Rats, Rye & A Huddersfield Legend – A Brewday To Remember – 18/03/2016

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Just to recap, I am a cheeky git. That kind of explains how – when I heard that two of my favourite Yorkshire breweries were collaboRATing on a new beer – I wind up inviting myself along to what is (quite possibly) my favourite pub. Anywhere.

That pub is The Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield. And underneath that pub, lies one of THE most hop forward breweries in the UK. Rat Brewery. And just to ensure that hops would be to the fore, the other brewer was my good friend Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield.

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I took a day off from work. I also had to curb my enthusiasm for the beers at The Smithfield the previous evening, because getting to Huddersfield by train isn’t conducive to a lie in. Trust me.

The beer was to be a Rye IPA. I like Rye beers, but have never brewed with it, so had no idea what to expect of the mash. Or how much digging would be required. But, being by Rat & Five Towns, it was going to be hoppy.

I’d never met Robin before. Robin is the brewer at Rat and brews beers that I instinctively reach for when I see them on a bar. One of my biggest regrets at the first #ISBF was that we didn’t have any Rat beer. Remedied at #ISBF2015. When pale, the beers are hoppy, when dark they are gorgeously roasty. Good beer.

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I made one solitary note on this brewday. It was “Shagging a bag of rye malt”. I had to use it. Didn’t I Robin?

So. 200kg of malt. Including 50kg of rye malt. A LOT of aromatic hops (my hands never smelled so good!). Time to play….

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The mash looked like a Tarka Dhal. Just like a normal Dhal, but a little ‘otter…..

This took a lot of stirring. This was where I became acquainted with the absorbent properties of rye malt.

Near 200kg in a 5bbl plant is a lot of malt. And this beer should certainly have a good backbone to support all of these hops…

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All 14kg (Inc dry hopping) of them! Breaking them up was an aromatic joy!

800g of Admiral went in for Bittering with Cascade, Sorachi & Nelson Sauvin in later additions for flavour and aroma and Citra / Mosaic at flameout. (With a huge amount of Cascade & Citra being dry hopped)

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Transfer to the copper being complete, time for a dig. And WHAT a dig.

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The rye retained an awful lot of liquor, so this felt more like 300kg. It took a lot of digging. But this is where know nothing numpties like me step in. I enjoy digging out, perversely.

It also means that I got the pleasure of adding the hops and steam cleaning my face…. But the smell was worth the scalding….

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At each addition, the smells were beautiful, culminating in the final – flameout – addition of Citra and Mosaic. Holy. Mother. Of…… Stunning. Simply glorious aromas. More than worth the dig.

Welcome to “Rat Out”. A 5.8% Rye IPA. I can’t wait to try it at the East West Beer Festival in May!

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(Supervising Rats)

With that final hop addition, Robin let myself and Malcolm flee the nest and let us had upstairs into the pub. Refreshment was required, this was hot work.

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It would have been rude NOT to sample all 3! And, given that I started with a pint of King Rat (IPA at 5.6%) and a Rat Against The Machine (7% big hoppy IPA), that 4% White Rat more than held its own. A superb tasty session beer.

This was an excellent fun brew day. With stories swapped and chuckling a plenty. I’m very grateful that I was allowed into the Rat lair by Robin. But, after all that, there was  a further, ulterior motive for coming by train.

A Huddersfield Legend.

So Robin, Malcolm & I went for a walk.

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The Star Inn is a tremendous pub in its own right. Featuring, on any given day, a plethora of excellent ales. But, twice a year, it hosts a beer festival.

People I respect, like the Arch Nemesis and Des, have regaled me with tales of this beer festival. Some of my Yorkshire pals have tried to get me over for a couple of years now. So it felt like a privilege to walk in. And I was excited.

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Another of the reasons that I had to come was THIS beer. From the moment that Malcolm told me he was going to brew an IPA with Seville oranges, I knew I had to have it on draught.

“Could I have a pint of Alcazar please?”

“A pint?”

OK. It WAS 7.8%. But I’d earned this pleasure. And a pleasure it was. Big and deeply juicy oranges complemented by massive hopping. Yum. Just yum.

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It’s a lovely old pub is The Star. And it attracts drinkers from all over the North and beyond for these legendary festivals.

It was an utter pleasure (as always) to chat with Charlie (aka The Ale Ambler – a member of Yorkshire’s mighty “A Swift One” blogging collective) a man who has probably forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.

It was also a delight (as usual) to chat with those lovely ladies from Mallinsons (Elaine & Tara) and indulge in a bit of plotting. Of which all shall be revealed at the appropriate time….

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As well as the chatting, there were some stunning beers, from Mallinsons (Maverick), Wild Weather (a cracking Single hopped Sorachi Pale) and Neptune (the luscious Abyss Oatmeal Stout), there was also some gorgeous grub too….

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The Thai Green Curry Chicken was superb. But after that, it time for some sad goodbyes. I hated leaving. I really wanted to stay.

This beer festival is the best pub Festival I’ve been to. By a distance. It helps that it is hosted in a simply gorgeous pub, the likes of which Manchester lacks.

Next time, I’m booking a hotel for the night.

Thank you to Robin, Paul Spencer (Ossett head brewer – for extending the invite), to Malcolm – of course (the beer will feature at the cracking East West Festival) and everyone at The Star.

A great brewday. An iconic pub. And a legendary beer festival. A day I won’t forget.

I love Huddersfield.

Liverpool – Heart & Soul – 27/02/2016

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“Walking up to me expecting, walking up to me expecting words
It happens all the time

Present company excepted, present company accept the worst
It happens every night

Present company excluded every time.
Present company, the best that you can find…….

Present company excluded in every way. Present company, makes me want to stay.”

(“Dance Yourself Clean” – LCD Soundsystem)

(For Les & Lee)

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Ever had that moment when you realise that you’ve actually scheduled two fabulous events in consecutive days? Well. That.

The evening before, Atilla & her lesser half were invited to Michelle Kelsall’s 40th birthday bash at Offbeat Brewery. which, unbeknown to most (until 6 hours before) turned into a wedding do as Michelle and her partner David Shipman got married that morning….It was a proper party. And there was a specially brewed DIPA by David (Otherton Ales).

And it got messy. Very messy…. I should have listened to Atilla when she said “slow down”……I REALLY needed that coffee when she dropped me at Oxford Rd. I felt hideous. But I wasn’t going to miss what we did yesterday for the world.

You see, I’d had a standing invitation from two lovely beer people (Julie & Les O’Grady) to have a stroll with them around their beloved city.

Now, being a Salford lad, I need to let you into a little secret.

I adore Liverpool.

