London – April 2015 – Long Time No See

It had been over a year since the last time I had been drinking in the The Big City. Last March in fact (getting tipsy on boats doesn’t QUITE count!), so when the opportunity arose for a 3 day stay, I grabbed it – though somewhat reluctantly.

Reluctantly?

I guess I am a “home bird”. I am also becoming a bit of a professional Northerner, in that – especially where beer is concerned – I don’t feel that we need to doff the cap any more. Some Northern breweries (in my humble…..) easily brew beers that can match – if not better – their Southern brewing brothers and sisters. Yes, I am biased, something which I freely admit.

However, what London DOES have, is some outstanding pubs, the like of which that Manchester (for instance) simply doesn’t have. So what’s an aging boy to do eh? With a couple of evenings to kill. And an Oystercard.

Yup.

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The Cock Tavern (Mare Street, Hackney – approx 100 Yds from Hackney Central Overground Stn)

According to various sources, there may have been a pub on this site since the early 18th century. However, the current premises was rebuilt by Truman’s Brewery in the 1930s. Now though, it is the brewery (and tap) of Howling Hops Brewery, a brewery whose beers are bloody hard to find Oop North. Which is a shame. Because they are superb.

This interior of this pub is best summed up as….wood. The pace is stripped back and basic. And it is all the better for it. Stripped back floorboards, old wooden tables, chairs and bench seating and a lovely L shaped bar with a LOT of hand pumps dispensing Howling Hops own beers.  It feels like a place to drink beer. And chat. Which is what I and my buddy did.

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I paid little mind to the ciders (though there were a few) and bypassed the craft keg (7 I think) and focused on the 8 hand pulls featuring 7 of the brewery’s own beers – brewed downstairs. I had 3. Well….It was an early start!

XX Pale 5% – A fruity pale ale hopped with Columbus, Citra, Centennial & Mosaic with predictably lip smacking results.

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Mild 3.3% – A Dark Mild. Because I like Mild. OK? A nice Mild can be a thing of beauty and not the preserve of the 1950s and the beclothed of cap, whippet toting Northerners of old. Again, 4 hopped (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Citra), this was reminiscent of another of my favourites (All Black by Allgates) but was (an oxymoron for a Mild) slightly more assertive – and it’s a relative term. Either way, a highlight for me. You might say “a Mild for non-Mild drinkers” and I wouldn’t argue.

American Brown Ale 4% – Brown. A dose of rye and licorice on the nose and a crackling dry pint. A corker.
And then I looked in the fridge and noticed some of their own bottles. Up North, these are as rare as the droppings of that legendary wooden steed. So I had to. Didn’t I? And if I’m going to bring one back, it might as well be big.
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And it is.
Now then. For those semi-pro Northerners who aren’t in the know. An Oystercard is a godsend. Especially now that TfL have WANGED up the price for a day Travelcard to £12 or more! So, with that in my pocket, I was off back to Hackney Central, change at Highbury & Islington, Victoria Line to Kings X, Northern Line to Kentish Town, then a C2 bus. In reality, only approx 20 or so minutes. And the bus drops you DIRECTLY outside the door of the next premises.
Was it worth it? Oh yes.
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The Southampton Arms (139, Highgate Road, Kentish Town)
This pub just speaks to my soul. Wooden floors, wooden benches, wooden settles. A mahogany bar. A turntable rather than a CD player or streaming service! 12 hand pumps for beer. Several more for real cider. And proper pub grub. By which I mean, Pork Pies. More on that later.
A place that looks like it’s been here forever, this was apparently reborn in about 2009 and was stripped back to reveal all of that lovely wood. Long, but not particularly wide, the bar is long and festooned with all of those lovely handpulls featuring beers from micro breweries far and wide. A gents with access from outside too, an unusual feature. As is the rather lovely old mirror advertising the wares of the original Lacons Brewery.
It was busy, but we grabbed a table. I reached the bar and started to scan. But my eyes froze and my back leg rose like the tail of a Pointer.
Hobsons Mild. I drink it wherever I find it. It’s quite simply the best brown Mild that I’ve ever had. Refreshing and nutty. And light, at 3.2%. And utterly delicious. As was the 1/2 of Pork, Chicken & Stuffing pie. A steal at £3.60
Now, the Hobsons aside, I am (by nature) a kind of “When in Rome” kind of fella. Therefore, with my predilection for dark beers, the next choice was fairly simple.
Dissident Porter from Gipsy Hill Brewing (West Norwood, SW London) was 4.8%. And Dark. And so damn moreish. First beer from this brewery. Roasted, chocolatey, smooth and Oh. So. Drinkable. I’ll be looking out for this brewery again. excellent beer.
Food was necessary at this point. So we headed back into the city and Holborn via Northern Line to Kings X and Piccadilly Line to Holborn.
Fish, chips & peas with bread & butter and a mug of tea for £10. In London? The joy that is The Fryers Delight on Theobalds Road. A basic caff with excellent grub. And close to the next pub!
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The Lamb (94, Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury)
The Lamb. A Young’s pub. Yet not as it was.
Last time I came in was 10 years ago. The day after the tube bombings. I still have the memory of walking past the destroyed bus at Tavistock Square. Some things never leave you.
Happier times though. The last time I came in, they only sold Young’s beers. So it was a nice surprise to see 2 from Sambrook and a beer (apparently brewed for the pub) from Redemption. Which I had to try. The Bloomsbury Blend was a bit of a surprise, in that it was a nicely flavoured mid-strength bitter, but lacked the assertiveness of some of their other beers that I have had. Nice enough though
Lamb bar
(Nicked from the Young’s Website)
The Lamb is one of those pubs that just HAVE to be visited. It is a Victorian symphony in wood. A beautiful – almost circular – bar with the snob screens being a unique feature to my eyes (those little windows open above the bar – top left of pic) – designed so that bar staff needn’t meet the gaze of Victorian customers.
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(All mine this one!)
The pub is, quite simply, a Grade 2 listed gem. Built (acc to Historic England) probably early 18th Century, it may lack the buzzy kudos od some of the craft bars locally, but it takes some beating as a simply beautiful pub.
All of that travelling, on tube, bus and train? £6.40. What’s the word? Bargain.
Next evening, a little less trekking was in order, Victoria line to Euston, then Northern Line to Old Street. Quality beer and food were sought. We were not to be disappointed.
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The Old Fountain (Baldwin Street, EC1 – 3 mins from Old Street tube, City Rd Exit)
This has been a decent beer gaff as far back as I’ve been coming to London. A “cut” pub, in that there is another entrance on Peerless Street, Baldwin Street is directly off City Rd (A501) just to the north of Old Street.
Again, wood is the thing. Lots of it. Sources date this place to about the mid 18th century and it does have the feel of an old ale house about it. And it was bloody busy. With no tables available. And a lovely menu taunting us!
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A slightly limp pint of Jarl was dealt with, then a table located, luckily. A zinging pint of Oakham Citra accompanied by a HUGE home-made (and slightly runny) Scotch Egg more than made up for the Jarl! The Citra was all that one of the best pale ales in the country should be. Sharp, clean and massively refreshing.
The house burger was huge and (after the Scotch Egg) just too much. The chips were excellent too.
The pub lists 18 constantly rotating beers on cask and keg. And it was a keg font that caught my eye. From my favourite London brewery. And a beer I hadn’t yet had.
London SmokeFive Points Brew Co (Hackney) was SO unctuous! Smooth like an oil slick. Bitter chocolate, root licorice and just the right hint of smoke. Just a bloody superb beer. From a brewery that don’t muck about, take their time and just get the beers right. 7.8% abv was just about right.
Then. That rare thing in London. A walk.
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The Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, off Clerkenwell Road)
Walking along Britton Street and entering The Jerusalem, you wouldn’t think that you were only 1 minute away from the recently redeveloped Farringdon tube station! It’s like stepping into the 19th century.
The building dates from the early 18th Century with its conversion to a pub probably a century later. The pub has a bit of history itself, best read here.
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I’ve always felt that this place had the feel of a 17th century coffee-house, it feels unique and I, for one, have never been in a pub quite like it, And I have introduced many of my colleagues to its charms. All have adored it.
It. Is, Small. And can probably handle only about 60 people at most, with punters frequently spilling out from the front and side.
It is owned and run by St Peters Brewery of Bungay in Suffolk. I think that they only have two pubs and the other is a brewery tap. Whatever, it is one hell of a spot and gets busy with an after work city crowd. And rightly so.
In here, I could look no further than the Old Style Porter. Just a beautiful smooth, dark and lusciously roasted beer, with the merest hint of sweetness. It is, quite simply, one of the best porters that I’ve ever had. Moreish in the extreme. I had two. I should have picked up a bottle of Honey Porter too. But I have a memory like Emmental.
Going home the next evening after work, we had an hour or two to kill. Now then, I love the Euston Tap as much as anybody, but the range of breweries just….doesn’t really seem to change much. There never seems anything to excite me. Great beer, granted. But sometimes, I just want something that feels a little bit more, you know….pub like. So I went on a 90 second hike from the front of Euston Station.
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The Bree Louise (Coburg Street, Euston)
If the planners for the HS2 rail link get their way, this pub will be vapourised, obliterated from the map. Some might say “meh”. Me? I like this place. A lot. It has a soul that some nearby places lack. We came here for food and a pint (or 4) and were disappointed by neither,
The pub itself is of the “street corner” type that is sadly missing from my home city. It isn’t huge. And has a chaotic feeling when full of commuters hunting a pint. But the staff are friendly and efficient (incident about a late delivered meal to my mate aside!) and there is a LOAD of cask ale, Probably about 18 on the go.
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Now this amount of beer can lead to the odd dud. That is simply unavoidable, save reducing the number of beers. \But as long as they replace a lame pint, that is fine. I had one. And they replaced it without fuss. Brownie points.
COne of the endearing things about this place is the stillage dispense, a rarity in city centres (Yes, I DO know 57 Thomas Street, but that in itself is an oddity) and to look at the bar, you might struggle to make out what beers are on. Which is where the 42 inch screen comes in with a rotating view of beers separated into hand pulled, gravity and keg. A nice touch.
Now this particular evening was noted as a Tap Takeover by Hogs Back Brewery. Not a fan, so I focused on the other 60% of beers on offer. In order, these were :
  • HopHeadDarkStar – Predictable excellence. Pale hoppy and bitter. A refresher.
  • ConquerorWindsor & Eton – The epitome of a Black IPA for me. Bitter, roasted coffee and big citrus bite.
  • Slovenian DreamDownton Brewery – Now this was so pale that I had it as a Pilsner with a nice gentle floral hop character. The brewery has it as a Pale Ale. Works either way. But a Pilsner for me.
  • Wolf of the WoodsTwickenham Brewery – The pick of the bunch. Amber coloured with a chocolatey malt flavour and a good dose of bitterness. A fine beer.

