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

ISBF Poster

(Design by Andy Heggs – aka HopOnTheBike)

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

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

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

(Video courtesy of  “Bill James” on YouTube)

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

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

Now…business!

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

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

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

There are at least 3 rooms/spaces.

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(The main room)

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

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(Food area / serving area)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note….til next time…

Slainte!

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

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

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 (corridor – The City Arms)

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

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

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

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

(Hyperlink video courtesy of  lisap2468 on YouTube)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Rising Sun (Queen St/Lloyd St)

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

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

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

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

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

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The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)

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

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

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

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(gorgeous isn’t it?)

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

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

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

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

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Peveril of the Peak (Chepstow Street)

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

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

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

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That thing about a special place in MY drinking history!

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

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

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The Lass O’Gowrie (Charles Street)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

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

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

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

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

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

Finally (are you still awake?)

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

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

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

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

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

 On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

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

A New Bar For Bolton – Great Ale Year Round

Great Ale Year Round

A couple of months ago – just about the time that my dear friend Gerry floated the idea of a Beer Festival – I took her and her partner (my good friend) Paul to Damian O’Shea’s stall at Urban Market on what was the old site of Victoria Bus Station. A young couple were standing close to the stall and Damian introduced us saying, “You might want to meet these people, they’re opening a bar in Bolton”! My attention being now absolute and undivided, I was introduced to Dan & Gina Buck. We chatted for a short while and I got the distinct impression that they liked good beer.

The plans were to open a bar in the refurbished Market Hall and a brief chat with Dan &  Gina told me that there would be an emphasis on local beers with some more foreign stuff (ie : from South of Crewe) in too, but only good stuff! I was really heartened because, to be fair, Bolton is hardly rammed with great places to drink. Yeah the Sweet Green is OK, Wetherspoons (currently OFF my radar) and Barristers are OK and the Dog & Partridge has a decent pint, but Bradshawgate of a weekend evening resembles mid 80s Beirut! Consequently, when I go out, I head south towards Salford & Manchester. Bright lights, big cities and all that….

The Bucks had been posting teaser pics on Facebook showing how the venue was coming along, which made me all the keener to get in and give it a road test. So. What is it like?

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The bar was originally supposed to open on 14th February (the date that the Hall officially opens I think), but, having brought THEIR opening forward, my good buddy Colin & I strode into the Market. The first thing to notice is the large seating area just outside the bar, loads of space which will be filled once the planned food vendors move in. A really nice space, the Market will do well here.

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(Great bottle selection)

The bar is fairly small (well, it IS a Micro Bar!) with firkins on stillage behind. The bar and a few bar stools take up one half of the space with a couple of small tables and the bottle shelves and fridge taking up the other half. Speaking of bottles….

With a selection from the likes of Brightside, Quantum, First Chop, Tickety Brew, Cheshire Brewhouse to name the locals, plus offerings from London luminaries such as Beavertown and Five Points, the UK selection is impressive. Add to that 3 from Brooklyn, some Sierra Nevada, Jever, some Timmermans fruit beers AND Cider from local producers Red Bank, the choices are superb. (We tried a drop of the Red Bank “Rum” Cider and it was lovely & smooth!)

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There are currently 2 cask conditioned beers which Dan informs me will be constantly rotated. The two on offer today were Solstice from Brightside of Radcliffe (a Golden Ale at 4.5% abv) and Dark Revenge from Manchester’s Privateer Beers (a 4.5% abv mild). It’s fair to say that both were on absolutely CRACKING form!

Having had Dark Revenge previously on several occasions (I adore it!), I opted first for the Brightside. A beautiful clear pale gold with a fabulous fruity aroma, this was superbly refreshing and citrussy with just the right amount of biscuity malt for balance. I didn’t want the glass to empty! next up was the Dark Revenge. The name kind of gives away the complexion of this beer. I asked to pull this and made a complete “dog’s” of it. But what I couldn’t spoil was the taste. A lovely creamy dark roasty thing of a beer with smooth chocolate, the merest hint of coffee and a lovely dry finish. Superb.

