Manchester Northern Quarter Bar Crawl – 19/07/2014

“I’ve been up to Villiers Terrace to see what’s a-happening.
There’s people rolling ’round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine

Been up to Villiers Terrace, I saw what’s a-happening
People rolling ’round on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string
You said people rolled on carpet, but I never thought they’d do those things”

(“Villiers Terrace” – Echo & The Bunnymen)

(Video clip courtesy of ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube)

In 1979 /1980, when I was 14, my favourite bands were Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. Joy Division were a slight hand-me-down from my elder brother, but “The Bunnymen” (as we all called them at the time) were all mine. “The Puppet”, “Pictures On My Wall” & “Rescue” (12″ – naturally) were three of the earliest records that I bought for myself. Where Joy Division seemed to embody the somewhat dour, industrial chic of Manchester, “The Bunnymen” & Ian McCullough in particular, were effortlessly cool, a certain cockiness too, maybe. But just so cool.

I even remember buying my first combat jacket (but not “Camo”) to wear to go and see them, from Afflecks Palace (Yes Manchester hipsters, it really HAS been open THAT long!) There were rumours of a “Mystery Gig” swirling around in late 1980 and I desperately tried to get a ticket. To no avail. I think that I missed the last ticket held by Discount Records (Manchester old ‘Indoor Market’ with its entrance off Pall Mall) by a couple of hours. I was gutted. That concert ended up being recorded and saw release as an EP called “Shine So Hard” (An Atlas Adventure)

Rather controversially (some may think), I disowned the band upon the release of the single that was their commercial breakthrough “The Back of Love”, I remember hearing the track on a John Peel Session and thinking it was a sack of shite (Salford colloquialism!), so when I heard a shinier version as a single…..

I drifted back after that album “Porcupine” when they released the classic “Ocean Rain”, but the album (and period) from which “Villiers Terrace” is taken “Crocodiles”, is still their highlight for me.

The Bunnymen kindled a love of the City of Liverpool – though it was at least another 7 years before I was to visit. Strange to find – a couple of years ago – when I was desperately researching my family tree (prior to Dad passing away), that an entire branch of my family could be traced back to the area of Toxteth St Mary! Never leaves you I suppose!

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I really didn’t MEAN to end up in Manchester, honest! It was just meant to be a little nip in to Great Ale Year Round, to sample the bear I helped to shovel out (that most glam of jobs!). That beer is Station to Station IPA. Brewed by Allgates in collaboration with Five Towns of Wakefield, it was a 5.6% mango fuelled delight. Lightly hazed, it was fruitier than a Carmen Miranda headdress! Utterly lush. Glad that I drank it in a great bar, which is undoubtedly what Dan & Gina Buck have. It was nice to see them back in harness after a well-earned holiday!

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I’m off to the mighty County / Republic of Kernow soon (Perranporth, to be exact), so, given that a) I hadn’t been in The Lowers Turks Head for nigh on 30 years and b) there was a Cornish Beer Festival ongoing, we (well, the Arch-Nemesis is ALWAYS nearby!) opted to start here.

The Lower Turks Head (Shudehill – Opp the Bus Station)

Behind that beautiful historic tiled facade (the pub itself, perhaps dates back to as early as 1745), a lot of money has been spent to make this pub shine!

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Busy as hell in here and almost as warm on this humid July afternoon! 2 floors, classy decor shading, fairly dark with lots of wood. We grabbed pints from Padstow Brewery and headed off for some air!

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(Never smile at…..)

Unfortunately, this pleasant outdoor 1st floor terrace also doubled up as a smoking space, but I NEEDED to feel a breeze! The beer was fine, Padstow Brewery “Pilot” 4% abv. A deep ruby red beer, with a chocolate aroma, a bit like a Snickers, a touch nutty. Light bodied, bit like a mild, quite refreshing, lightly hopped.

Given that I love a local beer or two, I’ll have to pop back in on a more “normal evening to judge the offering, but to be fair, the pub looks great and was BLOODY BUSY!


