A Change of Scenery – Deansgate 06/07/2016

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I love Manchester. The bright and shiny, the gritty and grimy, the heart and soul. I love it all. But – like many – I’ve gotten a bit lazy and comfortable in my drinking habits and it recently dawned on me that I had been frequenting the same (admittedly excellent) bars and pubs. All in the “Northern Quarter”. I needed a change.

I’m not “bored” of the NQ. Excellence never gets boring. But I’ve had plans to do a whole host of other crawls on a number of themes (Basement Bars; Live Music pubs; the list grows….) and other areas that don’t get the hectolitres of splaff that the NQ gets. This piece is – therefore – the first of many.

Deansgate area gets a bit overlooked when it comes to great beer and pubs/bars. But, if you drop the shoulder and give some of the Macro selling outlets the swerve, great beer can be had in belting venues within about 400 yards. Here’s the proof.

Knott Bar – 374, Deansgate, M3 4LY

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Originally part of the Marble empire, opening (I think) in 2002 – then named The Knott Fringe, located on the edge of an area of Manchester originally named Knott Mill, this place has been a staple of Manchester beer pretty much since it opened. Now part of a group that includes “The Bar” in Chorlton & “The Macc” in….(you guessed it!), it hasn’t missed a beat in all those years

This place holds a special place in my family’s heart, being the makers of one of the best Sunday Dinners around. So much so, that if you haven’t booked – or turn up after 2:30 – you may miss out. As we have done on occasion!

Excluding the upstairs balcony (very busy this evening), this is a single room layout which, due to the way it uses its railway arch space, gives the appearance of three separate areas. Slightly bohemian in appearance (with old posters almost performing the role of “feature wallpaper”), the Knott is utterly reliable in both the quality of its beers AND the excellence of its Jukebox (a personal passion).

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(LOOK! A Manchester railway arch that isn’t a brewery! Yet…)

And it regularly stocks Pictish beers. So a place in my heart is assured.

Tonight was no exception.

It takes a lot to tempt me away from a hand-pump featuring Dark Arts by Magic Rock. But I chose well when I went for the Nugget single hop Pale. But this is where Pictish simply rule. Single-Hopped pale ales. And this was no exception. Even out of a plastic “glass”. Disappointing to say the least. And I have no idea why they were using them.

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And whilst the aesthetics of plastic drinking vessels may be arguable, the excellence of the beer isn’t. A simply superb spicy bitterness with a deep citrus. Simply gorgeous. As ever.

A cracker of a bar.

With Jamie T (No. Not that one….) – the cheeky scamp even snuck into a picture! – joining us, a short walk around the corner was in order, whilst I puzzled as to how Castlefield was so busy on a Wednesday evening (James Bay – who? – apparently…)

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Cask – 29, Liverpool Street, M3 4NQ

I simply don’t get why more people don’t rave about this pub. I just don’t. To me, this is one of Manchester’s unsung gems.

It has it all. Great atmosphere, superb selection of genuine continental beers, great bottle/can selection, a simply MONUMENTALLY good Jukebox (the best in Manchester) and four superb handpulls normally populated with local(ish) beers (tonight from Heywood, Harrogate, Huddersfield and er….(h)Ardwick). Anyone who reads my verbage knows what comes next. Mallinsons.

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The pub/bar is again single roomed, but gives the illusion of being two separate spaces, with standing space and wooden tables/chairs near the bar with more alcovey comfy seating to the rear. There’s even a rare bit of outdoor space from this rear area…

The Emley Moor Mild was a Mallinsons that I never had previously. Smooth and chocolately, light bodied and soooo easy drinking. A delight of a beer.

Settling down to chatting, I noticed that Cask had a TV. So another beer was in order whilst catching the first half of Wales v Ronaldo. And WHAT a beer it was. Squawk IPA (ElDorado/Chinook), beautifully citrussy & bitter. Just as a US hopped IPA should be. Quite stunning, yet unsurprising, as Oli Turton has been utterly and consistently excellent with his IPAs. An essential when available.

Cask is one of those places that – once sat – I could safely go through the bar selection. A singularly superb place. And – if you’re hungry – you can even bring in your food from the (superb) chippy next door! (Just don’t forget to dispose of your wrappers….)

Onward….

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The Rising Sun – 22, Queen Street, M2 5HX

Into another postal district we go, bypassing the likes of BrewDog & the Ralph Abercrombie, approximately 200 yards from Cask we find this little Mancunian jewel. And one of Manchester’s oldest pubs.

One of those rarities known as a “cut” pub (because it has two entrances on different streets – a cut through), this single roomed and quite narrow pub can get really busy when there is a footy match on and also after office hours. With a long bar and nice bright decor it belies its 240 year age.

Think about this. This pub was here the year after the American Declaration of Independence!

Generally stocking Northern beers, with 8 hand-pumps (5 in use tonight – a wise move midweek IMO), this may not be CW central, but there’s always something that tickles my proverbial. Tonight, this was Oregon Pale by Weetwood Brewery. A truly delicious fruity hop beer, dry and grapefruity. Nice and refreshing.

