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 – July 2015 – Pt 3

With things just starting to get serious with regard to The Independent Salford Beer Festival, this blog will be entering a substantially quieter period soon, whilst I get on with arrangements for St. Sebastians in October (Tickets out in 5 days exactly!)

So, with one or two other posts in the pipeline, it might be time to give you a break from Beers Manchester…… But for now, while there are great bottles to drink, I’ll tell you about them in my waffling “prose”.

“Darkness, you are my priestess…..”

(A pint at ISBF from me for the first to give me that song & artist in the comments section below! No later than Midnight 27/07/2015)

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1. TobaTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6% abv – Oatmeal Stout – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Properly black beer. Cream head. Chocolate aroma with background coffee note. My kind of beer.

Nice and full creamy texture to this, my first bottle from this new Manchester brewer. Silky smooth and quite creamy, the first flavour to mind is a bitter chocolate, biting and dry. Then an earthiness that I can’t quite nail, but which, allied to a lovely dry bitterness works really well and makes this an excellent Stout. As I said, my kind of beer.

That earthy dryness remains in the finish where a coffee note comes through, again slightly bitter. Beautifully dry creamy lush Stout this.

And another brewer coming to a beer festival near you…..

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2. Sharks Against SurfersHopcraft Brewing (Pontyclun, St Wales) – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Another ultra Pale Ale, all light golden hue and sharp lemony and grapefruit aromas leaping from its lacy white foamy collar.

This is really a surprise. I was expecting a brutal hop mouth battering. Yes it’s fruity, with apricot and orange jelly sweets on a light biscuity base. Really juicy, with that juicy fun chased off by a decent wallop of bitterness – full, but not brutal.

Nice piney finish mingled in with some lingering fruit in the aftertaste.

I would say that this medium to light bodied beer drinks quite lighter than its abv. This is a bloody good mid abv beer. And, for me, hugely sessionable.

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3. Imperial Buckwheat StoutQuantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 8.5% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer time! – All words below are in no way influenced by the fact that I helped to brew this. OK, well….did some shovelling and stirring and shit. OK?

Black. Always a good start with an Impy. Totally black. Like tar. Dark brown collar of creamy foam and a spicy nose tingling aroma with licorice and red wine in the vanguard.

Oh yes indeed! This full-bodied beauty is lovely and unctuously creamy and rich. Vinous, with a rich nuttiness is the first sensation to hit the tongue, the next is as the beer first slips down, quite a bitter coffee taste. Such a mouthful of lovely darkness!

The finish is spicy, lingering hints of red wine, a touch of sour with more bitter espresso, luscious.

And even though I helped to brew it, there is no bias here. This is lush!

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4. Hare of DarknessMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – 7% abv – Black IPA – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Can’t make up my mind about this! Initial dark chocolate aroma on this black beer made me think of a Stout. But there is something more fruity and spicy on the aroma coming out of the thick cream coloured head which tells me it’s a Black IPA. Intriguing.

Full bodied and really creamy smooth. Oh this is SOOOOO good! Bitter chocolate allied to masses of tingling citrus and big hoppage. Oh yes. Bitter coffee too in the swallow and second mouthful. Really earthy. And again, just so smooth.

A little licorice note too. So good. Really dry and hoppy finish to this oxymoron, with a big resinous aftertaste. Great beer this.

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5. Pride & JoyVocation Brewery (Hebden Bridge) – 5.3% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Deep golden / Amber coloured beer with a light white lacey foam head and a huge aroma flying out full of mango, peach and orange zest. Full of promise!

Medium bodied, with decent carbonation, this is fruity Sod! The Mango is the heavyweight here, full and really juicy & tangy. Nectarine and peach too, a tropical fruit bowl of a beer this, delivering in spades on the promise of that aroma.

Really smooth texture to this making it feel quite sessionable. Dangerously so. The finish is really dry with big piney resins in the aftertaste providing a big finish.

Superb.

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6. Crafty RamRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom)- 4.6% abv – American Pale Ale – 500ml – Great Ale Year (Bolton)

An American Pale Ale with fennel eh? Golden beer with a lasting soft white head and…  Oh yes…. There it is…. Fennel. That unmistakable light aniseed fragrance in the aroma.

Oh wow. This is really unusual, but REALLY good! The fennel – with its light anise note – is there, but merges with fruity hoppage and creates a new flavour, something akin to an orangey boiled sweet. Incredibly moreish and very tasty.

Medium bodied and really smooth, the second mouthful brings a touch of apricot to the party and leads to a fruity, mouth-watering finish with a spicy hoppy aftertaste. Lovely stuff. (And another coming to ISBF 2015 with a VERY special beer!)

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7. Three Hop HareFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

Straw gold coloured Pale Ale with a light white head and a big citrus aroma full of grapefruit and lemon pith.

What. A. Tart. And. Sharp. Beer. This is full of tart citrus with the aforementioned grapefruit slightly trumped by the lemon. Really juicy and sharp. Gooseberry too. Nelson Sauvin perhaps? Really refreshing beer this, light and VERY sessionable…

This light to medium bodied cracker is dry in the finish, resinous and still sharp in the aftertaste.. Simply a superb Pale Ale. Another from the “Northern Magician”! Rapidly becoming my favourite brewery.

7 belters there! Next post may be about a shop I found in Newark this weekend and the local beers therein.

But, until then….

Slainte!

The East v West Beer Festival (aka EastWestFest) 15 -16 May 2015

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I, my friends (if I may call my sole reader that!), am becoming a bit of a Professional Northerner. Especially when it comes to beer. To my mind, there’s nothing worse than going in a Northern pub (in my case, Manchester) and not seeing a drop of Northern beer. Don’t get me wrong now, there is some simply superb beer being made all over this lovely island, but London seems to get all the press (and blogging) inches.

Nearly a year ago now, I decided to focus (almost) exclusively on beers from the North. Because, for me, the brewers up here have nothing to learn from elsewhere. There is, quite simply, some astonishing beer brewed up in these parts that gets not a lumen of the light that’s shone on the likes of Bermondsey & Hackney.

If I’m honest, as much as I adore the history of The Cousins War (aka The Wars of the Roses) and the banter that flies from each side of the Pennines, but this focus on Northern beer was the genesis of The Independent Salford Beer Festival (#ISBF2014). The beers came from Crewe to Scarborough and were mightily well received if the feedback is to be believed. So much so that we’ll be doing it again. (More on that elsewhere)

I was made up when Malcolm & Beverley Bastow from Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield took the time out and came over to Salford in October. I was even more made up when (via an independent Twitter vote) one of his beers won Beer of the Festival – AND that another Yorkshire beer came second (Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle). Mostly North West drinkers voting for two Yorkshire beers kind of felt like a validation.

