Hebden Rising – 30/04/2016

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Hebden Bridge. For a place that I’ve visited infrequently, it holds a special place in my heart.

You see, about 5 years ago, friends persuaded me to go on a walk to Heptonstall and then down to Hebden. And down is the key word here. Because I’m simply terrified of heights, and – in particular – drops.

On the final approach toward (what I think is named) Heptonstall Abbey, I sensed an ABYSS to my right. I daren’t look, I was frozen in terror. I leaned into the verge, grabbed handfuls of grass and pulled myself the final few yards until I reached safety. Face white as a sheet, I recuperated with a pint of Timothy Taylors in – to date – the only one of their pubs I’d ever been in.

Roll forward to last year. Following the death of my dear friend Phil, his son-in-law thought that it would be a great commemoration if we were to re-enact that walk. So we did, with prejudice on MY part!

We got to the point where we had to turn toward “The Abyss” and I balked. I froze. I couldn’t face it. Ashamed, I sought a flatter route. My friend (The aforementioned Son-in-Law) and his Dad joined me. Which was – it turned out – for the best as, when we got to the pub, my friend’s Dad (also a dear friend) had a heart attack. He survived, thankfully and remains one of the most decent people I know.

He survived. Like Hebden Bridge survived this..And it’s still heartbreaking to see the pictures and video.

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My understanding is – that following from the grievous floods of 2012 – many of the affected properties were uninsurable due to the risk. So the businesses of this beautiful town (founded during the reign of Henry VIII) are having to drag themselves up by their bootstraps. To raise themselves up from the horror of those floods. Hebden Rising, if you will from the waters that swamped the town on Boxing Day 2015.

And Hebden Bridge IS rising.

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Manchester was wet. the “Rainy City” living up to its name on this Saturday morning. But there was a train to catch, with a smile on my face, a song in my heart and tickets in my pocket.

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The walk into town was brisk, thirst inducingly so. It was also pretty. Hebden is an unarguably pretty place to be. Especially when the sun has got its hat on. And this morning, that hat was broad of rim. A beautiful day for a beer.

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What always struck me about this town was the sense of community. This might come from having a population of less than 5000 of course – the feeling that everybody knows everybody else. And gets on. This was exemplified in a Facebook conversation I had with one of our destinations which – when I discovered that we were going to be too early for opening time – happily suggested one of the others as a breakfast option!

I like that. Good people.

Kind of one of the reasons why I chose Hebden for the second leg of the “Northern Tour” (first “leg” viewable here – Liverpool). It’s like a literal ‘breath of fresh air’. Away from the usual Manchester haunts where you can get too comfortable, stuck in that Manchester bubble. Yes, I still believe that it is England’s premier beer city. But, every so often, you need to check yourself a bit. Try something different.

And Hebden Bridge is certainly that. Different.

There’s also this.

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(Market Street, Hebden Bridge. 26/12/2015 – Image courtesy of Amanda Ogley)

Boxing Day. 2015. Don’t mind saying that I wept, from the comfort of the in-laws Lincolnshire sofa. The scenes of torrents raging through the town is etched. The messages from businesses and people in the town adopted a hashtag. #HebdenRising

It stuck with me.

So I put it to some beery friends that we should have an away day. In this pretty little West Yorkshire town at the first opportunity.

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Old Gate (1-5, Old Gate)

Built of sandstone (typical of the town’s buildings) this is one handsome place from the outside. And – at 11:30 on Saturday morning – had the virtue of being open. So we entered, fully desirous of a cup of tea (on my part).

Then, crossing the stone-flagged floors, I saw the 8 handpulls. And Chop & Change (Cascade) by Vocation. And weakened. Sod the teapot. Give me a pint glass please. Yes, it was early. But I am but flesh and blood you know! (Despite what some may think)

The beer was lovely. Citrussy, dry and bitter. Vocation don’t let you down. The pub was more beautiful though.

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Stone-flagged floors, sandstone bar, this is a 3 properties simply opened up – but with 3 distinct areas. One end seemed to be coffee drinkers, the other end breakfasting. And then there was us. In the large middle section. Drinking beer. At 11:30am. Which, as I realised 12 hours later, is not big. Nor is it particularly clever. Oh but that Vocation was lovely though!

A quick chat with Ollie (Bar manager) told me that they were kind of expecting us. Having just nipped across the street to Drink to grab a pump clip from Martin the owner. That sense of co-operation again. It feels like a co-operative town. Like everyone has equal shares and looks after everyone else. It feels like my kind of town.

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Having had the Vocation – and most of the others (having arrived) being midway through their chosen refreshment, I kept it Yarkshire by opting for a swift Kirkstall Pale Ale. Another lovely refreshing beer, brewed by an under-regarded Leeds brewery in my humble. Never had a bad one from Kirkstall yet. A #ISBF2016 approach may be required I think.

I was ready to leave this lovely place. But Steve – the Karkli Sherpa of #ISBF2015 fame – needed to finish breakfast. A half of Un-Human Cannonball. I bowed down. Awestruck.

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(“What do you mean ‘It’s MY round?’ “)

The Fox & Goose (7, Heptonstall Road, Hebden Bridge)

It was about 3 years ago when this pub first entered my consciousness. Locals were battling to secure it as a Co-operative pub and raising awareness and looking for help. I re=tweeted a few messages at the time and – from the moment that they were successful in early 2014, I wanted to go and see West Yorkshire’s first co-operatively owned pub for myself.

It was worth the trip.

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Honestly! I really had NO idea that there was a beer festival on!

A rambling old pub. With 3 rooms (that I could see), a roof terrace with simply STUNNING views across the Calder valley. And barrel loads of that most indefinable of qualities. Soul. This pub certainly has that.

And, like I said, there was a beer festival going on in the pub. Timing is – as they say – everything.

The beers were all excellent. As were the Pork pies (more of that later). Mallinsons, Rat (the Ratsputin Imperial Stout HAD to be done!) and Wishbone. All superb. Which just left where to sit…..

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That view though.

Into the beer garden that felt like a roof terrace.

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Apart from good company and beer, what else could you want? And I had both.

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We also had a four-legged stalker.

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Meet Charlie. The pub dog with laser guided sight. On that Pork Pie. He got some – of course. How could you possibly refuse?

As I said. Soul. Tons of it in this pub. History, back story, original features to die for, loads of wood. It feels ancient. And loved. My kind of place. It’s a feeling thing.

Just don’t try walking up the Heptonstall Road. Have done it in a van. It feels VERTICAL.

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(Pic courtesy Martin Ogley)

Drink (15, Market Street, Hebden Bridge)

The first place I bought beer from in Hebden, early last year. Back then it was “just” a bottle shop – but with plans to become a bar. The plans came to fruition. Then came Storm Eva.