Needless to say, Colin & I hung around for a couple more and chatted awhile with punters and Dan & Gina. Nice to see Paddy & Rachel (Rachel for the first time) and have a wee chat whilst Paddy selected some excellent bottles – a man of taste! Two excellent bloggers (click the hyperlinks!)

It was nice to hear that the first day had been busy. Given the efforts that I know that Dan & Gina had put in, deservedly so. As further food and drink units open up, it can only go from strength to…er….strength! I hope so, because this place gives Bolton somewhere nice and relaxed to have an excellent beer – and the best bottled beer selection in a bar for MILES around.

Immediate plans are to have some “Meet The Brewer” type events with the likes of Brightside, Privateer & First Chop. Excellent local brewers more than worth a listen. I’ll be going for sure! Another – more imminent – arrival will be a lager font, the lager being the excellent German Paulaner (beloved of Manchester Xmas Markets!) and at some point shortly perhaps, a 3rd hand-pump allowing the range to increase. Here’s hoping!

Saying our goodbyes, both Colin & I agreed that Dan & Gina had done a cracking job and we can’t wait to go back.

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Sunny in Manchester? 07/06/2013 (Or, the best laid plans…Pt2)

The original idea was set some time previous. A colleague wanted to see some of Manchester’s better pubs/bars. As you will see, at least I had a good time!

Word got out of a Works do at Dukes 92.

I couldn’t do it. Whenever I had been there, the beer was simply awful. Arrangements were made to meet afterwards. Needless to say, they didn’t quite work out. Hey ho. There was beer to be drunk, so I obliged!

The afternoon starts off in….

Sandbar.

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Having not been for a while, seemed like a good place tp kick off….

Being a lovely bright sunny day, there were tables outside. What’s more, there were people sat at them! Warm outside, but nice and cool inside with 7 (seven) handpumps on display. As you can see below, an excellent selection. However, I had eyes for a beer I’d had only once before. Tarantula by Privateer.

A Mild, weighing in at 3.5% abv, this was as dark as you might expect with a light cocoa nose. Lovely and smooth in the mouth, a chocolate tinge with a hoppy finish. A nice twist on a dark mild. (Almost a shame it’s only available at Sandbar!)

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(Beer Garden)

Sandbar effectively has 3 room. A large room where the bar resides and two rooms to the rear, which were formed from the addition of the next door premises. Being fairly early in the afternoon, these were quiet. A nice sized beer garden to the end of the bar was enjoyed by a few sunseekers.

Following the Tarantula, decision time. Redacre by Worth Brewery (from Poynton). A 4% deep copper coloured beer. A gently floral aroma was followed by a fruity mouthful, bitter with an increasingly dry herbal grassy finish. Not usually my kind of beer, but nice enough.

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Each time I see Sandbar, there’s something else that impresses me. Today, spotting an excellent jukebox and the notes on the “prayer board” listing the hops used in each beer. A nice touch. Nice friendly bar staff too! Ordinarily, I would have loved to have stayed, but word had reached me of other beers that needed sampling elsewhere….that elsewhere was….?

Joshua Brooks

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Again, quite a few people sat on the balcony overlooking the Medlock, enjoying the rays. Me, I had an alternative agenda!

Canasta Mild from Black Jack Beers. A black beer, slight chocolate nose, lots of roasty stuff going on. Nice and creamy textured, with a dry coffee aftertaste. Another nice Manchester Mild.

That Black jack went well with a lovely Lancashire Cheese and Onion pie from Great North Pie Co with a creamy side of mash. Just what the proverbial medical chap ordered!

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(Solace from Quantum)

Next up, the US Saison from Quantum at 5% abv. I didn’t think this was being casked! Hazy golden coloured, this was a fruity mouthful with a pronounced peachy nose. Really peachy in the mouth too, more so than I remember from a couple of weeks ago. Refreshing, grassy dry finish. A big surprise this. Great tunes in here too. Gold Panda, Yeasayer. Works for me anyway!

