The Marble Arch, Manchester. 125 Years Beer Festival

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I’ve been drinking in The Marble Arch since the mid 1980s on and off, pretty much from when it became a “Free House”. From when the “stripping back” was in progress and had only just started to reveal the gem you can see now. Before the brewery. Before the back room was used. It was a decent boozer with one of the better selections of beers in the city. This and the City Arms on Kennedy St were the two best freehouses (if you can call the City that) in Manchester.

I didn’t realise that the pub itself was so old until the celebrations started to be planned. A little research via http://manchesterhistory.net reveals a pub on the site even earlier than 1888!

Adshead Map 1851(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

This map shows a pub called the Wellington Inn on the corner of Gould Street and Rochdale Road a full 37 years prior to the current building being erected. It is safe to assume that the current building may have replaced this earlier pub.

As you can see from the plaque at the top of the side elevation of the pub, the current building dates from 1888 (hence the 125 Years celebration!). The “stripping back” (the word “strip” may feature later!) revealed such an architectural gem, that it attained Grade II listed status in 1998.

Yes, I know. You all KNOW it’s a beautiful pub! You know ALL about the legendary sloping mosaic tiled floor. All about the tiled ceilings with exposed original metal work. You probably already know about how the brewery started making their own beers in 1997…….zzzzzzz. Ok, Ok…….

The Event

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The Beer Festival forms but a part of the celebrations throughout 2013. Albeit a 4 day part! Tickets were released earlier in the year and it was really a case of getting in quick. You knew it was going to be busy. And because the pub is fairly narrow, you just KNEW it was going to be rammed….didn’t you!

Tickets were a reasonable £5 for which you received a commemorative 1/2 or pint glass. Payment was via tokens (£1 or 25p in value) purchased upon entry. Basic principle being the more that you bought, the more “free” tokens you received (£20 buying £22.50 etc…)

Jeff had bought the tickets and we arranged to meet in Manchester, myself and Jaz arriving first. Needless to say, it was BLOODY HEAVING! However, the organisation was really efficient, so you had your glass, tokens and “venue map” in hand in no time and could fight your way through the throng to get to the business end.

“The bar” was effectively spread out over 5 areas. The main pub itself with its large array of handpumps and keg fonts. Today, in the main room, this was supplemented by pop-up bars from Magic Rock and “The Portable Street Beer House” courtesy of your friends and mine at Port St, the latter dispensing kegged beers from The Marble Brewery in Albuquerque in New Mexico! The there were two further “bar” areas in the old back room (in bygone….former site of the brewery) AND……..Black Jack Brewery, where Rob Hamilton had opened his gate and doors for a further bit of fresh air drinking (more later)

20130803_154541(I LOVE it when brewers can chat with the punters!)

Thinking strategically, I decided on something light and refreshing to start with. Chalkboards above the bar displayed what appeared to be the beers that would be available over the course of the 4 days (slightly confusing/frustrating), but a scan of the bar revealed some relatively low strength delights. Including my first pint….

Jacobs Ladder (Cask Conditioned) by Buxton Brewery at 2.7% abv! Pale gold, with a sharp citrus aroma. Some lovely sharp tropical hop flavours in here. A really refreshing beer and another 3 points in the bag for Buxton (C’mon, the footy season has just started!)

Zenith (Cask Conditioned) by SummerWine from Holmfirth was next for me at 4% abv. Another juicy sharp pale ale. Fragrant with peppery hops, a lovely, slightly resinous, hoppy refreshing mouthful with a lovely dry bitter finish. This day was getting good! Then…….

Cannonball (Dry hopped with Simcoe – Cask Conditioned) by Magic Rock. At 7.4% abv, was a bit early in the day, but REALLY wanted to have a pop at this before it went. It just didn’t work for me. Slightly warm, musty smelling in the glass, there were definitely hops in there, but no zing like I expect from Simcoe (a powerful hop that I adore), the only flavour I could get was that of red delicious apples. If I wanted that, I’d go for a cider……..Not for me. Didn’t finish it. (Not done THAT in a while!)

Draft by Marble got me back on track at 3.9%. Cool, pale light and hoppy. Just what was needed after that mis-step.

It was getting uncomfortable busy, and, consequentially warm. So, with one more arrival possible (having been joined by both Jeff and Terry by this stage, Jaz & I sloped off to see what was happening at Black Jack.

20130803_192223(“Underneath the Arches….”…aww c’mon, SING!)

