Liverpool – Heart & Soul – 27/02/2016

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“Walking up to me expecting, walking up to me expecting words
It happens all the time

Present company excepted, present company accept the worst
It happens every night

Present company excluded every time.
Present company, the best that you can find…….

Present company excluded in every way. Present company, makes me want to stay.”

(“Dance Yourself Clean” – LCD Soundsystem)

(For Les & Lee)

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Ever had that moment when you realise that you’ve actually scheduled two fabulous events in consecutive days? Well. That.

The evening before, Atilla & her lesser half were invited to Michelle Kelsall’s 40th birthday bash at Offbeat Brewery. which, unbeknown to most (until 6 hours before) turned into a wedding do as Michelle and her partner David Shipman got married that morning….It was a proper party. And there was a specially brewed DIPA by David (Otherton Ales).

And it got messy. Very messy…. I should have listened to Atilla when she said “slow down”……I REALLY needed that coffee when she dropped me at Oxford Rd. I felt hideous. But I wasn’t going to miss what we did yesterday for the world.

You see, I’d had a standing invitation from two lovely beer people (Julie & Les O’Grady) to have a stroll with them around their beloved city.

Now, being a Salford lad, I need to let you into a little secret.

I adore Liverpool.

Always have. And, as I discovered 4 years ago, it’s in my blood. Back in the early 1800s, my Dad’s maternal ancestors lived in Toxteth as immigrants from Northern Ireland. When I learned that, everything about my feelings for Liverpool clicked into place. They made sense.

So. I’m on a train. With a hangover. Listening to LCD Soundsystem. Loudly. Counter intuitive, I know, but it felt right.

“We’ll meet you by the Ken Dodd statue”

Fortunately for me (bat blind) I met Lee (good people) off the platform. And HIS eyesight was working!

I met Les & Julie through Twitter and a mutual love of beer and music. They also hold the “distinction” of buying the first two tickets that we sold in 2014 for The Independent Salford Beer Festival. They are good people. And they know their Liverpool pubs and bars. Our spirit guides for the day ahead.

Our? That’s because we had those beery princes @BeerFinderGeneral, @Deeekos & @Leggywolf with us. Companions of the highest order.

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The Dispensary (87 Renshaw St, Liverpool, L1 2SP)

The first port in my storm. Ruff would do justice to how I felt at this stage. Until I got here. It lifted my spirits

Open planned, with a long wooden bar and an almost separate space at the back. \this is one lovely pub. Boosted even further by having 3 George Wright beers on. Not seen any for a while from this St Helens firm. Mild too! I needed something gentle to ease myself into that swing of things. Smooth, creamy and roasted malty. The oracle was worked..

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Isn’t that one lovely bar? Great friendly service in here too (as I was to find in all the places we visited. It obviously helps to have guides who have “form” locally!

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We just got chatting. About everything and nothing. It didn’t matter. Great beer, fabulous pub and good people. What else do you need?

It was here that @Deeekos joined our happy band. And by that point, the revitalising effects of that first pint were livening me up. I was ready for the day ahead.

The “Dizzy” was a great start.

Next, a walk down Renshaw St, onto Leece St and a left onto Roscoe St….

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The Roscoe Head (24 Roscoe St, Liverpool L1 2SX)

I’m always very wary of places that get lauded to hell. The expectations get raised to heights that can’t possibly be matched by the reality. But here, they were surpassed. It deserves every single plaudit it receives.

A multi-roomed pub in the truest sense, with 4 distinct drinking areas and one of the dinkiest rooms it has ever been my pleasure to drink in. Beautiful tiled floors. Masses of dark wood. This place has a soul. The kind that you simply don’t find everyday.

And it WAS a pleasure to drink here. Especially as the barmaid lost no time in latching onto my Manc tones and proceeded to take the piss out of me. My kind of pub this!

An Offbeat beer on? I broke my “when in Rome” rule to celebrate Michelle & David’s honeymoon. Hinkey Herkulean Hopper was that beer, lovely and fruity. We simply don’t see Michelle’s beers in Manchester. Some pubs need to seriously step up and right that egregious wrong! This pub did.

I get why this pub is so loved. It looks untampered with. Like, just because it’s just off the main Renshaw Street, it has been forgotten about. It’s certainly a gem of a place.

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To lose this pub for a supermarket plot would be bordering on criminal. I’m glad that (at least for the time being) the pub looks like it will continue. As the only pub in the North West to be in each edition of the Good Beer Guide and as an utter gem, you need to visit to appreciate it truly.

Roscoe Bar

Do it.

Next, turn right out of the pub, cross Leece St and straight along Roscoe St past the “Bombed Out Church”…..

