Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 4

“They say no news is good news, the little girl wants information,

Mother just gives her some pills to choose and says ‘Go use your imagination'”

(“You Little Fool” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions)

(Video courtesy of “jjarcos1v” on You Tube

I bought my first 3 vinyl 7″ singles at the age of 13 with 2 £1 notes (remember them???) I found soggily stuck to the road during my morning paper round. I think (well, it WAS 35 years ago) I bought them at a shop on Salford precinct. They were…..

I Don’t Wanna Go To Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions; What A Waste – Ian Dury & The Blockheads & Jocko Homo – DEVO. I’m rather proud of those being my first! No “Birdy Song” here….oh no!

As I got older, my love of the music of Declan MacManus (Mr Costello) has grown and deepened. In my opinion (Isn’t that all that blogs are…Opinion?) his greatest album remains one of his more obscure, in that it lacked an obvious hit single. The album I refer to is Imperial Bedroom. You Little Fool was the lead single (there were only 2) and reached #52 in the UK whilst the album reached #6 (#30 in the US, where Costello is more revered than he is here). From the multi-layered and somewhat schizoid opener “Beyond Belief” through “Shabby Doll”, “You Little Fool” all the way to the utterly beautiful “Town Crier” the album remains in my all time lists, certainly within the Top 20 (I really must list them in one of my Hornbyesque moments!)

Costello is still, for me, one of the greatest lyricists writing in the English language. I haven’t seen him live since the Mighty Like A Rose tour. Something I would like to address. He remains a superb live performer. (Still plays “You Little Fool” too!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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

IMAG0876

1. Windrush StoutBrixton Brewery (er…Brixton, S. London) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.65 (330ml – inc Discount) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

To be honest, I’d never heard of this brewer until one recent afternoon, I spent far too much time & money in Raj’s excellent emporium (which is ALL too easily done!). Each time I go in there is more and more beer on his shelves. I hear that he may be opening a beer shop/bar later this year. Should be interesting!

This is an opaque black beer with a head creamy in both colour and texture. The aroma is of roasted barley and a gentle milky coffee. Medium bodied, initial flavours are of roasted malt with a hint of bitter chocolate followed by a pronounced bitter character. The finish is dry with quite a grassy hop aftertaste. A nice stout indeed with none of the sweetening additives like chocolate and quite Irish in character in my opinion.

IMAG0884

2. AVA – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Blonde Ale – £2.42 (500ml – inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Superstar DJ and occasional brewer (!) Rik Garner (He really IS a brewer, honest, just that he spins some great vinyl!) brews some quite phenomenally good beers in his well-appointed Salford Railway arch! I’ve had (and recommended to others – frequently) AVA on cask, but I’d struggled to find it in bottle. Until Dan & Gina stepped in with their expanding range of local beers!

If this was any paler, it’d be water! Straw yellow with a fluffy white head and a tart citrussy aroma with lemon zest and a little grapefruit. Ooh but this is a tart little number! Quite medium bodied for such a low abv beer, this is chock full of tart grapefruit and bitter lemon. Initially, quite a shock, but this is one seriously quenching refreshing beer, a nice bitter lemony hoppy finish rounds it off nicely. A beer of such low strength has no right to be so full of flavour! A belter. It is a rare beer that I always have when I see it on draught. This is one such.

IMAG0886

3. Mango Beach – Ramsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml – inc disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another brewery I see all too little of in bottles. I did have some draught, but that was in Ramsbottom itself and I don’t see Matt’s beers often enough, but then I saw them in Great Ale Year Round and all was right in the world!

A deep golden beer with a lingering white head and a juicy fruit aroma with mango (surprise) and peach upfront. Smooth and full-bodied. The fruit is upfront on the tongue with that juicy mango dancing a Macarena! Really smooth and almost creamy (mangoes & cream anyone?) A lovely fruity beer with a dry finish and substantial resinous and fruity aftertaste. A cracking beer from this small Rammy brewery. Nice to see his beer available closer to home!

IMAG0889

4. Rat-A-Tat-Tat – Fool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.72 (500ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Never been to The Hope in Stockport, nor ever had a Fool Hardy Brewery beer in any form. So I was glad to see some at Dan & Gina’s excellent little Micro Bar in Bolton Market. The beer itself………….

Black with a beige/tan head and a lovely welcoming aroma of chocolate/cocoa. Oh yes, my boxes are ticked! Medium to full-bodied and with a lovely smooth feel. The chocolate I would describe as just short of a “Bournville” flavour, bittersweet. A lovely mouthful with a nice hoppy bitter edge to it and quite a nice hoppy/coffee edge to the aftertaste. Excellent!

IMAG0891

5. K*ntish Beard – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.2% abv – American Wheat Ale – £3.23 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I had this on cask at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival & was hugely impressed….until a certain young Mr Sweeney from Bank Top guzzled mine (“by accident”, but I don’t hold grudges….much!) It was called Camden Beard then……We shan’t go into the murky waters of corporate bullying again, shall we? But I DO love that asterisk! (Apply your own vowel)

A deep gold almost amber beer this with a clinging white head and a big whack of citrus hop on the nose (presumably the Cascade & Centennial). Really smooth in the mouth with almost a creaminess to the texture making it feel really full-bodied.

Refreshing, as you would expect of a Wheat Beer, there’s all kinds of fruitiness in the mouth, with satsuma, grapefruit, a bit of apricot….this mellows to the satsuma/tangerine following the swallow. There is an understated bitterness to the finish followed by a nice, none too assertive resinous aftertaste with a lip smacking tangerine taste. And I drank this all myself!

IMAG0894

6. Interocitor – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 7% abv – Strong Pale Ale – £4.25 (500 ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Always like to have one of Jay’s beers in the stash. Call it a Comfort Blanket!

A deep golden almost bronze coloured beer, minimal white head quickly diminished leading to a herbal grassy aroma. Full-bodied in the mouth with a certain hedgerow fruitiness with a little gooseberry maybe? Smooth and easy drinking, dangerously so for a beer of this strength!

Lots of fruity British hoppage in here on a big malty backbone. A gentle fruity bitterness in the finish. A lingering grassy fruity aftertaste. One of those beers where UK hops just work real fine. Big bodied (like myself), full flavoured and tasty! (Unlike….)

Right then. That’s it for another week. It’s getting late and I need my ugly sleep to be ready for a MTB with Privateer Beers at Great Ale Year Round tomorrow (Saturday) morning. See you there?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

A Thirst & A Fresh Oyster(card) – A Wandering Week in London – March 2014


” I had entered into a marriage in the summer of my 21st year and the bells rang for our wedding,

Only now do I remember it clear, alright, alright, alright.

No more a rake and no more a bachelor, I was wedded and it whetted my thirst,

Until her womb started spilling out babies, only then did I reckon my curse,

Alright, alright, alright!”

(“The Rake Song” – The Decemberists)

(Video courtesy of http://www.decemberists.com/)

As I mentioned in my last post, I fell in love with music again having discovered the online store / club E-Music. This website led me to discover a whole wealth of bands that I would probably never had otherwise heard. Chief among these bands was The Decemberists from Portland in Oregon.

From the moment that I heard the jangly entry notes of “The Crane Wife 3” I was hooked and fell in love with the lyrical worlds spun by Colin Meloy and this fabulous band. Tracks like “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”, “We Both Go Down Together”, “Yankee Bayonet” the list goes on….I can just wallow for hours in lyrical beauty backed by expert musicianship that straddles between folk and almost Prog Rock (One track was described to me as “Steeleye Span meets Black Sabbath”!). Meloy has a way with words and sometimes writes in an antiquated verbal manner using words that you’d never hear elsewhere.

With topics ranging from unrequited love “Angel Won’t You Call Me” through bloody murder ballads “Shankil Butchers” (sic) to infanticide (“The Rake Song” see above), you’ll never be bored!

Suffice to say, The Decemberists are my favourite band with never a slack track in their 6 full-length albums (+ several EPs) so far. They may be recording a new album as I type and – should they hit the UK on tour, I will certainly fill the gaping hole in my music CV and see them live. Given what I have seen online, their performances are never less than enthralling!

With the end of this musical revelry, I shall get on with the matter in hand. Beer and great places to drink it!

2 weeks ago today (Wednesday), “The Boss” asked for volunteers to work in London for a week with odd shifts being the order of the week. Now, I am a bit of a home bird – having missed nearly the first 18 months of my youngest so due to living and working away –  I’m not all that keen to spend time away. The bait on this hook for me was to visit pubs and bars that I have regularly read others like Nate, Chris Hall & Tandleman write about and make me drool. So, with a (forced) smile on my face and beer in my heart, I was on the train to Euston one drizzly Sunday.