Damn! That is one devil of a slope on Gould Street! Scene of many a legendary uphill trek from what used to be a cracking pub, The Queens Arms on Red Bank, up to The Marble. Now, we were looking for another brewery. Luckily, young Mr H had provided some useful signage and we were soon in an open airy courtyard with some lovely smelling food on the go.

About 6 or 7 handpumps in here, mostly dispensing Robs fine beers, I was on a cool keg tip here….I spied a beer from a London brewer that I’d heard loads about, but was yet to sample. Redchurch Brewery with Hackney Gold at 5.5% abv. Gold obviously not being a colour description for this amber to tawny coloured brew. Nice malty spine with generous hopping (Cascade and Nelson Sauvin). Took me a while to get into this, but it really grew on me.

This truly came into its own when I ordered a Salt Beef, Piccalilli and Mustard sandwich from The Moocher pop up truck! Lovely tender pulled salty beef, nice crunch from the veg and a bit of mustard heat on beautiful artisan bread. The spiciness of the Hackney Gold earned its spurs here and was a cracking foil to the sarnie.

Having obtained a freely available seat just along from a gaggle of current and former Port Street people including Will, now well into his career change, (brewing at SummerWine – nice chat earlier!), we settled in for a few more

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Being a warm day, I stayed with the keg offerings at Black Jack. Next up was Black Jacks’ own Mosaic, a single hopped pale ale at 5.2% abv. Golden and slightly sweeter than I expected, it didn’t take long for the piney hops to come through. Nice and refreshing again. Whilst mostly hop-forward (to quote a phrase!) Rob makes some lovely balanced beers here!

Sticking with Mr Hamilton’s fine beers, I had a Schafkopf next, Robs’ take on a German Wheat beer (I think!) which was a bloody good stab, if I may be so bold! Refreshing, quite sharp with a yeasty and herbal tinge to it. A really good UK take on a German wheat beer.

At this point, the Table football became free and provided Terry and I an energetic diversion (modesty forbids from mentioning the winners name! Close game though) and we worked up a slight thirst.

Now. Those who regularly read these waffling verbal wanderings of mine, may have noted an omission from the days efforts. No dark beer! I just HAD to put that right, didn’t I? I did it with one of my favourite beers from 2013 (previously had on cask), but this time on keg. Black Perle by Weird Beard Brewing from that there London. Being a “Coffee Milk Stout”, it was as black as you would expect. 4.5% abv, it had a gentle coffee aroma and in the mouth the coffee came though like a strong latte, shot through with a little lactic sweetness. Lovely. (As has happened before, another beer I prefer on Cask – a texture thing – but a really nice beer)

The siren call of an Imperial Stout was almost physically lifting me from the bench seating, so, bidding farewell to Mr Hamilton, we set up back up Everest (oops) Gould Street, back to the press of humanity at HQ, The Marble Arch.

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(Dancing? In an ale house? oh yes!)

Here, the entertainment mooted in the advertising was in full swing, with a 4-piece band playing their takes on Irish classics. The percussion was provided by courtesy of an enormous bass drum slung over the shoulder and hanging low, bringing to mind (for those of a certain vintage) the Viz character Buster Gonad (with his unfeasibly large testicles)! They were making a joyous racket (the band not Buster…..), but we had to head indoors for “refreshment”. Now, the idea was to snaffle a final beer. That being the Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout (at 11% abv, my sleeping draft of choice!) however, something I had wanted to try (from the complete opposite end of the abv range) was spied on cask.

Cool as a Cucumber a collaboration between Fyne Ales and The Wild Beer Co. I love Fyne. I hadn’t had anything from Wild Beer yet (though a bottle of Wildebeest is lurking in my stash) A beer with cucumber was sufficiently intriguing to sample with a pint. Oh that cucumber is there alright. The beer tasted as if it was liquified and the green colour removed. It was an absolutely refreshing, fresh cleansing beer. With the cucumber, I’m not sure I would want more than 2, but it was a stunning effort which worked. A real palate cleanser.

Now. The entertainment again. The landlady informed us that the bar was closed for a while and asked the drinkers to step back for a while. Then we saw why!

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To the joyous strains of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”, on come 3 dancers, clad in towels. The men in the audience strained for a view! This near burlesque was a fabulous piece of theatre to say the least! A fun diversion.

Back outside to that big drum and some jolly Irish tunage. Finally, my sleeping draft de nuit. The Emelisse. The fact that it is an Imperial Russian Stout, tells you that is as black as sin. It had a gorgeous deep smoky aroma which carried through in the mouth. Sweet yet dry. Smoky, oily, vinous and warming. A gorgeous end to a superb day.