Let me repeat. £2.60 a pint. Every Friday! How many times do I have to repeat myself? Eh?

20130607_171438(How comfy does THAT look?)

With no James to mither, we moved on to….

Font

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(Oops – View from Font. Superb graffiti art on the arches!)

Quite busy for the time of day, but still able to get a seat. Just the one here. For me, Black Perle from Weird Beard Brew Co. Only the second beer I’ve had from this Hanwell, West London brewer. And what a belter! A 4.5% abv Milk Coffee Stout. As in a Milk Stout with Coffee! Black, with a gentle coffee aroma. Slightly sweet with a firm coffee kick, this was a lovely creamy mouthful. The coffee in the mouth was like a nice filter, rather than the usual ristretto.It was all the better for it. The tunes in here were quite retro today. Walking in to Peaches by The Stranglers set the tone.

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(DJ Booth – Love the artwork!)

Value was again superb in here. Use of the CAMRA membership rendered the Weird Beard and a pint of a 7.4% from Tempest down to £5.40. Floats MY boat!

We moved onto ….

The Knott

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Hadn’t been for a while. The balcony was busy with sun seekers whilst the bar was fairly well populated also. First choice was Titanic Stout. 4.5% abv, this black beer is an old favourite and didn’t disappoint. Black beer with a beige cream head, this had a lovely smooth creamy texture with a full roasted body with a slight bitter coffee note. An excellent dry stout.

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Next up was Rapture from Magic Rock. At 4.6% abv, I love this beer and have had it on many occasions. It was in really good condition as well. As hoppy as you would like with a big grapefruity nose, good malty body with lots of hops. The balance is on the edge with this but just works so well! £3.80 a pint seemed a tad excessive though. The Castlefield effect I guess.

Whilst the initial plan didn’t work out (though I tried!), as you can tell from the above, the afternoon wasn’t wasted!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

A Toast To An Old Friend 24/04/2013

I went to 6th form college over 30 years ago.Whilst there, I met some great people who went on to become good close friends. Some of us drifted apart through work and geography. Two such people were Martin ‘Doigy’ & Jan Doig. Good people, caring, loving and friendly. And utterly devoted to each other. About two years ago, social media placed us back in contact and we’d shoot the breeze on Facebook (with Doigy) and Twitter (with Jan).

Eventually, an opportunity was engineered to meet up and we did this in The Knott. To my delight, they hadn’t changed. Then living in Cambridgeshire, geographically we were separated, but culturally, we were of a piece. For his sins, Doigy had become an avid beer ‘ticker’ who maintained a meticulous list of the beers he tasted. To my joy, he was also a devotee of “The Dark Side”. Milds, Stouts and Porters were his thing, as they are mine. Doigy also had a love of Northern Soul music, another of my passions. Doigy, Jan & I spent a pleasant couple of hours in The Knott and I made a loose approach to Doigy to come and join Me & Jaz at an upcoming beer festival.

Sadly, we buried Martin on 25/10/2011. He was 47. A good, extremely fit man taken in his prime.

Yesterday would have been his 49th birthday, so along with two of his good friends, Col & Jaz (who knew him far better than I) we met up on his birthday to toast his life and memory with 3 particular bottled beers and to visit two Manchester pubs that he would’ve adored.

doigy spud jan jc(Doigy wasn’t ALWAYS that small! Pic – courtesy of Bob The Chiropodist)

Colin & I started our deliberations a touch earlier, with a beer Doigy would’ve enjoyed. In The Black from Wilson Potter at The Salford Arms. This is the first time that I’ve had this 4.2% stout in ‘the wild’. It didn’t disappoint. Smooth creamy and lovely mocha ish flavours.

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(In The Black indeed!)

He keeps a good pint does Tom. Great to see their beer in Manchester now. A swift pint of another beer from another of my favourite brewers, Dainty Blonde by Privateer. Pale, delicately floral with a hint of elderflower. Really refreshing. Now we had to move on. We said a hasty farewell to Tom and headed to Jaz’s bachelor pad!

