Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 3

Johnny was an actor, oh you must have known? He wore his new Max Factor, nearly stole the show,

You go and tell me he’s not the only one. Ah, night creatures, strangest features, white faces and painted eyes.

Tongue teasers, oh you young deceivers, night creatures on your heels so high… “

(“Night Creatures” – Be Bop Deluxe)

(Tune courtesy of  “Notle Miroma” on You Tube)

One evening, some time in 1979, this particular 14-year-old boy was furtively listening (through earphones) to The John Peel Show on Radio One, when he played a track which caught my attention. I think it was “Art, Empire, Industry” by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. It blew me away with its energy and fizz, a melding of synthesizers and punk energy. I went to Virgin Records on Market St in Manchester and bought what I thought was the track I heard. The single I bought was “Revolt Into Style” and was the start of a love affair with all things Nelson.

Gradually, I learned of his previous band, Be Bop Deluxe. Emanating from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, they started out as a Glam Rock band with the album Axe Victim (from which the above track is taken) before making what – for me – is their masterpiece, Futurama. Containing the fabulously complex “Between The Worlds” and the short but mighty “Maid In Heaven”, the delicate “Jean Cocteau” (A Nelson hero) it’s a magnificent Rock album up there with any UK album of the mid-70s for me.

I’m not too big to say that I wept, the night I finally heard “Maid In Heaven” live, along with a whole host of Be Bop tracks when Nelson played a back catalogue concert in  Manchester a few years back, songs I never thought that I’d hear live, guitar solos I never thought I’d experience in the flesh. Bill self-records and releases these days and has a prodigious output, many tracks reflecting his futuristic wonder of the 50s and 60s (his childhood). But in the words of Bowie “Boy could he play guitar”

Moving swiftly on to the usual subject matter…bottled beers…

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

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

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1. Eastoft Elderberry Stout – Axholme Brewing Co (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Surprise! We start, with a dark beer!

Black beer with a creamy tan head and a delicate floral aroma with a roasty hint. Medium bodied, the floral characteristics come through in the mouth backed up by a smooth almost chocolatey roasted malt character. There is a pleasing light bitterness in the finish followed by a light herbal grassy note and a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste. An unusual yet really pleasant stout.

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2. Dark Hopfler – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 2.5% abv – Dark Milk Ale – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Knowing that Weird Beard like to name their beers after some kind of musical link, I am hereby making an assumption that this is some reference to Mark Knopfler. If so…

I HATE Dire Straits! Any tune by them reminds me of 1985, being stuck in a hospital bed (after having my nose fixed – not that you’d tell!) and I could hear was “Money For Bleeding Nothing”! On repeat. REPEATEDLY!!!

Moving swiftly on! This is a black beer with lively carbonation giving a fluffy latte coloured head with huge citrus hop aromas of grapefruit mingled with a really milky coffee.

Surprisingly full-bodied for such a light beer, not as thin as I would have expected at this strength. The hops are in your face with apricot and mango in the vanguard. This is followed by a very subtle milky coffee and a burnt toast undernote with a little lactose sweetness (just a little) creeping past the defences near the end. A sweet milky finish leads to quite a resinous finish. Dark Milk Ale just about describes it! Would love to try this on handpull through a sparkler!

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3. Anubis Porter – Raw Brewing Company (Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5.2% abv – Porter – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% off 12 Bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Shall we get the dark stuff out of the way eh?

Having had Raw on cask before, primarily at Joshua Brooks, I was keen to try this bottle that I picked up on the Opening Day (read here) of the Blackedge Brewery bottle shop!

Virtually black beer with a thin cream coloured head and a full chocolate and toffee caramel aroma. Mmmm….medium bodied, initial flavour was a nice bitter chocolate with a malty caramel toffee backbone, slightly sweet yet with quite a bite to it. For a non-bottle conditioned beer, this is excellent! This is added to with a pronounced bitterness from the hops and quite a grassy aftertaste with that deep chocolate toffee staying throughout. An excellent first bottle from a brewery that I’ve enjoyed on cask.