Always have. And, as I discovered 4 years ago, it’s in my blood. Back in the early 1800s, my Dad’s maternal ancestors lived in Toxteth as immigrants from Northern Ireland. When I learned that, everything about my feelings for Liverpool clicked into place. They made sense.

So. I’m on a train. With a hangover. Listening to LCD Soundsystem. Loudly. Counter intuitive, I know, but it felt right.

“We’ll meet you by the Ken Dodd statue”

Fortunately for me (bat blind) I met Lee (good people) off the platform. And HIS eyesight was working!

I met Les & Julie through Twitter and a mutual love of beer and music. They also hold the “distinction” of buying the first two tickets that we sold in 2014 for The Independent Salford Beer Festival. They are good people. And they know their Liverpool pubs and bars. Our spirit guides for the day ahead.

Our? That’s because we had those beery princes @BeerFinderGeneral, @Deeekos & @Leggywolf with us. Companions of the highest order.

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The Dispensary (87 Renshaw St, Liverpool, L1 2SP)

The first port in my storm. Ruff would do justice to how I felt at this stage. Until I got here. It lifted my spirits

Open planned, with a long wooden bar and an almost separate space at the back. \this is one lovely pub. Boosted even further by having 3 George Wright beers on. Not seen any for a while from this St Helens firm. Mild too! I needed something gentle to ease myself into that swing of things. Smooth, creamy and roasted malty. The oracle was worked..

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Isn’t that one lovely bar? Great friendly service in here too (as I was to find in all the places we visited. It obviously helps to have guides who have “form” locally!

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We just got chatting. About everything and nothing. It didn’t matter. Great beer, fabulous pub and good people. What else do you need?

It was here that @Deeekos joined our happy band. And by that point, the revitalising effects of that first pint were livening me up. I was ready for the day ahead.

The “Dizzy” was a great start.

Next, a walk down Renshaw St, onto Leece St and a left onto Roscoe St….

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The Roscoe Head (24 Roscoe St, Liverpool L1 2SX)

I’m always very wary of places that get lauded to hell. The expectations get raised to heights that can’t possibly be matched by the reality. But here, they were surpassed. It deserves every single plaudit it receives.

A multi-roomed pub in the truest sense, with 4 distinct drinking areas and one of the dinkiest rooms it has ever been my pleasure to drink in. Beautiful tiled floors. Masses of dark wood. This place has a soul. The kind that you simply don’t find everyday.

And it WAS a pleasure to drink here. Especially as the barmaid lost no time in latching onto my Manc tones and proceeded to take the piss out of me. My kind of pub this!

An Offbeat beer on? I broke my “when in Rome” rule to celebrate Michelle & David’s honeymoon. Hinkey Herkulean Hopper was that beer, lovely and fruity. We simply don’t see Michelle’s beers in Manchester. Some pubs need to seriously step up and right that egregious wrong! This pub did.

I get why this pub is so loved. It looks untampered with. Like, just because it’s just off the main Renshaw Street, it has been forgotten about. It’s certainly a gem of a place.

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To lose this pub for a supermarket plot would be bordering on criminal. I’m glad that (at least for the time being) the pub looks like it will continue. As the only pub in the North West to be in each edition of the Good Beer Guide and as an utter gem, you need to visit to appreciate it truly.

Roscoe Bar

Do it.

Next, turn right out of the pub, cross Leece St and straight along Roscoe St past the “Bombed Out Church”…..

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(Anything wrong with this picture?)

The Grapes (60 Roscoe Street, Liverpool, L1 9DW)

A short walk. To what – to me at least – felt like a “local” in the middle of the city. The place is open plan with an L-shaped bar and the room shaping around it with an area to the rear of the bar which had the feel of a different room.

Nice outdoor space to this pub which no doubt gets rammed in the warmer months, but, even as upholstered as I am, we stayed indoors and chatted. And chatted. And….

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The first of the pubs with beers from Liverpool micros here. With some trying the Liverpool Organic Pilsner, nice light, refreshing and lightly fruity in the way of a good Czech, but my eye was on a beer I had only had in bottle a couple of evenings earlier. And, as I was stood with mine host, the brewer, I thought “you know”…

The beer was “Abyss” Oatmeal Stout by Neptune Brewery and it was one of my two three beers of the day. Smooth and creamy as you would expect an Oatmeal Stout, it started with chocolate and coffee notes, but the further down the glass I got, a spicy licorice note became increasingly prominent. A delight. As was this warm and friendly boozer – a bit of a theme on the day that……

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(You’ve simply GOT TO have a “Super Lamb Banana”!)

So…Next we went down Knight St to Berry St and then onto Seel St to…

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Kazimier Garden (32, Seel St, Liverpool, L1 4BH)

It is quite safe to say that there is certainly nothing quite like this in Manchester! This is a performance and art space that is (mostly) open to the elements. It feels bohemian and home-made in construction and all the better for its uniqueness!

Sweet baby Jesus…..They’ve even had the legend that is Lee “Scratch” Perry play here….Jeff, you missed out buddy!

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A big griddle was in play for BBQ stuff, but beer was still in play here. The bar had 3 on cask from Liverpool Craft (and some decent craft keg), I plumped for a Rye Pale which ticked all of the required boxes.

I also started to fall in love with Julie’s impersonation of Larry Grayson by this point…….

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(View from upstairs)

I was advance warned that I’d like this place. It’s quirky as hell and has an individual charm with almost a “community” feel to it. It works. If you like something different, it’s an essential visit.

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(Obligatory historic beer brand shot!)

From here, we walked down David Lewis St and Campbell St then across Duke St. To the next (to say the least) damn quirky pub!

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Liverpool One Bridewell (1 Campbell Square, Argyle Street, Liverpool, L1 5FB)

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Fancy like drinking in a real 1850s (as Shane McGowan put it so sweetly) “drunk tank”? Yup. If you haven’t been before, this pub is in a converted gaol! To think, that I’m drinking in a place where some of the greatest music of the 80s may have been conceived? Frankie, Iain McNabb and The Icicle Works, The Pale Fountains (please say that “Thank You” was written here?), The La’s all hung out in this very building when it was a performance space/recording studios.

The main bar area is “relatively” conventional. Then you go down the corridor and realise that the former cells have been retained and converted into small drinking booths!

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Again, there’s nowt like this in Mancunia. A decent selection from local Micros in here too. Nice pint of “Make Scouse Not War“, again by Neptune, in here. I’d kind of sworn that I’d be drinking halves, but got carried away in conversation punctuated by some very humourous “door shutting” (you had to be there I suppose!). Heidi Fleiss was getting a bit parky to say the least…..

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The pubs/bars were getting progressively busier as we went along. Chatted with one or two of the friendly locals too, again, a bit of a running theme. Friendly pubs….