And that was that. Other than a 45 minute delay at Euston. A further 45 minute delay on the train. The train for Bolton turning into a bus replacement service and the A666 turn off on the M61 being closed. I got home at midnight. Knackered.

London, you wore me out. With the admirable assistance of Virgin Rail & its Northern Rail counterpart. Renationalise the lot of them.

That’s all until next time….

Slainte!

A Thirst & A Fresh Oyster(card) – A Wandering Week in London – March 2014


” I had entered into a marriage in the summer of my 21st year and the bells rang for our wedding,

Only now do I remember it clear, alright, alright, alright.

No more a rake and no more a bachelor, I was wedded and it whetted my thirst,

Until her womb started spilling out babies, only then did I reckon my curse,

Alright, alright, alright!”

(“The Rake Song” – The Decemberists)

(Video courtesy of http://www.decemberists.com/)

As I mentioned in my last post, I fell in love with music again having discovered the online store / club E-Music. This website led me to discover a whole wealth of bands that I would probably never had otherwise heard. Chief among these bands was The Decemberists from Portland in Oregon.

From the moment that I heard the jangly entry notes of “The Crane Wife 3” I was hooked and fell in love with the lyrical worlds spun by Colin Meloy and this fabulous band. Tracks like “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”, “We Both Go Down Together”, “Yankee Bayonet” the list goes on….I can just wallow for hours in lyrical beauty backed by expert musicianship that straddles between folk and almost Prog Rock (One track was described to me as “Steeleye Span meets Black Sabbath”!). Meloy has a way with words and sometimes writes in an antiquated verbal manner using words that you’d never hear elsewhere.

With topics ranging from unrequited love “Angel Won’t You Call Me” through bloody murder ballads “Shankil Butchers” (sic) to infanticide (“The Rake Song” see above), you’ll never be bored!

Suffice to say, The Decemberists are my favourite band with never a slack track in their 6 full-length albums (+ several EPs) so far. They may be recording a new album as I type and – should they hit the UK on tour, I will certainly fill the gaping hole in my music CV and see them live. Given what I have seen online, their performances are never less than enthralling!

With the end of this musical revelry, I shall get on with the matter in hand. Beer and great places to drink it!

2 weeks ago today (Wednesday), “The Boss” asked for volunteers to work in London for a week with odd shifts being the order of the week. Now, I am a bit of a home bird – having missed nearly the first 18 months of my youngest so due to living and working away –  I’m not all that keen to spend time away. The bait on this hook for me was to visit pubs and bars that I have regularly read others like Nate, Chris Hall & Tandleman write about and make me drool. So, with a (forced) smile on my face and beer in my heart, I was on the train to Euston one drizzly Sunday.

Let’s Begin!

Arriving at approx 7pm on a Sunday evening, with a London Transport Travelcard in hand, I unpacked my considerable luggage and pondered my first move. Only then did I consider the erratic opening hours of London pubs of a weekend! Fortunately, a well placed tweet revealed that – if I was quick – A certain mighty (yet mini) hostelry might be open!

TheRake_005_1(pic courtesy – http://boroughmarket.org.uk/)

The Rake – (Winchester Walk, Borough Market)

I don’t get down to Capital City much these days, but the last time I came, I popped in The Rake and it made a big impression for such a small bar, great cask ales, brilliant keg range and a bewildering array of bottles beers too from far and er…. wide.

I went twice during the week once on the Sunday, then on the Wednesday. The Sunday visit was quiet as it was virtually closing time when I got there. The guys working the bar and cellar were good as gold and twice as friendly as I was served with a Chockwork Orange Stout from Brecon Brewery (Welsh Beer Festival that weekend). Not hugely orangey, but a fine full-bodied Stout.

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This was, perforce, a flying visit, but I just had to have a read of the Wall of Fame. This is an enormous white wall where brewers sign and comment about the bar, a quirky but unique feature, then again, this small single room bar (the beer garden is larger!) is unique and quirky itself!

I called in again on the Wednesday. My original idea was to drag a colleague all the way from Vauxhall to Leyton for some Brodies at their tap The King William IV. However, the mighty Dave let me know that there was a Rake “Tap Takeover” by Brodies that night. Bit of a no brainer really!

Myself & my buddy Phil settled down to pints of really light, pale gold, refreshing and citrussy London Fields Pale Ale which, at 3.9% abv, were just the ticket after a rather longer than expected walk from Vauxhall. With tart grapefruit and a hint of lemon, a superb sharp pint.

Bethnal Green Bitter was next at 4% and was again a cracking pint. Amber coloured and full-bodied for the strength, biscuity malt and gentle grapefruit making for an excellent sessionable beer.

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This small single room bar was getting really busy, so we were lucky to grab a table in the outside area / beer garden on this beautiful bright late afternoon. A couple of halves of fruity, sharp and roasty dark Dalston Black followed and were consumed with resinous relish!

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(Hackney Red IPA)

Chatted for quite a while with a couple who shared our table. Demien a Colombian tattoo artist with a fabulous orchid on his neck (national flower of Colombia dontcha know!), the evening just flowed as we chatted about anything and everything with Demien and Sara (his Dallas based girlfriend), a lovely way to spend a couple of hours in great company and with Brodies excellent beers. Having had a sniff of Sara’s Hackney Red IPA, I just had to have one! Spicy and citrus tart. Gorgeous.