And now, for some lighter stuff!

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4. India Pale Ale (Amarillo) – The Kernel Brewery (Bermondsey, S London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.29 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

My favourite hop. In a single hop IPA. By one of the most renowned breweries in London. A no-brainer really when Raj pointed this bad boy out to me!

Hazy and dark golden beer with a white head and a full-on fragrant orange marmalade aroma, booking out of the glass! I took a moment to calm down.

Full-bodied (unsurprisingly) with rich sweet marmalade sliding all over the tongue, using it as its own playground, the marmalade doesn’t retreat in the face of a encroaching bitterness that’s really satisfying. The bitterness itself leads to a big resinous pine and fruity finish. Each mouthful left me wanting more! And I do want more.

A classy beer using my favourite hop to its maximum. Superb!

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5. Shipwreck IPA – Liverpool Organic Brewery (er..Liverpool!) – 6.5% abv – IPA – Swap with a colleague (500ml) – 0 – Direct from the Brewery

A colleague from the office (Cheers Dave!), picked this up whilst on a tour of the brewery last weekend, for which I am truly grateful. (The swap, was for a bottle of Saltaire/NMB Co Smoked Porter – a review of which, next weekend perhaps?)

Amber coloured beer with a light white head a toffeeish nose with a hint of fruit, maybe orange. Full bodied with big caramelly malt laying a base for the fruitiness of the hops, with more orange and peach for me leading to a good strong bitterness and a substantial fruity, grassy and pine aftertaste which tingles on the tongue. A really fruity big-boned beer this. Had this on draught at The Angel some months back, this is just as good.

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6. NZPA – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £3.75 (A swap) (330ml) – 0 – From the brewery shop

This, quite possibly, comes within my top 5 pale ales. I’ve had it on a number of occasions and wherever I have it (incl Wetherspoons) it is universally potent and tasty with booming fruity hops. I was chuffed to bits therefore, when my good pal (and colleague) Chris picked one up following a rather strenuous bike ride that started – and ended – in Staveley. Being a perfectly sensible chap, he nipped in the Beer Hall and (amongst other delights) picked this up for me. Damned fine fellow!

Just look at that colour! A beautifully bright golden beer with good carbonation, giving a generous lasting white head which yielded a beautiful citrussy aroma bursting with grapefruit, kiwi and a hint of mango.

This is every bit as lovely as the cask version that I’ve adored for so long! Full-bodied and smooth in texture the fresh tart citrus leaps onto the tongue with the grapefruit being the Silverback here, dominant and powerful without being overwhelming. An excellent assertive bitterness to this too, just like the cask version, which is followed by an aftertaste both dry and resinous. Every bit as good as on cask. Superb!

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7. Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (3 for £7.50) (330ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A disclaimer on this one. This was passed by this new Manchester area brewer  (currently “Gypsy Brewing” at Outstanding Brewery in Bury) for free via my buddy Dan at Great Ale Year Round. Usual rules applying. I only review if I enjoy it. And BOY did I enjoy it!

Firstly, the branding.

Plays to my prejudices with a slightly distressed looking blue and white combo, with their woven motif. Something in the back of my mind also has The Shindiggers being one of the earliest of Manchester gangs? (I’m probably wrong!) Either way, the name has a whiff of romance about it for me.

The beer? A deep gold with excellent carbonation and a lasting white head releasing aromas of citrus fruits, with apricot and grapefruit prominent. Mmmm…Really smooth considering it’s from the bottle. Really balanced too, with a good light biscuity malt backbone being ridden by lovely citrussy hops, with initially grapefruit then a more subdued tangerine or orange coming through. In later mouthfuls, I thought I got a lemon note too. Nice bitterness adding to this refreshing beer with a finish that retains the fruit but adds a substantial resinous pine dryness.

What an excellent beer for a first in bottle! (Will be seeking it out on draught on The Road To Wigan Beer tomorrow!)