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Despite there being two TVs, they aren’t particularly intrusive tonight. We just settled to chat and to the fact that Wales (by this point) had been beaten by two former OT players, just to sour the pill….. 😉

What I really like about the “Sun”, is – despite its location and apart from its age – it has a “local” feel. Like a local pub in the heart of this great city. Something that should be cherished. It isn’t “trendy”, it is what it is, A smart and attractive boozer that serves good and well looked-after beer.

I couldn’t bear any more Ronaldo, so Offski….

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Gaslamp – 50a, Bridge Street, M3 3BW

How many people who go into this fine Manc bar actually look up? Moreover, how many people walking around Manchester look up at ALL and admire the beautiful architecture?

Not many, I bet.

But, if you don’t, you miss this…

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Because what you see in the basement, was formerly the kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Street Childrens’ Mission. Which may explain the tilework downstairs that helps this place – in Summer (not that Manchester HAS a Summer) to be probably the physically coolest place in Town.

Sometimes, when I’m sat in this most excellent bar, you see people walk in for the first time. The look on their faces being “What a GREAT place!” And this never ceases to amaze me. This place cuts across generations. I brought Atilla Jnr (aka The Lovely Daughter) in here one night after she finished work and bought her her first “proper” beer. She loved both the bar AND the beer (“The Mayan” by Ilkley – seeing as you’re asking)

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What was nice to see this evening was – like the Rising Sun – that all of the hand-pumps weren’t in use midweek*.

The two that were on were from BlackJack & Six O’Clock. So both local. There were the usual excellent choices on keg too – Shindigger, Quantum, Brew By Numbers, Mad Hatter etc so all bases covered.

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Not many people seem to know that this is actually a two roomed bar, the one to the rear being a decent size and somewhere for a chat. It’s a room that never seems that busy. Go find it.

The beer Bolt from Six O’Clock being a Nut Brown IPA was lovely. Smooth, a little nutty sweetness and nicely bitter. Quite unctuous and almost creamy. Seriously nice beer.

I love Gaslamp. Quirky, great beers, sweet tunes. It just has it.

And so, to the inevitable end to this adventure. And my favourite bar.

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The Brink – 65, Bridge Street, M3 3BQ

Given that it is my favourite Manchester bar (and that the bus stop is close by for that all important last bus!) this was always going to be the terminus for this evening.

This feels like….home. Warm, welcoming, friendly. Simply a class act.

It also pulls at my hearts’ strings due to the beer purchasing policy of nothing outside of 25 miles from St Ann’s Church. Local, in other words….. More should follow Gareth’s lead.

It’s small. Probably could fit no more than 60 if packed out. With the attractive clean lines and select Mancunian imagery decor, comfy seating and excellent bar policy, it should be rammed. But, tonight, it’s quiet. Which, wanting a beer and a chat, suits.

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5 local beers. Hmmmm……And one of them is one I’ve wanted to try since I saw the clip.

Baton Rouge by Mallinsons.

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Pristine. Red. Hoppy as a rabbits’ tea party. Yum.

The bar has only been open for three months or so and it has quickly become a favourite of many. It’s a place where you chat with people that you’ve never met, that comes with the size. One of it’s many charms.

I was in here recently with a Liverpudlian pal, Les O’Grady who remarked on something that I’ve noted but never really remarked upon – Loos with hot water! A rarity. This bar does all of the things that seem – to me at least – to be very simple. And it does them bloody well.

And, seeing how Linda left some for me, I had to have a Santiam by Track. Holy mother of WOW is it GOOD! So full of fruity citrus and with all of that bitterness you should get in an IPA. Just SO good…..

Friendly knowledgeable staff, great beer, seriously good tunage and excellent local snackage courtesy of Beehive Food all in a small package.

Like I said. My favourite Manc bar. With good reason.

So. There you have it. A 500 yard or so walk with 5 excellent pubs. Each different. All sharing one great virtue. Excellent beer.

You see. There IS life outside that there Northern Quarter. Go explore.

*(A commonsense approach to me. I know that some will whinge about lack of choice, but it seems obvious to me that when you walk in a great bar on a Friday night and drink a seriously “tired” beer, that too many bars have too many beers on when they simply aren’t busy enough.)

 

Manchester Northern Quarter Bar Crawl – 19/07/2014

“I’ve been up to Villiers Terrace to see what’s a-happening.
There’s people rolling ’round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine

Been up to Villiers Terrace, I saw what’s a-happening
People rolling ’round on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string
You said people rolled on carpet, but I never thought they’d do those things”

(“Villiers Terrace” – Echo & The Bunnymen)

(Video clip courtesy of ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube)

In 1979 /1980, when I was 14, my favourite bands were Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. Joy Division were a slight hand-me-down from my elder brother, but “The Bunnymen” (as we all called them at the time) were all mine. “The Puppet”, “Pictures On My Wall” & “Rescue” (12″ – naturally) were three of the earliest records that I bought for myself. Where Joy Division seemed to embody the somewhat dour, industrial chic of Manchester, “The Bunnymen” & Ian McCullough in particular, were effortlessly cool, a certain cockiness too, maybe. But just so cool.