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I’d heard a rumbling about a potential Northern Beer themed festival and when Malcolm confirmed that he was organising, I knew it would be something else. You see, for the uninitiated, he makes some bloody good beer in that there shed of his! But I was both humbled and astonished when he approached me to see if I would help in sourcing the beers from this side of The Hill. Even more so when I read that #ISBF2014 was one of the inspirations behind his festival!

I couldn’t say no, could I?

Red Shed from above

The little place you see above is the venue. Wakefield Labour Club. Known locally (and affectionately) as “The Red Shed”. I’m told that it has a capacity of 70. Yes, you read it right! Seventy. Or, me plus 60 others. The festival (as you can see) takes place in just under 2 weeks. As far as I’m aware, it’s pay on the door. Having had sight of the beer list, I’m just hoping that I can get in when I arrive. To say that I’m salivating is an understatement!

So, without further ado…..

From the West :

Brewsmith Beer – Nelson Sauvin (Pale Ale)

Wilson Potter – Don’t Fall (Pale Ale)

First Chop – SYL (Black IPA)

Tickety Brew – Rose Wheat Beer

Squawk Brewing Co – Pale Ale

Shindigger Brewing Co – IPA

Black Jack Beers – New Deck (Golden Bitter)

Allgates Brewery – Shogi Porter

Marble Brewery – Spring (Pale Ale)

Quantum – UK Light (UK hopped Pale Ale)

Thirst Class Ale – Pale & Interesting (Pale Ale)

From the East :

Clark’s – Billy Ruffian (Stout)

Sunbeam – Shepherds Delight (Rose Water infused)

The Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of the Caribbean (Red Rye Ale)

Atom Beers – Schroedinger’s Cat (Pale Ale – Columbus, Chinook, Citra & Mosaic!)

North Riding Brewpub – Hunters Dream (Strong Mild)

Blue Bee Brewery – Real (A Sorachi Pale Ale)

Brown Cow – Yorkshire Sovereign (Pale Ale)

Revolutions Brewing – The Golden Age of Wireless (Mild) I DO love a musical reference!

Steel City Brewing – Troika Red IPA

Whippet Brew Co – Brew Number One!

Learn To Brew – Young, Gifted and Pale (Pale Ale) (+ a mystery beer!) – I DO love a musical reference!

and last….but not least, your hosts….

Five Towns Brewery – May Day. Fully loaded brew, with Citra, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, Chinook and Equinox hops, Double IPA.

It’s a rare Beer Festival when there is THIS much Northern beer and I haven’t so much as sniffed 75% of it!

I’m going (Train & Hotel booked!) along with Yoda (aka the Arch-Nemesis) and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked forward to a beer festival this much in years!

It’s all in a good cause too, so come along and have a beer or seven and help support some good causes by er…..drinking great beer!!!!

Tune

“Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.

News guy wept and told us earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying.

I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies.
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.’s.
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.
And all the fat-skinny people. And all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people. And all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people”

(“Five Years” – Bowie)

(Clip courtesy Sante3d via YouTube)

For Malcolm & Beverley (As fans)

For everybody else – Do I REALLY need to explain this?

That’s all for now people. See you next week?

Slainte!

4 Beer Festivals In One Day (inc Manchester Beer & Cider Festival Pt 2) – 22/01/2015

“Too many Florence Nightingales, not enough Robin Hoods
Too many halos not enough heroes, coming up with the goods.

So you though you’d like to change the world, decided to stage a jumble sale,
For the poor, for the poor.

It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean, try shaking a box in front of the Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams……..”

(“Flag Day” – The Housemartins)

 I think that it would have been in 1986. I was sat in the office in the arse end of Trafford Park, when word reached me that if you called the right number (I think it was the magazine City Life) you could get free tickets for a special performance by The Housemartins at a place called City Lites in Farnworth. There were 10 pairs available. I rang on the dot of 9am and snaffled 2, so me and my mate Nige ended up in a town I’d never yet visited. And a town I’d end up living in for the last 25 years!

The performance was for a TV programme which I have recently found out was called “Hold Tight” on Granada TV. The band were superb. It was a short performance, but managed to cram in a No 1 & No 2 single in “Caravan of Love” and “Happy Hour”. My memories are hazy other than 2 things. Firstly, the band finished by breaking up Hugh Whittaker’s drum kit. Secondly, Paul Heaton declaiming that “We fucking hate Tories!” Some things resonate!

Whilst preparing for this blog piece, I was looking for a vid for “Flag Day”, yet stumbled upon the Granada TV programme that the concert was recorded for! The link is here. A reminder of what a great band The Housemartins were and still sound like. “The 4th best band in Hull” indeed! (The other 3 were Red Guitars, Everything But The Girl & The Gargoyles – apparently!)

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Four Beer Festivals in One Day. Some things just have to be done, don’t you think? Obviously I do. But then again, I’m both stupid and easily led. Or so I thought when travelling to work at a preposterously early hour, in order to finish in time to start this malt & hop marathon! So, I yawned my way onto First Buses finest chariot….

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The New Oxford, Bexley Square, Salford

Tim (mein host) doesn’t really need to host beer festivals. The selection of 16 (or is it more?) handpulls is like the Elysian Fields for local cask ale devotees and Tim has a positive talent for pulling rare and unseen beers like rabbits out of the proverbial titfer. But hold a Beer Festival he does. And does it well. My advice if you fancy an evening beer here, get in early. It can get rightfully busy!

As I entered before midday, I could hear the voices of tickers picking off the beers that they were going to try. Me? Am I a ticker? I suppose so, but only in so far as it stretches to trying new beers from Northern breweries. You should know what I’m like by now!

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The first beer of the day was South Island Pale from the mighty Allgates of Wigan. Ultra pale and bursting with tropical fruit sharpness. Allgates just make excellent drinkable beers. Drinkability is vastly underrated as a characteristic.

Next up was Gold Top Milk Stout from Rebel Brewery of Penryn in Cornwall. Roasted coffee with a lactose and vanilla sweetness. Lots of cocoa/chocolate too. Sweet tooth, consider yourself sated!

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With the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff now in attendance and with thirsts slaked, time for walkies!

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I have absolutely NO idea as to how I let them persuade me to walk! But by the time we got there, a thirst had indeed been generated. I let the A-N sort out the beer choice whilst I sorted out my hunger pangs at Panchos with a large Burrito! ALL long days should start with a Panchos!