Shamefully, we had a schedule to keep to….So, down Forrest St, left onto the main St James’ St then right onto Cornhill for our next meeting with a classic…

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The Baltic Fleet (33a Wapping, Liverpool, L1 8DQ)

A pub that I’d driven past on hundreds of occasions, had heard so much about, but never been in. Now rectified.

Baltic Bar

The home of the Wapping Brewery (downstairs in the cellar), this mid 19th century boozer – our furthest spot on the journey – was more than worth the walk. Bright, lovely bar, fabulous vaulted ceilings, toilets upstairs accessed by a sweeping “cruise liner” style stairway….

Again, a goodly few local beers here. I went for a Melwood Brewery Derby Stout, not as rich as I would like, but smooth and roasty flavours with chocolate Toffo (remember them?) being in there.

Baltic Backroom

Busy as a chippy, again, rightly so. I should have asked to see the “secret tunnels” to the Docks that run under the pub…. But not the 4 ghosts that live there…….

Right then. We still had a timetable to keep to, so, with the O’Grady whips a-cracking, back up Cornhill, right along Hurst St, then left up Sparling St to St James’ St, Right onto Jamaica ST then 2nd right on to Kitchen St….

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Black Lodge Brewing Taphouse (4 Kitchen St, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, L1 0AN)

More familiar territory here with a warehouse conversion into a bar/micro brewery. For this particular Manc, this had a feeling that would slot right into the NQ and absolutely thrive.

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Decor wise, minimalist earth tones. Great tunes and (as we were to find – due to Les & Julie ordering ahead!) superb food.

The brew kit is almost Pico in size and – on occasion – they brew whilst open. But not today. Today was for selling it. Bar was (and I could stand corrected) all keg and mostly brewed on the premises with a smattering of guests. I had their own Black Lodge BrewingBlack Rye. Right up there with the best three along with the Neptune Abyss (there’s one more to come….!), sharply hoppy, resinous with a bit of peppery Rye. A truly excellent beer – I wonder if I could persuade them for Salford…….?

Black Lodge Meats

(Thank you Julie & Les – Next time, a Marble Cheeseboard on me – & a Manchester Egg or two…)

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(I told you it was tiny….)

It’s an easy thing to say that there were no low points on this day. But this place impressed all 4 of the Mancs. Oh that platter was good! I won’t mention my utter shame in having an entire portion of Black Pudding Sausage Roll shall I? Best not eh? Nor the gooey Scotch Egg……

Now came the furthest walk. And you’ll have to figure your own route, because I’m damned if I remember…..

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The 23 Club (Basement of The Clove Hitch – 23 Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BQ)

The final stop. One hell of a walk. But SO worth it.

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This place is so tiny! But I can totally get why Les & Julie would come here so much. It’s like the set of Cheers, but with a Scouse accent instead of Boston! People just knew each other. Really friendly barmaid and some great beer. Now, there IS apparently some cask beer upstairs in the restaurant, downstairs being keg only. But was that REALLY 16 taps?

Just away from the bar area is a seating section and just past the stairs back up, there is another small room, but I can see this place getting seriously rammed. It’s THAT good and THAT tiny!

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AND they manage to cram in a little bottle store too! It was late in the day. I needed something different. Something to clear the fog on my tastebuds. I followed Les like a sheep follows a collie. Tsatsiki Sour by Mad Hatter. One of my 5 a day in a glass. And it just got better and better as it went down. I’ve had some good stuff from MH, but this is the best.

And I could see how people fall in love with this place. It reminded me of Atilla – small, but perfectly formed.

My Manc accomplices were all for staying, but I was on a fixed train at 20:16 and had to dash.

I can’t thank Les & Julie enough. For the chat, the beer, the laughter and their unerring taste in where to go – my feet were cut to shreds (new boots….), but that was a small price to pay to walk around one of my favourite cities. There’s just something about it that grabs me. It’s a place full of soul.

With pubs and bars to match.

I tip my hat.

Bottled Beers – July 2015 – Pt 3

With things just starting to get serious with regard to The Independent Salford Beer Festival, this blog will be entering a substantially quieter period soon, whilst I get on with arrangements for St. Sebastians in October (Tickets out in 5 days exactly!)

So, with one or two other posts in the pipeline, it might be time to give you a break from Beers Manchester…… But for now, while there are great bottles to drink, I’ll tell you about them in my waffling “prose”.

“Darkness, you are my priestess…..”

(A pint at ISBF from me for the first to give me that song & artist in the comments section below! No later than Midnight 27/07/2015)

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1. TobaTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6% abv – Oatmeal Stout – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Properly black beer. Cream head. Chocolate aroma with background coffee note. My kind of beer.

Nice and full creamy texture to this, my first bottle from this new Manchester brewer. Silky smooth and quite creamy, the first flavour to mind is a bitter chocolate, biting and dry. Then an earthiness that I can’t quite nail, but which, allied to a lovely dry bitterness works really well and makes this an excellent Stout. As I said, my kind of beer.

That earthy dryness remains in the finish where a coffee note comes through, again slightly bitter. Beautifully dry creamy lush Stout this.

And another brewer coming to a beer festival near you…..

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2. Sharks Against SurfersHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, St Wales) – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another ultra Pale Ale, all light golden hue and sharp lemony and grapefruit aromas leaping from its lacy white foamy collar.

This is really a surprise. I was expecting a brutal hop mouth battering. Yes it’s fruity, with apricot and orange jelly sweets on a light biscuity base. Really juicy, with that juicy fun chased off by a decent wallop of bitterness – full, but not brutal.

Nice piney finish mingled in with some lingering fruit in the aftertaste.

I would say that this medium to light bodied beer drinks quite lighter than its abv. This is a bloody good mid abv beer. And, for me, hugely sessionable.

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3. Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 8.5% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer time! – All words below are in no way influenced by the fact that I helped to brew this. OK, well….did some shovelling and stirring and shit. OK?

Black. Always a good start with an Impy. Totally black. Like tar. Dark brown collar of creamy foam and a spicy nose tingling aroma with licorice and red wine in the vanguard.

Oh yes indeed! This full-bodied beauty is lovely and unctuously creamy and rich. Vinous, with a rich nuttiness is the first sensation to hit the tongue, the next is as the beer first slips down, quite a bitter coffee taste. Such a mouthful of lovely darkness!

The finish is spicy, lingering hints of red wine, a touch of sour with more bitter espresso, luscious.

And even though I helped to brew it, there is no bias here. This is lush!

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4. Hare of DarknessMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – 7% abv – Black IPA – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Can’t make up my mind about this! Initial dark chocolate aroma on this black beer made me think of a Stout. But there is something more fruity and spicy on the aroma coming out of the thick cream coloured head which tells me it’s a Black IPA. Intriguing.

