The Independent Salford Beer Festival – 24/25th October 2014 – Update #1

ISBF Poster

(Design by Andy Heggs – aka HopOnTheBike)

“A mistake on the part of nature
You’re so fabled, so fair, just sit anywhere
I’ve pencil sketched the scene
It’s feeling Byzantine

Mistakes on the part of nature
The living proof of what they’re calling love
On certain sideway streets
Where things that don’t match meet”

(“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” – The New Pornographers)

(Video courtesy of  “Bill James” on YouTube)

Regarded as a bit of a “Supergroup” in North America, The New Pornographers are formed from the combination of a number of singular talents, Carl (AC) Newman (main male vocal), the siren voiced Neko Case (Grammy award winner), the fabulous Kathryn Calder (vocals/keyboards), Dan Bejar – all of who have successful solo careers, but come together every 3 years or so to make the most wonderful pop music.

It may not be the pop of Rihanna or Miley Cyrus or whoever, but what it is, is literate songs allied to superb musicianship that’s as tight as a drum. Look past the name and try a listen – this tune indeed was used on an Amazon Kindle advert.

Now…business!

How do you measure progress? I can assure you, that my building stress levels don’t feel like progress! To the eyes of an outsider, we probably haven’t moved on that far,  but,  putting one foot in front of another is how the biggest voyages start.

There are a lot of decisions/challenges still to be worked out, One big session per day or 2? Pricing for tickets? Size of glassware? Printed tickets or self print (via the likes of Eventbrite?), music/no music, I’m giving myself a headache trying to think about them all!

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the venue. I had been a few times before, but then I went in with different eyes. 151m sq is quite a big space when you clear out a bunch of tables! (Not all, of course!)

There are at least 3 rooms/spaces.

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(The main room)

Admittedly, that picture was taken from the corner of the room, but it’s a big old space. No Velodrome & certainly not a Victoria Baths, but it’ll more than do! To the left of the image there is an- out of shot – serving hatch, but food will be served from the other side in a different area. There’s more than enough room for both vertical and sedentary drinking for the more relaxed drinker (ie : Me!)

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(Food area / serving area)

The aim with the food is to keep it simple. It will be home-made and probably along the lines of Pie/Peas, maybe Chilli/Veg and other stuff yet to be thought about. The likely cook has fed me a few times and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Nothing overly spicy to take away from the main reason for being there!

In front of this serving area is a space with tables about 31 m/sq – a decent space for eating.

The venue is fairly well served by public transport with 2 buses that come from Salford Shopping Centre stopping right outside the door and buses from Manchester stopping a 5 minute walk away along Gerard Road from the stop on Littleton Road. (All this info will be on the website currently being designed & built by my good buddy Darren Turpin – he of the excellent Gtr Mcr Ale News)

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(3rd room at 30 m/sq – more tables for seating/chatting)

However, the main reason for this brief update is….Breweries! Having been in communication with some for quite a while now and having been in touch with others more recently, the following North West / Yorkshire breweries WILL be present and correct!

Allgates, Black Jack, Black Edge, Cheshire Brewhouse, Deeply Vale (A special brewed with Yours Truly!), First Chop, Hornbeam, IndyManBrewHouse, Offbeat, Outstanding, Privateer, Ringway & Runaway (likely, a World First!) – That’s the NW contingent, with more to follow (I certainly want at least one from Liverpool!)

So far, from Yorkshire…Atom Beers, Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing, Brass Castle, (the mighty) Five Towns & Revolutions – again, more to follow!

What I can guarantee is this, there will be at least one (and likely more) “World Firsts” in cask (I’m working on others!). There will certainly be beers that will be the first time you will see them in the Greater Manchester / North West both from Yorkshire and from nearer to home. I should have more of an update by the first week in August, when hopefully, the website may become the forum for these kinds of updates.

Actual Beers will be announced much nearer the festival with the “World First” type beers possible secret until the day…Just to keep you guessing like!

Next week will be contacting re dispense (hand pull & stillage etc), glassware and printing for posters / flyers etc…It never stops!

A big thank you already to Andy Heggs & Darren Turpin, the efforts and help of both made this feel more real from the off!

And an ENORMOUS thank you to the brewers (named above) for their help, advice and lovely beer that’s coming your way. It really will be special – won’t it? I said it earlier on Twitter, but it bears repeating – Beer People Are Good People!

On that note….til next time…

Slainte!

Follow on Twitter @Salfordbeerfest – Go on! You KNOW you want to!

Historic Manchester Pubs- Pt 2 – 08/05/2014

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 (corridor – The City Arms)

“I wish that I could push a button and talk in the past and not the present tense.

