Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 2

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(Coming soon to a throat near….er…me!)

“We all know you are soft ‘cos we’ve all seen you dancing,

We all know you are hard ‘cos we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again,

You’re the boy with the filthy laugh, you’re the boy with the Arab Strap”

(“The Boy With The Arab Strap” – Belle & Sebastian)

Remember the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, if you do, The Boy With The Arab Strap was the theme tune. Surely one of the greatest Indie tracks of the last 20 years with some absolute killer lines, including the best fade out lines I’ve ever heard!*

Austerity is beginning to bite hard on the BM Millions (or lack of) so I have barely ventured forth across the moat into the big wide world of draught beer. My thoughts have been mostly taken up with an idea floated by my friend Gerry….to set up a small beer festival! This being to raise funds to help a local Community Centre in Salford which is run by Gerry herself.

There are distinct ups and downs to this proposition. Ups? The tweets of support and offers both of help and of beer supply from the good brewers (and drinkers) of Greater Manchester and beyond. As I’ve said previously, the good nature of people in the local beer world is to be marvelled at and I, for one, have really appreciated every tweet and message I have received! Downs? The mere thought of the WORD “logistics” is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat!

The general idea will be to feature beers from the North, Lancashire, Gtr Manchester and Yorkshire. Micros Only. In the New Year, I’ll be spreading my beery tentacles and tapping the “Great & the Good” on the shoulders for advice. Don’t be surprised when it happens to you!

Back to the matter at hand eh? As usual, the good and the indifferent have passed my lips this month, but, if you’ve read this before, I only try to highlight the truly good for your pleasure! A bit like a beery Santa’s list (but 2 or 3 times per month!)

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 – 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. Natural ProgressionWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – Strong Bitter (?) – £2.23 (3 for £7 – 500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

There’s not an awful lot that I can say more about these excellent brewers (I hate the term “Brewsters”!), they just make excellent tasty beers, continue to do so and finally seem to be getting a little traction in Manchester City Centre. Much deserved. And, if the mighty Tandleman likes them, then who am I to argue?

I picked this up on a recent visit along with 2 others (In Shreds & Is This The Way – see elsewhere on the blog) and it is a fine amber beer with a white lacy head and had an aroma containing raisin and maybe plum. Full-bodied in the mouth, the flavours that stood out were more subtle raisin and a little plum, followed by a big bitter finish with a good herbal grassyness in the aftertaste. This isn’t a beer that boasts and brags from the rooftops about its IBU score. Just damned tasty. Another excellent beer from these Middleton brewers.

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2. Hello VeloWold Top Brewery (Driffield, E Yorkshire) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £1.98 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Picked up this one on my last visit to Yorkshire Ales. If I remember aright, one of Vickys suggestions when I was looking for a final bottle or two to round out my purchase. That visit feels like AGES ago! I was worried, that having held onto it for quite a while, it may have lost some of its sparkle and zest. I needn’t have fretted!

Brewed to commemorate the award of Le Grand Depart for 2014 (the start of Le Tour de France), this beer was ultra pale with the white head being only a shade or two pale than the body! The aroma upon pouring was quite sharp with some lemon and maybe a touch of grapefruit to my mind (not what I would expect of First Gold & Goldings!) Medium-bodied with some initial light sweetness followed by a building bitterness and some more sharp citrus.Not overpowering, but really palate refreshing. A bitter and dry finish being followed by some earthy grassyness in the aftertaste. A nice surprise this, really refreshing. They will be brewing this again in the summer. Appropriate, because this would be a perfect summers day beer, thirst quenching.

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3. Pale (Simcoe, Columbus, Chinook) – Partizan Brewing (Bermondsey, SE London) – 4.7% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another beer that had been stashed for some time. And yet another that I needn’t have worried about! A very pale golden beer, lively white head with abundant citrus aromas of passion fruit, grapefruit, some zingy lemon and a hit of pine. Again, medium-bodied with more citrus joy, grapefruit and lemon tartness with a hint of kiwi later on. There is some light malteser sweetness in here, but the hops have the throne in this palace! A really refreshing zippy beer, with a very dry bitter and resinous finish. Easily up there with the best of the London Pale Ales that I’ve had this year!

