Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 1

“I’d like to see you, but really I should stay away and let you settle down, I’ve got no claims to your crown,

I was the boss of you and I loved you, you know I loved you, but it’s all over now”

(“I’m A Cuckoo” – Belle & Sebastian)

Belle & Sebastian. The first tune that I heard (without realising who it was) was the theme tune to the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, which, I think, was Andrew Lincoln’s first TV series following the mighty “This Life” (SUCH a great series!). I never really understood just how HUGE a band could be without having a single massive hit, until I heard this band.

One title “The Boy With The Arab Strap”. That is all! (Introduced me to the poet that is Aiden Moffat!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles too!

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

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….IMAG0974

1. Waterfall PaleRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £3.05 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Bright golden beer, plenty carbonation and light thin white head doggedly sticking around giving a fruity tart aroma with lemon and kiwi. Light to medium-bodied, this is tart with lemon, a little peach and a touch of kiwi too with a little spiciness tingling the gums. Really refreshing with a nice fruity bitterness kicking in in the finish. A smooth, really easy drinking and refreshing beer, perfect session material at this strength. Another excellent beer from this one man Micro.

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2. Dotty DIPA – Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 7.2% abv – Double IPA – £3.85 (500ml) – 15% off for a period – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Having rarely had Offbeat beers and NEVER having met the talented “chick” that brews them, these seem to be coming thick and rather fast! AND I bumped into her last week at the World Beers Festival! Shame there was no Offbeat beer there…so I’ll rectify that now eh?

Amber beer with an abundant white head and a big aroma of fruity marmalade. Oooh…this is a hell of a beer! A big warming chewy toffee malty mouthful with a big mixed marmalade flavour. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness which in turn gives way to a hefty whack of pine in the aftertaste. And that’s just the first mouthful! This is superb, each mouthful just amping up the sensations. And the hoppy resinous finish just builds and builds. Fabulous!

IMAG09723. The One – Citra – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 12 for £24 – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Bought on the (official) opening day of the shop located within BlackEdge Brewery’s unit in Horwich (just off Lee Lane), read here for review!

Very pale, straw yellow-gold beer with a lasting white head and a distinctive tart lime and grapefruit aroma. Oh this is LOVELY! A light biscuit malt medium-body, really fresh grapefruit, lemon & lime in the mouth. Beautifully refreshing and tart. I keep licking my lips! My gums are tingling too! Really dry and gently bitter finish with plenty enough piney stuff in the aftertaste. A real cracker and the best pale I’ve had from BlackEdge by a distance. Cask version please? NOW!

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4. Bloody ‘Ell – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.2% abv – Blood Orange IPA – £3.30 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Raj does get some rather interesting beers in his rather bijou little shop. Just to think that when I first went in, it REALLY was a typical convenience store. Now? The beers appear to have multiplied like the rabbits on Lundy! Now, almost certainly the largest selection of UK Craft beers in Manchester. And still growing!

To the beer….

A deep golden almost amber beer with a lingering soft white head and a big orangey aroma with something more delicate like peach blossom. A big IPA (almost DIPA in feel) with more than an initial hint of toffee malt sweetness with lashings of orange in a full-bodied mouthful. The finish isn’t as bitter as I expected with a nice gum tingling spiciness but there is a big piney pay-off with lots of sticky resins in the aftertaste. Oh yes. A lovely beer indeed!

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5. Stronge Extra Stout – Buxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.4% abv – Stout – (see below) (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(I got this when there was an offer at 6 for £12 on Buxton beers at Raj’s – check the website for current price by clicking the hyperlink above)

Named after the (rather excellent) brewer, rather than a statement of strength!

Seriously black beer. Seriously boozy coffee nose. Seriously full-bodied. Seriously smooth. Seriously? Boozy coffee nose leading to more slightly sweet coffee. Smooth as a George Clooney chat-up line and twice as tasty! That smooth coffee underpins a really rather nice coffee overnote followed by a long dry finish. A really smooth grassy hop aftertaste completes the wizardry. Seriously good! #Beergasm!

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6. Cuckoo Number 5 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6% abv – NZ Pale Ale – Swap (330ml) – 0% – Direct From The Brewer (Chilled too!)

For those of you who don’t know by now, this brewery is the brainchild of Jamie Hancock, barkeep supreme at The Port Street Beer House. If I’ve outed him, ah well, I’ll do FAR worse things in the years I have left! At the moment, these are (still?) only available for purchase from the rather fine Cuckoo bar in Prestwich, but not for much longer I suspect if he keeps making beer as good as this!

Deep golden with a light white head and lovely aroma of passion fruit and a little gooseberry. Smooth, really smooth. Medium-bodied and really fruity with a spicy tingle to the gums. More passion fruit, kiwi and some peach in here, like a boozy Um Bongo! Manages the trick of being quite high in alcohol, but really refreshing too. There is only a gentle bitterness in here, really smooth, leading to a beautiful smooth hoppy grassy herbal aftertaste. Quality.

Five Oh are having the launch of the first keg at Port Street on Wednesday I believe (well, I hope so because I’ll be there!). Teat (or even, treat!) yourselves by calling in. If I’m wrong about how good Jamie’s beer is, tell me. (I don’t anticipate any approaches!)

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7. Mystery Beer No 1 (A Bonus Beer if you will!) – Craft Rebellion – 3.8% abv – Saison – Free ! – 0 – In the post!

Craft Rebellion? Shop? Guerilla Marketing Campaign? I don’t know myself, all I know is that one day I got a card from Royal Mail in my postbox…..I kind of like free beer. I can remind the sender of my “rules” and drink free of guilt!

The idea appears to be that you receive a beer and try to guess what it is! I warned them that a) I’m USELESS at guessing and that b) I’d only review it if I really enjoyed it! (As with all that I review) Unwritten contract agreed…..

Ultra pale with, initially, quite a large white lacy head yielding a funky cream soda aroma with a little nose wrinkling spice. Light bodied and effervescent yet smooth drinking. Fruity with some citrus understated and a maybe touch of pineapple, a nice subtle sourness to this too (lemon?) . A really refreshing beer (as a saison should be!) with a dry finish and a nice grassy herbal  reminder in the aftertaste.

It transpires, that the beer is actually a Lemon & Thyme Saison Grisette by Partizan (Click hyperlink and check their website)

Well, I have an early start tomorrow (Saturday) as I go on a bit of an adventure….report to follow!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

NB : If you’ve got any thoughts on the nonsense that I talk or post, let me know in the “comments” box below – entertain me!

 

 

3 Bar Surprise – An Evening in Manchester – 27/03/2014

“He’s cold to the kiss. In ignorance he’s dangerous, in innocence he’s bliss.

And he stalks the night with sonar senses and he holds you tight.

Masturbates the madness in you”

(“Mad Jack” – The Chameleons)

(Live Video courtesy of alkalidocklive – You Tube)

(The video link was a judgement call. The passion of live performance over the sound quality of the album track. Repeated games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide and Live Performance wins every time!)

I know that I’ve mentioned my love of the 3 albums of the first incarnation of The Chameleons, for me, one of the seminal post-punk bands. They reached their creative peak (in my opinion) with their final album, “Strange Times”, ironically, recorded with a major label, Geffen. Songs like “Swamp Thing”, “Tears”, “Soul In Isolation” and the above track “Mad Jack”, when listened to nearly 30 years later have – for me – more than stood the test of time.

Embarrassingly, I must have played my cassette of Strange Times to death and STILL never got the lyrics of “Mad Jack” right! I mean, to young ears, “Masturbates” does sound like “Must have been”, right? What this blog piece has made me do is log on to iTunes and fling some cash the way of Cupertino to download the album. An 80s rock classic. Treat yourself to some passionate lyrics and tight playing!

Now, in a slight diversion from the norm, no bottles today!

1) There’s been 4 bottle posts this month and I don’t want to a) bore you TOO much, and b) A snap decision whilst tilting glass to lips the other evening. A surprising evening!

The aim of this particular Thursday evening mission was to swap some bottles with the legend that is Jamie from Port Street Beer House, who, for those who don’t know, also brews some excellent beers (see previous reviews) under the guise of the “Five Oh Brew Co“. From the moment he ventured to have a chat with a certain ageing nerd holding a Nexus 7, I’ve always got on with Jamie. The bonus is in the fact that he is a top bar keep who knows his stuff (as do all at Port Street) and is damned passionate about beer. So much so, that he stuck his metaphorical head above the brewing parapet and brewed himself. Damned well too.