And watch this hurting feeling disappear, like it was common sense.

It was a fine idea at the time, now it’s a brilliant mistake.”

(“Brilliant Mistake”  – The Costello Show ft The Confederates)

(Hyperlink video courtesy of  lisap2468 on YouTube)

Coming 2 years after the (rather harshly derided) “Goodbye Cruel World” – liner notes in the re-issue stating “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.” – “King of America” was, stylistically, a bold move by one of my favourite artists – if not quite as left field as the C&W album “Almost Blue”. There is almost no comparison between his Americana tinged 1986 classic and the likes of his bigger selling early albums like “This Years Model” & “Armed Forces” (I was strangle never overly struck on his biggest single “Olivers Army” – preferring the delights of “Accidents Will Happen”)

King of America is certainly my favourite Costello album. The lyrics (as usual) pin sharp and the subject matter spanning the range of emotions from the love-struck “Lovable” to the heart-wrenching end-of-relationship “Indoor Fireworks”, this is simply a stunning album that dragged me back into the Costello fold and is a diamond amongst the dross of late ’80s “music”. I wondered why he would want to play with members of his namesake Presley’s band The TCB Band, then I listened. the results are, quite simply, lovely. For me, the greatest album by a man who should be treated as a national treasure.

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I’m getting to that time of life when I’m meeting old colleagues at retirement dos with increasing regularity. I tend to pick and choose the ones that I go to. The sole criteria being respect. Last nights event, though I didn’t stay long, was for an utterly stand-out bloke. Unfortunately, however, the event was to be held in the Spinningfields branch of Slug & Lettuce. My sinking heart needed to be buoyed. So I floated it in the excellent Salford Arms with some colleagues of the current vintage.

Excellent pints of Black Jack Blackbird Stout (beautifully roasted and creamy with just the right amount of bitterness) and Zool by Tiny Rebel (fabulously fruity and hoppy pale ale) set the stage. As ever, both beers excellently kept by Tom – I haven’t been in for a while, but some things never change – excellent Steak & Onion ciabatta BTW – he just keeps the beer superbly in here. An essential staging post en route to Manchester.

Next up was a stop off in the re-opened Mark Addy. Again, excellent pints of Dark Revenge by Privateer (just SO smooth, coffee roast and ever so slightly hoppy and bitter – a class beer), Cascade by Blackedge (beautifully hopped, light and refreshing – probably my favourite pale by them on cask so far) and a nice hoppy Pale Ale by Shiny Brewing of Derby at 4.5% – the name of which escapes me. These were all bolted down – something I rarely do, for fear of the inevitable consequences! A really nice surprise was meeting Pete Killip behind the bar – someone with whom I’ve had many a pleasant social media exchange, but hadn’t met. Nice bloke, glad to see him back behind the MA bar. Good to see the Mark Addy open at all!

The do was…well, it WAS in the Slug….not my venue de choix! One (untried) cask ale by Hardy & Hansons (St George Ale, I think), meeting old colleagues was great and chatting to some with whom I’ve shared many a beery misdemeanour over the years was just a pleasure. It’s sad that I’m at that stage of life, when meeting old friends tends to be at Retirements or Funerals, but good people are always that, good people.

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Over a year ago, I did a piece on a mini-crawl around some of Manchester/Salford’s older pubs and planned to do a follow up (or Pt 2) soon afterwards. Well, this IS that sequel. A bit long in the making, but, safe to say, I enjoyed the making of this one a bit more than the last!

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The Rising Sun (Queen St/Lloyd St)

Manchester. The Rainy City. The umbrella in the shot says it all. It was wet. Very wet, as I sprint walked up towards the Rising Sun. I had kept the Arch-Nemesis waiting for over half an hour and felt a tad guilty. Good man that he is, if he had a grudge, he hid it well and had got me a pint of Mill Town Mild by Howard Town Brewery of Glossop.  A lovely mild, dark brown in colour, all toffee malt, caramel and chocolate in a light body at 3.5%, with little bitterness. A fine example of a Northern Mild from this local brewery.

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The ‘Sun is what can be described as a “cut” pub, with an entrance on both streets, originally designed to draw in passing trade from both streets. It is a single roomed and narrow pub with confusion surrounding its initial opening as a pub (with dates as early as 1684 being mentioned – which would indeed make it Manchester’s oldest by a distance). Logic dictates that this is probably wrong as, apparently, this part of Manchester was undeveloped at that time. I prefer to go with the date of the excellent Pubs of Manchester which gives it a date of approximately 1777. Bloody hell, the year after the US Declaration of independence!

