Manchester #TWISSUP – Drinking, Diversions & Dancing – A Grand Day Out

“If I could read your heart and say ‘I love me darlin’,

if I could read your mind and say ‘I’d never leave me’,

There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. I’d give my life away and my heart too, yes I would.

I’d turn my world upside down, I’d turn my smiles all into frowns,

I’d do anything, oh yeah, if you’d just let me love you baby.”

(“If I Could Only Be Sure” – Nolan Porter)

(Tune link courtesy of NutsliteVenueRoma on You Tube)

A most fabulous tune that I have shuffled/wobbled to on many a Northern Soul dance floor. To be fair, until last night (Saturday), I couldn’t see how I would link this greatest of tracks into one of my blog posts. Take a bow Mr Rik Garner, brewer and DJ supreme!

When Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy first mentioned a #CAMRGB Manchester Twissup (Abbreviation of Twitter Piss-Up to the uninitiated!) to me, two feelings came to the fore. Fear and excitement (fellow travellers I suppose). Fear? Well, down to the prospect of meeting lots of people I admire and in whose company I would feel rather inadequate – I’m a bit of a shy soft git (despite a chatty exterior) Excitement? Not a tricky one really! Unfortunately, at the time that Connor wanted to arrange this, I was struggling with some health issues and was unable to contribute. To be honest, I nearly abandoned this blogging malarkey altogether. However, as it transpires, Connor rose to the occasion and sorted a great crawl with some excellent “bonuses”!

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(If 30 + years of drinking have taught me anything – Preparation!)

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So at 12:15 I find myself stepping into the main room of what is, undoubtedly, the most revered pub in Manchester. The Marble Arch. Dating from 1888 (although there was a pub on the site previously as early as 1851), this immaculately restored pub is an utter gem of gorgeous tiling, stained glass and the legendary sloping floor with an angle to rival the Hardknott Pass!). Worth little of course, if the beer is rubbish (of course!), but the brewery IS Marble and that means quality!

Walking in past one or two blue & white scarves, I felt instantly at home. I hadn’t considered that this might be a pub of choice pre-Etihad! Spying Connor, I engaged in a rather shady hand-over, the likes of which you might see in an old episode of “Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy”! So, replete with some of Connors highly rated “home-brew” (a phrase that is now a world away from tins of Muntons Malt Extract!), I hustled to the bar for something light and tasty. Pint most certainly fulfilled that need and more, with its lightish body, pale good looks and zingy grapefruit and lemon. Delicious.

A this point some introductions were being made and I met a number of people I only know from Twitter, like Andy Heggs (HopOnTheBike), Dave Harrison-Ward (Brews Implosion), Mark (ViewsFromTheBar) from Scarborough, Andy Tabbernacle (TheComedyBeerCyclist) and his rather tall mate John, and many others whose names I shall be embarrassed to ask next time I meet them, my memory is SO shit! The mighty Al from Port Street was in attendance too and it was great to see Paddy McGrath (AllBeerNoBelly), a previous boon companion and somebody I never tire of reading/chatting with.

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Then the boss lady of The Arch showed up with a number of bottles of Imperial Stout! Oh dear….this was going to get MESSY! A VERY generous gesture indeed! Oily, black, smooth as a baby’s powdered bottom. Warming bitter coffee, cognac, dark fruits….just delightful, but bloody dangerous at this early stage! Beergasm over, then a couple of swift halves of Experimental 701 and Inter Regnum both lowish abv (4.2 & 3.4% respectively), both really refreshing with slight preference for the Inter Regnum, a hoppy brown ale.

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Early yesterday, the evil genius and aspiring Nijinsky that is Rob Hamilton posted an image of Twitter. The bar that awaited us!

I like Rob & the beers that he brews. A lot. Clean, tasty and never flashy, some of the consistently best beers you’ll find around Manchester. The brewery is located in an arch at the bottom end of Gould Street from The Marble Arch. Bottom end being appropriate, that slope gets steep!