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4. Fresh – The Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Wild Beer are a brewery that have crept under my radar a bit. The first beer I can recall having was the coolab (I’ll stick with that spelling!) with Fyne Ales, the ludicrously refreshing Cool As A Cucumber. Last month, I reviewed a bottled I’d had for months (Wildebeest), this is only the second bottle I have had. I want more.

Golden, with a lively foamy white head and an appetising apricot and grapefruit citrus aroma. Tart grapefruit and pine in the mouth, really fresh and refreshingly zingy and tart with citrus. Some bready malt sweetness for balance, but a big bitter and resinous finish with the green stuff lingering. A really refreshing lively beer. Moreish in the extreme for a 5.5% beer. Raj has a few more. I think I’d better treat myself in the New Year!

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5. Chinook (Single Hopped) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Here he goes again…blah blah Mallinsons….blah blah Single hopped Pale Ales….blah blah blah…. Well what can I do? Do you want me to lie and say that they are crap? Well I won’t, so there!

Pale gold with quickly diminished white head. Aroma of peach with a hint of bitter grapefruit. In the mouth, medium bodied and smooth, with the peach and grapefruit, a touch of kiwi and a bitter hit of pine grassyness. That citrus mellows into more of a tangerine as you go further down the glass. The beer has a bitter finish with lingering citrus and pine in the aftertaste. Refreshing bitter and dry. In short, a damned fine Pale Ale. I’ll say it again, I wish I lived in Huddersfield!

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6. HOPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Spinningfields, Manchester)

Firstly, It was great to see Damian (The Ale Man) inundated with custom on Saturday, even given the somewhat windy conditions. A nice busy spot near the Nat West Bank. I’m pleased, because he’s a decent bloke selling outstandingly good beer (see my mini haul at the top of the page!) and long may this continue!

Anyway, to Mr Garner’s beer! With a name like HOP, I wonder what it’s going to taste like? Pale gold and lively out of the bottle, the white head yielding an immediate grapefruit citrus aroma hit with a little lemony bitterness too. Medium bodied, plenty of hops with a nice balancing hint of sweetness, fruity with grapefruit and lemon tangoing across the tongue with maybe a bit of apricot as it slips down. Plenty of bitterness and a big resinous aftertaste. Superb Salford beer. Hurrah for my hometown! I’ve heard that Rik maybe having an open day at  the brewery on 25th Jan with a bar and all. I’m gate crashing! His beers are simply too good to miss! (I was up in Ramsbottom last week. If you get there, try the First Chop bar. Then thank me!)

Well. That’s more waffle than you’ll get in an Amsterdam Pancake Huis! And for now…..

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

*If you listen to the song to the end, the last line that is easily audible is “…as the cigarette catches…and sets off the smoke alarm” then it fades away. However, turn up the volume and you will hear the killer final lines…”What do you make of the cool set in London? You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks. She’s a waitress and she’s got style.” All delivered in Stuart Murdoch’s sugar sweet and world-weary tone. Gorgeous!

The Stockport Beer Festival 01/06/2013 (or, Sir Galahad finds his Holy Gr(ale))

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(pic – gmcr.alenewsnet.com)

This was truly a last-minute decision. OK, it was made the evening before, but you get the point!

I knew this was my lucky day when I turned up late for the train at Farnworth, to find the train was even later! So it was that I found my self at the rear entrance to Stockport Train Station and waited for Jaz (well, who else would drink with me!) A quick nip into Sivoris caff for a spot of brekky and we’re entering that cathedral of footballing excellence, Edgeley Park. Home of the newly relegated Stockport County FC!

I had heard from John Clarke (CAMRA South Manchester), that Jarl by Fyne Ales would be making an appearance. Let me be quite honest, much though I love a beer fest, it was Jarl that dragged me out of my pit that morning and plonked me on that train! Jaz had been winding me up about how gorgeous it was the previous day (Cheers Buddy!), so my hopes were low of locating my beery Grail. Now, where were those beers beginning with the letter F? Then, the metaphorical clouds parted and the sunbeam shone on one particular 18 gallon (kilderkin) cask. JARL! At £2 a bloody pint as well!!!