Rolling back to Sunday, chanced my luck by trying the Market Porter which I thought was about to close. A stunningly good pint of gloriously roasty Harveys Porter was had. Dark and delicious as was the fabulous tuneage, with some early Black Keys and some Nick Cave. Sunday Bonus!!!

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Pelt Trader (Dowgate Hill, just at side of Cannon Street station)

A couple of hours on Monday saw me venture into the City. I’d heard many great things about this bar from luminaries such as Nate Dawg, Chris Hall and Tandleman, so it would have been remiss not to give it a spin!

Nice, cool and spacious railway arch built into the underside of Cannon Street Station. Fairly quiet at the time I went in, but got steadily busier. Being owned/run by the people behind the excellent Euston Tap (and given the excellent things that I’d been hearing), I had no fear for the beer quality. This was borne out by stunningly good pints of Oakham Citra and Quantum American Light. (Can’t escape Jay’s beers…even in London it would seem!)

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(Looks suspiciously like a pelt!)

As with The Rake, Pelt Trader has all the elements in place for me. Nice building (lots of exposed brickwork, broken up with artifacts here & there – a Kayak?), with REALLY friendly staff (had a chat with a guy I presumed was a bar manager) and – most importantly – damn fine beer.

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Draft House (Seething Lane, nr Tower Hill tube)

Just a quick one in here. A quick taste of a Purity Black Ale was less than sound, so plumped for a rather nice and refreshing Outlandish Pale Ale by Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire). Pale gold, light and refreshing and nice and hoppy. Bargain of the week at £2.70 a pint!

The neon may be attractive to some, but was harsh on my eyes. Nice big open room with (probably) a bit of an accent on food. Loads of tables and a nice attractive exterior. can’t escape that neon though! 6 handpumps though meant quite a bit of choice with Sambrooks, Marble & Twickenham breweries also represented.

Stretching my legs a bit, headed up to Shoreditch to a bar that had been recommended. So, on a hunt for some Five Points on cask, I headed to The Crown & Shuttle on Shoreditch High Street.

Crown and shuttle

(pic – crownandshuttle.co.uk)

Again, loads of exposed brick in this bar that was so long, it had the feeling of a tunnel. Busy for a Monday evening. Large choice of beer both cask and keg, with no Five Points to be found, yours truly settled for a Galaxy Burst by Alechemy on cask.

Lovely friendly staff, they could even understand my dialect! The Alechemy was lovely, full of spring grass on the nose, full-bodied with lashings of tangerine and orange an d a nice piney finish with a gentle bitterness. Top tunes too! Sly Stone, Marvelettes, Detroit Spinners. My boxes were all ticked! Cracking bar.

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(Tuesday? – Must be Hackney then!)

Tuesday was dedicated to seeing an old friend that I hadn’t seen for nigh on 25 years! Living (as she does) in Leyton, we arranged to meet in the Pembury Tavern

Located on Amhurst Road, this angular pub was reasonably quiet as I entered. A plethora of hand pumps, most from the Milton Brewery of Cambridge

Pembury bar-panorama

(pic : https://www.individualpubs.co.uk/pembury/)

Settling down a a lovely fruity and refreshing pint of Milton Tiki at 3.8%, I took in the view. My kind of pub. Leaving aside the single roomed aspect, loads of space close to and in front of the bar, plenty of tables to the sides with seats and benches, there was just such a relaxed vibe here. Then my friend Andrea arrived and all considerations of decor etc went right out the window! Catching up with her (and spilling a few stories to her cute daughter – doing her homework!) was utterly precious. Transpires that she knew the regulars and staff ever so well.

This pub just FEELS welcoming and friendly. Certainly family and (well-behaved) pet friendly. Great pizzas (according to my lovely friend) and well….it just felt right. Certainly right enough to have another pint of Tiki! Unfortunately, I had to move on as I was due to meet Dave from The Rake at the next pub (cue Keystone Cops like farce!)

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A swift Twitter poll decided my next move after a number of people (including the redoubtable Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy) suggested The Cock Tavern on Mare Street in Hackney.

This is the brewery tap for Howling Hops Brewery. Haven’t had much by them, so was really looking forward to a pint or 2. That plan was rodgered when my colleague I was expecting on Wednesday, arrived on Tuesday and expected me for company. This left me with one pint worth of time. After a number of tweets to Dave, I realised that I made one almighty balls up. He was in The Pembury!!!

Being a Northern chap and therefore of good grace (Well, a fellow Lancastrian and all!) he hauled himself down to the Cock for a swift pint! Top bloke who took my apologies in good heart and with the aforementioned good grace. The Milk Stout it was for both of us and it was absolutely LUSH! Gorgeously roasted and with that hint of lactose sweet/sour, it was a lovely pint. I will have to see if my good buddy The Ale Man has some stashed away!

The Cock deserved a longer stay. Felt like a proper local, but on the edge of the big city. Dark inside with wood panelled walls, lots of dark wood seating on the exposed wood floor, it really is a lovely pub. Next time I’m down, I’ll make a bee-line! However, I had my colleague waiting in Pelt Trader……Oops

More Keystone Cops stuff here as my buddy needed to eat. So I suggested Cask on Charlwood Street, but by the time I stood outside Pimlico Tube station, he’d give up and headed back to t’hotel! Not to be discouraged, I just got a step on. I was a tad peckish too by this point!

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(Cask was busy!)

Much to my chagrin, I don’t bump into too much cask ale by Mallinsons in Manchester. To my delight, there were THREE on at Cask! Unfortunately, I had a monstrously early start so couldn’t do all three to go with my scrummy Stilton & Bacon burger….Citra & Alias were more than fine enough The Citra brought out the best in that hop with lovely tart grapefruit clearing that Stilton palate. The Alias had plenty of fruit along with a pronounced bitterness which, if anything, lifted it above the lovely Citra! 2 Single hopped pales by one of my favourite breweries! Beer Heaven!

Really friendly & helpful staff here – could have stayed ’til closing…..damn that early start!

Thursday saw me (via little advanced St Patrick’s Night drink with some swanky Irish associates!) at The Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak. I love this long bar and it was really busy this evening. Fortunately we managed to grab a table so I could enjoy a lovely slightly bitter and gorgeously roasted pint of Long Nines Stout by Hopcraft. I didn’t care that it was 6% abv. It was lush! The only shame tonight, was that I couldn’t hear the Jimmy Cliff album being played on the turntable! Great bar, friendly staff and locals. (Didn’t realise that it was the same people who owned The Cock Tavern in Hackney!)

A damned long week. Would’ve liked to have visited more bars/pubs, but you know what they say “Work is the curse of the drinking classes!”

In summary though, the thing that made this week the undoubted pleasure it was, was meeting new people, both from the other side of the bar (unfailingly friendly), or chance encounters. This beer malarkey is all about the people. They were lovely! (Now. where IS that Shadwell based tattooist…..just fancy a chalice glass on my arm…..)

Well…..that’s it with London for a while I suppose…

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

A Bristol Stroll (or two!) 08-09/07/2013

I’m not overly fond of working away. Bit of a “home bird” really. But when the boss asked me to spend a few days in Bristol, I remembered how long it had been since I’d last been. 11 years. The drinking was THAT bad back then, that I spent a whole night in a Walkabout drinking Steinlager on a 2 for 1 special. Grim doesn’t do it justice.

Obviously, things would have improved. After all, I’ve enjoyed the delights of breweries like Arbor, Bristol Beer Factory, RCH etc up here. So the pubs must be better than the sham Aussie theme bar, right?

Well, I’d picked up a few tips from beery folks like Glenn Johnson (fellow blogger) and Karen from The Evening Star in Brighton, via Twitter, so on with the walking shoes!

Now then. I was staying nearly 10 miles north of the city, near the M5, so public transport was essential. Luckily, there were 2 buses into the city stopping right outside my hotel, so, rather hot and bothered in near 30c temperatures, I embarked on the single most uncomfortable bus journey I’ve ever been on. Bloody hell, I needed a pint when I got to town!

Now, Glenn writes a good blog. I’ve never met the chap (something I would love to rectify!), but I trust his judgement. So when he recommended me The Barley Mow http://beer-writings.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/a-mini-bristol-pub-crawl.html I paid attention. And made it my first port of call. And got lost. TWICE!