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(pic – Martin Ogley)

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And that’s how high the water got. Heartbreaking for a new business venture.

But, 4 months later…..

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Here we are. 2 local beers on cask, 3 on keg (+ Brooklyn Lager) and a bar that’s nice and busy. Just how it should be.

Although is IS open-plan downstairs, it feels like two rooms. Both being busy with conversation. Upstairs was busy too, with Martin (the owner) giving a private tutored beer tasting.

Martin has taken the “opportunity” afforded by the damage wreaked by Eva to move the bar from the front room to the rear, leaving the front to seating and the sale of bottles and cans. I *may* have bought one or two. Well…….

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(Essential reading material for some the next day….)

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(Maida Vale tube station – how very appropriate)

I like Drink. A cosy little new bar. Almost the polar opposite of The Fox & Goose and – with the keg offering – catering to a different crowd. But just as busy

The struggle through Eva has been worth the effort. And more than worth the walk.

Next – via an excellent Fish & Chips from the Crown Fisheries on Crown Street…..

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Calans Too (Machpelah Mill, Burnley Road, Hebden Bridge – Nr Train Station)

Normally located off Bridge Gate, Calans Micro Pub is still rising from the floods. Having just received clearance confirming that it is officially “dried out” work is due to start to put it back where it belongs. In the heart of town. The bar is tiny and charming. Worth the visit.

I really thought that we wouldn’t see Calans serving beer this weekend. But, true to the spirit in Hebden Bridge, they found a spot to set up a kind of “pop up” bar. In Machpelah Mill, just down some steps off the main road – just around from the Train Stn. On a lovely canal side spot!

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Another wee Beer Festival too. HONESTLY, I didn’t know!

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I was loving the mirrorball! It was nice to see Calans selling beer – wherever it was located. More Mallinsons in here. Excellent too. Friendly as well, like all the places we went in. This felt like family and friends pulling together to help the business through.

It felt right. Hopefully, the MicroPub itself should be up and running by June. It is well worth the visit – just opposite the St Pol car park on Bridge Gate.

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Next….and the final stop in Hebden for the day, this pretty little place…..

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Parcel Bar (Hebden Bridge Train Station)

And the end of this little Odyssey. Small. Perfectly formed. A refreshment room that steps into a telephone kiosk at 4pm, does a twirl and come out wearing a cape.

One hand pump (Wishbone – Rascal Pale Ale), loads of interesting bottles and cans. And chocolate. What else do you want?

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Another Sandstone building , a single room and cosy as a teapot cover. Initially sat outside – with the sun still shining, we only came inside to get out of the cold!

The Wishbone confirmed that I need to call them too for #ISBF2016. Lovely hoppy pale ale. The initial 10 companions were now down to a hardcore of 4 once CW (aka Jeff) and the lovely Maxine had run for their train – only just catching it! We were a mere single photobomb from being off ourselves…..

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(That bloody sun – never thought I’d whine about sunshine!)

A fine day. Everyone enjoyed themselves, the sun was out and Hebden Bridge looked lovely. As it always does.

Hebden has a bohemian feel to it. Lots of independent shops. Very few (if any) chains. Great bars and pubs and a vibrant arts scene.

It has survived yet another natural disaster. You get the feeling it always will. It feels like a community just came together, held hands, and willed themselves through it,

It will take more than Storm Eva to keep it down.

Hebden Bridge is – indeed – rising.

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Then – for the hardcore – Black Jack Brewtap. That’s for another day. But I love this view….

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Angel Meadow, Manchester, at night.

See you soon.

Rats, Rye & A Huddersfield Legend – A Brewday To Remember – 18/03/2016

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Just to recap, I am a cheeky git. That kind of explains how – when I heard that two of my favourite Yorkshire breweries were collaboRATing on a new beer – I wind up inviting myself along to what is (quite possibly) my favourite pub. Anywhere.

That pub is The Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield. And underneath that pub, lies one of THE most hop forward breweries in the UK. Rat Brewery. And just to ensure that hops would be to the fore, the other brewer was my good friend Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield.

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I took a day off from work. I also had to curb my enthusiasm for the beers at The Smithfield the previous evening, because getting to Huddersfield by train isn’t conducive to a lie in. Trust me.

The beer was to be a Rye IPA. I like Rye beers, but have never brewed with it, so had no idea what to expect of the mash. Or how much digging would be required. But, being by Rat & Five Towns, it was going to be hoppy.

I’d never met Robin before. Robin is the brewer at Rat and brews beers that I instinctively reach for when I see them on a bar. One of my biggest regrets at the first #ISBF was that we didn’t have any Rat beer. Remedied at #ISBF2015. When pale, the beers are hoppy, when dark they are gorgeously roasty. Good beer.

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I made one solitary note on this brewday. It was “Shagging a bag of rye malt”. I had to use it. Didn’t I Robin?

So. 200kg of malt. Including 50kg of rye malt. A LOT of aromatic hops (my hands never smelled so good!). Time to play….

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The mash looked like a Tarka Dhal. Just like a normal Dhal, but a little ‘otter…..

This took a lot of stirring. This was where I became acquainted with the absorbent properties of rye malt.

Near 200kg in a 5bbl plant is a lot of malt. And this beer should certainly have a good backbone to support all of these hops…

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All 14kg (Inc dry hopping) of them! Breaking them up was an aromatic joy!

800g of Admiral went in for Bittering with Cascade, Sorachi & Nelson Sauvin in later additions for flavour and aroma and Citra / Mosaic at flameout. (With a huge amount of Cascade & Citra being dry hopped)

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Transfer to the copper being complete, time for a dig. And WHAT a dig.

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The rye retained an awful lot of liquor, so this felt more like 300kg. It took a lot of digging. But this is where know nothing numpties like me step in. I enjoy digging out, perversely.

It also means that I got the pleasure of adding the hops and steam cleaning my face…. But the smell was worth the scalding….

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At each addition, the smells were beautiful, culminating in the final – flameout – addition of Citra and Mosaic. Holy. Mother. Of…… Stunning. Simply glorious aromas. More than worth the dig.

Welcome to “Rat Out”. A 5.8% Rye IPA. I can’t wait to try it at the East West Beer Festival in May!

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(Supervising Rats)

With that final hop addition, Robin let myself and Malcolm flee the nest and let us had upstairs into the pub. Refreshment was required, this was hot work.

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It would have been rude NOT to sample all 3! And, given that I started with a pint of King Rat (IPA at 5.6%) and a Rat Against The Machine (7% big hoppy IPA), that 4% White Rat more than held its own. A superb tasty session beer.

This was an excellent fun brew day. With stories swapped and chuckling a plenty. I’m very grateful that I was allowed into the Rat lair by Robin. But, after all that, there was  a further, ulterior motive for coming by train.