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(Anything wrong with this picture?)

The Grapes (60 Roscoe Street, Liverpool, L1 9DW)

A short walk. To what – to me at least – felt like a “local” in the middle of the city. The place is open plan with an L-shaped bar and the room shaping around it with an area to the rear of the bar which had the feel of a different room.

Nice outdoor space to this pub which no doubt gets rammed in the warmer months, but, even as upholstered as I am, we stayed indoors and chatted. And chatted. And….

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The first of the pubs with beers from Liverpool micros here. With some trying the Liverpool Organic Pilsner, nice light, refreshing and lightly fruity in the way of a good Czech, but my eye was on a beer I had only had in bottle a couple of evenings earlier. And, as I was stood with mine host, the brewer, I thought “you know”…

The beer was “Abyss” Oatmeal Stout by Neptune Brewery and it was one of my two three beers of the day. Smooth and creamy as you would expect an Oatmeal Stout, it started with chocolate and coffee notes, but the further down the glass I got, a spicy licorice note became increasingly prominent. A delight. As was this warm and friendly boozer – a bit of a theme on the day that……

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(You’ve simply GOT TO have a “Super Lamb Banana”!)

So…Next we went down Knight St to Berry St and then onto Seel St to…

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Kazimier Garden (32, Seel St, Liverpool, L1 4BH)

It is quite safe to say that there is certainly nothing quite like this in Manchester! This is a performance and art space that is (mostly) open to the elements. It feels bohemian and home-made in construction and all the better for its uniqueness!

Sweet baby Jesus…..They’ve even had the legend that is Lee “Scratch” Perry play here….Jeff, you missed out buddy!

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A big griddle was in play for BBQ stuff, but beer was still in play here. The bar had 3 on cask from Liverpool Craft (and some decent craft keg), I plumped for a Rye Pale which ticked all of the required boxes.

I also started to fall in love with Julie’s impersonation of Larry Grayson by this point…….

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(View from upstairs)

I was advance warned that I’d like this place. It’s quirky as hell and has an individual charm with almost a “community” feel to it. It works. If you like something different, it’s an essential visit.

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(Obligatory historic beer brand shot!)

From here, we walked down David Lewis St and Campbell St then across Duke St. To the next (to say the least) damn quirky pub!

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Liverpool One Bridewell (1 Campbell Square, Argyle Street, Liverpool, L1 5FB)

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Fancy like drinking in a real 1850s (as Shane McGowan put it so sweetly) “drunk tank”? Yup. If you haven’t been before, this pub is in a converted gaol! To think, that I’m drinking in a place where some of the greatest music of the 80s may have been conceived? Frankie, Iain McNabb and The Icicle Works, The Pale Fountains (please say that “Thank You” was written here?), The La’s all hung out in this very building when it was a performance space/recording studios.

The main bar area is “relatively” conventional. Then you go down the corridor and realise that the former cells have been retained and converted into small drinking booths!

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Again, there’s nowt like this in Mancunia. A decent selection from local Micros in here too. Nice pint of “Make Scouse Not War“, again by Neptune, in here. I’d kind of sworn that I’d be drinking halves, but got carried away in conversation punctuated by some very humourous “door shutting” (you had to be there I suppose!). Heidi Fleiss was getting a bit parky to say the least…..

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The pubs/bars were getting progressively busier as we went along. Chatted with one or two of the friendly locals too, again, a bit of a running theme. Friendly pubs….

Shamefully, we had a schedule to keep to….So, down Forrest St, left onto the main St James’ St then right onto Cornhill for our next meeting with a classic…

Baltic

The Baltic Fleet (33a Wapping, Liverpool, L1 8DQ)

A pub that I’d driven past on hundreds of occasions, had heard so much about, but never been in. Now rectified.

Baltic Bar

The home of the Wapping Brewery (downstairs in the cellar), this mid 19th century boozer – our furthest spot on the journey – was more than worth the walk. Bright, lovely bar, fabulous vaulted ceilings, toilets upstairs accessed by a sweeping “cruise liner” style stairway….

Again, a goodly few local beers here. I went for a Melwood Brewery Derby Stout, not as rich as I would like, but smooth and roasty flavours with chocolate Toffo (remember them?) being in there.

Baltic Backroom

Busy as a chippy, again, rightly so. I should have asked to see the “secret tunnels” to the Docks that run under the pub…. But not the 4 ghosts that live there…….

Right then. We still had a timetable to keep to, so, with the O’Grady whips a-cracking, back up Cornhill, right along Hurst St, then left up Sparling St to St James’ St, Right onto Jamaica ST then 2nd right on to Kitchen St….