I even remember buying my first combat jacket (but not “Camo”) to wear to go and see them, from Afflecks Palace (Yes Manchester hipsters, it really HAS been open THAT long!) There were rumours of a “Mystery Gig” swirling around in late 1980 and I desperately tried to get a ticket. To no avail. I think that I missed the last ticket held by Discount Records (Manchester old ‘Indoor Market’ with its entrance off Pall Mall) by a couple of hours. I was gutted. That concert ended up being recorded and saw release as an EP called “Shine So Hard” (An Atlas Adventure)

Rather controversially (some may think), I disowned the band upon the release of the single that was their commercial breakthrough “The Back of Love”, I remember hearing the track on a John Peel Session and thinking it was a sack of shite (Salford colloquialism!), so when I heard a shinier version as a single…..

I drifted back after that album “Porcupine” when they released the classic “Ocean Rain”, but the album (and period) from which “Villiers Terrace” is taken “Crocodiles”, is still their highlight for me.

The Bunnymen kindled a love of the City of Liverpool – though it was at least another 7 years before I was to visit. Strange to find – a couple of years ago – when I was desperately researching my family tree (prior to Dad passing away), that an entire branch of my family could be traced back to the area of Toxteth St Mary! Never leaves you I suppose!

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I really didn’t MEAN to end up in Manchester, honest! It was just meant to be a little nip in to Great Ale Year Round, to sample the bear I helped to shovel out (that most glam of jobs!). That beer is Station to Station IPA. Brewed by Allgates in collaboration with Five Towns of Wakefield, it was a 5.6% mango fuelled delight. Lightly hazed, it was fruitier than a Carmen Miranda headdress! Utterly lush. Glad that I drank it in a great bar, which is undoubtedly what Dan & Gina Buck have. It was nice to see them back in harness after a well-earned holiday!

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I’m off to the mighty County / Republic of Kernow soon (Perranporth, to be exact), so, given that a) I hadn’t been in The Lowers Turks Head for nigh on 30 years and b) there was a Cornish Beer Festival ongoing, we (well, the Arch-Nemesis is ALWAYS nearby!) opted to start here.

The Lower Turks Head (Shudehill – Opp the Bus Station)

Behind that beautiful historic tiled facade (the pub itself, perhaps dates back to as early as 1745), a lot of money has been spent to make this pub shine!

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Busy as hell in here and almost as warm on this humid July afternoon! 2 floors, classy decor shading, fairly dark with lots of wood. We grabbed pints from Padstow Brewery and headed off for some air!

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(Never smile at…..)

Unfortunately, this pleasant outdoor 1st floor terrace also doubled up as a smoking space, but I NEEDED to feel a breeze! The beer was fine, Padstow Brewery “Pilot” 4% abv. A deep ruby red beer, with a chocolate aroma, a bit like a Snickers, a touch nutty. Light bodied, bit like a mild, quite refreshing, lightly hopped.

Given that I love a local beer or two, I’ll have to pop back in on a more “normal evening to judge the offering, but to be fair, the pub looks great and was BLOODY BUSY!


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The Blue Pig (High Street/Back Turner St)

First time for me in this bar. Opening in 2012, this passed me by a bit – being a bit of a “pub” bloke. I’ve obviously denied myself some rare pleasures, because I love this place! Big open room with a bit of a bohemian feel. Nice flourishes all over the place and it was as busy as a chippy with great tunes (The Walkmen, The Smiths) all but drowned out by the sound of conversation – just the way it should be!

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Quite a bit of cocktail action going down as we entered, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the small (2), yet perfectly locally formed cask offering! Shindigger Pale and Black Jack’s Oddingtons. I hit the Shindigger which was in good nick. A fine fruity refreshing pint. This bar probably has the beer selection spot on. 3 pumps, but 2 on, both local. I like it and I like this bar. Not too cool, just a good feel to it. My note uses the word “decadent”. Probably sums it up! I’ll be back.

Odd Bar

(Photo “nicked” from Odd Bar itself!)

Odd Bar (30/32 Thomas Street)

Just around the corner….Odd Bar. One of a 4 bar chain (Is The Blue Pig part of the group?) First time for me again. Top indie tuneage. Offbeat & Tickety Brew beers on the bar. Good start. A fine pint of Tickety Brew Stout. All the roasted malt you could want and that Belgian Yeast spiciness, luxurious and smooth.
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A Lively bar, dark tones, red and browns lots of photos adorning the walls with some seriously decadent wallpaper. Loved the purple fabric  hanging from the ceiling, made me think of a bedouin tent! Beautiful.

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Nice airy room upstairs too. Like Arnie… I’ll be back! A jukebox too? Maybe another juke crawl soon! Just the one in here as the table we occupied was reserved! On to….