From the moment I had a paella in Piccadilly Gardens from a street food stall, to the moment I walked from The Marble with a smile on my face, this was a truly lovely day. A well-organised fest (albeit VERY busy), with superb beer, great food and excellent entertainment. To top it off, time spent chatting and laughing with old friends. Isn’t that what this beer lark is all about, eh?

Thanks to the organisers, Marble, Rob at Black Jack, The Moocher for that superb Salt Beef sarnie. Above all, Terry, Jeff and Jaz. Without whom…….

This fest is still on today. Get down there and treat yourself!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

Sunny in Manchester? 07/06/2013 (Or, the best laid plans…Pt2)

The original idea was set some time previous. A colleague wanted to see some of Manchester’s better pubs/bars. As you will see, at least I had a good time!

Word got out of a Works do at Dukes 92.

I couldn’t do it. Whenever I had been there, the beer was simply awful. Arrangements were made to meet afterwards. Needless to say, they didn’t quite work out. Hey ho. There was beer to be drunk, so I obliged!

The afternoon starts off in….

Sandbar.

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Having not been for a while, seemed like a good place tp kick off….

Being a lovely bright sunny day, there were tables outside. What’s more, there were people sat at them! Warm outside, but nice and cool inside with 7 (seven) handpumps on display. As you can see below, an excellent selection. However, I had eyes for a beer I’d had only once before. Tarantula by Privateer.

A Mild, weighing in at 3.5% abv, this was as dark as you might expect with a light cocoa nose. Lovely and smooth in the mouth, a chocolate tinge with a hoppy finish. A nice twist on a dark mild. (Almost a shame it’s only available at Sandbar!)

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(Beer Garden)

Sandbar effectively has 3 room. A large room where the bar resides and two rooms to the rear, which were formed from the addition of the next door premises. Being fairly early in the afternoon, these were quiet. A nice sized beer garden to the end of the bar was enjoyed by a few sunseekers.

Following the Tarantula, decision time. Redacre by Worth Brewery (from Poynton). A 4% deep copper coloured beer. A gently floral aroma was followed by a fruity mouthful, bitter with an increasingly dry herbal grassy finish. Not usually my kind of beer, but nice enough.

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Each time I see Sandbar, there’s something else that impresses me. Today, spotting an excellent jukebox and the notes on the “prayer board” listing the hops used in each beer. A nice touch. Nice friendly bar staff too! Ordinarily, I would have loved to have stayed, but word had reached me of other beers that needed sampling elsewhere….that elsewhere was….?

Joshua Brooks

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Again, quite a few people sat on the balcony overlooking the Medlock, enjoying the rays. Me, I had an alternative agenda!

Canasta Mild from Black Jack Beers. A black beer, slight chocolate nose, lots of roasty stuff going on. Nice and creamy textured, with a dry coffee aftertaste. Another nice Manchester Mild.

That Black jack went well with a lovely Lancashire Cheese and Onion pie from Great North Pie Co with a creamy side of mash. Just what the proverbial medical chap ordered!

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(Solace from Quantum)

Next up, the US Saison from Quantum at 5% abv. I didn’t think this was being casked! Hazy golden coloured, this was a fruity mouthful with a pronounced peachy nose. Really peachy in the mouth too, more so than I remember from a couple of weeks ago. Refreshing, grassy dry finish. A big surprise this. Great tunes in here too. Gold Panda, Yeasayer. Works for me anyway!

Let me repeat. £2.60 a pint. Every Friday! How many times do I have to repeat myself? Eh?

20130607_171438(How comfy does THAT look?)

With no James to mither, we moved on to….

Font

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(Oops – View from Font. Superb graffiti art on the arches!)

Quite busy for the time of day, but still able to get a seat. Just the one here. For me, Black Perle from Weird Beard Brew Co. Only the second beer I’ve had from this Hanwell, West London brewer. And what a belter! A 4.5% abv Milk Coffee Stout. As in a Milk Stout with Coffee! Black, with a gentle coffee aroma. Slightly sweet with a firm coffee kick, this was a lovely creamy mouthful. The coffee in the mouth was like a nice filter, rather than the usual ristretto.It was all the better for it. The tunes in here were quite retro today. Walking in to Peaches by The Stranglers set the tone.

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(DJ Booth – Love the artwork!)

Value was again superb in here. Use of the CAMRA membership rendered the Weird Beard and a pint of a 7.4% from Tempest down to £5.40. Floats MY boat!