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Black Lodge Brewing Taphouse (4 Kitchen St, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, L1 0AN)

More familiar territory here with a warehouse conversion into a bar/micro brewery. For this particular Manc, this had a feeling that would slot right into the NQ and absolutely thrive.

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Decor wise, minimalist earth tones. Great tunes and (as we were to find – due to Les & Julie ordering ahead!) superb food.

The brew kit is almost Pico in size and – on occasion – they brew whilst open. But not today. Today was for selling it. Bar was (and I could stand corrected) all keg and mostly brewed on the premises with a smattering of guests. I had their own Black Lodge BrewingBlack Rye. Right up there with the best three along with the Neptune Abyss (there’s one more to come….!), sharply hoppy, resinous with a bit of peppery Rye. A truly excellent beer – I wonder if I could persuade them for Salford…….?

Black Lodge Meats

(Thank you Julie & Les – Next time, a Marble Cheeseboard on me – & a Manchester Egg or two…)

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(I told you it was tiny….)

It’s an easy thing to say that there were no low points on this day. But this place impressed all 4 of the Mancs. Oh that platter was good! I won’t mention my utter shame in having an entire portion of Black Pudding Sausage Roll shall I? Best not eh? Nor the gooey Scotch Egg……

Now came the furthest walk. And you’ll have to figure your own route, because I’m damned if I remember…..

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The 23 Club (Basement of The Clove Hitch – 23 Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BQ)

The final stop. One hell of a walk. But SO worth it.

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This place is so tiny! But I can totally get why Les & Julie would come here so much. It’s like the set of Cheers, but with a Scouse accent instead of Boston! People just knew each other. Really friendly barmaid and some great beer. Now, there IS apparently some cask beer upstairs in the restaurant, downstairs being keg only. But was that REALLY 16 taps?

Just away from the bar area is a seating section and just past the stairs back up, there is another small room, but I can see this place getting seriously rammed. It’s THAT good and THAT tiny!

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AND they manage to cram in a little bottle store too! It was late in the day. I needed something different. Something to clear the fog on my tastebuds. I followed Les like a sheep follows a collie. Tsatsiki Sour by Mad Hatter. One of my 5 a day in a glass. And it just got better and better as it went down. I’ve had some good stuff from MH, but this is the best.

And I could see how people fall in love with this place. It reminded me of Atilla – small, but perfectly formed.

My Manc accomplices were all for staying, but I was on a fixed train at 20:16 and had to dash.

I can’t thank Les & Julie enough. For the chat, the beer, the laughter and their unerring taste in where to go – my feet were cut to shreds (new boots….), but that was a small price to pay to walk around one of my favourite cities. There’s just something about it that grabs me. It’s a place full of soul.

With pubs and bars to match.

I tip my hat.

Bottled Beers – July 2015 – Pt 3

With things just starting to get serious with regard to The Independent Salford Beer Festival, this blog will be entering a substantially quieter period soon, whilst I get on with arrangements for St. Sebastians in October (Tickets out in 5 days exactly!)

So, with one or two other posts in the pipeline, it might be time to give you a break from Beers Manchester…… But for now, while there are great bottles to drink, I’ll tell you about them in my waffling “prose”.

“Darkness, you are my priestess…..”

(A pint at ISBF from me for the first to give me that song & artist in the comments section below! No later than Midnight 27/07/2015)

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1. TobaTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6% abv – Oatmeal Stout – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Properly black beer. Cream head. Chocolate aroma with background coffee note. My kind of beer.

Nice and full creamy texture to this, my first bottle from this new Manchester brewer. Silky smooth and quite creamy, the first flavour to mind is a bitter chocolate, biting and dry. Then an earthiness that I can’t quite nail, but which, allied to a lovely dry bitterness works really well and makes this an excellent Stout. As I said, my kind of beer.

That earthy dryness remains in the finish where a coffee note comes through, again slightly bitter. Beautifully dry creamy lush Stout this.

And another brewer coming to a beer festival near you…..

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2. Sharks Against SurfersHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, St Wales) – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another ultra Pale Ale, all light golden hue and sharp lemony and grapefruit aromas leaping from its lacy white foamy collar.

This is really a surprise. I was expecting a brutal hop mouth battering. Yes it’s fruity, with apricot and orange jelly sweets on a light biscuity base. Really juicy, with that juicy fun chased off by a decent wallop of bitterness – full, but not brutal.

Nice piney finish mingled in with some lingering fruit in the aftertaste.

I would say that this medium to light bodied beer drinks quite lighter than its abv. This is a bloody good mid abv beer. And, for me, hugely sessionable.