Full bodied and really creamy smooth. Oh this is SOOOOO good! Bitter chocolate allied to masses of tingling citrus and big hoppage. Oh yes. Bitter coffee too in the swallow and second mouthful. Really earthy. And again, just so smooth.

A little licorice note too. So good. Really dry and hoppy finish to this oxymoron, with a big resinous aftertaste. Great beer this.

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5. Pride & JoyVocation Brewery (Hebden Bridge) – 5.3% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Deep golden / Amber coloured beer with a light white lacey foam head and a huge aroma flying out full of mango, peach and orange zest. Full of promise!

Medium bodied, with decent carbonation, this is fruity Sod! The Mango is the heavyweight here, full and really juicy & tangy. Nectarine and peach too, a tropical fruit bowl of a beer this, delivering in spades on the promise of that aroma.

Really smooth texture to this making it feel quite sessionable. Dangerously so. The finish is really dry with big piney resins in the aftertaste providing a big finish.

Superb.

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6. Crafty RamRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom)- 4.6% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Great Ale Year (Bolton)

An American Pale Ale with fennel eh? Golden beer with a lasting soft white head and…  Oh yes…. There it is…. Fennel. That unmistakable light aniseed fragrance in the aroma.

Oh wow. This is really unusual, but REALLY good! The fennel – with its light anise note – is there, but merges with fruity hoppage and creates a new flavour, something akin to an orangey boiled sweet. Incredibly moreish and very tasty.

Medium bodied and really smooth, the second mouthful brings a touch of apricot to the party and leads to a fruity, mouth-watering finish with a spicy hoppy aftertaste. Lovely stuff. (And another coming to ISBF 2015 with a VERY special beer!)

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7. Three Hop HareFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Straw gold coloured Pale Ale with a light white head and a big citrus aroma full of grapefruit and lemon pith.

What. A. Tart. And. Sharp. Beer. This is full of tart citrus with the aforementioned grapefruit slightly trumped by the lemon. Really juicy and sharp. Gooseberry too. Nelson Sauvin perhaps? Really refreshing beer this, light and VERY sessionable…

This light to medium bodied cracker is dry in the finish, resinous and still sharp in the aftertaste.. Simply a superb Pale Ale. Another from the “Northern Magician”! Rapidly becoming my favourite brewery.

7 belters there! Next post may be about a shop I found in Newark this weekend and the local beers therein.

But, until then….

Slainte!

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival – Pt 2 – 24/01/2014

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“My face is like an old film, shaky
There’s nothing through my window, oh my
No photo by my bedside, black, white
No image in my mirror, bye bye”

(“Listen To The Sirens” – Tubeway Army)

By the time you read this, it’ll all be over. The festival has a 19:00 finish time this evening to enable the complete clearing of the venue by close of play on Sunday.

So then. How was it for you? It has to be said that there were reports of several issues in the area of accessibility for those of limited mobility, the location of the toilets and others. For my part, yes, the toilets were a trek away, but it needs to be borne in mind that this is a sports stadium. That issue comes with the territory. I can only comment on MY experience which, to be fair, was completely positive.

Whilst I heard complaints about the location, I, for one, have none. For me, Manchester’s premier Real Ale event has an iconic venue in the National Cycling Centre (aka The Velodrome). I hated the utilitarian grimness that was The Sheridan Suite and, to be quite frank, there’s something to be said for watching Jason Kenny & co whizzing around the track….even made ME think of getting on my bike!

Turning up at The Velodrome, I had a quick chat with one of the Campaigns many volunteers who informed me that sales were ahead of expectations and that they had had to get more beer in! The fact that I had to queue to get in as early as 13:30, told me it was going to be busier than Wednesday. It was!

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(Spot the Arch-Nemesis? – A bit like a beery “Where’s Wally”!)

I’m not a one to make a list of “must haves”, however, there was one beer that I was absolutely determined to sample…Sloe Stout by Allgates Brewery (Wigan, Gtr Manchester) which, at 7.2% abv may not have been everybody’s choice of first beer of the day, but I couldn’t risk it running out!

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(Allgates Brewery – Sloe Stout)

As I said, maybe hardly the wisest choice of an opening gambit, but 5 minutes after I plonked it on the bar and took that picture, I received a message that it had run out! There, you see. It WAS a smart move after all! It was as black as sin with an alluring tan head which (not being sparkled) swiftly diminished. The smell was hugely fruity with a slightly astringent note and a definite chocolate background. In the mouth, there was the expected chocolatey and roasted flavours overlaid with masses of fruit with the astringency of the sloe. A real fruity mouthful which had a quite puckering dry finish with more than a hint of espresso. Spectacular start!

I had a wee walk around whilst drinking this and had a chat with the mighty Tandleman who looked a little more relaxed than on Wednesday, probably the result of being with his lovely wife Eileen, who – to my horror – was immediately in front of me in the entry queue and I had failed to recognise her! (Puts hands to head in shame!) A positive mine of information, it’s always nice to chat with Tandy, even with the pressures of this huge event!

After wandering round like a mole staring into headlights, I finally managed to locate someone else that I really wanted to chat to, Darren Turpin who writes the excellent Mancunian drinkers resource Greater Manchester Ale NewsNice to chat and swap notes (Darren being a far better – and more professional – writer than I!) and we may work together in some small way in the near future hopefully.

Now then. If you have read many of my random beery wafflings, you may have gleaned that I have a particular weak spot for the single hopped Pale Ales brewed by Mallinsons Brewery of Huddersfield. However, I have only ever had them in bottle. I was chuffed to see that their Amarillo was on draught on Bar 2 and allowed myself a pint. Once secured, I briefly swapped notes with Darren on this who seemed to enjoy it too! This is a lovely pale golden beer at 4.2% abv with a beautiful Seville orange fruity marmalade nose. The orangey flavour carrying on into the mouth. Really clean, sharp and refreshing, nicely bitter in the finish with a nice resinous aftertaste with echoes of that marmalade. A cracker to try on draught if you see it!

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By this time, Team GB cycling were in training session and I found myself trying to get a good picture, at which, as you can see, I failed miserably!

Next up – as a “thank you” I think for tipping him off about the Mallinsons – Darren pointed me toward the Oatmeal Stout by Harbour Brewing (Trekillick, N Cornwall) 5% abv and black with a quickly diminished tan head and a smooth chocolate nose, a luxuriously smooth beer in the mouth this, really silky. Flavours of chocolate and roasted oats and quite an earthy finish. Classy.

