Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 : My “Dance Card”

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Welcome to the beer festival that shows that CAMRA “do” UK Keg! Yes, I KNOW that the Campaign has had numerous kegged beers over the years! BUT…..These are beers brewed in the UK, mostly not designed to be dispensed from a cask. That is BIG news. To be celebrated.

And it has moved from the (“a little bit awkward to get to”) Velodrome – an iconic modern venue – to somewhere infinitely more “Central”. And more historically iconic. A Mancunian architectural masterpiece. And THAT should also be celebrated.

That out of the way, I’m a lucky sod. I get to see the beer list. And it is a big list. And – instantly removing anything from Marstons – there is something for everyone. Even me.

So. Being a “tactical drinker” at beer festivals, I compile a plan of attack – a “dance card” if you will, that panders to my Northern sensitivities. Others may list beers from that there London. Not I. With one exception (noted and explained below) mine are from no further South than Crewe and no further North than Malton.

A narrow focus.

But I care precisely how much?

Here we go, in strength order. Like I said, “tactical drinking”….. And, just in case you’re interested in trying any of these yourself, I’ve included the bar on which to find them. Because I’m nice like that!

No 2 Stout – Stringers Beer – Stout – 4% abv – Bar 3

A beer that I absolutely adored in bottle from the very first sip about 3 years ago. And I have NEVER had in on cask. I have often gazed at the pump clip on the wall at Port Street and whimpered. Envious.

Bitter and roasted. As black as Donald Trump’s evil heart. I will be distraught if I don’t get to try this. My #1 priority.

Admiral Porter – Brewsmith Beer – Porter – 4% abv – Bar 1

Why? Because it’s Brewsmith. And James Smith (see what he did there?) has yet to put out anything less than excellence.

And the Admiral hop gives the lie to those who whinge that UK hops are crap. It’s an aromatic beauty of a thing.

Sorachi Ace – Mallinsons Brewery – (Single Hopped) Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Bar 2

Why? Stupid question. It’s Mallinsons. And it’s a single-hopped Pale Ale.

And – in the words of Carly Simon – “Nobody does it better”. I’ll be having a pint.

At least one….

Talisman IPA – Pictish Brewing – Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Pictish Brewery Bar

A brewery that is in need of better PR. They should be HUGE. Possibly the most underrated brewery in Greater Manchester. Brewers of simply outstanding single-hopped Pale Ales.

Unmissable.

Mr Scruff Pale – Squawk Brewing – Session IPA – 4.6% abv – Bar 3

Oliver Turton has been quietly brewing some of the best beers in Manchester for the last two years. That’s enough reason to do this.

And I love the Centennial hop.

Lupy Lager – Offbeat Brewery – Lager – 4.7% abv – Bar 2

A cask conditioned lager from one of my very favourite breweries? And it’s a one-off? Damn those CAMRA oiks! I’ll be having words with Miss Kelsall about that…..

Again, unmissable….

Orange and Rosemary Belgian Pale – Bad Seed Brewery – Belgian Pale – 5% abv – Bar 1

Rosemary in beer can be herbal Marmite to some. But I love it. And Bad Seed would be just the brewery to pull this off.

Looking forward to trying this HUGELY.

Bitter Chocolate Stout – Runaway Brewery – Stout – 5% abv – Runaway Bar

A new beer to me from the best and most consistent new brewery in Manchester. Mark Welsby makes good beer. For those with no love of keg, prepare to be converted.

Mancunian Evil Keg Filth of the highest order. And you can quote me on that!

Marmite Stout – Ticketybrew / Quantum BrewingStout – ? abv – Bar 3

Two breweries unafraid to try something different. Or unusual. This beer can be safely said to tick BOTH of those boxes.

This sounds inspired. It’s certainly interesting!

Pale Rye (Name TBC) – Track / Matt Dutton – Pale Ale – ? abv – Bar 3

OK. Track are banging out some tremendous beers with arguably the strongest core range of any Manchester brewery. I’ve been saying for AGES that Sonoma is a Manchester classic.

Factor in a collab with the best home brewer in the UK, Matt Dutton, this is going to be special! I have sampled several of Matt’s beers and he – should he choose to go commercial – is a star in the making. This beer rates as priority #2. Unmissable.

AllDay Coffee IPA – Allgates/Manchester Beer Week – Coffee IPA – 5.1% abv – Bar 1

A Coffee IPA brewed especially for the festival by the most drinkable of breweries and Connor Murphy wearing his MBW head. Read the blog piece and it sounds AMAZING!

Centennial – Torrside Brewing – Porter – 5.4% abv – Bar 3

I have been lucky enough to try beers brewed at home by each of the Torrside triumvirate. It was therefore no surprise at all when they hit the ground running when they launched late last year.

My heart lies in darkness. Torrside make great beers. A marriage made in….

Nouvelle Saison: Beetroot and Horseradish –Alphabet Brew Co – Saison – 6% abv – KeyKeg Bar

I wouldn’t miss this flavour mix for all the tea in….. Intriguing to say the least!

Sorachi Grey – Five Oh Brew Co – IPA – 6.5% abv – Bar 1

If Jamie Hancock puts his beer in cask, it is both a rare event (wonder where he did it first?) and unmissable.

This man brews good beer.

Victoria Export Stout – Bexar County Brewery – Stout – 6.7% abv – Bar 1

My sole selection from south of Crewe. Why? Because I think that I have had 3 beers that this man has brewed. All excellent and two of those (a collab with HDM and his Pecan Coffee Mild) were among the best beers I’ve had in years!

And it’s pronounce BEAR. “The X is silent. The Beer speaks for itself” Indeed….

And finally……

Rampart – Ossett/Brass Castle Collab – IPA – 7% abv – Bar 2

“Heavily hopped West Coast style IPA. Tangy bitterness & intense grapefruit, floral & tropical fruit flavours.” – Case rested!

Well. That’s that. As Rabbie Burns allegedly said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, so (like last year) I’m bound to miss one of these. But it won’t be for the want of trying!

It’s Tryanuary. Get ticking!

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And for those who want to plan ahead, here is the link to the full UK beer list! http://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/uk-beers/

 

 

 

Bottled Beers – May 2015

Red Shed sign

(Where I am later!)

After May 7th and the shocks contained therein, I struggled a bit. I won’t wibble on about politics, I’ve got too much to do to wallow in self-pity, what with planning for The Independent Salford Beer Fest 2015 and all, but now is a time that I cling to what’s important. People. Hence why we’re having our little bash again in October. Announcements soon.

But, on to bottles…..

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1. Rye IPARunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.9%abv – Rye IPA – 330ml – Andy Heggs

Thank you Mr Heggs! I finagled this from him at the excellent Shebeen 2015 whilst we were sat in Black Jack and I was getting sozzled. And very cheeky.

Copper coloured and with a firm white head, this beer gives of an aroma that reminds me of a spicy fresh-baked wholemeal loaf. But one with a distinct citrus note. Really appetising.

Smooth with very gentle carbonation, the fruity front is mugged by spicy rye dryness. The fruitiness is huge, with orange up top with more than a hint of mango. But that fruitiness can’t escape this thuggish spicy dryness. It’s brutal.

And Oh so bloody moreish.

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2. Out of Step IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 5.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Direct

(Bought direct from the brewer)

I don’t get it. Why don’t we see more of Offbeat’s beers in Manchester? Michelle makes some simply fabulous beers and I can’t se them in Manchester? Ludicrous!

A mid golden beer with a fluffy white lacy head, (slightly hazy due to a misjudged pour), really fruity aroma on this with apricot and grapefruit in the nasal vanguard.

Oh this is nice indeed. This is a full-bodied beer with just right carbonation. The fruitiness in the mouth being more apricot but this time with something a little more tropical, like mango and passion fruit. There is a bracing bitterness in this, which (to me) should be in all IPAs.

There is a cracking resinous finish to this with that fruitiness in there too. This is a belting beer from a criminally overlooked brewery. We need some of her beer in Manchester. And sharp!

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3. Fat Lady StoutRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom) – 4.5%abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton) – £3

A black beer with a creamy coloured head giving off an aroma of bitter chocolate with a hint of licorice.

Medium bodied with an initial sweetness, that soon slides into something more dark roasted and lush. Quite creamy textured, with bitter chocolate front and centre. That bitterness wanders more towards coffee on the swallow and a substantial bitterness takes over.