Let’s Begin!

Arriving at approx 7pm on a Sunday evening, with a London Transport Travelcard in hand, I unpacked my considerable luggage and pondered my first move. Only then did I consider the erratic opening hours of London pubs of a weekend! Fortunately, a well placed tweet revealed that – if I was quick – A certain mighty (yet mini) hostelry might be open!

TheRake_005_1(pic courtesy – http://boroughmarket.org.uk/)

The Rake – (Winchester Walk, Borough Market)

I don’t get down to Capital City much these days, but the last time I came, I popped in The Rake and it made a big impression for such a small bar, great cask ales, brilliant keg range and a bewildering array of bottles beers too from far and er…. wide.

I went twice during the week once on the Sunday, then on the Wednesday. The Sunday visit was quiet as it was virtually closing time when I got there. The guys working the bar and cellar were good as gold and twice as friendly as I was served with a Chockwork Orange Stout from Brecon Brewery (Welsh Beer Festival that weekend). Not hugely orangey, but a fine full-bodied Stout.

IMAG0793

This was, perforce, a flying visit, but I just had to have a read of the Wall of Fame. This is an enormous white wall where brewers sign and comment about the bar, a quirky but unique feature, then again, this small single room bar (the beer garden is larger!) is unique and quirky itself!

I called in again on the Wednesday. My original idea was to drag a colleague all the way from Vauxhall to Leyton for some Brodies at their tap The King William IV. However, the mighty Dave let me know that there was a Rake “Tap Takeover” by Brodies that night. Bit of a no brainer really!

Myself & my buddy Phil settled down to pints of really light, pale gold, refreshing and citrussy London Fields Pale Ale which, at 3.9% abv, were just the ticket after a rather longer than expected walk from Vauxhall. With tart grapefruit and a hint of lemon, a superb sharp pint.

Bethnal Green Bitter was next at 4% and was again a cracking pint. Amber coloured and full-bodied for the strength, biscuity malt and gentle grapefruit making for an excellent sessionable beer.

IMAG0833

This small single room bar was getting really busy, so we were lucky to grab a table in the outside area / beer garden on this beautiful bright late afternoon. A couple of halves of fruity, sharp and roasty dark Dalston Black followed and were consumed with resinous relish!

IMAG0834

(Hackney Red IPA)

Chatted for quite a while with a couple who shared our table. Demien a Colombian tattoo artist with a fabulous orchid on his neck (national flower of Colombia dontcha know!), the evening just flowed as we chatted about anything and everything with Demien and Sara (his Dallas based girlfriend), a lovely way to spend a couple of hours in great company and with Brodies excellent beers. Having had a sniff of Sara’s Hackney Red IPA, I just had to have one! Spicy and citrus tart. Gorgeous.

Rolling back to Sunday, chanced my luck by trying the Market Porter which I thought was about to close. A stunningly good pint of gloriously roasty Harveys Porter was had. Dark and delicious as was the fabulous tuneage, with some early Black Keys and some Nick Cave. Sunday Bonus!!!

IMAG0843

Pelt Trader (Dowgate Hill, just at side of Cannon Street station)

A couple of hours on Monday saw me venture into the City. I’d heard many great things about this bar from luminaries such as Nate Dawg, Chris Hall and Tandleman, so it would have been remiss not to give it a spin!

Nice, cool and spacious railway arch built into the underside of Cannon Street Station. Fairly quiet at the time I went in, but got steadily busier. Being owned/run by the people behind the excellent Euston Tap (and given the excellent things that I’d been hearing), I had no fear for the beer quality. This was borne out by stunningly good pints of Oakham Citra and Quantum American Light. (Can’t escape Jay’s beers…even in London it would seem!)

IMAG0802

(Looks suspiciously like a pelt!)

As with The Rake, Pelt Trader has all the elements in place for me. Nice building (lots of exposed brickwork, broken up with artifacts here & there – a Kayak?), with REALLY friendly staff (had a chat with a guy I presumed was a bar manager) and – most importantly – damn fine beer.

IMAG0815

Draft House (Seething Lane, nr Tower Hill tube)

Just a quick one in here. A quick taste of a Purity Black Ale was less than sound, so plumped for a rather nice and refreshing Outlandish Pale Ale by Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire). Pale gold, light and refreshing and nice and hoppy. Bargain of the week at £2.70 a pint!

The neon may be attractive to some, but was harsh on my eyes. Nice big open room with (probably) a bit of an accent on food. Loads of tables and a nice attractive exterior. can’t escape that neon though! 6 handpumps though meant quite a bit of choice with Sambrooks, Marble & Twickenham breweries also represented.

Stretching my legs a bit, headed up to Shoreditch to a bar that had been recommended. So, on a hunt for some Five Points on cask, I headed to The Crown & Shuttle on Shoreditch High Street.

Crown and shuttle

(pic – crownandshuttle.co.uk)

Again, loads of exposed brick in this bar that was so long, it had the feeling of a tunnel. Busy for a Monday evening. Large choice of beer both cask and keg, with no Five Points to be found, yours truly settled for a Galaxy Burst by Alechemy on cask.

Lovely friendly staff, they could even understand my dialect! The Alechemy was lovely, full of spring grass on the nose, full-bodied with lashings of tangerine and orange an d a nice piney finish with a gentle bitterness. Top tunes too! Sly Stone, Marvelettes, Detroit Spinners. My boxes were all ticked! Cracking bar.

IMAG0828

(Tuesday? – Must be Hackney then!)

Tuesday was dedicated to seeing an old friend that I hadn’t seen for nigh on 25 years! Living (as she does) in Leyton, we arranged to meet in the Pembury Tavern

Located on Amhurst Road, this angular pub was reasonably quiet as I entered. A plethora of hand pumps, most from the Milton Brewery of Cambridge

Pembury bar-panorama

(pic : https://www.individualpubs.co.uk/pembury/)

Settling down a a lovely fruity and refreshing pint of Milton Tiki at 3.8%, I took in the view. My kind of pub. Leaving aside the single roomed aspect, loads of space close to and in front of the bar, plenty of tables to the sides with seats and benches, there was just such a relaxed vibe here. Then my friend Andrea arrived and all considerations of decor etc went right out the window! Catching up with her (and spilling a few stories to her cute daughter – doing her homework!) was utterly precious. Transpires that she knew the regulars and staff ever so well.

This pub just FEELS welcoming and friendly. Certainly family and (well-behaved) pet friendly. Great pizzas (according to my lovely friend) and well….it just felt right. Certainly right enough to have another pint of Tiki! Unfortunately, I had to move on as I was due to meet Dave from The Rake at the next pub (cue Keystone Cops like farce!)

IMAG0830

A swift Twitter poll decided my next move after a number of people (including the redoubtable Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy) suggested The Cock Tavern on Mare Street in Hackney.

This is the brewery tap for Howling Hops Brewery. Haven’t had much by them, so was really looking forward to a pint or 2. That plan was rodgered when my colleague I was expecting on Wednesday, arrived on Tuesday and expected me for company. This left me with one pint worth of time. After a number of tweets to Dave, I realised that I made one almighty balls up. He was in The Pembury!!!

Being a Northern chap and therefore of good grace (Well, a fellow Lancastrian and all!) he hauled himself down to the Cock for a swift pint! Top bloke who took my apologies in good heart and with the aforementioned good grace. The Milk Stout it was for both of us and it was absolutely LUSH! Gorgeously roasted and with that hint of lactose sweet/sour, it was a lovely pint. I will have to see if my good buddy The Ale Man has some stashed away!

The Cock deserved a longer stay. Felt like a proper local, but on the edge of the big city. Dark inside with wood panelled walls, lots of dark wood seating on the exposed wood floor, it really is a lovely pub. Next time I’m down, I’ll make a bee-line! However, I had my colleague waiting in Pelt Trader……Oops

More Keystone Cops stuff here as my buddy needed to eat. So I suggested Cask on Charlwood Street, but by the time I stood outside Pimlico Tube station, he’d give up and headed back to t’hotel! Not to be discouraged, I just got a step on. I was a tad peckish too by this point!

IMAG0831

(Cask was busy!)

