Manchester Northern Quarter Bar Crawl – 19/07/2014

“I’ve been up to Villiers Terrace to see what’s a-happening.
There’s people rolling ’round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine

Been up to Villiers Terrace, I saw what’s a-happening
People rolling ’round on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string
You said people rolled on carpet, but I never thought they’d do those things”

(“Villiers Terrace” – Echo & The Bunnymen)

(Video clip courtesy of ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube)

In 1979 /1980, when I was 14, my favourite bands were Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. Joy Division were a slight hand-me-down from my elder brother, but “The Bunnymen” (as we all called them at the time) were all mine. “The Puppet”, “Pictures On My Wall” & “Rescue” (12″ – naturally) were three of the earliest records that I bought for myself. Where Joy Division seemed to embody the somewhat dour, industrial chic of Manchester, “The Bunnymen” & Ian McCullough in particular, were effortlessly cool, a certain cockiness too, maybe. But just so cool.

I even remember buying my first combat jacket (but not “Camo”) to wear to go and see them, from Afflecks Palace (Yes Manchester hipsters, it really HAS been open THAT long!) There were rumours of a “Mystery Gig” swirling around in late 1980 and I desperately tried to get a ticket. To no avail. I think that I missed the last ticket held by Discount Records (Manchester old ‘Indoor Market’ with its entrance off Pall Mall) by a couple of hours. I was gutted. That concert ended up being recorded and saw release as an EP called “Shine So Hard” (An Atlas Adventure)

Rather controversially (some may think), I disowned the band upon the release of the single that was their commercial breakthrough “The Back of Love”, I remember hearing the track on a John Peel Session and thinking it was a sack of shite (Salford colloquialism!), so when I heard a shinier version as a single…..

I drifted back after that album “Porcupine” when they released the classic “Ocean Rain”, but the album (and period) from which “Villiers Terrace” is taken “Crocodiles”, is still their highlight for me.

The Bunnymen kindled a love of the City of Liverpool – though it was at least another 7 years before I was to visit. Strange to find – a couple of years ago – when I was desperately researching my family tree (prior to Dad passing away), that an entire branch of my family could be traced back to the area of Toxteth St Mary! Never leaves you I suppose!

===========================

IMAG1739

I really didn’t MEAN to end up in Manchester, honest! It was just meant to be a little nip in to Great Ale Year Round, to sample the bear I helped to shovel out (that most glam of jobs!). That beer is Station to Station IPA. Brewed by Allgates in collaboration with Five Towns of Wakefield, it was a 5.6% mango fuelled delight. Lightly hazed, it was fruitier than a Carmen Miranda headdress! Utterly lush. Glad that I drank it in a great bar, which is undoubtedly what Dan & Gina Buck have. It was nice to see them back in harness after a well-earned holiday!

IMAG1740 - Copy - Copy

I’m off to the mighty County / Republic of Kernow soon (Perranporth, to be exact), so, given that a) I hadn’t been in The Lowers Turks Head for nigh on 30 years and b) there was a Cornish Beer Festival ongoing, we (well, the Arch-Nemesis is ALWAYS nearby!) opted to start here.

The Lower Turks Head (Shudehill – Opp the Bus Station)

Behind that beautiful historic tiled facade (the pub itself, perhaps dates back to as early as 1745), a lot of money has been spent to make this pub shine!

IMAG1749 - Copy - Copy

Busy as hell in here and almost as warm on this humid July afternoon! 2 floors, classy decor shading, fairly dark with lots of wood. We grabbed pints from Padstow Brewery and headed off for some air!

IMAG1743 - Copy - Copy

(Never smile at…..)

Unfortunately, this pleasant outdoor 1st floor terrace also doubled up as a smoking space, but I NEEDED to feel a breeze! The beer was fine, Padstow Brewery “Pilot” 4% abv. A deep ruby red beer, with a chocolate aroma, a bit like a Snickers, a touch nutty. Light bodied, bit like a mild, quite refreshing, lightly hopped.

Given that I love a local beer or two, I’ll have to pop back in on a more “normal evening to judge the offering, but to be fair, the pub looks great and was BLOODY BUSY!