This is a sessionable dark beer after my own heart, with the dry bitter finish I enjoy in a mid strength Stout. Who needs Guinness when you have beers like this?

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4. PortentousPeter Sidwell – 5%abv – Porter

Peter is (I think) one of the Manchester Home Brewers group. He certainly isn’t commercial at this stage. If I remember rightly, i saw this bottle in his hand at the MBCF and nearly ripped his hand off!

A deep ruby brown beer that is almost black with a light cream head and a  big chocolaty aroma.

A medium bodied beer, the first thing to tickle the tongue is chocolate. This is slightly sweet and really chocolaty. The next is a little winey note, like a smooth red. Then a tongue tickling spice, slightly peppery, like rocket. And all the while, that chocolate….

The aftertaste retains the chocolate, but there is a spicy woody feel to it that completes this nicely. A damn fine Porter. And brewed by a home brewer too!

The best praise that I can give, is that I’d happily pay for this at a bar. It’s that good.

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5. TuringBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne) – £2.45

I was intrigued by the idea of using sage to flavour a beer. I had to give it a go……

A golden, almost amber beer with a light thin white head, lightly carbonated, with a light tropical fruit aroma (passion fruit is noted on the label – that works!)

In the mouth, there is a nice fruitiness to this initially, which meets a bitter herbal counterpart in the sage that is added to this brew, that bitterness almost catches me unawares. That bitterness fades and an almost tea like tannic aftertaste kicks in, really dry.

I  wasn’t sure about sage in a beer, but this light, Pale and refreshing beer works a treat for me. Slainte!

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6. Espresso StoutSquawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.5%abv – Stout – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Like a chalice full of liquid pitch, this is black. A proper Stout. Dark, delightful and dangerous to look at. Almost daring you. “Go on! You know that you want me!”

Made with fresh roasted coffee from Bean Brothers, unsurprisingly, this positively reeks of coffee. As bitter as Nigel Farage as the result was called. There’s a herbal licorice note too in the background.

For a 6.5% beer, this feels quite light and sprightly, at first, a little sweetness then BAM! Eyelid pinning coffee hit…… Yup. That’s definitely a big coffee flavour!  With that underlying big Stout sweetness.

There’s quite a spicy thing at the back of the tongue as the beer slides you towards sleeplessness going down the throat. The roof of the mouth tingling after the swallow.

A fine beer indeed. If a little ill-advised before bedtime!

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7. Scarborough Fair IPAWold Top (Driffield, N Yorkshire) – – 500ml – Birthday Pressie!

Thank you Sue! This bright ultra Pale golden beer has a light white head and a really fruity aroma, tropical fruits with passion fruit and kiwi flying out of the foam.

Full bodied is this beastie,  whilst perversely feeling light. Really fruity with that kiwi well up there, but a big refreshing and tart lemon hit was a more than pleasant surprise! For  a beer at this strength, this is WAY too refreshing and just damned drinkable.

There’s a nice light malty biscuit and a big balancing act going on because these hops are just beautifully tart and give a big dry finish that leaves you wanting more.

An absolute belter and a really nice beery pressie amongst the cognacs & single malts!

That’s it for bottles this month. With EastWestFest tomorrow, Brighton next week and London a week later, the focus will be on pubs (and one very special beer festival!)

On that note….’til next time

Slainte!

Shebeen 2015 – 02/05/2015

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At the end of a tiring week, what I needed was……..a little “pick me up”. That, or a Saturday morning lie-in. Finding myself walking down Dantzic Street in Manchester’s “Green Quarter” at 11am meant that the latter was a no no, but the former was guaranteed!

The event was put together by Jason Bailey (of GRUB fame), Black Jack Beers and events/music specialists Shebeen UK and was a multi-venue celebration of beer, food, music, comedy and art with all venues (Black Jack, Glassworks & Runaway Brewery) within seconds of each other. All that was needed was the sun to put his hat on……..

But this is Manchester……..

So the rain came……

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(Look! A pop up food village! Next to a Brewery! Result!!!)

I simply detest being late for anything. So having been asked to turn up for 11:30, I got there at 11 and mucked in with Jules (Morris, Jason’s partner) setting up tables, chairs and banners and stuff whilst Jason (known to his friends by his surname) sweated the small stuff that always needs doing in the final minutes before the metaphorical gates open. He wanted everything to be “just so”. I think he got his wish.

Seeing Mark Welsby (Chief Alchemist at Runaway Brewery) is always a pleasure. No matter how busy or stressed he might be, there’s never a smile or a cheery word far from his lips, just one of life’s good guys, so I was chuffed that I was placed at the Runaway site and even more pleased when I had a half of his Marzen placed in my hand! Rich, fruity, with a residual sweetness, this “pick me up” was just what Dr BM ordered!

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With the “starters gun” sounding at 12, people started to drift in. All “checking in” being performed at Runaway, enabling people to then wander around the three sites at their leisure. Initially a fairly young crowd, it was great to see a wide age range, with lots of young families turning up. Just gave the event a bit of a relaxed party feel. I really enjoyed the checking in

a) Because I am a bit of a (using the Bolton vernacular) Gobbin                                                               b) It gave me the chance to reacquaint myself with Eventbrite Manager, which we’ll be using at #ISBF2015 in October.

It was great fun. And all the more so as I tucked into a rather superb lunch of a cracklingly spicy Atomica pizza from the lovely fellas at Honest Crust, acompanied by a Runaway Rye IPA! Just as I got my pizza, the punters started flooding in. The pizza still tasted great when I finally got back to it. Cold. But absolutely delicious.

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(Lunch. Yum!)

With some fabulous laid back tuneage being pumped out by So Flute, the vibe was starting to get (what those younger than I might call) “buzzy”. And I think that – more than ticket sales (and it WAS sold out) – it’s the feeling that people give off that demonstrates if an event is a success or not. And this really felt quite special.

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The finishing of the pizza signalled my re-allocation over to one of the other venues – Black Jack. Again, on “the door” (Bailey must think that I look like a “bouncer”!) Watching Rosie and the girls dancing behind the bar, it was immediately apparent that the party vibe was in full effect here as well!

Grabbing a pint of Black Jack Beers‘ own Manderelma (I think that’s what it was called?) and follwing some mouthfuls of Rob’s Orangey elixir, I was off again gabbling more nonsense at arriving punters. And then, just before I went into “concierge overdrive” mode, Bailey must have remembered that he needed some “pros” on the doors, because the security guys arrived, which meant…..I headed to the bar double quick!

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(Black Jack)

It was a fairly cool Manchester day with the rain never far away, so my choice of attire (thin shirt and shorts) attracted a few concerned comments. Batted away by my various assertions of being a rather numb fella with pleanty of internal insulation!

This was chat time! Andy Heggs (Mr HopOnTheBike to you & I) introduced me to a nice fella Tom from #CraftBeerHour who must have been petrified by two Mancs assailing him with the words “You NEED to come to Salford in October!” He seemed a nice fella and I may take him up on his rash offer of a little light being cast by his weekly Twitter event on our humble bash!

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(Not JUST about beer & food you know!)

I have this theory that good people tend to gravitate toward one another. This being exampled by a number of people I spouted nonsense with. Andy (Heggs again), the mighty Deeekos, Mark (Runaway), Rob Hamilton (Mr Black Jack), Jay Krause (Quantum), Gregg & Alison Irwin (Weird Beard),Tom (Craft Beer Hour) all showed admirable restraint (and failed to yawn!) whilst I spouted my ususal gibberish about nothing in particular.

It’s always good to talk about beer.

It was nice to wander between all three venues. Each time I poped (or even “popped”) in to a venue, there was a nice surprise. In Runaway, it was a further chat with Mark (and a spot of “plotting” I recall!) and an outrageously good pint of his Smoked Porter. Just SO GODDAMN SMOOTH and creamy with just the right amount of rauch to it. A glorious beer and probably Beer of the Day for me.

Wandering (for the first time) into the Glassworks venue, I was chuffed (and no little surprised) to see the lovely Michelle (from the hugely underrated Offbeat Brewery – need more of her beers in Mancunia folks!) and David, from Otherton Ales (the “boyfriend thing” – HER phrase, not mine!). We managed to chat a bit (with a good sounding band in the….background) and maybe do some “plotting” for #ISBF2015 – my memory is starting to get hazy at this point in proceedings! (Did I REALLY ask David if he’d cask a beer for #ISBF2015?)