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So, bottle swaps done, the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) and I settle down to a pint of Pale by the Indy Man Brew House (brewed with the mighty Black Jack).  Living up to name, this was a very pale golden beer at 4%abv with simply LOADS of citrus going on! Tart and refreshing, I was damned pleased I went this route rather than the dark side. This beer would grace any bar and would be an excellent “house beer” should Port Street ever consider one. A gentle fruity bitterness in this light-bodied beer was followed by some drying fruity resinous stuff that just completed the pint nicely. Excellent. I followed this with a pint of Kipling by Thornbridge.

To be upfront, I adore the dark stuff that comes from Bakewell, but the pales? Never quite got the hype myself – not from Thornbridge, but Social Media – nice? Yes, good well made beer. But the purple prose that I have seen seems unjustified in the beers that I have had. Same here with Kipling. A lovely looking pale golden pint with a drool provoking lemony aroma. In the mouth? Just…nice. The fruitiness in the talk didn’t strut enough for me. Maybe I need to recalibrate my expectations. Over a pint of St Petersburg. Now THERE’S a beer!

With a cheery handshake with Mr Hancock and a bagful of bottles (the Nemesis had a few for me too!), we strolled off to the second of a planned 3 stops (well, it WAS a “school night”!)

Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square, Manchester)

I don’t get into Manchester often enough. I certainly don’t get into this hybrid bar/canteen/club often enough. Their beer range improves each time I enter. This evening was NO exception and contained a Manchester brewery I was yet to try on draught!

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(FOUR Dark Beers – Heaven!)

Being a bit of a stickler for all things local (where possible), I was delighted to see Squawk Brewing Porter. Had that and their IPA in bottle and both were superb. With my pub strolling outings becoming decreasingly frequent (not having done a “Hector Rivera” QUITE yet!), I don’t see the new brewers offerings in the wild. Tonight however…

Dark…..Creamy coloured and textured head with a lovely smooth chocolatey aroma. Oooh! More chocolate in this smooth full-bodied beer, some coffee hints too with a nice hoppy finish in with a gentle bitterness. I would have had another, but….my eye was wandering…..decisions decisions…..the angel on my shoulder was saying “stay local”

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(Damn that neon!)

Black Jack – Red Rye Saison was the shout. 7% abv!!! On a school night! Hugely irresponsible, but OH WHAT A BEER! Far too refreshing for a beer of this strength. A little of that yeasty funk, spice and tartness form the rye and as red as David Moyes’ redundancy cheque! Just superb. But a bit stupid! Ah well….tomorrow was another day, eh?

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Comment : Soup Kitchen is getting a wee bit like Joshua Brooks. If this selection continues along the excellent lines of tonight, could well become a “go to” bar for the NQ. Great beers and superb tunes from Mr DJ – good food too so I’m told. The full package then!

Now…..just one more eh Mr Nemesis?

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Twenty Twenty Two (Little Lever Street, Manchester. M1 1EZ)

This is a hard beastie to find. I had been once before, guided by the Arch-Nemesis. From memory, the beer was from Outstanding of Bury (just the one on cask) and they had a superb bottle range. It was the sheer physical “coolness” of the space on a mid-summer afternoon that got me. That temperature drop you get when you go subterranean (see Gaslamp). Abiding memory was of a great art space with nice beer and awesome tunes (“I’ll Take Care of You” Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX stood out)

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Tonight. Upon walking down the steps it was obvious that we had stumbled across something. This place was busier than Port Street, and you don’t say that about many bars midweek!

2 hand pumps on the bar too (along with 4 keg fonts from Outstanding) Nemesis went for the Outstanding whilst I went for TEA by First Chop. First time on draught for me. Amber to brown with a lovely somewhat earthy leafy aroma. Of course! TEA! Duh! Full bodied with good fruitiness and an earthy dry finish. I was possibly hoodwinked by the name into imagining tannins in the brew as there was quite a dryness on the tongue, almost reminiscent of Earl Grey. Worked well for me!

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(TWO TABLE-TENNIS TABLES!!!)

What we had stumbled into was the launch party for “BCN MCR” A design exhibition featuring the best art designers from both Manchester & Barcelona. This cool & trendy crowd had just been invaded by a two-man Dad’s Army! We must have upped the average age by 2 years!

Got to say, being no art connoisseur myself, I really enjoyed wandering around checking out the posters and installations.

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(Manchester weather – in poster form)

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Well. A surprising evening both on the beer front and culturally too.  3 excellent bars and superb beers – and one sluggish old man in the morning!

Anybody fancy a game of ping-pong?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Weird Beard Brew Co – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 24/02/2014

IMAG0763(Image dedicated to Camden Town Brewery)

I suppose I should start this blog post with an enormous SLAINTE to Damian O’Shea (aka TheAleManMcr). Without Damian and his peripatetic market stall that has been selling exceptional beers in Manchester for almost a year now, I wouldn’t have come across the fabulous beers brewed by Gregg & Bryan at The Weird Beard Brew Co of Hanwell in West London and, by default, wouldn’t be in a packed Port Street Beer House for a hotly anticipated MTB event.

For a change, I managed to get to Manchester in advance of start time, only to find Port Street RAMMED! Damned if this wasn’t the busiest I have seen on a Monday evening! Once I had spotted the trademark hat, I knew that Gregg Irwin was in the house! A quick hello to Jamie and I was into the first beer (courtesy of the 5 raffle tickets received on entry)

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The Little Things That Kill 3.5% abv – I love this beer. previously only had it on keg and in bottle though. How would the cask stand up? Gregg – after his initial introduction about the brewery (going for just over a year now) – described the beer. Mashed at a high temperature to achieve a fuller body than a beer of this strength should have, it is indeed quite full bodied for a 3.5% beer. Named after a track by the No-Hit wonders Bush (incidentally HUGE in the US – and Gavin Rossdale being the lucky hubby of Gwen Stefani!) Hopped with the lovely (Come & have a go if you disagree) Sorachi Ace, loads of Galaxy, Summit & Apollo this is a fabulously tasty “Session IPA” and one of my favourite beers in the WB canon.

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Single Hop Series No 4 Citra Pilsner 5.5% abv – A pale hazy & golden beer. Initial impression was of some apple both on the nose and in the mouth. Not quite what I was expecting from Citra. Gregg, during his lead into the beer noted this fault and bravely hung it out there and apologised for it. Impressive honesty for which he earns respect. Still, far from a bad beer and quite fruity (if not as intended) with a resinous and lasting bitter finish for a pilsner.

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Five O Clock Shadow – Was next up at the bar and was an unexpected addition for Gregg who had obviously prepped up something else, which, upon tasting, wasn’t up to it. A damned fine replacement though! More bronze then golden, nice orange in the nose (Amarillo perchance ?) and in the mouth too, smooth easy drinking for a relatively strong beer 5%+. Nice and bitter with a little bit of sherbet fizz to it and some sticky resins in the aftertaste. Classy.

Fade To Black – 7% abv During his talk about this, Gregg eulogised about the versatility of the Sorachi Ace hop which is in this beer and (to Gregg)lends a toasted coconut note to the darker roasted beers. Gregg likes his Black IPA on the roasted side and this does indeed lean toward a Stout in its roasty notes and coffee whilst retaining its resinous fruity hop finish. Another cracker and – according to Ratebeer (more later) – is their highest rated beer. Idiots! Mine comes next!!!

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(The busiest I can remember for a MTB!)

The collective (as they describe themselves) are justifiably proud of the fact that (according to ratings on RateBeer) Weird Beard are one of the Top 10 new brewers in THE WORLD! 5th place out of over 2600 breweries is a remarkable achievement. Well done!

Finally we came to the last beer of the event. Weird Beard make some – quite frankly – astonishingly good dark beers. Black Perle (Coffee Milk Stout) was one of my top 3 beers last year on draught (cask) AND bottle. Fade To Black and then it’s BIG brother, Something Something Darkside which earned one of my #Beergasms when I rated it in bottle. This last beer is just about my favourite and was my second favourite bottle of 2013.