Much to my chagrin, I don’t bump into too much cask ale by Mallinsons in Manchester. To my delight, there were THREE on at Cask! Unfortunately, I had a monstrously early start so couldn’t do all three to go with my scrummy Stilton & Bacon burger….Citra & Alias were more than fine enough The Citra brought out the best in that hop with lovely tart grapefruit clearing that Stilton palate. The Alias had plenty of fruit along with a pronounced bitterness which, if anything, lifted it above the lovely Citra! 2 Single hopped pales by one of my favourite breweries! Beer Heaven!

Really friendly & helpful staff here – could have stayed ’til closing…..damn that early start!

Thursday saw me (via little advanced St Patrick’s Night drink with some swanky Irish associates!) at The Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak. I love this long bar and it was really busy this evening. Fortunately we managed to grab a table so I could enjoy a lovely slightly bitter and gorgeously roasted pint of Long Nines Stout by Hopcraft. I didn’t care that it was 6% abv. It was lush! The only shame tonight, was that I couldn’t hear the Jimmy Cliff album being played on the turntable! Great bar, friendly staff and locals. (Didn’t realise that it was the same people who owned The Cock Tavern in Hackney!)

A damned long week. Would’ve liked to have visited more bars/pubs, but you know what they say “Work is the curse of the drinking classes!”

In summary though, the thing that made this week the undoubted pleasure it was, was meeting new people, both from the other side of the bar (unfailingly friendly), or chance encounters. This beer malarkey is all about the people. They were lovely! (Now. where IS that Shadwell based tattooist…..just fancy a chalice glass on my arm…..)

Well…..that’s it with London for a while I suppose…

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 2 – Manchester, So Much To Answer For

“If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground,

As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight.

Far from home, Elephant Gun let’s take them down one by one….”

(“Elephant Gun” – Beirut)

(Video courtesy of 4AD Records on You Tube)

About 4 years ago, I subscribed to a music download website called E-Music. I’d gotten bored with buying cheap compilations whilst supermarket shopping. Through this website, I rediscovered my love of music but in particular, guitar led music. It was though E-music that I discovered the delights of Spoon (from Austin, Texas), The Decemberists (Portland, Oregon) and Beirut (Albuquerque, New Mexico via New York)

I gleaned from the website that Elephant Gun was a popular track by this band, it was therefore the first that I sampled. I was, quite simply, blown away. Part Mexican marching band, part Eastern European village folk and the most lovely warm and slightly sad voice. That voice is Zach Condon. He is Beirut and played most – if not all – the instruments on that album “Gulag Orkestar”. I was even more flabbergasted when I learned that he wrote most of these songs and arrangements when he was about 16 years old! A young man with an old soul. I love them. The 2nd album “The Flying Club Cup” is more than worth a listen too!

Time for business. The business being beer!

Being a bit of a contrary old git, I hit upon a fantastic idea. Why not write a post about Manchester bottles, whilst firmly ensconced in that there Big Smoke? Yeah, brilliant, until you need to add the weight of 5 bottles and a laptop to the considerable luggage that I was already taking! Silly boy! But, here we are. Never said that I wasn’t an idiot!

Now normally, I do try to post on the E of Eight O’Clock on the Saturday morning (you really can’t beat a bit of morning regularity!), however, my schedule was a bit set back when the hotel “tidied up” the glasses that I brought down from Manchester. They went walkabout for 3 days! Hence, when you view the image for the Elephant Hawk, I was drinking out of tumblers!!! Enough waffling…….

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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…

IMAG0837

1. Elephant Hawk IPA – (Collab) Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) & Thirst Class Ale (Richard Conway) – 6.4% abv – IPA– £4.59  – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The inspiration for today’s rather exceptional (IMHO) tune! I’ve met Richard (Jay’s collaborator) on a couple of occasions, nice bloke and another of these devilishly talented members of the Manchester Homebrewing Group. Jay, being an exceptionally talented alechemist himself, has a rather canny knack of choosing excellent collaborators, had he done it again?

An amber (indeed) coloured beer, white head and a big citrus fruit aroma loaded with sharp grapefruit. Then, in the mouth, BOOM! Really full-bodied and fruity with a big caramel biscuit backbone supporting HUGE hops! Hugely piney with more than a hint of apricot to my gob, this is a BIG beer. Gorgeously bitter with and aftertaste that is grassy as hell, big, sticky resins clinging on. A simply superb collaboration! I missed it on cask, but reliable intelligence reports (Arch-Nemesis!) said it was tremendous. I just hope Jay brews it again!

IMAG0792

2. Porter – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Porter– £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“I got a feeling, feeling. You’ve got me rocking and a reeling”! (Sorry, listening to The Four Tops whilst typing!)

Got this as part of a 2 for a £5 offer from Raj, but left this one a while having really enjoyed their IPA. The Darkside was calling the night before I left for London.

A deep ruby brown colour with a thick creamy (texture & colour) head, yielding an aroma including spice and mocha. A full-bodied beer, really smooth and creamy textured, the first flavour that I hit reminded me of chocolate ice cream, then a nice mid strength bitter chocolate with a little choccy caramel sweetness luring you into a quite hoppy and bitter finish. Nice resinous aftertaste too. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Excellent!

IMAG0842

3. Black PortBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.9% abv – Stout – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

Draught cask ale? Loads. But nary a bottle from this Horwich brewer. But bottling commenced before Xmas, I’d just been lazy. The night before I travelled down to reside in this Thames Side hotel for the last week, I hit upon the theme for this blog post, but was missing two Manchester area bottles…..To the rescue came Dan Buck from Great Ale Year! He’s a top bloke!

A black beer (“no shit Sherlock”, I hear you groan!), hugely lively with a massive cream coloured head with a chocolate and slightly sweet boozy note – the Port perhaps? Medium-bodied with initially chocolate in the mouth with some sweetness from the Port coming through. Then my rather defective tastebuds thought they got a sweet touch of strawberry! Later mouthfuls reached the developing big chocolate rounded off by a substantial hoppy character. Well. Defective tastebuds or no, I loved this! More please!

IMAG0846

4. FCB – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.6% abv – Bitter – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I llove Rik Garner’s beers, almost as much as the funky soulful tuneage he blasts out in his DJ sets in his railway arch brewery cum live venue cum nightclub! Keep an eye out for his once a month open nights, they’re superb!

Amber coloured beer with a nice fluffy white head clinging on with an aroma of peach and tangerine with some grassyness. Quite medium bodied for the strength with more hints of peach or nectarine, a little orange and a tiny hint of raspberry, quite a degree of bitterness with a nice pineyness (a word?) to it. The finish is bitter with a crackling resinous pine aftertaste. Another belter. This could develop into a standby beer – my ultimate accolade, as I rarely drink the same beer twice! (But I’m not a ticker. Oh No!)

IMAG0849

5. Dubbel – Tickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 6.5% abv – Belgian-Style Dubbel – £2.89 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another from Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent stall on Bolton Market. I need to visit more and keep up with their expanding range!

A really deep ruby coloured beer with quite a fruity sweet nose with a hint of chocolate. Quite refreshing for such a relatively high abv beer, medium bodied, there is a bit of boiled sweet in this as well as some fruity plum and a little spicyness which becomes more prominent in the aftertaste and the lingering tingle in the gums. I like TB and this was the one beer that I held back on, unsure if I’d like a dubbel – not sure I’ve tried many to be fair, but this is my favourite of their beers so far.

IMAG0848

6. Cuckoo Number 7 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Bergamot & Peppercorn Saison– £4 (500ml) – Prestwich Beer Festival but also (possibly) Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

I first sampled this whan that nice man Darren Turpin (accompanied by the lovely Jo, opened the bottle that he purchased at the Prestwich beer Festival. I really enjoyed the taste that I got, but yearned for a somewhat larger measure. So I bought one!

An effervescent golden beer with a floral aroma and a hint of fruity peach, the head diminishing rapidly. That lovely delicate aroma leads you to a full body and more floral notes (that’ll be the bergamot then!) with more tropical fruit. The slight surprise (which shouldn’t be really!) comes when the gums start to tingle. Ahh…those lovely peppercorns! This beer has it all. A certain Belgian yeastyness, lovely and fruity, delicate bergamot and tingling spice. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!

So there you go. My idiocy in carrying an additional 10 Kilos or so of weight in my luggage is laid bare. All to be a bit perverse and laud Mancunian Beers in “Craft Central”! Was it worth it?

On that note…’til next time…(Notes from my week down here)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Part 4

“Pass me that bottle of red wine, I’ll drink it here in the sunshine,

Pavements seem empty this evening, still too warm to start thinking where we should eat tonight.