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I think that it’s safe to say that this event was a resounding success. All the elements came together just so. Great food, great beer and good people. Life in a nutshell. Manchester people turned out in their hundreds and – from what I could see – had a great time in doing so. All the more remarkable given that Manchester cloaked itself in the usual drizzle for most of the day!

All bodes well for the Keystone project. I wish them every success. Well done Bailey & Jules and to everyone else involved. It was a blast!

And after all that beer, what to do? Go for more! And that, for me, means the Crown & Kettle. It says something that after all that I had drunk, that the C&K served me an absolutely superb pint of Bad Kitty porter from Brass Castle. It was creamy, utterly luscious and silky with a little vanilla sweetness. I was moved to an expletive laced tweet. It was THAT good! (Nice to bump into Jay & Dom again too!)

Now….About the weather……(see what I did there?)

“The weather’s variable so are you (changes, changes)
But I can’t do a thing about the weather.

Do you have your ticket?
Can you foresee (changes, changes)
Another time when we might be together?

You have a broken window, through which the rain pours in my ear
This week’s been all ears and edges, it’s getting like a career”

(“About The Weather” – Magazine

Clip Courtesy – Makecelebshistory on YouTube)

Magazine are Manchester musical legends. I vividly recall the moment when Howard Devoto strode imperiously onto the stage at Manchester Academy to the whipcrack drum beat and rumbling bass intro to “The Light Pours Out Of Me” (clip from “Later”). It was akin to being at an evangelical event. Nothing short of adoration.

That track alone is a permanent fixture in my personal All Time Top 10. And it came from an album that was arguable the first truly great album of “New Wave”, the mighty “Real Life” – and given the preference for buzz saw guitars and sonic brevity that prevailed at that time, it was a bloody brave musical statement. It was lyrical, at a time when all was attitude. It was melodic at a time when melody was frowned upon. It was bloody strange in parts too. And it still stands the test of time.

The album that spawned “About The Weather” though, for me, is tainted by the dread hand of Martin Hannett, the “legendary” Manchester producer who mixed it. His belief that the snare drum was the basis of all great music. It just led to this album being a tinny mess. Which is a shame. Because Magazine’s final album deseved so much better. Such a great song though.

London – April 2015 – Long Time No See

It had been over a year since the last time I had been drinking in the The Big City. Last March in fact (getting tipsy on boats doesn’t QUITE count!), so when the opportunity arose for a 3 day stay, I grabbed it – though somewhat reluctantly.

Reluctantly?

I guess I am a “home bird”. I am also becoming a bit of a professional Northerner, in that – especially where beer is concerned – I don’t feel that we need to doff the cap any more. Some Northern breweries (in my humble…..) easily brew beers that can match – if not better – their Southern brewing brothers and sisters. Yes, I am biased, something which I freely admit.

However, what London DOES have, is some outstanding pubs, the like of which that Manchester (for instance) simply doesn’t have. So what’s an aging boy to do eh? With a couple of evenings to kill. And an Oystercard.

Yup.

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The Cock Tavern (Mare Street, Hackney – approx 100 Yds from Hackney Central Overground Stn)

According to various sources, there may have been a pub on this site since the early 18th century. However, the current premises was rebuilt by Truman’s Brewery in the 1930s. Now though, it is the brewery (and tap) of Howling Hops Brewery, a brewery whose beers are bloody hard to find Oop North. Which is a shame. Because they are superb.

This interior of this pub is best summed up as….wood. The pace is stripped back and basic. And it is all the better for it. Stripped back floorboards, old wooden tables, chairs and bench seating and a lovely L shaped bar with a LOT of hand pumps dispensing Howling Hops own beers.  It feels like a place to drink beer. And chat. Which is what I and my buddy did.

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I paid little mind to the ciders (though there were a few) and bypassed the craft keg (7 I think) and focused on the 8 hand pulls featuring 7 of the brewery’s own beers – brewed downstairs. I had 3. Well….It was an early start!

XX Pale 5% – A fruity pale ale hopped with Columbus, Citra, Centennial & Mosaic with predictably lip smacking results.

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Mild 3.3% – A Dark Mild. Because I like Mild. OK? A nice Mild can be a thing of beauty and not the preserve of the 1950s and the beclothed of cap, whippet toting Northerners of old. Again, 4 hopped (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Citra), this was reminiscent of another of my favourites (All Black by Allgates) but was (an oxymoron for a Mild) slightly more assertive – and it’s a relative term. Either way, a highlight for me. You might say “a Mild for non-Mild drinkers” and I wouldn’t argue.