Next up? The Road To Wigan Beer – Pt 3 (for me) – The pub crawl by bus! Tomorrow!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

A quiet (!) night in Bolton – 10/03/2013

Having a weeks holiday booked has its advantages. One of which, is the chance to do something unusual. That is, to pop out for a pint in the town I now call home, Bolton, Lancashire.

The Lancashire bit is important. Bolton, historically being a mill town, has always felt like part of Lancashire. It is, despite what those bureaucrats did with their Greater Manchester construct, a Lancashire town.

That’s the good bit over. Bolton can also be a dodgy place to socialise of an evening. I know of some horror stories which have kept me out of Bolton for over a year. But hey, give every dog a chance!

Tonight, my buddy Colin and I decided to just do a couple of pubs and try a place we’ve not been in for over 20 years, The Dog & Partridge – about which I had been heaaring good things on the beer front.

Keeping it simple, we started off in Bolton’s lone Wetherspoons – The Spinning Jenny.

A typical Wetherspoon, but with a couple of separate spaces/(almost) rooms. My darling Atilla is none too fond of this place, thinking it a bit shabby and tired. I see what she says, but beer quality can overcome a lot for me. I can count on the fingers of one hand the ‘Spoons in which I’ve never had a bad pint. This is one of them.

Approaching the bar, I spotted two dark beers, including a Beartown, but my eyes were drawn to the other side of the bar, where lurked the mighty NZPA from Hawkshead Brewery. Not the smartest of moves at 6% abv, but it just had to be done. Especially with my CAMRA discount vouchers bringing the price down to £1.79! Outrageous!!!

Potent and massively citrus in aroma (owing to those 4 New Zealand Hops). Flavours of apricot and grapefruit coat the tongue and party in the mouth. A truly superb beer. Another belter from Hawkshead.

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(A Fireplace? In a ‘Spoons?)

The chance for another presented itself, so I hit the Beartown Black Bear at 5%abv. A strong mild (no kidding!). Some fruit on the nose with nice dark roasted flavours in the mouth. Quite thin in texture for a 5%, but nice roast tapering off into a touch of sweet/sour. Probably a bad idea straight after the NZPA!!! Will look to try this again elsewhere.

Moving on now. I had been in contact with Graham from the local CAMRA branch and arranged to have a pint in the Dog & Partridge – a pub we used to frequent as a Thwaites pub over 20 years ago.

Dog & Partridge

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(pic – Google)

Located on Bank Street, just down the slope from the famous Prestons of Bolton. Never the most glamourous of locations, but (a plus for me) a defined multi-roomed pub. A large space off to the right – used tonight for live acoustic music. A small snug type room with a larger room at the back, which is where we sat.

Looking across the bar, my eyes lighted on Hop from Blackedge Brewery of Horwich.

A 3.8 %abv pale brew. Some citrus on the nose. Didn’t get (what I would call) much citrus in the mouth, but what I did get was a wonderful dry hoppyness, really clean and refreshing. I had this a couple of months back in the New Oxford and didn’t quite get it. I now know different. Superb session beer.

Then had a Moorhouses Black Cat. OK, but not at its best. When it is, it’s a superb beer. Possibly coming toward the barrel end methinks. Some roasted character in there, but a slight sourness. As I said, not bad, just not perfect either.

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(The REAL ‘King’ of Rock n’ Roll!)

Quite enjoyed the folky/rock strains coming through from the other room. This particular Dog is looking a bit shaggy now, but some interesting ‘Muriels’ (I love a good Hilda Ogden malapropism!) reflecting the pubs musical slant. That said, I’ll be back. 2 or 3 good beer venues close by.

Nice friendly barman as well. Asked for tasters, instantly provided. Nice.

Other beers on included Thwaites Wainwights and Bank Top Flat Cap. Good selection for a small venue.

Moving on, Colin fancied nipping into Barristers for a pint. Who am I to deny him!

Barristers

Attached to the much larger Swan Hotel at the end of Bradshawgate, this has been a bit of a real ale haven for a number years now. It’s previous name of ‘The Malt & Hops Bar’ giving the game away.