Looking across the piazza, a bell-tower next to a white church,

Manchester seems far away now, still too warm to start thinking where we should go from here”

(“Bottle of Red Wine” – Dislocation Dance)

(Audio here – courtesy of 0n4s on YouTube)

More reminiscence from a waffling old git! On 11/12/1981 the weather was vile. Myself and my mate Dewey (him again) were due to watch the jazz/punk/funk band Pigbag at Eden nightclub in Town (used to be called Rafters I think) on Oxford Rd. Pigbag ended up snowed in in Bristol, unbeknownst to us as we’d turned up! We had options. My first nephew had been born that day, Michael, and I kind of fancied getting leathered with my brother, but my musical mentor of the time, Dewey, persuaded me to stay (as we humped amps down the stairs for a band who’d turned up at short notice to replace Pigbag).

That band were Dislocation Dance. That night changed my life. Quite simply, Dislocation Dance became, for me, the greatest band that Manchester has produced. Yes, I have seen Joy Division, New Order, The Fall all in their absolute pomp. But on an emotional and musicianship and, dammit, on a lyrical level, none of them came close. D Dance (as we abbreviated them) were the best musicians, and the most FUN of any band I have ever seen. Full stop. Christ, the album that the above track come from even got 5 Stars in (the now defunct) Sounds music paper. They even had a session or two on Radio 1!

DDance 2CV(courtesy : ltmrecordings.com)

However, due to the utter pap loving tastes of the time, they sold nowhere near what they deserved to. Am I biased, DAMN RIGHT I am! They gave me some of the best memories and best friends (I met my dear friend Anita at a D Dance concert!) I had in the 80s. Still going too! Saw them at The Ruby Lounge a year or so ago. Only Ian Runacres left (ONLY?) of the line up that I originally saw on 11/12/1981 (Dick Harrison, Andy Diagram, Paul Emmerson & Ian Runacres), but still sounding as fresh and pristine as 32 years earlier.

IMAG0730

Me : Ah Barkeep, what’s that fly doing in my beer?

Barman : I do believe it is the crawl sir!

Forgive my reminiscing waffle. Time for business. The business being beer!

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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…

IMAG0734

1. Manchester Mild 1987 – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 3.1% abv – Light Mild – £2.00 (4 for £8) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

As a young ale drinker, I had no local pub. I lived in an area of Salford called Lower Kersal and at that time, the pubs were a somewhat acquired taste. To acquire that taste, you had to own two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, arms full of tattoos and the words “hate” & “hate” on your knuckles. In essence, I was a bloody big soft git! Having gone to De La Salle 6th form with a bunch of good lads form Little Hulton (itself, hardly a district full of shrinking violets!), so it seemed natural, that the pub that was nearest to a local in my heart was The White Lion, a Boddingtons House.

Owned/run by a top landlord by the name of Frank Peake, The Lion was just a top pub. Both bitter and Mild were superbly kept. The pub attracted a cross-section of the community. All ages went in and some of the best schooling I had was listening to old timers in the main room. Just quality. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Frank left. The pub went downhill. I left college to face 12 months on the dole in a politically pitiless environment. The Lion was no longer an option, my cash was devoted to travel to interview after interview for jobs that were unattainable. Col & I would buy each other a couple of beers with our bi-weekly dole cheques.

So we come to this Mild by Stockport Sorcerer Mr Krause. Based on the original Boddingtons Mild recipe. How does it measure up? Well, aside from the lack of caramel for colour, very well indeed!

Pale and golden with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma that reminded me of chocolate caramel biscuits. Light-bodied with that light caramel biscuit carrying through into the mouth, low on bitterness with a gentle grassyness in the finish and aftertaste. This is a thoroughly refreshing light Mild and tastes how I remember Boddies’ Mild to taste. A faithful recreation.

IMAG0694

(Sack the photographer!)

2. Brewers Gold (Single Hop) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“Oh here we go again – another single hop blah blah from bloody Mallinsons!” Well I can’t help it if they’re bloody lovely can I?

Now Brewers Gold wasn’t going to be as assertive as a Citra or Simcoe, I knew that. But I was looking forward to this…Bright gold with a white head and a gentle light fruity nose with fresh-baked white bread. Medium bodied in the mouth, a light biscuit base heightened by a gently floral and quite bitter flavour. This is a beer that you could drink all night. A session beer that is delicate and refreshing.

IMAG0732

3. Salted Lemon Wit – Bad Seed Brewery/Northern Monk Brew Co (Collab) – 7.4% abv – Wit Beer – £6.99 (660ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collab between two of Yorkshire’s newest thrusting Craft brewers? Don’t mind if I do!

A deep amber coloured beer with a light thin white head and an aroma with a little gentle spice (coriander seed?) , toffee and a gentle citrus note. Full-bodied and smooth in the mouth with plenty of caramel digestive but lighter with a covering of citrus with some lemon/grapefruit coming through late with more of that warming yet gentle spice – possibly from the wheat. Refreshing for such a meaty abv beer – surely the salted lemon rinds – warming the throat before a distinct resinous hop finish.  A tasty warming wit.

IMAG0731

4. Quelle Saison – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 4.1% abv – Saison – £2.89 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I was all for keeping this for a week or two more when I received a response for the brewery, essentially telling me that it needed to be drunk to appreciate the hops. Well, not being one to argue with the masters….

A hazy gold with a white head with BIG C hop aromas, grapefruit prominent. Medium-bodied, a slight refreshing – saliva inducing – wheaty sour tinge with HUGE fruity hoppage with tart grapefruit. Really very dry in the finish with a lot of grassyness carrying over into the aftertaste. Not overly familiar with saisons, but I do like this!3IMAG0735

(I’ll be seeing YOU tomorrow!)

5. MIA First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Hoppy Brown Ale ? – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A deep russet-brown colour to this with a clinging white foamy head and quite a fruity and chocolatey aroma. Oooh! Light-bodied with hints of chocolate initially but then BANG! In come the bitter hops. A tart bit of citrus , maybe grapefruit, but with it a huge resinous quality, quite sticky! The quite bitter chocolate stays the distance. Definitely the hoppy side of balanced, really assertive, but in a “wake up!” good way. The finish is dry and bitter and a big grassy aftertaste follows. This could wake up my taste buds at the end of a long day. I like this. A lot!

IMAG0733

(I NEED a 2/3rd glass! Offers?)

6. Imitera IPA – Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.00 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

Where do I begin? (I was going to extend into the lyric from the theme to “Love Story” then, better not eh?) I suppose with a #Beergasm alert!

Bronze coloured beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma of…..orange marmalade and tangerines. I adore Amarillo! Oh bloody hell! In the mouth this is GORGEOUS! Marmalade, Grapefruit (the other hop in here being that pale ale siren named Citra), caramel shortbread malty goodness mounted and given a good seeing to by my favourite hops!

It has a mouthfeel and a hoppyness that is but a smidgen from being a DIPA but is more balanced than that with slightly less malt sweetness. Those lovely bitter citrus hops just coat your mouth and tickle your tongue like a hoppy french kiss. There is a good bitterness to this with a finish that is dry and grassy and a lingering bitter fruit and resinous aftertaste. First #Beergasm of the year! Bottle of the year so far. Sets the standard.

So, there you have it for February. 6 beers that in their own separate ways more than “do the job”. Shit, I like them anyway, so Ner Ner!

On that infantile note….’til next time….

Slainte! It’s #Twissup Time!!!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 2

“On the pad before my eyes, paper cries, tellin’ lies.

The promises you gave from the grave of a broken heart. Hmmm

Every day I spend my time, drinkin’ wine, feelin’ fine,

Waitin’ here to find the sign that I can understand,

Yes I am, oh.”

(“In A Broken Dream” – Python Lee Jackson)

This song was originally released in 1970, but by the time of its UK re-release in 1972, Rod Stewart was banging out some of the finest blues-rock singles of the age, songs that MORE than stand the test of time, even now. “Maggie May”, “Reason To Believe”, “Handbags & Gladrags”, “You Wear It Well” not to mention the all-time classic single “Stay With Me” that he recorded as a member of possibly the most lashed up and lashed together of all rock and roll bands “The Faces”. Pistols at dawn for anybody who denies the greatness of that run of classics! To think that he was paid for his vocal on my featured lyric….with a set of seat covers for his car!

Anyway, down to business…..that being BEER of course…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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…

IMAG0562

1. Brodies Prime Export – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 8.5% abv – Strong Dark Ale – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another of the batch that I received unexpectedly in the post. Sometimes, I can’t believe my luck!