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The Blue Pig (High Street/Back Turner St)

First time for me in this bar. Opening in 2012, this passed me by a bit – being a bit of a “pub” bloke. I’ve obviously denied myself some rare pleasures, because I love this place! Big open room with a bit of a bohemian feel. Nice flourishes all over the place and it was as busy as a chippy with great tunes (The Walkmen, The Smiths) all but drowned out by the sound of conversation – just the way it should be!

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Quite a bit of cocktail action going down as we entered, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the small (2), yet perfectly locally formed cask offering! Shindigger Pale and Black Jack’s Oddingtons. I hit the Shindigger which was in good nick. A fine fruity refreshing pint. This bar probably has the beer selection spot on. 3 pumps, but 2 on, both local. I like it and I like this bar. Not too cool, just a good feel to it. My note uses the word “decadent”. Probably sums it up! I’ll be back.

Odd Bar

(Photo “nicked” from Odd Bar itself!)

Odd Bar (30/32 Thomas Street)

Just around the corner….Odd Bar. One of a 4 bar chain (Is The Blue Pig part of the group?) First time for me again. Top indie tuneage. Offbeat & Tickety Brew beers on the bar. Good start. A fine pint of Tickety Brew Stout. All the roasted malt you could want and that Belgian Yeast spiciness, luxurious and smooth.
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A Lively bar, dark tones, red and browns lots of photos adorning the walls with some seriously decadent wallpaper. Loved the purple fabric  hanging from the ceiling, made me think of a bedouin tent! Beautiful.

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Nice airy room upstairs too. Like Arnie… I’ll be back! A jukebox too? Maybe another juke crawl soon! Just the one in here as the table we occupied was reserved! On to….

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Common Bar (Edge Street)
From the first moment I walked in to Common to the strains of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” by Magazine, I fell in love with this place. The original bar that spawned the monster that became Port Street, The Beagle, IndyManBeerCon…… Now Manchester institutions all!
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2 main rooms, plenty of seating, lots of exposed brickwork and loads of artworks and posters adorning the walls. It really is just cool as fuck, but without trying too hard at it. Great food too! Two cask beers and a whole bunch of “craft keg” offerings. I went for the Moor Brewery and their Confidence at 4.6% abv. A hazy, ruby red beer with a citrus fruit nose allied to some forest fruit. In mouth, medium-bodied with lemon, grapefruit on top. Sharp and fruity. A damn fine beer. A damn fine bar.
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Terrace Bar (Edge Street/Thomas Street – dual entrance)
Bloody hell but this was rammed! Described elsewhere as “the prettiest ginnel in Manchester”, this 2013 bar has lots more exposed brickwork. The fact that it was really busy says a lot.
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Lots of decent breweries on offer from 6 handpumps. I went for Ringmaster from Magic Rock. I tried, but…no. Not for me. Lacked the sheer zing of Magic Rock for me. Had a swift half of Kernel IPA (Citra, Simcoe, Cascade) on keg, which was a bitter citrus delight. I like the bar, again, some great funky tunes and a fine beer selection shows that they are trying hard. Worth a visit.
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57 Thomas Street (Thomas Street – unsurprisingly!)
This is a small yet perfectly formed bar space which has carved itself its own niche in the Northern Quarter. Single room with a long table (apparently constructed from old floorboards), where alternately, you can see people chatting, drinking and eating or alternately playing various board games. It just is that easy-going and …cool (that “other” C word again!)
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(Beer Porn – Lagonda in all her golden glory!)
A few keg fonts as you enter, but the bar top cask dispense is a distinguishing feature. A physically cool (perfectly so) pint of Lagonda IPA was a delight. A Manchester classic. Fruity and lush. Really refreshing for a 5% beer. Spot.On.
The great thing about the above bars…they’re within 100 yards or less of each other, often opposite!
And then…the longest walk of the evening. All of 200 yards or so!
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Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square)
A bar that should NOT be overlooked in the search for good beer. And I mean DAMN good beer! The feel of a Cantina in this big open room, which really should be fuller than it was! Loads of bench seating with some high window seats to watch the NQ go by. Good food apparently too. Live music venue downstairs has some cracking acts on too!
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Tonight, the beers were Shindigger, Squawk, Titanic & Arbor. Now, you know me! Ordinarily, I go local where I can. And I would have done, were it not for the fact that, leering at me, then winking seductively, was Arbor’s Breakfast Stout. Was it REALLY 7.4%? Did I REALLY have a pint? Oh but it was utterly sublime! More coffee than Starbucks could shake a stirring stick at. Creamy and unctuous. Ohhhhh…..Would have had another, but the chariot was waiting!
A fine afternoon in the company of the Arch-Nemesis as always. Great beers in some fabulous Mancunian bars.
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