Having disembarked the No 1 bus near Temple Meads Station, I asked a few people waiting for another bus for directions. Nobody had a clue! Out with the google maps. A good 10 minute walk behind Temple Meads (and across a rickety-feeling metal clad bridge) located on Barton Road is…..

The Barley Mow

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Oh but I was thirsty when I got here! Lovely cool feeling pub. Lots of blue painted panelling inside this single roomed venue, with tables both out front and in a rear beer garden (fairly busy in the sun). On the bar were 8 handpumps with offerings from Bristol Beer Factory (It’s one of their pubs), Arbor, Moor and some from further afield including Marble and Alechemy. I was hot (very) and thirsty (VERY!).  I wanted something pale and refreshing, Being a BBF pub, I chose Independence. A 4.6% abv US style Pale Ale. Copper coloured and refreshingly hoppy. A damn tasty beer to cool me down.

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(A fine selection)

Now. One of the other reasons I came here. Glenn told me about the juicy burger that he had. As well as being thirsty, I was also more than a tad peckish, being a bit past my tea-time. Cheeseburger, a side of patatas bravas and a pint of Moor Rypa (a collaboration with Beavertown of London.)

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(Yum!)

The burger was lovely and juicy, with a lovely dollop of melted cheese and a generous scoop of sautéed red onions. Really juicy and tasty. Cheers Glenn! The Moor went well with the burger, quite a spicy and hoppy rye ale at 4% abv. Actually, as far as I can remember, this may have been my first Moor on cask! Damn tasty.

The bar staff were really friendly too, so, being mellowed by the beers and the indie musical backdrop (low volume), I allowed myself to be talked into a half of BBF Southville Hop on keg at 6.5% abv (there were about 8 craft kegged offerings too!). Coming in a BBF chalice 1/2  pint glass. This was pale and gorgeously, assertively hoppy but smooth with it. Lovely beer.

(I won’t mention the 3 bottles of BBF Bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout eh? No, I’ll keep that to myself!)

One of the bar staff had a boyfriend from Chorley and we had a bit of a chat. I took the opportunity to ask directions back to Debenhams (to locate my bus stop). Armed with the knowledge, I set off to locates my bus stop, fully intending another bar. I then found myself catastrophically lost! I must have walked for about an hour before I figured out where I was (yes, yes, I KNOW I was in Bristol!). All hopes of another bar evaporated . Always tomorrow, eh?

The next day, I took precautions. I got an early lift into the city, located my bus stop and left a trail of breadcrumbs! Walking past the Bristol outpost of the Aberdonian hype merchants (incidentally, REALLY well located by the river!), I crossed the Avon in search of some casked pleasures. Taking the first right after the river, then a left, I was soon on (the rather narrow) Thomas Lane, where I found….

The Seven Stars

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By this time, I was again hot, bothered and thirsty. I liked the look of this place before I walked in. Tucked away on a narrow connecting street with tables nestling on the lane in the shade of St Thomas Church. The pub was single roomed in an L shape with the unusual sight of a pool table to the rear. I plonked myself down at a table before I checked the beers. Traditional freehouse this, nary a sniff of craft keg, but a superb 12 ales to be chosen from.

My choice was from a brewery I had never previously tried, Cavendish Stout by Shardlow Brewery from Derbyshire. Nice dark brown, malty body with a slightly sweet finish I thought, given the flavour and the transparency, I’d have it as more of a sweetish poster than a stout. Did the job though! A mini beer fest was on at the pub with beers from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, nice idea.

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Being in the mood for something more…pale and hoppy now, I spied two from Oakham – Green Devil and Tranquility. On the basis that I’d had the Green Devil, I opted for the Tranquility at 6.5% abv. But hold on! Is that an Imperial Russian Stout? Trotsky from Potbelly Brewery at 7.5% abv. A half of each seemed in order!

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First, the Oakham. Really hoppy this, pale gold, lots of grapefruit citrus hops. Nice bitter finish too with a good bit of juicy malt for balance. The Trotsky was black, spicy and winey. Lots of roasted malt with more than a hint of licorice in the spice. Bittersweet finish. Nice, but ill-advised at this stage! Again, nice bar staff and friendly chatty regulars who seemed to know their beer. Given the lack of food, I asked for directions to another pub, Cornubia, which were freely given. Nice friendly pub.

Cornubia

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A hidden gem tucked away behind offices on Temple Street. A few tables on decking outside this single roomed pub – again, L shaped. Some quirky items dotted about, including what looked like an empty parrot cage! Friendly staff again. I was faced with a fine choice of beers, including 3 from Fyne in Scotland. I chose a Fyne Maverick, a dark bitter at 4.2% abv. Nice and bitter without being as assertively hopped as the Jarls and Avalanches. Slightly maltier than I expected, but quite refreshing for a dark beer! Good eclectic tunage in here, from Lynyrd Skynyrd, through Sly Stone to The Carpenters!

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(They may have sold an ale or two in Cornubia!)

This is obviously a pub that serves a wide variety of ales. The walls were simply covered in pump clips! Nice hand made pork pie in here too with some “interesting” chutneys. Including one called “Devon inferno”. Well, I had to! (And it was as hot as the pie was meaty!)

Just the one in here, didn’t want to be caught out with the buses again. One more bar to try too! Walking straight back over the river, past the aforementioned Brewdog, a straight line took me back to Rupert Street. Hmmm….where is this pub……what’s with those damned steps……?

I started to remember something from all those years ago. These “Christmas Steps” looked very steep and awfully familiar! I hauled myself up. Facing me was Zero Degrees, a relatively recent Bristol feature, but I turned right along (and up) Colston Street to….

Colston Yard

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Ever had that Deja Vu feeling? I’ve been here before. But it never looked like this! Last time I came here was over 10 years ago. It was then the Smiles’ Brewery Tap and a much smaller pub. Now, it’s owned by the equally local Butcombe Brewery. On approach, I noted the shaded tables outside, I needed to cool down again!

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Quite contemporary inside with olives and reds. Some leather pouffe style seats alongside the regular tables. Without being a multi-roomed affair, there were a few distinctly separated areas within this bar. 5 ales. 3 from Butcombe and two from Everards. With the “when in Rome” maxim to the fore, I went for a Matthew Pale Ale at 3.8% abv. I was glad that I did! Fresh, fruity (Amarillo) and refreshingly hoppy, what a nice light pint!

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Nice food as well. Notwithstanding that my first choices weren’t available, a Vegetarian tapas platter more than did the trick! Some seriously interesting bottles in here with local Wild Beer Co well represented (I picked up an 11% Wildebeest!). On another evening I would have been tempted by a bottle of Alaskan Smoked porter, but, on this occasion, I went for a half of something lighter.

That was the Beach House Pilsner from Old Dominion Brewery of Dover, Delaware in the US of A. Like a cross between Urquell and our very own Black Jack Lager, fruity/floral, golden crisp and refreshing.

Really nice bar this. For which I thank Karen Wickham profusely!

I fancied a relatively early night, so I (sh)ambled toward those “Christmas Steps”…remember, all downhill from here….!

20130709_193538(down, down, down…)

Back next week. Maybe the Meat tapas platter next time!

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

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!

A Day Trip To Stockport – 18/05/2013

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I’m quite nosey me! (Bolton speak!) So when I picked up that Jaz and a group of his colleagues were planning a group tour of Robinsons (henceforth, Robbies) Brewery in Stockport, it set the limited grey matter working. I hadn’t been drinking in Stockport since the mid 80s and this struck me as an ideal opportunity to fill this knowledge gap (at least partly). Jaz made the right noises and I was in!

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Now, this also brought me within the gravitational pull of a certain Mr Jay Krause, Owner, Brewer and all-round hop alchemist at Quantum Brewing – I just had to ask! Didn’t I? Being the ‘good egg’ that he undoubtedly is, he invited Jaz & myself round. Whoo-Hoo! Two breweries in one day. Bargain!

So, I find myself on the train (for a change) and (meeting Jaz at Piccadilly) we set off on the 11:15 Virgin train to London Euston and a mere 10 minutes later, we’re walking up Wellington Road. Bugger me, but that is a hell of a gradient! It’s hardly the Col de la Madeleine, but I was bloody knackered before it levelled off on Hempshaw Lane where the aforementioned Mr Krause weaves his magic.