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(This is so cute! I want it!!!)

The pub has had a refurb in the past couple of years and looks as good as I’ve ever seen it (Been drinking here – on & off – for 30 years). Nice neutral colours a few tables and comfy chairs. a couple of unobtrusive (ie: not gigantic) TVs. It’s a cracking little bolt hole, although one that is hardly a secret anymore, being 30 seconds from Deansgate and popular with the after office set. Good boozer. (Lovely tiled loos too….the toilets say a lot about a pub, ask Mrs BM!)

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Next on the list was a bit of a walk to clear out a few beer induced cobwebs. All the way across to Great Bridgewater Street, where, in the shadow of the mighty Bridgewater Hall (AND Manchester Central!), there are two gems amidst all the modernity….

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The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)

Still wet (well, it IS Manchester!), the walk was turned into a thirst-inducing power walk, the quicker to get out of the wet and into the dry!

The Britons is simply stunning. Standing in isolation and unprepossessing from the outside, it is simply BEAUTIFUL inside!

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Apparently dating from 1811 (see here courtesy http://manchesterhistory.net/), this is a true multi-roomed pub with the main room being fairly narrow with a long bar and, unusually, two entrances at the front with one giving direct access to the bar from the street.

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(gorgeous isn’t it?)

Again, another pub I’ve been coming in for 30 or so years. Even when it was a Tetley house, the beer was superb, The usual semi-macro suspects adorn the bar, with Robbies Unicorn & Jennings Cumberland (I think) to the right. My eyes alighted on the two pumps to the left that were adorned by local; micro clips, Privateer & Outstanding being the two tonight. Having already had a Privateer, I opted for the Outstanding Brewery and its 3.9. A very pale ale at (shock!) 3.9% abv, passion fruit nose and orangey refreshing bitterness in the mouth. Just what the doctor ordered to slake the thirst. Outstanding do the simple things very well, they make damn good beer.

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A warm and friendly pub with loads of beautiful decorative features, stained and leaded glass windows here, a real fire there….the two rooms to the rear are rarely empty and are great places to have a sit down and chat with friends. Beautiful pub, friendly staff, excellent beer, do you want anything else?

Maybe whiskies? The pub has a reputation for its wide variety and huge selection. Tonight I could see why!

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Next pub, fortunately, wasn’t too far away on this damp evening!

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Peveril of the Peak (Chepstow Street)

Apparently dating from the early 19th century (again, thanks to manchesterhistory.net), this wedged shape multi-roomed pub holds a special place in my drinking history – more later!

Beautiful green enamelled tiling adorns the outside, with lots of wood and warm tones inside and more original type features than you could shake a proverbial wotsit at….The bar football table (covered over tonight) is legendary in Manchester and has been a draw as far back as I can remember. The beer choice leaves something to be desired – could they make room for a local micro on the bar? Best option tonight was a pint of Deuchars IPA, with all the local micros around, not ordinarily my first choice, but do you know what, it was a rather pleasant refreshing pint, in tip-top condition. Golden, bittersweet and refreshing. More than did the job!

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Another rarity in the city centre is the pool table in the back room (probably, the largest room in the pub. The front room (with the main bar area) curves around the bar. There is a further (rather beautiful) third room, triangular in shape, with a real fire, small, but perfectly formed – a bit like this rather unique old boozer.

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That thing about a special place in MY drinking history!

In December 1981, I was due to see a band called Pigbag at the club on Oxford Road that used to be called Rafters. They got snowed in in Bristol, Dislocation Dance stepped in and a musical love affair commenced! However, Pigbag rescheduled for early 1982 and a few of us went to see them. Now, I do NOT condone under-aged drinking……yawn!…….but we started the night in The Pev. I was drinking Carlsberg. A good pal of mine, Smudge (take a bow Martin Murray!) was drinking a brown liquid that looked rather nice. Passing me his pint of what I learned was Wilsons Bitter, I took a taste. It was creamy textured and rather lovely. I put the Carlsberg down and ordered a pint. It was my Damascene conversion. I never drank Carlsberg again. 32 years later….

As I needed a bank for some funds, my original plan had to change, as there was no machine en-route to The City Arms. Thinking on my feet, we headed to another gem – one that had been a tad controversial recently.

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The Lass O’Gowrie (Charles Street)

According to the map contained here (manchesterhistory.net again!), the Lass has been around since at least the mid 1800s, when the area was (patently) more residential, with workers housing (no doubt staffing the mills at the end of the street).