We moved onto ….

The Knott

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Hadn’t been for a while. The balcony was busy with sun seekers whilst the bar was fairly well populated also. First choice was Titanic Stout. 4.5% abv, this black beer is an old favourite and didn’t disappoint. Black beer with a beige cream head, this had a lovely smooth creamy texture with a full roasted body with a slight bitter coffee note. An excellent dry stout.

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Next up was Rapture from Magic Rock. At 4.6% abv, I love this beer and have had it on many occasions. It was in really good condition as well. As hoppy as you would like with a big grapefruity nose, good malty body with lots of hops. The balance is on the edge with this but just works so well! £3.80 a pint seemed a tad excessive though. The Castlefield effect I guess.

Whilst the initial plan didn’t work out (though I tried!), as you can tell from the above, the afternoon wasn’t wasted!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

Stroll from Portland Street to St Peter’s Square – 12/01/2013

Yes. Yet more of my blathering on!

The previous weekend, I entered into a pact with my diminutive darling, Atilla.

No drinking during the week. No bottles, no nothing. Other than thirst!

I entered into this pact willingly (if somewhat stupidly), but, on the first available evening to break my fast, I wound up being an after midnight taxi service for Atilla!  However, the opportunity to earn brownie points couldn’t be passed up. So, rather than sip a bottle or two, I cash in my chitty and plonked myself on the 37 bus to good old Manchester, my liquid home.

I left the organising of this stroll to Jaz, who took the opportunity to factor in a pub I hadn’t been into since 22/04/2005 (it was a MEMORABLE end to the day, trust me!) and one I hadn’t previously visited. So, at 7 o’clock, I find myself walking along Portland Street and entering the pub I hadn’t been in since my 40th birthday drink……

The Grey Horse

(image – marthamusing.blogspot.com)

2 days after my 40th birthday, was the last time we did the “Rail Ale” crawl from Leeds. This pub was where the ‘do’ disintegrated following a contretemps with a BNP St Georges Day outing. The event stays embedded in my subconscious (unsurprisingly!), but I drifted away from regular drinking in Manchester sometime around then. The Grey Horse was a pub I frequented regularly up to that point, a vibrant, often boisterous but always friendly boozer with more of the feel of ‘a local’ than any other pub in Town.

On approach, it was nice to see that one thing had certainly not changed…..lace curtains at the windows! Up the steps into the instantly familiar small space. It’s a single room pub with the small bar to the left and tables snaking around the back wall facing the bar area. The place was packed. That much hasn’t changed either. The Horse is a Manchester drinking institution and has been for as long as I’ve been drinking. The pub is a throwback to the 80s and beyond. I felt like I was stepping back in time.

Jaz was already at the bar and furnished me with a pint of “Winter Cheer”, the Xmas seasonal offering from Hydes. Also on the bar on handpull were ‘Original’ and ‘1863’, both bitters. The Winter Cheer was 4.4% abv and had a distinctive red colour. Being a winter seasonal beer I was expecting some clove or cinnamon spicing with maybe some citrus peel. If I’m honest, I didn’t get much of anything really, a bit of forest fruit perhaps, it just reminded me any number of malty ‘bitters’ from the 80s. Disappointing first beer of the evening. On the upside, there was a bit of a birthday do going on and the raucous singalong rendition of The Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk” was a thing of joyous beauty!!! The staff were really friendly as well.

The Horse is a truly great place to drink. Just a shame that the beer didn’ t drink great!

Beating the retreat, we headed across Portland Street into the Village towards Richmond Street and……

The Molly House

(Image – Spottedbylocals.com)

This pub was recommended to me by Dave, the monocled quizmaster at The Salford Arms. It occupies two floors, but we only went in at ground level. By no means as rammed as The Grey Horse, the bar had a really relaxed feel, a few tables, a couple of comfy chairs and some bench tables at the back. The bar has a reputation for food and the kitchen is on this level. Five handpumps with 2 beers from both Beartown and Redwillow and one from Dunham Massey – all 5 beers from Cheshire micros!

Given my love of ‘The Dark Side’ (and the fact I’d never tasted their beers on draught), I opted for Dunham Massey ‘Dark’

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(What IS this vogue for dimpled glasses???)

This is a nice mild, with some hints of chocolate both on the nose and in the mouth. A fabulous brown to almost black beer (as you can see!), reasonably thin in texture as you might expect at 3.8% abv, but a nice smooth drink, more than making up for the earlier diappointment – the stroll was back on track!