The Micro Bar, Manchester Arndale Market

In here I had a Pikes Peak by Elland from West Yorkshire. Yes, they of the mighty 1872 Porter. The Pikes was a beautifully pale golden beer bursting with zesty citrus and possessed of a bracing bitter finish.

Micro Bar is one of Manchester’s unregarded gems in my opinion. There’s always an interesting guest or two courtesy of Boggart’s own distribution setup, the staff are friendly and there is a cracking bottle selection for takeaways. All that and you can eat your burrito there too. Bonus!

We move on….

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The Crown & Kettle, Oldham Road, Manchester To what I now consider my favourite pub in Manchester. For me, it has it all. Beauty, increasingly great beer selection and (at £2.95 a pint for cask), great value.

To be fair, when I see a Rat on the bar, I’m gonna bite. Always. This Huddersfield emporium knows how to knock out a damned good beer on their kit. The collaboration with the Pied Bull brewpub in Chester was absolutely no exception. Pied Rat was a big bruiser of an IPA. Amber with a creamy textured white head and barrow loads of citrus leaping from the glass. Chewy malt and massive hoppage. Even at 5.5% I had to have a second pint. Wise? Possibly not, but it tasted fantastic!

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Now, as you may have gathered over the last year or so, I’m a bit of a music nerd. So to hear an entire album and a bit from one of my favourite bands – the immense Beirut – I was beyond joy. Transcendent. Rounded off an excellent start to the day. The C&K is a belting pub, more than worth your cash.

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(Another Beer Festival? If you insist!)

This was where I finished off my “Dance Card Dozen” as listed here. On the previous day I had pretty much been rooted to the ground floor whilst my jaw ached from the talking to some seriously good beer people. But this day was for the beer! First up was a visit to the Concourse for a treble from Offbeat & Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing.

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Disfunctional Functional IPA from Offbeat came first. Refreshing, with punchy fruity hops. An excellent beer, as I have come to expect from this Crewe brewery. Great beer brewed by a chick indeed!

Psychedelic – Hebden Bridge Brewing – I only had a taste of this at ISBF and before I knew it, it ran out! I couldn’t miss it, could I? Being conditioned over a market stall full of citrus fruit, it was every bit as fruity as I remembered and had a damn nice dry hoppy finish too. A cracking beer (hope to have them back with something ace for ISBF2015!)

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Then the collab between the two (in Hebden Bridge’s Bridestones guise). The wackily named “Sprocket Wort Orange”. An unusual mouthful to say the least, but a damned enjoyable one to be fair. Chocolate and orange with a little hoppy nip. No surprise to me, I like both Offbeat AND Bridestones.

Next up was a beer high on my list. Being a smoked porter, from Rat Brewery. Workhouse Rat was everything it was meant to be. Dark and smoky, a little starting sweetness and lovely coffee/chocolate flavbours. Nice hop finish. Accomplished, from a brewery that I see too few darks from. (Try the Ratsputin IRS if you see it – it’s a belter of an Impy)

Then. A walk. For a foreign beer. Well, it WAS from a bit South of Crewe! Fang Pale Ale from Black Flag. I holidayed in Perranporth in Cornwall this year in the tail end of a hurricane. This beer in bottle made that seem a small price to pay. In cask it was even better. Really zingy with more than a hint of lime with the mango. A fruity cracker from a small craft operator that if I knew how close they were to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

I was gutted to miss just one of the beers on my list. Being from Jamie Hancock and his Five Oh Brew Co, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, as it was only the second casking he’d done (no prizes for guessing where the first one was served!). This was a slight tweak on the Sorachi Ace Stout he did for us (doh!). As I said, gutted.

However, that left a gap. Which was filled with one of those beers that rocked my head back. A #Beergasm indeed. This was the Stocky Stout from Richard Conway’s Thirst Class Ale. The first mouthful prompted a “BLOODY HELL IS THIS GOOD!” Creamy, bitter and beautifully roasty, a proper winter beer without the need for you to fall over. 5.2% abv of roasted perfection. It’s that good, that I’m going to Ashton to pick up a couple of bottles tomorrow from Browtons!

I really enjoyed this festival. I could have spent 4 days there and STILL not had all the beers that I wanted. The only thing I would say (and it’s assuredly NOT a criticism) is that I was (as Atilla would say) “over faced”. There was so much good beer that I struggled to decide on occasion. Hey ho! If only ALL beer festivals had that problem eh?

Over the two days, Beer of the Festival for me was the Stocky Stout – with the Imperial Buckwheat Stout by Quantum a close second. Bring on the bottles of both!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!

The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 Pt 1

“Kiss me goodnight and say my prayers, leave the light on at the top of the stairs
Tell me the names of the stars up in the sky.
A tree taps on the window pane, that feeling smothers me again
Daddy is it true that we all have to die?

At the top of the stairs
Is darkness”

(Tank Park Salute – Billy Bragg) *

Billy Bragg writes great songs. Like religion & politics, don’t argue with me over a pint on that one fact.

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(Just in case I forgot where I was drinking!)

Manchester is a great city. Whilst I have never been able to call it my actual home (hailing from Salford and now living in Bolton), it has been both my spiritual and cultural home from birth. I have experienced highs and lows, loved and lost in this great city. Many of my formative life experiences took place here, from shopping in Lewis’ as a kid (always forced to dress in “Sunday Best” – even though it was always Saturday!), to my “Stag” do in 1990 and beyond. This city is in my heart and soul and always will be.

It now also has a Beer Festival that can stand proud – shoulder to shoulder – with the best that CAMRA can offer.

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My day started with an early meet for some grub in a new “street food” style start up on Church Street, Northern Soul. The name harks to a musical genre that is one of my foundation stones and I was pleased to hear the exclusively “Northern” tuneage as I entered. Let me be quite clear. I am 50 this year, so, having not as many years left as some, I decided that I needed to try something new. After all, it IS #Tryanuary! That something, was Mac & Cheese. And these fellas made my heart sing whilst simultaneously hardening my arteries with a huge dose of dairy delight!

Mac & Cheese. With pulled pork. On a toastie. It’s up there. Oh yes. Good effort fellas!

This was Wednesday. That meant Trade Day. With the Arch-Nemesis having the week off, we had to go. After all, I have beery arm-twisting to do, what with #ISBF2015 in the planning stages!

But first, in true #Tryanuary spirit, a new pub to try. This was the Abel Heywood on Turner Street. Hydes 3rd City Centre outlet. It looks lovely, with lots of dark wood, comfy chairs, it has a nice pubby feel. The beer was Hydes (there IS a handpull for a Guest Beer I think) and was OK without being spectacular. IN good nick, but I wanted more punchy flavour than I got from either pint that I tried. Shame. But a lovely pub nonetheless. Boutique Hotel upstairs too!