American Brown Ale 4% – Brown. A dose of rye and licorice on the nose and a crackling dry pint. A corker.
And then I looked in the fridge and noticed some of their own bottles. Up North, these are as rare as the droppings of that legendary wooden steed. So I had to. Didn’t I? And if I’m going to bring one back, it might as well be big.
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And it is.
Now then. For those semi-pro Northerners who aren’t in the know. An Oystercard is a godsend. Especially now that TfL have WANGED up the price for a day Travelcard to £12 or more! So, with that in my pocket, I was off back to Hackney Central, change at Highbury & Islington, Victoria Line to Kings X, Northern Line to Kentish Town, then a C2 bus. In reality, only approx 20 or so minutes. And the bus drops you DIRECTLY outside the door of the next premises.
Was it worth it? Oh yes.
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The Southampton Arms (139, Highgate Road, Kentish Town)
This pub just speaks to my soul. Wooden floors, wooden benches, wooden settles. A mahogany bar. A turntable rather than a CD player or streaming service! 12 hand pumps for beer. Several more for real cider. And proper pub grub. By which I mean, Pork Pies. More on that later.
A place that looks like it’s been here forever, this was apparently reborn in about 2009 and was stripped back to reveal all of that lovely wood. Long, but not particularly wide, the bar is long and festooned with all of those lovely handpulls featuring beers from micro breweries far and wide. A gents with access from outside too, an unusual feature. As is the rather lovely old mirror advertising the wares of the original Lacons Brewery.
It was busy, but we grabbed a table. I reached the bar and started to scan. But my eyes froze and my back leg rose like the tail of a Pointer.
Hobsons Mild. I drink it wherever I find it. It’s quite simply the best brown Mild that I’ve ever had. Refreshing and nutty. And light, at 3.2%. And utterly delicious. As was the 1/2 of Pork, Chicken & Stuffing pie. A steal at £3.60
Now, the Hobsons aside, I am (by nature) a kind of “When in Rome” kind of fella. Therefore, with my predilection for dark beers, the next choice was fairly simple.
Dissident Porter from Gipsy Hill Brewing (West Norwood, SW London) was 4.8%. And Dark. And so damn moreish. First beer from this brewery. Roasted, chocolatey, smooth and Oh. So. Drinkable. I’ll be looking out for this brewery again. excellent beer.
Food was necessary at this point. So we headed back into the city and Holborn via Northern Line to Kings X and Piccadilly Line to Holborn.
Fish, chips & peas with bread & butter and a mug of tea for £10. In London? The joy that is The Fryers Delight on Theobalds Road. A basic caff with excellent grub. And close to the next pub!
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The Lamb (94, Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury)
The Lamb. A Young’s pub. Yet not as it was.
Last time I came in was 10 years ago. The day after the tube bombings. I still have the memory of walking past the destroyed bus at Tavistock Square. Some things never leave you.
Happier times though. The last time I came in, they only sold Young’s beers. So it was a nice surprise to see 2 from Sambrook and a beer (apparently brewed for the pub) from Redemption. Which I had to try. The Bloomsbury Blend was a bit of a surprise, in that it was a nicely flavoured mid-strength bitter, but lacked the assertiveness of some of their other beers that I have had. Nice enough though
Lamb bar
(Nicked from the Young’s Website)
The Lamb is one of those pubs that just HAVE to be visited. It is a Victorian symphony in wood. A beautiful – almost circular – bar with the snob screens being a unique feature to my eyes (those little windows open above the bar – top left of pic) – designed so that bar staff needn’t meet the gaze of Victorian customers.
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(All mine this one!)
The pub is, quite simply, a Grade 2 listed gem. Built (acc to Historic England) probably early 18th Century, it may lack the buzzy kudos od some of the craft bars locally, but it takes some beating as a simply beautiful pub.
All of that travelling, on tube, bus and train? £6.40. What’s the word? Bargain.
Next evening, a little less trekking was in order, Victoria line to Euston, then Northern Line to Old Street. Quality beer and food were sought. We were not to be disappointed.
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The Old Fountain (Baldwin Street, EC1 – 3 mins from Old Street tube, City Rd Exit)
This has been a decent beer gaff as far back as I’ve been coming to London. A “cut” pub, in that there is another entrance on Peerless Street, Baldwin Street is directly off City Rd (A501) just to the north of Old Street.
Again, wood is the thing. Lots of it. Sources date this place to about the mid 18th century and it does have the feel of an old ale house about it. And it was bloody busy. With no tables available. And a lovely menu taunting us!
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A slightly limp pint of Jarl was dealt with, then a table located, luckily. A zinging pint of Oakham Citra accompanied by a HUGE home-made (and slightly runny) Scotch Egg more than made up for the Jarl! The Citra was all that one of the best pale ales in the country should be. Sharp, clean and massively refreshing.
The house burger was huge and (after the Scotch Egg) just too much. The chips were excellent too.
The pub lists 18 constantly rotating beers on cask and keg. And it was a keg font that caught my eye. From my favourite London brewery. And a beer I hadn’t yet had.
London SmokeFive Points Brew Co (Hackney) was SO unctuous! Smooth like an oil slick. Bitter chocolate, root licorice and just the right hint of smoke. Just a bloody superb beer. From a brewery that don’t muck about, take their time and just get the beers right. 7.8% abv was just about right.
Then. That rare thing in London. A walk.
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The Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, off Clerkenwell Road)
Walking along Britton Street and entering The Jerusalem, you wouldn’t think that you were only 1 minute away from the recently redeveloped Farringdon tube station! It’s like stepping into the 19th century.
The building dates from the early 18th Century with its conversion to a pub probably a century later. The pub has a bit of history itself, best read here.
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I’ve always felt that this place had the feel of a 17th century coffee-house, it feels unique and I, for one, have never been in a pub quite like it, And I have introduced many of my colleagues to its charms. All have adored it.
It. Is, Small. And can probably handle only about 60 people at most, with punters frequently spilling out from the front and side.
It is owned and run by St Peters Brewery of Bungay in Suffolk. I think that they only have two pubs and the other is a brewery tap. Whatever, it is one hell of a spot and gets busy with an after work city crowd. And rightly so.
In here, I could look no further than the Old Style Porter. Just a beautiful smooth, dark and lusciously roasted beer, with the merest hint of sweetness. It is, quite simply, one of the best porters that I’ve ever had. Moreish in the extreme. I had two. I should have picked up a bottle of Honey Porter too. But I have a memory like Emmental.
Going home the next evening after work, we had an hour or two to kill. Now then, I love the Euston Tap as much as anybody, but the range of breweries just….doesn’t really seem to change much. There never seems anything to excite me. Great beer, granted. But sometimes, I just want something that feels a little bit more, you know….pub like. So I went on a 90 second hike from the front of Euston Station.
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The Bree Louise (Coburg Street, Euston)
If the planners for the HS2 rail link get their way, this pub will be vapourised, obliterated from the map. Some might say “meh”. Me? I like this place. A lot. It has a soul that some nearby places lack. We came here for food and a pint (or 4) and were disappointed by neither,
The pub itself is of the “street corner” type that is sadly missing from my home city. It isn’t huge. And has a chaotic feeling when full of commuters hunting a pint. But the staff are friendly and efficient (incident about a late delivered meal to my mate aside!) and there is a LOAD of cask ale, Probably about 18 on the go.
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Now this amount of beer can lead to the odd dud. That is simply unavoidable, save reducing the number of beers. \But as long as they replace a lame pint, that is fine. I had one. And they replaced it without fuss. Brownie points.
COne of the endearing things about this place is the stillage dispense, a rarity in city centres (Yes, I DO know 57 Thomas Street, but that in itself is an oddity) and to look at the bar, you might struggle to make out what beers are on. Which is where the 42 inch screen comes in with a rotating view of beers separated into hand pulled, gravity and keg. A nice touch.
Now this particular evening was noted as a Tap Takeover by Hogs Back Brewery. Not a fan, so I focused on the other 60% of beers on offer. In order, these were :
  • HopHeadDarkStar – Predictable excellence. Pale hoppy and bitter. A refresher.
  • ConquerorWindsor & Eton – The epitome of a Black IPA for me. Bitter, roasted coffee and big citrus bite.
  • Slovenian DreamDownton Brewery – Now this was so pale that I had it as a Pilsner with a nice gentle floral hop character. The brewery has it as a Pale Ale. Works either way. But a Pilsner for me.
  • Wolf of the WoodsTwickenham Brewery – The pick of the bunch. Amber coloured with a chocolatey malt flavour and a good dose of bitterness. A fine beer.

And that was that. Other than a 45 minute delay at Euston. A further 45 minute delay on the train. The train for Bolton turning into a bus replacement service and the A666 turn off on the M61 being closed. I got home at midnight. Knackered.

London, you wore me out. With the admirable assistance of Virgin Rail & its Northern Rail counterpart. Renationalise the lot of them.

That’s all until next time….

Slainte!

The Road To Wigan Beer – Allgates Brewery – 04/04/2015

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It’s probably going a bit too far to say that this day endangers my marriage, but this is the second Easter break in a row where I have been given a green card and skipped a visit to my beloved Outlaws – For the record, I actually DO love my In-Laws! This event has become a bit of a fixture for both myself and the Arch-Nemesis since the first episode in October 2013. Read HERE about that one.

So here is the spec. 6 pubs. 11 days. 95 beers – many new both to Wigan AND the North West. AND on the first Saturday, a bus. To take you around all of the pubs in one day (with a hot pot supper laid on at the end!) All for £5 (plus the beer, of course!)

Allgates Fist

My love of Allgates’ beers is well documented. By me. It’s all well and good worshipping the God that is Humulus Lupulus. But the hop was meant to be a seasoning for beer. Not a spicy flamethrower. Beer is meant to be drinkable and Allgates makes eminently drinkable beers.

But they also have a number of pubs in the Wigan Metropolitan area, in which they sell (strangely), their own beers, alongside some excellent guests. At prices mostly £2.50 or less a pint. Yes Mancunians! There is a world where this is possible!!!

Twice a year, the good people of my favourite brewery scour the country for new beers for the drinkers of Wigan (aka Lucky Gits!) and spread these beers out across many of their pubs. for two periods of 11 days at Easter and October. And on the first Saturday of each – barring unforeseen problems – they lay on bus, so that some hardy souls can sample some of these new beers in each of these pubs. On a single day.

And if they can’t, this event is so unmissable, that we do it by public transport! Read that one HERE!

It’s gruelling. It’s hard work. But someone has to do it. Step forth a beery Ratman & Bobbins!

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The Anvil – Dorning Street (adj to Wigan Bus Station)

Allgates’ brewery tap and some would say “flagship pub”. Whatever, there is one thing to be said for this (effectively) 3 roomed pub. It never lacks for custom! A fairly bright and modern interior belies the early 20th century looking exterior. This pub just hums with conversation, whatever the time.

The six handpumps help. Outside of RTWB, Allgates AllBlack Mild is my go to. But this IS RTWB. And I spied this….

Pig & Porter Brewery (Tunbridge Wells, Kent – 4.5% abv) Starvation Point Porter . Dark, medium-bodied and oh so smooth. Coffee roasted aroma with a little smokiness, with sweet coffee flavour and almost a vanilla hint with all the roastiness. A superb start.

With time for a swift half (REALLY swift) before the bus set off, another new brewery to me

Firebird Brewing (Rudgwick, W Sussex) and #79 Golden Ale (4.3% abv). Golden? Check! Fruity as a fruity thing? Check! Run for the bus? CHECK!!!

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“Just hop on the bus, Gus”

Ding! Ding! And we’re off on the first leg (but second pub) to……

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The Crooke Hall Inn (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground)

(CAMRA Wigan Pub of the Year!) Now. It’s a rare thing when the ankle nibblers (who are hardly THAT at 20 & 15!) agree with their dear old Dad – even when he is PAYING! – but we agree on this pub. Them? Because the food is excellent here, especially the Sunday lunches. Me? That’s a rhetorical question. Obviously.

A lovely and well maintained 3 roomed pub – a lovely thing in itself – the views onto the Leeds – Liverpool canal make this journey so worthwhile, especially on a sunny day like this.

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(Archive shot – too busy drinking for pics!)