Decadence Stout 5.4% abv of roasted coffee and chocolate joy! All I wrote in my notes was “Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice!” (Except – obviously – without the sugar and spice bit!) Beautifully full-bodied, like a mini Imperial, but MASSIVELY drinkable. A lovely mocha note achieved without the use of ANY coffee. The mocha continues into the finish which has a simply joyous bitterness. Just YUM. OK!

Gregg did touch on a subject close to the hearts of the WB collective – The subject of the renaming of their stunning Camden Beard to K*ntish Town Beard and the dispute with Camden Town over the naming of the beer. Camden Town, as a new brewer, should really know better than to bully a London fellow brewer over a word that is a district of their city. Not only that, but home of the beers collaborators, Brew Dog Camden (THAT word again!).

I’m sorry, but Camden behaved like tossers and deserve no better than to be ranked alongside the likes of Red Bull (Redwell of Norwich) and Crabbies / Halewood International (our own Tickety Brew of Stalyvegas) as corporate bullies! As for the alleged attempt to register the word “Camden” as a trademark? Does the A-Z mapping company have to reprint all of their TENS OF THOUSANDS of maps?

Finally plucked up the courage to say hello to Gregg and his lovely wife Alison. Gregg even remembered serving me a pint (it HAD to be) of Decadence at IndyMan and even remembered our discussion about the hops therein. I just WISH that I had such a good memory! Just a damned good bloke. (and, as they say, “behind every good man….”)

With an extra pint of LTTK (So Damn Good!) it was time to chat and soon to bugger off! A quick shout out to some damned nice guys I chatted with. Paddy & Kev (whose blog just tickles me!) & Mark Welsby who I’d seen at these things on many occasions and never chatted with. Hoping that his new venture takes off soon!

Time to go (via a deserted Soup Kitchen for a sneaky pint of Ilkley Gold!) and grab the bus – which tonight failed to show! Cheers to Jeff & Jaz for their always fabulous company!

On that note….’til next time…(In that there London all next week…hmmm…what can a boy do down there?)

Slainte!

Manchester #TWISSUP – Drinking, Diversions & Dancing – A Grand Day Out

“If I could read your heart and say ‘I love me darlin’,

if I could read your mind and say ‘I’d never leave me’,

There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. I’d give my life away and my heart too, yes I would.

I’d turn my world upside down, I’d turn my smiles all into frowns,

I’d do anything, oh yeah, if you’d just let me love you baby.”

(“If I Could Only Be Sure” – Nolan Porter)

(Tune link courtesy of NutsliteVenueRoma on You Tube)

A most fabulous tune that I have shuffled/wobbled to on many a Northern Soul dance floor. To be fair, until last night (Saturday), I couldn’t see how I would link this greatest of tracks into one of my blog posts. Take a bow Mr Rik Garner, brewer and DJ supreme!

When Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy first mentioned a #CAMRGB Manchester Twissup (Abbreviation of Twitter Piss-Up to the uninitiated!) to me, two feelings came to the fore. Fear and excitement (fellow travellers I suppose). Fear? Well, down to the prospect of meeting lots of people I admire and in whose company I would feel rather inadequate – I’m a bit of a shy soft git (despite a chatty exterior) Excitement? Not a tricky one really! Unfortunately, at the time that Connor wanted to arrange this, I was struggling with some health issues and was unable to contribute. To be honest, I nearly abandoned this blogging malarkey altogether. However, as it transpires, Connor rose to the occasion and sorted a great crawl with some excellent “bonuses”!

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(If 30 + years of drinking have taught me anything – Preparation!)

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So at 12:15 I find myself stepping into the main room of what is, undoubtedly, the most revered pub in Manchester. The Marble Arch. Dating from 1888 (although there was a pub on the site previously as early as 1851), this immaculately restored pub is an utter gem of gorgeous tiling, stained glass and the legendary sloping floor with an angle to rival the Hardknott Pass!). Worth little of course, if the beer is rubbish (of course!), but the brewery IS Marble and that means quality!

Walking in past one or two blue & white scarves, I felt instantly at home. I hadn’t considered that this might be a pub of choice pre-Etihad! Spying Connor, I engaged in a rather shady hand-over, the likes of which you might see in an old episode of “Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy”! So, replete with some of Connors highly rated “home-brew” (a phrase that is now a world away from tins of Muntons Malt Extract!), I hustled to the bar for something light and tasty. Pint most certainly fulfilled that need and more, with its lightish body, pale good looks and zingy grapefruit and lemon. Delicious.

A this point some introductions were being made and I met a number of people I only know from Twitter, like Andy Heggs (HopOnTheBike), Dave Harrison-Ward (Brews Implosion), Mark (ViewsFromTheBar) from Scarborough, Andy Tabbernacle (TheComedyBeerCyclist) and his rather tall mate John, and many others whose names I shall be embarrassed to ask next time I meet them, my memory is SO shit! The mighty Al from Port Street was in attendance too and it was great to see Paddy McGrath (AllBeerNoBelly), a previous boon companion and somebody I never tire of reading/chatting with.

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Then the boss lady of The Arch showed up with a number of bottles of Imperial Stout! Oh dear….this was going to get MESSY! A VERY generous gesture indeed! Oily, black, smooth as a baby’s powdered bottom. Warming bitter coffee, cognac, dark fruits….just delightful, but bloody dangerous at this early stage! Beergasm over, then a couple of swift halves of Experimental 701 and Inter Regnum both lowish abv (4.2 & 3.4% respectively), both really refreshing with slight preference for the Inter Regnum, a hoppy brown ale.

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Early yesterday, the evil genius and aspiring Nijinsky that is Rob Hamilton posted an image of Twitter. The bar that awaited us!

I like Rob & the beers that he brews. A lot. Clean, tasty and never flashy, some of the consistently best beers you’ll find around Manchester. The brewery is located in an arch at the bottom end of Gould Street from The Marble Arch. Bottom end being appropriate, that slope gets steep!

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He had a good few beers on did Rob, I went for his Stout and Bramling Cross Pale (being a coward. I chose to give the slopey shoulder to the Arbor/Alechemy collab!). The Bramling Cross was refreshing, slightly bitter with a light earthy hop character and a nice fruitiness. The Stout was gorgeous dark and roasted with some coffee and dark fruit. Right up mein strasse! Had a great gab with Mr Heggs (liberating some of his pin badges – classy little things as were his designed T-Shirt for the Website! XL Please!) Thought I saw Rik “First Chop” Garner earlier too! Or was it a mirage!

This was self-service with style and the honesty “box” soon filled up as the assembled (and rapidly growing) throng offered libation after libation to Bacchus. The Arch-Nemesis joined us at this point and was one of many who set about the Arbor/Alechemy whilst Paddy and I enjoyed a cracking hoppy bottle of Redchurch IPA with an incredibly creative “Best Before Date” that had to mean that the beer could never go off, 30/02/2014 is a date that it could never reach!

The throng was heading off in sizeable chunks toward the next destination. I had advocated the chippy on Tib Street as a good idea, but damn if it wasn’t shut! Paddy, feeling slightly peckish, headed off to Slice whilst I bee-lined for Port Street!

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Boy was it busy! Memory was getting slightly hazy at this point, but I did have a half of the cracking Soulless by Redwillow, their Black IPA. A beautiful hoppy creamy mouthful. Full of grapefruit hop and roasted coffee and choc goodness. First time on cask for me and right up with Buxton Imperial Black in my book! The conversation was flowing with beery wisdoms being freely exchanged, but I had a yearning for a slight diversion with the next  destination being set for Font for the beery locust swarm!

Paddy had never been to Joshua Brooks. It so happened that the yearning to pop in was front and centre of my feeble mind! So Paddy, Arch-Nemesis & I were soon at that Junction of Charles & Princess Streets. It was here that I had my pint of the day, Beat Box by Tiny Rebel. A fruity and hoppy pale marvel at less than 5% abv (I think!), memories of orange and tangerine? Bloody good beer. Had my first taste of Burning Sky in here too with their Pale Ale another cracking citrussy pint! Nice to see Jon Turner before he leaves to move to London. Top bloke. Hoping that the beer selection stays as good as this! (Do yourselves a favour and buy one of their Membership Cards. £3 and gives a HUGE discount on the Cask Conditioned ales!

