them? My flavour memory bank is going back 40 years there!)

Ooh! What a full flavoured and full-bodied beer! Fruity and spicy with that rye adding its spicy notes, really bitter and dry too. Again that elusive floral note came through in the flavour. Quite complex in the flavours (NO surprise with 5 hops and 6 malts!) and I struggled to pick individual characteristics out, but this was just a magnificaent (Latin for Magnificent!) beer that I hope Jay brews again. If he does, get on it!

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5. Bondi Blues – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.3% abv – (Antipodean) IPA – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another one picked up on my recent visit to Damian O’Sheas’ excellent market stall (should be one on this weekend!) A limited edition of 500 bottles this, I’m not posting this so you can pointlessly drool, more in the hope that Shane will brew it again soon!

A hazy amber beer with a lacey white head and a BIG hoppy nose! Full bodied and big and fruity in the mouth with a cheesecake biscuit base flattened with citrussy mango and orange marmalade, a hint of pineapple sweetness and a big piney afternote. Surprised me as I started to warm as it went down! The finish was bitter and dry with nice resinous pine lasting well into the aftertaste. Another Congleton cracker, C’mon Shane, brew it again!

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6. Nelson Sauvin – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – (Single hopped) Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Is there anything that I haven’t previously said about the single-hopped Pale Ales made at this Huddersfield brewery? Should I even bother to mention the near beergasm that I had when I smelled this in the glass? Ah go on then…..

Straw coloured pale beer with a white head and a booming aroma of grapefruit and sharp lemon (drool now!). Medium-bodied, this has a light Malted Milk biscuit sweetness more than matched by a fabulous grapefruit tartness. The sharp grapefruit leads to a lovely bitter finish with a resinous aftertaste that goes on and on and on…..zzzzzzz. You get the picture?

I’ll spare you the lyrical waxing by just saying WOW! The shame is, that there isn’t much of this left at The Liquor Shop. Give Raj a shout on Twitter, but if out of luck, pop over to http://www.yorkshireales.co.uk where they seem to still have some! Also, Beermoth on Tib Street usually have a good range of Mallinsons, more than worth a look if you’re in the city centre!

NB : For all you beer loving, local sourcing Mancs, Raj (@LiquorShopUK) has a Manchester Beer Box case of 12 local micro brewery ales for £26.99. Get in!

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With that, I need to address my Beers of the Month for November! Fairly straightforward these two!

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Draught Guero by Five Towns Brewery of Wakefield. A 2.9% abv Pale Ale just bursting with hoppy goodness and grapefruit tartness. A stunningly good example of how great a low abv beer can taste! Thanks to Nigel of The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (simply a great local pub!) and David Mayhall from Allgates for alerting me to its presence!

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Bottle Manifesto by Revolutions Brewing of Castleford – See here for the reasons why! The best bottled beer I have had so far in 2013.

With that, It’s time to move on to pastures new….y’all come back now!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

‘Manchester. A Beer Is Born!’ JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale Launch / Joshua Brooks 17/04/2013

So. A random e-mail leads me to the VERY windy streets of Manchester and a clearing of my schedules to taste a new beer by Middleton based JW Lees. This being held in Rain Bar (Rainy City – geddit!), bizarrely, Lees’ sole outlet in the centre of Manchester.

Rain Bar(pic – fancyapint.com)

The entrance to the bar was cordoned, this being a private function, so wristbands on, er, wrists, myself and my arch-nemesis Jaz set off to the bar where conversation was already flowing (Well, Tandleman was at the bar too, so it would be!). We settled ourselves down to watch the slide show of iconic Manchester photographs that had been pulled together by Kevin Cummins.

Opened by Lees in 1999, I must have walked past this warehouse on numerous occasions in the 80s without paying it any mind. The name, the industrial link, the minimalism of all that exposed brickwork. It’s Manchester to its core this place. I like it.