The pub is easily accessible (on a nice sunny day) via a canal walk from Gathurst Train Stn (Southport line) and the walk is worth it – you can trust me as I’m neither a politician nor a used car salesman!

In here, there was time for 2 beers..(and a lovely Steak Pie!)

Fixed Wheel Brewery (Blackheath, West Mids) had their “Single Speed Waimea” on the bar. This did the trick, being golden, fruity and tart with a nice pine resin hit in the finish.

Binghams Brewery (Ruscombe, Berkshire) – Space Hoppy IPA was stepping up the abv a touch and was golden and plenty fruity & bitter enough. Works for me!

Never enough time in this pub for me, only once have I managed more than 2 pints. A crying shame, but the bus was calling…. Ding! Ding!

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The White Lion (Leigh Road, Leigh)

Another award-winning pub. (SE Lancs CAMRA Pub of the Year!) This pub is on a main road just around the corner from Leigh bus station (Is Leigh REALLY the largest town in the UK without a train station?) – Harry the landlord has been building a cracking rep for his beers. And the prices are ludicrous to these Manchester focussed eyes!

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A 3 roomed town centre boozer with the main room housing the bar – complete with its SEVEN hand pumps complete with the fifth successive beer from a brewery new to me!

Totally Brewed (Nottingham) and their Papa Jangles Voodoo Stout worked its spell on me! Big coffee nose up front and a really creamy full-bodied mouthful. More coffee and a ickle vanilla hint probably made this my beer of the day. Utterly lush.

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Mordue Brewery / Panda Frog (Wallsend, Tyne & Wear) – Pandademic was another belter from a brewery I’ve never had a beer from (despite Mordue being around for a few years!). For a 3.5% beer, this felt much more full-bodied! Golden, fruity and tart with a crackling resinous finish. Panda Frog is a side project from Mordue and definitely worth looking out for!

Glentworth Brewery (Doncaster) and their Rain Dancer was from another brewery new to me (with no Social Media link, click the hyper for a few words from excellent Yorkshire bloggers A Swift One) – A 4% golden beer that was tart fruity & refreshing (and light, which at this stage was a bonus!) – Only 3 pubs in and I was starting to realise that this is a marathon, not a sprint!

Ding! Ding!

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The Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley)

Pretty much a 4 roomed pub this, with that number of distinct areas, this is another pub with a good reputation for honest pub food (and a few took advantage here). Lots of wood and a raised eating area in the main room. This is probably the closest Allgates pub to me and needs visiting more. The beer……

Green Duck Beer Co (Stourbridge, W Mids) and their Duck Blonde was another sharp golden beer that completely hit the spot. Smooth and a tart hoppy hit. Cracker. And ludicrously cheap again.
Sonnet 43 (Coxhoe, Co Durham) – Blonde – Golden and smooth, with a bit of gooseberry and grape. Really quite a refreshing pint with a really dry finish.
Hearing the shout from David…..time for the bus! Ding! Er…. Ding!
To my favourite pub….
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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley)
A straight up and down two-roomed local. That word. Local. Sums the place up. Friendly, warm, and great beer. Welcoming. It’s all I need. A pub that does the simple things right. Shame Nigel wasn’t around, it’s been a while…..
Pig & Porter Brewery (Tunbridge Wells, Kent) and their Crab & Winkle pale ale. A 3% abv beer with quite a full-bodied feel to it. Refreshing, much-needed. Fruity but not overpowering. A repeated brewery on the day, but I’m a sucker for a “small beer”.
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And at this point, I had a pint of one of Allgates own beers. A superb pint of Dry Bones. Fresh and zesty. A lovely beer.
Again, another pub that I can’t spend enough time in. I’ll be back soon.
And FINALLY…….Ding…….By this time, I was losing my Dings……..
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The Victoria (Haigh Road, Aspull)
I know it’s not, but this pub feels “villagey” and is quite close to the lovely Haigh Hall. It’s another two roomed pub. With, what seems to me to be an increasingly rare thing. A VAULT! Oh Yes! A proper vault! With a pool table and card/dominoes table and everything! This is to the right of the entrance with the main room to the left upon entry.
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And then came the one thing that I’d forgotten….FOOD! A much welcomed hot pot……
(Landlord is a Blue too, so I’m automatically biased here!
Ossett Brewery and Tedney Gold  Bright gold beer withan orangey note on the nose. In the mouth, Grape and peach in the mouth. Gently fruity and light. Nice bitterness with a dry fruity finish.(Not sure I could have handled something much heavier at this point!)

Green Duck Beer Co (Stourbridge, W Mids) and (the aptly named) Drunken Duck was my “finishing line” beer. Another pale beer with a citrus fruity nose and a nice fruity bitterness.

Dong!
Hot pot finished, Glass drained and back on the bus to the Anvil and a further pint.
6 excellent pubs. 2 CAMRA branch Pubs of the Year. 8 breweries that I’d never tried before. 12 beers likewise. It really IS one of the fixtures in my drinking calendar. I can’t rant on enough about it.
But I need to rest now……Bolton Beer Festival tomorrow…..Which, if it’s anything like last year will feature some superb beers…..
Until next time….
Slainte!

“(if music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it)

no more no need for gents and ladies
no need no more for breeding babies
take in that torso-redesign
no more divide the body and mind

not a duty just an action you’ll enjoy
for any boy and boy girl and girl and girl and boy
rub out the rules on how and who can procreate
xoyo triple x: sex mosaics (renegades!)”

XOYO” – The Passage

Bottled Ales – April 2015

Bottles don’t appear to have been a priority in the last few weeks. Which isn’t of itself a bad thing. It’s always nice to get out to some excellent hostelries, as I have done for the last month or so.

However, I have also been lucky enough to come across some absolutely belting beers (including the best bottle I’ve had this year so far!) So, with neither further blather nor ado….Let’s begin!

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Body SnatcherBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2 %abv – BitterBrowtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

A golden beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma slightly sweet and fruity with peach and a hint of apple.

Medium bodied, this beer has that slightly sweet fruity initial flavour with again peach  and some stewed plum and forest fruit and a flowery fragrant flavour that I can’t quite pick, backed up with a bracing bitterness.

That sweetness gives way to quite a grassy and resinous aftertaste and finish. This takes me back to beers from my youth, maybe just a wee bit more bitter. And that’s no bad thing!

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Small SaisonBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale straw yellow beer with a light persistent fluffy head giving a spicy yeasty nose with notes of banana and a little gooseberry.

Oh yes. This’ll do Monkey! Tart, dry and spicy. Banana again upfront, but soon retreats in the face of some sharp and tart lemon notes which in turn yield ground to that yeasty Saison spiciness. Yum.

Second mouthful and there’s a little Sauvignon Blanc winey sharpness and tartness, that tartness leading to a short and very dry spicy finish. An incredibly refreshing beer.

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Triptych No 3Wiper and True (Bristol) – 6.7%abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)

Copper golden in colour, lively carbonation giving a big white head and an aroma reminding me of orange toffee.

Big bodied beer this. Smooth textured and really fruity with peach, orange marmalade and a hint of blackcurrant lurking at the back, also an almost yeasty dryness to finish on the swallow. Mmmm….

This beer doesn’t hide its strength as it’s quite warming as it slides down. More fruit in the second mouthful, with plum and more hedgerow blackberry sitting on top of the marmalade, jammy and spicy. The finish is fruity and dry leading to a sticky herbal and slightly resinous aftertaste. A proper English IPA. Big and fruity and beautiful.

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JOEFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 4.7%abv – Coffee IPAEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown beer with a light and fluffy white head and an aroma of woah….. Cold coffee. Mmmmmm…….

And oh yes…. That coffee comes through loud and clear! Lovely smooth and bitter coffee flavour in full effect but with quite a spicy hop kick at the end.

Smooth and medium bodied in the mouth, this is as good as it was on cask. The coffee is potent enough, the bitterness of the brew being added to by the grassy hops that come through in the finish.

When I first heard of this, it sounded ludicrous. But it works. Really well. Black coffee and hops. What’s not to love?

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Mint Choc StoutTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 5.2% abv – StoutEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown almost black beer with a cream coloured lacey head with a light aroma of chocolate powder and spearmint.

Another of their limited bottle “Tickety Few” range, this is medium bodied and really smooth. The flavours are really subtle and take a while to reveal their charms. First up is the chocolate, which manages the trick of not being too sweet.

Second mouthful gives a little of the mint which is very subtle and takes some finding. This may be down to using mint leaves as opposed to any extracts, which is to be applauded.