Short walk to Font and another (as usual) great cask ale selection…….For me, Beginners Luck by Black Jack. (Must ask Rob about that name!). 5% abv, pale and fruity and nicely hopped again. Typical; BlackJack, typical Font. Quality!

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Then, the long hike! For some of the swarm, a taxi was order of the day, but for flabby guts here, I needed the walk! Swatting away the devil on my shoulder which told me to pop into Cask, a thirst had been built by the time we entered the arch containing First Chop Brewing Arm. The arch is bloody HUGE! With the bar on the left on entry (having passed the wood fired pizza seller) a short walk down a corridor (masking off the brewing kit) takes you into another enormous space housing a DJ area (Rik himself) and a stage for live performance. The moment I heard “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye, I just KNEW I was gonna enjoy this!

The rather fresh and zippy SIP was going down a treat too, soon to be followed by a MIA, then another SIP. But here, the tunes just ruled! Marvin Gaye, Nolan Porter (see above) I was just swaying to the bass until that damned man Mr Hamilton dragged me onto the floor! I must have been wobbling like a drunken elephant (whilst thinking I was moving like Fred Astaire!) Just proper good times! Nice to see Jeff and his brother Paul at this point.

All good things……the bus was calling.

To all those I spoke with : Thank you for humouring a waffling old git!

To those whose names I will have to ask for again : Sorry, my memory really IS that poor! But I enjoyed EVERY conversation I had. I had such a great time and loved every god damned minute of the day! Thanks to The Marble Arch, Rob Hamilton (Groovy Mover), Jon Turner (JB), Font and Rik Garner and the guys at First Chop for capping off a memorable day with great beer and even better tuneage. Big thanks to Paddy & Jaz for humouring me more than most!

To Shane Swindells (Cheshire Brewhouse) DAMN! How did I miss you!

To Michelle (Offbeat), Andy & John – Damned sorry about the chippy! I owe you all a Babbies Yed!

To Simon Williams : Damn, didn’t chat enough. Don’t forget Joshua Brooks as a potential venue for the band in Manchester!

So, off to the number 37, the Beach House album Bloom and, surprisingly, no hangover! That’s good beer for you!

On that thought….’til next time…

Slainte!

Reflections? Connor. A (expletive deleted) good job, really well done. Pulled off with (almost) military precision. And, should you tire of your current job, there MUST be some town looking for a Town Crier! I speak for many when I say, Thank You! The End! (No, really!)

Harbour Brewing Company – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 28/10/2013

Harbour wall(Courtesy – http://www.harbourbrewing.com/)

Let’s start this post with my usual disarming honesty. Until recently, I hadn’t had much by Harbour. I may have had a Pale at The Euston Tap, but little else. Most of what I had heard about Harbour was good. Amongst my closer victims (er…sorry…friends!), they had a seriously good reputation. I was, therefore, rather happy when I saw two of their beers featuring in the Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt!

Those two beers were the IPA and Porter #6. They were truly superb and two of my favourites of the 12 or so that I bought (https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/sainsbury-great-british-beer-hunt-2013/) so when I saw that they were doing an MTB at Port Street, I had to go, didn’t I?

Brewing started in 2012. Rhys Powell (Brewer – formerly of Sharps in rock, Cornwall) and Eddie Lofthouse (business side – formerly running the family hotel in Polzeath) came together over shared love of beer and surfing…(cue gratuious surfboard pic!)…

Harbour Surfboard(Courtesy – http://www.harbourbrewing.com/)

….they use a 10Bbl brew kit with a number of fermenting vessels (4 if I remember rightly). They supply their beer all over the country. Sounds like we get so much of it because, with St Austell controlling many of the pubs in the county, the locals drink lots of brown (relatively) boring stuff!

Getting a ticket for this however, proved somewhat easier than getting there! After catching 4 (FOUR) buses – something to do with leaving my ticket at home! – I finally got to PSBH with just a minute or so to spare. Fortunately, the ever considerate Arch-Nemesis had already lined up the first beer of the evening….

Light Ale #2 (cask) – 3.5% abv – A copper coloured beer with a subtle grapefruit aroma. Light bodied but with some malt toffee notes and lovely marmalade orangey citrus hoppy freshness. Full of hoppy goodness, this was a really light refreshing start and – to be honest – my idea of a session beer. I could happily drink this all night! But then….along comes the next beer……

Aji Limon Pale Ale (cask) – 6% abv – Rhys (Brewer) introduced this as a variation on one of their standard beers (Pale Ale). The variation being that it was barrel aged for 6 or 7 weeks over Aji Limon chillies, not the hottest of capsicums, the aim being to bring a lemony lime citrus note to the beer with a building warmth the further down the glass you go. 6  weeks or so being optimal, before the heat builds too much. Hopped with Citra, Centennial & Chinook with a touch of Crystal malt for a sweet note.

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Pale gold with a lemon and more gentle mandarin citrus aroma, this beer had more bready backbone to it. Some lovely lemon citrus in this with a bit of paler fruit, maybe melon? Rhys was right too. The further down the glass you got, the warmth increased but was never overwhelming. A lovely pale beer and certainly the best beer that I’ve had that has used chillies.

Next up…

Double IPA (keg) – 7.2% abv – Introduced by Rhys as the big brother of the Pale Ale upon which the Aji Limon was based. Pale lager malt, Citra, Centennial & Chinook (accent on Centennial). The aim with this being to showcase the hops. Like several brewers, Rhys prefers this kind of beer on keg, his thinking being that without the carbonation, the beer could be cloying. Not sure I agree with that, I’d love to try this on cask!

Had to let this warm a bit (being kegged). Hazy gold beer, big hoppy nose once it warmed a touch, a slight malty sweetness pushed out of the way by some seriously big grassy hops. Nicely big and bitter, really hoppy with a huge resinous grassy finish.

Then….my higlight (or even “highlight”!) of the evening….

Porter #1 – 5.5% abv – Rhys’ interpretation of what an 18th Century London Porter may have tasted like. More upping of the malt bass and a tuning down of the hoppy treble on this number. A lot of brown malt. Describer as Rhys as having more sweetness with lots of coffee notes. Eddie (having arrived by now) made an excelloent point about the use of a sparkler on the pump (something that may not be prevalent down there in Kernow!) with Rhys noting the “Guinness” like appearance (underselling it – in my opinion!). Although they had Porter #6 in the GBBH, they have only done 5 with #5 not actually having been brewed yet. The #6 being like a big brother to #1, although (contrary to a Rhys quip!) I’m sure they didn’t up it to 6.8% with the addition of vodka!!!

IMAG0200_BURST002_COVER(Mmmmmmm……..Porter #1)

My beer of the evening, this. A deepest ruby coloured beer with a fabulous creamy head in both colour and texture. A gentle creamy coffee aroma gave way to a fabulously smooth roasted experience with cafe au lait, some dark toffee notes and a gentle building bitterness. I can’t say if it’s a great example of an 18th century Porter, but it sure as hell works for me in the 21st! The best Porter I’ve had in a long while – and I LIKE Porters!

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(Eddie shoots the breeze with the punters)

Then we came to the final beer of the evening. Generally, the beers at these events sign off with a relatively big beer. This was no exception.

Imperial Chocolate Stout – 8.5% abv (keg) – This beer was as black as sin with the cream coloured head dissipating quite quickly with an aroma of bozzy bitter chocolate. Lots of bitter chocolate in the mouth and a vanilla note with a boozy port wine feel. I detected some blackcurrant and cranberry in their too before a really nice dry grassy finish. Another belter.

There was a bit of a discussion about the availability of their beers on draught in their own area. The shame being, with the predominance of the likes of St Austell, Sharps & Skinners, the tastes appear to be for boring brown and amber beers, to the extent that Rhys has made their own amber for the local market. Price is also a big issue with outlets seeking the lowest possible. This may account for why so much of their beer makes its way across “the border”! I, for one, am not complaining!!!

Their was also a surprising yet pleasant afternote to the Sainsbury competition. Harbour will be having their Porter and India Pale Ale in over 250 Sainsbury outlets. Despite not being one of the winners! Just goes to show, quality (sometimes) does shine through!

Another excellent evening at Port Street with good friends and superb beer. They do do this thing quite well on Port Street. Met a nice couple from Ashton – Malcolm & Hazel – Hazel kept passing us her beer, bit too strong I think. Not that WE were complaining, Oh No!