Having tagged along with some reprobates, Darren, Damian & Des, we sauntered off for the tram and a mere 20 minutes later was outside the Velodrome.

The best and simplest way to sum up my initial feelings was that the Regional CAMRA people had listened to the gripes from last year. OK, you can’t move the toilets, but at least a sizeable percentage of good beers were on the concourse, NEAR the loos!

On the Wednesday, I spent almost all of my time at ground level and Bars 3 & 4. Because I was yakking. And talking. And chatting. And not drinking very much at all! I set myself a list of 12 beers to try (read here) and managed to get through 6 of them that afternoon. They were all glorious in their different ways.

The first beer that I was going for was one that breaks my Beer Fest Rule #1. Tactical drinking means going from light in alcohol and progressing through the range of abvs to something considerably….heavier. In late November, The Arch-Nemesis & I did a bit of stirring & shovelling at Quantum to help brew an Imperial Buckwheat Stout (read here). So, to guarantee a taste, it had to be first. However, then I saw Experimental Citranell from Mallinsons and plans changed. Sharp, fruity and bitter, it was a perfect livener from a brewery that just can’t go wrong.

I simply HAD to sample the Imperial Buckwheat Stout next. Didn’t I? Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans! That beer was SO smooth and SO bloody drinkable, it should carry a health warning! It most certainly didn’t taste anything LIKE 8.5%! So Smooth, it just slid down effortlessly. Creamy textured and so roastily good. Jay just makes damn good beer.

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Having finally met the majesterial Shane Swindells, and being in need of something light after the head spinning IBS, I opted for Cheshire Set from Cheshire Brewhouse, pale, light and spritzy, nice and sharp tasting with the Keyworth Early hops, this was a beauty. A beer that – if it was the only beer on a bar – I could drink all night and have no complaints. Had a long chat with Shane, a thoroughly entertaining bloke who just happens to make some of the best beers in the North. IMO of course! I wandered for a few minutes and when I returned, it was to the comment “He knows his stuff, he does” from the Arch-Nemesis. Jaz is a good judge of people as well as beer.

Another on my list was  Jester from North Riding, another punchy, fruity Pale Ale from Mr Neilson with big tropical citrus flavours and crackling bitter dry finish. Was a nice surprise to see one of Stuarts’ beers over here, only made me even more gutted not to see his old mucker Five Towns beers missing. One of these days eh…..?

Next up was the  smooth & nutty Coconut, Macadamia & Lime Porter from the ever reliable Allgates. Beautiful nutty aroma promising and delivering all the way down the glass. Silky smooth and loaded with toasty coconut and creamy Macadamia, my favourite nut.

The final beer I had was another Imperial Stout, similar in strength to the Quantum,  but this actually tasted all of its 8.2% (and was none the worse for it) Annexation by Brass Castle. Roasted. Potent. Port Wine. Worked for me and contributed to my rather hollow feeling at work the next morning! Was glad to (just) catch Ian from the brewery and prep him for another beer for my little October bash – remember, the Hazelnut Mild went down a storm!

First impressions? Lots of tables on ground level. Result. Friendly service. Loads of great company and lots of arms twisted for next October. A great afternoon/evening with good beer and good people. To be fair (and I think most posts I have seen DO reflect this) the organisers listened. And, in my opinion (for what it’s worth) got it spot on.

I really enjoyed talking to some great local brewers. Shane, Richard from Thirst Class Ale, Steve (Beer Nouveau), Matt & Dom from Rammy Craft and many more. So many, that it got in the way of my drinking! I think that it’s called “networking”! More beer in Part 2.

Slainte!

*On a sad note, this piece is dedicated to a dear close friend who passed away recently after a long, incredibly brave and dignified battle with Cancer. A man who brightened the days of many and helped me – in particular – through some seriously shit times. He loved a bit of Billy Bragg and this song just seemed to fit. A class act and an inspirational friend.

Sleep well Phil.

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!

A Leap Into The Dark – A Brewday at Quantum Brewing

“She said I’ll throw myself away, they’re just photos after all.

I can’t make you hang around, I can’t wash you off my skin.

Outside the frame, is what we’re leaving out. You won’t remember anyway”

(“Go With The Flow” – Queens Of The Stone Age)

(Clip courtesy of Chanchoconhipo – YouTube)

Nearly 15 years ago, I moved to London due to a promotion. Without my family and with my third child only 10 months old. I was miserable. As sad as I could possibly be, short of being stalked by the black dog. What saved me from the pits of despair was work. And XFM.

At that time, XFM was a determinedly left-field Indie Rock radio station based in London, playing the stuff you simply didn’t get on Radio 1. I spent a lot of time listening to the radio then. A new colleague called Tony introduced me to XFM and also tried to indoctrinate me into a love of Metal. I got as far as Metallica and Queens Of The Stone Age. He introduced me to a song that only contained 8 actual words. Repeated. With the exception of the word “and”, they were all the names of drugs. The song? “Feel Good Hit of the Summer“. I was hooked.

After nearly 18 miserable months, I got my dream move back up North to be with my family and threw myself into work again, but with the added joy of seeing my kids at night.

I returned to Manchester, but the love of Queens Of The Stone Age stuck. I bought the album “Songs For The Deaf” on its release in September 2002. I put it on in the car…and waited. The first track is called “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire”. It is the first track that PHYSICALLY moved me. It starts with a dialled down bit of power guitar, then, at exactly the 1 minute mark…BANG…my head was thrown back into the headrest!

This album remains in my all-time top 10. “Go With The Flow” was (alongside “No One Knows”) the standout single complete with strange performance video….

The lyric just haunts me and paints a picture of disposability and despair, set against a  rollicking rhythm, propelled by the thunderous drumming of Dave Grohl – his best performance for me.

I just love it. OK?

_________________________________

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It all started with a Vodka. A very smooth almost creamy textured Vodka by all accounts. Well, when I say “by all accounts”, I actually mean “in the opinion of The Arch Nemesis”!

This was all before The Independent Salford Beer Festival.

The idea was floated by the genius that is Jay Krause and he was up for a Stout made with…..Buckwheat! It seemed to appeal to his particular brand of beery madness! So, plans were made for a special beer for the Festival, only for that old Rabbie Burns phrase to bite us on the ass. Timing wise, it just didn’t quite work out. A damn shame really.

However, that thought stuck with Jay and not long after ISBF, he was back in contact and wondering if we still fancied it……A rhetorical question if ever I heard one!