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Common Bar (Edge Street)
From the first moment I walked in to Common to the strains of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” by Magazine, I fell in love with this place. The original bar that spawned the monster that became Port Street, The Beagle, IndyManBeerCon…… Now Manchester institutions all!
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2 main rooms, plenty of seating, lots of exposed brickwork and loads of artworks and posters adorning the walls. It really is just cool as fuck, but without trying too hard at it. Great food too! Two cask beers and a whole bunch of “craft keg” offerings. I went for the Moor Brewery and their Confidence at 4.6% abv. A hazy, ruby red beer with a citrus fruit nose allied to some forest fruit. In mouth, medium-bodied with lemon, grapefruit on top. Sharp and fruity. A damn fine beer. A damn fine bar.
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Terrace Bar (Edge Street/Thomas Street – dual entrance)
Bloody hell but this was rammed! Described elsewhere as “the prettiest ginnel in Manchester”, this 2013 bar has lots more exposed brickwork. The fact that it was really busy says a lot.
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Lots of decent breweries on offer from 6 handpumps. I went for Ringmaster from Magic Rock. I tried, but…no. Not for me. Lacked the sheer zing of Magic Rock for me. Had a swift half of Kernel IPA (Citra, Simcoe, Cascade) on keg, which was a bitter citrus delight. I like the bar, again, some great funky tunes and a fine beer selection shows that they are trying hard. Worth a visit.
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57 Thomas Street (Thomas Street – unsurprisingly!)
This is a small yet perfectly formed bar space which has carved itself its own niche in the Northern Quarter. Single room with a long table (apparently constructed from old floorboards), where alternately, you can see people chatting, drinking and eating or alternately playing various board games. It just is that easy-going and …cool (that “other” C word again!)
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(Beer Porn – Lagonda in all her golden glory!)
A few keg fonts as you enter, but the bar top cask dispense is a distinguishing feature. A physically cool (perfectly so) pint of Lagonda IPA was a delight. A Manchester classic. Fruity and lush. Really refreshing for a 5% beer. Spot.On.
The great thing about the above bars…they’re within 100 yards or less of each other, often opposite!
And then…the longest walk of the evening. All of 200 yards or so!
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Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square)
A bar that should NOT be overlooked in the search for good beer. And I mean DAMN good beer! The feel of a Cantina in this big open room, which really should be fuller than it was! Loads of bench seating with some high window seats to watch the NQ go by. Good food apparently too. Live music venue downstairs has some cracking acts on too!
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Tonight, the beers were Shindigger, Squawk, Titanic & Arbor. Now, you know me! Ordinarily, I go local where I can. And I would have done, were it not for the fact that, leering at me, then winking seductively, was Arbor’s Breakfast Stout. Was it REALLY 7.4%? Did I REALLY have a pint? Oh but it was utterly sublime! More coffee than Starbucks could shake a stirring stick at. Creamy and unctuous. Ohhhhh…..Would have had another, but the chariot was waiting!
A fine afternoon in the company of the Arch-Nemesis as always. Great beers in some fabulous Mancunian bars.
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 1

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

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

And I got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows.

Got nothing to lose but bitterness and patterns”

(“Got Nuffin‘” – Spoon)

(Hyperlinked video courtesy of  “StepOutAgain” on YouTube)

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

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

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

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

On to the beer eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Wetherspoons International Beer Festival – 03/04/2014

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“I can’t stand by and see you destroyed, I can’t be here and watch you burn up.

Lie for the moment and lie as a decoy. Does it matter if I give in easy?

So why is it so hard to get by?”

(“Pounding” – Doves)

(Video link courtesy of mralan1969uk – YouTube)

To anybody who attends matches at The Etihad, Doves have had a special musical place – pre match – in City hearts. Jimi Goodwin is a Blue. Given the massive self-publicity of The Gallaghers being Blues, it is noticeable that it’s two Doves tracks that get played, the mighty Pounding and an instrumental of Words – both from the excellent album “The Last Broadcast”  – Proper tunes!

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A good Wetherspoons is like a barber or a dentist. When you get one that is well-managed, you never let it go! On this particular evening, my good friend Col & his lovely wife Sue fancied a nip to the local Spoons, especially as they were holding one of their regular “International Beer Festivals”. Ordinarily, having broken my Wetherspoon “fast”, I would have gone to Paramount or The Waterhouse in Manchester, but I don’t get out with these fine people much and good beer is more than enhanced when drunk in good company!

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Now this particular ‘Spoons, The Bulls Head in Walkden is one of their finer renovations. A substantial amount was spent on this place and -for an open plan pub – it really looks superb. Even though it is indeed open, there is a distinct feeling of separate drinking areas with some, obviously, being a Wetherspoon, more dedicated to the food offering. The main issue I have with this particular pub is the number of pumps that regularly have the “Coming Soon” label attached to the pump clips!

Tonight, however, only 1 was unused and surprisingly, being midweek, there were 4 (FOUR) of the “International” beers on. What the “I” word means in the context of this chain is that they get brewers from excellent breweries around the world to brew versions of their own beers at UK breweries. A great idea for those who might balk at paying substantial amounts for the likes of a Nogne O in its more usual “craft” bar habitat.

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Having decided that the four international beers were my choices for the evening, I set to. First, the Nogne O Brown Ale brewed at (and with) Batemans of Wainfleet, nr Skegness in Lincolnshire. I’m an enormous fan of their all too rare Mild, so I had high hopes for this!

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At 4.5% abv, this was a deep red/brown with a head that was creamy in both colour and texture with the aroma having a light chocolate note to it. The beer had a lovely full body with the flavours of light coffee and chocolate sharing palate space with a certain nutty flavour – hazelnut maybe? This wasn’t universally popular in our wee group, but I really liked it (and I’m no fan of Brown Ales!)

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Next on the menu for me was the Fermin Red Ale from Spain’s Alberto Pacheco at the Mateo y Bernabe Brewery from Rioja. This was brewed with Shepherd Neame in Faversham, Kent.

I seem to have moved on somewhat from this Faversham brewer, my tastes having gravitated away from their paler beers whilst holding a bit of a torch for their Porter which doesn’t seem to have the trademark “tang” that marks their pales.