IMAG1751 - Copy - Copy

The Blue Pig (High Street/Back Turner St)

First time for me in this bar. Opening in 2012, this passed me by a bit – being a bit of a “pub” bloke. I’ve obviously denied myself some rare pleasures, because I love this place! Big open room with a bit of a bohemian feel. Nice flourishes all over the place and it was as busy as a chippy with great tunes (The Walkmen, The Smiths) all but drowned out by the sound of conversation – just the way it should be!

IMAG1755 - Copy - Copy

Quite a bit of cocktail action going down as we entered, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the small (2), yet perfectly locally formed cask offering! Shindigger Pale and Black Jack’s Oddingtons. I hit the Shindigger which was in good nick. A fine fruity refreshing pint. This bar probably has the beer selection spot on. 3 pumps, but 2 on, both local. I like it and I like this bar. Not too cool, just a good feel to it. My note uses the word “decadent”. Probably sums it up! I’ll be back.

Odd Bar

(Photo “nicked” from Odd Bar itself!)

Odd Bar (30/32 Thomas Street)

Just around the corner….Odd Bar. One of a 4 bar chain (Is The Blue Pig part of the group?) First time for me again. Top indie tuneage. Offbeat & Tickety Brew beers on the bar. Good start. A fine pint of Tickety Brew Stout. All the roasted malt you could want and that Belgian Yeast spiciness, luxurious and smooth.
IMAG1762

A Lively bar, dark tones, red and browns lots of photos adorning the walls with some seriously decadent wallpaper. Loved the purple fabric  hanging from the ceiling, made me think of a bedouin tent! Beautiful.

IMAG1760

Nice airy room upstairs too. Like Arnie… I’ll be back! A jukebox too? Maybe another juke crawl soon! Just the one in here as the table we occupied was reserved! On to….

IMAG1766
Common Bar (Edge Street)
From the first moment I walked in to Common to the strains of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” by Magazine, I fell in love with this place. The original bar that spawned the monster that became Port Street, The Beagle, IndyManBeerCon…… Now Manchester institutions all!
IMAG1769
2 main rooms, plenty of seating, lots of exposed brickwork and loads of artworks and posters adorning the walls. It really is just cool as fuck, but without trying too hard at it. Great food too! Two cask beers and a whole bunch of “craft keg” offerings. I went for the Moor Brewery and their Confidence at 4.6% abv. A hazy, ruby red beer with a citrus fruit nose allied to some forest fruit. In mouth, medium-bodied with lemon, grapefruit on top. Sharp and fruity. A damn fine beer. A damn fine bar.
IMAG1775
Terrace Bar (Edge Street/Thomas Street – dual entrance)
Bloody hell but this was rammed! Described elsewhere as “the prettiest ginnel in Manchester”, this 2013 bar has lots more exposed brickwork. The fact that it was really busy says a lot.
IMAG1773
Lots of decent breweries on offer from 6 handpumps. I went for Ringmaster from Magic Rock. I tried, but…no. Not for me. Lacked the sheer zing of Magic Rock for me. Had a swift half of Kernel IPA (Citra, Simcoe, Cascade) on keg, which was a bitter citrus delight. I like the bar, again, some great funky tunes and a fine beer selection shows that they are trying hard. Worth a visit.
IMAG1779
57 Thomas Street (Thomas Street – unsurprisingly!)
This is a small yet perfectly formed bar space which has carved itself its own niche in the Northern Quarter. Single room with a long table (apparently constructed from old floorboards), where alternately, you can see people chatting, drinking and eating or alternately playing various board games. It just is that easy-going and …cool (that “other” C word again!)
IMAG1781
(Beer Porn – Lagonda in all her golden glory!)
A few keg fonts as you enter, but the bar top cask dispense is a distinguishing feature. A physically cool (perfectly so) pint of Lagonda IPA was a delight. A Manchester classic. Fruity and lush. Really refreshing for a 5% beer. Spot.On.
The great thing about the above bars…they’re within 100 yards or less of each other, often opposite!
And then…the longest walk of the evening. All of 200 yards or so!
IMAG1782
Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square)
A bar that should NOT be overlooked in the search for good beer. And I mean DAMN good beer! The feel of a Cantina in this big open room, which really should be fuller than it was! Loads of bench seating with some high window seats to watch the NQ go by. Good food apparently too. Live music venue downstairs has some cracking acts on too!
IMAG1783
Tonight, the beers were Shindigger, Squawk, Titanic & Arbor. Now, you know me! Ordinarily, I go local where I can. And I would have done, were it not for the fact that, leering at me, then winking seductively, was Arbor’s Breakfast Stout. Was it REALLY 7.4%? Did I REALLY have a pint? Oh but it was utterly sublime! More coffee than Starbucks could shake a stirring stick at. Creamy and unctuous. Ohhhhh…..Would have had another, but the chariot was waiting!
A fine afternoon in the company of the Arch-Nemesis as always. Great beers in some fabulous Mancunian bars.
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