Further mouthfuls build on the minty hint and the beer takes on a pleasing kind of light mint Aero quality. The signature Belgian yeast lends its hand to a rapidly drying finish and also imparts a spicy note to proceedings.

Another really nice beer from this increasingly impressive brewery. I’d love to try this on cask.

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Calibration SourChorlton Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.3% abv – SourBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale golden and lightly hazy with a decent white head and a lightly sour and Orangey citrus aroma from the addition of Amarillo hops.

Hmmm…. A palate cleanser and no mistake. The first sip had me salivating like a rabid dog! This is surprisingly enjoyable (and I say that because Sour beers aren’t exactly my “go to” style)

Yes it is sharp and has a saliva inducing acidity, but this beer isn’t as enamel stripping as some sours that I’ve had. This has a distinct citrus fruitiness working in harmony with the sourness making it a very thirst quenching and (I go back to that phrase) surprisingly enjoyable!

The lingering aftertaste is quite marmaladey and dry.

An excellent beer. Looking forward to Dark Matter now!

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Imperial IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) 9.5% abv – Imperial IPA – Epicurean(W Didsbury)

Deep golden, almost copper coloured beer with an abundant yet quickly dissipating white head with a booming peach and Mango aroma with a hint of mandarin.

Drinks a lot easier than such a beer should! First sip reveals fruity sweetness, deep and quite savoury, heavy with mango. Almost a medicinal note – my mind off cure!

Warming and soothing add it slides down the throat too. I swear this could be just the thing to cure my little chest problem!

Big chewy malt base that these hops dance on that fruitiness is ever-present and fades only slightly into a big sticky resinous aftertaste. Impressive.

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Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

A bright golden beer with thick white head and a hugely fruity nose with gooseberry and a little orange in there.

Oh bloody hell this is good! That gooseberry upfront is bloody tart in this medium bodied belter. The fruitiness dries out almost immediately making me pocket my lips and suck in my cheeks like a Les Dawson housewife sketch! Wow that is dry!

That arid fruitiness is backed up by a bracing bitterness too and the whole is tied up with a resinous bow of an aftertaste and finish.

I had this as one of my beers at MBCF this year. That was good, but this is so much better! Woof!

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Smokehouse PorterCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.2%abv – Porter – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
I had to hunt this beast down, having been told by a colleague who saw it in the Cheshire Smokehouse in Altrincham. It was worth it!

A big dark brown almost black beer with a creamy beige head and an aroma full of chocolate and dark fruits with just a hint of wood smoke.

Oh my. This is a proper beer.

Full bodied beer this. An initial chocolate sweetness slides into a chewy fruitiness full of dark fruit. This, in turn, yields palate space to a little salty tang before that smokiness pushes to the front. At this point, my gums are tingling.

A second mouthful and the dates make their chewy fruitiness more felt, merging and blending with the chocolate to make more than the sum of their parts. In the aftertaste, I don’t know if it’s from the dates, but this starts to have a dessert wine note to it, slightly – but not overly – sweet and gently warming.

This is one hell of a beer. And one which feels as if it would just love to be drunk along with a slab of rich fruit cake. And I have another bottle. Which I’m saving for Xmas. To go with……

Bloody gorgeous stuff.

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OAPNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) / Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 9.6%abv – Double IPA – Direct from the brewers.
I spoke to Malcolm Bastow shortly before his retirement from his career as a mental health nurse. He was going to focus on brewing full-time. Obviously, this required commemorating with a beer, so he arranged a collab with the fellow hop fiend Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough. I saw Stuarts’ tweet mentioning OAP DIPA. And given that they collaborated on my favourite DIPA so far, the mighty 300, I had to have it.

Quote the bottle label “May Cause Confusion” – Hmmm…. This Amber coloured beer has a light white fluffy head with a full aroma of mango and peach tropical fruitiness.

Oh me oh my!!! This is a bar room bully!!! Full bodied is an understatement, this is certainly a big beer. And knowing how much Stuart Neilson & Malcolm Bastow like their hops, I should have expected no less!

Christ on a bike, there is a bit of everything in here!  There is tropical peach & mango, there is a bit of grapefruit, there is a while bloody forest of resinous pine, this is just so damn juicy and….. Well…. BIG!

Chewy malt, with a little toffee biscuit sweetness, meets a hop store used without restraint. This is bloody gorgeous. And maybe the best DIPA I’ve had yet (and they brewed the previous best with their 300 collab!)

Just a big juddering, knee-trembling beergasm! The best bottle so far this year. (And I’ve had a few!)

Now, for breakfast and some serious loin girding, prior to this lunchtime’s Road To Wigan Beer bus. COME ON!!!!
Tune
“Beneath the stars there are the bars that serve the bitter drink
The barman smiles at me, his wife she gives a secret wink

They listen patiently to me, my story I unfold
I see their faces change, the lights grow dim I’m losing hold”

(“Life In The Air Age” – Be Bop Deluxe – Clip courtesy of #BeBopDeluxe via YouTube)
In about March 1979, whilst listening to John Peel on a feeble transistor radio under my blankets in a cold Salford bedroom, he played a track which rocked my 13 year old world. It was called “Art Empire Industry” and was from the album “Sound On Sound” by a band called Red Noise. Thus began my love affair with the music of Bill Nelson.
Eventually, over a number of retrospective purchases, I acquired his entire oeuvre to that point. The man can play guitar. He made a guitar sound like seagulls, trains, space ships. His playing entranced me. Be Bop Deluxe, were a rock band that Nelson formed in Yorkshire in about 1972. They only had one real hit single “Ships In The Night” which was taken from the Sunburst Finish album, as was the track above (although this is the live version from the Live In The Air Age live album (which was to promote the Sunburst Finish & Modern Music albums)
Bill Nelson was one of the first 5 live artists I saw & when he toured “Quit Dreaming” at Manchester Poly (Cavendish Hall) in May 1981. I last saw him perform tracks from his entire back catalogue at the Manchester Academy in 2004. To finally hear Be Bop Tracks performed live, by the man himself, brought me to tears.
The reason I’ve included this track, other than the fact that I adore it? Bill is originally from Wakefield. Five Towns territory.

Bottled Ales – February 2015

“They’ve got their definitions and they won’t fiddle round trying to rethink them ‘cos there’s no middle ground.

Short change me and they short change the show, I almost tell myself  ‘George, change the flow’.

But they should have know better. Never send a boy to do a man’s job, that’s a waste of a go-getter.

It’s all hard work but now I got that bragging right. Try to put me in a box, but it’s not that black and white.”

(“Sad State of Affairs” – The Herbaliser ft George the Poet)

(Clip via Herbaliser TV on YouTube)

A bit of a different feel with the clip this time. One night a couple of years back, I was flicking through E-Music, looking for something to buy and I came across the album  “There Were Seven” by The Herbaliser and heard this track. I like Rap. Yes, I’m 50 years old in 8 weeks and I like Rap. I have ever since I heard the stone cold classic “Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel”. But, despite the rise of UK Rap over the last 10 years or more, nothing moved me. Until this track.

Literate, great flow and rhythm. It has everything I want. The older I get, the wider the poles, from thoughtful lyrics, message and literacy to squalling feedback and white noise. I can’t explain, I don’t have the words. I guess you like what you like. Which brings me to beer…..

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1. About ThymeBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

A pale golden beer with a light white head and the unmistakable perfumed aroma of thyme, savoury and floral.Oh WOW!!! This is a full on herbal hit! Light and refreshing with a barely discernable biscuity sweetness, this is just SO refreshing and light for a beer at this mid strength. This is just such an unusual and lovely flavour.

The other thing about it is that with a really low bitterness, this is such an easy drinking beer. Herbal thyme up front but with a nice gentle hoppy dry finish. To some people, thyme may not be up their Street, but I love this beer. My favourite that Steve has made so far. Would be perfect with some roast chicken!

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2. Chocolate PorterRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Lancashire) – 4.2% abv – PorterGreat Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
A deep ruby brown beer with lovely carbonation, producing an abundant off white head giving off a light sweet cocoa aroma.Quite full-bodied for such a mid strength beer with that cocoa / chocolate firmly in the vanguard, flavour wise. Some vine fruit too as well as a background coffee note that intensified following the swallow.