After a brief (possibly sozzled on my part!) chat with Eddie from Harbour and Claudia from the Port Street empire, it was time for walkies with a couple of pleasant pints in The Castle (that REALLY is a nice job they’ve done reclaiming the upstairs room!) and the gorgeous Crown & Kettle. All over too soon.

Just wish we had got those damn tickets for the Kernel MTB when we could!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Hornbeam Brewery MTB @ The Salford Arms 25/09/2013

Hornbeam

So. It’s a Thursday. Also happens to be payday (YAY!). A choice between checking out my new Virginmedia setup, or pop down to The Salford Arms for the MTB with Dentons’ own Hornbeam Brewery. I won’t insult your collective intelligence with the obvious question…….!

A quick (almost telepathic) exchange with Tom revealed that there was no food on. So off to Caribbean Flavas on New Bridge St and possibly the saltiest meal I’ve ever had! Next time, I’ll go for the Jerk rather than curried chicken! It DID promote the thirst though!

Walking back in, there was the reassuring sight of my Arch-Nemesis at the bar. Furnishing me with a pint of Milestone Black Pearl Stout. Gloriously roasted and smooth with lovely notes of toast and mild coffee, we settled down in the front room to await the event.

Quiet. Again. What is WRONG with this picture, eh? A local brewer making an effort to come across town (on a Man U v Liverpool night to boot!) and talk about their excellent beers….an opportunity missed, to say the least!

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Kevin Rothwell – the head honcho at Hornbeam – was a most convivial host. He started commercially brewing in 2007 having been a keen “full mash” brewer at home since his teens. Brewing on a (Sketchy memory time alert!) 6 beer barrel plant (1 Bbl = 36 gallons) they brew up to 100 x 9 gallon casks a week, with about 10% or slightly less going into bottles.

In response to a question, Kevin told me that they have distributed pretty much across the whole of the North West, from Lancaster down to Derbyshire. However, now the focus is pretty much on the Greater Manchester area with a number of regular accounts. Whilst talking, Kevin was popping bottles…..first up was a taste of Black Coral Stout.

black-coral-stout

A fruity dark beer with a good roasted malt body. Nice dark fruity notes with a hint of damson or plum. A very nice starter, but destined to be the only dark of the evening!

Another couple of people came in (Aussie couple that were also there last week) making a grand total of 4. We had a good chat around beer and sport, then Kevin broke out the White Swan. At 4.6% abv, this is a Wheat beer made with an unusual addition. Lavender. Bizarrely, this very pale golden beer had a distinct ginger note on the nose! really refreshing medium bodied beer with a really pronounced floral character. Unusual and damned tasty!

I was trying to make notes whilst the beers were coming fast! I could barely keep up! (No. Don’t weep for me. I can cope!)

lemon-blossom

Next came Lemon Blossom at 4.1% abv. Brewed using the Sorachi Ace hop, this was again pale gold in colour with a delicate floral aroma. A distinct lemon note (a Sorachi characteristic) in  this clean easy drinking beer. Nice bitter finish with spicy hop note too.

Next came the Summer IPA again at 4.6% abv. Golden with a savoury aroma that I couldn’t quite pick. Quite fruity this, a little floral with a tinge of spiciness. Nice bitter and spicy finish.

champagne-ale

“Hard on the heels” came the Champagne Ale. 4% abv. Another golden beer but this time more dry and a pronounced bitterness to it. Light bodied and really refreshing, with a nicely dry slightly grassy bitter finish.

tophop-bestbitter

On the bottle front, we finished up with one of the core range. Top Hop. 4.2% abv, with more of a deep golden hue. A more straightforward example of a traditional bitter, but full flavoured really fruity hopped with a cracking dry finish.

Whilst drinking these latter beers, Ken, one of the owners joined us. Asking a few questions himself, he was also puzzled at the attendance and I think, if there are further events after Deeply Vale next week, they may be on a different evening to encourage a greater attendance. Chaeck out their website via the link above. Nice bottle shop.

Ken then popped in with this little beauty!

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A cracking little tapas platter, highlighting the good food being prepared here. Really tasty with the mussels, a seafood paella and a mini burger. Went superbly with the Top Hop and Champagne Ale!

The nemesis and I couldn’t leave without the Orange Blossom on cask, could we? This is a lovely golden beer with some subtle earthy hops in the aroma. Dry, with some subtle orangey stuff going on at the back of the tongue. Nice dry and grassy bitter finish.

The theme of the evening? Other than my whining about the poor turnout? Tremendous well-balanced and tasty beers. All at a drinkable strength. Made with having more than one in mind. No bad thing to me. Another brewer from our beloved area making balanced tasty beers at a drinkable strength, alongside the likes of Wilson Potter and Privateer. Nice to see all these brewers thriving in this great city of ours!

We wandered off to other pastures! Absolutely SCANDALOUS on a school night. But hey-ho! I had got wind of some nice beers at Pie & Ale on Lever St so off we strode across the Northern Quarter.

pieale

(pic: creativetourist.com)

Pie and Ale by Bakerie. A relatively recent addition to the thriving Northern Quarter scene, this places loses nothing compared to some of the more established NQ bars. The price upped a notch in here, but for what I had in mind, that was no issue! (And the Nemesis was paying!!!) Obsidian from The Hop Studio in the fine city of York. A cracking Black IPA at 5% abv. Lovely sharp sherbet grapefruit nose, with coffee notes in with the citrussy hops. A cracking pint. On the basis of the occasions that I have had this, one of the best beers I’ve had this year!

I do like Pie & Ale. No food this evening (being 9 ish) but great pies, having had the pleasure previously!

I couldn’t resist thee siren call emanating from the area of Port St!

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A belting chat with Al behind the bar, excellent barman who’s a keen home brewer. A kindred spirit in many ways, we shared our horror and disbelief at ale bars with no ale (Lower Turks take note!) over a pint of Graveyard Eyes Porter from Hopcraft Brewery from Pontyclun in South Wales. I do like Sorachi Ace in a dark beer. It adds a certain lightness and lifts what can be a heavy flavour into something much lighter. This was a cracker. The usual roasted character of Porter, quite creamy as well, but the Sorachi Ace…….yum! First time from this brewer for me. Will NOT be the last!

So. Nearing bedtime on this fine Thursday evening, I’m off to recline with a good book and a glass of DOC by First Chop. Damned tasty too….that review can wait!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Beavertown Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 19/08/2013

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(Welcome to Beavertown!)

I have a confession to make. I am a Beavertown Virgin! Or I was, until Logan Plant (Brewer) and Byron Knight (Ringmaster and hat wearer supreme!) rolled in and rocked up at Port Street last night!

If you’ve never been to one of these events, a brief introduction. For some time now, the guys at Port Street Beer House have periodically, on a Monday evening (when  otherwise shut) been inviting some of the best brewers in the UK (and further afield) to come in and showcase their beers. This is done in a structured fashion. You buy a ticket up front (these events ALWAYS sell out!) for which, upon entry, you receive 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each of these entitles you to a sample measure of each of – generally – 5 beers presented by the brewers throughout the evening. The brewers introduce each beer, talk about the genesis of each and give an overall potted history of their business. There!

Having forgotten all about the matchday traffic, then stressing out having got caught up in it, there’s something calming and reassuring about the organisation that Port Street bring to these events. Once I’d obtained my raffle tickets / beer tokens, I was much calmer. Once I had been presented with my first beer (Gamma Ray ) by Jaz, I just knew I was in for a good evening!

The Gamma Ray at 5.4% abv was a hazy gold coloured Pale Ale with a full aroma of mango citrus from the hops (Magnum, Columbus, Bravo & Amarillo), quite full bodied for the strength with loads of resinous piney hop stuff going on! Really fruity & refreshing with a wonderful dry bitter finish. A superb start.

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(Logan & Byron – Comedy Superstars!)

Then came the comedy! Logan and Byron bounced off each other all night, on occasion, like Run DMC but powered by hops! They explained their coming together in 2011 and the origin of the brewery being – until recently – attached to and an integral part of Duke’s Brew & Que a BBQ joint on Downham Rd in De Beauvoir Town, Hackney. “Beavertown” coming from the Cockney corruption of their locale. They brew on a 4 Bbl (Beer Barrel = 36 Gallons) kit and after originally having only 4 FVs (Fermenting Vessels) they now – following on from their recent relocation – have treble that number and are brewing 8 (EIGHT) times this week!