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(Beer Porn Alert! The Holy Grale!)

I truly felt like Sir Galahad as he laid eyes on the hallowed chalice! Jarl. Beloved in bottle, now on draught. And I had a pint!

Believe me when I say this. I have chased this beer from bar to bar. From the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” (Pt 2 in October!), to haring across Manchester on a rumour (it had sold out!). But now, I finally had it in my trembling mitt! Was it worth it? Bloody stupid question! 3.8% abv and pale as a spring morning, It was sharp, lemon zesty both in nose and palate. It was a citrus festival in my mouth. I love this beer almost as much as my darling Atilla! Yeah. It was a decent pint! So good was it, that I broke a rule. I had two. I had to!

Descending some stairs into the bowels of this footballing Mecca, we ambled to watch an Oompah band. Just behind the bottle bar, I asked a genial gent if he was John Clarke, one of the organisers  of this fest and Editor of Opening Times the S Manchester CAMRA branch mag. I introduced my self and had a really pleasant (but all too brief) chinwag. A damn nice bloke indeed. Interesting bottle selection too, with a De Molen Citra for £3. (I didn’t)20130601_124431

(The Oompah band is there – look harder!)

The Oompah troupe were superb and fun, playing snatches of requests. Good, but my focus was back upstairs, where business needed doing!

That business matter led me to Dark Matter, a 3.8% Mild by Saltaire. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mild by the Shipley alechemists before. This was quite subtle. Some nice gentle roast with more than a tinge of blueberry or blackberry. A nice smoky hint in the aftertaste too. Lovely. I would have had it first, but when Jarl (my Juliet – apologies to David Mayhall for this most blatant of thefts!) calls, this Romeo had to climb to the balcony!

Next up was Coal Porter (See what they did there!) by Elixir Brewing from Livingston. Now THIS is my idea of dark heaven! 5% abv, black (or near as dammit!) with a hint of smoke on the nose. This delivered bitter chocolate in this roasted mouthful, smooth texture with a lingering smokiness. A beautiful porter. Enjoyed whilst sitting in the stands (see below!)

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(A tinge of grassyness!)

Following my second pint of Jarl, I had a small taste of Oat Stout from Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth. At 5.2% this was creamy textured with more than a hint of the hedgerow. A gentle smokiness in the finish was a twist. First from Nook and really nice.

Next up was the Single Hop IPA from Stockport’s own Quantum Brewing. The hop variety in the case being Triskel (French I believe). Golden, fruity aroma (tropical, pineapple?) with that carrying through in the mouth. Nice and juicy with a nice dry finish. Quite subtle this hop. Didn’t taste its strength.

We’d gabbed for a bit and time had passed. It was time for a final beer and I opted for another Fyne Ales. This time (reverting to type!) their Sublime Stout at 6.8% abv. Probably not the wisest of choices at that strength. However, just like the Quantum, it didn’t taste its strength. A lovely smooth roasted mouthful with some mocha on the nose. Creamy wee beastie this with a delicious smokiness that hung about a bit. It was 4 o’clock now and we were being ushered out. One of the perils of separate sessions I suppose.

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(One of the ‘quieter’ moments!)

In summary : All the beers I had were uniformly in superb condition. They were also ludicrously inexpensive! £2 a pint for Jarl? The idea of sitting in the stands was great. However, this is where my one quibble surfaces. The area where the beers were served had the feel of a narrow corridor, in no way helped by the punters tendency to hang around once they’d made their purchases. This made it somewhat difficult to move about in there. I know, I know that you can’t actually FORCE the imbibing throng to relocate once they’d made their choices, but at times, I felt uncomfortable. There!

That said, after a 20 odd year gap between fests (I served at a charity bar at the old Town Hall fest), I’ll be back! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Departing felt like I was actually leaving a footy match! At this juncture, Jaz revealed a plan to visit a nearby boozer Ye Olde Vic.

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Located on Chatham Street, walking in felt like a time warp! Dark, warm and friendly, I settled in instantly to a pint of Oracle by Salopian Brewery, a first by this brewer for me! A pale beer that was lovely, sharp, crisp  and hoppy.