The Road To Wigan Beer – Easter 2014 – 19/04/2014

Edna Million in a drop dead suit, Dutch pink on a downtown train.

Two dollar pistol but the gun won’t shoot, I’m in the corner in the pouring rain.

Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup,

Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon; I can’t stand up.”

(“Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits)
(Video courtesy of Kenneth Sutherland on You Tube)

Tom Waits. Not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but SUCH a great songwriter. I love him. So There!

Take the following ingredients…

1 sunny day, 1 train, 1 bus, 6 excellent pubs (including my Pub of the Year 2013!), multiple award-winning beers. Mix vigourously. What do you get? Read on!

IMAG1102

I had been looking forward to this day since the previous event last October, so, when Allgates announced that not only would there be a “Road To Wigan Beer” spanning the Easter holidays, but that the bus would be touring their pubs again, it was an event that I simply couldn’t miss! With permissions both sought and granted by Mrs BM (a saint of a woman!), I reserved seats for both myself AND the Arch-Nemesis….If it was anything like last year, I might need support near the end!

IMAG1092

Catching the train on a magnificently sunny spring day (for Walkden), the carriage swiftly became rammed with Bank Holiday sand seekers, en route – presumably – to Southport. Standing room only! By the time we got to Wigan Wallgate, it was that warm ON the train, I was only too glad to get off. At this point, I realised my morning error. I hadn’t had a drink of any kind whatsoever since the previous evening. That first pint couldn’t arrive soon enough!

IMAG1089

The Anvil (Dorning Street, next to Wigan Bus Stn) is the Allgates Brewery tap (being a 2 minute stroll from the brewery) and whilst being fairly open plan, has the feel of a multi-roomed pub, bright with lots of light it has 7 handpumps dispensing Allgates own beers and varied guest ales. Multi-award winning (check out the certificates on the wall just past the bar!) this is one busy pub, so I was quite surprised to find a table free for the arch-nemesis & I to rest our weary bones!

Now, you may recall a recent post where David (Brewery Co-Owner) and myself went “over the hill” into the land that time forgot (Yorkshire) and picked up loads of casks for this very festival (read here). The first beer I had today was the last that we picked up that day. A certain symmetry, no?

IMAG1095

Bourbon Milk StoutSonnet 43 Brew House (Coxhoe, Co Durham) A good strength to start with at 4.3%, this was pitch black with a lovely tight creamy tan coloured head. With a milky coffee aroma, this was full-bodied and luxuriously smooth, little lactic sweetness with more smooth milky coffee, just when you start looking for the bourbon, there is a slight boozy backnote. A slightly sweet yet gentle hoppy finish to this. Was really hoping to have this. A cracker to start with.

My thirst kind of…almost slaked, there was time for a swift half before the chariot was harnessed….

IMAG1096

BlondeAtom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) 4% abv. Pale gold with a nice fluffy white head and a slight fruity aroma, this came alive in the mouth. Light-bodied and quite tart with a gooseberry sharpness to it. Really juicy, refreshing and light. Wished I had time for a full pint! The usual well-kept beer that you expect from the Anvil…managed to have the briefest of chats with Andy Heggs from the excellent HopOnTheBike but the chariot had been harnessed….

