Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 1 – Greater Manchester Bottled Ales

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(“Oh Manchester, so much to answer for”)

“It seems, to me, to be self-contradictory

It seems, to me, you count your blessings while they’re there”

(“In Shreds” – The Chameleons)

With all of this drinking malarkey, one can often just “Go With The Flow” and just drink great beer from wherever it may emanate, but it has struck me recently how little Manchester brewed bottled ale I have been drinking recently. This was brought sharply into my focus when I saw a post from Brightside (now) of Radcliffe – and now my closest micro! – that they had commenced bottling their ale. I was, to put it mildly, rather excited.

Most of the beers that I have been prattling on about have, I realised, been from either Yorkshire or that there London. High time for something more…local. I don’t often take home beer from my frequent Manchester jaunts, so it was a joy to locate a shop – not too far from me – which was starting to sell not only great bottled ale, but, increasingly, great bottled ale from the Manchester area. That place is The Liquor Shop on Bury Old Rd, Whitefield (150 yds from Besses O’Th Barn Metro stop). Stocking beers from as diverse brewers as The Kernel, Mad Hatter and Wilson Potter, Raj has started to build a really good range. Very competitively priced too! A friendly guy who likes his beers, he offers a 10% discount on 12 or more bottles (15% on 24!) too.

Over half of the beers below were sourced from his wee shop (the others being sourced directly from the brewers themselves). If you live in Central or North Manchester, pay him a visit, you’ll thank me!

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

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

IMAG0267_BURST002(“Small” in name only!)

1. Small BeerQuantum Brewing Company (Stockport) – 2.7% abv – Pale Ale – £2.39 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Wow. Then, more wow! My good friend Colin & I had this on cask at Port Street last month and it rocked our worlds! I don’t know how brewers can make a beer this light in Alcohol, so bloody tasty! (OK, yeah, I know it’s the hops – Magnum, Columbus, Cluster, Citra & Chinook, in this case – but you know what I mean!) And without making it insipid? It’s MAGIC! Well…back to one of favourite Alechemists…Mr Krause!

First, the label. Classy and minimal. Tells you what it is and lists the dry goods (hops & malts) on the side. An example to many.A golden beer with an abundant white head which quickly settled. Abundant aromas of mango and pineapple flying from the glass , a fruity delight. In the mouth? This is light bodied (as you would expect at the strength), there is a little underpinning light biscuit sweet note to support those wonderful hops! Mango, grapefruit and orange fruit danced on my tongue leading to a fabulous bitter fruity finish with lots of pine staying on in the aftertaste. A cracking beer from Jay. Can’t wait to crack the Smoked Imperial Treacle Stout!

IMAG0236(Neighbours….Everybody needs good……!)

2. Amarillo – Brightside Brewing Company (Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Starting off behind a baker’s shop in Bury, these fine people are now my closest micro brewer, having relocated brewing operations to Radcliffe. In all honesty, it was their announcement that they had commenced bottling their ales, that made me think of a Manchester beer post!

This beer was a recent award winner at the SIBA NW Festival held at Staveley recently on cask …. having not had it at all, I was keen to taste this bottle.

Golden to bronze coloured with a fluffy white head giving up some serious citrus aromas. Bitter orange and tangerine contributing to an almost marmalade like nose. Biscuit sweetness supports the marmalade orange citrus in the mouth. This slides into a crackling bitterness and dry finish with an aftertaste with some more fruit yet distinctive piney tones. A cracking first bottle for me. More please!

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3. In ShredsWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.33 (3 for £7) (500ml) – Direct from the brewery.

I’ve written of my love for the beers that Amanda & Kathryn make on a number of occasions, but hadn’t had much recently. Weekend before last, I had the briefest of opportunities to pop up to the brewery and have the quickest of chats over a couple of halves, of which, this was one. A bitter hoppy delight it was too. So I snapped up one of their 3 for £7 boxes, including this beer.

Hopped with NZ hops (Green Bullet & Motueka), this was mid-gold coloured with a full white head and the bitter citrus aromas of lemon & lime just leaping out of the glass. A gorgeous zesty bitter mouthful with more lemon & lime followed by a bracing bitterness and a resinous, dry grassy finish. At the strength, a really refreshing bitter hoppy brew this. I like WPs beers, but this could be their best so far. A cracker! (And, to my joy, a music reference too. In Shreds was one of my favourite tracks from the excellent Chameleons, a band formed in the 80s from Middleton. Many a night dancing on beer sodden floors……..zzzzzz……check out Up The Down Escalator, my personal favourite track!)

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(And…lurking in the stash…was this!)