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This isn’t a multiroom, but has that multiroom feel. I think there were 7 hand pumps, with beers from Thornbridge, Oakham, Magic Rock featuring. However, I went for Jade by Liverpool Organic. This was a nice clean pint with flowery notes. Probably a bit too delicate at this stage. I think after my efforts, I needed something more assertive. This beer would be one to start with. Refreshing though.

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(Now. Where DID I put those pumpclips? Ah yes, the ceiling!)

Time for the train back to Manchester. Now, a sensible boy would’ve IMMEDIATELY caught a connection to Bolton. But I said “sensible”!

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So, Jaz guided us into Pie & Ale by Bakerie. Located on Lever Street, this is a decidedly modern affair and looks designed to catch a fairly trendy crowd. So, what am I doing here? To the rear bar we go and Lo! Handpumps! And what’s more, local beers from Wilson Potter and Brightside! Alongside a couple of Wells & Young’s offerings and a Liverpool Chocolate Porter.

Here I chose Natural Progression by Wilson Potter. You will (if you’ve read this blog before) know what I think of the beers brewed by these ladies. Smooth, tasty and clean. This was no exception. A nice fruity smooth mouthful. 4.8%. It’s great to see more of their beers around Manchester. Seems like their beers are on in this place quite frequently. Good to know!

Next up, Odin by Brightside Brewing (now of Radcliffe!). A really refreshing beer this. Bright, pale, zippy and nicely hopped. Initially thought it was a ‘real’ lager it was THAT pale (as you can see!). A blonde beer to look out for from another excellent local brewery.

20130601_191043(A zesty blonde indeed!)

Pie & Ale is an excellent addition to the Northern Quarter. If the food is anywhere near as good as the beer……..friendly knowledgeable staff, siiting booths and bench seating. I like this place!

Quickly skipping my greedily ordered Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt (I had to!) We finished off the evening in Port Street Beer House (where else) with an Oakham Green Devil IPA. More hops than a Watership Down audition. Stunningly fruity and hoppy. Enough said. A classic.

Not the most sensible day out, but bloody enjoyable!

Back in Manchester on Friday and Wigan on Saturday with some brewing luminaries at Allgates (I’ll be making the tea!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Wilson Potter Brewery – A visit in two parts!

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Towards the end of 2012, around about the time I started getting interested in beer again (and started to write nonsense about it!), my arch-nemesis Jaz introduced me to the beers of Wilson Potter. My first exposure to their ales was In The Black, in bottle. A lovely Stout.

Gradually I tried one or two more (always in bottle) and grew more impressed with these well-balanced and subtle beers. Eventually, I met Amanda & Kathryn (Owners & Brewers) at Stalybridge Farmers Market – they attend each month – and bought some more bottles, each of them impressive. However, I was growing frustrated at not having their beers on draught in the pubs that I visit. Eventually, I DID get a taste of one of their beers on draught at the last NWAF in Manchester.

In mid-February, Jaz told me that he was popping up to the brewery soon. I (of course) managed to hide under his coat and sneak in and enjoyed a perishingly cold afternoon in the brewery where HOORAH! I managed to drink some of their beers on draught, as nature intended.

A month or so later, I went back (again with Jaz) on a much warmer sunny day, to try some more and have a chat. (See below)

Located in Middleton, to the north of Manchester, the brewery is located in an industrial unit on the edge of town where Amanda & Kathryn use a 6 barrel plant (installed by PBC from Bury) to make beers that manage to be full of flavour without the need to commit assault on your palate.

The ladies met whilst working as primary school teachers in St Helens. A shared love of real ale led them to eventually try home brewing with full mash ingredients in Kathryn’s kitchen, initially using recipes found on home brewing websites.

Gradually they experimented with self-created recipes – again, full mash. Eventually, having visited other lady brewers at Prospect and Mallinsons and with Amanda attending a brewing course at PBC, the jump was made to full-scale commercial brewing, with trading commencing in October 2011.

20130406_141205(L to R: Copper, Mash Tun & Hot Liquor Tank)

Wilson Potter brew a number of ales utilising a variety of hops both UK & US and package them currently in both cask and bottles (bottle conditioned).