Next up, my buddy asked me to choose one for him. Knowing his “crafty” leanings, I spotted a brewery that I personally hadn’t tried and, having ordered his and taking a quick sniff, I had to have one myself. The brewery was Siren Craft Brew and the beer was Soundwave. A deep golden beer with HUGE aromas of peach, mango and grapefruit which continued into quite a full-bodied mouth. Really fruity with quite an assertive resinous finish which hit me between the eyes, really hoppy. I’d heard a lot about this brewery on social media and had seen them raved about. Now I understand why!

IMAG0618(No tables in the drinking area? Tick!)

The next beer was a big change in all areas. Firstly, it was dark. Secondly it was fairly light in alcohol at 3.8% abv. It was a beer that I had wanted to try for quite a while, Blackberry Stout by Waen Brewery of Llanidloes, Powys in Welsh Wales. I missed this by the merest of whiskers at Joshua Brooks some time back and was determined not to do so again! Such a dark brown ruby beer as to be almost black, the aroma reminded me of Old Jamaica chocolate bars, chocolate and really vine fruity. Ooh…Medium-bodied with some dark chocolate and really fruity with the slightly tart blackberries, really tasty fruity beer with a surprisingly quite grassy dry finish. A sessionable Stout? I think I have died and gone to dark beer heaven – or is it hell?

Having chatted for so long, time was moving on and some of my companions were considering moving on into Town, so I plumped for another beer that I’d had in bottle but never on draught – Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield). At 7.4% abv, this Imperial Stout was definitely one to finish with. A big deep ruby beer, almost black, this had a really vinous nose with lots of dark fruits and chocolate in the background. Full-bodied and much fruitier than I remember in bottle with oodles of vine fruitiness and a good helping of bitter chocolate. Different from the bottle but equally as gorgeous, fruity finish on this with a good degree of bitterness rounding it off.

I hear all the things that have been pointed out about the issues with this festival. However, I loved it. The critiques were taken on board and was acted upon where possible, the tables in the hall being the most immediately noticeable. You could never move the toilets! Given that they are looking to host it there again next year, I’ll be interested to see what changes are put in place…for changes there will be! Short of holding it at GMex (or whatever it is called these days!), I can’t see a better venue in the “Rainy City”….speaking of which….!

It was BLOODY POURING DOWN as we left. And I had NO raincoat! The 6Ps sprang to mind (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!) at this point. Jumping the Metro, we squelched off at Piccadilly Gardens with a substantial number of fellow revellers. However, the Arch-Nemesis & I had clear plans to visit my favourite Manchester bar Joshua Brooks.

A long very wet tramp across town led to us being absolutely soaked by the time we got there. However a goodly beer selection of ales that I was yet to try cheered me up no end!

Nice to see Jon (manager) as I hadn’t been in for a few months. He was busy changing casks as a couple had just gone, but what was on was good enough for me!

Wisely skirting the beast that is Dark Star Imperial Stout, I alighted upon Cwtch by Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – A red ale at 4.6% abv and a really fruity hoppy beastie this! Mango & peach with a little grapefruit too, medium bodied fruity mouthful with a quite big resinous pine aftertaste. A corker!

One of the beers that Jon was putting on was next. This was Clovis Point Brown by Caveman Brewery (Swanscombe, Kent) 5.4%, deep red and slightly hazy, this had a nose like a slightly spicy Cadbury’s Caramel, with chocolate and toffee. Medium bodied, quite fruity in the mouth with some burnt toffee and a lightly smoky finish. Unusual and very nice indeed!

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Back with Tiny Rebel Brewery and another beer that I hadn’t had previously Full Nelson at 4.8%, a straw coloured beer with a peachy aroma from the Nelson Sauvin hops. Really fruity with peach and tangerine on the tongue and a touch even of grape, medium-bodied and a classic resinous piney finish. Superb!

Finishing off with a second beer of the day from a brewer that I hadn’t previously tried….Siren Craft Brew and their Rysing Tide at 7.4% abv – entering into DIPA territory with this! A red rye beer with a nice tight white head and big mango on the nose. HUGE mango in the mouth, sweet with the malt and spicy from the rye and tart, deep and fruity and a really cracklingly dry finish with more piney stuff. Wow!

Last night, Joshua Brooks was REALLY busy. Gratifyingly so. Maybe it’s down to The Lass next door being closed, maybe people have finally cottoned on to what I have been banging on about for ages. This place simply does great beer at great value (and with cracking tunes!). Long may they prosper!

That’s all folks!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

From Grain To Glass – Allgates Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Joshua Brooks 05/07/2013

20130705_185804(Congratulations Boys – You’re now the proud fathers of a bouncing baby beer!)

The journey began some time in May. when yours truly stumbled across an offer to two noted beer bloggers/writers Tyson the Beerhound and Tandleman from David Mayhall co-owner of Allgates Brewery in Wigan, being naturally curious and a bit of a cheeky blagger(sic), I finagled an invite from Mr Mayhall and so, on the 8th of June, I found myself along With Tyson, Tandleman, David and Jonathan Provost (head brewer) making a beer (read all about it) !

David and Jonathan kept the three of us regularly updated on the progress of the brew and, as the weeks went on, anticipation grew. The aim was to make an Oatmeal Stout at around 5% abv, but to make it hoppy. At the end of the brew day, David generously offered each of the three of us a firkin of the beer for us to sell to the pub/bar of our choice, the proceeds to go to a charity of our choice.

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My choices were fairly simple and were given on the spot. I wanted the beer to go to Joshua Brooks and the charity to be St Anns Hospice in Little Hulton. Joshua Brooks, because it is my favourite bar in Manchester. Over the last year, since I first visited the place, I’ve developed a fondness for the place. The ales are kept well by the managers James, Jon & Nicola, there’s lots of lovely leather seating, the background music is pretty much always to my taste and the beer is excellent value.

I chose St Anns Hospice because nearly 2 years ago, when my Dad passed away from Stomach Cancer, they gave fantastic support (along with Macmillan) to both Dad and us in his last few days. I’m not one to normally support health charities as I am a firm and passionate believer in, and advocate of, the NHS. However, the people at St Anns do a fantastic job in extremely trying and emotional circumstances.

As I said earlier, we were kept updated about the progress of the beer and started to look forward to the day when it was released “into the wild”. Tandleman was the lucky sod who got to taste it first in a pub. He sold his firkin to the CAMRA National Pub of The Year, The Baum, in Rochdale and tasted it on Tuesday before, during and after his local CAMRA Branch meeting. His report whetted my appetite. He’s no mug, and he committed his thoughts on the beer to his excellent blog. Read it here

Tyson has sold his firkin to Trackside in Bury (the bar at the East Lancashire Railway station) and it may hit the bar on Tuesday or Wednesday, I hope to sample it there myself .