This beer however was a belter, though hardly “Red”! More of a mid brown beer, this had an aroma full of foresty type fruit. In the mouth, at 5.8% abv, this unsurprisingly had a full body with the stand out flavour for me being plum, surprisingly, with a little sweetness complemented by a nice hoppy and bitter finish. Really enjoyed this one too.

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Moving swiftly on, next up was a beer from Wicked Weed Brewery – Sir Ryan The Pounder –  all the way from Asheville in North Carolina, this being brewed at Everards in Leicester. An amber/red beer this had a white head and quite a spritzy lemony aroma which was a pleasant surprise and at 4.7% was substantially lower in alcohol than the beers between which it was sandwiched! Smooth, medium-bodied with a light biscuit base danced on by juicy citrus hopping with lemon and grapefruit. Really tasty and well-balanced. My favourite of the evening.

The Klosterbock by Kloster-Scheyern in Bavaria was next and was brewed at Wadworth in Devizes, Wiltshire. At 6.5%, in hindsight, a pint of this was probably a mistake as I forgot that I really don’t get Bocks at all. Nothing wrong with this beer per se, just not my style. Really fruity and quite heavy feeling at the start, I warmed to it somewhat as the fruity flavours developed. But not my kind of beer really. Too sweet.

Whilst I’ve only rattled on about the beers, the evening was made really by being with good friends and having a really good chinwag, even if Sue gave me a yellow card for some rather fruity vernacular. I really don’t know what came over me!

In summary, a really nice surprise with the beer selection here tonight. All really well-kept and, to be fair, I’m yet to have a bad pint in this, my nearest ‘Spoons. Back soon.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – August 2013 Pt 2

“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think…

OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS! 1,2,3,4…”

(Oh Bondage, Up Yours – X-Ray Spex)

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(Hooray For Tickety Brew!)

Just a quick celebratory note! For those who are unaware, Tickety Brew of Stalyvegas were recently contacted by lawyers acting on behalf of the conglomerate Halewood International – the owner of the Crabbies Ginger Beer brand. The substance of the contact was that Halewood had “trademarked” the phrase “TicketyBoo” and appeared to have issues when our own local micro-brewer applied to register their name as a trademark. This caused concern, and no little stress, for Tickety Brew’s owners who were not in any position to contest any potential “Cease & Desist” style demand.

It was heartening to see social media – in particular, Twitter – swing behind the brewing David, possessing, as it did, an empty slingshot! Just like the battle that Redwell of Norwich had with Red Bull (purveyors of over-sweet chemical swill), the beer-loving denizens of the social media platform showed their feelings and made them plain.

It is therefore extremely gratifying to note, it appears that sanity has ruled the day and Tickety will remain a small Greater Manchester brewer making tasty beer and that they can keep their name and distinct visual branding. Chuffed to bits for Duncan & Keri and will be reviewing their beers soon! Go visit their classy looking website for more details at http://ticketybrew.co.uk/

Right then, that’s settled!

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…

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1. Hook Island Red – The Five Points Brewing Co (Hackney, London) – 6% abv – Red Ale – £3 ish (was a “swap”!) – Damian O’Shea (aka @TheAleManMcr) at Castlefield Market, Mcr.

A deep ruby red, this has a lovely spicy hop and toffee aroma. A lovely dark toffeeish caramelly (is that a word?) malt balanced by some terrifically spicy hopping with some nuttiness too in the mouth. Bit like a slicy (or even “spicy”!) rye beer this. A cracklingly bitter dryness in the finish for this beer from an increasingly impressive brewery. More soon!

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(I can still hear the shriekings of Poly Styrene……!)

2. IdentityRevolutions Brewing Co (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 6% abv – Extra Strong Bitter (XSB) – Part of a case from the brewery direct

X-Ray Spex were one of the second wave of punk bands. There first single was blast of feminist fresh air entitled “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” and as a 12-year-old music loving sponge, it rocked my world! A punk band in name, but with other influences at play – not every band would have a Laura Logic playing sax! Identity was a later single from their album Germ Free Adolescents and was similarly incendiary in musical style. Was truly saddened when Poly (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) passed away in 2011. A true trail blazer and icon.

Anyway, reminiscing over!

Another musically themed beer (of course!) by those lovely boys at Revolutions, this is a tawny coloured beer with a generous white head and a floral hop aroma with a bit of toffee in there too. Full bodied with plenty of maltiness offset by some really nice dry bitterness an a nice spicy hop bite, I detected a gentle nuttiness which reminded me of walnuts too, really nice note. A fireside beer this…..I’m feeling a nice warm Yorkshire Dales pub on an autumn evening…I can dream can’t I? A proper strong bitter – not had one of THOSE for a while!

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3. Bleddyn 1075 – The Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Wales) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £2.29 (500ml) – Booths Supermarket, Chorley

An off-hand purchase from a swift pit stop, I’m SO glad I bought this! A golden to copper coloured beer with floral nose tingling spicy hops booming from the glass. In the mouth, a tongue-curling bitterness grabs and delights as bitter & twisted grapefruit flavours assail the taste buds supported by some lovely malty backbone.