The Molly House also has an exceptional range of spirits lined up behind the bar……

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and as much as I fancied a shot of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, duty called, one I was looking forward to as we returned to…….

Joshua Brooks

(Image – joshuabrooks.co.uk)

Having cut through the Village and headed up Princess Street, it was quite a surprise to find the bar sparsely populated. This bemuses me. This bar serves a variety of well kept ales, local micros mostly, has lots of comfy seating and a relaxed air. (Though I’m sure the venue downstairs gets more lively!) I can only think that this is to do with it’s location, just outside the centre and 150 yards from Oxford Road. If only people knew……

First up for me was ‘Redcurrant Stout’ by Clarence & Fredericks (South London brewer). This beer at 5.4% abv is an inviting black ale. A malteser aroma. So far so good….then you taste. Tart! No, I mean the flavour – not me! That’ll be the redcurrants then! Blackcurrants too. Quite astringent from the fruits, but paradoxically, quite smooth feel in the mouth. The flavour (if not the appearance, reminded me almost of a Lambic. A challenging but rewarding beer. Books and covers eh?

Being now my round, I thought I’d play my Joker card! I introduced myself to James at the bar and collected a membership card – there are benefits to this. trust me, I’m a beer doctor! I had a chat with James, bloody nice bloke. We had a bit of a beery and social media chat. I had never been in the venue downstairs so he kindly offered to show me around the club in the basement. A proper small venue that reminded me of 80s live music venues like The Boardwalk. Thanks James!

Anyway, to the strains of great background tunage like Phoenix, Little Dragon and Sleigh Bells, I settled down to a pint of Redwillow Heartless. Comfortingly smooth and chocolatey Stout at 4.9% abv. I’ve written about this previously (see Best Little Beerhouse…), so suffice to say, I will order this whenever I see it. It’s THAT good!

Enjoying oursleves hugely, we decided to have one more. For me, this was another beer from Privateer (previously a first time brewer for me – at The Salford Arms last month). This time ‘Roebuck’ a palish (is that REALLY a word???) brew at 3.8%. As soon as I ordered it, I worried it was a mistake to drop down the abv range. However, this beer improved all the way down the glass. Full of flavour with a really nice malt/hop balance. This would make an excellent ‘session’ beer (for those who do such things – me? Never!). Thanking James and the other bar staff, we headed off into the night toward……

The Font

(Image – manchesterbynight.com)

If it was ever going to get messy, this was the place it would start! The cause? Hawkshead XBP, an extra special ‘Imperial’ version of Brodies Prime. 8.5%  abv of danger!

Jaz was up for a pint! The angel on my shoulder told me this was a bad idea, so we settled on a compromise. A 1/2 of Hawkshead each with a pint of something else, Jaz went for the Quantum, I went for the Rapture by Magic Rock. Clutching our two glasses each, we descended to locate a space – blood and sand it was HEAVING!

Described as a ‘Red Hop Ale’ and 4.6 % abv, Rapture has a deep amber/red colour and loads of hoppy flavour. I had this at Port Street a few months back (at a similar stage of consciousness!) and the sharp flavour was superb. Same here. Another superb beer from Magic Rock.

Now the Hawkshead XBP? A lovely slightly sweet, quite nutty and coffeeish beer. Cafe au lait colour to the head, coffee aroma with some hazelnut, a REALLY creamy texture. This is a beer to adore and fear in equal measure! A fabulously dangerous mouthful of dark flavours. Not to be taken lightly, but certainly one to return to…repeatedly!

As usual, Font was virtually full to bursting…4 deep at the bar…lots of cocktail shaking going on. The CAMRA Card discount makes this place ludicrously good value for Manchester. 3 pints for £8? And one of those at 8.5% abv? How do they do it? Must be MAGIC! The usual great tunage (some classic old school hip-hop !) and a queue to get in. Reminded me of The Hacienda back in 1982! (But without the good beer!)

Next….

Paramount

If you’ve read this blog before, you can guess what happens here! Paramount Porter (aka Elland 1872). Creamy, dark, roasted, dangerously moreish and (at 6.5% abv) probably ill-advised! But sod it, I don’t get out THAT much really, do I? The evening was descending into madness by now, but, with 1/2 hour to spare, we nipped into the other local ‘Spoons,

The Waterhouse, but….memory fails me! Ah yes, Saltaire New World Red. Red ale, nicely sharp and bitter (owing to mix of hops from Oz, US and New Zealand). 5.2% abv and my nightcap of choice this evening! Just as I started to settle, that angel on the shoulder reminded me that the last bus was imminent………quick step, then the 37 home! I hope my drunken tweeting made sense!

