Bottled Beers – January 2015 – Pt 1

“They say an end can be a start, it feels like I’ve been buried yet I’m still alive
It’s like a bad day that never ends.
I feel the chaos around me, a thing I don’t try to deny
I’d better learn to accept that there are things in my life I can’t control”

(“If I Ever Feel Better” – Phoenix)

(Clip courtesy of B.D White – via YouTube)

Waffle

For me, this is possibly the ultimate earworm – well, in its original form anyway. From a band that have – criminally – never had a hit single in the UK. I am also yet to discover so sad a song set against SUCH an uplifting melody.

Taken from their debut album “United”, this track – again, for me – explodes any myth that the French can’t make great pop music. For a while indeed, French music dominated dancefloors in the late 90s and early to mid 00s with the likes of Daft Punk (former band mates with members of Phoenix in “Darlin'”) and Justice.

I could have easily just used a clip of the single, but chose the one above to fit in two of the greatest French musical exports of the last 20 years. For a whole variety of reasons (and not just the obvious) at this particular moment, this feels right to me.

And the moment – at approximately 05:57 – when the band kick in again gives the lie to anyone who says that French bands can’t rock. A truly awesome mash-up.

Beer

Thinking of changing the focus of this blog. Maybe a few more pub pieces and less bottles. If you don’t like that idea, let me know, my head is in a weird place at the moment and I’m even more open to persuasion than normal!

Also, I need to track down some excellent fresh new Northern beers, this one has a few “interlopers”!

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  1. Manchester Sun– Beer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 5.3% abv – Golden Bitter – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Golden beer with a persistent white head giving off a gentle fruity aroma with maybe a hint of plum & raisin.

Quite full-bodied in the mouth, that fruitiness carries on onto the palate with more forest fruit and more than a hint of marmalade. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness and a dry finish with some grassy hops in the aftertaste.

This is what used to be called a “Premium Bitter” and would be a smidgen from a fully fledged IPA for me. Either way, an excellent beer. And do you know what REALLY impresses me, Steve says on the label what he set out to do, and – in his first two bottles – he has nailed it.

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  1. Dry Hopped Lager(Galaxy) – Adnams (Jack Brand – Southwold, Suffolk) – 4.2%abv – Lager – 330ml – Swap with my friend Simon (for a bottle of Thwaites’ 13 Guns)

Yes. A lager. From one of the Regional big boys too! One of TWO this post! A lucky find over Xmas, for which I thank Simon.

Bright and golden (as you would expect), its lingering fluffy white head giving off an aroma of fresh apples with a citric hint of lime sharpness.

In the mouth, a rich tea biscuity sweetness gives way to a light and refreshing fruity mouthful, Orchard fruits with a little lemon and a subtle floral flavour wafts across the tongue too. This is possibly one of the nicest UK lagers I have tasted thus far. Beautifully refreshing. and a joyous thing. A summer beer in midwinter!

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  1. Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja(Citra Pilsner) – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell) – 5.5% abv – Pilsner – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Yep. Another Pale golden Lager! This has a lingering white head and an aroma that is quite restrained, fresh-baked white bread being my first thought.

In the mouth, this comes to life! Medium bodied, This has a surprising depth of flavour with like a citrus jam stickiness and a quite fabulous hoppy hit post swallow. That fruitiness just keeps coming, with a little more citrus asserting itself in further mouthfuls.

This could almost convert me to Lager!

Fruity, refreshing, with a crackling grassy hop dry finish. Yum. Weird Beard strike another home run!

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  1. Dragons Tears– Black Jack Beers (Manchester) – 5.2% abv – Jasmine Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Now then, the first #Beergasm of 2015!

Hazy and golden beer with a thin but persistent white head and a slightly spicy fragrant aroma (presumably the Jasmine)

Oh but this is LOVELY! A typically good Saison in that it is terrifically refreshing, getting the saliva glands working overtime, with that yeastiness powder coating the tongue as the beer slides down.

This is quite full bodied and has that delicate almost floral spice of the Jasmine adding to the lightness of touch. A beautifully refreshing mouthful from young Mr Hamilton & chums!

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  1. Rum In The Black– Wilson Potter (Middleton) – 4.2% abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

Black, with a milky coffee coloured head and a nose of Chocolate. Sweet and seductive.

Medium bodied, a little sweetness in the mouth gives way swiftly to a more bitter chocolate,smooth and moreish with a slight smoky note in the swallow.

Following mouthfuls give up hints of the rum in the title but with that sweetness surpassed by a lovely gentle bitter hoppy finish.

Another excellent beer from the increasingly impressive Wilson Potter.

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  1. Bristletoe– Bristol Beer Factory (Er,,,,Bristol) – 4.7% abv – Oatmeal Porter – 500ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

This is black. No shit Sherlock. It also has a rather attractive beige foam collar and a lovely slightly sweet chocolate & coffee aroma. Mocha if you will. It smells nice and….. “dark”.

Taste wise? The chocolate is almost a given. And it is chocolatey, medium-bodied and smooth from the Oatmeal, the first thing is a slight sweetness from the chocolate which fades to a dry and quite hoppy finish, really satisfying mouthful.