The most abiding legend about Doigy was The Toast Mountain. He simply loved his toast. This love was used as a jump off point for some home brewing friends to create a beer in his honour. The obvious name for this beer (a stout, of course!) was ‘Doigys Toast‘. It was therefore most appropriate that this should be the first beer of the evening.

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(‘Doigys Toast‘. A Toast to the Toastmeister!)

Made by a home brewer noted as “Bradys Brews”,rather scarily there is no %abv noted, but a very dark brown to black beer came out of the bottle with abundant cream coloured, but quickly dissipating head. This one scared me, because I was worried, that having had it for so long in storage, it would be like Sarsons. Pleased to say that it was anything but! A deep dark aroma of licorice and spice, a thin texture, but more licorice in the mouth and a chocolate tinge. Just a little. Tasted a touch ‘yeasty’ toward the end, but all-in-all a decent beer with which to toast a decent man.

We moved on to a beer that Doigy stated was his favourite. Mrs Simpsons Thriller in Vanilla by Brown Cow Brewery 5.1% abv

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(His all-time favourite)

A very dark brown beer. Again, the head quickly vanished. A hint of vanilla in the aroma and (possibly?) treacle. Slightly thin in the mouth, but lovely roasted malt flavours, slight bitterness with a vanilla twist. Not as ‘full-on’ as some vanilla beers, but nice for all that.

Next (and last of the bottles) is Bad Kitty Vanilla Porter by Brass Castle Brewery 5.5% abv

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Doigy would have loved this beer! Black with more than a hint of vanilla, a touch of Bournville chocolate, not TOO bitter but plenty of nice dry vanilla, not too sweet though. The head again dissipated quite quickly, so probably wrong temperature or glassware issues, because, having had this before, lack of head wasn’t previously  problem. Despite that, this is still a damn fine beer. Both of the above were sourced from that excellent shop Yorkshire Ales in Snaith, East Yorkshire.

At this juncture, we went for a short walk to a bar that Doigy would’ve loved. The Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(recycled pic alert!)

Pretty much guaranteed a good pint in here. I was delighted to note that there was still some Citra from Oakham Ales  on, so at 4.2% I dived in. My first time for this beer on draught that I have loved from a distance in bottled version. Loads of citrus from the eponymous hop on a biscuity malt base. Yum! However, Col fancied a swap, so I then got the bonus of a Dark Star Brewing Carafa Jade. A red ale made with German Carafa barley and NZ Pacific Jade hops, this was a spicy zingy beer with lots of citrus hop aroma. Bloody lovely! They know their stuff in here. Good knowledgable bar staff serving excellent beer.

Just the one here, as The Crown & Kettle was calling!

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For my last of this evening, my eyes alighted on Off Kilter Porter by Offbeat Brewery of Crewe. Lovely and creamy black beer with lush choc and coffee in the mouth, maybe a spicy hop touch too. Really smooth and quite quite gorgeous.

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(Off Kilter going down well!)

Colin, having ordered the Rat In The Hat from the Rat Brewery, started to eye my Off Kilter Porter covetously. Being the kind of guy that I am (and in the spirit of the evening!) I swapped. The Cat was a nice fruity hoppy beer, golden in colour with a slight haze, refreshing.

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(Nice selection with 3 from Ossett)

That was that for another evening. Another excellent evening with good beer, good friends and good conversation. And doffing our collective caps to a top bloke.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte Doigy!

Captured! – A Visit To Privateer Beers 26/03/2013

A few month ago, I was introduced to the beer made by Privateer Beers by Tom at The Salford Arms (A great place for good beer!). The beer was dark, seductive and damned tasty. That beer was called Dark Revenge. I had been abducted by The Privateer. Subsequently, I had the Roebuck, a paler beer at another excellent drinkerie, Joshua Brooks. Another excellent beer, brewed in the centre of Manchester, no less! I had to learn more.