4. Triaurum IPARamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 4.7% abv – IPA – £2.50 (4 for £10) (500ml) – Direct from the brewery

I (somewhat cheekily) invited myself up to see Matt Holmes in June this year (read here) and observed his grafting (and crafting!) at first hand, sampling a bottle or two and taking some home. This was from that batch and was found lurking, buried in my – growing – stash. Rescuing it from the box……

A hazy and pale golden beer this with a white head and a subtle sweet grapefruit aroma minglred (or even “mingled”!) in with some fresh mown grass (not bad for November!) Medium bodied, this had some tart lemon notes in with the still present grapefruit leading balanced on a nice bready malt base. A really refreshing beer this with a dry, grassy bitter finish. Makes some damn nice beers does Matt – try get hold of his Thai Witbeer if you can!

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5. Lemon BlossomHornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £2 (500ml) – Direct from the brewer at a MTB

Picked this up at a recent (unfortunately sparsely attended) MTB at The Salford Arms. Kevin the brewer was a most genial host and this was among the many bottles we sampled that evening. Not a brewer I had had much from at that point, but with lovely balanced tasty beers like this, I certainly won’t be overlooking them on any bar now.

Such a pale gold as to be almost colourless! White head giving up subtle yet distinct lemony aromas (from the Sorachi Ace hops) allied with some grassy notes. Light to medium bodied with some zesty lemon in the mouth swiftly drying the mush with a lovely dry bitterness. Delicate and refreshing this. No hop monster, but all the better for it. A belting light refreshing beer that I could happily drink all night.

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6. BlondeTickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 5.8% abv – Blonde Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

You’ve just got to LOVE that label design haven’t you. Never seen anything like it on a bottle. So distinctive, beautiful.

The beer? Another one I picked up from Raj on my first visit to his Whitefield emporium, golden yet verging on copper coloured, this was lively with a white head and that Belgian yeasty funk that comes from their house yeast with a bit of cream soda in there too. The cream soda-ish notes came through in the mouth along with some banana (that yeast again!) and some more fruity notes. A nice dry finish with a little grassyness staying on. Another nice beer from this Stalybridge brewer. Now just need to try some on draught!

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7. DobberMarble Beers (Manchester) – 5.9% abv – India Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

As a kid – playing marbles or “alleys” in the street – Dobbers were the big beast of the marble jungle, highly prized. However, I rarely had a big one (story of my life, really!) and had to make do with “glassies” and “cat’s eyes”. This beer, in keeping with my understanding of the word, is described as “the biggest Marble in the pack”. Whatever, it most certainly is a big beer for this strength (&, to my shame, a Marble I was yet to sample!)

Deepest gold beer with a lasting white head giving up HUGE aromas of mango and peach! Big malty bready body supporting loads of fruity hop muscle. More mango and bitter grapefruit in the mouth, partying away and abusing my tongue, beating it into passive submission to the hops! I gave myself up to the big bitter resinous finish and collapsed, whimpering. I have absolutely NO idea why I hadn’t had this beer yet, but I want more!

As I pick up more local bottles, I will post more Manchester only items, just need more beer shops to stock local beers really. Raj appears to be doing OK, others just need to take the hint really!

Anyway, enough of my blatherings. Time for bed!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Hornbeam Brewery MTB @ The Salford Arms 25/09/2013

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So. It’s a Thursday. Also happens to be payday (YAY!). A choice between checking out my new Virginmedia setup, or pop down to The Salford Arms for the MTB with Dentons’ own Hornbeam Brewery. I won’t insult your collective intelligence with the obvious question…….!

A quick (almost telepathic) exchange with Tom revealed that there was no food on. So off to Caribbean Flavas on New Bridge St and possibly the saltiest meal I’ve ever had! Next time, I’ll go for the Jerk rather than curried chicken! It DID promote the thirst though!

Walking back in, there was the reassuring sight of my Arch-Nemesis at the bar. Furnishing me with a pint of Milestone Black Pearl Stout. Gloriously roasted and smooth with lovely notes of toast and mild coffee, we settled down in the front room to await the event.

Quiet. Again. What is WRONG with this picture, eh? A local brewer making an effort to come across town (on a Man U v Liverpool night to boot!) and talk about their excellent beers….an opportunity missed, to say the least!

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Kevin Rothwell – the head honcho at Hornbeam – was a most convivial host. He started commercially brewing in 2007 having been a keen “full mash” brewer at home since his teens. Brewing on a (Sketchy memory time alert!) 6 beer barrel plant (1 Bbl = 36 gallons) they brew up to 100 x 9 gallon casks a week, with about 10% or slightly less going into bottles.