A Huddersfield Legend.

So Robin, Malcolm & I went for a walk.

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The Star Inn is a tremendous pub in its own right. Featuring, on any given day, a plethora of excellent ales. But, twice a year, it hosts a beer festival.

People I respect, like the Arch Nemesis and Des, have regaled me with tales of this beer festival. Some of my Yorkshire pals have tried to get me over for a couple of years now. So it felt like a privilege to walk in. And I was excited.

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Another of the reasons that I had to come was THIS beer. From the moment that Malcolm told me he was going to brew an IPA with Seville oranges, I knew I had to have it on draught.

“Could I have a pint of Alcazar please?”

“A pint?”

OK. It WAS 7.8%. But I’d earned this pleasure. And a pleasure it was. Big and deeply juicy oranges complemented by massive hopping. Yum. Just yum.

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It’s a lovely old pub is The Star. And it attracts drinkers from all over the North and beyond for these legendary festivals.

It was an utter pleasure (as always) to chat with Charlie (aka The Ale Ambler – a member of Yorkshire’s mighty “A Swift One” blogging collective) a man who has probably forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.

It was also a delight (as usual) to chat with those lovely ladies from Mallinsons (Elaine & Tara) and indulge in a bit of plotting. Of which all shall be revealed at the appropriate time….

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As well as the chatting, there were some stunning beers, from Mallinsons (Maverick), Wild Weather (a cracking Single hopped Sorachi Pale) and Neptune (the luscious Abyss Oatmeal Stout), there was also some gorgeous grub too….

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The Thai Green Curry Chicken was superb. But after that, it time for some sad goodbyes. I hated leaving. I really wanted to stay.

This beer festival is the best pub Festival I’ve been to. By a distance. It helps that it is hosted in a simply gorgeous pub, the likes of which Manchester lacks.

Next time, I’m booking a hotel for the night.

Thank you to Robin, Paul Spencer (Ossett head brewer – for extending the invite), to Malcolm – of course (the beer will feature at the cracking East West Festival) and everyone at The Star.

A great brewday. An iconic pub. And a legendary beer festival. A day I won’t forget.

I love Huddersfield.

EastWestFest – 15-16/05/2015

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I’ve been saying for over a year now that “Beer People Are Good People”. I’ve said it THAT often, that the predictive text on my phone even predicts that as a hashtag on occasion! My conversations with beery folk of all stripes have led me to that conclusion. And, for me, there are few – if any – better than a gentleman by the name of Malcolm Bastow. The brewer/owner of Five Towns Brewery of Outwood in Wakefield,

Back at the start of 2014 when I first tweeted that I had been coerced into curating a beer festival and shouted “HELP” on Twitter, Malcolm was one of the first to respond. He offered me a great deal on beer. As he has made some of the best beers that I have drunk in the last two years, I tore his proverbial hand off. He came over to The Independent Salford Beer Festival (as it became) with his lovely wife Beverley and I was chuffed to bits when one of the two beers he brought (Raven King) was voted Beer of the Festival, attracting rave reviews from people such as Deeekos (Twitter handle) and Rowan Molyneux. People who really know their stuff.

When he asked me to give him a small hand in a beer festival he was planning in Wakefield, I was both honoured and humbled. I still feel (and I’m not prone to false modesty) that I know little about beer. But he trusted my judgement. Coming from Malcolm, that meant a lot to me.

So I pledged to go to Wakefield. I consulted the Oracle (aka The Arch Nemesis) and booked hotels and trains. The day came. And I was stupidly (for a 50 yr old) excited.

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Getting off the train at Leeds (to change for Wakefield Westgate) we had half an hour to kill. Irrespective of the question, beer was the answer. So we walked the 60 seconds to the Leeds Brewery Tap. On entering this rather modern looking pub, there was a bonus. Sunbeam Brewery had had a Tap Takeover and some of their beers were still on the bar. At the risk of stirring up the recent debate about Craft Beer being the death of Mild, I had to tweet Tony Naylor (the excellent Guardian journo) with an image of Sunbeam Chocolate Mild. Assuredly a Mild that lacks nothing in smooth chocolaty flavour. A “delight”……Hold that happy thought for later!

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the delights of this two floored pub (with an ACE roof terrace!) as we had to hurtle back into the station – being on restrictive “Advanced” tickets!

Back on the train we go. I made a mental note to contact Virgin Rail about the fact that there is free WiFi on their East Coast Service. Ahem….West Coast Mainline please!

1/2 an hour later. There we were. Wakefield Labour Club. Affectionately referred to locally as “The Red Shed”.

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Because it’s red. And a shed.

From outside I heard someone say “The Mancs are here”! Feeling suitably charmed, we sauntered in, to be greeted by Beverley doing the honours with glasses and tokens. That glass….

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Nice innit? And, in a bold move (that I may yet replicate at #ISBF2015), the only choice of glassware. Nobody grumbled. And very few gave them back. No surprise there then!

I could prattle on about the beer (which WAS excellent) for pages and pages (as you well know), but what marked this day, for me, was the sheer friendliness. Chatting with people I have never met. And laughter. And stories. The banter (mostly at my expense!). It felt like I belonged. And it felt good. I felt at home.

It’s hard to single people out, but I hugely enjoyed my chat with Andrew Helm from Revolutions Brewing of Castleford. We share similar tastes in politics……and the more important things in life, like beer and music. Another of life’s good guys, we eventually got around to talking beer. And a planned collab for our little Salford bash. No secrets to be spilled, but it will be both big and dark. And have a solid music theme. I’m excited. (Great news to hear that he’s delivered a load of beer to the Piccadilly Tap!)

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(OH, if only people had….)

Malcolm seems to pull good people into his orbit of friendship. It was great (not to mention instructive) to talk with the likes of Charlie & David (two of the guys from the excellent “A Swift One” blogging collective), Alex (a lady involved with the superb Leeds International fest), Bob – a gent, Scott (GBK) Nightingale there were just too many to remember. Especially when you have a Swiss cheese for a brain, like me.

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(Because remembering this stuff matters)

As far as the beer is concerned, I focussed on Yorkshire beers. For 3 reasons.

  1. Because I love it.
  2. Because I can’t get much of it over here.
  3. As research for ISBF2015.

I learned the following.

  1. There are some really promising new breweries springing up under the shadow of the White Rose (Whippet & Learn To Brew)
  2. I definitely want Rat, Blue Bee & Sunbeam breweries represented at St. Sebastians’ this year.
  3. Judging by the comments, we brew some damn good beer over here too!

There was a raffle in each session. Both the Arch Nemesis and Deeekos won prizes. The Arch Nemesis wished that he hadn’t – it was a Tetley Bitter T-Shirt that he spent the rest of the day trying to give away! I, of course, won sod all. Other than the chance to drink some simply great beer.