 The initial sweetness from the chocolate recedes allowing a hoppy bitterness to come through and add to that coffee to give a pronounced dry finish. A really rather lovely Porter this!
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3. Grateful Deaf (American Pale Ale) – Steel City Brewing (Sheffield) – 5.8% – Pale AleOtto
Obtained via a swap with my good buddy Otto (hope the glass got home safe!) this is a deep golden, almost Amber, beer with a lasting white head pumping out an aroma laden with sweet citrus, think orange, mandarin and a hint of Mango.Woof!!!! This is GORGEOUS! YOu get an instant hit of chewy caramel biscuit malt  which is swiftly mugged by resinous hops.  A shedload of marmalade fruit then followed by a big old resinous hit that seems to mutate into licorice root. It is a belting beer this.

The whole caboodle is rounded off by a dry resinous sticky finish. If only you could get their beer over this hill on cask. Hmmm…#ISBF2015 anyone?

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4. Baby Faced AssassinRoosters (Knaresborough) – 6.1% abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)
Beautiful can design. Really classy. Pale golden beer with a thin white head booming out an aroma containing Mango & grapefruit. Really fruity.Oh my is this a proper big IPA! Slightly sweet and chewy digestive biscuit malty base with a whole Barrow load of fruit hanging on. Mango is uppermost, sweet and tropical then tangerine and finally a hint of bitter grapefruit, maybe even a touch of pineapple. Impressively low on bitterness making this a smooth mouthful and exceptionally easy drinking. It carries its weight dangerously well.

This fruitiness eventually recedes and relents enough to give way to a fruity and quite sticky resinous finish. All in all a cracker.

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5. South Central PaleVagrant Brewing Co – 5.6% abv – Pale AleDirect from Brewer
You see what I did there? Getting the disclaimer in right at the start. I always say when I’m given something to try that I’ll only review it if (and ONLY if) I actually enjoy it……The packaging works for me. Makes me think of US liquor restrictions with that brown paper bag look. A nice hand crafted feel and touch. A good visual start.

Then the beer. A hazy righteous Manc Murky light brown /dark golden beer with a proper white fluffy head and an aroma that just reeked of the fruit basket! Peach, oranges, mango. Yum.

All fruit present and correct in the mouth too. As juicy as a packet of Starburst and no mistake! Firstly the mango and peach, then a pleasant bitterness strays across the tongue a little yeastiness to mine which (intentional or otherwise) added a slight Belgian touch. No bad thing in my book.

I was at Black Jack when the boys were brewing their first batch of this on the Six O’clock Brewing kit and was yet to taste it until now. Remedied. And how.

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6. Love LaneLiverpool Craft (Liverpool!) – 4.7%abv – Pale AleBarbeerian (Prestwich)
Just as a pale ale should be. Pale golden and absolutely bursting with citrus through that white head. Oh my!Peach, Mango, even more than a hint of sharp lime. This aroma promises SO much!….

And MY does it deliver on those promises!  Fruity. So fruity. More Mango than peach, but that lime is certainly present and correct. This is absolutely lovely and so packed with fruity goodness that there simply HAS to be at least two of your five a day in here!

Nice snappy dry and resinous finish to this accomplished Pale Ale. A beaut.

 

Well. That’s it until the next batch of beery waffling and wittering. Drink Local people!
Slainte!

Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2015 – My “Dance Card” Dozen

Next week is the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 – Are you going? If it’s anything like last year, it’s going to be special!

The Velodrome is a simply iconic venue, allied to great beers. LOTS OF GREAT BEERS! An almost overwhelming choice with beers from all over the UK and a huge selection of quality beers just from the North for little old me to amuse myself with!

From nearly 450 casks alone (Not to mention Ciders and the “foreign” beer bar), picking my personal “Dance Card” is going to be really difficult, but I’m going to give it a shot. Here goes…..

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Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum (Stockport) – 8.5% abvImperial Stout. At 8.5% abv, this is going to be a gentle waltz rather than a furious Can Can, but I just have to try it. A dark as sin Imperial Stout with all of the creamyness of Buckwheat. Fermented using Boddingtons yeast and inoculated with Brettanomyces, this is a beer I have looked forward to since we finished stirring the mash. A mash that was even THICKER than Katie Hopkins! This will be the first time that it is served in public. I can’t wait!

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Coconut, Macadamia & Lime PorterAllgates (Wigan) 4.6% abvPorter – One of Allgates “Limited Edition” beers that I’m yet to try on cask and inspired by a cake enjoyed in a Kirkby Lonsdale tea shop! I had a mini-cask of this at Xmas and it was beautiful , smooth & nutty from the toasted coconut and creamy macadamia. The lime element is very subtle and provides a tint of lightness in the dark.

Mallinsons

Experimental CitranellMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – For me, Mallinsons just nail low to mid strength Pale Ales. In this regard they have few equals. With Exp 366, Citra & Centennial hops, this already has my mouth watering!

 

PsychedelicHebden Bridge (Er…Hebden Bridge!) – 5% abvPale Ale – An American style Pale ale just LOADED with 5 Citrus fruits. AND, because it was the first firkin to sell out at ISBF and I didn’t get NEARLY enough of it! It got rave reviews at St Sebastians, so I’m hugely looking forward to this!

Five Oh

Sorachi WickedFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – The first beer to sell out at ISBF and another one that garnered rave reviews. I tried a 1/3rd. It was bloody LUSH!!!! Then, just when I wanted another? It had gone. I was just TOO damned kind to you drinkers! Only the second time that Jamie has casked. You NEED this in your life!

North Riding

JesterNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – 4.2% abvPale Ale – Stuart Neilson just makes superb Pale Ales. Fresh and bursting with hops. This is with a new hop variety (Jester) and – if I know Stuart – he won’t have held back on the quantities! A rare appearance over here.

Bridestones

Sprocket Wort OrangeBridestones (Hebden Bridge) / Offbeat (Crewe) – 4.6% abvSpecial Dark Ale – This one is one of the collaboration brews especially for the festival. Chocolate, Orange, Juniper & Sorachi Ace hops? Oh my! I feel another Beergasm coming on!

Cheshire Brewhouse

Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4% abvPale Ale – A crisp blonde ale from Shane Swindells with loads of late-added Keyworth Early hops? Sounds like an early doors beer that is too good to miss, from a brewery whose beers I drink whenever I find them. Because they are THAT good.

Brass Castle

AnnexationBrass Castle (Malton, North Yorks) – 8.4% abvImperial Stout – Inspired by the renewed expansionism of Putin, this looks one NOT to miss! “Smooth like the Volga and as bonkers as Putin”….Works for me! Brass Castle made one of the Beers of the Festival at ISBF and this is another I’ll be reaching for.

Black Flag

FangBlack Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 4.5% abvPale Ale – Had this in bottle whilst in Cornwall in August and it is an absolute fruity belter. Smooth with a piney kick in the finish. Have never seen them up here. If it’s on, I’ll be damned if I miss this!

Offbeat

Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat (Crewe) – 4.8%IPA – This San Diego inspired IPA is one I’m yet to have from one of my favourite breweries. And from what I’ve heard from some trusted drinkers, is not to be missed. And it won’t be. By me at least!!!

Rat

Workhouse RatRat (Huddersfield) – 4.8% – Smoked Porter – Whenever I see a Rat, I just have to. Because they are just SUCH good beers.

Well, I make that a round Dirty Dozen. Should be enough to keep me entertained next week! If there are any that you particularly fancy, bang it in the comments. Who knows, I might try one or two!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 6 – Coconut, Macadamia and Lime Porter – Allgates Brewery (Wigan) – 4.6% abv – Porter – Direct from the Brewers

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I had only had one mini cask (of ANY beer) before this – which was quite appalling – so I approached the opening of this with a little trepidation. All the more so as this was one of a very limited test release mini cask for a new beer. But I love Allgates beers, so the risk was somewhat lessened.

Black with a short lasting mocha coloured head and an aroma with the sweetness and creamy nose from the coconut & Macadamia.

Medium-bodied, with the amount of Macadamia and toasted coconut that went into this, it’s no surprise that there is a creamy nuttiness to this.. It is a lovely mouthful! That creamy nuttiness is the dominant flavour initially with a little subtle citrus coming in just before a surprising bitterness that I wasn’t expecting, but was a perfect porter finish.

Those nuts carry on through to a lingering nutty aftertaste. An excellent Porter that I can’t wait to try on cask.

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Pt 1

“All I can see is black and white and white and pink with blades of blue
that lay between the words I think, on a page I was meaning to send you.
You I couldn’t tell if it bring my heart, the way I wanted when I started
writing this letter to you.

