Manchester – Northern Quarter Bar Crawl Pt 2 – 27/03/2015

There are two things that bring old comrades together. Those things are “Leaving Dos” & Funerals. This saddens me and is something that I need to address this year. Over 30 odd years in the same job (give or take a few “re-brandings”), you make a lot of friends. I need some “catch up” evenings. And soon.

This evening started off with an e-mail regarding a (premature – in my view) “Retirement”. Of a lovely fella who has had his fill of cuts and their associated nonsense and has decided to break out on his own.

Brave or foolhardy? Not even he knows for sure.

I find myself invited to a pub in the Northern Quarter on a Friday afternoon in Spring……via a swift Rice ‘n’ Three, I find myself in….

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The Abel Heywood (Turner Street)

Named after a two-time Mayor of Manchester of the Victorian era, this place is a bit of an anomaly. Let’s face it. What brewery spends gazillions opening a pub when so many others are closing? The answer is Hydes. Manchester born & bred (but now nestling nicely in Salford near Media City!)

Its USP is (I suppose) the “Boutique Hotel” which takes up 15 rooms in this conversion. A colleague picked up a bargain double for £60 inc breakfast – and said the room was lovely. A recommendation then!

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The pub itself is open plan and bends around the bar, I didn’t get to see the separate room upstairs, but downstairs is all designer aged, with dark booths, lots of wood and even a faux-nicotine stained look ceiling. Not many Victorian pubs would have had air-con though! Hydes have obvious spent a lot of money on this and – in the short-term – it appears to be paying off as – before I left at about 5:30, the place was absolutely rammed.

The beer was OK. Perle Essence from Hydes’ own “Beer Studio” imprint was quite fruity, yet understated in its hoppiness. A nice pint, but eclipsed somewhat by the 1/2 of Flying Dog Pale Ale that I had before I left  (Not bad at £4.50 a pint)

So far, the place seems to have grabbed a slice of the NQ drinking pie. And that is a competitive meerkat! Or market even.

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57, Thomas Street (Thomas Street)

Just two streets away, almost on a line with the Abel Heywood is this Marble offshoot. And whilst I know that it featured on the last N4 crawl that I did, I just fancied something Marble(ish) and it was an agreeable spot at which to hook up with my beery Yoda – the Arch-Nemesis.

After the sardine tin feel of the previous pub, it was a joy to walk into somewhere that was so cool (in all meanings) and where I could actually get a seat (for a change in here!)

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For the uninitiated, this is a small yet perfectly formed bar with a long bench table opposite the bar. The venue is glass fronted and if you can nab a window seat, it is a great spot to watch the bustle of the NQ pass you by on a Spring afternoon.
But I couldn’t. I did manage to grab a seat on the bench however, prior to approaching the bar with its 4 casks on gravity dispense (straight from the cask – the USP of the bar) With 3 out of the 4 casks on, I went for a zesty pint of er….. Pint, which was as good as usual, lemon sharp and refreshing.
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With a moment to read an excellent piece about Sufjan Stevens in The Grauniad, I had time to admire the place. Really fond of this bar, it has a charm that I can’t quite put into words. From the semi industrial metal ceiling, mock medieval wallpaper (complete with self-advertising stencil!), warm red paint tones. Friendly staff….. Need I go on?

I wonder where the board games all went? (another former USP)