So, on a cold late November Tuesday, I find myself in Stockport, cold and hoping that The Arch-Nemesis had picked up the hint and bought a coffee at Stockport Station whilst he was waiting……As if…..so having turned up earlier than needed, we hunted down some griddled pig and a hot steamy coffee.

Finally having consumed our steaming coffee and salty piggage, it was back to a previously locked industrial unit on Hempshaw Lane and to where the magic happens with (almost) monotonous regularity…the lair of the Craft Wizard that is Mr Jay Krause and Quantum Brewing!

The idea was rather simple. Brew a Stout. With Buckwheat. However, when Jay started to mention the amount of dry goods that were to go into this mash, something did NOT compute. Well, it did actually, but on a rather bigger scale than the Arch-Nemesis & I had thought. Nearly a QUARTER TON of malt! Then it hit me. This was to be no glugging Stout. Oh no. This was going to be a beastie and no mistake! Pale Malt, Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley, Cara Malt and Buckwheat. With the appearance of Euan (he of Port Street) we cracked on…..

It. Just. Didn’t. Stop.

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With the Hot Liquor (that’s water to – post-Mitchell – plebs like you and me!) at the right temperature, in went the first 25kg sack of Maris Pale, with Jay initially mashing then me taking over so that the sadistic streak in him could chuck sack after heavy sack into the mash tun….

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Each time that consistency of texture had been achieved, the call went up “ready for some more……?” (Another of them rhetoricals!)

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“Ready for more….”

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If you can’t see any further capacity in the mash tun….your eyes aren’t deceiving you. This was Full. To. The. Brim.

This was a seriously heavy mash and took a hell of an effort to break up the inevitable clumps of barley and buckwheat, but, with a huge effort, we managed it.

Upon the commencement of the transfer to the copper, bittering hops were added, a mix of Cluster & Bramling Cross at about 2.5 kg and then the sparging could start to help extract all of the malty goodness from this dark and devilishly gloopy mash. And it didn’t matter how much water was added. The wort was impenetrably, almost satanically, BLACK. Oh my! It was THAT black, that the hops turned black.

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(Some gratuitous hoppy Copper action)

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(“Black Hops”)

It smelled ……beautiful.

It was upon transfer to the FV that something almost instantly magical happened. Jay primed the yeast with some of the coal-black wort. Within minutes, smells of red wine and port just oozed out. The aroma of things to come. Primed, the yeast was pitched in and left to do its lengthy work. The wort had a gravity at between somewhere near 1083, so this should pan out at around 8.5% abv, maybe slightly higher, dependent on fermentation.

This was a fun day, enlivened by a little “rubber band Olympiad” (see below) and finished off with a mini crawl around some excellent Stockport pubs, topped off – for me – with an absolutely stunning pint of Oatmeal Pale by Brass Castle in The Magneta very pleasant surprise find indeed.

The Arch-Nemesis & I are very grateful to Jay and Euan for what was a hugely enjoyable, fun & surprising day (WE had no idea this would become an Impy, honest! And I ached for two days after some SERIOUS mash tun digging!

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(Jay & Euan’s rubber fetish reaching new heights!)

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(Some of the spent malt – These are gonna be happy local cows!!!)

This beer is likely to debut at The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival at The Velodrome at the end of January. As with the Allgates Sloe Stout last year, this beer will be first on MY dance card! I can’t wait to taste it (but am going to have to!)

On that note…til next time…(new bar Wigan Central write-up!)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 1

“There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in.
The rain floods gutters and makes a great sound on concrete.
On a flat roof, there’s a boy leaning against the wall of rain
Aerial held high, calling, “Come on thunder, come on thunder”

Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul”

(“Sometimes” – James)

(Video clip courtesy Marblehead69 on YouTube)

When people think of James, they almost always think of “Sit Down”. A fine song. But it pales to nothing next to this. There’s something hugely poignant about that boy holding the aerial. It cuts me every time.

It took me a number of years to get James. Others got them in the 80s, not me. It took songs like this, the mighty “Laid” (“But she only comes when she’s on top”! – WHAT a line!) and the period when Andy Diagram added his trumpet to tracks like Born of Frustration to hook me in. To be honest, I can’t think of a British guitar based band I’ve loved since James…Hey ho!

I suppose that I chose this track, because sometimes, I wonder where my wittering is going. I have a moral. That moral is that when something stops being fun, it should stop.

I DO do this for fun, but it has been getting progressively harder to write and has, for a while, stopped being fun. I needed a (proverbial) shot in the arm and I received that from three, (two partially connected) sources this week. The first were some simply fantastic beers this week (including an increasingly rare “beergasm”), the second reason being a simply great night spent working behind the bar at Offbeat Brewery last night. I met some lovely people, good beer folk all. The  ever lovely Michelle, Chris, John, Caz, the lovely Mel (PLEASE Photoshop me OUT!), Otto, Phil….Thank you all. The pleasure was all mine.

The third reason was a belting shop I entered for the first time…

On to the beer….where would we be without it?

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

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

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1. A Wee BitWilliams Brothers (Kelliebank, Alloa, Scotland) / Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, USA) – 4.8% abv – Dark Ale – £3.19 (?) (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Manchester)

A collaboration beer between these two was intriguing. Brooklyn have their own, almost unassailable reputation in the beer world, whilst Williams Brothers quietly make some of the best beer you could find in a supermarket (Caesar Augustus? Fraoch?), I was intrigued. That and it was a dark ale!

A really deep dark ruby beer with a creamy coloured head and a gentle smoky note over a chocolate base in the aroma.

Oooh! Medium-bodied with a gentle carbonation. This is a really subtle tasty beer. A smooth milky chocolate starts you off which is swiftly augmented by a little treacly sweetness (treacle & honey being added to this brew) then a gentle peaty smokiness which reminds me of a light peaty whisky like Jura or Ardbeg. A really delicate dark tapestry being woven here.

A really smooth mouthful gives way to a smoky dry finish with a whisper of grassy hop. A beautiful beer.

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2. The One (Amarillo) – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale (Single hopped) – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)

I initially struggled to enjoy beers from this brewery. But, I now realise, that this was almost certainly down to the pubs where I tasted my first beers, because with each taste in both bottle and from trusted bars (Great Ale, Tottering Temple…) those same beers are revealed in a different – shining – light. Their beers also seem to get better with each one I try….especially the pales!

A bright golden beer with a light white head and the familiar deep orange aroma of this beautiful hop.And there it is again in this medium bodied mouthful, that lovely sticky Seville marmalade bitterness. Yum! My favourite hop, well utilised in this single hop pale.