After a brief, but fun and informative chat in Sand Bar (where Privateer supply the ‘house beer’ Tarantula) last week with the owner, Matt , I find a tweet inviting myself and (arch-nemesis) Jaz to pop along to the brewery! This was almost Vito Corleone territory…..as if I could refuse…….

20130326_185644(Insert own pirate related pun ….here)

Good grief…it was weather for ‘brass monkeys’. This was amplified by both the walk from Piccadilly and the fact that the streets off Fairfield Street are like wind tunnels. Eventually, we crossed the Mancunian Way onto the other side of the aptly named Temperance Street, where young Matt has his brewing playground!

As well as ironically locating a brewery on Temperance Street (in an arch under the railway line at No 80), one of the great things here, is that Matt built the brewery. Once the building was sourced in early 2012, he spent 6 months or so building the kit, testing etc. Brewed by himself and Peter Curran (ex brewer at Moorhouses of Burnley), the beers were released into the wild in about October 2012 and are served in a number of pubs in the area. They have also travelled as far as Kent, Berkshire, Suffolk, London and the North East. Impressive from a standing start less than 6 months ago! I personally have had the beers in 4 bars in the area and they have been uniformly superb. This makes my ‘Drink Local’ philosophy a joy!

All of the engineering, plumbing etc is his handiwork. And mightily impressive it is too! Five main vessels in here, the hot liquor tank and mash tun (where the malted barley is steeped in hot liquor to make the sugary stuff – wort), which then goes to the ‘copper’ (brewing vessel – where the hops impart their distinct aromas and flavours) and two fermenting vessels (where the yeast gets to play and make the beer!)

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(Hot Liquor – water – Tank & Mash Tun)

The copper is 6 1/2 Bbl (beer barrels – 1 = 36 Gallons), which means that each ‘brew’ can be as much as nearly 1900 pints. Breaking this down, this means that they can produce 26 x 9 gallon firkins (the cask that goes to the pubs) for each brew. Each brew is transferred from the copper to the Fermenting Vessels (FVs) where the yeast does its job – sometimes TOO vigorously!

20130326_190057(The Copper and 2 FVs – Those glasses didn’t stay empty for long!)

Once you include the empty casks and those that are filled and ready to move, you soon learn that they make the most out of this small space. The space above the office is used to store hops and empty casks. There is a small room to the right of the cooling unit which is used as the malt store. This place is compact and, for the time being, does the job.

Matt (Jervis, the owner) is a very entertaining and convivial host and gave a chat about the beers, a brief history of the brewery and answered some questions whilst showing off his baby – the  brewery itself. His brewing ‘mission’ is to brew tasty beer at a strength no greater than 5% abv. This is admirable at a time when many brewers seem to equate flavour with high strength and massively hopped beers. On occasions, I like those beers too, but mostly I want a beer that is balanced, that I can taste without falling over every second pint. In my experience, this is what Privateer do. And do well.

The beers are also, currently, all cask conditioned. Huzzah!

The current core range consists of Roebuck (an amber brew, nicely hopped with Centennial hops) at 3.8% abv; Dainty Blonde (a pale, blonde beer) at 4.2% abv and Dark Revenge (a strong Mild) at 4.5%. This is augmented by the house beer made for Sand Bar on Grosvenor Street, a 3.5% Mild called Tarantula, which is delicious.

Now. For the beer……..

Matt had tapped two 9s. One of Dainty Blonde and one of a new brew (which will be added to the core range) called Red Duke, a red beer at 4.8% abv. Being there first, myself and Jaz had the pleasure of having the Dainty Blonde to ourselves! A lovely, smooth blonde beer. Well balanced, nicely hopped with Amarillo hops for a nice slightly citrus aroma with a gentle bitterness.

As we finished our Blonde, a number of other guests arrived including Graham and Lin from Bolton CAMRA Branch and a group of local amateur brewers. The conversations started to flow (as did the beer). Then we were introduced to the Red Duke. Matt acknowledged that this wasn’t the reddest of reds, but it was red enough in comparison with the Dainty Blonde.