Barristers

(pic – courtesy of beerintheevening.com)

A one room bar, with an internal courtyard which leads to the facilities (contained within the aforementioned Swan). The bar has a bit of a Victorian look to it with a lot of wood in evidence. The room curves around the bar with more than adequate seating available, including a couple of nooks with some comfy chairs.

Looking for something dark, my eyes hit upon Double Stout by Hook Norton. At 4.8% abv, I’ve had this in bottle and thought it OK. Time for draught. Mmmmmm! Black, creamy head, some coffee notes on the nose. Lovely dark malty flavours, reminiscent of overdone buttery toast. Gorgeous and vying for ‘pint of the night’ with the Hawkshead!

£6.70 for three pints was none too shabby either!

At this point we bade farewell to Graham who had a bus to catch. Only 5 minutes later did I realise why, 11:10! Good grief, where did the hours go? An excellent and interesting beery related chat, was nice to meet him. Who knows, I might start to pop out to some Branch Meetings soon!

At this point (and against all my better judgement!) Colin dragged me (kicking and screaming) back into The Spinning Mule. Another NZPA? Who am I to say no!

A pleasant evening – even when accosted by an over refreshed guy in the Spoons earlier!

On that note….

Slainte!

A Few Bottle Tastings

Just a couple of nice ones so far this month.

1. Rudgate Chocolate Stout 5% abv – Booths – £1.99

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A surprise purchase from Booths at Media City this one! Hadn’t seen Rudgate there before. Deep ruby to black beer. A Malteser and caramac aroma. Dry chocolate in the mouthy, dark but not overly bitter. Nicely flavoured with chocolate not dominating the drink, a bit more subtle than some. Nice dry cocoa flavour lingered for a short while. A really nice choc stout.

2 Saltaire Triple Chocoholic – 4.8% abv – Booths – £1.99

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Yes, I have a sweet tooth! Black beer with noticeable chocolate syrup (ice cream topping) aroma. Smooth in the mouth with sweet chocolate flavour up front, lovely dark chocolatey malty base. Made with 3 sources of chocolate flavour, hence the Triple. Made to out chocolate the Youngs Dbl Choc Stout, which it does, in spades! Still one of my favourite beers, but the Rudgate pushes it close.

3. Two Roses Brewery – Black Beauty Stout – 5% abv – A gift form Jaz via Ashton Farmers Market.

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Black beer with a creamy head. Aroma had some lactic type Milk Stoutiness with an added whiff of licorice. This Vegan friendly beer was lovely and dark with a nice roast dark malt, a hint of coffee and a slight dry smokiness in the finish. A lovely beer and my first from this brewery. I’ll make up for that next time I pop into Yorkshire Ales!

4. Wilson Potter – Gingery Does It – 3.5% abv – Direct from the brewers.

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A very pale golden beer. Pale head. Slight citrus aroma with hint of spicing to come. A nicely gentle hoppiness with ginger nibbling on your tongue. A really refreshing nicely warming beer in the mouth. Really refreshing. Gingery in the way of Marble Ginger – but more refreshing. Must buy some more.

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

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I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

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The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

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Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

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(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

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(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

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Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

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3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!

Hawkshead Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House 26/11/2012

‘Twas a fairly grim evening, this particular Monday. I had been aware of these events that had been held almost monthly at Port Street, but, as yet, had not attended one.

However, when Jaz approached me with the prospect of attending one when the great and the good from Hawkshead brewery of Staveley, Cumbria would be presenting, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up!

Anyway. Where were we. Ah Yes! ‘Twas a grim evening, this particular Monday. Getting to Manchester in rush hour was managed with the help of my darling Attila and I found myself approaching Jaz, loitering on the corner of Hilton & Port St.

Entering the mighty Beer House, I was surprised to learn that, ordinarily, it is closed on a Monday evening! I handed over my entrance ticket to receive 5 raffle style tickets, each to be exchanged for a drink at the bar, a 1/2 pint of Windermere Pale and 4 “samples”. Intrigued? Was I!