Let’s say, I struggled to find Quantum, initially! Then I remembered something Jay said about location, retraced my steps and lo! There be casks!

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(Anyone for beer barrel Jenga?)

Jay started this operation in 2011 and has quickly gained a reputation for full flavoured beers with often unusual ingredients – his Blood Orange Pale Ale has entered into legend! (And was the first beer Jaz asked about!) I first saw him at the Leeds International Beer Fest last year behind the bar and enjoyed his Stout hugely. Since then, I’ve had several of his beers and they have all been excellent, in particular his Keyworths Early using an old hop variety that could well make a comeback.

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(LtoR – Hot Liquor Tank and Copper)

Anyhoo! Located in an industrial unit off Hempshaw Lane, just outside (and UPHILL of) Stockport centre, Jay is unmistakably a one man band. I fail to comprehend how I can find so much of his beer in the Manchester area, with the size of his operation. He looks like a hell of an engineer having adapted his own mash tun to suit his own needs. 

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(Self built Mash Tun!)

He dispenses his beer in a variety of formats, Cask, KeyKeg and bottle. The bottles aren’t bottle conditioned, which will certainly help when it comes to chilling them slightly!

A 5 Bbl plant means that he can brew up to 1440 pints per brew, that’s 20 9 gallon firkins (cask) or nearly 1500 bottles! It’s good to hear that he’s making it pay, though he’s some distance off being a ‘beer baron’! This is his day job and he makes it pay by producing excellent beer which is showcased in some of Manchester’s best bars (Port Street, Joshua Brooks and Font, to name but 3!)

I was intrigued to see some of his wooden casks used for some specials. Smoked Porter aged in Caol Ila whisky cask anyone? (Trust me to miss THAT one!)

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As mentioned earlier, he produces a wide variety of tasty beers. In that vein, he allowed Jaz and myself to sample a Saison that is about to be released into ‘the wild’. This is one lovely beer! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with a lovely fruitiness and dry finish. This may be making its way in the world this week. Jaz & I both loved it. The knowledge that it’ll be served in Joshua Brooks was gratefully received. (James’ll tip us the wink, won’t you?)

As stated, Jay’s is a small, true Micro Brewery and he does all the key tasks himself, even down to the bottling. He’s one busy boy and we were really grateful that he took time out to chat with us and answer my idiot novice questions with good grace and a smile! (And a HUGE thanks for the CCC and American Amber! Reviewed soon – as long as Jaz doesn’t drink them first – they’re stored at his flat!)

A genuinely nice bloke running a human scale brewing operation. Look out for his beers, you will NOT be disappointed! (A collaboration brew is in the offing with Allgates, Jay, Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound – Two top brewers and two fables tasters – I may even sit in the bleachers and watch the fun! Watch this space, it’s gonna be superb!)

Now, for the polar opposite?

But first, we had a bit of time to spare before our 13:30 appointment at the brewing behemoth that is Robinsons, so we strolled along to the market place to have a look at the High Peak Beer Co.

I didn’t expect such a small unit! But a superb selection of beers from near and far. Had a bit of chat with (who I presume to be) the owner. Certainly knows his beer this man! Aims to snaffle himself a pub in the peak within the next 5 years with maybe a brew plant out the back. I like it! Said he’d be looking at a bit of a camping facility as well. I’m there already! Picked myself up a bottle of Axe Edge by Buxton Brewery. A cheery wave and we were off to meet our fellow beer tourists in the local Wetherspoons)

Had a nice pint of GWB Meerkat Mild here. Big ol’ Spoons, huge floor area, but 3 milds on, including George Wrights and Titanic. More later.

A short walk from Wetherspoons and we find ourselves at…..

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(Shiny new Visitors centre!)

We were given a few minutes to gather ourselves together (and, no doubt, peruse purchasing opportunities!)

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20130518_133834(Putting the cart before the – absent – horse!)

The Visitor Centre is fairly new. Lots of interactive displays around the walls with an accent on the history and heritage of the brewery. Lots of merchandise for sale from chutneys to t-shirts with most of Robbies bottled beer available to purchase, including the new “collaboration” beer with Iron Maiden, Trooper, which featured prominently as you would expect.

We were gathered together by our tour guide and shown the highways and byways of this, quite large, brewery.

Being a ‘tower’ type brewery (the process flows down with gravity!), there were a LOT of steps. If you have fitness issues (like me!) be prepared for recovery time!

There was a big accent on a recent major brewery refurb, with lots of new, efficient, kit being bought from Germany at great expense. Bright and shiny it was indeed. Industrial. This is a big business. They retained examples of most of the old kit too, which made for a nice contrast, starting at the old and new grist mills (grain grinders). Here we were shown samples of the various malts and encouraged to taste. I loved the bitter coffee flavours of the chocolate malt (surprised?)

We were also encouraged to smell sample a variety of hops. In Robbies case, mostly British with one jar of US (Amarillo). Robbies predominantly use Goldings in their beers.

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(Grist to the mill!)

The Mash Tun and Lauter Tun were next and from this point, you get an idea of the sheer huge scale of this operation. These vessels are HUGE, like icebergs, you only see what’s on the surface.

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(Old & New)

Onward to the brewing vessel (or Copper) where the hops are added to impart their aromas and bitter characteristics. Again, think of icebergs!

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Via the Hop Back room (where the spent hops are removed – like the spent grains at other stages – and sent to farms for animal feed) we were taken to the fermenting vessels. Robbies have loads of FVs and again, they are HUGE! I had to take snaps of working FVs and empty to give you the scale. The FV is where the yeast comes to the party, shakes its booty and turns all those lovely sugars into even lovelier alcohol. There were some gorgeous fruity smells in here with maybe 4 FVs at work. (Robbies also have separate vessels used to brew Fentimans botanic drinks)

20130518_144655(The yeast having a party. Check out the patterns!)

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(An empty FV. That must be 15ft deep!!! That’s a whole lot of happy juice!)

With a quick peep into a Control Room, which looked like the tidiest, cleanest office you’ll EVER work in, we were pretty much done. This is a high-tech, leaner, more environmentally friendly operation than ever.

Then were off to the bar to spend our “tokens”, each of which equated to a 1/3rd of beer. I chose a 1/3rd each of Uncle Sams pale ale, Trooper (The Iron Maiden beer) and Fredericks on keg at 6.5%. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly struck by any of them. A slight preference for the Uncle Sams which was reasonably hoppy and bitter. The Trooper was a maltier brew and fine for what it is. The Fredericks was overly cold and, for 6.5%, I didn’t get much at all.

The bar/restaurant area was quite a nice space. If open to the public (aside from tours) this could be a nice little earner. The beer is in good nick (as you would expect) and the food (limited to sandwiches today) looked quite good.

A couple of observations –

1. This a slick tour around a grand old institution which has been brought bang up to date. The tour is pretty much pitched at the curious novice with little or no knowledge. For that market, it is a fabulous lesson in the chemistry of beer. I spoke to a couple of people afterwards who found it really informative. For me (a relative novice with a modicum of knowledge), I would have liked more detail. For one thing, I asked a basic question about the cost of the refurb. The guide didn’t have the answer to hand. Things like that should be standard. With just a little extra polish, what was quite a good tour, could be a lot better.

2. Robbies are obviously on the rise, both nationally and internationally. The hook up with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden is VERY astute. This could help Robbies penetrate abroad with that HUGE Iron Maiden fan base and also into live music venues. There has been a big push with Trooper and in all likelihood, it will pay off. Massively.

Moving onwards and (literally) upwards, we popped back into the Spoons to meet up with some more people and (after a nice pint of George Wrights Mild & a sour pint of Titanic Mild – taken off on mentioning!) we were off to….

The Crown

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(A Stockport Institution)

A lovely old pub. Lots of leather and wood inside with a vast number of handpumps (too many to count!), I plumped for a pint of Millstone Stout and we eventually settled our, now enlarged group into the room to the right of the bar – where lurked two handpulls dedicated to real cider.