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(Blonde meets the Red)

The Red Duke is a red/brown beer which has a maltier base that the Blonde. A slightly more complex beer with flavours of toffee and caramel in there nicely offset with the American (Centennial & Amarillo) hops. Jaz enjoyed it and told me that I would too. He wasn’t wrong either (he knows me FAR too well!)

One of the ambitions that Matt has is ‘Vertical Integration’ (my words). Matt has run a pub or two and there is total sense in the quality control afforded by controlling everything from grain to glass. I hope they get themselves a bar soon as I like his philosophy around drinking  and I’d like to see the results.

Other than Graham and Matt (obviously Jaz!), I hadn’t met any of the other people there before. I personally had some excellent and fun chats with a few of the brewers group who knew their beers (and far more than me about how they are made!!!). Good people, who I’m sure I’ll meet again. I would like to try real home brewing at some point, but I think I’d need to extend my house first! (And hide the kit from my darling Atilla!)

Before I realised it, it was 22:50 and I had to get to my chariot (at latest) by 23:40! So a hasty but heartfelt thanks to Matt, a quick cheerio to everyone else and myself, Jaz and Simon (met tonight for first time!) hot footed to Port Street for a quick sleeping draught. I wanted a Stout, but the thought of having to quickly drink a Thornbridge St Petersburg simply terrified me, so ….

Quantum – Keyworths Early. An excellent and slightly complex beer from Mr Krause! Don’t know what the hops are in this but a nice fruity dryness to the finish. Another brewery without a mis-step for me!

Was nice to put some faces to twitter names last night, including seeing David from Sweden late on in Port Street. Unfortunbaately far too late to have a chat due to rushing for the chariot home!

Once again, an excellent evening. Some good beer lubricating some really good chatting. Isn’t this what beer is all about?

Now, when was that lovely T-Shirt being made in XXL, Matt?

Slainte!

Recent Bottle Tastings

Just 3 to point out from recent sampling.

  • Tandle Hill by Wilson Potter 3.9% abv (Direct from the Brewers – £7 for 3 500 ml bottles)

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A golden coloured, bottle conditioned beer with lively carbonation. A floral hoppy aroma. A dry and refreshingly bitter beer with a lingering grassy fresh dry aftertaste. Looking forward to getting some more soon. Superb local brewer. Would LOVE to see their beer on draught in Manchester.

  • Green Devil IPA by Oakham Brewery 6%abv (£3.50 for 660ml from Brewery Tap P.H. in Peterborough)

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I have some friends in Peterborough. My buddy Rob was popping down to see them, so, it felt like an opportunity to source this beer. As it happens, he got the last two from the pub shelves. They themselves were unsure as to next time they’ll get it in. Oakham aren’t even sure about the next time they’ll bottle it!

Anyway, this golden coloured bottle conditioned beer gave out an abundant tropical citrus smell with pineapple and some pink grapefruit. Lovely! Nice, sharp and bitter with some more tropical stuff in the taste, pineapple and grapefruit again upfront. Really smooth with a lingering dry fruitiness. This was like a souped up Citra with extra warming properties. Some complexity in the aftertaste, grassyness and I thought a touch of something darker like a herby licorice. Some peachy too. Bugger it, maybe my senses are shot! A damn fine beer.

  • Dry Stout by Stringers Brewery 4.5% abv (£2.19 for 500ml from Booths at Media City, Salford)

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I can’t believe I’ve never rated this superb stout before! I always grab a couple of bottles of this when I go to Booths, as well as their equally superb IPA.

A carbon black beer with a tan head. A gorgeous earthy dark roasty aroma. Loads of roasted malt flavours with a touch of smokiness and a dry bitter finish. This is one of my favourite bottled stouts. Unfortunately, I’m still yet to have it on draught. I live in hope. If anybody notices this on draught within 20 miles of Bolton, TWEET ME!!!