Anyhow, with the AN reaching the end of his excellent pint of Ginger, it was time to move on – after all, this was a crawl! But not too far….
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Terrace Bar (Thomas Street)
If this was a pub, you could describe it as a “Cut”, as it has entrances on both Thomas Street and Edge Street. This place has more of a club feel to it with quite loud dance music pumping through powerful speakers. Exposed brickwork, post-industrial style – is the order of the day here. The bar occupies the side of the venue that you enter via Thomas Street and there is more of a foody vibe at the side that abuts Edge Street.
A distinctly younger crowd in here, with myself and Yoda upping the average age by approximately 2 years! The great thing about Terrace is though, that it never ceases to amaze me that a bar such as this can stock a great beer selection with Thornbridge Jaipur, Liverpool Organic Shipwreck IPA, Harbour Light and Millstone Tiger Rut all on the pumps.
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(I really need to get a new camera/phone!)
With the need to keep a (relatively) clear head, I opted to avoid Live Organic & Thornbridge (big beers both) and had a Harbour Light, which, whilst perfectly acceptable, was probably slightly short of premium nick. Yoda enjoyed his Millstone hugely too. Nice keg selection here too if the cask doesn’t grab you.
terrace may not be to the taste of all in my age group, but there is a certain something that I really enjoy here that I can;t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the tunes. I had forgotten quite how much of a guilty pleasure that “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd was! A classic early 90s #1!
Moving on….and a bit more of a stroll to Dale Street – a bit counter intuitive, considering where we intended to end up!…To
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Allotment Bar (Dale Street)
Having only been in once before (with Atilla), I think I fell in love with this 2014 opening bar when I saw one of the staff watering the indoor window boxes that adore one of the walls! Allotment by name……
Another (kind of) open space, with a centrally located bar dividing the place up a bit. Quite a few tables scattered around near the bar, but many “reserved”, presumably for “diners”. No matter, we only here for one anyway. There is also – to note – a further bar to the rear to serve when it gets really busy. No cask beer at that bar though.
With some local beers on the bar, I opted for the Pale Ale from Tweed of Hyde. A nice fruity beer, with hints of peach and orange.
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(The Hanging Gardens of Babylon….Ok, Dale Street!)
We acquired the completing member of our planned trinity when Jeff (aka Bode Miller – for all you “Ski Sunday” addicts) joined us, grumbling at the distance he had to travel to meet us….all 1/2 mile from his lair!
Nice place Allotment. Another rare pub opening. Quite busy before we left too with more of a mixed crowd that at Terrace.
With a hike across the NQ planned to our ultimate destination, Time for one more…..
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Pie & Ale by Bakerie (The Hive, Lever Street)
Set slightly off Lever Street adj to Stevenson Square, this place is worth seeking out, if not for the pie based menu (they are excellent), then for the beer selection (as well as a great selection of Whiskies)
Another 2014 opening bar. The interior is classy and minimal with exposed brickwork, muted neutral toned paintwork, two distinct ground floor areas and a quite concealed mezzanine dining area. Humming with conversation when we got there, the main topic of OUR conversation when we got there was the beer choice!
Disregarding the house beer “Yippee Pie Ale”, there were beers from the likes of Sonnet 43, Mad Hatter, IndyManBrewHouse (collab with Celt), Ilkley & Weird Beard. The Dynamic Duo both went for the Ilkley whilst I opted for the Hope Street Hop which, whilst as hazy as a spring fog, was actually a damned tasty pint full of peach, mango and tangerine fruitiness.
The only thing that I would say in balance on this bar is that the prices seem a little high. I would have had the Weird Beard Decadence Stout – a formidable beer at 5.5% abv, but not at £5 a pint. Even with it being Jeff’s round, I’m not THAT much of a git!
With a little tweaking down of the prices of some of the beers, this would be a Go To bar for me. Certainly the selection of beers whenever I’ve been in is impressive.
The ultimate destination was the Black Jack Tap, which was open on the Friday night. With the Dynamic Duo setting the pace, this was a thirsty walk.
The beers were all excellent, but particular mention for a stunning spicy and dry Rye IPA by Runaway Brewery (I thanked Mark personally!) and a stunningly smooth, unctuous, vinous and warming one year old Imperial Stout by Dark Star. The great thing about this ending was the beery chatter with some lovely people.
It was like a coming together of brewers with Black Jack, Runaway, Six O’ Clock, Cloudwater. Like a beery Mancunian Illuminati!!!
If I can give a tip? Next time the Tap is open, get your arses down there for some great beer and excellent food (the Pizza was a thing of beauty!) courtesy of those lovely GRUB people, Jason & Jules.
All good things must pass however and the last #8 bus was beckoning. I managed to stay awake (bonus) and must confess a sneaky – and rather nice – Lamb & Chicken Kebab from a local takeaway prior to retiring for the evening at a FAR too late an hour – considering that I had volunteered to work at Prestwich Beer Fest until 01:00 (02:00 with the clocks going forward!) – A great event put on by the folk behind Beer Junkets. But I am currently…knackered!
Stay Tuned for an upcoming review of Heaton Hops – the new venture from Damian (Ale Man Manchester) O’Shea!
With that……
Slainte!
Tune
“It’s real early morning, no-one is awake. I’m back at my cliff, still throwing things off.
I listen to the sounds they make on their way down, I follow with my eyes ’til they crash.
I imagine what my body would sound like slamming against those rocks.
And when it lands, will my eyes be closed or open.
I go through all this, before you wake up. So I can feel happier,
to be safe up here with you.”
(“Hyperballad” – Bjork. Clip courtesy Maskuk on YouTube)
I freely accept that Bjork isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but to me, she is a rare example of a musical artist who does something the is original and bears an utterly individual stamp.
My first encounter was when I first heard “Birthday” by The Sugar Cubes. I was blown away by this strange voice and off-kilter slowed down grungy funk. I therefore bought the album from which it was taken “Life’s Too Good”, a fine album which stands with all the other vinyl that I own in #2 sons loft bedroom – much to his futile annoyance!
Her solo work has, for me, been in many instance, ground breaking. You hear a Bjork record and it sounds like…..Bjork. Most modern music owes a debt to someone, be it via sampling or obvious influences. It’s a rare thing to hear something that makes me go “bloody hell”! But Bjork does it. Consistently. From tracks like Human Behaviour, Pagan Poetry, Hidden Place, Big Time Sensuality……All stunning. All Bjork. Nobody else sounds like this.
This track is – to me – a thing of raw and disturbed beauty. That line about throwing herself off the mountain is sung in such a beautiful child like voice. So haunting. This is a track I go back to time and again. And it’s 20 years old. And it sounds timeless.
I’m off to buy Vulnicura (her latest album) See you later.