In response to a question, Kevin told me that they have distributed pretty much across the whole of the North West, from Lancaster down to Derbyshire. However, now the focus is pretty much on the Greater Manchester area with a number of regular accounts. Whilst talking, Kevin was popping bottles…..first up was a taste of Black Coral Stout.

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A fruity dark beer with a good roasted malt body. Nice dark fruity notes with a hint of damson or plum. A very nice starter, but destined to be the only dark of the evening!

Another couple of people came in (Aussie couple that were also there last week) making a grand total of 4. We had a good chat around beer and sport, then Kevin broke out the White Swan. At 4.6% abv, this is a Wheat beer made with an unusual addition. Lavender. Bizarrely, this very pale golden beer had a distinct ginger note on the nose! really refreshing medium bodied beer with a really pronounced floral character. Unusual and damned tasty!

I was trying to make notes whilst the beers were coming fast! I could barely keep up! (No. Don’t weep for me. I can cope!)

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Next came Lemon Blossom at 4.1% abv. Brewed using the Sorachi Ace hop, this was again pale gold in colour with a delicate floral aroma. A distinct lemon note (a Sorachi characteristic) in  this clean easy drinking beer. Nice bitter finish with spicy hop note too.

Next came the Summer IPA again at 4.6% abv. Golden with a savoury aroma that I couldn’t quite pick. Quite fruity this, a little floral with a tinge of spiciness. Nice bitter and spicy finish.

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“Hard on the heels” came the Champagne Ale. 4% abv. Another golden beer but this time more dry and a pronounced bitterness to it. Light bodied and really refreshing, with a nicely dry slightly grassy bitter finish.

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On the bottle front, we finished up with one of the core range. Top Hop. 4.2% abv, with more of a deep golden hue. A more straightforward example of a traditional bitter, but full flavoured really fruity hopped with a cracking dry finish.

Whilst drinking these latter beers, Ken, one of the owners joined us. Asking a few questions himself, he was also puzzled at the attendance and I think, if there are further events after Deeply Vale next week, they may be on a different evening to encourage a greater attendance. Chaeck out their website via the link above. Nice bottle shop.

Ken then popped in with this little beauty!

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A cracking little tapas platter, highlighting the good food being prepared here. Really tasty with the mussels, a seafood paella and a mini burger. Went superbly with the Top Hop and Champagne Ale!

The nemesis and I couldn’t leave without the Orange Blossom on cask, could we? This is a lovely golden beer with some subtle earthy hops in the aroma. Dry, with some subtle orangey stuff going on at the back of the tongue. Nice dry and grassy bitter finish.

The theme of the evening? Other than my whining about the poor turnout? Tremendous well-balanced and tasty beers. All at a drinkable strength. Made with having more than one in mind. No bad thing to me. Another brewer from our beloved area making balanced tasty beers at a drinkable strength, alongside the likes of Wilson Potter and Privateer. Nice to see all these brewers thriving in this great city of ours!

We wandered off to other pastures! Absolutely SCANDALOUS on a school night. But hey-ho! I had got wind of some nice beers at Pie & Ale on Lever St so off we strode across the Northern Quarter.

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(pic: creativetourist.com)

Pie and Ale by Bakerie. A relatively recent addition to the thriving Northern Quarter scene, this places loses nothing compared to some of the more established NQ bars. The price upped a notch in here, but for what I had in mind, that was no issue! (And the Nemesis was paying!!!) Obsidian from The Hop Studio in the fine city of York. A cracking Black IPA at 5% abv. Lovely sharp sherbet grapefruit nose, with coffee notes in with the citrussy hops. A cracking pint. On the basis of the occasions that I have had this, one of the best beers I’ve had this year!

I do like Pie & Ale. No food this evening (being 9 ish) but great pies, having had the pleasure previously!

I couldn’t resist thee siren call emanating from the area of Port St!

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A belting chat with Al behind the bar, excellent barman who’s a keen home brewer. A kindred spirit in many ways, we shared our horror and disbelief at ale bars with no ale (Lower Turks take note!) over a pint of Graveyard Eyes Porter from Hopcraft Brewery from Pontyclun in South Wales. I do like Sorachi Ace in a dark beer. It adds a certain lightness and lifts what can be a heavy flavour into something much lighter. This was a cracker. The usual roasted character of Porter, quite creamy as well, but the Sorachi Ace…….yum! First time from this brewer for me. Will NOT be the last!

So. Nearing bedtime on this fine Thursday evening, I’m off to recline with a good book and a glass of DOC by First Chop. Damned tasty too….that review can wait!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!