Logan apologised for any errors down to tiredness due to their hectic schedule, but he needn’t have worried. Both guys were on fire with the banter. Both obviously passionate about what they do, Logan was introduced as the brewer and Byron as the man behind Duke’s. Showing how integrated both sides of the business are, there  were several ideas given for food matching with each beer, something they obviously think carefully about and – more importantly – enjoy hugely.

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(Gamma Ray & Barley Champagne Saison)

Next beer up was the Bloody ‘Ell, a blood orange IPA at 7.4% abv arrived at by LOTS of ZESTING! Not an obvious fruit beer and truly more of an IPA. They used 25Kg of blood oranges in this brew with an extra pale malt, handpeeling the zest and adding the squeezed juice at the end of the boil. Byron described how well this went with a Duck a l’Orange burger in Edinburgh (Or Dick a l’Orange – eh Logan?). This beer was another crackling hoppy pale, with the oranges coming through subtly almost like a marmalade essence in there coming through at the end following the zippy and bitter hops. The trick with this, like many of their beers (as I was to discover) is that they taste light, fresh and WELL below their strength!

The third beer (and last of the pales) was Barley Champagne at 8.7% abv, made with a French Saison yeast and Bramley apple juice from their nearest orchard in Kent. A real lightness of touch again here, for me, a gentle yeasty funk with a tart sweetness from the apples coming through. Again a fresh fruity beer with dangerous alcohol levels hidden somewhere! Stronger, but comparable with Ilkley Siberia for me – never a bad thing in my book!

CHOW TIME! Smoky hot dogs fully loaded with slaw, jalapenos, fried onions and mustard. Genius! Just what Dr Beers ordered!

Now sliding across the street to the Dark Side…….

20130819_201242(8 Ball & Black Yeti)

Next up was Black Yeti, a Stout at 5.6% abv. Brewed with one of the brewers from Camden, they used a lot of paler roasted malt in this with a late dump of hops in the boil. Firmly on my home ground with this! Black, smooth, beautifully so. Smoky, lovely bitterness and a substantial coffee note for me. BUT not a coffee bean in sight! Nice dry bitterness in the finish too.  A classy beer and a definite winner for me!

Logan quickly talked about the “All Seeing Eye” imagery and the likeness to the imagery on the US Dollar bill. A really clever branding that features – in various twists – on many of their beers. Like Byron said, a “Cease & Desist” from the US Treasury would do their publicity wonders! They are using local artists now for their newer beers coming up with smart individual designs, but always with the pyramid in there. Superb designs that would transfer well to T-Shirts and other merchandise. Byron also related an interesting description of the term Craft Beer mentioned to him by Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. A beer is “Craft Beer” when you know the brewer!

20130819_201321(Oh My!)

Imperial Lord Smog Almighty. A Smoked Porter. 10% abv. The biggest abv beer that Beavertown have brewed. A natural extension from another beer “Smog Rocket”. Sounds like it had its historic origins in a collaboration with Brewdog called Catherine’s Pony (named after Catherine The Great – A LEGENDARY fondness for equine capers! Cue LOADS of horsey puns). They take great pride in being the first UK Brewery to collaborate with the Aberdonian Pranksters, rightly so.

Containing more smoked malt, Jaggery, tons of hops (110 IBUs!!!). They had a face off with Brewdog in Shoreditch with this beer and “Kicked Their ASSES!!!”

This is a TREMENDOUS BEER! Oh my! Creamy as a Cornish scone, viscous, oily, quite bitter with sublime coffee notes. Buttered rye toast, a bit of whisky in there too which is surprising as it hadn’t been barrel-aged! Reminded me of one of my all-time favourite porters, Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18, but stronger. What a serious beer this is, but with a wink in the eye and a grin on its face!

One to watch out for will be the collaboration brew with Wild Beer, a sour provisionally titled “Wild Beaver”, coming soon! Maybe one that my buddy Damian O’Shea could get for his stall???

I had a chat with both Logan & Byron. Top blokes who hosted this superbly, confident public speakers who must have had a LOT of recent practice. Came across really well and obviously care hugely about what they do and how it’s perceived, which last night was very well indeed.

Cheers fellas. You busted my Beavertown cherry and put a lop-sided grin on my face! (Or was that the Imperial Lord Smog Almighty?)

Finished off the evening with a beer that wasn’t subject to presentation, the 8 Ball Rye IPA, lovely rich and spicy with even more hoppy goodness! The evening was rendered complete once I’d had a chat with Connor Murphy of the “Beer Battered” blog and the mighty Tyson the Beerhound, even introducing the two! A quick chat with a focus on the recent Tickety Brew / Crabbies nonsense – keep an eye out for this, ‘cos if it doesn’t sort soon, Manchester should make some noise!!!

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(Coming Soon!)

Right then, my back is creasing in agony after all this typing, so time to head for the fridge to see what goodies can anaesthetise me!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

 

 

 

Weird Beard – Great Beer From West London

Weird Beard

The first time I heard about Weird Beard was on Twitter earlier this year, I think from Burnley Dave, from The Rake at Borough Market, London (a cracking bar BTW!). A new brewery making their name in the ultra competitive London beer scene. The first time I tasted one of their beers was in Port Street, late in the evening. It was OK, but I was over refreshed and pledged to give them another try.

Last month, I got the opportunity at Font. Black Perle,a coffee milk stout. What a belter! Ticked so many of my taste boxes! A lovely creamy beer with more than a hint of latte.

Shortly after that, I found myself in contact with Damian O’Shea (known on Twitter as @TheAleManMcr). Damian kindly offered to send me a couple of bottles to try. In the year I have been wittering on about beer, nobody has done that before. A strange feeling! However, for various reasons, we never quite “hooked up”. Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some weeks and it was there that Jaz met him (and bought me a bottle, lovely fella!). Then one Sunday, I got a text to say he’d picked up a couple from Damian for me. Needless to say, I got in the old jalopy and high tailed to Manchester to pick up my loot!

Damian is the “Northern Distributor” for this brewer from Hanwell, West London. They only started brewing commercially earlier this year but have already started to find their way consistently onto some of the city’s better bars, making a name for themselves, with hoppy pales a speciality. I’d been smitten by the Black Perle (one of my top 3 of 2013), but how would I like the pales…….

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Five O’Clock Shadow

A 7.3% abv American style IPA (7% on draught). This 330ml bottle conditioned beer was deep copper coloured with a fine white head and abundant tropical hop on the nose. Made with 3 malts and 4 hops (Summit, Apollo, Citra and Columbus), this had an initial biscuit malt sweetness more than offset by some assertive hopping with the grapefruity Citra well up there, taste of apricot too with a dry grassy/herbal aftertaste. A cracking start!

20130702_213006(“A Boring Brown Beer”?)

Chinook

What to expect from this beer, labelled “A Boring Brown Beer”. Well. It certainly wasn’t an aroma with licorice and spice! A deep ruby brown colour, those aromas hit me straight away. Confused me, because I wouldn’t expect licorice in a beer like this. 2 malts (pale and crystal) and single hopped, more licorice in the mouth with a little barley sugar sweetness from that crystal. 7.2% abv this and some of the alcohol warmth comes through. Nice bitterness in this beer which, to me,  I can only say (boringly) tastes dark! Which works for me! And, it’s certainly NOT boring.

Mariana Trench

(Damn! Can’t find my pic!)

At 5.1% abv, this (for their pale beers) is probably about as close as you get to a “sessionable” beer! Gold coloured with lots of citrus on the nose, mostly grapefruit (Hops being Citra and Pacific gem). Nicely balanced and surprisingly easy drinking beer this, a nice marriage of citrus hops with rich tea biscuit malt. Really refreshing beer with a nice bitter dry finish.

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Nelson Saison

Well, this was a lively little puppy! It virtually exploded into the glass! Golden to copper coloured with abundant foamy white head. Aromas of Belgian yeast funk with some floral notes and as the beer went down, more than a hint of marmalade. A surprisingly warming beer this with some elderflower in the mouth and a spicy grassy tinge. The warmth reminded of the same feeling I get with the afterglow of a nice cognac. A nice slightly spicy finish. I’m not that big on Belgian styled beers, but it surprised me how much I enjoyed this.