The Tottering Temple – Blackedge Brewery – 29/03/2014

Tottering Temple

No tunes today (cue collective sigh of relief!) – just a swift post.

In case you haven’t noticed, I like bottled beer. Increasingly, I find myself drawn to beers of a more local persuasion. With a small number of North West breweries stocked at the excellent Liquor Shop in Whitefield and slightly larger number stocked at Bolton’s excellent bar Great Ale Year Round, I still craved breweries from the North West that I hadn’t yet tried. Breweries like the excellent George Wright from Rainford, Prospect of Standish and others too numerous…..

On Saturday, BlackEdge Brewery of Horwich opened a bottle shop of their own, The Tottering Temple. I had been in contact via Twitter on a number of occasions with the brewers and they had a bottle kept by of their hard to find Dark Rum for me to buy. Having had a fairly light evening on the Friday, I spied an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up! So, with my 14 year old chaperone in tow…..no chance for beery mischief…..

Located on Hampson Street off Lee Lane in Horwich, it was easy enough to locate….the sign pointing to The Tottering Temple didn’t hurt either!

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Entering a door which seemed to indicate a small unit, a couple of steps down and the place opened up nicely. Shelves of bottles to the left and right and a bar dead ahead. Typical me, we seemed to be first in!

Ignoring the bar for a moment, which was difficult with 3 beers priced at £2.30 a pint (!), I set to my bottle shelf investigations! Loads of breweries that I hadn’t had before. The shelves were really well laid out and labelled clearly so, if you were searching for something in particular (and they stocked it) you would find it in moments.

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From Bank Top to Thornbridge, most bases covered including some of the newer micros like Squawk. I started to drool when I saw that they had their Stout, which I had heard about but seemed merely a legend, but now glassy fact! That was the first beer to hand and placed on the bar, as Richard, Mr “Adlington Beer Circle” tapped me on the shoulder. We had “conversed” on many occasions on Twitter and – if truth be told – he was one of the major reasons that I post (or try to) at 08:00 on a Saturday morning. He does like a bit of light reading!

We chatted for what seemed like ages, to the extent that I forgot to get both a half of something light and refreshing (and a drink for the “chaperone”!) A quick half of Hop was the choice to slake my conversationally derived thirst! Top bloke Richard. Got to chat with his nephew Tom and passed some tips on Manchester drinking (Tom being at Uni in Mcr and all) Richard is the creator (with techy assistance from Tom!) of an excellent website (link above) which seeks to increase footfall (quite literally!) into a number of local pubs by the creation of a number of walks that link the pubs – a simply brilliant idea in these challenging times! (Don’t think I’ll be setting one up for Farnworth QUITE yet!)

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Had a number of necessarily brief, yet frequent, chats with Wayne & Shaun (the boys behind the brewery) who, through their brewing, are part of the reason why Horwich is gaining a bit of an excellent beery rep. They have a couple of pumps dedicated to their beers at the pub that serves as their “tap”, the award-winning Victoria & Albert on Lee Lane, Bolton CAMRA Branch “Pub of the Year” (popped in recently and I can see why!). BlackEdge brew a number of excellent beers with my personal favourites being the Darks, Black & Black Port (you KNOW what I’m like!).