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Pt 1

“All I can see is black and white and white and pink with blades of blue
that lay between the words I think, on a page I was meaning to send you.
You I couldn’t tell if it bring my heart, the way I wanted when I started
writing this letter to you.

But if I could, you know I would just hold your hand and you’d understand
that I’m the man who loves you.”

(“I’m The Man Who Loves You” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of “The Tonight Show” (US) on YouTube)

It’s been a while! *Yawns like a bear coming out of hibernation*

I came to Wilco rather late. Via their collaboration album with Billy Bragg, recording songs from the archives of the great socialist American songwriter Woody Guthrie that became “Mermaid Avenue”. Ahhh….”California Stars”…….

The above tune is the most accessible track on arguably their least accessible album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. The album that, perversely, brought them to mainstream attention. The album that transformed them from Alt- Country and Americana players to avant-garde. So much so that their label rejected it. Totally. So the band, via whatever channel, leaked it on the web. And became famous because of it, all over the world. There is a documentary about the gestation of the album, which, rather sadly, resulted in one of the band being (effectively) thrown out – Jay Bennett. Sadly, no longer with us. The documentary is called ” I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. I thoroughly recommend it as a document of the recording process and of the stresses and strains that that can create.

I saw the band for the first time when they were promoting their next album “A Ghost Is Born” at Manchester Academy. Jeff Tweedy, lead vocalist/guitarist, looked (and sounded) incredibly fragile. So much so, that I remember saying to my pal Chris, that I thought that he wouldn’t last the year. Songs with titles (and lyrics) like “Handshake Drugs” led to the belief that he may have been addicted. He was, it transpired, but to prescription painkillers, not the opiates that we feared. We resolved to going to see the band at Rock City in Nottingham a few months later. I now see them every time that they are in the UK.

Tweedy plays The Ritz – solo, in January. Chris picked up tickets last week. I’m excited. (Sad, for a near 50 yr old eh?)

Beer time….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (where I have it) 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Dreaming Dreams – Wilson Potter (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – 3 for £7 – Direct from the brewery

Dreaming Dreams (of Amarillo – Geddit?). Amarillo. My favourite hop. Picked up on a recent (flying) visit to the brewery on one of their “soiree” afternoons following a drop off of casks remaining from The Independent Salford Beer Festival (zzzzzzzzzzz………). I didn’t know that WP had an Amarillo hopped beer other than “Is This The Way”! Intrigued and salivating, I had to pick one up.