Liquid ebony to the eye and twice as pretty! A light cream coloured head yielding an aroma containing deep dark bitter chocolate and some nose wrinkling spicy hop? Ooohhh! In the mouth this is full-bodied (as you would expect), but far from glutinous. A perfect balance of sweet & bitter. Licorice, bitter chocolate, a touch of cognac, and sweet strong coffee assail the taste-buds  and give the insides of the belly a warm luxurious massage! Licorice and chocolate linger into the finish with quite a hoppy perky aftertaste. I love Brodies Prime, but this is EVEN better!

IMAG0655

2. Monster Mash – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Strong Mild – £2.48 – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

Damn! I could have used the lyric from the classic Bobby Pickett & The Cryptkickers for the header (“I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight…”)

OK, I’ll get on with it….. Dark brown almost black was this puppy, with a creamy tan coloured head and a milk  chocolatey aroma with a hint of sweet coffee. It was full-bodied and creamy in the mouth, with chocolate at first on the tongue, then some bitter coffee and lovely toasty flavours in with the roast. This led to a dry finish with a little bitterness and a lingering coffee note in the aftertaste. Another Wakefield belter from Mr Bastow!

IMAG0658

(Now THAT’S what I call Amber!)

3. American Amber Ale – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale – £4.19 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The first time that I drank this, was on draught at Port Street Beer House. Astonishingly good (as have been all of Jay’s beers that I have tried), it was somewhat darker than anything resembling amber, buy BOY did it taste good! But in bottle?

No worries there! Yup! It’s an amber coloured beer alright, with a white head and a big citrussy aroma, the dominant whiffs being tangerine and peach. Full bodied and really fruity (tangerine, tart grapefruit) with a bready malt base supporting those fruity hops (all SEVEN) and rounded off with a nicely bitter finish and an aftertaste with lingering fruit and sticky piney resins. Yet another superb beer from the Hempshore Lane laboratory!

IMAG0644

4. Clearwater Pale AleAxholme Brewery (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.59 (less discount for 12 or more) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A brewery whose beers can be found rarely but increasingly in certain select pubs like The New Oxford in Salford, Mike & Jules Richards create some fine beers, but like many smaller brewers, rarely find their way this neck of the woods. Shame really!

Pale gold with ever such a light haze and an aroma yielding  some peach and maybe grape to the nose. Medium bodied and lacking a little in carbonation, but really refreshing with almost a cask feel to it. Quite dry with peach and tangerine flavours to the fore giving way to quite a dry finish, with a gentle bitterness at the back of the tongue. A nice beer from the North of Lincolnshire.

IMAG0660

5. Black Betty – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.4% abv – Black IPA – £3.49 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

About a year ago, I had never even HEARD the term “Black IPA” never mind tasted one! And now……Black is indeed the new Pale! This was a Beavertown beer that I’d heard loads of good verbage about, but was yet to try…..

Black with a chocolate-brown tinge at the head when held up to the light, the head is a tan colour but quickly faded to traces, giving up a powerful citrus aroma of grapefruit mingled with something earthier and spicier like licorice root. Making this old boy’s saliva glands go into overdrive! Once it passes the lips it is like a dark grenade! In the mouth the citrus is peach and mandarin and really sharp, with the carbonation enhancing the tingling of the gums. Entwined with that – like a vine – is that licorice again with a bitter chocolate note. This is the first time that I have had this beer in any form and it is bloody marvellous! A superb balance of sweetness and hoppy bitterness and resins. The finish is dry and bitter with lingering pine and bitter chocolate. A class act!

IMAG0661

6. Broken Dream – Siren Craft Brew (Finchhampstead, Berkshire) – 6.5% abv – Breakfast Stout – £0 (330ml) (£3.60 in shop) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I popped in this afternoon whilst in Bolton and had a superb pint of Deeply Vale DV8 (funnily enough, another Breakfast Stout) and it was great to see Dan & Gina doing well in their brave but welcome (ad)venture. Some MTBs coming up too!

Dan passed me this to see what I thought (knowing my love of most things dark!) and I am so glad he did!

A true stout. Black and opaque, a dark tan creamy head with an aroma of mocha with memories of chocolate flavoured ice cream sauce topping! Mmmm….Full bodied and ever so chocolatey! Really creamy and smooth on the tongue. The chocolate fades (if that is the right word) into more of a mocha feel with coffee increasingly making its eye-opening presence felt. The mocha sweetness is balanced with some nice grassy hopping which comes into play nearer the finish which has a blend of chocolate sweetness and hoppy dryness. I wasn’t that impressed when I tried this at the recent beer fest (unlike their awesome Soundwave), but this is more than a class above. A corker! (And a steal at the price!)

Being a total empty head, I forgot my beers of the month for January….so here goes….

Draught – AmarilloBrightside Brewing (Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester) Pale and VERY interesting, the orangey hop character of the Amarillo shone through in this fruity marvel. A deserves SIBA Gold Medal winner. Apparently, they’re having this on draught at the Great Ale Year Round MTB next week. Can’t wait!!!

Bottle – StrannikNorthern Monk Brew Co – “Creamy full-bodied and oh so bad…..I feel like I’m committing adultery with a beer!” – Enough said!”

That’s enough of my wittering & waffling for one week I think!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

PS : (I lied!) Allgates Brewery have brewed more of the luscious Quaker House Oatmeal Stout (My beer of the year 2013!), can’t wait to wrap my chops around that beauty again!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt1

“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” – David Bowie)

(Video link above courtesy of mack89464 on You Tube)

I have a saying that I use. “Trust me about Music & Beer – I’m pants at everything else!” Self deprecating, possibly, but Family, Friends, Music & Beer are my true loves (the last two being interchangeable). I try to make the lyric at the top of each post one that relates to something below. As you will see, that certainly applies here!

Five Years is taken from the classic David Bowie album “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” and is, in my opinion, the standout track on an album that has been in my all-time Top 10 for the last 30 years. Each of the 11 original tracks from the aforementioned “Five Years” all the way through to “Rock & Roll Suicide” are stone cold classics, burned into my brain since my two elder brothers were playing it 41 years ago. For me, the first of a run of classic albums which, in my opinion, ran all the way through to Low and Heroes (Side 1 of Low – the “pop” side, is still the single best side of ANY album! Anyone who disagrees had better choose his pistol carefully!)

As I am typing this (21:05 on Friday), I’m playing the album. It just never dates. I simply refuse to believe that it only reached #5 in the UK album charts!

Anyway, revelry over. This damn blog is supposed to be about beer…..

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

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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…

IMAG0520

1. Dirty Blond – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 3.9% abv – Blond Ale – £0 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

I may have said this before, but if I have, forgive me for boring you but it needs re-stating. Since I have been writing this beery drivel, I have been lucky enough to receive bottles for free – not loads, but some – and when I do, I say the same thing each time. If I like it enough, I’ll review it. If I DON’T like it, I communicate my thoughts and reasons directly. My wafflings are there to highlight Good beers for my poor misguided readers to try. There. I say this, because this was passed (along with the Black Shuck from the same brewer) to me some time ago by Damian (The Ale Man) to see what I thought. He liked it himself, but fancied a second opinion.

This is a golden beer (as you can see, Doh!), with a light fluffy white head and a floral, slightly spicy aroma. It’s fairly light bodied in the mouth, fruity, very dry and has a big dry resinous finish. Really refreshing with a substantial grassy aftertaste. What a nice session pale this could be on cask! Hope we see it up in t’ North soon! Damian now has four beers from the Hellhound guys, well worth a try.

IMAG0541

(My only decent 2/3rd pint glass got dropped!)

2. IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 7% abv – IPA – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another one that I received gratis, but this time, direct from the brewery. A most pleasant surprise, as I really love the beers from Hawkshead! I believe they were bottling limited run beers using a new micro bottling plant, this comes hence.

An amber coloured beer with a white head and apricot and orange aroma spilling forth. Slightly sweet on the nose. Toffee too maybe. Ooh….Sweet caramelly biscuit malt but some huge hopping here for balance. Full bodied, some malty sweetness and really fruity with apricot and a hint of grapefruit in here. A big bitter piney finish with piney resins staying on way after the swallow. An absolute cracker and one to be treated with a degree of respect.

IMAG0532

3. Five Years – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Pale Ale / IPA – £3 ish (I think!) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

I love Bowie. I love Five Towns beers. So, a series of Bowie themed beers brewed by Five Towns? A match made in whatever religious destination floats your boat!