My beery highlights?

Sunbeam AlesShepherds Delight. A tawny coloured beer with more than a hint of Turkish Delight to it. Intriguing and delicious.

Revolutions BrewingThe Golden Age Of Wireless. A golden mild. With vanilla. It just worked. Beautifully smooth.

Allgates (or Turks Head Brewing Co!) – Shogi Porter. Listed as a Porter, but the huge quantities of Sorachi Ace hops turned it into a Black IPA. A fine beer indeed.

Blue BeeReal. Pale, sharp and lemony. My #2 of the day.

Whippet Brewing CoTest Brew No. 1 – A smooth smoky Stout. Yum.

Atom BeersSchroedinger’s Cat. Pale, light and super hoppy. A delight.

Brewsmith Nelson Sauvin Pale. Just as it should be. Tart and refreshing.

Thirst Class AlePale & Interesting. A pale ale that started good and finished even better. More refreshment, just when my taste buds had started to jade a little.

And then we get to my personal favourite.

Five Towns BreweryMay Day DIPA

I am living proof this evening, that drinking copious amounts of Double IPA is neither big nor clever. But it was, quite simply, ASTONISHINGLY GOOD.

In the main (non-festival) bar, they had one of Malcolm’s beers on. Strange Brew, a strong pale ale at 7%. I wanted one. But the final pint was sold to the guy in front of me. Cursing with a smile on my face, I retreated. It was 9pm.

At 9pm – being the final session – Malcolm made the strategic decision to lower the price of the beer. From £3 a pint, to £1. And, even at 8.4% abv, that included the May Day. Well. If I couldn’t have Strange Brew….

So I hit it. Hard. Repeatedly. My head said that it was that thing known as A Bad Idea. But it smelt divine. Big, bold and citrussy. It tasted like heaven should taste. Nectar. And it was 50 BLOODY PENCE A HALF!

I didn’t stop hitting it till chucking out time. This morning.

To describe it….Big, bold and citrussy. Tropical. Bitter and resinous of finish. It felt light enough to almost session. It was Ruinous. A complete and utter Beergasm. If a beer can leave Charlie (The Ale Ambler) with a smile on his face, it is good enough for me. To sum it up, it knocked me down sideways and lifted me up again. It was astonishingly good indeed.

We, the Greater Manchester tendency wobbled off to our respective hotel rooms. With lopsided grins.

It was a fantastic day.

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And the Arch Nemesis got rid of that T-Shirt. As you can see!

Now. Being the consummate host, Malcolm had arranged to come to a couple of local beer landmarks with us. I was MORE than up for it. I felt great this morning. But the May Day had wreaked havoc with the Arch Nemesis! But, being the sympathetic soul that I am, I dragged him out on a route march! To….

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The Fernandes Brewery Tap (5, Avison Yard, Wakefield WF1 1UA)

We were there before opening. I was thirsty. Unlike my weary accomplice…..

What. A. Gorgeous. Pub. The pictures simply do not do this place justice. All the wood that you could shake a….er….stick at. a stunning place to drink beer on a Sunday (what felt like) Morning. Both the Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of The Caribbean and the Fernandes’ own Malt Shovel Mild were superb. Friendly service. The whole package. Malcolm met us hot from taking down his festival. I’m glad he suggested this place.

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Harry’s Bar (107B Westgate, Wakefield WF1 1EL)

A gem of a place. A small bar with extremely friendly staff. And great beer. Well worth the stiff walk from Fernandes. And close to Westgate train station – crucial, given that our train was going in 40 minutes!

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8 hand-pulled beers. A cider. And TWO of Malcolm’s own beers (one is the “house beer”). I tried the Five Towns “Mi Usual” which, given Mr Bastow’s penchant for the stronger brews, is hardly his “usual” being only 3.7% abv. It was a sharp, lemony treat. Light and refreshing after that hike!

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Also on the bar, was a beer from a brewery that my Arch Nemesis has spoken of in reverential tones on many an occasion. But one that I was yet to try. So I did.

Tigertops Brewery (Wakefield) – Outland IPA. A big, fruity and chewy IPA. Boldly hopped and simply superb.

If you are in Wakefield, you need to try to make time for BOTH of these bars. They are special.

We had to dash. We got to Westgate station only to discover that we actually had an extra 20 minutes. I’d cocked up on the times. My ailing associate scowled. Ailingly.

Again, I thank Malcolm & Beverley for making us just so welcome. And at home. All their friends too, those mentioned above and those that the May Day is to blame for any omission.

This really was a special little festival. That was for some local good causes. People coming together to make a difference. And that shit matters. More so now than ever. Being in a Labour Club made it feel even more right.

It was special both for the beer, but even more for the people that were there. It was small, in an age of increasingly mega festivals. It was intimate. It was fun.

It’s now a fixture on my beer calendar. It should be on yours too.

Better wrap this up ‘cos I’m off to Brighton tomorrow at the crack of a Sparrows’ doo-dah.

Beer may feature.

So, for now…

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!

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!

Historic Manchester Pubs – Pt 3 – 31/05/2014

“If I could only be sure, that you loved me baby. If I could only be sure, that you loved me baby.

I’d climb the highest mountain, I’d swim the deepest sea. I’d take on all your misery, just to make you happy.

I’d turn my world upside down. I’d turn my smiles all into frowns. I’d do anything at all, yeah,

If you just let me love you baby. If you just let me love you baby.”

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

(Tune courtesy of NutsLiteVenueRoma on YouTube)

No musical preamble today. Just one of the greatest of mid-tempo Northern Soul dancefloor classics. Have a listen!

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Having indulged my basest beery urges following the Stockport Beer Festival the previous afternoon/evening, I was doubting my (ahem) “wisdom” whilst sat on the #8 bus from Farnworth at 10:30am on this bright sunny morning!

An excellent beer lover/blogger Glenn Johnson was due to come up this particular weekend for his first few beers around some of Manchester’s more special pubs. Unfortunately for both of us (but especially him), he had been stricken down with a nasty illness some weeks before, but wasn’t quite yet fully recovered. However, following a tweet from Des, a fellow Manchester area beer lover (more of a connoisseur than I, to be fair!), I decided to treat this as a (none too) “dry run” for my Southern based buddy’s rescheduled visit. This one’s for you Glenn!

Again, given the paucity of material available online about Manchester’s great architectural drinking heritage, I rely on the most excellent blogs & websites Pubs of Manchester and ManchesterHistory.net for a sizable chunk of my information. Both a more than worth a follow (Pubs of Manchester) and a visit (ManchesterHistory.net). They are a positive mine of information, only rivalled by the excellent booklets of the (sadly) late Neil Richardson.