However, mine went to Joshua Brooks. I asked that, if possible, it could go on on Friday 05/07/2013 as I REALLY didn’t want to come to Manchester on a school night and have to restrain myself! However, when James tweeted the message on Thursday evening “It’s on!”, I was mortified. I desperately wanted to taste this beer in Joshua Brooks. Some friends also wanted to try it, so we arranged to meet in the pub at 19:00. I felt like an expectant father pacing up and down on a Maternity Ward!

As myself, Colin and his lovely wife Sue entered, it looked quite busy. With a cheery word from the doorman, I hastened to the bar where, someone else had ordered a pint. Irrationally, panic set in. Was there any left? Of course, I needn’t have worried, as the usual dimpled pint mug met the swan neck and the beer was pulled.

20130705_202852(Come to Daddy!)

Black, with a reassuring off white creamy head and a lovely subtle chocolate aroma, initial sensory information was promising much. In the mouth, Daddy was a very proud man indeed! A gorgeously creamy texture, lovely chocolaty notes with a dry, quite bitter hoppy finish. I think it’s safe to say that we achieved what we set out to do. We helped to create a quite creamy, dry & hoppy stout. It is a truly lovely beer that is right up my personal beer street. Conversing with Jaz, whose opinions on beer are usually spot on, summed it up for me. He labelled it as a 5 Star beer. He doesn’t rate many as 5 Star!

Those who drank it really enjoyed it and it was gratifying to receive universally excellent feedback. I was a relieved, happy and refreshed man.

20130705_185753(A cracking line up!)

The was an excellent beery lineup as usual. With beers from Allgates (Gin Pit), Ilkley (The Mayan) and the excellent Privateer (Vanilla Jack), there was plenty of choice for me and my pals.

After another Quaker House, I opted for a Gin Pit and The Mayan. Rather strangely, the Gin Pit had virtually no head but tasted superb, with more of the slightly astringent juniper flavour than I recalled when I had it at Trackside. A nice refreshing pint, as is standard from Allgates.

Sue, on returning from the conveniences, told me that there were some artists creating a mural on the walls with marker pens. Intrigued, I had a look….

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(The full wall)

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(Detail – Note the Kim Jong Il lookalike!)

….I had a chat with the two guys who were creating the “Muriel” (ah…Hilda Ogden…). I can’t speak for all, but this looks superb.

The Mayan was a beast of a different hue. A chocolate and chipotle chilli stout at 6.5% abv. Black, with a creamy head (both colour and texture) and huge dark chocolate aroma. Lovely and creamy, lots of chocolate, slightly smoky with a gentle spice heat building the deeper I waded in. First time for me with this beer. I’ve previously seen excellent reports from others on this beer. All justified.

After having the Mayan, I bottled it with the Privateer Vanilla Jack not thinking I could do it justice after such a big beer. Colin gave it a big thumbs up and I will drink that one soon, especially as they’re brewing it again. I decided therefore to venture back to the beery cradle for another Quaker House. Mmmm…lovely!

Me and Jaz Quaker House(Cheers!)

A swift incidental half of Harbour Pale Ale (keg) from Cornwall was my final at JB. Hazy and pale with a lovely mango and grapefruit nose and and really refreshing citrus flavours in the mouth. A really good beer and surprisingly refreshing for a 6% abv beer, nicely balanced. (I DO like an incidental!)

Having heard from Nate Dawg, another excellent beer blogger that there might be some beers from Redwell (new Craft brewer from Norfolk) on in Font, I thought we’d better pop in!

Font was as busy as usual. No sign of the Redwell. Maybe it was in bottles, but I wasn’t in a bottle mood. I spied a Pale Ale Citra by Quantum and looked no further. 4.5% abv and er….pale, more Citra mango and grapefruit aroma. Lovely and smooth, lots of citrus flavours and a nice bitter dry finish. Another belter from Mr Krause.

I hadn’t been to Paramount for a while to have my Paramount (Elland 1872) Porter nightcap, so, I did. It is what it is, this beer. Chocolate, coffee, smoke and OH SO creamy and delicious. A deserved award winner and a permanent at Paramount. £2.60 a pint. It felt like I was stealing it!

With Colin & Sue being my chaperones and guaranteeing my safe return home, we headed off for the usual First Bus chariot. The No 37!

An excellent evening with some of my best friends. My baby tasted superb. Excellent conversations and fun lubricated by superb beer. Tandleman would most certainly approve!

(Courtesy of the generosity of David Mayhall, Allgates Brewery & those nice people at Joshua Brooks, a substantial donation will be delivered to At Anns Hospice tomorrow. A sincere thanks to all involved.)

On that note….’til next time (probably a Bristol pubs write-up)

Slainte!

The Birth Of A Beer – Allgates Brewery 08/06/2013

allgates_brewery_logo

Sometimes, life is indeed full of surprises.

A few weeks back, I blundered into a Twitter conversation between Tandleman, Tyson the Beerhound, Jay Krause (Quantum Brewing) and David Mayhall from Allgates Brewery. During this conversation, a “collaboration brew” was mooted. I, being a bit of a cheeky scamp, asked if I could tag along. I even volunteered to be the ‘teaboy’. Surprisingly, David invited me in. Shocked and excited in equal measure, I tapped in “08/06/2013 – Allgates” into my calendar.

In case you haven’t been reading this blog recently, I like Allgates beers. A lot. Clean, crisp and (mostly) hop forward they inhabit the space between 3 – 5% abv and are really refreshing, dark or pale. I was introduced to them by my arch-nemesis Jaz (who else) who himself is a fan. He’s rarely wrong in his beer tastes! They have a small (yet perfectly formed) tied estate within the Wigan area and each pub has its own character. They also have a superb selection of guest beers in their pubs. Worth a visit in other words!

Anyhow, with a start time of 09:00 agreed, I pulled away early from an evenings debauchery with the aforementioned Jaz, in order to get me some ugly sleep.

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My main worry (a bit late!) as I approached the brewery, was an utter absence of technical knowledge. Basically, my knowledge of hop properties could be detailed on the wing of a gnat.

Knocking at the door, I was let in by Jonathan, the head brewer. A busy man, he brought me upstairs where, chatting merrily, were Tyson & Tandleman. Jay (unfortunately) had taken ill and couldn’t make it. David, the co-owner then arrived and we had a chat about how the day would go, from the grist (the malt/oats) to the hop selection and all things in between.

Jonathan suggested a grist comprising 175kg pale malt (Maris Otter), 10kgs each of roasted barley and chocolate malt, 25kgs of malted oats and 8kgs of torrified wheat (for head retention. That being agreed (I nodded dumbly!) we set off to the top of the world – or, at least, the brewery!