Pale gold to straw coloured beer, white head with a mango and orangey aroma. Full bodied nice sponge cakey sweet malt balanced with some serious piney hoppage (Mosaic) Marmalade richness in there too. Mmmm….! Wow this is dry! Really, really fruity and dry. The resinous hops are making my gums tingle! This is almost in DIPA territory without being as sweet as some. Just so moreish…like all Five Towns. Absolutely Lush! If I have my way, we’ll see some of their draught in Manchester. AND SOON!

IMAG0535

4. Topaz (Single hopped Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Blah blah blah – Mallinsons. Blah blah blah – Single hopped Pale Ale….. OK. But I come over all Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough!

Bright & Gold with a white head giving up a honeyed aroma with a little citrus that I couldn’t pick, maybe sweet satsuma? Smooth carbonation and easily slips down the throat, the sweet satsuma/tangerine comes through in the mouth with a substantial bitterness. More assertively bitter than the other SHPs Mallinssns have done, but still a superb beer with a strong bitter finish and resinous aftertaste. Yum, yum and thrice yum!

IMAG0646

5. Elixium –  Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) / Elixir Brew Co (Collab) – 5.9% abv – Porter – £4.15 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

From the latest and most welcome addition to Bolton’s fairly parlous town centre drinking scene, a cracking wee bar with great local draught beer and an excellent bottle selection!

Black with a beige tan head and a deeply chocolatey aroma. Full bodied, chocolatey, like a real 75-90% bitter chocolate,a slight London Porterish sourness (original porters being sour beers) initial light sweetness, roasty and quite an appealing bitterness to it. A cracking earthy hoppy dryness in the finish. Breathe in after a mouthful and a light smokiness wafts over your mouth. Another cracker comes forth from Hempshaw Lane!

IMAG0642

6. Hivemind – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.6% abv – Honey Red Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

An amber to red coloured beer, white head with a fresh zingy citrus aroma – nectarine upfront – fruity and sweet. Full-bodied, sharp and citrussy in the mouth, grapefruit tartness and quite resinous and a finish both tart and piney. A little honeyed sweetness in the aftertaste along with the piney resinous stuff. Some honeyed beers can be cloying and just TOO sweet, this is quite simply a corker and the use of honey is really well judged. I like it!

Well, that’s all folks! Well, for another week anyway!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

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?

IMAG0564

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.

IMAG0565

(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!)

IMAG0568

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!

Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 1

20131005_181921

(Tonight, tonight…….)

“I like your nerve, I like watching you.

But I don’t watch what I drink, got better things to do”

(“Definitive Gaze” – Magazine)

Been struggling to write recently, with the black dog growling, putting finger to keyboard takes a hell of an effort. But, whilst making a curry this afternoon, I started to listen to an album I haven’t played for nearly 3 years “Real Life & The Hereafter” a retrospective album commemorating the reformation (however temporary) of the greatest of all the bands of the era labelled “post-punk”, Magazine. Just get on Spotify and listen to the album “Real Life”, then tweet me and say “thanks”! I heard the above track….and strode to the keyboard!

One of the things that has kept a smile on my face has been the never-ending surprise I get every time I meet somebody involved in the business of either brewing or retailing micro brewery beers. Such nice and friendly people. One recently was Dan (I didn’t catch his surname) who is looking to open a Micro Pub/Bar in the refurbished Bolton Market. Had a chat with him at the stall (now) at Urban Market (Located on the site of the old Victoria Bus Station) run by another decent fella Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man) and am excited by his plans for the unit – will be great to have a decent local beer selection in Bolton!

Anyway….to the business at hand….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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…

IMAG0371

1. Black JesusGreat Heck Brewery (Great Heck, E Yorkshire) – 6.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.25 (330ml) (10% disc for 12 btls) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Was a HUGE surprise to find this beer at Raj’s shop! Possibly the only stockist of this particular brewery’s beers in (certainly) Greater Manchester. This is the third beer that they have bottled with two more planned. The first two (Yakima IPA & Amish Mash) were both delicious, so I had high hopes for this (especially having heard some good reports about it on draught!

A black beer with a tan head and a sharp yet deep complex aroma with both citrus grapefruit and a touch of licorice! Mmmm…. Nice and full-bodied, almost creamy, in the mouth, the first flavour to hit was the grapefruit, swiftly followed with a piney hit and a good degree of bitterness then came the more earthy notes with a healthy dose of licorice. A 330 ml bottle doesn’t do this beer justice. Some commentators describe a Black IPA as a Stout with hops. This particular beer is as close to a mash-up of Stout and IPA as I’ve tasted. It’s bloody gorgeous!

IMAG0346

2. MoonrakerJ W Lees (Middleton, N Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Strong Ale – £1.25 (4 for £5) (500ml) – ASDA stores everywhere!

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Col popped around for a beer or two and we had a little tasting session, this was one of the beers that he brought round that we didn’t get the chance to taste.

A really deep ruby beer, if you don’t hold it up to the light it appears totally black. A really lovely creamy head on this when poured, it had a deep vine fruit aroma with a nose wrinkling touch of spice. Full bodied, initially sweet with chocolate then raisins with some barley sugar sweets (remember them?) then some spiciness. The initial sweetness gradually gave way to a building dryness with a gentle bitterness with some licorice in the aftertaste. A really nice winter warmer, just need a pub with a fireplace!

I haven’t, historically, drunk an awful lot of Moonraker, but I do remember that it was a stronger beer than this, I certainly recall it being at 7.5% at one point. This is a really nice beer (and an utter steal at the offer price!), but I do wish that breweries would leave well alone with their recipes. There are a number of beers that have reduced strength over the years (in one format or another) and beer drinkers do notice these things. That said, a good source tells me that Lees’ annual winter brew “Harvest Ale” is one to look out for, I’m looking!

1385418435776

3. Stormy PointCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) (Collab with @PDTNC aka Ade from Saltaire Brewery) – 6.7% abv – Dark IPA – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Picked this up on my recent visit (mentioned above) to see Damian O’Shea at a rather chilly Urban Market event at the old Victoria Bus Station. Unfortunately quiet when I turned up, some excellent long stall there, not the least of which was Damian’s usual excellent selection of superb beers. He had a few from Shane Swindells’ Cheshire Brewhouse (including a few gift sets), so I snaffled a bottle or two.

I had this on cask at the recent Boothstown Beer Festival. It was the best beer I had by a distance combining the earthyness of a dark, with the citrus of a big IPA. I’m yet to have anything less than excellent from this brewery, so I was looking forward to this, whilst stemming the drool!

Darkest ruby with a lovely sexy ruddy glow to it, a nice tan head releasing fruity aromas of sweet mango & tart grapefruit. Full bodied and almost creamy in the mouth, earthy yet citrussy. Fruity with mango to the fore but earthy with hints of coffee and licorice. A Kalahari dry finish with lots of resinous pine in the aftertaste, For a 6.7% beer, I could drink this all day. OK. I’d probably fall over, but I’d have a lovely time getting there!

IMAG0376

4. Red Rose Rye – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.7% abv – Red Rye Ale – £3.69 (500ml) –  The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

This beer was brewed in collaboration with Manchester Homebrewers at Jay’s Hempshaw Lane beery Fantasia. If the homebrewers are some of the guys I’ve met at Privateer & Port St, they’re a cracking bunch of fellas and certainly know their hops from their barley!

This was a lively wee beast! Deep red with an abundant white foamy head, with a perplexing yet really enticing aroma, really fruity but with an additional quite subtle perfumed floral note that I couldn’t quite pick but that reminded me (slightly) of Parma Violets (Do they still make them? My flavour memory bank is going back 40 years there!)

Ooh! What a full flavoured and full-bodied beer! Fruity and spicy with that rye adding its spicy notes, really bitter and dry too. Again that elusive floral note came through in the flavour. Quite complex in the flavours (NO surprise with 5 hops and 6 malts!) and I struggled to pick individual characteristics out, but this was just a magnificaent (Latin for Magnificent!) beer that I hope Jay brews again. If he does, get on it!

IMAG0390

5. Bondi Blues – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.3% abv – (Antipodean) IPA – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another one picked up on my recent visit to Damian O’Sheas’ excellent market stall (should be one on this weekend!) A limited edition of 500 bottles this, I’m not posting this so you can pointlessly drool, more in the hope that Shane will brew it again soon!

A hazy amber beer with a lacey white head and a BIG hoppy nose! Full bodied and big and fruity in the mouth with a cheesecake biscuit base flattened with citrussy mango and orange marmalade, a hint of pineapple sweetness and a big piney afternote. Surprised me as I started to warm as it went down! The finish was bitter and dry with nice resinous pine lasting well into the aftertaste. Another Congleton cracker, C’mon Shane, brew it again!