But this is about the hoppage and, at this strength, I’m not sure that I have had a more assertive IPA. Given the OG (Original Gravity – an indication of the weight of malt goodies that go in the beer), I’m astonished it’s not sweeter than this! Crackling dry finish. A PROPER IPA. Lots of malt, LOADS of hops! (Classy website too – click the link above) A well earned 5*!

20130822_193824(Current reading material artfully displayed with a 5* beer!)

4. Simcoe (Single Hop)Mallinsons Brewing Company (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.0% abv – Pale Ale – £1.98 (500ml) – The Bottle Stop, Bramhall, Stockport

This wasn’t planned. At a friends BBQ last weekend, I took a 5 litre carry out of Kirkstall Three Swords Pale Ale (purchased from the ever excellent Beer Shop), but by departure, there was still some in the bag. A colleague offered this as a swap. Knowing Mallinsons beers like I do (and not having had this previously) I snatched his hand off!

A beer that was bullion gold in colour with a fabulous zingy mango aroma from a light white foam head. A marvellous mouthful of mango, grapefruit and lemon pith drying the tongue and refreshing the mouth simultaneously. Tara Mallinson and Elaine Yendall have – for me – absolutely nailed low gravity single hopped pale ales. This is as tasty a low gravity pale ale as you can get (IMO) – get some, and in the words of Drake “Thank me later”!

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5. Fade to BlackWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, West London)- 6.3% – Black IPA – £3 ish (was a swap)Damian O’Shea (aka @TheAleManMcr) at Castlefield Market

If you live close to Manchester, go see Damian on a Sunday at Castlefield Market, (but check on Twitter, he’s not there EVERY Sunday!), a top bloke selling some amazing beers. Including this little beauty!

Black. Always a good start in my book! Latte coloured head with a candied citrus nose with sugared grapefruit. Some deep coffee in the background strangely supporting zippy citrus. This beer has the texture of a creamy stout or porter with some belting hoppy fruitiness. I know that, for some, Black IPAs may be a bit of a stretch, but trust me, allow your mind to be bent by beers such as this and you will NOT regret it! Trust me!

Right then – Beer of the Month time again!

Draught? – Hmmm….. in with a run up the stands rails is…..Imperial Lord Smog Almighty from Beavertown Brewery at 10% abv. This was the monster produced from under Logan Plant’s magicians hat at the end of the recent MTB at Port Street. Blew me away. Notes here…https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/beavertown-brewery-meet-the-brewer-port-street-beer-house-19082013/

Bottled? – A tricky one this, with 4 5* rated beers this month. But, decisions need to be made! (“Ip, dip, doo, the cat got the flu…..”) Oh bugger it…… Old Engine Oil (Engineers Reserve) a 9% abv by Harviestoun Brewery. Porter created for Those Damn Yankees! Read here if you want…https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/bottled-ales-august-2013/

Right! That’s it for this month. I’m off camping by the banks of the Severn next week so, unless I come across something truly outstanding, media silence may be the order of….

And if you see a whale clad in T-Shirt & Jeans floating down the Severn, hook me out, there’s a love!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

 

Bottles Ales – July 2013 Pt 2

This month has been fairly quiet by my standards! Hence, the accent on diminishing the “cellar” stock. But, they are there to drink, not as decoration of course! So, without further ado, a few more belters that I have picked up on my haphazard wanderings.

The spiel is the same, 1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website. Here goes!

1. Hackney Hopster – London Fields Brewery (Hackney, East London) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.38 (500ml) – Bierhuis

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I must confess that I wasn’t blown away by their Unfiltered Lager when I had it. A good UK lager, but not as exceptional as I’d hoped. THIS however worked a treat! A nice lacy white head led to a sweet citrus aroma bringing tangerines and mandarins to the hooter (slightly more mellow than advertised, and better for it). Those aromas were replicated in the mouth with the tangerine more prominent leading to a lovely dry, hoppy finish. A really refreshing fruity beer. (Nice price too!)

2. Yakima IPAGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck, North Yorkshire) – 7.4% abv – IPA – £1.98 (330ml) – Bierhuis

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I recently found myself in the Nottingham area facing a dodgy bit of traffic one afternoon. A different route was called for and I suggested nipping for lunch in Ossett (5 mins diversion!) via a sneaky reload at Bierhuis. The butty was lovely, but no more than filling the car with some lovely beer, oh no!

Late last year saw my first (and so far only) encounter with beers from this brewer, in the form of Dark Force Treason Stout, which was my “Beer of the Festival” at the SIBA Northern bash in Manchester. I’d heard that they were going to start bottling soon, so was keen to try this when I saw it.

A deep amber beer with a nice fine white head and an aroma (for me) with toffee and raisins. The flavours were a slightly sweet raisin with a caramelised biscuit. This was a full-bodied beer (which you would expect at the strength) which had some nice resinous hop flourish. Other Yakima hopped beers I’d had, had been a bit ruinous with the piney stuff, but this had a nice warming balance to it.

3. EncoreLacons Brewery (Great Yarmouth, Norfolk) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the Brewery (500ml)

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One of the quite surprising things about doing this here “Beer Blogging” has been when a brewery asks if you’d like to try some of their beers. Lacons being one of those who contacted me, a brewer that came to my attention via the excellent Twitter feed / blog of Nathaniel Southwood (aka NateDawg).