20130608_092525(More grist to Tandleman’s mill!)

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(That’s 228kg – right there!)

Having loaded the dry goods, we moved downstairs to the mash tun. The hot liquor (water – to lesser mortals, like me) was set at a ‘strike temperature’ of 73.6 C and as the water started to fill the tun, the grist was released. Now. I don’t know about you, but 228kg is a LOT of grist! It took quite a while to fall into the tun! There was a lot of (ahem) encouragement required for the chute to help the malt down.

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(Liquor & grist into the Mash Tun)

Whilst all the malted goodies were loading into the tun, a vigorous mashing was required to avoid any clumping of the malts – especially with the oats. This was done manually and we all had a go. Needless to say, Jonathan’s technique was far superior! (Tandleman was none too shabby though!)

20130608_094540(Now give it a reet good stir!)

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(Mmmm….My kind of porridge!)

With 535 litres of hot liquor in that mash tun, we had a mash temperature of just over 65C and it was getting steamy! Really enjoyed the manual mashing, but it was bloody hard work. They don’t just twiddle their thumbs, these brewers, oh no.

Then, with that done, another type of brew was required whilst due consideration was given to hop selection. After a bit of discussion (with zero input from yours truly!), Jonathan decided to go with Amarillo and Ahtanum for “first wort hopping”, Galena and Warrior for bitterness and more Amarillo and Ahtanum with additional Nelson Sauvin for aroma. A heady mix.

Prior to transfer to the copper and the addition of any hops, Jonathan poured off a little of the wort. Black, quite oaty and only slightly sweet. This was tasting promising!

20130608_111320(The wort – courtesy of The Arm of Tyson!)

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(FUN Time! The hop store!)

Once ready, Jonathan took a hydrometer reading to determine the Original Gravity of this “beer”. A slightly high 1051, this was “liquored back” (more hot liquor added) slightly to achieve the desired gravity of 1049 prior to transfer to the copper. Just prior to this, the mash was ‘sparged’ (water sprayed into the mash) to extract as much of the sugar as possible from the fermentable material.

20130608_110918(The sparge arm does its stuff)

The wort (not as sweet as I imagined) was transferred to the copper (where, in boiling, the hops release their goodness!) Once the wort was transferred, the first wort hops were added. A little bit of light work for yours truly. These were Amarillo and Ahtanum and 1/2 kg went in at this stage for smoothness of flavour.

20130608_112009(In go the first hops)

This initial addition is something that Allgates have been trying recently with excellent results. A little break for some light refreshment (thank you David!) and a nice couple of halves of Calico Deep and Ostara (I ADORE the Ostara and want her to have my babies!). During this, Jonathan added the first bittering hops, 1/2 kg each of Galena and Warrior (Galena being a particularly good hop with Stouts, I’m advised)

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(Jonathan The Alchemist – with his book of beery spells!)

With the wort now transferred to the copper, you start to appreciate why these brewers are so fit. Time for shovels! That there below, is 228kg of dry grist, soaked. And hot. That is about 2-3 feet deep and a hell of a lot of weight. It was shovelled from the mash tun into sacks which got winched downstairs for myself, Tandleman and Tyson to hump into drums outside. The spent grains get picked up by a (presumably VERY strong) farmer who uses it as feed for his animals – lucky devils!

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20130608_131548(Messy, heavy work!)

Each sack must have weighed at least 40kg + that’s nearly half a TON! David and Jonathan hooked up the sacks to the winch and we emptied them into the drums (probably the source of my sore shoulder this morning!!!)

At approximately 14:00 Jonathan added the final bittering hops (Warrior and Galena again) before, at 14:35, the final (aroma) hop addition of Nelson Sauvin, Ahtanum and Amarillo. Not long afterwards, we were ready to transfer to the Fermenting Vessel.

20130608_140023(Control panel. Boil Temp? 99.9C!)

20130608_150544(The Heat Exchanger)

The wort (now featuring some hoppy goodness) transfers to the FV via a clever piece of kit called the Heat Exchanger. The heat from the wort is partly removed (from 100C to 21C  and heats water in the opposite direction, headed to the Hot Liquor Tank. A very clever piece of energy-saving kit indeed!

20130608_153518(Party Time!)

The wort having been transferred into FV #1, it was time to let the yeast have a party! Tandleman had this pleasure. A quick wet with some wort (no, not Tandleman!) and in it went, the FV was closed and (with some cleaning up – kindly, David and Jonathan did this!) we were done. Back to the bar for an Ostara to cool down!

And the beer? It is going to be a hoppy Oatmeal Stout at around 4.9% abv. Lovely and dark with (no doubt) plenty of chocolate and oaty character. It is likely to be a one-off (although there could possibly be a second take at some point – there’s more oat malt!).

I’m quite excited to see how the Amarillo will work in a stout. It smelled superb in the brewery. Should be released in about 3-4 weeks. I’ll be having some (but then, Tandleman, Tyson and myself may know where some of it may be going!). Come release, I’ll let you all know!

I think I can speak for us all, this was a brilliant way to spend a Saturday. I learned loads. You do tend to when you’re actually involved, rather than listening to a tour guide. I even learned a little about hop properties! I’m a very lucky boy indeed and very grateful to David and Jonathan for their generosity and patience. We were fed, (definitely) watered and I had a fantastic time, which I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. (Try the Calico Deep – Dark – and the Ostara if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed!)

The generosity bit? Well, for one, I was invited. Second, lunch was superb, courtesy of David and his local Booths! Third (and a total surprise this) David is letting us have 3 firkins of the finished beer, 1 each for Tandleman, Tyson and myself to raise money for the chosen charity of each. Mine being St Anns Hospice in Little Hulton who gave fabulous care to Dad in his final days. A more than worthwhile cause. Thank you David for your generosity, hospitality and patience, Jonathan for your patience and skill and all 4 (inc Tandleman and Tyson) for taking this beer drinker to school!

It was great to meet Tandleman and Tyson. I had met the former at Wilson Potter brewery some months before (another brewery we both like), but didn’t get to chat much. We were both (ahem) ‘refreshed’ and I was just about to head to Manchester. A veritable mine of beery wisdom and a bloody nice bloke. I hadn’t met Tyson previously, but another beery good guy who, again, knows loads about beer. David and Jonathan were still quite busy, so we decided to get out of their hair and nip over to the Anvil for a wee one!

Excellent fruity pint of California followed by a pint of the gorgeous dark and smooth AllBlack mild. During the second, David and Jonathan called in, unaware we were there. I just sat back and listened to the guys chat. An absolute pleasure.