The evening was beginning to take shape with the appearance at the bar of Kevin Cummins, Mark Radcliffe and Bez, the latter pair putting in a publicity shoot appearance behind it on the pumps.

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(I’m sure young Radcliffe’s in there somewhere!)

The Manchester themed canapes (the Black Pudding parcels were tremendous!) were doing the rounds as William Lees-Jones gave us a presentation on the beer and what inspired it. A pale beer with initial fresh hoppy aroma, easy drinking at 3.7% abv and quite refreshing, it evolved from a couple of the seasonals that the brewery released in 2011/2012. The intention – according to W L-J – is to push this nationally. It has been a while since a Manchester beer had such a presence nationally and I wish them well. (BTW – I preferred the draught markedly over the bottled version, which is slightly different and is 4.1%)

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(Manchester Pale Ale – Take a Bow!)

Williams’ speech over, Mark Radcliffe took over and was hugely entertaining (isn’t he always?) and hosted a 10 question quiz, with the prize being a years’ supply of the beer (and a years’ supply of curry too!). I lasted 5 questions!

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(The WRONG answer!)

Quiz over, the genial Bez took over custodianship of the decks and the Manchester tunes got funkier “Shack Up” by A Certain Ratio? Oh yes, back to my youth!

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(And The Bottled Version)

Quite a distinctive branding and label for this beer, which stands out from other Lees products. Simple and explanatory, which may help in the supermarket off-trade.

An enjoyable evening made better by chatting to a couple of Lees’ publicans from different generations. One from the Ring O’Bells in Middleton and a young couple from The Victoria in Holmes Chapel. Good company both.

The whole presentation was slick and firmly rooted in Manchester. The photographs were stunning (all from local amateurs), the quiz (even as A or B) was fiendishly difficult and the music was superb (even if it drifted away from Manc artists toward the end!)

A good launch. Wish them well. (Now then, where IS that bottle of Manchester Star?) And thank you to Niamh from Tangerine PR for the invites!

Collecting our ‘goodie bags’ (I’m a sucker for these things!), myself and Jaz sloped off for t’watch us some footie. This led us to ……

Joshua Brooks.

Last night was possibly unique for me. A ‘Freehouse’ with 5 outstandingly good ales on the bar. AND 4 OF THEM WERE DARKS!!!! As Van Morrison once sang “I’m in HEAVEN’!

20130417_200443(The Dark Side indeed!)

Being a glutton for punishment, I sampled them all.

First up was the ‘Liquid Mint Aero’ that is Thornbridge Baize. 5.5% abv, black with a minty and vanilla aroma. A gloriously well balance stout with more than a hint of mint (poetry comes as standard!) and chocolate without being cloyingly sweet. A hell of an achievement this beer!

Next, one of the two darks on from Titanic Brewery. Firstly the Cappuccino Stout at 4.5%. I raved about this when I first had this last year. Lovely stout with some nice coffee bitterness.

Next was Darkness by the relentlessly excellent Dark Star brewery. A black IPA at the low abv of 3.5%, a superb achievement to get so much flavour into such a low alcohol beer, coffeeish, citrussy, confounding. But a reaaaaally nice beer.

Finally, Titanic Chocolate & Vanilla Stout. Again, as with the Cappuccino, this uses Titanic’s dry Stout as the basis and runs off in another direction. Smooth an dreamily creamy. Choccy, Ice Creamy, I just adore this beer. It’s up there with Triple Chocoholic by Saltaire and Dark Arts by Magic Rock for me. It completes my ‘Holy Trinity’ of stouts!

Nice to chat with James again and even better when United drop points (WHAT a goal by Diame!) and The Blues slutch a win against Wigan.

With the beer selection that JBs has, allied to the superb condition in which it is always served, this bar should be packed night after night. I don’t know when drinkers are going to catch up, but, until they do, I’ll pick my favourite leather chair, enjoy the excellent tunes and sink a pint or three!

An excellent evening, as ever, with Mr Jaz with some excellent beers all told!

On that note…..Until next time….

Slainte!