A while later, I received a card through the door from Parcelforce. Nipping to the “drop off point” (ie : the local Post Office) I collected said package. Unfortunately, Parcelforce brutalised the packaging, so, 3 bottles sent, 2 received intact. B*stards!

Anyhow (whinge over!) This is an amber coloured beer with a white head which diminished fairly quickly. A light citrus fruity nose leading to a medium body which was clean and refreshing with citrus flavours (a light sugared grapefruit)  and a surprisingly slight smoky note with a nice dry gentle hoppy finish. A pleasing first encounter with this resurrected Norfolk brewer. (Note : Prior to takeover – and eventual closure by Whitbread, Lacons had a sizeable tied house estate, including a good number in London. Note the mirror in this review...https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-southampton-arms-gospel-oak-london/)

4. AAPA (Anglo American Pale Ale) – Rocky Head Brewery (Wandsworth, SW London) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man Manchester

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Another beer sourced from the excellent stall run by Damian O’Shea at Castlefield Market.

A lively golden beer with a light haze with a gentle citrus aroma featuring grapefruit, mango and apricot touches. In the mouth this was medium bodied with more citrus hop stuff with a bit of sharp lemon and grapefruit cutting through. Nicely bitter with a nice dry, hoppy finish. One to watch for on draught this and very nice first from this brewery!

5. Beat RedRevolutions Brewing Co (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Red Ale – £2.39 (500ml) – Bierhuis

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I’ve had a few bottles of Revolutions beers recently and a choice encounter with their Clash London Porter in Soup Kitchen. Some superb beers. I recently had the good fortune to meet Andrew from the brewery in Manchester and had a couple of beers with him. A really top bloke with superb taste in music, as you may expect if you follow the themed names of the beers!

This is a deep ruby coloured beer with a nice spicy hop aroma. Some biscuity malt sweetness more than offset with some spicy hop flavours. I thought I got a hint of chocolate as well!  Nice bitterness with a lasting herbal grassy hop aftertaste. Another really nice beer, nearly made me “Twist & Crawl” (cue cringing attempt at musical punnage!)

6. India Pale AleBad Seed Brewery – 7.3% abv – IPA – £2.34 (330ml) – Bierhuis

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I dearly hope that the name is connected to a Nick Cave reference! This was another fruit of my recent traffic enforced “diversion” to Ossett! A deep gold almost amber beer with a full-on dirty hop aroma courtesy of Columbus, Cascade and Chinook varieties. Fruity marmalade as well on the nose followed by a huge dry hoppiness in the mouth, plenty of citrus fruit here balance by a lovely sweet malt backbone. Don’t be fooled though, the hops are the star attraction here, really bitter and resinous. A fabulous lingering piney resin taste in the aftertaste.

This beer prompts a slight change in my “Beers of the Month”. It is THAT good!

Anyway, better get off before my Sunday Dinner ends up in the dog!

Back in the fresh air next week at The Marble 125 Years celebration next Saturday. See you there!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

An astonishingly hoppy beer from this new Malton brewer. (And wait ’til I tell you about the Espresso Stout – WOOF!)

The Southampton Arms, Gospel Oak, London

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As I’ve said on many an occasion, I can resist anything except temptation, so when given an opportunity to try a new pub (to me) in London, even thinking of resistance was futile!

Now I’d wanted to try this pub for ages, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself, until now!

Tube to Kentish Town on the Northern Line then a C2 (or 214) bus drops you outside the door. Entry reveals this to be a single roomed  bar, narrow(ish) but fairly long. The door to the rear leads to the beer garden and an externally located Gentleman’s facility, via an upright piano!

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(View from the bar to the front)

10 hand pulled ales from breweries as geographically diverse as Fyne Ales and Dark Star and 8 real ciders and perries. Something for everyone here (inc 2 craft keg : Magic Rock 8 Ball and Camden Hells). In fact, if it wasn’t for a small selection of spirits, this would almost be a beer house! On first inspection, it certainly looked like my idea of a bar!

First up for me, was a small Dark Star 1810 Porter. This had a nice roasted malt and chocolate aroma and was lovely dry and chocolatey with more than a trace of bitterness in the finish. This was superb accompanied by some PROPER pub food, Pork pie and mustard. Lovely!

I (sort of) introduced myself to Alex behind the bar who was the essence of personable and managed to serve all the customers speedily whilst maintaining a friendly chat.

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Whilst chatting with Alex and one of the regulars, I started to notice some of the detail around the bar, including something that astonished me. No jukebox, CDs or MP3s here. Oh no. The excellent music (Ray Charles for starters) came courtesy of a VINYL TURNTABLE! I started to fall in love with this place!

Next up, a wee Cwtch by Tiny Rebel. First time I’ve had their beers. A red ale weighing in at 4.6%, this had a lovely mango citrus hop aroma which carried through into the mouth, lovely and smooth with a nice citrus bitterness. I’ll be looking out for them up North!

20130529_131803(A lovely original Lacons Brewery mirror – recently revived in Gt Yarmouth)

(One for Nate!)

A Kent Brewery Maori (NZ hopped) at 4.5% was a pale almost lager like beer. Delicately fruity and really refreshing with a dry grassy finish. Not sure what category this would fall into, but it was crisp, refreshing and delicious.