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(Damn that lamppost!!!)

The Hare & Hounds (Shudehill – opposite Bus Station/Metro stop) It’s really strange the way things come about sometimes. I wrote about this pub in the first instalment of this series, but, like many pubs that day, feel I did them a disservice. Last time I visited, I recounted the tale of my “Stag” back in 1990 and watching, horrified, as Salvatore Schillachi scored the goal that knocked out the Republic of Ireland at the 1/4 final stage of the World Cup. Strangely enough, today, I watched a “highlight” re-run on BT Sport! (Schillachi had more hair than I remembered!)

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A truly beautiful pub, which, according to Pubs of Manchester 10 Oldest Pubs of Manchester piece (a piece to which I shall return later!), was first opened as a pub in approximately 1788. To think that you can still drink in a pub that is THAT old! (I wonder if you can still play “Crib”?)

Grey/green stone clad exterior and brown enamel look interior tiling make this look as special as it is. 3 rooms including the main drinking area/bar which has a scattered table or 4, each area being beautiful and worthy of mention in their own right. But put together…. It was nearly 30 years ago (Xmas ’84) when I first came in this pub. It was a Tetley house then and still has the “Huntsman” logo on the side of the pub. It may have only the one cask beer (Holts’ Bitter), but that doesn’t diminish its charms.

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I recently read the excellent post that Pubs of Manchester wrote about The Hare, about the backroom. About Pensioner Karaoke and it rang so true the afternoon I went in. The room was ringed with Senior drinkers deep in chatter with a microphone set up for later performances.

The Holts was a fine beer. Not my cup of darjeeling these days, but dark brown, bitter with a hint of sweetness, it was more than acceptable and served as a settler from the previous evenings’ (hmmmm…) exertions! Is it just me, or has Holts lost something in the bitterness department since the 90s?

Whilst the beer may not be to the taste of all, I heartily recommend people pop in and drink in the beauty of this great old pub.

Moving swiftly on to another architectural gem, where I was to meet Des & the ever-present Arch-Nemesis…

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Last year, The Marble Arch celebrated 125 years standing. But as the map below indicates, there was a pub called The Wellington on the same site at least 37 years earlier.

Adshead Map 1851

(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

The name of the earlier pub was still in use for the new as recently as 1971, when it was called The Wellington Vaults, a Wilsons pub, as you can see.

Wellington Vaults(image courtesy Manchester Libraries)

A Grade II listing having been achieved in 1998, having undergone its fabulous transformation from Mega Brewery ownership to its purchase and restyling as a freehouse (before the brewery) sometime in 1984, the year that I first drank in it (I never went in when it was a Wilsons outlet). The subsequent stripping back revealing the architectural gem that you see today.

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For those who haven’t been in before (ARE there any such people?), once you walk between the doric columns and through the door, THAT slope draws you ever down, along the beautiful mosaic floor, to the corner bar, where are served a plethora of Marble Brewery beers. There is a small, functional rear room which opens up onto the kitchen (and the pub is renowned for its food) and an open drinking area that some people may call a “beer garden”. The splendour of this pub though is that main room.

Walking in, I saw one of my co-conspirators for the day, Des. Splendid beery chatter ensued, but not before a razor sharp pint of Pint, singing a zingy song of lemon and grapefruit hops. beautifully refreshing and taking my mind off the fact that throngs of pre-teens were loosening their larynxes all over Manchester for some boy band at The Etihad.

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(Just a hint of that beautiful vaulted ceiling)

Midway through my Pint, Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis) had parked his rear and was wolfing his beer down, ready for a wee stroll down the slight slope of Rochdale Road. A slight diversion took us past the subject of many an ill-advised dispute (on my part), the site of the former Pot of Beer (previously the magnificent after hours haunt in the 80s known as The Harp & Shamrock). Smug grin on his face, he and Des headed for our next port of call, whilst I headed for some cash.

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The Angel qualifies for this “historic” designation, not due to any antiquity on its part (though it may indeed be fairly old – at LEAST 1851!), but due to the fact that it plays its part in my early drinking in this great city. The same evening, around Xmas 1984, when I first entered the Hare & Hounds, the next stop for my works Xmas do was a Tetley house called The Weavers.

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(Probable Adshead Map 1851 – courtesy Manchesterhistory.net)

 

This was a small two roomed pub downstairs, that had a function room upstairs that hosted frequent live music evenings, that night it was the legendary Victor Brox and his Blues Band. Because it had a pool table in the small back room, we ended the evening there, with one of my companions seeking to sleep the excess off under the pool table – whilst the rest of us were playing Killer!

The Weavers subsequently curled up like a big pub chain caterpillar and closed for refurbishment, exiting its decorative cocoon as the beery butterfly that was The Beerhouse. A great freehouse itself and one of three cracking pubs in the 90s in close proximity with The Marble & The Pot of Beer, the pub had had the internal walls removed and the bar relocated to open it up.

The rebranding to The Angel was somewhat less dramatic, a lick of paint, that former function room becoming the playground of chef . Robert Owen-Brown and the removal of the pool table – to be replaced by a baby Grand Piano! The departure of Owen-Brown to The Mark Addy hasn’t changed opinions of many that this is a great eating place.

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This pub has an enviable reputation for getting unusual and rare beers (If Jaz mentions that cask conditioned Ola Dubh by Harviestoun just one more time……), but I was in the hands of the aforementioned Arch-Nemesis and was furnished a pint of Chardonnale by Bob’s Brewing of Ossett at 5.1% abv. Golden, sweet malt and laden with mellow fruitiness. We sat outside and I sat there contemplating the one fault (for me) of this pub. The somewhat incongruous and ugly uPVC patio-style side entrance. Just saying!

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Bar Fringe appears to have been a pub from at least 1876 (source pubhistory.co.uk) in one of its former incarnations as The Old White Bear (see below)

Old White Bear

(image courtesy Pubs of Manchester)

Another recent source of beery historical dispute between the “all-knowing” Arch-Nemesis and myself. He not accepting that I went in a pub that I referred to as the “Polar Bear” – or similar – in the 80s, on the same spot as the current “Fringe”. I therefore thumbed my nose on viewing Pubs of Manchester’s excellent entry!

From hearing some people talk, I get the impression that the Fringe is like a pub version of Marmite. Well I LOVE Marmite! I adore this bar too, with (ordinarily) 5 well-kept cask beers along with the shiny chrome plate of the keg Belgian fonts.

You could stand in here all day looking at the various items adorning the walls and ceiling and I frequently do, but – being a crawl – a pint was called for. I chose the Mild from Scarborough Brewery, a fine brown Mild with toffee and chocolate biscuit flavours. Again, another pub with a reputation for getting unusual beers to the area and Carmen keeps a fine pint – though no sign of her today. (BTW – One of Manchester’s great jukeboxes – “Whip It” by DEVO being played – class!)