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20130406_152409(Yummy – bottles for sale)

Whilst currently brewing within capacity, they brew / have brewed 21 different beers to date (including seasonals) and – in common with Privateer in Manchester – all of the beers are below 5% abv, thus bucking the trend for huge uber-hopped beers made by lots of other micros. Their current biggest sellers are Cascale, Tandle Hill and Bon Don Doon.

Plans currently are to stay as they are (vis-a-vis expanding the brewplant) other than possibly adding a couple of FVs to allow them to brew more frequently.

20130406_170935(One of the two FVs)

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(The Cask Washers / Games stands! Get the micro Connect 4!)

This is a personal opinion (shared, I know, by Jaz) but Manchester pubs are missing a trick by not stocking these beers. They are brewed locally (within 5 miles or so of the Northern Quarter) by obviously skilled brewers and are full of flavour and (mostly) of session strength. I get a bit fed up with pubs sourcing beers from all over the country, when they have excellent stuff brewed on their doorstep. Along with the likes of Black Jack and Privateer, Wilson Potter beers deserve to take their place on bars in the City Centre. Come on you licensees! (Polemic over!)

Being a shy type (!), I didn’t chat to many people first time I visited, there were three of us on that occasion and I didn’t know that many people. However, on the second visit yesterday I had brief chats with Jock (who I’ve ‘chatted’ with on t’interweb) and the local CAMRA branch chair – and noted beer commenter – known as Tandleman (The names have been changed to protect the innocent!). Good informative conversations that I hope to pursue in the near future. Thanks fellas!

Anyway, the beer! On both occasions, we chose to start low abv and head upwards……

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1. Cascale 3.7% abv – Dark gold coloured beer that proved the ideal start yesterday after a long warm walk. Nice and refreshing hoppy bitter beer with a hint of sweet caramel from the malt. (A & B)

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2. Tandle Hill 3.9% abv – Another really nice bitter type beer. Light and hoppy, the hops aren’t overpowering but provide a nice lip-licking bitterness. An excellent session type beer. (A)

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3. In The Black 4.2% – Now THIS is into my territory! Black as night with a light creamy head. A gentle mocha aroma leading to a lovely creamy roasted malt mouthful. A lovely hint of coffee in the aftertaste. Simply a superb stout. (A & B)

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4. Bon Don Doon 4.2% abv – Lovely pale golden colour on this ‘blonde’ beer. A citrus aroma a bit like a hint of sherbet lemons. Lovely refreshingly citrus bitterness with more than a hint of candied lemon. Nice dry bitterness in the aftertaste. (B)

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5. Ruby Red 4.4% abv – A darker red/brown beer. Nutty, fruity and even a chocolate hint! Satisfyingly full flavoured beer. (A)

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6. Natural Progression 4.8% abv – Copper coloured beer. Fruity again with some vine fruit in there. A hint of malty toffee as well. (A & B)

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7. Is This The Way (Amarillo hopped – geddit!) 4.8% abv – Copper coloured beer. Interesting herbal / floral hop aroma. Ooh…Forest fruity in the mouth as well as having a fresh grassy taste in there with more than a hint of licorice twig (anybody remember them?). Tastes more of its strength this one. Nice and dangerously drinkable with a nice fruity hop hit.

(A = Visit #1, B = Visit #2)

Now then. I’m biased. I love darker beers. So my vote would go for In The Black as my personal favourite. This is a beer that could replace almost any stout on the bar – especially that drab irish stuff.

Amanda and Kathryn brew beers at a drinkable strength, with bags of flavour. Beers that display more subtlety than most and are really well-balanced. I thank them both for giving me the chance to drink them in the condition they are meant to be served. Good beer in good company. Two of my holy trinity. Now for the third. Let’s be seeing this in some of those lovely Manchester pubs!

And…no. I haven’t been paid to write this. I’m just a fan!

One more thing. I couldn’t agree more with Tandleman. Their bottled beers are excellent. If you can’t buy from the brewery, they have a list of stockists on their website. Failing that, pop to Ashton or Stalybridge Farmers Markets and buy some direct from the brewers! Drink local people!

On that revelatory note….until next time (Hopefully pubs and jukeboxes!)

Slainte!

(N.B. If  you want to visit the brewery website, just click on any logo /pump clip)