IMAG1097

(our beery chariot!)

Disappointingly not as full as last year, quite a few less locals on board. But with the Bury Militia, mobilised by Ramsbottom’s own beery Ratko Mladic (aka the Legendary Tyson The Beerhound!), I was minding my Ps & Qs!

IMAG1098

The Crooke Hall Inn – (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground) This was the kind of day when The Crooke really can come into its own, owing to its fabulous location on the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It really is stunning in the sunshine. Having heard that Greg (the Landlord) had 9 handpumps fully loaded, guess who was first into the pub?

Now. There were a number of beers in the Festival menu that I REALLY wanted to try. One of them was the marvellous Sonnet 43 and another was on the bar here at The Crooke!

IMAG1100

Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – This was a beer in demand. So much so, that there was a logjam at the bar with only one pump in constant use! This forced Greg to ask the following question

Q. “Anybody want anything other than Shindigger?”

A. (Alan Wass – Wigan CAMRA Branch) “Yes”

Q. “What would you like?”

A. “Half of Shindigger please!”

Laugh? I nearly bought a round! But once I’d dabbed the laughter tears from my eyes, I could pay attention to the beer in front of me….

The Pacific Pale was a deep golden colour, almost amber in fact,  with a tight white head and a lovely citrus fruit aroma. Medium-bodied, it was so refreshing with really zingy citrus flavours. Dry and tart in the finish, it was excellent. What was even better was the price. £2.40 a pint. (TWO POUNDS FORTY PENCE!) Bloody marvellous!

I bent my head around the corner to tell Andy the price. I quickly turned to what I thought was the sound of a jaw hitting the floor!

IMAG1101

Now how pale do you like your Pale Ales to be?

LubelskiPictish Brewing Company (Rochdale, Lancashire) 4% abv – Single-hopped with the eponymous Polish hop, this was a lovely light, sharp and tart pale beer with more gooseberry notes. Medium-bodied and REALLY refreshing. The Arch-Nemesis has been banging on about Pictish for years. I’m now officially a convert!

IMAG1102

Just time for another swift half in this lovely multi-roomed pub with this fabulous location for summer days!

IMAG1107

Risky BlondeFool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) 4.4% abv – Brewed at The Hope Inn on the A6 in Stockport, I hadn’t even so much as sniffed a Fool Hardy beer until a recent bottle from Great Ale Year Round. This was my first encounter on draught, so I wasn’t leaving the Crooke until I had it!

A bit fuller-bodied than the Pictish, this was slightly maltier too. deep gold and another nice tight white head. Smooth and creamy textured in the mouth, this had a tart fruity edge to it too and a nice dry bitter finish. Lovely!

I must say that I REALLY tried hard to persuade Greg to join us again on the bus! But he manned the beery barricades like a trooper!

Back on the Magic Bus!

20131005_160647

Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley) – Bit of a Tardis is The Union! Looks quite dinky from the outside, but 3 distinct drinking areas with two bars front and back. Some of the guys had food in here and it looked bloody good! But, I only had eyes for beer at this stage!

Beyond The PaleElland Brewery (Elland, West Yorkshire) 4.2% abv – Not sure this was a Festival listed beer (the are 4 Elland beers listed), this was still a logical choice. Bloody glad I did too! £4.20 for TWO pints!!! Ludicrous pricing.

Bright golden beer, with a peachy aroma to my nose. Really refreshing again, fruity and bitter (Cascade hopped) with a tart grapefruit finish. Another cracker (Their 1872 Porter should be any beer drinkers “Bucket List”!)

As I finished the Elland, Was that a Black Jack clip being attached to a pump? Hmmm

New Deck – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) 4.2% abv – I know what to expect from the beers brewed by Rob Hamilton, quality hoppy pale beers. This was no exception! Tart and refreshing with big grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied and oh-so moreish. Really zingy, nice bitter finish and quite a pine needly aftertaste. Just YUM!

Ding Ding!