Oh, for a change, all my worldly goods got home this time! (Wallet, Phone etc….long story!)

On that note ….. Until next time (probably near The National Winter Ales Festival)

Slainte!

Blather About Bottles – 09/01/2013

It’s that time of the year isn’t it. Christmas has been and gone, as has the bank balance in an orgy of spending! The reins get applied to the strolling. Bugger me I’m fed up! However, the consolation is that it forces me to dig into those boxes stored just off the kitchen. You know, the ones filled with all manner of bottled beer! Malty manna from that place up there, you know…..The Beer Shop!

Anyway, I was under frim (or even firm) orders from Atilla to deplete the stash before I even batted an eyelid at The Beer Shop, Beers of Europe, or even Booths! So, it was with a heavy heart 🙂 that I FORCED myself to locate the bottle opener……

Redwillow Ageless

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This was one of four bottles purchased at the SIBA Festival in Manchester (4 for £9! ) and was the only one of the four to be bottle conditioned. Being about as sensitive as a bull in the proverbial, this one got shaken up. Badly. So, I had to let it lie for a while….

When I finally plucked up the courage to flip the lid, oh boy! I was reaquainted with the knowledge that Redwillow are one of my favourite breweries. This beer (a Double IPA) poured golden with a light head, slightly hazy but the spicy citrus hop aroma hit from the off. At 7.2% abv, this is obviously not a beer to trifle with (insert own sherry reference!). A nice balance between intense hoppyness and firm malt base. Lovely and bitter and really smooth in the mouth for a bottled beer. A fine lasting bitterness in the aftertaste. I like this!

Tatton Brewery – Obscure

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I first clapped eyes on this beer on draught in The Mark Addy in Salford (NOT Manchester – got it?), Jaz had this one whilst I had an Acorn Old Moor Porter. He enjoyed it, but couldn’t quite figure it out. Anyway, a fine colleague of mine (Take a bow Mr D!) managed to pick up a bottle of this for me (and a Beartown Wojtek – see below), for which I was suitably grateful! When I opened it, I was puzzled as hell!!!

5.7% abv. It poured black. To my eyes, a porter or a stout. A cream coloured head…so far so good….then the aroma….sugared grapefruit? Banana Split ice cream? Fudge? WTF is going on? Spicy hops? I needed a lie down. The flavour only befuddled me more! Yes, there was roasted malt in there, and a tinge of dark chocolate. But rhubarb??? The label says “Not Your Obvious Beer” – They’re not kidding either. I love hop monsters and the like, but sometimes…you just need something that makes you think. This made me think in spades. A candidate for my bottled beer of the year! (Going to try to get to the brewery late spring-early summer!)

Beartown Wojtek 5.5% abv

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I had tried for ages to get my hands on a bottle of this! Finally, at the SIBA Fest (see previous blog) I managed it. In with the Redwillow at £2.25. Bargain! Then, when I get into work the next week, that lovely Mr D got me another one! Ta muchly!

A pale gold when poured, with a nice white head. Some nice, fresh yet subtle citrussy hops on the nose. A lovely biscuity malt that reminded me of the base of a good banoffee cheesecake! Balanced up with some nice citrus hop flavour. A nice dry hoppy aftertaste too. Like I said above, sometimes a hop monster isn’t what’s required and a nice well made beer is just what you want. Beartown are proud of the awards they have won for this beer. Rightly so as well. I see quite a bit of their beers in some supermarkets, I just wish this was one of them!

Fyne Ales – Jarl 3.8% abv

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When I first encountered this beer, was the first time I came across Fyne Ales. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of E H Booths supermarkets within a short drive. They stock 4 or 5 of Fyne’s beers. Jarl was the first I tried. There aren’t many beers that shock me, but this most certainly did.

This pours paler than most lagers. The aroma hits you first, some assertive hopping here with grapefuit or apricot prominent. Then the flavour…BANG! Assertive didn’t do it justice….grapefuit again..maybe even a touch of lemon…wow, this is a really hoppy beer. On draught, it would make a fabulous session beer. But herein lies the rub….I’ve never had it on draught….what I would give…….!

Suffice to say, that if anybody hears of it on draught within a 30 minute train journey of Bolton (and told me in time, of course!), I’d be forever in their debt. In the meantime, do yourselves a favour, get to Booths!