A smooth drinking, medium-bodied and lovely Orangey mouthful. The sweet fruit is followed by a building bitterness that increases with each mouthful. That bitterness is rounded off with a big hoppy aftertaste. Which increases after each sip.

Easy drinking and full of flavour. Another belter from Horwich.

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3. Neck Oil – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, London) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – £2.40 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A can. My first British beer, canned, for……… Picked up, when the subject of canning arose in a conversation with Simon, the owner, in this excellent Didsbury outlet – small, yet perfectly formed (the outlet, NOT Simon!). I have a feeling I’ll be back – and it’s ALL Rowan Molyneux’s fault!

An Ultra Pale golden beer poured from such a funky looking can. The first UK canned beer I’ve had since I was a teenager! As lively as a new puppy on its first walkies, the huge white head releasing a massive citrus aroma, initially smelt like Mango, but more tart like sugared breakfast grapefruit (do people still put sugar on it?)

Fresh. Zingy and fresh. That tart citrus assaults the mouth on first sip. Drying the tongue out en route to its appointment with the throat. The little biscuit malt sweetness in here is mugged by citrus and pine needle dry bitterness. This is a really easy drinking beer. For me, as good and as fresh as the Founders I  had as a train beer recently. I could get to like this canned stuff!

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4. Stockport Sour (Pineapple & Scotch Bonnet) – Quantum Brewing (Stockport) – 2.3% abv – Sour Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Sets out stall – I am not a big fan of UK brewed sour beers. There, heresy expounded! I may not be quite “on trend” here, but until this beer, my thoughts wandered towards the argument “leave it to the Belgians – the Masters”. But – unsurprisingly – being from Quantum I suppose, I “got” this….

Ultra Pale yellow gold and hazy. Giving the misleading appearance of a wit to the unwary. The head soon dissipated leaving the unmistakably sour fruity aroma with the pineapple there in the background.

That thing about being unwary? Just take a mouthful. Our maybe a sip to accustom yourself! Light bodied as you would expect, the pineapple sweetness initially surprises, almost instantaneously giving best to a sour note. No. More than a note. This is distinctly sour, but not tongue wrestlingly so. The kicker is in the subtitle…. Scotch Bonnet? Oh yes. You feel it like a threat first. Like watching Nightmare on Elm Street… You know that Krueger is there… You just can’t see him… Until it’s too late…

That sharp peppery heat isn’t an incendiary flame, just a tongue tingling sharp spice. But this beer does what all good sours should, it gets those saliva glands pumping like like a Texan gusher!

This is really refreshing beer. I kid you not. I’m not a big fan of UK attempts at sours (as said above), but really enjoying this from Jay. Pineapple? Check! Scotch Bonnet? Check! Another cracker from Mr Krause!

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5. American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery (Dantzic St. Manchester) – 5.7% abv – US Brown Ale – Swap (330ml) – Direct from the Brewer

As it says, this is a brown beer.

This is really lively, with a mushrooming white head booming out aromas of mango and grapefruit. Seductively drawing me in, but into what? Fruitiness is what!

Boxes and boxes of mango, peach and tart grapefruit hit the tongue immediately, walking the walk that the aroma talked. The first mouthful finished dry, suddenly dry. Onwards….full-bodied, a big toasty wholemeal bready malt base with lashings of hoppy stuff spread all over it, again really fruity but with a dryness that gets the side of your tongue and turns it inwards almost to preserve moisture.

On keg, this improved the further down the glass you went.This is no different, with other flavours hitting further down,like a rye spiciness and almost a licorice like note. The finish is dry, slightly sweet with a big hoppy aftertaste. Another superb beer from Dantzic St!

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6. Slovenian IPATickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 5.8% abv – IPA – £2.05 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)

The first thing that I noticed was the home-made look of the labels….then that they were situated next to a bottle of Tickety Brew Jasmine Green Tea….! But where were the usual labels? Then I looked on the reverse….A (rather) limited run of only 96 bottles….I feel somewhat privileged and lucky to have been able to snaffle one of there. Here’s why…

A beautiful golden beer, frisky as a kitten with a wool ball, huge white head and a big but gentle fruity aroma, peach and passion fruit, with that TB Belgian yeast tang.

Oh this is beautiful! Full-bodied and smooth with a fine carbonation, a little peach, a lot of passion fruit and no little orchard fruit as well, sweet apple (in a REALLY good way!)
The yeast, combined with the hops, provides for a witheringly dry finish to the mouthful. Quite surprisingly resinous. This beer provoked my first Beergasm of the week. I feel that my notes don’t do this beer justice. I like TBs beers and have been a big supporter, but this is a whole new level. Sod the labels….Get this! (And THAT price? Call the cops, ‘cos this feels like I stole it!)
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7. TurvyOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 6.5% abv- Black IPA – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)
Look at that seductive glassful of desire!

Black. As black as a Stout and equally opaque. A head creamy in both colour and texture Crooks Its finger and beckons you on to a nose of bitter chocolate and sweet licorice. Promises promises!

Oh baby! Is this one beautiful beer! Sweet Jesus! Totally different to all the BIPAs I’ve had before with its lack of tart citrus nose, but all the better for it!

A rich, rich mouthful. Smooth as the proverbial bottom, but silky smooth past the lips, there’s like a creamy almost buttery smoothness with that bitter chocolate roasted malty base, then leading you to some really bitter resinous hoppage.

Oh shit. Think I’m having one of those there Beergasms! This is THAT good!

This is everything I could want. Roasted & bitter, resinous and buttery smooth. A hell of a beer. Again, I don’t think that my notes have done this beer the justice that it deserves.

It. Rocked. Me. Out. Of. My. Seat. It is up there with the 300 from Five Towns. I can praise it no higher. One of the best bottles I’ve ever had. Year end podium material in my Golden Pints 2014!

“Great Beer Brewed By A Chick”? She’s a great “chick”, brewing great beer. This just…….

If you have the time today, GO to Crewe and enjoy some of the simply fabulous beers Michelle & here top team have put on in their First Friday Festival. Then thank me later!

That’s all folks!!! Bar one more thing!

This week, I had a couple of mates around to help me reduce my stash. Des & Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis). The bulk of the beers will form a separate blog post next week, however, Des – being a fine beery bloke of the highest order – has commenced my schooling in the arts of Belgian beers.

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These two beauties from De Ranke & Girardin are the start of my Belgian experience. The Gueuze, a fine mouth-watering sour and a superb “bitter” (Belgian style being anything BUT a “Bitter”!) were astonishingly good. I will leave others better qualified than me to pass judgement on these two rare beauties, but I both enjoyed them HUGELY and thank Des for bringing them and both Des & Jaz for a top evening. My next stop in the “Belgian Odyssey” will feature these two beauties. Things of rare beauty….