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Wayne & Shaun have got this place well laid out with the 6 Bbl plant (216 gallon) at one end, with some seating and tables for the punters and even a comfy looking leather sofa (I was just TOO slow to grab that!), this was a nice place to come for a lunchtime beer and quite similar to others that I’ve been to. They have made the most of what is a fairly small venue.

Following swift halves of the excellent IPA and even better (well, it’s a dark!) Black Port grabbed whilst further yakking with Richard, I had to gather a stash to take away. Pricing is more than competitive (as I found when I got the bill!) and I was chuffed to pick up beers from George Wright, Prospect, Boggart, Marble, Westerham, Squawk as well as their own Dark Rum and Citra, an excellent and reasonably priced haul. I hadn’t even noticed the sign that mentioned 10% discount for 12 or more bottles, which I MAY have triggered!

This is a cracking shop with a really nice local based selection and “outsiders” like Thornbridge all at decent prices (I’ve got my eye on some Cheshire Brewhouse Govinda – a recent #Beergasm of mine – at £4.20!) and is well worth a look, especially if you shop at the behemoth like Tesco or Asda at Middlebrook (Bolton Reebok Stadium for non-locals). You’ll get FAR better beer here than you will at either of those!

With my 15+ bottle haul, I was being prodded by my “chaperone” who needed to get into Bolton to get a Mothers Day pressie – he’s a sweetie!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 2

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Victoria & Albert in Horwich, Old Fashioned Service – A Short Note

Vicandalbert(Image courtesy of perfectpint.co.uk)

As has been noted by one or two people recently, I seem to write about bottles these days. I haven’t been going anywhere that I haven’t already written about I suppose. Churning over old ground – even if there are new beers to report – can get boring and despite my rambling manner, I don’t want to bore you (yes, really!)

I went out last night with the sole intention of meeting a young blogger whose posts I enjoy and who seems to share the same beery tastes as myself. That blogger being Paddy Mc Grath whose blog All Beer No Belly details his efforts to drink great beers whilst maintaining his weight (something which some of us could NEVER achieve!)

It was a fairly brief evening if hugely entertaining for my part. We met in The Victoria & Albert pub on Lee Lane in Horwich and the evening started with a pint of In Shreds by Wilson Potter. Both the aroma and taste indicated a beer which was not quite perfect, indeed it was “on the turn”. I persevered for a sip or two, giving no indication of a problem. After a moment or two, the barman approached us and asked if the beer was OK, to which I replied that it wasn’t quite right. The barman immediately took both pints and offered replacements. I must emphasise that WE didn’t complain about the beer, he was honest and knowledgeable enough to know that it wasn’t right.

I was slightly disappointed in that the reason I went to this pub was for the Wilson Potter beer, having only tried it once, that being in the brewery itself and was keen to try it in the wild. The level of service MORE than made up for my disappointment.

To be brief (not my usual habit…!), the pub is a fairly open plan affair with a some comfy seating and  4 distinct drinking areas served by a single bar. That bar has 6 handpumps (all in use) stocked mostly with Micro Brewery beers including a permanent beer from the nearby Blackedge Brewery.

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I had 4 of the 6 last night. All were in excellent condition and were very tasty indeed. They were DV8 Stout from Deeply Vale of Bury (luscious, creamy, dark roasted and slightly smoky) American Pale from Blackedge (pale, fruity, very refreshing and moreish), Pint from Marble (hugely citrussy and refreshing) and a seasonal beer from Thwaites – Good Elf (fruity and spicy with warming clove).

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(A sample board – http://www.vicandalbert.co.uk)

I can fully understand why this has been Bolton CAMRA pub of the year for the last two years. With excellent service like this and such an excellent selection of well-kept beers, I will most certainly be back!

A huge thanks to Paddy for a) ensuring that I didn’t drink alone and b) for his most excellent company.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

(Thanks to Tandleman for inspiring me to write this with his piece on The Crown & Kettle – read it here)

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

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

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

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

(“In Shreds” – The Chameleons)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(And…lurking in the stash…was this!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, enough of my blatherings. Time for bed!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!