So, there you go. I can honestly say, that in about 4 weeks time, I will have taken an active part in the creation of something that I will see pouring from a handpump. From Grain To Glass. To me, it will feel really special. And trust me, this beer will TASTE special too. But of course, I’m biased. I worship the Dark Side!

Back to Wallgate station with Tyson & Tandleman and a walk up the hill.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Impromptu Stroll Northern Quarter 01/12/2012

As the week drew to a close, the yearning for draught beer grew stronger. Finally, on Saturday evening, I could stand the drought no longer. Being able to resist anything except temptation the Oracle was consulted and tea-leaves were read. The stars aligned over Manchester. But where? A quick word with your friend and mine, indicated a meeting place of….The French Xmas Market on King Street. What MADNESS was this? A bar, with no real ale!

Not only that, but KRONENBOURG! Needless to say, having braved herds of people and the chill air, I plumped for a swift Vin Chaud avec Cognac (get Moi!). However, there was only so much Allo Allo accentry I could prendre, so, the metaphorical shepherds crook was wielded, the madding crowds were braved and we found ourselves hiking across town toward Le Quartier de Nord (ENOUGH FRANGLAIS!!!) and approached……

The Angel

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As with everything else in Manchester this mad evening, it was crammed with bibulous humanity. It was quite a feat to reach the bar, but, after some weaving about we got there. The usual fine selection of beers were present (including an intriguing Black Isle Stout at 10.6% abv!). However, for the first beer of the evening, I chose a beer from Liverpool Organic – Shipwreck IPA at 6.5%. This was a big beer. A sturdy malt base overlaid with huge tropical hop flavours, mango? Grapefruit? Very assertive and very moreish. Not a beer to trifle with but hugely enjoyable. Another brewery producing an exceptional range of beers. (Kitty Wilkinson Stout being a personal favourite!). Jaz had a Culloden Oatmeal Stout by Beer House Brewery. It looked lovely (and tasted mighty fine – so I’m told!)

I wanted more. I wanted a half of that Black Isle Stout! But the bar was thronged. So, disappointed, we strode off toward…..

The Smithfield

(pic courtesy of http://www.the-smithfield-hotel.co.uk)

It was almost a year to the day, the last time I’d been in the Smithfield. Too long. Often bypassed en-route to other bars. No longer. The Smithfield has the feel of a welcoming Salford local. The kind of local I wish I had near me. A wide selection of beers, including a house beer by Facers (formerly of Salford, now of Flintshire, North Wales). As we walked in, a game of pool was going, the Italian Football (the Turin Derby, as you’re asking!) was on telly and a couple next to us were serenading us (unbidden!). Facers Porter was my choice in here. A dark brown beer at 5.5% abv, a slightly sweet start gave way to fruity dark roasted malt, the sweetness tending toward a mocha coffee kind of thing. A nice pint in a lovely friendly boozer. Certainly worth a visit. Onward we go…….

Bar Fringe

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Every time I go into The Fringe, more quirkiness reveals itself! From the breweriana on the ceiling (see above, literally!) to the Green Man wall hanging and the Motorbike on the ledge (see previous visit), The Fringe never fails to please. Great Jukebox doing sterling work again, the bar got very full as soon as Jaz and I got served. A pint of Prescott Ruby Stout was order of the day. A dark brown, rather that jet black, smooth roasted flavour was had. Didn’t catch the strength, but approx 4.5%. A very nice pint indeed.

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(Design – Bar Fringe. Pic – Yours Truly!)

I love The Fringe. Would gladly have stayed for more, but it was getting busy. And, how could this be a ‘stroll’ without moving on…..

The Crown & Kettle

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A short walk from The Fringe, just across Oldham Road. A gem of a different hue. Another well stocked bar, plenty of choice. But, you know me. When The Dark Side calls, I submit totally. On this occasion, Peerless Oatmeal Stout from the Wirral.

A 5% abv Stout. A lovely smooth flavour, dark roasted with a hint of sweetness from the oatmeal. Another excellent beer from Peerless. I took my time enjoying its dark pleasures whilst a fabulous musical selection washed over me. Somebody working tonight had an obvious love of Northern Soul! Bobby Hebb, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Valli……

Jaz advised me to have a little look around. Once I’d taken my eyes off the poster featuring the stunning Christina Hendricks, the architecture of this great pub was glorious. Vaulted ceilings, Stained glass. This is a gorgeous building housing 3 separate drinking rooms, each room having a different feel.

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20121201_212214[1]   (I love a nice feature…or 2)

Finishing the Peerless. We headed in the general direction of Port Street to check out a rumour that 3 Magic Rock ales (including the immense Dark Arts) were on. However, that’s a long walk. And I’m sure you’ll have concerns about dehydration (as did we!), so a stop at……

Soup Kitchen ……was prescribed – medicinal purposes of course! Quite busy here on Spear St! But getting to the bar was easy enough. It didn’t take long to select a pint of Dark Star Old Chestnut. 4%abv. Not a Stout, not a Porter, not a Mild. Hmmm……Is this a Brown Ale? A darkish brown beer, an initial slight sweetness gave way to something much more mysterious. Some slight bitterness. Couldn’t quite place this one in a category. A very nice ale nonetheless from an excellent brewery. (Espresso Stout anyone?)

Now then. Off to Port Street. Disaster! I followed a couple of lads heading for the door and No Entry! The place was heaving. Slightly deflated at no Magic Rock…. we headed for pastures new…at least for me.

Kosmonaut

(Needless to say, courtesy of  http://www.kosmonaut.co)

As stated. I was a Kosmonaut virgin. Up the steps into the bar. Excellent tuneage pumping out. Proper Saturday night feel. Jaz slotted straight in at the bar. Nice friendly staff. Excellent vibe generally.

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2 bottles of Goose Island Matilda were soon to hand. described as a strong Belgian ale, this had echoes of a fine wheaty beer to me, a bit of coriander and clove on the tongue. Possibly deceptive, as I was drinking from the bottle. Nice beer though.

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(Anyway, back to those friendly bar persons!)

On seeking the facilities, a whole new level opened up! Downstairs, as well as the loos, there is another room with loads of space down there. This is one excellent venue. Apparently, they do excellent food as well. Like a certain Austrian exile “I’ll be back”.

We tried our luck back at Port Street. Jaz went first this time and entry was gained. Busy, as you would expect. Just enough time to wolf a pint of Magic Rock Dark Arts. Now officially my favourite beer and a more than adequate night cap! Deep dark roast, by turn buttery toast and coffee roast, full of flavour and dangerously, dangerously alluring and moreish! Unfortunately I had a bus to catch.

Back to the 37 bus and back to that beer desert that is Farnworth. Ticket shown, iPod on…..home.

Next day, no wallet…….bugger!

With that……Til next time…..

Slainte!