IMAG1115

The White Lion (Leigh Rd, Leigh)

Like Greg at The Crooke & the mighty Nigel at The Hare & Hounds, Harry is just SUCH a friendly Landlord who happens to keep a cracking pint in this 3 roomed pub in Leigh Town Centre.

Pale Ale – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv Well, the Blonde impressed me, so it would’ve been positively rude not to give the Pale Ale a try! Golden with a white head and a fruity aroma. Medium-bodied, fruity and zesty this fella! Nicely sharp, fruity and very refreshing with a sharp dry bitter finish. Another excellent beer from this “first-time” brewery for me.

At this point, a note on the festival. One of the things that draws me to Allgates pubs is the beer selection, Their own beers are excellent, the guest beers are selected from the best micros around. But the with the festival beers, David and the team make a point of searching out not only the best, but some of the newest breweries out there. Atom, for instance, have only been brewing since December 2013! And these beers are priced…how can I put it….ludicrously competitively! Some of these beers would be nearly DOUBLE the price you’d get them in Manchester! Sermon over. Back to the beer eh?

Chilli Plum PorterWaen Brewery (Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) 6.1% abv OK. So it’s NOT a festival beer! I don’t give a toss, this is just LUSH! Hellish good beer indeed! Black, satanically so. Beautiful chocolate aroma which carries on into the mouth, really smooth and full-bodied and fruity with the plum coming through, creamy almost. Lovely and soothing…then that heat at the back of the mouth! Woof! This is SUCH a good beer! If I needed to sell my soul….in a heartbeat!

Ding Ding!

IMAG1117

The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley, Wigan)

What can I say. I’m biased when it comes to this wee 2 roomed boozer. I love it. So much so, that it was my Pub of the Year 2013. Why? It’s a feeling thing. It feels like the local that I never had. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Like a local should be. Nigel (mein host) also keeps a damned good pint! (Which helps)

Chocolate Cherry MildDunham Massey Brewery (Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire)

A deep reddy brown beer with a creamy coloured head and a chocolate and fruity nose. Ronseal beer alert! (Does exactly what it says…..) Initial chocolate on the tongue, followed by a layer of tart cherry, light bodied but really smooth and an easy drinking beer that you could do all day. The fruitiness of the cherries leads to a light bitterness in the finish. A beautiful beer. Nigel does love his darks. As do I!

Was damned sure that I had another beer in here, but without notes…..Doh! I’ll be back later in the week!

Ding Ding (I think even the dinger was getting tired by this point!)

IMAG1120

The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan) Effectively, the final stop – starting to feel the pace by now!

Classic two roomed local this. The main room was thronged by the time we got in. Nice and busy, added to by us lot wading in too!

Here, were two more of the breweries I was keen to try, especially as I’d help to pick up the beers! First off…

Gold – Stod Fold Brewing (Stod Fold, Nr Halifax) 3.8% abv A light fruity aroma to this golden (almost amber) beer. Lightly fruity in the mouth too, refreshing and easy drinking with a nice bitter finish. Really smooth session beer this. I want more.

A Day At The Races – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W Yorks) 3.9% abv – I could bore you to distraction about my love of Malcolm Bastow’s beers, but see my previous post here for that!

This straw golden beer had a big grapefruit aroma from its white head. In the mouth, lemon & grapefruit conspired to refresh my somewhat jaded palate! Really sharp, tart and refreshing. A beautiful light pale ale, as hoppy as a Watership Down screening. A nice piney aftertaste too. More Mosaic? Classy sharp beer to end the night!

Cracking hot pot supper in here, thanks to the pub. Lovely, just what was needed!

As much as the beer, the great pleasure of the day for me was just chatting to like-minded folk. Mark, the Wiganer now ex-pat in Edinburgh (on Rose St, the jammy bugger!), Andy Heggs, Tyson The (Legendary – Even Tandleman thinks so!) Beerhound, David Mayhall, Nigel, Greg, Alan Wass (thanks for the tears at The Crooke!) and more that my drink sozzled brain seems to have forgotten (sorry!). All great people with whom it was really lovely to chat. You made this boring old man smile, memories of which have made his birthday hangover seem worthwhile! To you all, a huge SLAINTE!