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The Crown & Kettle is, along with The Marble Arch, the most lovely pub in Manchester. Yes, that is only my opinion, but it is undeniably gorgeous. You only need to look at those elongated and stained windows to receive a hint as to the delights that lie inside.

Crown Ceiling

The ceiling, whilst in state of disrepair in places, is simply stunning. My photography simply does not do this Grade II listed beauty justice. A 3 room pub with a large main area (where the bar is located) with two rooms behind to the right and left (with the right hand one accessible to the right of the bar. According to ManchesterHistory.net there are records of pubs on this site as far back as 1734 with the current building being erected in the late 1800’s.

Crown Back Room

The room behind the bar is a little gem, with lots of wood panelling, mirrors and lovely green upholstered banquette seating. Pretty isn’t it? The room to the left of the bar is a wee bit darker but n one the less warm and comfy. If some overlook the delights of pubs such as these in favour of more exotic beery offerings, then…..

Coming to the beer – which, by the way, is always in good nick in my experience – this was none too shabby either! With three offerings (ordinarily) from the Ossett Brewery stable and a number of guests (was that 7 or 8 handpumps?), there is always something decent available. This evening was no exception, as I spied something from Rat Brewery.

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Project Rat IX  was a 6% abv mango bomb! A big beer with a good malt spine overlaid with bucket loads of tropical fruit, it was gorgeous. Halfway down that beer, I noticed something behind a wooden bar post….. Was that Quaker House Oatmeal Stout from Allgates? Given that I helped in the birthing of the original brewing of this beauty, it simply HAD to be sampled. Simply lush. Silky smooth, great full roasted body and excellent bitterness. Need I say more?

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The Allgates & Rat being consumed, we headed off to the final historic gem of this crawl.

The Castle has (like The Hare & Hounds) been a pub since 1778 (Pubs of Manchester – 10 Oldest Pubs) and bears the brown tiled facade of Kays Atlas Brewery of Ardwick – Kays were taken over by Robinsons of Stockport in 1929. Despite being independently managed by the same group that owns The Eagle (Lamp Oil), The Parlour (Chorlton) and Gullivers (Opposite on Oldham Street) it retains its Robinsons tie, whilst offering a decent range of guest beers.

As I will have said previously, this is – so far – the only pub within which I have been refused service (if you discount a drunken evening in Grassington……the less said the better!) and BTW, that isn’t a challenge mein hosts! I’ve been drinking in this pub for over 30 years and I’ve got a really soft spot for the old place, so much so that I was absolutely chuffed to proverbials when I first saw how the new owners/managers had opened it up – including a previously unused room upstairs.

Castle corridor

Now, if you haven’t been in before, The Castle is dark. Vampires Lair kind of dark. Nosferatu lying in wait kind of…….get the picture? It’s a warm embracing kind of place too, with friendly bar staff and two main drinking areas. However, having sequestered the old pool room at the rear as alive music venue, it’s also quite small downstairs, with only a small room behind the bar. Hence upstairs being such a boon.

The beer is none too shabby either here, with my choice being “Durdle Door” by the Dorset Brewing Co. Deep ruby coloured, lots of chocolate and caramel with a gentle bitterness. Like a Strong Mild to me, perhaps the wrong beer on pump, as Durdle Door is supposed to be golden, but hey, it tasted grand to me!

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(Lovely old mosaic floor at the front)

Des took his leave at this point. Great to chat with someone who knows his beer, loves it as much as he loves Manchester pubs and has strong opinions about both.

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We carried on, ending up in First Chop’s open evening having met the lovely Gina & Dan from Great Ale Year Round in Cask. The word “hazy” successfully covers my recollections from this point on! A pint of Pictish and a few SIPs may have passed my lips prior to my all too late departure – although I do have a clear recollection of the fabulous Rik “Mr DJ” Garner (First Chop Overlord) playing the mighty Nolan Porter “If I Could Only Be Sure”. Cheers Rik!

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There was a rather excellent two piece on when we arrived playing some great stuff – if only I could remember their name, I’d give ’em a plug! The First Chop is highly recommended, a top conversion of this railway arch, with great beer and an excellent performance space. AND (if you get there early enough) great street food! Fire and Salt BBQ that day. A great addition to Manchester/Salford music venues – with some top funk & soul spun by Mr Garner.

Well, that’s all for this particular evening. Great company, great beer and simply outstanding pubs. What more could a boy ask for?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival – Pt 2 – 24/01/2014

Velodrome webb aviation

“My face is like an old film, shaky
There’s nothing through my window, oh my
No photo by my bedside, black, white
No image in my mirror, bye bye”

(“Listen To The Sirens” – Tubeway Army)

By the time you read this, it’ll all be over. The festival has a 19:00 finish time this evening to enable the complete clearing of the venue by close of play on Sunday.

So then. How was it for you? It has to be said that there were reports of several issues in the area of accessibility for those of limited mobility, the location of the toilets and others. For my part, yes, the toilets were a trek away, but it needs to be borne in mind that this is a sports stadium. That issue comes with the territory. I can only comment on MY experience which, to be fair, was completely positive.

Whilst I heard complaints about the location, I, for one, have none. For me, Manchester’s premier Real Ale event has an iconic venue in the National Cycling Centre (aka The Velodrome). I hated the utilitarian grimness that was The Sheridan Suite and, to be quite frank, there’s something to be said for watching Jason Kenny & co whizzing around the track….even made ME think of getting on my bike!

Turning up at The Velodrome, I had a quick chat with one of the Campaigns many volunteers who informed me that sales were ahead of expectations and that they had had to get more beer in! The fact that I had to queue to get in as early as 13:30, told me it was going to be busier than Wednesday. It was!

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(Spot the Arch-Nemesis? – A bit like a beery “Where’s Wally”!)

I’m not a one to make a list of “must haves”, however, there was one beer that I was absolutely determined to sample…Sloe Stout by Allgates Brewery (Wigan, Gtr Manchester) which, at 7.2% abv may not have been everybody’s choice of first beer of the day, but I couldn’t risk it running out!

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(Allgates Brewery – Sloe Stout)

As I said, maybe hardly the wisest choice of an opening gambit, but 5 minutes after I plonked it on the bar and took that picture, I received a message that it had run out! There, you see. It WAS a smart move after all! It was as black as sin with an alluring tan head which (not being sparkled) swiftly diminished. The smell was hugely fruity with a slightly astringent note and a definite chocolate background. In the mouth, there was the expected chocolatey and roasted flavours overlaid with masses of fruit with the astringency of the sloe. A real fruity mouthful which had a quite puckering dry finish with more than a hint of espresso. Spectacular start!