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3. Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 8.5% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer time! – All words below are in no way influenced by the fact that I helped to brew this. OK, well….did some shovelling and stirring and shit. OK?

Black. Always a good start with an Impy. Totally black. Like tar. Dark brown collar of creamy foam and a spicy nose tingling aroma with licorice and red wine in the vanguard.

Oh yes indeed! This full-bodied beauty is lovely and unctuously creamy and rich. Vinous, with a rich nuttiness is the first sensation to hit the tongue, the next is as the beer first slips down, quite a bitter coffee taste. Such a mouthful of lovely darkness!

The finish is spicy, lingering hints of red wine, a touch of sour with more bitter espresso, luscious.

And even though I helped to brew it, there is no bias here. This is lush!

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4. Hare of DarknessMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – 7% abv – Black IPA – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Can’t make up my mind about this! Initial dark chocolate aroma on this black beer made me think of a Stout. But there is something more fruity and spicy on the aroma coming out of the thick cream coloured head which tells me it’s a Black IPA. Intriguing.

Full bodied and really creamy smooth. Oh this is SOOOOO good! Bitter chocolate allied to masses of tingling citrus and big hoppage. Oh yes. Bitter coffee too in the swallow and second mouthful. Really earthy. And again, just so smooth.

A little licorice note too. So good. Really dry and hoppy finish to this oxymoron, with a big resinous aftertaste. Great beer this.

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5. Pride & JoyVocation Brewery (Hebden Bridge) – 5.3% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Deep golden / Amber coloured beer with a light white lacey foam head and a huge aroma flying out full of mango, peach and orange zest. Full of promise!

Medium bodied, with decent carbonation, this is fruity Sod! The Mango is the heavyweight here, full and really juicy & tangy. Nectarine and peach too, a tropical fruit bowl of a beer this, delivering in spades on the promise of that aroma.

Really smooth texture to this making it feel quite sessionable. Dangerously so. The finish is really dry with big piney resins in the aftertaste providing a big finish.

Superb.

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6. Crafty RamRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom)- 4.6% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Great Ale Year (Bolton)

An American Pale Ale with fennel eh? Golden beer with a lasting soft white head and…  Oh yes…. There it is…. Fennel. That unmistakable light aniseed fragrance in the aroma.

Oh wow. This is really unusual, but REALLY good! The fennel – with its light anise note – is there, but merges with fruity hoppage and creates a new flavour, something akin to an orangey boiled sweet. Incredibly moreish and very tasty.

Medium bodied and really smooth, the second mouthful brings a touch of apricot to the party and leads to a fruity, mouth-watering finish with a spicy hoppy aftertaste. Lovely stuff. (And another coming to ISBF 2015 with a VERY special beer!)

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7. Three Hop HareFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Straw gold coloured Pale Ale with a light white head and a big citrus aroma full of grapefruit and lemon pith.

What. A. Tart. And. Sharp. Beer. This is full of tart citrus with the aforementioned grapefruit slightly trumped by the lemon. Really juicy and sharp. Gooseberry too. Nelson Sauvin perhaps? Really refreshing beer this, light and VERY sessionable…

This light to medium bodied cracker is dry in the finish, resinous and still sharp in the aftertaste.. Simply a superb Pale Ale. Another from the “Northern Magician”! Rapidly becoming my favourite brewery.

7 belters there! Next post may be about a shop I found in Newark this weekend and the local beers therein.

But, until then….

Slainte!

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 Ales – May 2014 – Pt 2

“Here I am, I’m not here now, no, no, no. And I’ll care for you – hey that’s all I want to do.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.

And I’ll hold you near and I’ll whisper in your ear. I’ll take your hand and I’ll make you understand.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.”

(“Thickfreakness” – The Black Keys)

(Clip courtesy of “brilliantffs” on YouTube)

With the best tunes to come out of Akron, Ohio since….well….DEVO, The Black Keys are just awesome! (NOT a word that I use lightly either!) Another discovery through the thing of tuneful joy that is emusic.com, I was hooked from the moment I heard the hollow drums and twisted detuned “spaghetti western” guitar on “When The Lights Go Out” from the “Rubber Factory” album from 2004.

A two piece – Dan Auerbach on Voice & Guitar with Pat Carney on Drums, their blues heavy noise is just so damn visceral – especially on the title track of their “sophomore” album (a live performance of which is above – click the hyperlink). In format (two piece, guitar/drums) they bear a link with mid-west contemporaries The White Stripes, whilst being (IMHO) infinitely better than that rather more successful (in UK terms) band.