The Lass is another beautiful old pub, but one that’s been knocked about a bit inside. Recently given a bit of a facelift following the rather controversial removal of the previous landlord, The Lass looks like it might regain some of its erstwhile popularity, lost no doubt following the relocation of Auntie to Salford Quays. I still remember the fond days of the 80s when, before The Marble Arch started brewing, The Lass was the original Brewpub. They may have been made from Malt Extract, but LOG 35 & 42 added much-needed variety to the beery diet dominated by Boddingtons and the national brewing conglomerates.

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Last time I entered, there was only one local micro on, it may have even been the only beer, but tonight things looked a little healthier, with the Arch-Nemesis buying me a pint of Cherry Baby from Blakemere  (Northwich, Cheshire). Chestnut hued, with a huge fruity aroma (yes, cherries), this was an excellent lightly roasty mild with plenty of cheery flavour. Perked up my flagging taste buds!

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Good footy related chat with some guys in the small room (bottom left of pic above!)

The Lass is looking up. It was a bit quiet, but on a Thursday evening, where (other than Port Street) gets busy? Nicely decorated, beer in excellent nick, a nice option on the Oxford Rd corridor.

I couldn’t pass Joshua Brooks without going in eh? Glad I did, as there was a First Chop beer on the bar that I hadn’t had. TOC was the beer. Typical of Rik Garner’s paler offspring, golden, fruity as hell (oranges and tangerines) with a hoppy and bitter finish. Brewed for The Other City festival recently, there may not be much of this about. It was lovely and in great nick, as usual with JB. Great to see the quality being maintained following Jon Turner’s departure.

Still a bit moist, though no longer throwing down stair rods, a bit of a walk to the next pub.

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The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

Located just off Princess Street/St Peters Square, in a parallel universe, this would be an undiscovered gem. In this real timeline, this pub has been hugely popular in the 30 years that I’ve known it Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) the pub occupies what was an 18th century town house, being known as a pub from the late 19th century.

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2 main drinking areas here, the main bar area with 8 handpumps on the go, with the second room accessed by a couple of steps down. Like the Britons Protection, 2 entrances here, with the one to the left giving access to a serving hatch, enabling people to use this as an overspill from the frequently busy main rooms.

The main bar area is sparsely furnished and serves as the main (mostly vertical) drinking area. On a busy evening, it’s best to use the left hand entrance, to avoid the struggle of entering a (justly) rammed pub!

On entry tonight, I was a bit rude. I didn’t scan the pumps. My eyes hit AllgatesAll Black Mild (well, May is Mild Month!). I love this beer and needed look no further – ticking be damned! Black, light chocolate and coffee notes with a hoppy kick from the use of New Zealand hops (hence the name!). I generally have it wherever I find it. A beautiful beer that cut through the clagged up taste buds at this late stage of the evening!

NB : The City has been garlanded by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA Branch as their Pub of the Year 2014. This particular member from Bolton lauds this fine choice!

Finally (are you still awake?)

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The Vine (Kennedy Street – next door to The City Arms)

Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) this dates from a similar era to The City Arms, having been a pub since the late 19th century. This bijou (Salfordian for lickle!) boozer is on 3 levels. A good job really because the bar area is a bit dinky! We headed downstairs where, last time that I went in – some years ago TBF – it was used as a restaurant. Oh how my eyes were opened!

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Downstairs there was a fully fledged bar with room for the handpumps that they couldn’t fit upstairs. Fairly quiet, the A-N selected a Lancaster Blonde at 4%. Golden, with a nice refreshing hoppy fruitiness with an orange note to it. I’m just astounded that my tastebuds had survived at this stage of the evening! Nice, fruity light and refreshing. A nice pint to sign off with.

Bloody hell, that WAS an evening! (Managed to have 3 Milds as well. Happy boy!)

Thanks due to the blogs Pubs of Manchester and Manchesterhistory.net for my liberal pilfering of data. A valuable service they provide. There is an absolute dearth of information on the net about Manchester’s drinking establishment heritage. Frankly, I was embarrassed how little I would have found without the above resources. There’s a Boak & Baileyesque gap here that needs to be filled. Any takers?

 On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

“It was a fine idea at the time….” But on Friday morning it felt like a Brilliant Mistake!

Ramsbottom Craft Brewery – June 2013

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The Bury area, totally under my radar, has become a mini brewery mecca. The area is home to Brightside (recently relocated to Radcliffe), Deeply ValeFirst Chop (soon to commence brewing in their own premises in Salford), Irwell Works, Leyden (at The Lord Raglan in Nangreaves), Outstanding and (since December 2011) Ramsbottom Craft Brewery.