An even bigger thanks to Stig and his pals for laying on the bus, without which, you wouldn’t be reading this! Cheers fellas!

This festival lasts until next Sunday. At the risk of insulting you, you need to try at least two of these pubs! (The Anvil & The Hare are BOTH within 2 minutes of the Wigan – Manchester Victoria rail line – Evening return ticket? £2 – you’d save that on two pints!) Do your taste buds a flavour and get on that train!

Warning – This post may be added to later in the week!

But on that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 3

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

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

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

(“Night Creatures” – Be Bop Deluxe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMAG0958

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

Surprise! We start, with a dark beer!

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

IMAG1048

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

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

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

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

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

IMAG1082

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

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

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

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

And now, for some lighter stuff!

IMAG1049

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

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

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

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

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

IMAG1079

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

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

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

IMAG1086

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

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

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

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

IMAG1083

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

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

Firstly, the branding.

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

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

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

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

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 3

“It’s a freak out, nothing’s familiar, nothing seems to fit in the scheme of things.

Seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-one’s ever certain what tomorrow brings,

So don’t fall my friend, all nightmares have to end.”

(“Don’t Fall” – The Chameleons)

(Courtesy of You Tube user “HeadfulOfHollow”)

Whilst my musical awakening encompassed the Motown and Rod Stewart of my big sister with the Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath of my eldest and Bowie/Lou Reed & Iggy of my elder brothers, the years when I really discovered the true power of music to inspire, came in the early 1980s. The first 3 concerts I went to were The Damned in October 1979, Joy Division in April 1980 and Crispy Ambulance in approx October 1980 and my first time in a pub – The Millstone on Thomas Street in Manchester.

Margaret Thatcher imprinted her hatred of the last true Working Class and her policies started to destroy the industrial heartland of my home area. Wittingly or no, it was against this backdrop that arguably one of the greatest Manchester bands of the 1980s sprung forth, The Chameleons. I think I still remember hearing “In Shreds” for the first time when my mate Dewey bought it as a 7″ single and was absolutely blown away by the power of both chords and words. Mark Burgess remains one of the greatest songwriters of that era for me and improved album upon album ending their run prior to breakup on a US Major label (Geffen) with the immaculate “Strange Times” in 1986 – Mad Jacks, Tears, Swamp Thing – frequently overlooked Manchester classics.

Yes, I know they originated in Middleton (see Wilson Potter below), but whilst they may never have achieved the mythic status of Joy Division, or the mega sales of New Order or even the hipster cred of A Certain Ratio, they were – for me – one of the greatest Manchester bands. Great songs and powerful tunes.

Right then, I hope you forgive my reminiscing waffle as we get down to business. The business being beer!

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

IMAG0681

1. Don’t FallWilson Potter  (Middleton, N. Manchester)- 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

See above for the inspiration for the name of this beer!

Ultra pale gold this, a white fluffy head with a gloriously sharp fragrance of lemon peel and pith, really zingy. This lemony tip carries on into the mouth where it had a surprisingly full body for such a pale lowish abv beer. Wow this is sharp! The lemon is mellowed off a touch with something a little milder like tangerine or mandarin whilst losing none of its dry bite. Good bitterness to this with a really dry resinous finish with a little bitter lemon in the aftertaste. I though that In Shreds had it, but another Chameleon beer takes the Middleton Crown. An absolute belting session beer. Must have this on draught! (Now to suggest a collab brew with me, Amanda, Kathryn and Mark Burgess! Maybe a wheat beer….Swamp Thing anyone?)

IMAG0680

2. India Pale AleSquawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

After posting a review of one of the Five Oh Brew Co beers and commenting that they were Manchester’s most recent brewer, the inestimably knowledgable and well-connected John Clarke corrected me by mentioning Squawk, I was hoping to catch Oliver at the Manchester Beer Fest for a chat, but you know how things get when the beer starts to flow……

An amber coloured beer with a small white head and a lovely fruity aroma with some bitter Seville orange. Ooh, this tastes big. A big digestive biccy malt base holding up some lovely sticky citrus hops with marmalade being the first thing that comes to mind. A full-bodied beer and really well-balanced with a nice bitterness in the dry finish and some resinous stuff in with a light orangey marmalade aftertaste. A really nice first beer from this brand new brewery! And, lucky me, I have a Porter lurking in my stash……!