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He had a good few beers on did Rob, I went for his Stout and Bramling Cross Pale (being a coward. I chose to give the slopey shoulder to the Arbor/Alechemy collab!). The Bramling Cross was refreshing, slightly bitter with a light earthy hop character and a nice fruitiness. The Stout was gorgeous dark and roasted with some coffee and dark fruit. Right up mein strasse! Had a great gab with Mr Heggs (liberating some of his pin badges – classy little things as were his designed T-Shirt for the Website! XL Please!) Thought I saw Rik “First Chop” Garner earlier too! Or was it a mirage!

This was self-service with style and the honesty “box” soon filled up as the assembled (and rapidly growing) throng offered libation after libation to Bacchus. The Arch-Nemesis joined us at this point and was one of many who set about the Arbor/Alechemy whilst Paddy and I enjoyed a cracking hoppy bottle of Redchurch IPA with an incredibly creative “Best Before Date” that had to mean that the beer could never go off, 30/02/2014 is a date that it could never reach!

The throng was heading off in sizeable chunks toward the next destination. I had advocated the chippy on Tib Street as a good idea, but damn if it wasn’t shut! Paddy, feeling slightly peckish, headed off to Slice whilst I bee-lined for Port Street!

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Boy was it busy! Memory was getting slightly hazy at this point, but I did have a half of the cracking Soulless by Redwillow, their Black IPA. A beautiful hoppy creamy mouthful. Full of grapefruit hop and roasted coffee and choc goodness. First time on cask for me and right up with Buxton Imperial Black in my book! The conversation was flowing with beery wisdoms being freely exchanged, but I had a yearning for a slight diversion with the next  destination being set for Font for the beery locust swarm!

Paddy had never been to Joshua Brooks. It so happened that the yearning to pop in was front and centre of my feeble mind! So Paddy, Arch-Nemesis & I were soon at that Junction of Charles & Princess Streets. It was here that I had my pint of the day, Beat Box by Tiny Rebel. A fruity and hoppy pale marvel at less than 5% abv (I think!), memories of orange and tangerine? Bloody good beer. Had my first taste of Burning Sky in here too with their Pale Ale another cracking citrussy pint! Nice to see Jon Turner before he leaves to move to London. Top bloke. Hoping that the beer selection stays as good as this! (Do yourselves a favour and buy one of their Membership Cards. £3 and gives a HUGE discount on the Cask Conditioned ales!

Short walk to Font and another (as usual) great cask ale selection…….For me, Beginners Luck by Black Jack. (Must ask Rob about that name!). 5% abv, pale and fruity and nicely hopped again. Typical; BlackJack, typical Font. Quality!

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Then, the long hike! For some of the swarm, a taxi was order of the day, but for flabby guts here, I needed the walk! Swatting away the devil on my shoulder which told me to pop into Cask, a thirst had been built by the time we entered the arch containing First Chop Brewing Arm. The arch is bloody HUGE! With the bar on the left on entry (having passed the wood fired pizza seller) a short walk down a corridor (masking off the brewing kit) takes you into another enormous space housing a DJ area (Rik himself) and a stage for live performance. The moment I heard “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye, I just KNEW I was gonna enjoy this!

The rather fresh and zippy SIP was going down a treat too, soon to be followed by a MIA, then another SIP. But here, the tunes just ruled! Marvin Gaye, Nolan Porter (see above) I was just swaying to the bass until that damned man Mr Hamilton dragged me onto the floor! I must have been wobbling like a drunken elephant (whilst thinking I was moving like Fred Astaire!) Just proper good times! Nice to see Jeff and his brother Paul at this point.

All good things……the bus was calling.

To all those I spoke with : Thank you for humouring a waffling old git!

To those whose names I will have to ask for again : Sorry, my memory really IS that poor! But I enjoyed EVERY conversation I had. I had such a great time and loved every god damned minute of the day! Thanks to The Marble Arch, Rob Hamilton (Groovy Mover), Jon Turner (JB), Font and Rik Garner and the guys at First Chop for capping off a memorable day with great beer and even better tuneage. Big thanks to Paddy & Jaz for humouring me more than most!

To Shane Swindells (Cheshire Brewhouse) DAMN! How did I miss you!