A gorgeous Pale golden beer bought on a brewery soiree last weekend, this has a clinging lasting white head with a fine carbonation giving an aroma of a light marmalade with a hint of apricot. Oh wow! For a fairly light strength beer, this has quite a punch!
The first sip brings that marmalade to the party, juicy and sticky, so full of marmalade flavour that Paddington Bear would love this! A stonking dry and bitter finish too, quite bracing. With a substantial resinous pine hit in the aftertaste. An admittedly brief description, but it was that good that I was a little lost for words!
Each new Pale that Kathryn & Amanda release gets more assertive. And more impressive. This is up there with Don’t Fall. And that is a huge complement! A cracker, up there with the best of the Mallinsons single-hopped Pales for me. Speaking of which…..
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2. SPA (Session Pale Ale) – Mallinsons (Huddersfield, W Yorks) – 4.1% abv  – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 0 – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
If I had a brewery that I regret not being included at the aforementioned bijou beer fest, it is Mallinsons. And hell did I try….They’d grace any bar. But moving swiftly on (and there’s always next year!)
Lively wee devil this one, took a while to decant. Really Pale golden colour (almost a trademark) with an abundant white foamy head giving off a really fruity aroma full of peach and tangerine juices.
First taste, oh yes! Medium bodied and a now more subdued carbonation. Some peach, some passion fruit and what a whack of bitterness backed up by sticky pine resins. Woof! This is another Huddersfield cracker. A little grapefruit says hello in the next mouthful, backed up by that assertive bitterness and mouth gumming piney resins. As Omar Little might say in The Wire “Oh indeed”!
This is a beauty of a pale ale. Fruity, bitter, a little sharpness and a snap sticky pine aftertaste. Oh yes.
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3. Protz’s Pleasure – Steel City Brewing / North Riding Brewpub – 5.3%abv – Black IPA – ? (500ml) – 0 – The Ale Man Manchester (Various locations)
This beer was inspired – if that is the right word – by a phrase used by beer writer (and CAMRA Good Beer Guide editor) Roger Protz, who said “Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.” A brief perusal of the internet may reveal that a number of aspiring brewers were “encouraged” to try making a BIPA on the strength of THAT statement!
If Steel City have a mission statement, it has one word. That word is “HOPS”. Pair this cuckoo brewer with Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub) and his evident love of that green flower, then there was only one way this was going to go…..
Appearance : Black with a thick creamy head and a noise full of chocolate, licorice and some citrus hints.
Medium bodied and quite smooth in the mouth, WOW is this bitter! Flavours of bitter chocolate, burnt toast topped off with a distinct grapefruit citrus tang. Finished with an almost incredible, astonishing bitterness!
The smoothness is almost creamy textured as I take a second mouthful and those flavours intensify. That massive bitterness is rounded off with a sticky pine resin dry finish. I’m Gobsmacked! (I think that this MIGHT have been the desired effect!)
N.B. I’m REALLY looking forward to Damian (The Ale Man) opening his own bar in Heaton Moor! (Coming soon)
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4. Light – Briggs Signature Ales (Huddersfield) – 2.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 0- Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
The fact that a new brewer gets to use the kit at Mallinsons, must – in my eyes at least – mean that he has high standards. You have to be damn good for your pales to measure up to the beers of Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall! This is how Nick Briggs (former brewer at Elland) has set himself up for a potential fall. But has he…
Has he bloody hell! A lively golden beer with abundant white foamy head and a noise full of peach and Mango. Really fruity and with a floral hint that I can’t quite pick.
Quite a medium bodied beer – surprising at this strength! Initial thoughts are of a rather fruity ice cream full of peach and – strangely – strawberry. A really fruity creamy textured mouthful.
The second mouthful brings a little pineapple to this fruity party but also a strong dry bitterness followed by a dry resinous aftertaste. All in all, a surprising beer indeed. A cracking fruity, bitter Pale Ale.
This is a “Small Beer” in abv only!
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5. Old Norrell – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W. Yorks) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £0 (500ml) – Direct from the brewery
Picked up whilst delivering back empty cask from our recent “bijou beer bash”, this was a nice surprise! Got to see Malcolm in action too, with a spot of cask filling. A proper small micro in operation. If I’m right, he has now retired from his “day job”, which – with the addition of a fermenting vessel – will mean both an increase in brewing AND (hopefully) more of his beers over in Manchester – you heard it here first!
Pale golden with a persistent lacy white head giving a big lemon and grapefruit aroma. Lovely fresh & zesty.
In the mouth this is beautiful and sharp. And as bitter and twisted as a Nigel Farage speech! Courtesy of the Sorachi Ace hop methinks. Medium bodied, the first flavour to hit is a bitter lemon mingled with tart grapefruit. A gooseberry note too. Lovely and fresh this in no way tastes its strength.
The fruity tart and beautifully bitter mouthful has a little malty, bready sweetness which gives best to that tart bitterness, a dry sharp finish and resinous grassy hop aftertaste. A pleasure of a beer that I’d love to try on draught.
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6. Marmalade Porter – Wold Top Brewery (Driffield, N. Yorks)  – 5% abv – Porter – £? (330ml) – ? – Wold Top Stall (Cottingham Food & Drink Festival)
A gift from a very dear friend (Phil), this was a huge surprise at the end of a hectic day visiting beery people all over the North. I’ve had some very nice beers indeed from Wold Top (in particular their TdF beer Hello Velo). So to get a Porter flavoured with marmalade, was a bit of a boost!
This is a beautifully black beer with a coffee coloured head giving off milk chocolate and a hint of rum soaked raisins and sweet orange in the aroma.
Ooh Matron! This is a lovely creamy smooth full-bodied mouthful just oozing chocolaty luxury in the first sip! The sweetness from the chocolate is augmented but an Orangey tinge, prior to submitting to a finishing bitterness with a coffeeish edge.
A second mouthful brings some more of the Orange forward, slightly sticky before fading in the face of that bitter coffee and a herbal grassy hop dryness with more than a hint of rum in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Just wish I knew where he got it from! (Update – See above!)
(Locally, you can get some of their “core” beers in Booths)
Now that #ISBF2014 is washed up, dried and put away like good crockery, normal service can be resumed!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!