IMAG0397

6. Nelson Sauvin – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – (Single hopped) Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Is there anything that I haven’t previously said about the single-hopped Pale Ales made at this Huddersfield brewery? Should I even bother to mention the near beergasm that I had when I smelled this in the glass? Ah go on then…..

Straw coloured pale beer with a white head and a booming aroma of grapefruit and sharp lemon (drool now!). Medium-bodied, this has a light Malted Milk biscuit sweetness more than matched by a fabulous grapefruit tartness. The sharp grapefruit leads to a lovely bitter finish with a resinous aftertaste that goes on and on and on…..zzzzzzz. You get the picture?

I’ll spare you the lyrical waxing by just saying WOW! The shame is, that there isn’t much of this left at The Liquor Shop. Give Raj a shout on Twitter, but if out of luck, pop over to http://www.yorkshireales.co.uk where they seem to still have some! Also, Beermoth on Tib Street usually have a good range of Mallinsons, more than worth a look if you’re in the city centre!

NB : For all you beer loving, local sourcing Mancs, Raj (@LiquorShopUK) has a Manchester Beer Box case of 12 local micro brewery ales for £26.99. Get in!

________________

With that, I need to address my Beers of the Month for November! Fairly straightforward these two!

IMAG0260

Draught Guero by Five Towns Brewery of Wakefield. A 2.9% abv Pale Ale just bursting with hoppy goodness and grapefruit tartness. A stunningly good example of how great a low abv beer can taste! Thanks to Nigel of The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (simply a great local pub!) and David Mayhall from Allgates for alerting me to its presence!

1385154743252

Bottle Manifesto by Revolutions Brewing of Castleford – See here for the reasons why! The best bottled beer I have had so far in 2013.

With that, It’s time to move on to pastures new….y’all come back now!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

The Heart of Darkness – Warming Beers For Winter (a.k.a. Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 3!)

1385318340020(A small – yet perfectly formed – haul from @TheAleManMcr, coming soon to a publication near you!)

If you have followed my sozzled ramblings for any length of time, you’ll know that my heart is – generally – given over to the darker side of beer. In winter, that becomes even more so. The only variation is that Milds tend to be pushed slightly aside whilst I reach for those heavier, more potent and maltier brews, Porters, Stouts and their steroid abusing children, Imperial Stouts.

There really is something that warms the cockles and makes me feel seasonal about these (mostly) black beers. Maybe it’s the roasted malt, perhaps it’s the chocolate or maybe (in more extreme cases) it’s just the bloody alcohol! Whatever it is, when the chill winds start to blow, it’s for these magnificent roasty wee beasties that I yearn.

Whilst I was thinking of committing my darker thoughts to a blog post, a blogger that I follow (Glenn Johnson) got in first, read his posts here. Whilst reading it, I gathered my thoughts and rooted through the stash. I had been storing a few just for this time of year and it was time to break them out! Spoiler alert though, a beer in this list that is likely to finish in my Top 3 bottles. Dark beers, who’d have thought!!!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. 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… We’ll do this one, in ascending order of ABV shall we?

IMAG0363

1. Railway PorterFive Points Brewing Co (Hackney, E. London) – 4.8% abv – Porter – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market – Greengate, Salford)

I like Five Points beers. Starting commercial brewing only 8 months ago in Hackney, they came to my attention on a visit to Damian O’Shea’s stall, which was then at Castlefield Market (He does a few now, including – this weekend – at Spinningfields in Manchester, go say Hello!). First beer I tried was a trial brew of a Red Rye ale (Which I think may have become their “Hook Island Red”), it was superb. The Pale Ale soon followed, easily as good. Now I’ve been waiting to try this, having recently had an exceptional (cask conditioned) pint at Font in Chorlton recently.

A black beer with a lovely creamy tan head and a chocolate & coffee aroma. A lovely smooth, creamy, full-bodied mouthful, initially smooth and chocolaty, then  a bitter chocolate hit and then a lovely and slightly bitter roasted coffee leading to a nice earthy bitterness. The chocolate and coffee merge into a smooth mocha which slouched awhile in the aftertaste. Easily as good as on cask. Lovely.

1385154743252

2. Manifesto – Revolutions Brew Co (Castleford, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – Stout – Mixed case (500ml) – Direct from the Brewers

I know that I reviewed this beer earlier this year, but another review seemed inevitable when I discovered this buried in the stash. And ’tis the season……..

Black as sin with a tan coloured head and a dark chocolate and slightly smoky roasted aroma. Full bodied and creamily smooth , with firstly, dark and seductive bitter chocolate, then overlaid with a  lively espresso, then a light smoky note. Very dry and bitter with the smokiness intensifying and a warming feeling with maybe a rum note. Just the beer for a cold winters evening  in a nice cosy Manchester pub. This is simply a bloody delightful stout. Possibly the best I’ve had in bottle.

I have just noticed that Revolutions have a batch ready in cask. Come ON Manchester! There HAS to be a pub to bring some over here!!!
IMAG0337

3. Mud City StoutSadlers Ales (Stourbridge, W Midlands) – 6.6% abv – Stout – £1.49 (500ml) – Home Bargains, Farnworth

Now and again, you can come across some absolute BARGAINS in “bargain” shops. For instance, B&M Bargains stock Citra by Oakham at £1.79, however, when I saw THIS puppy at THAT price Atilla got more in the trolley than she bargained for!

A really deep ruby coloured beer that was as close to black as it could be with another tan cream head but with an aroma reminding me of molasses and dark rum with a sweet vanilla note. Full-bodied and creamy smooth. A little sweetish vanilla upfront more than balanced with a following bitter chocolate and cocoa flavour that followed and blended with it and gave a nice slight warmth. A big malty beer this, comforting with that vanilla sweetness and big chocolate flavours leading to a gentle bitter finish. Really impressive, shame I have never seen it on draught.

IMAG0362

4. Ola Dubh 16 – Harviestoun Brewery (Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland) – 8% abv – Whisky Barrel-Aged Porter – Mixed Case – Mail Order from the Brewery

One that has been left for a while this. Part of a Fathers Day gift from my youngest 2 kids, I was chuffed to bits when it arrived, the pack included two each of this, Ola Dubh 12, & 18 , Engineers Reserve and 4 Old Engine Oil. Dark paradise!

Based on Old Engine Oil, one of my favourite Porters. Poured black with a creamy tan head and an aroma mingling dark chocolate, leather and fresh tobacco. Really full-bodied with chocolate, a swish of peaty whisky and a distinctive nutty note that brought to mind brazil nuts (my favourite!) and a lightly burnt buttered toast. The finish was nutty and smoky lifted slightly with some grassy herby notes. My notes finished with the words “bloody lovely stuff”. Just about sums it up!

My arch-nemesis tells me (whenever I mention this beer) that he has been privileged to have this beer in cask conditioned form. You could REALLY fall out with someone!

IMAG0350

5. Smoked Imperial Treacle StoutQuantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 9.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £5.15 –  (500ml)The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collaboration beer with the crew behind The IndyManBeerCon that was available cask conditioned at that festival. I had my first taste there and it was simply stunning. Treacly, gooey, bitter, fruity…it was a siren of a beer and it well and truly had me smashed upon its rocks! I was surprised to hear of it in bottled form, thinking (mistakenly, obviously) that it was a festival “one-off”. Glad it’s not!

I thank Raj at The Liquor Shop for stashing a couple for me (BTW – Bear in mind that Raj discounts 10% for 12 and 15% for 24 bottles). A pitch black beer with a beige head and a gentle smoked aroma mixed with something more delicate, yet elusive, a floral character perhaps. In the mouth though….Ooooohhhh! Wasn’t sure if Jay had brewed this or if it was refined, it was THAT viscous! Dark chocolate, burnt toffee and warming port wine were my first notes, then a building smokiness with that floral note coming through in the mouth as well as well as a woody note. Really warming beer with a surprisingly resinous finish cutting through. With 5 different hops and 8 (EIGHT) different malts, this is a BIG beer. It’s also bloody brilliant. A dark monster from the evil genius that is Mr Jay Krause!

IMAG0364

6. WildebeestThe Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 11% abv – Imperial Stout – £8 (330ml) – The Colston Yard (Bristol) (Try Beermoth in Manchester)

This had been stashed since July, when I found myself in Bristol on a training course. Stashed for cold nights like these.