As is becoming a bit of a theme now, I stumbled upon a Twitter ‘exchange’ between Tyson The Beerhound and Matt Holmes, the owner and brewer at Ramsbottom Craft. At the end of this exchange, tentative arrangements were made to pop round at an indeterminate date when Matt may be brewing. One evening I saw a tweet addressed to myself and Tyson, along the lines of  “brewing tomorrow, fancy popping round…..? Well. You know me and temptation!

Unfortunately that fine Beerhound couldn’t make it due to work commitments. However, I was on holiday so, one sunny afternoon, I find myself lost in Ramsbottom!

Having driven onto the street listed on the website, it was all residential! Confused. I was utterly convinced I was looking for an industrial unit! A quick exchange with Tyson corrected that impression, so I headed back and knocked at the front door of a house I had recently passed. The door was opened and I was met by a genial young man (Matt) and the delicious unmistakable smells of an operating brewery!

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(The Mash Tun)

Not long after finishing our initial introductions (we had never previously met!), it was obvious that something was slightly wrong! At that point Matt was ‘sparging’ (a bit like rinsing the malt to get all available sugars from the grains) and the transfer of the ‘wort’ (the extracted sugars that form the basis of the finished beer) wasn’t going smoothly! There appeared to be a blockage, so, stirring implement in hand, Matt dived in (not literally!) to the Tun and got it sorted, freed the blockage and the process went smoothly! This issue was not unconnected with the large amount of grain in the Tun, the aim being for a wort to produce a finished beer of around 6% abv. These are indeed ‘Hand Crafted’ ales! (I – sort of – mucked in with a bit of  ‘re-circulation’ of the wort, good fun!)

Having never gone the ‘tinned wort’ route as a home brewer, Matt dived straight in with full grain brewing, using only whole leaf hops. Sourcing his stainless steel ware from Germany, he built his own brewery doing all the plumbing, cladding and wiring himself. He registered with HMRC (boo!) in December 2011 and commenced brewing pretty much from that date.

The Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), Mash Tun, Copper and his various fermenting vessels (6) and his bottles and casks are all stored and housed within his converted garage, and he produces quite a variety of beer in this 2 1/4 Bbl kit! Beers flavoured with Chilli and Lemongrass, Ginger, Cocoa nibs……

A native Midlander transported “oop north”, Matt is truly a one-man outfit doing the brewing, sales & distribution all himself, though, by his own admission, brewing is to the fore at the moment. Brew it, phone calls, then move it appears to be the way. Impressively, he fits this all around his day job as an Estate Agent too!

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(A bit of sparging)

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Matt’s beers are either cask or bottle conditioned and I noted a number of filled 9 gallon firkins, 2 of which had his Chilligrass Wheat Beer ready for a local Ramsbottom Bar/Restaurant The Hearth of The Ram and a number of bottles ready for packaging / orders. The bottles can be purchased either direct from Matt or from Summerseat Garden Centre

Matt’s Cask Conditioned offerings can be occasionally located at the (aforementioned) Hearth of The Ram and The Major pub in Ramsbottom, The Coach & Horses in Edenfield (nr Ramsbottom), The Masons Arms in Rawtenstall, The Magnet in Stockport, The Angel in Manchester, Trackside in Bury and others in the Blackburn area.

I sensed that Matt was a busy chap this afternoon, but he graciously let me have a taste of one of his mainstays (and I think he needed a refresher after his travails!), Rammy Ale,  a nice copper coloured bitter with a good balance and dry lightly hoppy finish. With driving, I couldn’t sample any more beer, so having not had any of his beers before today, I picked up a few bottles for later tasting and said my farewells to let Matt get on with the brew.

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It really is amazing quite what you can fit into a small space, and there is a little room for expansion, but, as things take off further, Matt may need to consider larger premises. Check the website at http://ramsbottombrewery.com/. Matt runs a “Beer Club” where – within a certain radius – for £30 a quarter, he’ll deliver a mixed case of RCB beers.

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Later that week, I tried a bottle of the Chilligrass Wheat Beer. Extremely pale (well, it is an all wheat beer!) at 4.4% abv there was some lemony citrus and spice on the nose. In the mouth, I got the refreshing characteristics of the wheat with a sharp peppery chilli kick! It certainly lives up to its name and definitely woke up my sleepy taste buds!

A nice bloke Matt. Cares passionately about what he brews, is obviously a dab had with the DIY and plumbing and indulges in some experimentation with his beers (Can’t wait to try the Thai Wit!), both beers I tried were full of flavour  with my personal preference being the lip licking  fiery Chilligrass. I’ll certainly be looking out for his beers on draught at The Angel.

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!