Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 3

“I want to live, I want to give, I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.

It’s these expressions that I never give, that keep me searching for a heart of gold.

And I’m getting old.

Keeps me searching for a heart of gold. And I’m getting old.”

(“Heart of Gold” – Neil Young)

(Video courtesy of “clydeman” on You Tube)

Being 48, closing rapidly on 70, the older I get, the more I appreciate great classics of popular music, be they Rock, Soul, Rhythm & Blues or even Doo-Wop. Don’t get me wrong, I can bang the ear-buds in on the bus and nod to the joyous noise of Fuck Buttons as much as anyone else, but sometimes you know, I just yearn for the simpler musical pleasures. Like Springsteen, Neil Young flicks all of my musical switches.

I could have easily chosen the equally classic “After The Goldrush”. Guitar, harmonica and voice. What else do you need. Click on the hyperlink above and wallow (if you’re of a nervous disposition, or have a loathing of laptop music, you may want to avoid the Fuck Buttons link!)

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

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

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

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1. SoundWave Aussie IPASiren Craft Brew – 5.6% abv – IPA – £3.08 (inc discount) (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

The “straight” version of this on cask at Manchester Beer & Cider Festival made a HUGE impression on me. I had to give this antipodean variant a go, didn’t I?

A deep gold, almost amber beer this, with a thin white head and quite an orangey aroma promising much delight within. Full bodied and quite bitter initially (in a really good way!) with masses of tart fruit and pine overlaying a big malty bread base. The fruit subtly changes further down the glass to more of a mandarin orange without yielding an inch on the resinous front! Really grassy. Definitely a beer for now, a cool spring evening in front of a warm glowing…laptop! Excellent.

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2. Shark Biscuit – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 7.2% abv – Australian IPA – £3.23 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(Bear in mind that Raj offers a 10% discount for 12 or more bottles)

I yield to no one in my love of these beers out of West London. I haven’t had the joy of meeting Bryan, but Gregg is a top bloke and they brew some simply astonishingly good beers (stops typing to avoid a Decadence Stout inspired #Beergasm!), This is another!

Amber beer with a nice foamy white head and a lovely fruity orangey aroma booming out. Oohhhh…This is bloody smooth! Full-bodied with big digestive biscuit maltiness, but not sweet. The orange mellows into a nice marmalade richness which fills the mouth, coating it completely with bittersweet orange. A hell of a beer this, with a nice bitter finish and a lingering grassy note. A stunningly smooth, well balanced IPA.

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3. Old Ford Export StoutRedchurch Brewery (Bethnal Green, East London) – 7.5% abv – Stout ? – £3.59 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Writing about beer is fairly easy. However, sometimes your opinions can make you seem a proper numpty. So, I shall combine a question with my opinion shall I?

When is a Stout, not a Stout? The answer? When it is Old Ford Export Stout!

Black as the pits of hell with the fires out! Big latte coloured head with an aroma that is fruitily reminiscent of a Black IPA. If this is a Stout then it is bloody well hopped! There is indeed LOADS of roasted malt flavour with bitter coffee in the mix, but this is as hoppy as a wallaby! A fabulous beer, but as a stout, it is verging on Black IPA territory – and none the worse for it! In short, a bloody excellent BIPA. Those expecting the comforting roasty notes of a well made Stout, be prepared for a surprise!

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4. Kooky GoldOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 4.2% abv – Golden Ale – £2.60 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

(Note current offer of 15% off online & in shop – not sure how long that offer will last!)

Since meeting the lovely Michelle (Basically, she didn’t yawn when I waffled at her for a couple of minutes on the Manchester #Twissup), I was determined to get my maws on a couple of bottles. The problem was, that I would normally source them from Damian, but Manchester Markets are out of season! I was delighted to note therefore,  that my pals Dan & Gina were stocking a few of Crewe’s finest. Problem solved!

Pale gold and lively with a white head emitting a lovely gentle toasty marmalade aroma. Medium bodied, smooth and easy drinking with more orange marmalade coating a light biscuit base and caressing the mouth with its juicy malt before a gentle fruity bitterness sways into view, followed eventually by a nice dry piney finish. A brilliant light, juicy and sessionable refreshing beer. Result. Just need to see more on draught now. Er…Dan?

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5. Session Pale Ale – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 3.5% abv – Pale Ale– £2.13 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

With that 15% off offer, this was a BARGAIN!!!

Deep gold verging on amber with a white head and a nose of gentle grapefruit, peach and mandarin. Medium bodied for such a light abv beer, really fruity with all of the above playing their part supported by a nice light spongey cake base, bit like a Jaffa cake (but without the chocolate!). A beer has rarely been so aptly named!

This is really well-balanced, refreshing and fruity with the gentlest of bitter finishes followed at the rear of the mouth with a waft of fresh spring grass in the aftertaste. Another superb refreshing beer. Nary a bottle by Blackedge for ages, then (like buses in the countryside), two in two weeks!