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(rear room)

The Millstone Stout at 4.5% was lovely. Creamy full texture, slight coffee in that nice roasted flavour with a dry finish. A really good stout. and just what was needed.

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(Nice & busy on a Saturday afternoon!)

The consensus was to move on at this point. So that’s what we did!

The Magnet

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Another pub after my own heart. Multi-roomed with a plethora of handpulls. Busy again with chatter the order of the day (as well as Tittertons Pork Pies!). Well behaved dogs allowed in as well, which was a nice touch. Busy at the bar, I plumped for a BlackJack Canasta Mild at 3.8% abv. Dark, buttery roasted aroma with a nice texture, lots of roasted malt flavour with a nice dry finish.

20130518_173826(Busy bar – lots of handpulls!)

Ina slightly lower level was a pool table, where we settled our rabble down to a game of killer. I lost (as you would expect!). The pub has a lot going for it, lots of good beer and choice of rooms with different atmospheres. The only slight issue I had, was there was a little wear and tear showing, especially with the plaster work. I wonder if the money is available to do this work? Not to take away too much from what is an excellent boozer.

We stayed for one more here, so I had an Oakham beer. Sock Monkey at 5% abv. Golden and bright, a citrus grapefruit aroma from what I thought was citra hops, a lovely mouthful of biscuity sweetness balanced with a grapefruit hoppyness. Typically Oakham, typically excellent. If we hadn’t stayed, I probably wouldn’t have spotted the nice decking area outside!

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(Well. Summer IS on the way. Isn’t it?)

Back to Manchester on Northern Rails’ finest. A quick snack from Sainsbury in Piccadilly station and off to a pub I’ve not been to in yonks!

The Bulls Head

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Judging by the beer selection, this is a Marstons pub. Fortunately for me, Jaz had chosen wisely and got me a pint of Marstons Single Hop Amarillo at 4% abv. Pale, gold and with abundant fruity hop aroma. Nice and refreshing. 2nd Single hop Marstons I’ve had recently. Enjoyed both.

Last time I came in, the pub was two roomed. Now it’s one open space with the large bar to the rear. Nice leaded windows, muted dark colours, reds and browns, quite warm feeling. Nice slightly elevated are to the front with (what looked like) a real fire range.

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It was here that the group split up. Some for home, some for food and some (guess who?) for Joshua Brooks! (Via Jaz flat to drop bottles off – amazed they got back!)

Joshua Brooks

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The magnet that pulled us in was the Baby Belgian by Offbeat Brewery. At 8% I bottled it (not literally – I’d have spilt some!), the indefatigable Jaz went that way, I went for the Last Porter Call by Titanic. Fruity, very fruity. Damsons or plums. Not much discernable roasty stuff going on. But then, it WAS late in the day! A nice beer at 4.9%.

Oakham Brewery Bishops Farewell was next. 2 Oakham in one day. Yay! Again, pale, hoppy and balanced with sweet biscuit malt. Another Oakham, another excellent pale bitter brew!

One more for my baby and one for the road. The baby in question, being another Baby Belgian for Jaz the Indefatigable (now looking rather fatigued!), the one for the road being Obsidian black IPA by Hop Studio from York. As far as the stuff in bars goes, the beer of the day. Both citrus AND coffee on the nose with bitter hops in the mouth and a slightly bitter coffee in the aftertaste. REALLY good this!

I know what to expect from Joshua Brooks (as should you, by now!) Tonight was fairly busy again, with a few coming in just before I left, for a beer prior to going downstairs to the club. More excellent beer.

At this point, I had to dash for my chariot. Past lots of young things on their way to JBs

An excellent day out, finished off nicely. The Old parts of Stockport are actually rather pretty, nice town. Hope to be back soon to explore more.

Beer of the day. Unfair really, but it was the taste of Saison from Quantum. Lovely. In the pubs it was Obsidian by Hop Studio. An excellent Black IPA. Last beer of the evening as well. How weird is that!

On that note….If you, like I, are at the BlackJack MTB at Port Street on Monday, say hello! If not….’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales April 2013

I’ve quite enjoyed this month. A quick visit to Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales at the end of March, helped to replenish my supplies with some excellent beers from Yorkshire (See below!) and a ‘spur of the moment’ visit to Booths – at the end of the month –  revealed a few beers I haven’t seen in supermarkets over here before – at great value. Really pleasing. I hope in May to pop to Snaith again as well as nipping over to Ossett to Bier Huis (need some more Green Goddess by Ilkley – again, see below).

I haven’t anticipated my visits down the A1 to my out-laws as much in many a year!

The downside to this month being a chat at my local doctors surgery.

Nurse : “Your cholesterol is high, your blood pressure is high and you are overweight. What is your diet like?”

BM “Not brilliant, eat a lot of good stuff but a lot of junk”

Nurse “What about your alcohol consumption?”

BM “Can we go back to that diet again!”

Well. What do you think I’m going to do? Write a blog about mineral water and decaffeinated tea???

Anyway, back to that most historically healthy of drinks. Beer!

You known how this works. I tell you about the beer, how it tasted (to me), where I bought it from and how much it cost. Needless to say, I enjoyed them all. As would you, (in all likelihood) if you bought them.

As mentioned earlier, At the end of last month, I detoured the family jalopy off the A1 towards Snaith and Yorkshire Ales. This really is a pretty little shop stocking some superb beers (almost) exclusively from Yorkshire. Adrian & Vicky were their usual friendly selves. Next time, I hope to chat more. However, if they’re as busy as they deserve to be, that could be difficult!

NB : Currently, they are promoting an offer of £5 next day delivery for up to 12 bottles. This reduces to £0 if you order 24. That’s right, FREE. Just saying……

1. Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – Imperial Russian Stout -£3.50 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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(Great label!)

A deep dark coffee aroma on the black beer with a light tan coloured head. The aroma didn’t prepare me for the flavour. Fabulously earthy with bitter chocolate and licorice in the mouth. A lovely warming feel as the beer sank into my eager tummy! A nice bitter aftertaste with (what seemed to me) more than a hint of creme brulee or caramelised banana. Just a bloody good example of this great beer style. YUM!!!

2. Green Goddess by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley) – 5.5% abv – Belgian Green Hop IPA – (500ml) A swap with my mate Jaz for a bottle of Oakham Green Devil IPA – (so £3.50 to me)

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(Dance To The Music!)

Jaz bought this from Beermoth, the boutique beer shop on Tib St in Manchester. I think it was over £5. So, for my £3.50 Green Devil, I got a bit of a bargain! (Not ‘arf!!!)

It is (like Siberia Saison) the product of a collaboration between the beer writer Melissa Cole (I got her excellent book ‘Let Me Tell You About Beer’ for my birthday last week!) and Ilkley brewery from, er…Ilkley. I had the cask conditioned version of this beer at Common in Manchester’s Northern Quarter last November and was suitably impressed. I wondered how the bottled version would fare….

I needn’t have worried! Bottle conditioned, it was lively out of the bottle and poured a deep golden colour. The aroma had that Belgian funk to it with some fresh herbal notes and initially I was reminded slightly of Duvel. However, in my humble…….this is SO much better. The taste? WOW! Break out that bass guitar and give it a damn good slap! More of that Belgian funky stuff going on, so much so, I had to reach for the tunes and slap on some Sly Stone! Some nice resinous hoppy grassy stuff going on courtesy of those fresh green hops. Nice grassy dryness after as well. Easily as good, if not better than when I had it on draught.

I believe they may still have some at Bierhuis in Ossett. Guess who I tweeted before I published this????

3. Stateside IPA by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – IPA – £2.80 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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A lovely gold colour here with a powerful citrus hop aroma, I thought I detected apricot. Hell, what do I know! Given the aroma, I was expecting a punch in the kisser from all those American hops. What I got was a lot more subtle, but damned tasty.

Lots of smooth fruity hop flavour from those Yank hops (Cascade, Magnum, Galena & Summit – for those even nerdier than me!) all that American hop muscle supported by a nice juicy malt backbone. A superbly well-balanced and dangerously drinkable beer. (I’m just about to have another one!)