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I’m a lucky boy!

And on that note….til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 2

“Here I am, I’m not here now, no, no, no. And I’ll care for you – hey that’s all I want to do.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.

And I’ll hold you near and I’ll whisper in your ear. I’ll take your hand and I’ll make you understand.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.”

(“Thickfreakness” – The Black Keys)

(Clip courtesy of “brilliantffs” on YouTube)

With the best tunes to come out of Akron, Ohio since….well….DEVO, The Black Keys are just awesome! (NOT a word that I use lightly either!) Another discovery through the thing of tuneful joy that is emusic.com, I was hooked from the moment I heard the hollow drums and twisted detuned “spaghetti western” guitar on “When The Lights Go Out” from the “Rubber Factory” album from 2004.

A two piece – Dan Auerbach on Voice & Guitar with Pat Carney on Drums, their blues heavy noise is just so damn visceral – especially on the title track of their “sophomore” album (a live performance of which is above – click the hyperlink). In format (two piece, guitar/drums) they bear a link with mid-west contemporaries The White Stripes, whilst being (IMHO) infinitely better than that rather more successful (in UK terms) band.

(Including 2006’s EP – “Chulahoma”) 9 albums in, they have evolved to the point that (courtesy of production wizard, Brian Burton – aka “Dangermouse”) they now boast bass guitar and keyboard players on the new album “Turn Blue”, they are still (again, IMHO) streets above anything the UK has to offer in guitar-led terms.

(Recommended albums – in order of release date: Thickfreakness, Magic Potion & Attack and Release)

On to the beer eh?

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

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

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1. Flintlock Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery 

Have I ever explained my love of the beers that come from Outwood? Mr Bastow is a genius! I demand that someone gets his bottled beer over this side of the hill! Oh….wait….I’ve got some more on my shelf? *Smiles*

This is an ultra pale straw coloured beer and a big sharp aroma of tart gooseberry and grapefruit. I was drooling before it touched my lips!

Light-bodied, with the gentlest cream cracker malty base, this is full of sharp citrus flavours, with gooseberry and grapefruit again, cut with lemon atop that Jacobs’ like base. The second mouthful brings that sharp lemon more into focus, enlivening my jaded tastebuds (read WHY they were jaded here)

A beautifully refreshing Pale Ale. Whatever the strength, this is a Five Towns speciality!

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2. Liquorice Alesort – Ashover Brewery (Ashover, nr Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Deep black with a creamy looking tan coloured head and a really “dark” aroma including real liquorice and maybe a hint of aniseed.

Oh MY! This beer is as smooth as George Clooney! Full of body, a subtle roasted malty sweetness forms the base for the savoury, spicy overtones of the liquorice root. Just Mmmmmm!

With each mouthful I’m sinking into my chair and the sweet embrace of this dark delight! The finish is slightly sweet, with a grassy hop edge. As Frankie Howerd’s Lurcio never quitesaid….”Yum, Yum and thrice Yum”!

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3. Pale Ale NZ Quantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.45 (I think) (500ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

This was Jamie Hancock’s fault! (I DO love a good scapegoat! Felt weird seeing him in a shop rather than behind the bar!) I was just about to leave with a small – yet perfectly formed – haul of goodies, when this was pointed out!

A pale golden beer with a light white head and HUGELY fragrant with zesty lemon and tart gooseberry and grapefruit.

Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth, a light biscuity base forms the foundation of this hoppy fruity delight! First comes tart gooseberry, giving the tongue a little wrinkle and unleashing the saliva glands. This first swallow feels like summer has arrived! This is followed by a light, yet still punchy grapefruit, both of these mouthfuls have a lemon sharpness to them which is massively refreshing.The finish is tingling and bitter with the merest hint of lemongrass in the aftertaste. A sharp and hoppy, refreshing easy drinking beer.

Bravo Jay Krause – Take a bow!

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(Gratuitously shot with 2 Premier League Winners in background!)

4. SIPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (330ml) – 0% – Carringtons (Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton)

Straw coloured and hazy, with a thin white head and a sharp & slightly tart aroma with lemon, passion fruit and a hint of kiwi fruit.

Medium-bodied in the mouth, with a fresh-baked bready malt base this is SO smooth and fruity in the mouth with more passion fruit and a sharp lemony edge to it and quite a decent bitterness.

With each mouthful that fruitiness builds at the same time as the bitterness lessens. Lovely herbal hops aftertaste. Refreshing and supremely easy to drink. Now to have it on draught! Hopefully on their evening on 31st May?

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5. Alias – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W. Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Look at it. Just look at it. If beer is drunk with the eyes, just looking at it has slaked my thirst!

Gold. Pale Gold. Bubbling like a klondike brook, except that this one is loaded with aromas of spring flowers & gooseberry rather than gold! Light bodied in the mouth, this is really delicate on initial tasting, maybe a bit of elderflower, before that gooseberry tartness kicks in.

Another smooth and easy-drinking beer this, so easy to glug, but I resist! The second mouthful builds considerably on the bitterness of the first. Clean, floral, gently tart and hugely refreshing. Supremely easy drinking. The queens of the single-hopped pale ale. Bloody hell, but they’re good at this! And, with Raj’s 10% discount, to drink beer THIS good, at THAT price, feels like shoplifting!

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6. Fatter Stout Mad Hatter Brewing Co (Liverpool) – 9.5% abv – Imperial Stout – £4.20 (330ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

Another from my small – yet perfectly formed – haul on my recent visit to Beermoth.

Black as the Ace of Spades, with a deep cream coloured head and an aroma full of darkness, with some bitter coffee and lots of licorice.

Obviously huge bodied, really silky smooth, the initial hit is one of really bitter coffee, followed by the chewy licorice overlaying a burnt sugar sweetness in the background and coating the mouth all over.

In later mouthfuls, something more warming and alcoholic like a dark rum, slick and warming the throat as it slides down. Whilst underlying sweetness is ever-present, there is a distinct bitterness in the finish followed by a resinous hop character edged with bitter chocolate. Going down great with some vintage cheddar!!! A boss beer from Liverpool. 

Well, that’s all folks! I’m just about recovered from last weeks efforts – I really SHOULD keep a tin of Andrews in the medical box!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 1

“When I’m with you all my brothers, oh, I feel like a king, it feels like I’m dreaming.

When that blood goes rattling through my veins, my ears start to ring. And I notice what matters.