At times, it feels like a little lactic like a Milk Stout – never a bad thing in my particular book. It’s the body and the slight sweetness which reminds me that this is a Porter.

Never had a bad beer from BBF. This continues that streak.

Shortly after this, whilst I was having a late night watching the AFC playoff game, I decided to give something a try. The West Indies Porter by Guinness. I took one mouthful (unfortunately) and poured it down the drain. I wanted to like it. I actually have no problem with Guinness, but it was vile. Just caramel. Try it if you want, after all, I was tempted at £1.50 a bottle for a 6% beer. But remember, you were warned!

“The Bar Now Arriving……” – Wigan Central – A Great Bar Is Born

“I was following the pack, all swallowed in their coats
With scarves of red tied ’round their throats
To keep their little heads from falling in the snow, and I turned ’round and there you go
And Michael, you would fall and turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime”

(“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes)

(Clip via “Sub Pop” Records on YouTube)

Simply, the most beautiful tune. Few will better it as a winter themed song – or as just a beautiful song full stop. End of message.

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I like Wigan. My love of Allgates’ beers and pubs has almost entered legend. But, therein lies the rub….the only pub I really enjoy in the town centre is The Anvil. However, that all changed on a dark and chilly December evening when I was invited to a “soft opening” of a new bar created by Prospect Brewery and run by Dan & Gina Buck.

I was saddened when Dan & Gina sold on Great Ale Year Round. Felt a bit like losing an arm. Luckily, they sold it on to people (Anne & Steve) who run it in the same vein and keep Bolton supplied with great beer. However, Dan & Gina needed something else…A break & a new challenge. However, I don’t think they had any idea how quickly an opportunity would come around!



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(Hello Patsy!)

Patsy Slevin (Brewer/Owner) and her other half John, the owners of Prospect Brewery of Standish had had their mind set on a bar in Wigan for a while, when the opportunity of a railway arch on Queen Street (1 min walk from Wigan North Western) came up. On Wednesday evening, a select few of us got the chance to see how these plans had born fruit.

And HOW they have……

Let’s get this out of the way (and it WILL re-occur!) …there is a distinct railway theme to this bar!

This being my first sight of the venue, the first thing that struck me was how big it was! Don’t get me wrong, this is not a huge space, but I WAS expecting something a bit more….well….mini! Maybe it’s the height of the arch that gives a greater illusion of space, but this felt quite capacious. Then you look around….everything about the place has been themed around railways. From the seating booths to the right of the entrance, that reminded me of the old First Class compartments on 60s-70s trains (Dad spoiled us!), to the mock old-fashoined railway station style roof that adorns the place above the bar. It’s the little things…..

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(And they are….)

A lot of thought has gone into the design of this interior. The bar as a “First Class” refreshment booth, the olf fashioned insignia/logo that adorns the polo shirts for the staff which carries on into the bottle display. The hammock-like cargo nets above the booths to take customers’ coats (some of us speculated when the first wag will try to climb up for a kip!)

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(Just what a travelling drinker needs! The train home!)

The inclusion of screens integrated into the wall for both Arrivals and (more importantly) Departures was inspired! John’s idea so I was told. I doff my proverbial to him, a superb touch that was remarked upon in approving fashion by all who checked for the next train to Manchester. Who needs Trainline eh?

Of course, all of this thought and design isn’t worth the sweat, if you haven’t got a heart & soul. That’s where Dan & Gina come in. They know what they’re doing. They know how to source and (more importantly) serve great beer and they have they certain something that all good “landlords” have. That little something that makes you feel welcome and that makes you know that you’re in the right place for a decent beer too.

Speaking of which….

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6 handpulls. 6 Keg fonts including 3 “Craft Keg” (Opening night were Runaway Smoked Porter, Marble Boheme Pilsner & Magic Rock Ringmaster). The handpulls featured 2 from Prospect and four guests. Opening night beers were from Anarchy (of Morpeth) with Quiet Riot, Winter Tweed from Tweed of Hyde (new brewery), Jarl from Fyne Ales & Goodhews Dry Stout from Barngates.

A fine selection.

I might have tried one or two….

Being a Winter evening, the Dark Side was a-calling like a wolf howling. I heeded the call and tried all 3 darks. Big John & Goodhews from Barngates were both excellent cask Stouts. Roasty and smooth. The Smoked Porter from Runaway was arguably even better on keg than in bottle (and it’s a belter in that format too!), smooth with a little of that Rauchy edge to it.

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(Big John & Boheme – I’m a greedy git!)

Pales? Jarl has as much grapefruit sharpness as a Supermarket fruit aisle. Predictable brilliance. The Quiet Riot from Anarchy was a fruity weapon of mass destruction ( I was a little…slow the next day!) at 6.6% abv, all chewy malt and tropical fruit. Deliciously dangerous. The Boheme Pilsner from Marble was a really pleasant surprise that reminded me of Pilsner Urquell and had a lightness of touch. Refreshing. I hope they keep it permanent.