No light comes from this beer, it’s like a boozy black hole. What tan coloured head that there was quickly dissipated but it had a big espresso aroma with a hint of sweet vanilla. Described as an Imperial Espresso Chocolate Vanilla Stout. In that respect, this is a Ronseal beer as it gives you loads of those flavours. In the first oily mouthful I could get each of those tastes. Dense, oily and sticky with bitter espresso and chocolate and something a little fruitier, maybe a hint of blackberry. This was a lovely warming sleeping draught of a beer with a surprisingly big grassy bitter finish. Warning. NOT one to have as the first beer of the evening!

Well, that’s it for now…maybe some paler beers next!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 2

1383915310033

1384288988627(Coming Soon – Warmers for Winter!)

“There ain’t a curfew on hard living in this poorly painted town. So leave the bottle where you found it

and let me lay here on the ground. Waking up drunk makes me happy and lately you just bring me down”

(Waking Up Drunk – Titus Andronicus)

According to those most reliable of people – Weather Forecasters – it is due to get rather cold this week, with snow in Scotland and parts of the beautiful North converted into Val d’Isere overnight (Sans fondue & Kronenbourg!) Time to stock up on those heart & soul warming dark beers then! And by that, I don’t mean the tired old excuses for Xmas beers that are already being dusted down on supermarket shelves – Bah Humbug? Indeed!

However, they can wait for the next post!

For now, I am back to the old formula, good beer from wherever I can get it! So, without further ado….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. 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…

IMAG0296(Straight Outta Toxteth!)

1. Imperious IPAMad Hatter Brewing – (Toxteth, Liverpool – but moving soon!) – 9% abv – Double IPA – £2.79 (I think!) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I’ve always felt an affinity with Liverpool. Never really could understand why. It’s not the football, I’m a Manchester blue. I was born in Salford of Manchester / Salford parents, so not my folks. It was only a couple of years ago, prior to Dad passing away that I got the family history bug, that I learned of my heritage. Tracking back through Ancestry.co.uk, I found my great great great…..grandmum, Elizabeth Lee (I think she was called) and she lived and died adjacent to the parish church of Toxteth St Mary. Hardly enough to qualify me as a Scouser, but it sure explains some stuff to me! Zzzzzzzz……to the beer!

Mmmm…..Picked up on my first visit to Raj’s emporium with its expanding portfolio of craft beers, this is the third beer I’ve had from this (currently) Toxteth based brewery who only commenced operations this year after years of home brewing. They have built a really good reputation in a short space of time and whilst the others I have had have been good, this beer certainly gives substance to the reputation.

Bottle conditioned and lively on opening, deep gold with big lacy white head a light haze to it. This gave off a HUGE mango fruity aroma! Full bodied, this tasted like someone had cornered the mango crop and wanged it all into this single bottle. WOW! A big malt base with a good dose of cheesecake base sweetness to this but it’s the hops that do the talking here (Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo & Galaxy) and add a grapefruit dry tartness to the sweetness and big citrus of the initial mango, some piney resins too carrying on into a resinous finish with a slight note (I thought) of my old school friend, the licorice root. A stunning beer.

IMAG0313

2. Is This The WayWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 5.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.33 (3 for £7) (500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

This was another one that I picked up on an all too brief visit to the brewery one Saturday afternoon. Now, I am (pretty much) an omnivore as far as beer is concerned, from Hop Monsters and Imperial Stouts to Light Milds, if they’re good, I drink them and – more to the point – enjoy them. I have read recently on one blog that “Balanced Beer” is equivalent to “Boring Beer”. I couldn’t disagree more. Sometimes I want a (hoppy) smack in the mouth, others to be laid low by an oily, mouth coating and warming Stout and others, by something with lots of flavour, with good hopping, that you could have a few pints of whilst having a natter with some friends. Wilson Potter brew such beers. And I love them for it!

An amber coloured (bottle conditioned) beer with a white head giving off a spicy orange marmalade aroma. Full bodied with a bready base supporting that marmalade orangey hop flavour from the Amarillo (get the pun in the name?) the sweetness of the malt balanced with the spicy orange notes and the bitterness with a really pleasant lingering resinous note in the dry finish. Refreshing and tasty beer. Just wish I could have stayed in their brewery to sample some more!

IMAG0316(Now…to the Darkside!)

3. @ One With The WorldYorkshire Ales (brewed by Rudgate of York) – 4.4% abv – Strong Mild – (500ml) (£2.75 but Bottle passed for opinion) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E. Yorkshire)

Now and again, I’m lucky enough to have bottles passed or sent to me for review. My attitude is always the same. If I like them enough, I review them. If not, a discreet message to the sender explaining why. This “own label” bottle was passed to me by Vicky Pettit of Yorkshire Ales, who must know which of my beer buttons to press, because this is such a nice beer.

Deep ruby in colour with a tan head and a big aroma of vine fruits with some raisin upfront in the mix. IN the mouth, this was medium bodied with, initially, chocolate to the fore, then blending with caramel like a Rolo then, later, with the raisins coming back to say goodbye. The fruitiness fades gradually to a gentle bitter finish. A lovely autumnal beer. The third own label bottled beer they have produced, all really tasty. (BTW – Not many left!)

IMAG0317(“The NFL – brought to you by Quantum American Light”)

4. American Light – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2.69 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Each bottle coming out of Hempshaw Lane gets steadily more impressive. Last post, I reviewed the excellent Small Beer at 2.7%, this time I’ve gone and (barely) upped the abv.

This is golden and hazy with a HUGE citrus aroma with lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit from the hops (Cascade, Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and Amarillo). A little initial sweet touch is swiftly jumped on by bitter lemon and grapefruit getting the saliva glands working overtime, before the piney resins kick in. The finish is still really fruity and bitter with a drying resinous aftertaste. Superb!

IMAG0321

(Beergasm alert!)

5. Decadence Stout – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W. London) – 5.5% abv – Stout – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Bought on a recent visit and testament to the expanding range at Raj’s emporium. I had this on cask at IndymanBeerCon where I was served it by Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers. A lush beer on cask, but I hadn’t had it since as I balk at paying £5.20 a pint in Manchester! Anyway, when I saw it in Raj’s shop, I just had to. And I’m glad I did!

Pouring a deepest black with a creamy tan head, this had a massive chocolate aroma with light notes of cafe au lait (OK, milky coffee!). In the mouth? Full bodied with initially chocolate, then sweet coffee then some resinous hops. I haven’t got the purple prose to do this beer justice, it is simply a stunningly good stout. The biggest compliment that I can pay is that it is nearly up there with the Quaker House that we brewed at Allgates which is (honestly, no bias) the best beer that I have had this year. Creamy, chocolatey and bitter hoppy. What’s not to love?

One of – if not THE best bottles i have had this year. Thank you Gregg and pals!

IMAG0320

6. Still Thinking About That HefeweizenStill Thinking (M McGrorty) – Home Brewer – Stirling, Scotland) – 5% abv – Hefeweizen – A swap with the brewer!

A keen home brewer is Michael. Being mutual Twitter followers, I noticed one of his conversations with the Beer O’Clock Show one evening talking about his full-mash home-brewed beers. I was intrigued. hearing that he was in Manchester area one evening, we met up at Port Street and, for the price of a (admittedly, very limited) Ilkley Speyside Siberia, I got two of his beers, Monarch (a Saison style beer) and the Hefeweizen. Whilst I remember enjoying the Monarch and can recall a surprisingly resinous end note (very enjoyable), I made no notes! So, to the Hefe….

A lively pale yellow beer with a good expected haze, abundant white head and an aroma which had a herbal note, but was predominantly banana and American Cream Soda. Medium bodied, this beer had an initial banana sweetness, then a touch of sweet bubblegum, then some herbal notes with coriander the only one my limited palate could recognise. A touch of clove spice near the end before the dry finish. A really refreshing beer this. Unlike ANY home-brew I’ve ever had!

Just one more thing to note. After all of their bottles that I have drunk and eulogised over, I have finally had, courtesy of Allgates Brewery’s rather enlightened guest beer policy, a pint of a Five Towns Brewery beer on draught. Sampled at the Hare & Hounds at Hindley, Guero was an ultra Pale Ale at 2.9% and was a citrussy delight. I could wax more lyrical, but the best testament I could give to it, is that whilst I was there, most of the locals that entered were ordering it. In a Wigan pub! As Allgates seem to pick up a few casks on a regular basis, I’m looking forward to some more. If you find any knocking about, try it and (in the words of the rapper Drake) Thank Me Later!

IMAG0260

So. There you go. Another batch with my wafflings spilled all over them! Next up…some of those more wintery dark brews methinks.

So, on that note….’til next time….

Slainte!