To Michelle (Offbeat), Andy & John – Damned sorry about the chippy! I owe you all a Babbies Yed!

To Simon Williams : Damn, didn’t chat enough. Don’t forget Joshua Brooks as a potential venue for the band in Manchester!

So, off to the number 37, the Beach House album Bloom and, surprisingly, no hangover! That’s good beer for you!

On that thought….’til next time…

Slainte!

Reflections? Connor. A (expletive deleted) good job, really well done. Pulled off with (almost) military precision. And, should you tire of your current job, there MUST be some town looking for a Town Crier! I speak for many when I say, Thank You! The End! (No, really!)

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Part 4

“Pass me that bottle of red wine, I’ll drink it here in the sunshine,

Pavements seem empty this evening, still too warm to start thinking where we should eat tonight.

Looking across the piazza, a bell-tower next to a white church,

Manchester seems far away now, still too warm to start thinking where we should go from here”

(“Bottle of Red Wine” – Dislocation Dance)

(Audio here – courtesy of 0n4s on YouTube)

More reminiscence from a waffling old git! On 11/12/1981 the weather was vile. Myself and my mate Dewey (him again) were due to watch the jazz/punk/funk band Pigbag at Eden nightclub in Town (used to be called Rafters I think) on Oxford Rd. Pigbag ended up snowed in in Bristol, unbeknownst to us as we’d turned up! We had options. My first nephew had been born that day, Michael, and I kind of fancied getting leathered with my brother, but my musical mentor of the time, Dewey, persuaded me to stay (as we humped amps down the stairs for a band who’d turned up at short notice to replace Pigbag).

That band were Dislocation Dance. That night changed my life. Quite simply, Dislocation Dance became, for me, the greatest band that Manchester has produced. Yes, I have seen Joy Division, New Order, The Fall all in their absolute pomp. But on an emotional and musicianship and, dammit, on a lyrical level, none of them came close. D Dance (as we abbreviated them) were the best musicians, and the most FUN of any band I have ever seen. Full stop. Christ, the album that the above track come from even got 5 Stars in (the now defunct) Sounds music paper. They even had a session or two on Radio 1!

DDance 2CV(courtesy : ltmrecordings.com)

However, due to the utter pap loving tastes of the time, they sold nowhere near what they deserved to. Am I biased, DAMN RIGHT I am! They gave me some of the best memories and best friends (I met my dear friend Anita at a D Dance concert!) I had in the 80s. Still going too! Saw them at The Ruby Lounge a year or so ago. Only Ian Runacres left (ONLY?) of the line up that I originally saw on 11/12/1981 (Dick Harrison, Andy Diagram, Paul Emmerson & Ian Runacres), but still sounding as fresh and pristine as 32 years earlier.

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Me : Ah Barkeep, what’s that fly doing in my beer?

Barman : I do believe it is the crawl sir!

Forgive my reminiscing waffle. Time for business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next! If you haven’t……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 – if I can remember the price of course!). 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. Manchester Mild 1987 – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 3.1% abv – Light Mild – £2.00 (4 for £8) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

As a young ale drinker, I had no local pub. I lived in an area of Salford called Lower Kersal and at that time, the pubs were a somewhat acquired taste. To acquire that taste, you had to own two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, arms full of tattoos and the words “hate” & “hate” on your knuckles. In essence, I was a bloody big soft git! Having gone to De La Salle 6th form with a bunch of good lads form Little Hulton (itself, hardly a district full of shrinking violets!), so it seemed natural, that the pub that was nearest to a local in my heart was The White Lion, a Boddingtons House.

Owned/run by a top landlord by the name of Frank Peake, The Lion was just a top pub. Both bitter and Mild were superbly kept. The pub attracted a cross-section of the community. All ages went in and some of the best schooling I had was listening to old timers in the main room. Just quality. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Frank left. The pub went downhill. I left college to face 12 months on the dole in a politically pitiless environment. The Lion was no longer an option, my cash was devoted to travel to interview after interview for jobs that were unattainable. Col & I would buy each other a couple of beers with our bi-weekly dole cheques.