(Including 2006’s EP – “Chulahoma”) 9 albums in, they have evolved to the point that (courtesy of production wizard, Brian Burton – aka “Dangermouse”) they now boast bass guitar and keyboard players on the new album “Turn Blue”, they are still (again, IMHO) streets above anything the UK has to offer in guitar-led terms.

(Recommended albums – in order of release date: Thickfreakness, Magic Potion & Attack and Release)

On to the beer eh?

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

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

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1. Flintlock Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery 

Have I ever explained my love of the beers that come from Outwood? Mr Bastow is a genius! I demand that someone gets his bottled beer over this side of the hill! Oh….wait….I’ve got some more on my shelf? *Smiles*

This is an ultra pale straw coloured beer and a big sharp aroma of tart gooseberry and grapefruit. I was drooling before it touched my lips!

Light-bodied, with the gentlest cream cracker malty base, this is full of sharp citrus flavours, with gooseberry and grapefruit again, cut with lemon atop that Jacobs’ like base. The second mouthful brings that sharp lemon more into focus, enlivening my jaded tastebuds (read WHY they were jaded here)

A beautifully refreshing Pale Ale. Whatever the strength, this is a Five Towns speciality!

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2. Liquorice Alesort – Ashover Brewery (Ashover, nr Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Deep black with a creamy looking tan coloured head and a really “dark” aroma including real liquorice and maybe a hint of aniseed.

Oh MY! This beer is as smooth as George Clooney! Full of body, a subtle roasted malty sweetness forms the base for the savoury, spicy overtones of the liquorice root. Just Mmmmmm!

With each mouthful I’m sinking into my chair and the sweet embrace of this dark delight! The finish is slightly sweet, with a grassy hop edge. As Frankie Howerd’s Lurcio never quitesaid….”Yum, Yum and thrice Yum”!

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3. Pale Ale NZ Quantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.45 (I think) (500ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

This was Jamie Hancock’s fault! (I DO love a good scapegoat! Felt weird seeing him in a shop rather than behind the bar!) I was just about to leave with a small – yet perfectly formed – haul of goodies, when this was pointed out!

A pale golden beer with a light white head and HUGELY fragrant with zesty lemon and tart gooseberry and grapefruit.

Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth, a light biscuity base forms the foundation of this hoppy fruity delight! First comes tart gooseberry, giving the tongue a little wrinkle and unleashing the saliva glands. This first swallow feels like summer has arrived! This is followed by a light, yet still punchy grapefruit, both of these mouthfuls have a lemon sharpness to them which is massively refreshing.The finish is tingling and bitter with the merest hint of lemongrass in the aftertaste. A sharp and hoppy, refreshing easy drinking beer.

Bravo Jay Krause – Take a bow!

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(Gratuitously shot with 2 Premier League Winners in background!)

4. SIPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (330ml) – 0% – Carringtons (Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton)

Straw coloured and hazy, with a thin white head and a sharp & slightly tart aroma with lemon, passion fruit and a hint of kiwi fruit.

Medium-bodied in the mouth, with a fresh-baked bready malt base this is SO smooth and fruity in the mouth with more passion fruit and a sharp lemony edge to it and quite a decent bitterness.

With each mouthful that fruitiness builds at the same time as the bitterness lessens. Lovely herbal hops aftertaste. Refreshing and supremely easy to drink. Now to have it on draught! Hopefully on their evening on 31st May?

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5. Alias – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W. Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Look at it. Just look at it. If beer is drunk with the eyes, just looking at it has slaked my thirst!

Gold. Pale Gold. Bubbling like a klondike brook, except that this one is loaded with aromas of spring flowers & gooseberry rather than gold! Light bodied in the mouth, this is really delicate on initial tasting, maybe a bit of elderflower, before that gooseberry tartness kicks in.

Another smooth and easy-drinking beer this, so easy to glug, but I resist! The second mouthful builds considerably on the bitterness of the first. Clean, floral, gently tart and hugely refreshing. Supremely easy drinking. The queens of the single-hopped pale ale. Bloody hell, but they’re good at this! And, with Raj’s 10% discount, to drink beer THIS good, at THAT price, feels like shoplifting!

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6. Fatter Stout Mad Hatter Brewing Co (Liverpool) – 9.5% abv – Imperial Stout – £4.20 (330ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

Another from my small – yet perfectly formed – haul on my recent visit to Beermoth.

Black as the Ace of Spades, with a deep cream coloured head and an aroma full of darkness, with some bitter coffee and lots of licorice.

Obviously huge bodied, really silky smooth, the initial hit is one of really bitter coffee, followed by the chewy licorice overlaying a burnt sugar sweetness in the background and coating the mouth all over.