To sum up. If pushed, my favourite would be the Five O’Clock Shadow. A 4.5 rating for me. The others merit a 4. Considering that they’ve been commercially brewing for less than 6 months, they’re making some cracking stuff in Hanwell!

As far as getting the beers up here, Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some Sundays. He’s a nice bloke to talk to who is evidently passionate about what he sells. His beers are from a variety of areas, I popped down last weekend and picked up my first bottle from Cheshire Brewhouse as well as stuff from the likes of Magic Rock, DeMolen of Holland, Rocky Head from London etc…nicely priced too. I picked up a DeMolen Imperial Stout for £6.Pop down and see him. He’s a decent bloke (and that has nothing to do with the samples he offers!)

Final point, some of the best labelling I’ve seen since Magic Rock. Attractive, with detailed ingredients! Not bad at all.

Right. Time to settle to see Germany beat Iceland in the Womens Euros!

On that note….til next time!

Slainte!

Port Street Beer House – American Beer Festival 24/06/2013 – Beer Presentation by Andreas Falt

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(pic : Portstreetbeer.co.uk)

Last night saw the start of the Port Street Beer House American Beer Festival – a celebration of craft brewing, if you will – featuring draught beers of distinction from the gold old, bad old (delete as personal politics dictate!) US of A. There are undoubtedly some great beers that come out of the States and we were going to taste some of them!

As we enter (as is now standard) we received the traditional 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each entitles you to a “sample” of beer being presented this evening (frequently a half pint). The first of these beer was Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner by Rogue Brewery from Newport, Oregon. A pale beer at 5.2% abv, it was a nice enough pilsner style beer, quite refreshing, but undistinguished compared to what came later!

20130624_173614(The Rogue is above the President’s head to the left!)

As well as tasting the beers, we were going to be guided through by the Ambassador (love the title!) from The Brewers Association in Europe – Andreas Falt. (The Brewers Association is the body in the US that represents many Craft Beer brewers).

An excellent relaxed public speaker our Mr Falt! He led us through a kind of “time-line” of US Brewing from 1900 through to the “Craft Years” which (acc to the Brewers Association) started in 1980 – effectively with the founding of Sierra Nevada Brewing by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi in Chico, California and the brewing of their landmark beer Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

The timeline started in 1900 with approximately 3000 breweries operating in the US, these breweries making standard beers of the day including Lagers, Ambers and Bitters. Via Prohibition, The Great Depression and WWII, this number plummeted to less than 50! Prohibition being key here. The brewers that survived did so by still making drinks, just diversifying into fizzy pop production (or Coors Lite, as we know it! Am I the only one actually frightened by JC Van Damme’s teeth? Avoid that dentist!!!)

1965 marked a major brewing point in the US with the purchase of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco by Fritz Maytag and, in particular, the making of their first really hoppy beer, Liberty Ale in 1972.

The explosion in home brewing following the lifting of its abolition by Jimmy Carter in 1975 led, eventually to the setting up of breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Albion and New Belgium through to the likes of Rogue, Odell etc.

Next came the second offering on the beer front (we’ll skip the CASK CONDITIONED Sierra Nevada Torpedo for now, shall we?) this being Modus Hoperandi by Ska Brewing of Durango, Colorado. At 6.8% abv (note the rising alcohol levels as we go along!), I have never had this legendary beer. Amber, I didn’t get much of an aroma (I generally let kegged beer warm a bit before I drink it!) but in the mouth? A different matter entirely, Quite well-balanced, but with shed loads of tropical fruit and piney notes. This was much more like it!

20130624_205937(Mr Falt in his element!)

There are currently approximately 2800 breweries in the US, of which 1600 are “Brew-Pubs”, a very popular type of venue in the ‘States. Did you know there are 57 breweries (inc Brew-Pubs) within the city limits of Portland, Oregon? Me neither, but I’d love to go! In essence, most beers brewed in the US never get exported far because they are drunk locally. A quick chat through the most popular beer styles (IPA, Pale Ale and Ambers), the relatively recent phenomenon of canning craft beers (Modus Hoperandi being predominantly canned) and the recent introduction of lining the cans to exclude the “metallic taste” and thus keeping the beer fresh and tasting better. (An interesting anecdote about a blind tasting with CAMRA members preferring Maui Coconut Porter – a CANNED beer of all horrors! Ha!)

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The next beer was the Belgian Style Blonde IPA by Sierra Nevada at 7.4% abv (abv rising again!). (The first time that Andreas himself had tried this) Pale, with a bubblegum and cream soda aroma, I’m not sure about this being an IPA, but it would have been the best Belgian Wit I’ve had, if it was from Belgium! A truly excellent smooth Wit, slightly sweet with a hint of banana split. Superb (NEARLY my favourite of the evening!) and apparently a style growing in popularity in the US.

A quick talk from Andreas about the regional preferences for beer in the US (East Coast – European styles, Mid West, slightly hoppier with European influences too – Odell Cutthroat Porter for example, and then West Coast – HOPS from the Yakima Valley!) and the criteria that determines what is actually a “Craft Brewery” in the US. (Amount of beer produced (vast!), independent ownership and traditional ingredients.) Also a little thread on the experimental nature of US Craft Brewers.

Next beer up was up the scale again at 9% abv and was Iniquity Black Ale by Southern Tier Brewing from Lakewood, New York State. An initial chocolate and hoppy, citrus aroma gave way to hints of chocolate overlaid by piney, resinous hops. Black IPAs are not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but they work for me. And this was excellent. Can also be described as a Cascadian Black Ale. (If anybody sees their Creme Brulee over here, let me know ‘cos my buddy Col REALLY wants one!)

At this point, food was up. Some excellent chilli topped Hot Dogs, but, being slow, everybody else had snaffled all the Jalapenos! Greedy little sausages!!!

Andreas explained as to how, once you go over the 8.5% mark, American brewers start to use the prefix “Imperial”. In response to an audience query, Andreas conceded that there was essentially no difference between a Double IPA (DIPA) and an Imperial IPA, to merriment from the audience! A quick chat re “Barrel Ageing” and sour beers. Also a recommendation about Crooked Stave brewery of Denver, especially for sours.

An interesting comparison of ostensibly similar beers in Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Ska Modus Hoperandi. Both big IPAs but with markedly different hop characteristics (Citrus v Piney resins)

The final presentation beer was from Flying Dog of Frederick in Maryland and was their Green Tea Imperial Stout at 10% abv. With four different malts and hopped with Warrior hops, this was as black as sin and had a lightly smoky nose and offered a boozy promise backed up in the mouth with loads of roast, more than a vinous warming hint and, TEA. I could actually taste tea in all that darkness. I just wanted to wallow in this! That lucky sod Chris stood next to us had two ‘cos his missus wasn’t keen!

A final chat from Andreas. Of 212 Million Hectolitres of beer produced in the States, 7% of this is “Craft”, 15 million Hectolitres (that’s near 3 BILLION pints!). The largest export markets are Canada, Sweden & the UK. But only 1% of US Craft beer gets exported. Just shows how much gets drunk locally! A comment about trying to break into Germany provoked a chuckle or two!

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(POTUS viewed through the PRISM!)

Andreas is an accomplished and genial public speaker. It is obvious that he loves his job (and who wouldn’t!) and is passionate about the beers he promotes on behalf of his employers. This was an excellent event and one I would certainly attend next year! Andreas also told me earlier that he will be involved with an Italian Craft bar at IndyMan later this year. Can’t wait. A nice guy!

It was great to chat with a few people last night, Tyson (all too briefly), Chris and his missus stood next to us (thanks for the chin-wagging!), James & Jon from Joshua Brooks. A wide cross-section of people here tonight, all united by a love of great beer!

Favourite brew? As if you need to ask! The Flying Dog Green Tea Imperial Stout was simply sublime. Followed closely by the Sierra Nevada Belgian Style Blonde IPA, a gorgeous Wit (IMHO!)

Thanks again to MC Jamie and the guys at Port Street for putting on a superb event. Get in there before that Sierra and Flying Dog sell out!

Ooh! Had to have a 1/2 pint or three of the Sierra Nevade Torpedo on CASK! SUCH a gorgeous hugely hopped citrussy beer. Stunningly good and a candidate for beer of the month!