I had a wee walk around whilst drinking this and had a chat with the mighty Tandleman who looked a little more relaxed than on Wednesday, probably the result of being with his lovely wife Eileen, who – to my horror – was immediately in front of me in the entry queue and I had failed to recognise her! (Puts hands to head in shame!) A positive mine of information, it’s always nice to chat with Tandy, even with the pressures of this huge event!

After wandering round like a mole staring into headlights, I finally managed to locate someone else that I really wanted to chat to, Darren Turpin who writes the excellent Mancunian drinkers resource Greater Manchester Ale NewsNice to chat and swap notes (Darren being a far better – and more professional – writer than I!) and we may work together in some small way in the near future hopefully.

Now then. If you have read many of my random beery wafflings, you may have gleaned that I have a particular weak spot for the single hopped Pale Ales brewed by Mallinsons Brewery of Huddersfield. However, I have only ever had them in bottle. I was chuffed to see that their Amarillo was on draught on Bar 2 and allowed myself a pint. Once secured, I briefly swapped notes with Darren on this who seemed to enjoy it too! This is a lovely pale golden beer at 4.2% abv with a beautiful Seville orange fruity marmalade nose. The orangey flavour carrying on into the mouth. Really clean, sharp and refreshing, nicely bitter in the finish with a nice resinous aftertaste with echoes of that marmalade. A cracker to try on draught if you see it!

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By this time, Team GB cycling were in training session and I found myself trying to get a good picture, at which, as you can see, I failed miserably!

Next up – as a “thank you” I think for tipping him off about the Mallinsons – Darren pointed me toward the Oatmeal Stout by Harbour Brewing (Trekillick, N Cornwall) 5% abv and black with a quickly diminished tan head and a smooth chocolate nose, a luxuriously smooth beer in the mouth this, really silky. Flavours of chocolate and roasted oats and quite an earthy finish. Classy.

Next up, my buddy asked me to choose one for him. Knowing his “crafty” leanings, I spotted a brewery that I personally hadn’t tried and, having ordered his and taking a quick sniff, I had to have one myself. The brewery was Siren Craft Brew and the beer was Soundwave. A deep golden beer with HUGE aromas of peach, mango and grapefruit which continued into quite a full-bodied mouth. Really fruity with quite an assertive resinous finish which hit me between the eyes, really hoppy. I’d heard a lot about this brewery on social media and had seen them raved about. Now I understand why!

IMAG0618(No tables in the drinking area? Tick!)

The next beer was a big change in all areas. Firstly, it was dark. Secondly it was fairly light in alcohol at 3.8% abv. It was a beer that I had wanted to try for quite a while, Blackberry Stout by Waen Brewery of Llanidloes, Powys in Welsh Wales. I missed this by the merest of whiskers at Joshua Brooks some time back and was determined not to do so again! Such a dark brown ruby beer as to be almost black, the aroma reminded me of Old Jamaica chocolate bars, chocolate and really vine fruity. Ooh…Medium-bodied with some dark chocolate and really fruity with the slightly tart blackberries, really tasty fruity beer with a surprisingly quite grassy dry finish. A sessionable Stout? I think I have died and gone to dark beer heaven – or is it hell?

Having chatted for so long, time was moving on and some of my companions were considering moving on into Town, so I plumped for another beer that I’d had in bottle but never on draught – Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield). At 7.4% abv, this Imperial Stout was definitely one to finish with. A big deep ruby beer, almost black, this had a really vinous nose with lots of dark fruits and chocolate in the background. Full-bodied and much fruitier than I remember in bottle with oodles of vine fruitiness and a good helping of bitter chocolate. Different from the bottle but equally as gorgeous, fruity finish on this with a good degree of bitterness rounding it off.

I hear all the things that have been pointed out about the issues with this festival. However, I loved it. The critiques were taken on board and was acted upon where possible, the tables in the hall being the most immediately noticeable. You could never move the toilets! Given that they are looking to host it there again next year, I’ll be interested to see what changes are put in place…for changes there will be! Short of holding it at GMex (or whatever it is called these days!), I can’t see a better venue in the “Rainy City”….speaking of which….!

It was BLOODY POURING DOWN as we left. And I had NO raincoat! The 6Ps sprang to mind (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!) at this point. Jumping the Metro, we squelched off at Piccadilly Gardens with a substantial number of fellow revellers. However, the Arch-Nemesis & I had clear plans to visit my favourite Manchester bar Joshua Brooks.

A long very wet tramp across town led to us being absolutely soaked by the time we got there. However a goodly beer selection of ales that I was yet to try cheered me up no end!

Nice to see Jon (manager) as I hadn’t been in for a few months. He was busy changing casks as a couple had just gone, but what was on was good enough for me!

Wisely skirting the beast that is Dark Star Imperial Stout, I alighted upon Cwtch by Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – A red ale at 4.6% abv and a really fruity hoppy beastie this! Mango & peach with a little grapefruit too, medium bodied fruity mouthful with a quite big resinous pine aftertaste. A corker!

One of the beers that Jon was putting on was next. This was Clovis Point Brown by Caveman Brewery (Swanscombe, Kent) 5.4%, deep red and slightly hazy, this had a nose like a slightly spicy Cadbury’s Caramel, with chocolate and toffee. Medium bodied, quite fruity in the mouth with some burnt toffee and a lightly smoky finish. Unusual and very nice indeed!

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Back with Tiny Rebel Brewery and another beer that I hadn’t had previously Full Nelson at 4.8%, a straw coloured beer with a peachy aroma from the Nelson Sauvin hops. Really fruity with peach and tangerine on the tongue and a touch even of grape, medium-bodied and a classic resinous piney finish. Superb!

Finishing off with a second beer of the day from a brewer that I hadn’t previously tried….Siren Craft Brew and their Rysing Tide at 7.4% abv – entering into DIPA territory with this! A red rye beer with a nice tight white head and big mango on the nose. HUGE mango in the mouth, sweet with the malt and spicy from the rye and tart, deep and fruity and a really cracklingly dry finish with more piney stuff. Wow!

Last night, Joshua Brooks was REALLY busy. Gratifyingly so. Maybe it’s down to The Lass next door being closed, maybe people have finally cottoned on to what I have been banging on about for ages. This place simply does great beer at great value (and with cracking tunes!). Long may they prosper!

That’s all folks!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales April 2013

I’ve quite enjoyed this month. A quick visit to Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales at the end of March, helped to replenish my supplies with some excellent beers from Yorkshire (See below!) and a ‘spur of the moment’ visit to Booths – at the end of the month –  revealed a few beers I haven’t seen in supermarkets over here before – at great value. Really pleasing. I hope in May to pop to Snaith again as well as nipping over to Ossett to Bier Huis (need some more Green Goddess by Ilkley – again, see below).