In later mouthfuls, something more warming and alcoholic like a dark rum, slick and warming the throat as it slides down. Whilst underlying sweetness is ever-present, there is a distinct bitterness in the finish followed by a resinous hop character edged with bitter chocolate. Going down great with some vintage cheddar!!! A boss beer from Liverpool. 

Well, that’s all folks! I’m just about recovered from last weeks efforts – I really SHOULD keep a tin of Andrews in the medical box!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 2

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1384288988627(Coming Soon – Warmers for Winter!)

“There ain’t a curfew on hard living in this poorly painted town. So leave the bottle where you found it

and let me lay here on the ground. Waking up drunk makes me happy and lately you just bring me down”

(Waking Up Drunk – Titus Andronicus)

According to those most reliable of people – Weather Forecasters – it is due to get rather cold this week, with snow in Scotland and parts of the beautiful North converted into Val d’Isere overnight (Sans fondue & Kronenbourg!) Time to stock up on those heart & soul warming dark beers then! And by that, I don’t mean the tired old excuses for Xmas beers that are already being dusted down on supermarket shelves – Bah Humbug? Indeed!

However, they can wait for the next post!

For now, I am back to the old formula, good beer from wherever I can get it! So, without further ado….

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

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

IMAG0296(Straight Outta Toxteth!)

1. Imperious IPAMad Hatter Brewing – (Toxteth, Liverpool – but moving soon!) – 9% abv – Double IPA – £2.79 (I think!) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I’ve always felt an affinity with Liverpool. Never really could understand why. It’s not the football, I’m a Manchester blue. I was born in Salford of Manchester / Salford parents, so not my folks. It was only a couple of years ago, prior to Dad passing away that I got the family history bug, that I learned of my heritage. Tracking back through Ancestry.co.uk, I found my great great great…..grandmum, Elizabeth Lee (I think she was called) and she lived and died adjacent to the parish church of Toxteth St Mary. Hardly enough to qualify me as a Scouser, but it sure explains some stuff to me! Zzzzzzzz……to the beer!

Mmmm…..Picked up on my first visit to Raj’s emporium with its expanding portfolio of craft beers, this is the third beer I’ve had from this (currently) Toxteth based brewery who only commenced operations this year after years of home brewing. They have built a really good reputation in a short space of time and whilst the others I have had have been good, this beer certainly gives substance to the reputation.

Bottle conditioned and lively on opening, deep gold with big lacy white head a light haze to it. This gave off a HUGE mango fruity aroma! Full bodied, this tasted like someone had cornered the mango crop and wanged it all into this single bottle. WOW! A big malt base with a good dose of cheesecake base sweetness to this but it’s the hops that do the talking here (Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo & Galaxy) and add a grapefruit dry tartness to the sweetness and big citrus of the initial mango, some piney resins too carrying on into a resinous finish with a slight note (I thought) of my old school friend, the licorice root. A stunning beer.

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2. Is This The WayWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 5.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.33 (3 for £7) (500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

This was another one that I picked up on an all too brief visit to the brewery one Saturday afternoon. Now, I am (pretty much) an omnivore as far as beer is concerned, from Hop Monsters and Imperial Stouts to Light Milds, if they’re good, I drink them and – more to the point – enjoy them. I have read recently on one blog that “Balanced Beer” is equivalent to “Boring Beer”. I couldn’t disagree more. Sometimes I want a (hoppy) smack in the mouth, others to be laid low by an oily, mouth coating and warming Stout and others, by something with lots of flavour, with good hopping, that you could have a few pints of whilst having a natter with some friends. Wilson Potter brew such beers. And I love them for it!

An amber coloured (bottle conditioned) beer with a white head giving off a spicy orange marmalade aroma. Full bodied with a bready base supporting that marmalade orangey hop flavour from the Amarillo (get the pun in the name?) the sweetness of the malt balanced with the spicy orange notes and the bitterness with a really pleasant lingering resinous note in the dry finish. Refreshing and tasty beer. Just wish I could have stayed in their brewery to sample some more!

IMAG0316(Now…to the Darkside!)

3. @ One With The WorldYorkshire Ales (brewed by Rudgate of York) – 4.4% abv – Strong Mild – (500ml) (£2.75 but Bottle passed for opinion) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E. Yorkshire)

Now and again, I’m lucky enough to have bottles passed or sent to me for review. My attitude is always the same. If I like them enough, I review them. If not, a discreet message to the sender explaining why. This “own label” bottle was passed to me by Vicky Pettit of Yorkshire Ales, who must know which of my beer buttons to press, because this is such a nice beer.