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I came back for the formal public opening the next evening (Thursday). That was the queue – albeit swollen with some that were in from 5 for a private Thank You reception. I didn’t think we’d get in!

But we did.

It. Was. Rammed.

I chatted with the guys behind Tweed Brewery and thoroughly enjoyed a pint of their Winter Tweed, a tawny coloured beer with chocolate a caramel undertones like a Chomp Bar. But liquid. And with alcohol! A good first beer.

Nice to finally meet Patsy and John. And I told them that they’d done well getting Dan & Gina. But I think they knew that already!

Dan & Gina had stated that they wouldn’t be behind the bar. The crowds dictated otherwise! I chatted with a few people and the feedback was universal. This place has made a big initial impression. It certainly did on me.

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The biggest compliment that I can make? The Anvil has company at Wigan’s top table. It’s called Wigan Central. Make a note and pay it a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Barley Mow

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

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(A fine selection)

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

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(Yum!)

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

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

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

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

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

The Seven Stars

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

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

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

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

Cornubia

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

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

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

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

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

Colston Yard

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

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

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

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

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

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

20130709_193538(down, down, down…)

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

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – June 2013

20130621_202448(A VERY happy Daddy on Fathers Day!)

Not that much gallivanting this month (so far!). No trips over the hill, no visit to Booths. Starting to get itchy feet! I did manage to pick up some reviewable beers courtesy of my darling younger children (see above) and the nice guys at Joshua Brooks, courtesy of their excellent 3 for £10 offer – still on! Oh. And that visit to Ramsbottom Craft as well…..

Moving swiftly on, some nice beers may have passed my lips this last month, all UK (see my mini rant https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/bottled-ales-may-2013/) and all damned tasty. Here goes…. (Remember, all prices include discounts where offered – CAMRA membership etc)

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1. Pilsner by Hop Studio (York) – 4% abv – Pilsner Lager – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Having had the XS on cask, I was keen to try something bottled by this York brewery. The XS was superb and this was no different. This golden beer had a slightly biscuity aroma with plenty of juicy biscuit malt in the mouth with hints of blackberry and other hedgerow fruits. A lovely smooth mouthful with a nice dry and slightly bitter finish. A cracking UK pilsner this and a bargain at the price. (Don’t forget the postal saving offer at Yorkshire Ales at the mo!)

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2. Tohunga by Bridestones Brewing (Hebden Bridge, West Yorks) – 6.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.93 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

A deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a gentle fruity hop aroma. At this strength I was expecting a hop monster but what I got was more subtle and no less rewarding. A dangerous beer which doesn’t taste its 6.3%, it had a good malty body balanced by plenty of fruity hop flavour and a nice dry fruity finish with some grassy hop notes in the aftertaste. A very balanced beer at this strength.

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3. American Amber Ale by Quantum Brewing (Stockport, Cheshire) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale (?) – A swap for a pint at Port Street! – From the Brewery

I’ll say it again. Amber my arse! A deep ruby coloured beer this with the aroma of a freshly bitten chocolate caramel bar, drawing me in. I like a beery taste challenge, this was one! There was chocolate in the mouth, some toffee but with a lovely dry earthy hop quality. Lovely dry bitter grassy chocolatey aftertaste. This was as good as on draught at Port Street! Yummy! Jay also notes the hops used on his bottle label, but typical me, forgot to note them!

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4. RooBarb by Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, West Yorks) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I’ve had a few beers now from this Wakefield brewer. Uniformly excellent they were too. I’m pleased that Malcolm Bastow and his beers are getting some well deserved light shone upon them including this http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/five-towns-mango-junction-schneider-v2/ from Leigh Linley’s “The Good Stuff” blog.

I’ve had the Peculiar previously (also Rhubarb & Ginger flavoured), but this had the twist of Aussie hops, so had to be done, didn’t it? A golden beer with a fruity spicy nose (no surprise!) Made with the addition of rhubarb and ginger, this was refreshing in the mouth with a slight sourness and a hint of warmth from the spice. A nice bitter and slightly piney hop dryness. Really well balanced and tasty beer. (I’ve still got the V2Schneider put by to try yet!)

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5. Burnout by Brass Castle Brewery (Pocklington, North Yorks) – 5.8% abv – Peat Smoked Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

Just HAD to get a dark one in! A deep ruby to black beer. The head dissipated rather quickly, but yielded a mocha hit on the nose, surprised me that! Some chocolate too in the mouth but with a deep smokiness accompanying it with a nice bitter touch. This had a lingering pleasant smoky aftertaste. Smoky, choccy and bitter. Ticks MY boxes!

Bottle of the Month ?

Quantum American Amber (but the Roobarb ran it close!)

Draught ?

Ostara by Allgates. Damn! Had it at the Hare & Hounds AND the brewery. Just a superb pale ale which, at 3.6% abv, more than gives the comparable Windermere Pale by Hawkshead a run for its money!

Right then! Off to gird my loins for the American Beer Festival presentation by Andreas Falt at Port Street Beer House on Monday…..

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!