I haven’t anticipated my visits down the A1 to my out-laws as much in many a year!

The downside to this month being a chat at my local doctors surgery.

Nurse : “Your cholesterol is high, your blood pressure is high and you are overweight. What is your diet like?”

BM “Not brilliant, eat a lot of good stuff but a lot of junk”

Nurse “What about your alcohol consumption?”

BM “Can we go back to that diet again!”

Well. What do you think I’m going to do? Write a blog about mineral water and decaffeinated tea???

Anyway, back to that most historically healthy of drinks. Beer!

You known how this works. I tell you about the beer, how it tasted (to me), where I bought it from and how much it cost. Needless to say, I enjoyed them all. As would you, (in all likelihood) if you bought them.

As mentioned earlier, At the end of last month, I detoured the family jalopy off the A1 towards Snaith and Yorkshire Ales. This really is a pretty little shop stocking some superb beers (almost) exclusively from Yorkshire. Adrian & Vicky were their usual friendly selves. Next time, I hope to chat more. However, if they’re as busy as they deserve to be, that could be difficult!

NB : Currently, they are promoting an offer of £5 next day delivery for up to 12 bottles. This reduces to £0 if you order 24. That’s right, FREE. Just saying……

1. Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – Imperial Russian Stout -£3.50 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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(Great label!)

A deep dark coffee aroma on the black beer with a light tan coloured head. The aroma didn’t prepare me for the flavour. Fabulously earthy with bitter chocolate and licorice in the mouth. A lovely warming feel as the beer sank into my eager tummy! A nice bitter aftertaste with (what seemed to me) more than a hint of creme brulee or caramelised banana. Just a bloody good example of this great beer style. YUM!!!

2. Green Goddess by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley) – 5.5% abv – Belgian Green Hop IPA – (500ml) A swap with my mate Jaz for a bottle of Oakham Green Devil IPA – (so £3.50 to me)

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(Dance To The Music!)

Jaz bought this from Beermoth, the boutique beer shop on Tib St in Manchester. I think it was over £5. So, for my £3.50 Green Devil, I got a bit of a bargain! (Not ‘arf!!!)

It is (like Siberia Saison) the product of a collaboration between the beer writer Melissa Cole (I got her excellent book ‘Let Me Tell You About Beer’ for my birthday last week!) and Ilkley brewery from, er…Ilkley. I had the cask conditioned version of this beer at Common in Manchester’s Northern Quarter last November and was suitably impressed. I wondered how the bottled version would fare….

I needn’t have worried! Bottle conditioned, it was lively out of the bottle and poured a deep golden colour. The aroma had that Belgian funk to it with some fresh herbal notes and initially I was reminded slightly of Duvel. However, in my humble…….this is SO much better. The taste? WOW! Break out that bass guitar and give it a damn good slap! More of that Belgian funky stuff going on, so much so, I had to reach for the tunes and slap on some Sly Stone! Some nice resinous hoppy grassy stuff going on courtesy of those fresh green hops. Nice grassy dryness after as well. Easily as good, if not better than when I had it on draught.

I believe they may still have some at Bierhuis in Ossett. Guess who I tweeted before I published this????

3. Stateside IPA by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – IPA – £2.80 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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A lovely gold colour here with a powerful citrus hop aroma, I thought I detected apricot. Hell, what do I know! Given the aroma, I was expecting a punch in the kisser from all those American hops. What I got was a lot more subtle, but damned tasty.

Lots of smooth fruity hop flavour from those Yank hops (Cascade, Magnum, Galena & Summit – for those even nerdier than me!) all that American hop muscle supported by a nice juicy malt backbone. A superbly well-balanced and dangerously drinkable beer. (I’m just about to have another one!)

Saltaire. Brewers of one of my favourite Stouts (Triple Chocoholic). Another brewery yet to make a false step for me. (Gonna try to get over to one of their Saturday sessions later this year – train schedules permitting!)

4. Ponte Carlo by Five Towns Brewing (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.6% abv – Stout – £2.60 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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(Dodgy pic alert!)

A black beer made with the addition of Pontefract cakes (ie : Licorice). This may sound STUPID, but this had a very dark aroma reminiscent of an Imperial Stout, vinous and spicy.

The added licorice REALLY comes through on the back of that roasted malt base. Dry, spicy and oh so bloody moreish. A dry spicy espresso taste as the aftertaste faded. A rally lovely beer (as was their Peculiar with rhubarb and ginger!)

5. Gold by Tatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.8% abv – Golden Ale – £2.19 (500ml) from Booths at Media City, Salford

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Now, back over the Pennines! Obscure from Tatton was my favourite bottle of last year. I still love it. A glorious black beer. I thought it was about time that I tried one of their paler offerings.

Pouring a dark gold colour with a nice lacy white head. A malty aroma with a hint of orange zest. Lovely juicy malt flavours with some toffeeness in there. Nice and smooth mouthful. Some nice hoppy dryness in the finish to give it a really nice balance.

On the back of this, I bought some of their Ruck & Maul porter from Booths last night. Can’t wait!

6. Bon Don Doon by Wilson Potter (Middleton, Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Blonde Ale – £7 for 3 bottles (500ml) – direct from the brewer.

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A lovely pale golden coloured beer. An interesting almost sherbet like aroma from the hops, quite zesty like a sherbet lemon. Smooth in the mouth, nicely balanced with some hoppy flavours I can’t quite pin down. A nice, dry almost grassy aftertaste. Another refreshing beer from this brewer.

Nice to see some of their draught beers around Manchester. I had the In The Black stout in The Salford Arms the other evening which was lovely and smooth. Excellent local brewers.

7. Kala by Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 6.2% abv – Black IPA – £2.90 (500ml) from Yorkshire Ales

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Back to the east of the Pennines again. This deep ruby almost black beer (trust me, hold it to the light!) has a lovely beige head with a nice – but not overpowering – citrus aroma from the Cascade and Citra hops. A complex combination of flavours here. Citrussy hop combined with something much darker, some bitter chocolate and licorice I thought. With 5 different malts and 6 different hops, you’re certainly getting your moneys worth here!

This beer is simply chock full of flavour and superbly balanced. Full of flavour with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Black IPAs aren’t loved by all, but this is superb. Saltaire, I doff my (metaphorical) cap!

More pub related blather soon!

On that note…….’til next time!

Slainte!

A Toast To An Old Friend 24/04/2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(In The Black indeed!)

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

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

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

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

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

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(His all-time favourite)

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

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

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

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

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(recycled pic alert!)

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

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

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

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(Off Kilter going down well!)

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

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(Nice selection with 3 from Ossett)

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

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte Doigy!