I was pleased to notice that, whilst there were only 3 beers with their clips “facing”, one of these was Blackedge Brewery “Black Stout”. Judging by reports, the Blackedge “Black Port” had been on and was subject to rave reviews. I was pleased to try this local ale (Horwich). Black as night, with an off white head, the aromas were promisingly earthy. What followed was a pint of dark malty roasted goodness, with a hoppy dry aftertaste. (I’ll be scouting Bolton pubs to find more!)

I then settled down to the business at hand, a half pint of Hawkshead Windermere Pale. A seriously hoppy beer at a mere 3.5%. Almost lager pale, the hoppy aromas can be quite surprising at first, lots of grapefruit and apricot in there. This is a gorgeously sharp pint. Nice and bitter and hugely moreish. A beer you could drink all evening and, quite possibly, my favourite beer below 4% abv!

As I got toward the end of the half, the brewers were introduced. 4 had travelled up from Staveley and one of them, Matt Clarke, the Head Brewer, (a New Zealander) gave us a quick spiel about the brewery.

Founded by Alex Brodie (hence, Brodies Prime) in 2002, they started brewing just outside of Hawkshead on a 7 barrel plant. Having grown rapidly, they outgrew the initial premises and ended up at the current location at Staveley where they can now brew nearly 6 times the previous capacity.

Matt introduced the first beer of the evening. Brodies Prime (I was SO hoping they’d brought some!). A silky dark roasted beer, not quite a Stout, not quite a Porter. Matt made reference to the current vogue of Black IPAs (which Brodies Prime predated by nearly a decade!). I resolved that this half pint would not be the last Brodies of the evening!

Next, Matt introduced NZPA (New Zealand Pale Ale). Brewed at 6%, using four New Zealand hops: Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka & Nelson Sauvin. He claimed that he was cajoled into making this beer as people kept asking him why a New Zealander wasn’t using hops from his own country! Tasting the NZPA, I reckon he needed absolutely no excuses whatsoever! This is a big beer. On a firm sweet malty base, those citrussy New Zealand hops pack a mighty punch. This was the first pale I had at the SIBA fest last month, I loved it then and that only grew with this taste (another 1/2 pint). Just when I was starting to feel that I was deserting my Dark wife for a pale mistress……

On comes the next beer…..Ooooh……An Imperial Stout! Brewed with oats and SIX malts!!! Aged in Oaken Bladnoch Whisky Casks for nearly 10 months!!!! (I think I’ve broken my exclamation mark key) This is an astonishingly lovely, rich beer! (I lied about the ! of course) Sweet tobacco, coffee…yum. Then, just at the side of the tongue, you get the warming oaky, whisky hit. Love at first sip.

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The boys from Staveley had brought some local made Pork Pie to accompany the beers. They were well matched with the Imperial Stout for sure.

Jaz and I had a bit of a chinwag with Matt, who seemed a decent sort, before it was onto the next beer, which he introduced as…….another Imperial Stout at 8.3% abv. This time made with Lyth Valley damsons and Madagascan vanilla pods (the sour and the sweet). Another gloriously black oozing brew, the sourness of the damsons offset by the natural sweetness of all that malt!

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I have to say that my slight preference would be for the “straight” Imperial Stout, though I could barely separate them.

Image(A fine selection of Cumbrian Crackers!)

I then fulfilled my ‘promise to self’ with a pint of Brodies Prime followed by a sneaky half pint of Imperial Stout (rude not to….)

As stated, this was my first “Meet The Brewer”. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was an excellent evening, engaging presentations from people who have a passion about what they brew and some simply astonishingly good beer.

I sloped off at this point, leaving Jaz in his second home (his living room ?) and was slightly surprised to see the guys from Hawkshead piling into their “twin cab” pick up. One of the four having selflessly been the Designated one for the evening.

On that note I bid you a fond farewell til next time.

Slainte!