Now. A 10:00 chuck out was a bit early for me, so we (Jaz & I) toddled over to Soup Kitchen for a final beer.

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I suppose it WAS a Monday evening, but it was virtually deserted! But I was SO glad I popped in! Revolutions Brewing! Clash London Porter! Oh I was one happy chap! I’ve been agitating to get their Manifesto Stout over here for a while now, but this will MORE than do! A lovely porter at 4.5% abv with plenty of roast and coffee but significant bitterness in the finish. Can we have some more over that there hill please!

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(Happy days!)

That then was it for the evening. I really enjoyed Andreas’ talks and the beers he presented topped off by a total surprise in Soup Kitchen. Back of the net!

So, Jaz & I go our separate ways, with me towards my chariot, supplied by First Buses!

On that note…’til next time! (Bury / Ramsbottom and the East Lancashire Railway this weekend!)

Slainte!

The Stockport Beer Festival 01/06/2013 (or, Sir Galahad finds his Holy Gr(ale))

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(pic – gmcr.alenewsnet.com)

This was truly a last-minute decision. OK, it was made the evening before, but you get the point!

I knew this was my lucky day when I turned up late for the train at Farnworth, to find the train was even later! So it was that I found my self at the rear entrance to Stockport Train Station and waited for Jaz (well, who else would drink with me!) A quick nip into Sivoris caff for a spot of brekky and we’re entering that cathedral of footballing excellence, Edgeley Park. Home of the newly relegated Stockport County FC!

I had heard from John Clarke (CAMRA South Manchester), that Jarl by Fyne Ales would be making an appearance. Let me be quite honest, much though I love a beer fest, it was Jarl that dragged me out of my pit that morning and plonked me on that train! Jaz had been winding me up about how gorgeous it was the previous day (Cheers Buddy!), so my hopes were low of locating my beery Grail. Now, where were those beers beginning with the letter F? Then, the metaphorical clouds parted and the sunbeam shone on one particular 18 gallon (kilderkin) cask. JARL! At £2 a bloody pint as well!!!

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(Beer Porn Alert! The Holy Grale!)

I truly felt like Sir Galahad as he laid eyes on the hallowed chalice! Jarl. Beloved in bottle, now on draught. And I had a pint!

Believe me when I say this. I have chased this beer from bar to bar. From the Allgates Brewery “Road To Wigan Beer” (Pt 2 in October!), to haring across Manchester on a rumour (it had sold out!). But now, I finally had it in my trembling mitt! Was it worth it? Bloody stupid question! 3.8% abv and pale as a spring morning, It was sharp, lemon zesty both in nose and palate. It was a citrus festival in my mouth. I love this beer almost as much as my darling Atilla! Yeah. It was a decent pint! So good was it, that I broke a rule. I had two. I had to!

Descending some stairs into the bowels of this footballing Mecca, we ambled to watch an Oompah band. Just behind the bottle bar, I asked a genial gent if he was John Clarke, one of the organisers  of this fest and Editor of Opening Times the S Manchester CAMRA branch mag. I introduced my self and had a really pleasant (but all too brief) chinwag. A damn nice bloke indeed. Interesting bottle selection too, with a De Molen Citra for £3. (I didn’t)20130601_124431

(The Oompah band is there – look harder!)

The Oompah troupe were superb and fun, playing snatches of requests. Good, but my focus was back upstairs, where business needed doing!

That business matter led me to Dark Matter, a 3.8% Mild by Saltaire. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mild by the Shipley alechemists before. This was quite subtle. Some nice gentle roast with more than a tinge of blueberry or blackberry. A nice smoky hint in the aftertaste too. Lovely. I would have had it first, but when Jarl (my Juliet – apologies to David Mayhall for this most blatant of thefts!) calls, this Romeo had to climb to the balcony!

Next up was Coal Porter (See what they did there!) by Elixir Brewing from Livingston. Now THIS is my idea of dark heaven! 5% abv, black (or near as dammit!) with a hint of smoke on the nose. This delivered bitter chocolate in this roasted mouthful, smooth texture with a lingering smokiness. A beautiful porter. Enjoyed whilst sitting in the stands (see below!)

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(A tinge of grassyness!)

Following my second pint of Jarl, I had a small taste of Oat Stout from Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth. At 5.2% this was creamy textured with more than a hint of the hedgerow. A gentle smokiness in the finish was a twist. First from Nook and really nice.

Next up was the Single Hop IPA from Stockport’s own Quantum Brewing. The hop variety in the case being Triskel (French I believe). Golden, fruity aroma (tropical, pineapple?) with that carrying through in the mouth. Nice and juicy with a nice dry finish. Quite subtle this hop. Didn’t taste its strength.

We’d gabbed for a bit and time had passed. It was time for a final beer and I opted for another Fyne Ales. This time (reverting to type!) their Sublime Stout at 6.8% abv. Probably not the wisest of choices at that strength. However, just like the Quantum, it didn’t taste its strength. A lovely smooth roasted mouthful with some mocha on the nose. Creamy wee beastie this with a delicious smokiness that hung about a bit. It was 4 o’clock now and we were being ushered out. One of the perils of separate sessions I suppose.

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(One of the ‘quieter’ moments!)

In summary : All the beers I had were uniformly in superb condition. They were also ludicrously inexpensive! £2 a pint for Jarl? The idea of sitting in the stands was great. However, this is where my one quibble surfaces. The area where the beers were served had the feel of a narrow corridor, in no way helped by the punters tendency to hang around once they’d made their purchases. This made it somewhat difficult to move about in there. I know, I know that you can’t actually FORCE the imbibing throng to relocate once they’d made their choices, but at times, I felt uncomfortable. There!

That said, after a 20 odd year gap between fests (I served at a charity bar at the old Town Hall fest), I’ll be back! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Departing felt like I was actually leaving a footy match! At this juncture, Jaz revealed a plan to visit a nearby boozer Ye Olde Vic.

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Located on Chatham Street, walking in felt like a time warp! Dark, warm and friendly, I settled in instantly to a pint of Oracle by Salopian Brewery, a first by this brewer for me! A pale beer that was lovely, sharp, crisp  and hoppy.

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This isn’t a multiroom, but has that multiroom feel. I think there were 7 hand pumps, with beers from Thornbridge, Oakham, Magic Rock featuring. However, I went for Jade by Liverpool Organic. This was a nice clean pint with flowery notes. Probably a bit too delicate at this stage. I think after my efforts, I needed something more assertive. This beer would be one to start with. Refreshing though.

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(Now. Where DID I put those pumpclips? Ah yes, the ceiling!)

Time for the train back to Manchester. Now, a sensible boy would’ve IMMEDIATELY caught a connection to Bolton. But I said “sensible”!

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So, Jaz guided us into Pie & Ale by Bakerie. Located on Lever Street, this is a decidedly modern affair and looks designed to catch a fairly trendy crowd. So, what am I doing here? To the rear bar we go and Lo! Handpumps! And what’s more, local beers from Wilson Potter and Brightside! Alongside a couple of Wells & Young’s offerings and a Liverpool Chocolate Porter.

Here I chose Natural Progression by Wilson Potter. You will (if you’ve read this blog before) know what I think of the beers brewed by these ladies. Smooth, tasty and clean. This was no exception. A nice fruity smooth mouthful. 4.8%. It’s great to see more of their beers around Manchester. Seems like their beers are on in this place quite frequently. Good to know!

Next up, Odin by Brightside Brewing (now of Radcliffe!). A really refreshing beer this. Bright, pale, zippy and nicely hopped. Initially thought it was a ‘real’ lager it was THAT pale (as you can see!). A blonde beer to look out for from another excellent local brewery.

20130601_191043(A zesty blonde indeed!)

Pie & Ale is an excellent addition to the Northern Quarter. If the food is anywhere near as good as the beer……..friendly knowledgeable staff, siiting booths and bench seating. I like this place!

Quickly skipping my greedily ordered Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt (I had to!) We finished off the evening in Port Street Beer House (where else) with an Oakham Green Devil IPA. More hops than a Watership Down audition. Stunningly fruity and hoppy. Enough said. A classic.

Not the most sensible day out, but bloody enjoyable!

Back in Manchester on Friday and Wigan on Saturday with some brewing luminaries at Allgates (I’ll be making the tea!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!