Deep ruby in colour with a tan head and a big aroma of vine fruits with some raisin upfront in the mix. IN the mouth, this was medium bodied with, initially, chocolate to the fore, then blending with caramel like a Rolo then, later, with the raisins coming back to say goodbye. The fruitiness fades gradually to a gentle bitter finish. A lovely autumnal beer. The third own label bottled beer they have produced, all really tasty. (BTW – Not many left!)

IMAG0317(“The NFL – brought to you by Quantum American Light”)

4. American Light – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.69 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Each bottle coming out of Hempshaw Lane gets steadily more impressive. Last post, I reviewed the excellent Small Beer at 2.7%, this time I’ve gone and (barely) upped the abv.

This is golden and hazy with a HUGE citrus aroma with lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit from the hops (Cascade, Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and Amarillo). A little initial sweet touch is swiftly jumped on by bitter lemon and grapefruit getting the saliva glands working overtime, before the piney resins kick in. The finish is still really fruity and bitter with a drying resinous aftertaste. Superb!

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(Beergasm alert!)

5. Decadence Stout – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W. London) – 5.5% abv – Stout – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Bought on a recent visit and testament to the expanding range at Raj’s emporium. I had this on cask at IndymanBeerCon where I was served it by Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers. A lush beer on cask, but I hadn’t had it since as I balk at paying £5.20 a pint in Manchester! Anyway, when I saw it in Raj’s shop, I just had to. And I’m glad I did!

Pouring a deepest black with a creamy tan head, this had a massive chocolate aroma with light notes of cafe au lait (OK, milky coffee!). In the mouth? Full bodied with initially chocolate, then sweet coffee then some resinous hops. I haven’t got the purple prose to do this beer justice, it is simply a stunningly good stout. The biggest compliment that I can pay is that it is nearly up there with the Quaker House that we brewed at Allgates which is (honestly, no bias) the best beer that I have had this year. Creamy, chocolatey and bitter hoppy. What’s not to love?

One of – if not THE best bottles i have had this year. Thank you Gregg and pals!

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6. Still Thinking About That HefeweizenStill Thinking (M McGrorty) – Home Brewer – Stirling, Scotland) – 5% abv – Hefeweizen – A swap with the brewer!

A keen home brewer is Michael. Being mutual Twitter followers, I noticed one of his conversations with the Beer O’Clock Show one evening talking about his full-mash home-brewed beers. I was intrigued. hearing that he was in Manchester area one evening, we met up at Port Street and, for the price of a (admittedly, very limited) Ilkley Speyside Siberia, I got two of his beers, Monarch (a Saison style beer) and the Hefeweizen. Whilst I remember enjoying the Monarch and can recall a surprisingly resinous end note (very enjoyable), I made no notes! So, to the Hefe….

A lively pale yellow beer with a good expected haze, abundant white head and an aroma which had a herbal note, but was predominantly banana and American Cream Soda. Medium bodied, this beer had an initial banana sweetness, then a touch of sweet bubblegum, then some herbal notes with coriander the only one my limited palate could recognise. A touch of clove spice near the end before the dry finish. A really refreshing beer this. Unlike ANY home-brew I’ve ever had!

Just one more thing to note. After all of their bottles that I have drunk and eulogised over, I have finally had, courtesy of Allgates Brewery’s rather enlightened guest beer policy, a pint of a Five Towns Brewery beer on draught. Sampled at the Hare & Hounds at Hindley, Guero was an ultra Pale Ale at 2.9% and was a citrussy delight. I could wax more lyrical, but the best testament I could give to it, is that whilst I was there, most of the locals that entered were ordering it. In a Wigan pub! As Allgates seem to pick up a few casks on a regular basis, I’m looking forward to some more. If you find any knocking about, try it and (in the words of the rapper Drake) Thank Me Later!

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So. There you go. Another batch with my wafflings spilled all over them! Next up…some of those more wintery dark brews methinks.

So, on that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – October 2013

IMAG0123(Straight Outta  er…Prestwich!)

“You know an I’d ruther be sloppy drunk, Sip a-tin from the can.

Now than to be out in the street, a-runnin’ from the man”

“Bring Another Half Pint” – Sonny Boy Williamson

Been a busy month this month. What with Allgates’ Road To Wigan Beer, IndymanBeerCon and the MTB with Deeply Vale of Bury, that I’ve barely paid any mind to the bottles I have been guzzling. Time to address that! Also,located another wee shop selling good beer in the Manchester area, The Liquor Shop in Prestwich. More about that later.

In the meantime….