But if I could, you know I would just hold your hand and you’d understand
that I’m the man who loves you.”

(“I’m The Man Who Loves You” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of “The Tonight Show” (US) on YouTube)

It’s been a while! *Yawns like a bear coming out of hibernation*

I came to Wilco rather late. Via their collaboration album with Billy Bragg, recording songs from the archives of the great socialist American songwriter Woody Guthrie that became “Mermaid Avenue”. Ahhh….”California Stars”…….

The above tune is the most accessible track on arguably their least accessible album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. The album that, perversely, brought them to mainstream attention. The album that transformed them from Alt- Country and Americana players to avant-garde. So much so that their label rejected it. Totally. So the band, via whatever channel, leaked it on the web. And became famous because of it, all over the world. There is a documentary about the gestation of the album, which, rather sadly, resulted in one of the band being (effectively) thrown out – Jay Bennett. Sadly, no longer with us. The documentary is called ” I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. I thoroughly recommend it as a document of the recording process and of the stresses and strains that that can create.

I saw the band for the first time when they were promoting their next album “A Ghost Is Born” at Manchester Academy. Jeff Tweedy, lead vocalist/guitarist, looked (and sounded) incredibly fragile. So much so, that I remember saying to my pal Chris, that I thought that he wouldn’t last the year. Songs with titles (and lyrics) like “Handshake Drugs” led to the belief that he may have been addicted. He was, it transpired, but to prescription painkillers, not the opiates that we feared. We resolved to going to see the band at Rock City in Nottingham a few months later. I now see them every time that they are in the UK.

Tweedy plays The Ritz – solo, in January. Chris picked up tickets last week. I’m excited. (Sad, for a near 50 yr old eh?)

Beer time….

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

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

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1. Dreaming Dreams – Wilson Potter (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – 3 for £7 – Direct from the brewery

Dreaming Dreams (of Amarillo – Geddit?). Amarillo. My favourite hop. Picked up on a recent (flying) visit to the brewery on one of their “soiree” afternoons following a drop off of casks remaining from The Independent Salford Beer Festival (zzzzzzzzzzz………). I didn’t know that WP had an Amarillo hopped beer other than “Is This The Way”! Intrigued and salivating, I had to pick one up.

A gorgeous Pale golden beer bought on a brewery soiree last weekend, this has a clinging lasting white head with a fine carbonation giving an aroma of a light marmalade with a hint of apricot. Oh wow! For a fairly light strength beer, this has quite a punch!
The first sip brings that marmalade to the party, juicy and sticky, so full of marmalade flavour that Paddington Bear would love this! A stonking dry and bitter finish too, quite bracing. With a substantial resinous pine hit in the aftertaste. An admittedly brief description, but it was that good that I was a little lost for words!
Each new Pale that Kathryn & Amanda release gets more assertive. And more impressive. This is up there with Don’t Fall. And that is a huge complement! A cracker, up there with the best of the Mallinsons single-hopped Pales for me. Speaking of which…..
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2. SPA (Session Pale Ale) – Mallinsons (Huddersfield, W Yorks) – 4.1% abv  – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 0 – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
If I had a brewery that I regret not being included at the aforementioned bijou beer fest, it is Mallinsons. And hell did I try….They’d grace any bar. But moving swiftly on (and there’s always next year!)
Lively wee devil this one, took a while to decant. Really Pale golden colour (almost a trademark) with an abundant white foamy head giving off a really fruity aroma full of peach and tangerine juices.
First taste, oh yes! Medium bodied and a now more subdued carbonation. Some peach, some passion fruit and what a whack of bitterness backed up by sticky pine resins. Woof! This is another Huddersfield cracker. A little grapefruit says hello in the next mouthful, backed up by that assertive bitterness and mouth gumming piney resins. As Omar Little might say in The Wire “Oh indeed”!
This is a beauty of a pale ale. Fruity, bitter, a little sharpness and a snap sticky pine aftertaste. Oh yes.
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3. Protz’s Pleasure – Steel City Brewing / North Riding Brewpub – 5.3%abv – Black IPA – ? (500ml) – 0 – The Ale Man Manchester (Various locations)
This beer was inspired – if that is the right word – by a phrase used by beer writer (and CAMRA Good Beer Guide editor) Roger Protz, who said “Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.” A brief perusal of the internet may reveal that a number of aspiring brewers were “encouraged” to try making a BIPA on the strength of THAT statement!
If Steel City have a mission statement, it has one word. That word is “HOPS”. Pair this cuckoo brewer with Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub) and his evident love of that green flower, then there was only one way this was going to go…..
Appearance : Black with a thick creamy head and a noise full of chocolate, licorice and some citrus hints.
Medium bodied and quite smooth in the mouth, WOW is this bitter! Flavours of bitter chocolate, burnt toast topped off with a distinct grapefruit citrus tang. Finished with an almost incredible, astonishing bitterness!
The smoothness is almost creamy textured as I take a second mouthful and those flavours intensify. That massive bitterness is rounded off with a sticky pine resin dry finish. I’m Gobsmacked! (I think that this MIGHT have been the desired effect!)
N.B. I’m REALLY looking forward to Damian (The Ale Man) opening his own bar in Heaton Moor! (Coming soon)
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4. Light – Briggs Signature Ales (Huddersfield) – 2.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 0- Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
The fact that a new brewer gets to use the kit at Mallinsons, must – in my eyes at least – mean that he has high standards. You have to be damn good for your pales to measure up to the beers of Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall! This is how Nick Briggs (former brewer at Elland) has set himself up for a potential fall. But has he…
Has he bloody hell! A lively golden beer with abundant white foamy head and a noise full of peach and Mango. Really fruity and with a floral hint that I can’t quite pick.
Quite a medium bodied beer – surprising at this strength! Initial thoughts are of a rather fruity ice cream full of peach and – strangely – strawberry. A really fruity creamy textured mouthful.
The second mouthful brings a little pineapple to this fruity party but also a strong dry bitterness followed by a dry resinous aftertaste. All in all, a surprising beer indeed. A cracking fruity, bitter Pale Ale.
This is a “Small Beer” in abv only!
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5. Old Norrell – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W. Yorks) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £0 (500ml) – Direct from the brewery
Picked up whilst delivering back empty cask from our recent “bijou beer bash”, this was a nice surprise! Got to see Malcolm in action too, with a spot of cask filling. A proper small micro in operation. If I’m right, he has now retired from his “day job”, which – with the addition of a fermenting vessel – will mean both an increase in brewing AND (hopefully) more of his beers over in Manchester – you heard it here first!
Pale golden with a persistent lacy white head giving a big lemon and grapefruit aroma. Lovely fresh & zesty.
In the mouth this is beautiful and sharp. And as bitter and twisted as a Nigel Farage speech! Courtesy of the Sorachi Ace hop methinks. Medium bodied, the first flavour to hit is a bitter lemon mingled with tart grapefruit. A gooseberry note too. Lovely and fresh this in no way tastes its strength.
The fruity tart and beautifully bitter mouthful has a little malty, bready sweetness which gives best to that tart bitterness, a dry sharp finish and resinous grassy hop aftertaste. A pleasure of a beer that I’d love to try on draught.
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6. Marmalade Porter – Wold Top Brewery (Driffield, N. Yorks)  – 5% abv – Porter – £? (330ml) – ? – Wold Top Stall (Cottingham Food & Drink Festival)
A gift from a very dear friend (Phil), this was a huge surprise at the end of a hectic day visiting beery people all over the North. I’ve had some very nice beers indeed from Wold Top (in particular their TdF beer Hello Velo). So to get a Porter flavoured with marmalade, was a bit of a boost!
This is a beautifully black beer with a coffee coloured head giving off milk chocolate and a hint of rum soaked raisins and sweet orange in the aroma.
Ooh Matron! This is a lovely creamy smooth full-bodied mouthful just oozing chocolaty luxury in the first sip! The sweetness from the chocolate is augmented but an Orangey tinge, prior to submitting to a finishing bitterness with a coffeeish edge.
A second mouthful brings some more of the Orange forward, slightly sticky before fading in the face of that bitter coffee and a herbal grassy hop dryness with more than a hint of rum in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Just wish I knew where he got it from! (Update – See above!)
(Locally, you can get some of their “core” beers in Booths)
Now that #ISBF2014 is washed up, dried and put away like good crockery, normal service can be resumed!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!