Buxton Brewery – Smokey and the Band-Aid 7% abv

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Firstly. Let me get this out of the way. My boss bought me a bottle of this for Xmas. How fecking cool is that eh? (Last year it was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!) Needless to say, we get on famously (nice one Mick!) Totally independently, I picked one up at the formidable Beer Shop in Heaton Moor (see previous blog – Best Little Beerhouse…..), so I have a spare. Lucky me!

This is one of Buxtons “Special Reserve Series” (number 2) and is a Smoked Rye Porter. It’s also bloody gorgeous!

Pouring a deep deep brown, almost black. The aroma? Bonfire debris. Intense smoky bacon, Lagavulin (my favourite single malt!), peat smoke.

The flavour? Initially smooth, slightly sweet with some smokiness. Then the peatyness fills the sides of your mouth like an Islay single malt. For the strength, this is surprisingly warming. A lovely smooth almost cask-like texture, the smokiness isn’t overpowering, it’s just mmmmmm……..

A fabulous beer! Another bottle of the year candidate. Buxton just keep making bloody good beer. I just need to get hold of a Series 3 – and if anyone has a Series 1 knocking about……..!

Just one more thing. 2012 was a year of rediscovering beer again. Thanks to my good buddy Jaz for that! Now seeing as everybody seems to give laurels out….who am I to buck the trend. Nice and simple though. Just best bottle and best draught for me!

Draught

Tricky this. All through this blog, I’ve rattled on consistently about how my favourite beer is Magic Rock Dark Arts. And how I love the Dark Side. But, Magic Rock beat themselves! All because of a night that started in BrewDog on Peter Street in Manchester…..

1. Magic Rock – Human Cannonball (9.2%) – Simply wrecked my mouth that night –  an absolute hop assault – unforgettable.

2. Magic Rock – Dark Arts 6% (need I say more?)

3. Ilkley Siberia 5.9% – Thank you Ilkley and Melissa Cole for this rhubarb gem – a classic!

Bottle

This was the year I started to truly appreciate bottle conditioned beer. And strong beer. Oh sod it!

1. Tatton Obscure – see above – Truly astonishing!

2. BrewDog Abstrakt 7 (12.5%) – Thank you to Will at IndyManBeerCon for this. Loved working and drinking at that festival. And buying this! (Port, Whisky,Xmas Cake…..ooohhhh)

3. Buxton – Smokey and the Band-Aid – see above. Subtly smoky, just a great advertisement of the brewing arts.

Right, enough. Another stroll soon as the bank is replenished!

Until next time.

Slainte!

Impromptu Stroll Northern Quarter 01/12/2012

As the week drew to a close, the yearning for draught beer grew stronger. Finally, on Saturday evening, I could stand the drought no longer. Being able to resist anything except temptation the Oracle was consulted and tea-leaves were read. The stars aligned over Manchester. But where? A quick word with your friend and mine, indicated a meeting place of….The French Xmas Market on King Street. What MADNESS was this? A bar, with no real ale!

Not only that, but KRONENBOURG! Needless to say, having braved herds of people and the chill air, I plumped for a swift Vin Chaud avec Cognac (get Moi!). However, there was only so much Allo Allo accentry I could prendre, so, the metaphorical shepherds crook was wielded, the madding crowds were braved and we found ourselves hiking across town toward Le Quartier de Nord (ENOUGH FRANGLAIS!!!) and approached……

The Angel

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As with everything else in Manchester this mad evening, it was crammed with bibulous humanity. It was quite a feat to reach the bar, but, after some weaving about we got there. The usual fine selection of beers were present (including an intriguing Black Isle Stout at 10.6% abv!). However, for the first beer of the evening, I chose a beer from Liverpool Organic – Shipwreck IPA at 6.5%. This was a big beer. A sturdy malt base overlaid with huge tropical hop flavours, mango? Grapefruit? Very assertive and very moreish. Not a beer to trifle with but hugely enjoyable. Another brewery producing an exceptional range of beers. (Kitty Wilkinson Stout being a personal favourite!). Jaz had a Culloden Oatmeal Stout by Beer House Brewery. It looked lovely (and tasted mighty fine – so I’m told!)

I wanted more. I wanted a half of that Black Isle Stout! But the bar was thronged. So, disappointed, we strode off toward…..