So we come to this Mild by Stockport Sorcerer Mr Krause. Based on the original Boddingtons Mild recipe. How does it measure up? Well, aside from the lack of caramel for colour, very well indeed!

Pale and golden with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma that reminded me of chocolate caramel biscuits. Light-bodied with that light caramel biscuit carrying through into the mouth, low on bitterness with a gentle grassyness in the finish and aftertaste. This is a thoroughly refreshing light Mild and tastes how I remember Boddies’ Mild to taste. A faithful recreation.

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(Sack the photographer!)

2. Brewers Gold (Single Hop) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“Oh here we go again – another single hop blah blah from bloody Mallinsons!” Well I can’t help it if they’re bloody lovely can I?

Now Brewers Gold wasn’t going to be as assertive as a Citra or Simcoe, I knew that. But I was looking forward to this…Bright gold with a white head and a gentle light fruity nose with fresh-baked white bread. Medium bodied in the mouth, a light biscuit base heightened by a gently floral and quite bitter flavour. This is a beer that you could drink all night. A session beer that is delicate and refreshing.

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3. Salted Lemon Wit – Bad Seed Brewery/Northern Monk Brew Co (Collab) – 7.4% abv – Wit Beer – £6.99 (660ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collab between two of Yorkshire’s newest thrusting Craft brewers? Don’t mind if I do!

A deep amber coloured beer with a light thin white head and an aroma with a little gentle spice (coriander seed?) , toffee and a gentle citrus note. Full-bodied and smooth in the mouth with plenty of caramel digestive but lighter with a covering of citrus with some lemon/grapefruit coming through late with more of that warming yet gentle spice – possibly from the wheat. Refreshing for such a meaty abv beer – surely the salted lemon rinds – warming the throat before a distinct resinous hop finish.  A tasty warming wit.

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4. Quelle Saison – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 4.1% abv – Saison – £2.89 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I was all for keeping this for a week or two more when I received a response for the brewery, essentially telling me that it needed to be drunk to appreciate the hops. Well, not being one to argue with the masters….

A hazy gold with a white head with BIG C hop aromas, grapefruit prominent. Medium-bodied, a slight refreshing – saliva inducing – wheaty sour tinge with HUGE fruity hoppage with tart grapefruit. Really very dry in the finish with a lot of grassyness carrying over into the aftertaste. Not overly familiar with saisons, but I do like this!3IMAG0735

(I’ll be seeing YOU tomorrow!)

5. MIA First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Hoppy Brown Ale ? – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A deep russet-brown colour to this with a clinging white foamy head and quite a fruity and chocolatey aroma. Oooh! Light-bodied with hints of chocolate initially but then BANG! In come the bitter hops. A tart bit of citrus , maybe grapefruit, but with it a huge resinous quality, quite sticky! The quite bitter chocolate stays the distance. Definitely the hoppy side of balanced, really assertive, but in a “wake up!” good way. The finish is dry and bitter and a big grassy aftertaste follows. This could wake up my taste buds at the end of a long day. I like this. A lot!

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(I NEED a 2/3rd glass! Offers?)

6. Imitera IPA – Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.00 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

Where do I begin? (I was going to extend into the lyric from the theme to “Love Story” then, better not eh?) I suppose with a #Beergasm alert!

Bronze coloured beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma of…..orange marmalade and tangerines. I adore Amarillo! Oh bloody hell! In the mouth this is GORGEOUS! Marmalade, Grapefruit (the other hop in here being that pale ale siren named Citra), caramel shortbread malty goodness mounted and given a good seeing to by my favourite hops!

It has a mouthfeel and a hoppyness that is but a smidgen from being a DIPA but is more balanced than that with slightly less malt sweetness. Those lovely bitter citrus hops just coat your mouth and tickle your tongue like a hoppy french kiss. There is a good bitterness to this with a finish that is dry and grassy and a lingering bitter fruit and resinous aftertaste. First #Beergasm of the year! Bottle of the year so far. Sets the standard.

So, there you have it for February. 6 beers that in their own separate ways more than “do the job”. Shit, I like them anyway, so Ner Ner!

On that infantile note….’til next time….

Slainte! It’s #Twissup Time!!!