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

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

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1. Citra (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Another single-hopped pale ale from Mallinsons? Yeah? What about it? Any more whining and I’ll drag you round the back of the bar and pour lager down your throat! And it won’t be Czech either!!!

This was a super pale beer that barely touches gold on the spectrum. Quite a delicate grapefruit citrus aroma. Medium bodied and smooth drinking with a touch of sweet biscuit malt balanced by the bitter lemon/grapefruit and piney notes. Nicely bitter without being a hop assault, a more delicate touch with this hop and better for it. Nice bitter resins linger on after the glass has been drained. Another cracker. No, I won’t say how they’ve nailed single-hopped pale ales again. I won’t!……Doh!!!

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2. Piepowder IPAYorkshire Ales (Rudgate Brewery – York) – 5.2% abv – IPA – £0 (Test sample) (£2.75 from shop – 500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

One of a series of beers with their shop own label, but brewed (in this case) by Rudgate. A golden beer with a slightly surprising almost forest fruit note on the nose with a little spice. Medium bodied with plenty of toffee malt in the mouth balanced with a good degree of bitterness. The bitterness continuing into an aftertaste with hints of fresh-cut grass. Not a US-style hoppy beast by any stretch but a good full=flavoured beer.

IMAG0127(You can see how people, would confuse this with a certain sticky Ginger Beer, can’t you?)

3. Pale AleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Gtr Manchester) – 5.5% – Pale Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Hooray for Tickety Brew! There was a time, not so long ago when their survival was in doubt (but we won’t go there, will we Keri!). At the time at which that all kicked off, I was still yet to try one of their beers. It was probably that that stirred my indignation! Anyway, waffling over…to the beer!

This was copper coloured with a diminishing white head and a fruity cream soda / banana ice cream aroma. In the mouth I got more banana tinged toffee, a touch of Belgian style wit yeastyness. Back on the pale ale track with the finish which was quite fruity with a dry grassy hop bitterness to it. A more than pleasant beer. I’m looking forward to the Blonde! Nice distinctive labelling. Classy!

IMAG0128(Woah Tiger!)

4. Drink MeMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – Rye Pale Ale – 5.8% abv – £2.29 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

#3 & 4 came almost as a surprise. I was struggling a bit last week with stuff too boring to relate. I was stirring myself after a mid afternoon nap and sent a tweet about fancying a beer. I got a response from the above shop and determined to visit them the next day. A small atypical local shop dealing in all of life’s last-minute essentials. But, also beer. And unusually good beer at that. I could have bought loads, but stuck to the North West choices (Drink Local ain’t just a slogan. Oh No!)

Like the Tickety, had never had a Mad Hatter. My but this a lively sod! Had to use two glasses! A copper coloured beer with a spicy aroma and (another) hints of banana. Medium bodied and quite peppery with some treacle toffee matched with some resinous hopping. A yeasty note as well, but the bottle did erupt on opening! Given the rather full carbonation, this was a really nice first from this brewer. I can drool over the other 3 now. And, like the Tickety, nice labelling carrying the Alice in Wonderland thing through onto the packaging. Nice touch!

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5. Hop DitchRocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 6.0% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer from Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market. Does one at the old Victoria Bus Station too (Greengate)! This beer was golden with quite an assertive citrus nose. Quite dry in the mouth with a mouth puckering hit of lemon and grapefruit. Light biscuit sweetness for some balance here, but this is about the hops and damn fine they are too both in the aroma and the bitter finish with a lingering piney resin lingering. Another excellent beer from this London brewer.

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6. Bad HabitWeird Beard / Northern Monk Brew Co  (Collaboration – West London meets Bradford!) – 8.6% abv – Belgian Tripel – £4.00 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

I don’t usually do Belgian beers. Bit of a blank on my liquid CV. I’ve had the odd one, Duvel, Rodenbach Grand Cru (and its little brother) and a few more. Very nice they were too, but I’ve always had a rather Anglo beer sensibility. I need a tutor perhaps! However, having had beers by both of these brewers (and enjoying them), I thought I’d give it a go! (Selfless, I know!)

As you can see, another lively wee bugger this! Copper/golden in colour with huge carbonation and a yeasty and slightly sherbet lemon aroma with some cut grass and hint of clove. In the mouth however…BOOM! I wasn’t expecting THAT! Full bodied, yes. Atypical banana split toffee & clove, yes. But bugger me sideways this was hoppy and bitter! Spicy, resinous and mouth dryingly bitter. A corker! Like I said, I don’t really know Belgian beers that well. Maybe this shouldn’t taste like this. But I bloody LOVE it!

3 excellent retailers. 6 excellent beers. Can’t ask much more than that!

More to come….

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!