IMAG0538

3. Hello Spaceboy – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.34  – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

As with a lot of the adventurous small breweries around at this time, Five Towns seem to brew a lot of “one offs” just like this Bowie themed beer. Next time, I’ll try to drink / write them up quicker, so you lot can also taste just how damned good these beers are!

Very pale straw coloured beer, white head and a big grapefruit and lemon aroma, nice and sharp and nose twistingly tart. Light bodied with just sharp sharp hoppage! Ooh is it tart! Really light, sharp light biscuit like an arrowroot or rich tea balancing this sharp grapefruit and bitter lemon hop attack. Nice and bitter with a fabulous resinous aftertaste with more than a trace of that lemon bitterness. Another light cracker from this increasingly excellent Wakefield brewer! More please!

IMAG0685

4. Citra Noir –  Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Black Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

What’s this? Me, champion of all things pale and single hoppy like, from Mallinsons, slurping on a dark ‘un! The world has gone all upside down! To be honest, whilst I was chuffed to bits at the Manchester Beer Fest to get some of Mallinsons Amarillo (a pint, natch!) on cask, I just missed out on the intriguing Citra Noir. So, when I noticed that Raj had some in, I latched onto it like a vampire on a blood bag!

Black ale, cream tan head with a mingled coffee and fruity aroma. OOH. The coffee is a 3 on the strength scale in the mouth, really smooth in this medium-bodied ale. Then a gentle tart citrus quality comes in. A black beer should simply NOT be as refreshing as this! Some ground coffee bitterness in this along with the fruit in the finish and the herbal hoppy resinous stuff in the aftertaste. Yum! Fruity, Coffee and resinous hops. What’s not to like? This is my idea of a sessionable baby Black IPA, can we have a cask in Manchester please ladies? Pretty please???

IMAG0686

5. Lupy As A Toucan – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.8% abv – Pacific Pale Ale (my description!) – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy & Motueka hopped amber coloured beer with an abundant white fluffy head and a tremendously fruity sweet aroma, with peach, pear and pineapple all mingled in. Ooh, big biscuity bready malt with a little sweetness added to the sweet fruity hopping with pineapple a little peach and something that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Then, after a humourous Tweet series with Ade from Saltaire Brewery, Shane and the legend that is Phil Hardy, I got it. Alcoholic Um Bongo! Remember that? “Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in The Congo”? Quite apt really as Congleton is known locally as The Congo!

The finish is nice and dry without being mouth puckeringly so with a lightly peppery herby finish reminiscent of Rocket (Salad AND Um Bongo? I’m really looking after you lot!) Dangerously drinkable for the strength.

IMAG0696

6. BAM! –  Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.0% abv – Belgian/Pale Ale hybrid – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

With a couple of new beers from this SW postcode brewer in his locker, Damian chucked a couple of samples my way to get my thoughts. I’d happily pay the price above for this! Can I pay it much more of a compliment? To be Frank (I never did like my REAL forename!), I’ve liked each of the beers from Rocky Head that I’ve tried, so…here goes this one!

Golden with a white head and a fruity and lightly spicy aroma that makes my nose twitch! The fruitiness being something akin to a cross between grape and pineapple with something like the funk of a Duvel. Full-bodied, this has something of the best of both worlds, that slight yeasty banana quality of a Belgian with the dryness and slight resinous quality of New World hops, maybe even a hint of rhubarb! Lightly sweet, dry (Very much so in the finish) some boiled sweet in there too. Another good beer from this increasingly impressive London brewery.

Well. That’s another 6 done and a fresh order in for a vat of Andrews Liver Salts! One or two exciting things that I hope come off in the pipeline for the next month or so including a visit to Great Ale Year Round tomorrow for an MTB with my nearest brewer (if I keep saying that, what are the chances of a bacon butty one morning in Radcliffe?)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!