Saltaire. Brewers of one of my favourite Stouts (Triple Chocoholic). Another brewery yet to make a false step for me. (Gonna try to get over to one of their Saturday sessions later this year – train schedules permitting!)

4. Ponte Carlo by Five Towns Brewing (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.6% abv – Stout – £2.60 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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(Dodgy pic alert!)

A black beer made with the addition of Pontefract cakes (ie : Licorice). This may sound STUPID, but this had a very dark aroma reminiscent of an Imperial Stout, vinous and spicy.

The added licorice REALLY comes through on the back of that roasted malt base. Dry, spicy and oh so bloody moreish. A dry spicy espresso taste as the aftertaste faded. A rally lovely beer (as was their Peculiar with rhubarb and ginger!)

5. Gold by Tatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.8% abv – Golden Ale – £2.19 (500ml) from Booths at Media City, Salford

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Now, back over the Pennines! Obscure from Tatton was my favourite bottle of last year. I still love it. A glorious black beer. I thought it was about time that I tried one of their paler offerings.

Pouring a dark gold colour with a nice lacy white head. A malty aroma with a hint of orange zest. Lovely juicy malt flavours with some toffeeness in there. Nice and smooth mouthful. Some nice hoppy dryness in the finish to give it a really nice balance.

On the back of this, I bought some of their Ruck & Maul porter from Booths last night. Can’t wait!

6. Bon Don Doon by Wilson Potter (Middleton, Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Blonde Ale – £7 for 3 bottles (500ml) – direct from the brewer.

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A lovely pale golden coloured beer. An interesting almost sherbet like aroma from the hops, quite zesty like a sherbet lemon. Smooth in the mouth, nicely balanced with some hoppy flavours I can’t quite pin down. A nice, dry almost grassy aftertaste. Another refreshing beer from this brewer.

Nice to see some of their draught beers around Manchester. I had the In The Black stout in The Salford Arms the other evening which was lovely and smooth. Excellent local brewers.

7. Kala by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6.2% abv – Black IPA – £2.90 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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Back to the east of the Pennines again. This deep ruby almost black beer (trust me, hold it to the light!) has a lovely beige head with a nice – but not overpowering – citrus aroma from the Cascade and Citra hops. A complex combination of flavours here. Citrussy hop combined with something much darker, some bitter chocolate and licorice I thought. With 5 different malts and 6 different hops, you’re certainly getting your moneys worth here!

This beer is simply chock full of flavour and superbly balanced. Full of flavour with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Black IPAs aren’t loved by all, but this is superb. Saltaire, I doff my (metaphorical) cap!

More pub related blather soon!

On that note…….’til next time!

Slainte!

A Toast To An Old Friend 24/04/2013

I went to 6th form college over 30 years ago.Whilst there, I met some great people who went on to become good close friends. Some of us drifted apart through work and geography. Two such people were Martin ‘Doigy’ & Jan Doig. Good people, caring, loving and friendly. And utterly devoted to each other. About two years ago, social media placed us back in contact and we’d shoot the breeze on Facebook (with Doigy) and Twitter (with Jan).

Eventually, an opportunity was engineered to meet up and we did this in The Knott. To my delight, they hadn’t changed. Then living in Cambridgeshire, geographically we were separated, but culturally, we were of a piece. For his sins, Doigy had become an avid beer ‘ticker’ who maintained a meticulous list of the beers he tasted. To my joy, he was also a devotee of “The Dark Side”. Milds, Stouts and Porters were his thing, as they are mine. Doigy also had a love of Northern Soul music, another of my passions. Doigy, Jan & I spent a pleasant couple of hours in The Knott and I made a loose approach to Doigy to come and join Me & Jaz at an upcoming beer festival.

Sadly, we buried Martin on 25/10/2011. He was 47. A good, extremely fit man taken in his prime.

Yesterday would have been his 49th birthday, so along with two of his good friends, Col & Jaz (who knew him far better than I) we met up on his birthday to toast his life and memory with 3 particular bottled beers and to visit two Manchester pubs that he would’ve adored.

doigy spud jan jc(Doigy wasn’t ALWAYS that small! Pic – courtesy of Bob The Chiropodist)

Colin & I started our deliberations a touch earlier, with a beer Doigy would’ve enjoyed. In The Black from Wilson Potter at The Salford Arms. This is the first time that I’ve had this 4.2% stout in ‘the wild’. It didn’t disappoint. Smooth creamy and lovely mocha ish flavours.

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(In The Black indeed!)

He keeps a good pint does Tom. Great to see their beer in Manchester now. A swift pint of another beer from another of my favourite brewers, Dainty Blonde by Privateer. Pale, delicately floral with a hint of elderflower. Really refreshing. Now we had to move on. We said a hasty farewell to Tom and headed to Jaz’s bachelor pad!

The most abiding legend about Doigy was The Toast Mountain. He simply loved his toast. This love was used as a jump off point for some home brewing friends to create a beer in his honour. The obvious name for this beer (a stout, of course!) was ‘Doigys Toast‘. It was therefore most appropriate that this should be the first beer of the evening.

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(‘Doigys Toast‘. A Toast to the Toastmeister!)

Made by a home brewer noted as “Bradys Brews”,rather scarily there is no %abv noted, but a very dark brown to black beer came out of the bottle with abundant cream coloured, but quickly dissipating head. This one scared me, because I was worried, that having had it for so long in storage, it would be like Sarsons. Pleased to say that it was anything but! A deep dark aroma of licorice and spice, a thin texture, but more licorice in the mouth and a chocolate tinge. Just a little. Tasted a touch ‘yeasty’ toward the end, but all-in-all a decent beer with which to toast a decent man.

We moved on to a beer that Doigy stated was his favourite. Mrs Simpsons Thriller in Vanilla by Brown Cow Brewery 5.1% abv

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(His all-time favourite)

A very dark brown beer. Again, the head quickly vanished. A hint of vanilla in the aroma and (possibly?) treacle. Slightly thin in the mouth, but lovely roasted malt flavours, slight bitterness with a vanilla twist. Not as ‘full-on’ as some vanilla beers, but nice for all that.

Next (and last of the bottles) is Bad Kitty Vanilla Porter by Brass Castle Brewery 5.5% abv

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Doigy would have loved this beer! Black with more than a hint of vanilla, a touch of Bournville chocolate, not TOO bitter but plenty of nice dry vanilla, not too sweet though. The head again dissipated quite quickly, so probably wrong temperature or glassware issues, because, having had this before, lack of head wasn’t previously  problem. Despite that, this is still a damn fine beer. Both of the above were sourced from that excellent shop Yorkshire Ales in Snaith, East Yorkshire.

At this juncture, we went for a short walk to a bar that Doigy would’ve loved. The Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(recycled pic alert!)

Pretty much guaranteed a good pint in here. I was delighted to note that there was still some Citra from Oakham Ales  on, so at 4.2% I dived in. My first time for this beer on draught that I have loved from a distance in bottled version. Loads of citrus from the eponymous hop on a biscuity malt base. Yum! However, Col fancied a swap, so I then got the bonus of a Dark Star Brewing Carafa Jade. A red ale made with German Carafa barley and NZ Pacific Jade hops, this was a spicy zingy beer with lots of citrus hop aroma. Bloody lovely! They know their stuff in here. Good knowledgable bar staff serving excellent beer.

Just the one here, as The Crown & Kettle was calling!

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For my last of this evening, my eyes alighted on Off Kilter Porter by Offbeat Brewery of Crewe. Lovely and creamy black beer with lush choc and coffee in the mouth, maybe a spicy hop touch too. Really smooth and quite quite gorgeous.

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(Off Kilter going down well!)

Colin, having ordered the Rat In The Hat from the Rat Brewery, started to eye my Off Kilter Porter covetously. Being the kind of guy that I am (and in the spirit of the evening!) I swapped. The Cat was a nice fruity hoppy beer, golden in colour with a slight haze, refreshing.

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(Nice selection with 3 from Ossett)

That was that for another evening. Another excellent evening with good beer, good friends and good conversation. And doffing our collective caps to a top bloke.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte Doigy!