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Tempted to try a small Dark Star Revelations, I gave in to the smooth bronze beer with the hoppyness not initially apparent, but becoming more assertive the further the glass emptied. Superb.

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This place has a whole lot going for it. A stripped down basic boozer I thought as I entered. Slowly, its quirky charms revealed themselves, bit by bit. Value wise, I think I’ve had none better in London. Most of the ales were £3.30. The food was reasonably priced for a small yet tasty looking offering. My portion of pork pie was superb for the price.

The Southampton Arms. Overall, a fabulous bar. Excellent ales, friendly locals and bar staff (Thanks Alex for the chat – hope you get to Leeds International & IndyManBeerCon).

A serious recommendation. Only 10 minutes (or so) from Euston. Give it a bash!

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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!

Wetherspoons International Beer Festival – Bulls Head, Walkden 14/04/2013

Wetherspoons. take ’em or leave ’em, eh? Travelling the country frequently in the early noughties, I went in dozens of the blighters. Converted cinemas, converted banks, converted offices. Conversion after conversion. To be frank, the majority served one purpose. Cheap food. That’s because (other than a few isolated instances) the beer was mediocre. I learned which ones to trust and which to leave alone.

I can count the ones I trust on one hand. However, sometimes, you overlook what’s closest to you. So, using the Wetherspoons International Beer Festival as an excuse, I found myself entering The Bulls Head on Manchester Road in Walkden. A mile from my front door. And, to me at least, a rarity. A restored pub by JD Wetherspoon!

The Bulls Head

the-bull-s-head(Courtesy of  TripAdvisor)

In my mid to late teens, I had quite a few friends in Little Hulton, but, being a Salford lad, the Bulls Head was something I passed on the bus. I can only recall actually entering the pub once. It was a fairly grim place. A Whitbread plaything (from memory), it followed ‘fashion’ and was even named – at one point – “The Amsterdam Bar (with Sound and Light – I kid you not!) Some years later, after a stabbing in 2011, the pub was shut. It wasn’t the greatest of boozers, but Walkden could ill afford losing another pub.

Wetherspoons were rumoured to be having a presence in the newly developed Ellesmere Shopping Centre. To my surprise, they took on The Bull, spending a reputed £1.3 million on a total refurb.

They did a superb job.

It’s a large single floor space. Whilst – technically – a single room, it has the feel of multiple areas. Lots of area given up to eating, but a number of different areas within gives a bit of choice of where to settle. Lots of local history pieces on the walls. A map on the floor depicting the ‘hidden canals’ that were used to transport coal underground to the Bridgewater Canal for distribution on the canal network.

Being the International Beer Festival though, gave us a chance to sample some imported cask conditioned beers. So, what did I start with?

Marstons Single Hop – Pacific Gem!

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(That surprised ME as well!) A pale beer at 4% abv. This had a gentle lemony citrus aroma and maybe a hint of candied grapefruit. The flavour was light and subtle with more than a hint if citrus hop. Not had a Marstons beer for ages due to previous disappointments, but this was such a refreshing pint.

Devils Backbone Brewery – American Amber 4.8% abv

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The first of 3 ‘International’ beers this evening, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (but brewed for the fest at Adnams)! This red beer (or ‘deep copper’ if you prefer!) had a lovely American hop citrus aroma. This was a beltingly (new adjective?) lovely balanced beer with a big malt body offset by distinctively citrussy American hops. Lovely.

Good George Brewing – Pacific Pearl 5.5% abv

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Described in the tasting notes as ‘The Brewers take on a Black IPA’ – From Hamilton in New Zealand (but brewed in the UK for the festival by ex-Thornbridge brewer Kelly Ryan), this was a deep ruby to black coloured beer. A gentle fruity hop aroma to this one, but in the body there lurked a licorice like hop torpedo! Really nice this. So good that I had to have two!

Vasileostrovsky Brewery – Siberian Red 6% abv

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(forgot to snap!)

From St Petersburg (but brewed at Banks Brewery in Wolverhampton, this is a deep red coloured beer. Some blackberry on the nose. A full-flavoured fruity malt beer with some hoppy dryness in the finish. Red beers aren’t usually my thing, but I gave this a go for my sleeping draught and found that I really enjoyed it!

To sum up. The Bulls Head may not be everyone’s idea of a great pub. For my money though, ‘Spoons did a really good job with this and brought a much-needed variety of ales into this area. The inside of the pub is really well done with some unusual high-backed chairs.

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They have, in the process of renovating this lovely building, created a fabulous space to the rear. Col had been in The Bull on many occasions and the back was never this spacious! Nice tables, comfy seats, nicely lit. It was needed tonight as the pub heating was set to sub-tropical!

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(Just a small section of the outside space!)

I wouldn’t ordinarily have written this single pub visit up, but the festival is on until next Sunday. Whilst I know that ‘Spoons aren’t everyone’s cup of lapsang, some of the beers on offer look superb (Ionian Coffee Porter anyone?) and it would be a shame to let prejudice get in the way of some really good beers that we may never see again!

Having been in three or four times now, The Bulls Head may be entering into that rare club. Wetherspoons that I trust!

On that note…..

Slainte!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Hot Liquor – water – Tank & Mash Tun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now. For the beer……..

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

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

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(Blonde meets the Red)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slainte!

Recent Bottle Tastings

Just 3 to point out from recent sampling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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