And I got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows.

Got nothing to lose but bitterness and patterns”

(“Got Nuffin‘” – Spoon)

(Hyperlinked video courtesy of  “StepOutAgain” on YouTube)

There is music that you hear everywhere. Either because it is classic & timeless (Bowie, James Brown, Sly Stone, Motown etc) or because you are simply listening to either the wrong radio station, or the kids have control of the car stereo. Then there are the bands that you think are your secret. You never hear them played anywhere else. In fact, you’ve never heard them outside of your own home – except on your iPod.

One evening, just over a year ago, I walked into Common on Edge Street in the Northern Quarter, (a bar I had fallen in love with not because of their beer selection – excellent though it indubitably is, but because of a tune I heard the moment I first walked in. “The Light Pours Out of Me” by Magazine). On this particular evening, however, drink had been taken. Part way through a beer, I heard the unmistakable throb of kick, snare and side drums. SOMEBODY ELSE LIKED SPOON!!! That tune was “Got Nuffin”. Like a drunken fan boy, I lurched over to the DJ to thank him. I don’t know what I actually said, but I meant “Thanks”!

Now 6 albums in, Spoon are one of (if not THE) greatest exponents of what has been described as “minimal indie”. They simply don’t waste a note. No fluff. A bit like Shredded Wheat. Nothing added, nothing taken away. Just great tunes. They get better with each album. We must be due another album soon.

(Recommended albums : Transference & GaGaGaGaGa – treat yourselves!)

On to the beer eh?

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

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

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1. Shankar IPA Great Heck Brewery (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 5.9% abv – IPA – £2.49 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A pale golden beer with a light white head and big fruity aromas with peach and tangerine and orange on the nose.

Ooh matron! Big and stickily fruity with thick Seville orange marmalade on a toasty bready malt base. This is followed by a sticky resiny bitterness that clings to the roof of the mouth like a drowning man with a handful of riverbank grass.

The second mouthful brings some peach to the party, but this has such assertive bitterness that the peach was nearly not allowed entry! A big beer from Denzil this. A proper IPA and possibly his best yet – a big call, given how awesome the Black Jesus was! A big bitter and sticky pine finish, finish off this bruiser of a beer. It’s like a bouncer at a really rough bar, you don’t want to mess with him. But you JUST can’t help yourself! (A STEAL at £2.49!)

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2. Zen Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 4.8% abv – Blonde Ale – £2.99 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A lively golden beer with a head – initially at least – the size of a tower block. fragrant and fruity with masses of zesty lemon and grapefruit grabbing the nose and giving it a good tweak. Given that it was a lively wee bugger, the carbonation is really soft letting the zesty and zing laden lemon take centre stage.

A light malty base allows the hops to shine with the lemon being nice, sharp and ever so slightly bitter. Nice and juicy this, that big bitterness being complemented by a sharp dry finish. A massively refreshing zingy fresh beer, perfect for a summer’s day. Who knows, maybe we’ll get one!

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3. India Pale Ale (ii) – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 6.7% abv – IPA – £2.69 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

This is (as the name suggests) Oliver Turton’s 2nd stab at an IPA. (Read the review of Mk 1, here) The first was 5.5% abv, so I wondered how much more oomph that extra abv would give it.

Amber coloured beer with soft fluffy white head and a nose full of orange marmalade. Promising!

This is SO damned smooth in the mouth! A good chunk of toffeeish malt laid down like a dance floor for the citrus marmalade to dance all over! This has got the balance of a Prima Ballerina!. The orange in the marmalade mellows just a little to allow the beer to have to flavour of something like a citrus ice cream, beautiful and creamy but with a big bitterness to round it off. The aftertaste is big and piney too. Just another excellent Manchester beer from Mr Turton.

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4. Rum Porter Boggart Brewery (Newton Heath, Manchester) – 4.7% abv – Porter – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

I was chuffed to bits when I saw this at BlackEdge Brewery’s newly opened shop. I’d only ever had it on cask at Micro Bar in Manchester Arndale, Boggart’s own outlet in the centre of town. I was keen to see how it translated into bottle.

A deep, dark, ruby brown beer with a big creamy coloured head and quite a big cocoa/chocolate aroma with something sweeter smelling in the background. Really smooth and quite chocolatey in the mouth with plenty of caramel toffee malt, like a Riesen chocolate, I thought. Another mouthful identified the interloper in the aroma. The rum. Like a dark boozy sugar note in the background, adding further depth. A great dark beer for a cool evening like this one. Comforting. The finish was slightly sweet but with a grassy hop aftertaste. A lovely beer, right up my street.

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5. Red Bull Terrier Barngates Brewery (Ambleside, Cumbria) – 4.8% abv – Red Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

This is most certainly a red beer, almost the colour of Vimto, that drink most beloved of Salfordians (that & Holts’ Bitter!).

Red with a thin white head and an aroma including toffee and spicy vine fruit. Medium bodied in the mouth, the first flavour is a deep, dark and slightly sweet caramel over laid with raisins, plum and a good dollop of spicy tongue tingling hop.

Really fruity and really dry, MY do those spicy hops dry your mouth in the finish! Oof! A really deceptive beer this. Starts off slightly sweet, but the bitterness almost catches you out in the finish. Lovely herbal hops in the aftertaste. A cracking first for me from this brewer. Won’t be the last! (Note to self – Must pop in and grab some next time I’m off camping to Langdale!)

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6. Black IPA Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 6% abv – Black IPA – £4.35 (500ml) – 0 – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

This was a surprise purchase during an all too infrequent mooch around Beermoth. Going to see Jamie in his new environment was all the excuse that I needed. I was quite surprised how much Northern beer they had and ended up picking up a few, then spotted this! I’ve obviously NOT been paying much attention recently, but I didn’t know that a BIPA had left Jay’s Hempshaw Lane lair! I simply had to….

I knew it was going to be a bit hoppy when I read the label – SEVEN different hop varieties!

A quite black beer with a milk coffee coloured head and a perplexing aroma of licorice and spicy citrus hops, grapefruit prominent.

Incredibly smooth texture to this, no prickly bubbles just oohhh. There’s like a bitter (I mean REALLY bitter) chocolate covered pontefract cake initially, surprisingly creamy, which is then gently nudged aside by some fabulous hoppage.

Really fruity, with tart gooseberry and grapefruit and a whole forest of pine needles. Each mouthful is a sensory treat. Considerable bitter finish with lots of piney stuff sticking around in the aftertaste with a chocolate bitterness. Reminds me what I LOVE about BIPAs!

In the words of Porky Pig……”That’s All Folks” – for now at least!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!