The Smithfield

(pic courtesy of http://www.the-smithfield-hotel.co.uk)

It was almost a year to the day, the last time I’d been in the Smithfield. Too long. Often bypassed en-route to other bars. No longer. The Smithfield has the feel of a welcoming Salford local. The kind of local I wish I had near me. A wide selection of beers, including a house beer by Facers (formerly of Salford, now of Flintshire, North Wales). As we walked in, a game of pool was going, the Italian Football (the Turin Derby, as you’re asking!) was on telly and a couple next to us were serenading us (unbidden!). Facers Porter was my choice in here. A dark brown beer at 5.5% abv, a slightly sweet start gave way to fruity dark roasted malt, the sweetness tending toward a mocha coffee kind of thing. A nice pint in a lovely friendly boozer. Certainly worth a visit. Onward we go…….

Bar Fringe

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Every time I go into The Fringe, more quirkiness reveals itself! From the breweriana on the ceiling (see above, literally!) to the Green Man wall hanging and the Motorbike on the ledge (see previous visit), The Fringe never fails to please. Great Jukebox doing sterling work again, the bar got very full as soon as Jaz and I got served. A pint of Prescott Ruby Stout was order of the day. A dark brown, rather that jet black, smooth roasted flavour was had. Didn’t catch the strength, but approx 4.5%. A very nice pint indeed.

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(Design – Bar Fringe. Pic – Yours Truly!)

I love The Fringe. Would gladly have stayed for more, but it was getting busy. And, how could this be a ‘stroll’ without moving on…..

The Crown & Kettle

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A short walk from The Fringe, just across Oldham Road. A gem of a different hue. Another well stocked bar, plenty of choice. But, you know me. When The Dark Side calls, I submit totally. On this occasion, Peerless Oatmeal Stout from the Wirral.

A 5% abv Stout. A lovely smooth flavour, dark roasted with a hint of sweetness from the oatmeal. Another excellent beer from Peerless. I took my time enjoying its dark pleasures whilst a fabulous musical selection washed over me. Somebody working tonight had an obvious love of Northern Soul! Bobby Hebb, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Valli……

Jaz advised me to have a little look around. Once I’d taken my eyes off the poster featuring the stunning Christina Hendricks, the architecture of this great pub was glorious. Vaulted ceilings, Stained glass. This is a gorgeous building housing 3 separate drinking rooms, each room having a different feel.

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20121201_212214[1]   (I love a nice feature…or 2)

Finishing the Peerless. We headed in the general direction of Port Street to check out a rumour that 3 Magic Rock ales (including the immense Dark Arts) were on. However, that’s a long walk. And I’m sure you’ll have concerns about dehydration (as did we!), so a stop at……

Soup Kitchen ……was prescribed – medicinal purposes of course! Quite busy here on Spear St! But getting to the bar was easy enough. It didn’t take long to select a pint of Dark Star Old Chestnut. 4%abv. Not a Stout, not a Porter, not a Mild. Hmmm……Is this a Brown Ale? A darkish brown beer, an initial slight sweetness gave way to something much more mysterious. Some slight bitterness. Couldn’t quite place this one in a category. A very nice ale nonetheless from an excellent brewery. (Espresso Stout anyone?)

Now then. Off to Port Street. Disaster! I followed a couple of lads heading for the door and No Entry! The place was heaving. Slightly deflated at no Magic Rock…. we headed for pastures new…at least for me.

Kosmonaut

(Needless to say, courtesy of  http://www.kosmonaut.co)

As stated. I was a Kosmonaut virgin. Up the steps into the bar. Excellent tuneage pumping out. Proper Saturday night feel. Jaz slotted straight in at the bar. Nice friendly staff. Excellent vibe generally.

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2 bottles of Goose Island Matilda were soon to hand. described as a strong Belgian ale, this had echoes of a fine wheaty beer to me, a bit of coriander and clove on the tongue. Possibly deceptive, as I was drinking from the bottle. Nice beer though.

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(Anyway, back to those friendly bar persons!)

On seeking the facilities, a whole new level opened up! Downstairs, as well as the loos, there is another room with loads of space down there. This is one excellent venue. Apparently, they do excellent food as well. Like a certain Austrian exile “I’ll be back”.

We tried our luck back at Port Street. Jaz went first this time and entry was gained. Busy, as you would expect. Just enough time to wolf a pint of Magic Rock Dark Arts. Now officially my favourite beer and a more than adequate night cap! Deep dark roast, by turn buttery toast and coffee roast, full of flavour and dangerously, dangerously alluring and moreish! Unfortunately I had a bus to catch.

Back to the 37 bus and back to that beer desert that is Farnworth. Ticket shown, iPod on…..home.

Next day, no wallet…….bugger!

With that……Til next time…..

Slainte!