Captured! – A Visit To Privateer Beers 26/03/2013

A few month ago, I was introduced to the beer made by Privateer Beers by Tom at The Salford Arms (A great place for good beer!). The beer was dark, seductive and damned tasty. That beer was called Dark Revenge. I had been abducted by The Privateer. Subsequently, I had the Roebuck, a paler beer at another excellent drinkerie, Joshua Brooks. Another excellent beer, brewed in the centre of Manchester, no less! I had to learn more.

After a brief, but fun and informative chat in Sand Bar (where Privateer supply the ‘house beer’ Tarantula) last week with the owner, Matt , I find a tweet inviting myself and (arch-nemesis) Jaz to pop along to the brewery! This was almost Vito Corleone territory…..as if I could refuse…….

20130326_185644(Insert own pirate related pun ….here)

Good grief…it was weather for ‘brass monkeys’. This was amplified by both the walk from Piccadilly and the fact that the streets off Fairfield Street are like wind tunnels. Eventually, we crossed the Mancunian Way onto the other side of the aptly named Temperance Street, where young Matt has his brewing playground!

As well as ironically locating a brewery on Temperance Street (in an arch under the railway line at No 80), one of the great things here, is that Matt built the brewery. Once the building was sourced in early 2012, he spent 6 months or so building the kit, testing etc. Brewed by himself and Peter Curran (ex brewer at Moorhouses of Burnley), the beers were released into the wild in about October 2012 and are served in a number of pubs in the area. They have also travelled as far as Kent, Berkshire, Suffolk, London and the North East. Impressive from a standing start less than 6 months ago! I personally have had the beers in 4 bars in the area and they have been uniformly superb. This makes my ‘Drink Local’ philosophy a joy!

All of the engineering, plumbing etc is his handiwork. And mightily impressive it is too! Five main vessels in here, the hot liquor tank and mash tun (where the malted barley is steeped in hot liquor to make the sugary stuff – wort), which then goes to the ‘copper’ (brewing vessel – where the hops impart their distinct aromas and flavours) and two fermenting vessels (where the yeast gets to play and make the beer!)

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(Hot Liquor – water – Tank & Mash Tun)

The copper is 6 1/2 Bbl (beer barrels – 1 = 36 Gallons), which means that each ‘brew’ can be as much as nearly 1900 pints. Breaking this down, this means that they can produce 26 x 9 gallon firkins (the cask that goes to the pubs) for each brew. Each brew is transferred from the copper to the Fermenting Vessels (FVs) where the yeast does its job – sometimes TOO vigorously!

20130326_190057(The Copper and 2 FVs – Those glasses didn’t stay empty for long!)

Once you include the empty casks and those that are filled and ready to move, you soon learn that they make the most out of this small space. The space above the office is used to store hops and empty casks. There is a small room to the right of the cooling unit which is used as the malt store. This place is compact and, for the time being, does the job.

Matt (Jervis, the owner) is a very entertaining and convivial host and gave a chat about the beers, a brief history of the brewery and answered some questions whilst showing off his baby – the  brewery itself. His brewing ‘mission’ is to brew tasty beer at a strength no greater than 5% abv. This is admirable at a time when many brewers seem to equate flavour with high strength and massively hopped beers. On occasions, I like those beers too, but mostly I want a beer that is balanced, that I can taste without falling over every second pint. In my experience, this is what Privateer do. And do well.

The beers are also, currently, all cask conditioned. Huzzah!

The current core range consists of Roebuck (an amber brew, nicely hopped with Centennial hops) at 3.8% abv; Dainty Blonde (a pale, blonde beer) at 4.2% abv and Dark Revenge (a strong Mild) at 4.5%. This is augmented by the house beer made for Sand Bar on Grosvenor Street, a 3.5% Mild called Tarantula, which is delicious.

Now. For the beer……..

Matt had tapped two 9s. One of Dainty Blonde and one of a new brew (which will be added to the core range) called Red Duke, a red beer at 4.8% abv. Being there first, myself and Jaz had the pleasure of having the Dainty Blonde to ourselves! A lovely, smooth blonde beer. Well balanced, nicely hopped with Amarillo hops for a nice slightly citrus aroma with a gentle bitterness.

As we finished our Blonde, a number of other guests arrived including Graham and Lin from Bolton CAMRA Branch and a group of local amateur brewers. The conversations started to flow (as did the beer). Then we were introduced to the Red Duke. Matt acknowledged that this wasn’t the reddest of reds, but it was red enough in comparison with the Dainty Blonde.

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(Blonde meets the Red)

The Red Duke is a red/brown beer which has a maltier base that the Blonde. A slightly more complex beer with flavours of toffee and caramel in there nicely offset with the American (Centennial & Amarillo) hops. Jaz enjoyed it and told me that I would too. He wasn’t wrong either (he knows me FAR too well!)

One of the ambitions that Matt has is ‘Vertical Integration’ (my words). Matt has run a pub or two and there is total sense in the quality control afforded by controlling everything from grain to glass. I hope they get themselves a bar soon as I like his philosophy around drinking  and I’d like to see the results.

Other than Graham and Matt (obviously Jaz!), I hadn’t met any of the other people there before. I personally had some excellent and fun chats with a few of the brewers group who knew their beers (and far more than me about how they are made!!!). Good people, who I’m sure I’ll meet again. I would like to try real home brewing at some point, but I think I’d need to extend my house first! (And hide the kit from my darling Atilla!)

Before I realised it, it was 22:50 and I had to get to my chariot (at latest) by 23:40! So a hasty but heartfelt thanks to Matt, a quick cheerio to everyone else and myself, Jaz and Simon (met tonight for first time!) hot footed to Port Street for a quick sleeping draught. I wanted a Stout, but the thought of having to quickly drink a Thornbridge St Petersburg simply terrified me, so ….

Quantum – Keyworths Early. An excellent and slightly complex beer from Mr Krause! Don’t know what the hops are in this but a nice fruity dryness to the finish. Another brewery without a mis-step for me!

Was nice to put some faces to twitter names last night, including seeing David from Sweden late on in Port Street. Unfortunbaately far too late to have a chat due to rushing for the chariot home!

Once again, an excellent evening. Some good beer lubricating some really good chatting. Isn’t this what beer is all about?

Now, when was that lovely T-Shirt being made in XXL, Matt?

Slainte!

Recent Bottle Tastings

Just 3 to point out from recent sampling.

  • Tandle Hill by Wilson Potter 3.9% abv (Direct from the Brewers – £7 for 3 500 ml bottles)

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A golden coloured, bottle conditioned beer with lively carbonation. A floral hoppy aroma. A dry and refreshingly bitter beer with a lingering grassy fresh dry aftertaste. Looking forward to getting some more soon. Superb local brewer. Would LOVE to see their beer on draught in Manchester.

  • Green Devil IPA by Oakham Brewery 6%abv (£3.50 for 660ml from Brewery Tap P.H. in Peterborough)

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I have some friends in Peterborough. My buddy Rob was popping down to see them, so, it felt like an opportunity to source this beer. As it happens, he got the last two from the pub shelves. They themselves were unsure as to next time they’ll get it in. Oakham aren’t even sure about the next time they’ll bottle it!

Anyway, this golden coloured bottle conditioned beer gave out an abundant tropical citrus smell with pineapple and some pink grapefruit. Lovely! Nice, sharp and bitter with some more tropical stuff in the taste, pineapple and grapefruit again upfront. Really smooth with a lingering dry fruitiness. This was like a souped up Citra with extra warming properties. Some complexity in the aftertaste, grassyness and I thought a touch of something darker like a herby licorice. Some peachy too. Bugger it, maybe my senses are shot! A damn fine beer.

  • Dry Stout by Stringers Brewery 4.5% abv (£2.19 for 500ml from Booths at Media City, Salford)

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I can’t believe I’ve never rated this superb stout before! I always grab a couple of bottles of this when I go to Booths, as well as their equally superb IPA.

A carbon black beer with a tan head. A gorgeous earthy dark roasty aroma. Loads of roasted malt flavours with a touch of smokiness and a dry bitter finish. This is one of my favourite bottled stouts. Unfortunately, I’m still yet to have it on draught. I live in hope. If anybody notices this on draught within 20 miles of Bolton, TWEET ME!!!