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6. GovindaCheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8% abv – IPA – £4.50 – inc discount – BARGAIN (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

With the under note on the bottle saying “Centenary Gyle Head Brewers Reserve”, this held out the promise of being something special. I like Shane Swindells’ beers. A lot. But heavy hopping with British hops?

Beergasm Alert! A deep amber coloured beer supporting a persistent clinging white head and yielding quite a honeyed fruity aroma. Really smooth and full-bodied this. The initial flavour impression is quite forest fruity with a little hint of hiney (or honey, if you like!), quickly followed by a tidal wave of grassy hop, but without the resinous nature of New World hops.

I think that the aim with this was to make a classic, heavily hopped, British IPA. Now, I have never hit the high seas to India, nor – to be fair – am I ever likely to, but this would be more than worth a sup as it hit the sub-continent quaysides! A triumph of a beer. Would have been easy for Shane to bang a load of C hops in, but this is SUPERB! Definite Bottle of The Year contender!

If Shane is right and this improves with age, I’m DAMN glad I’ve got another to lay down. Could be a classic!

Well, that’s it for another week. Still recovering, in truth, from a week working in London. Not to mention the visit to a pub or two! (write up to follow)

However

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Manchester #TWISSUP – Drinking, Diversions & Dancing – A Grand Day Out

“If I could read your heart and say ‘I love me darlin’,

if I could read your mind and say ‘I’d never leave me’,

There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. I’d give my life away and my heart too, yes I would.

I’d turn my world upside down, I’d turn my smiles all into frowns,

I’d do anything, oh yeah, if you’d just let me love you baby.”

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

(Tune link courtesy of NutsliteVenueRoma on You Tube)

A most fabulous tune that I have shuffled/wobbled to on many a Northern Soul dance floor. To be fair, until last night (Saturday), I couldn’t see how I would link this greatest of tracks into one of my blog posts. Take a bow Mr Rik Garner, brewer and DJ supreme!

When Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy first mentioned a #CAMRGB Manchester Twissup (Abbreviation of Twitter Piss-Up to the uninitiated!) to me, two feelings came to the fore. Fear and excitement (fellow travellers I suppose). Fear? Well, down to the prospect of meeting lots of people I admire and in whose company I would feel rather inadequate – I’m a bit of a shy soft git (despite a chatty exterior) Excitement? Not a tricky one really! Unfortunately, at the time that Connor wanted to arrange this, I was struggling with some health issues and was unable to contribute. To be honest, I nearly abandoned this blogging malarkey altogether. However, as it transpires, Connor rose to the occasion and sorted a great crawl with some excellent “bonuses”!

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(If 30 + years of drinking have taught me anything – Preparation!)

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So at 12:15 I find myself stepping into the main room of what is, undoubtedly, the most revered pub in Manchester. The Marble Arch. Dating from 1888 (although there was a pub on the site previously as early as 1851), this immaculately restored pub is an utter gem of gorgeous tiling, stained glass and the legendary sloping floor with an angle to rival the Hardknott Pass!). Worth little of course, if the beer is rubbish (of course!), but the brewery IS Marble and that means quality!

Walking in past one or two blue & white scarves, I felt instantly at home. I hadn’t considered that this might be a pub of choice pre-Etihad! Spying Connor, I engaged in a rather shady hand-over, the likes of which you might see in an old episode of “Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy”! So, replete with some of Connors highly rated “home-brew” (a phrase that is now a world away from tins of Muntons Malt Extract!), I hustled to the bar for something light and tasty. Pint most certainly fulfilled that need and more, with its lightish body, pale good looks and zingy grapefruit and lemon. Delicious.

A this point some introductions were being made and I met a number of people I only know from Twitter, like Andy Heggs (HopOnTheBike), Dave Harrison-Ward (Brews Implosion), Mark (ViewsFromTheBar) from Scarborough, Andy Tabbernacle (TheComedyBeerCyclist) and his rather tall mate John, and many others whose names I shall be embarrassed to ask next time I meet them, my memory is SO shit! The mighty Al from Port Street was in attendance too and it was great to see Paddy McGrath (AllBeerNoBelly), a previous boon companion and somebody I never tire of reading/chatting with.

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Then the boss lady of The Arch showed up with a number of bottles of Imperial Stout! Oh dear….this was going to get MESSY! A VERY generous gesture indeed! Oily, black, smooth as a baby’s powdered bottom. Warming bitter coffee, cognac, dark fruits….just delightful, but bloody dangerous at this early stage! Beergasm over, then a couple of swift halves of Experimental 701 and Inter Regnum both lowish abv (4.2 & 3.4% respectively), both really refreshing with slight preference for the Inter Regnum, a hoppy brown ale.

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Early yesterday, the evil genius and aspiring Nijinsky that is Rob Hamilton posted an image of Twitter. The bar that awaited us!

I like Rob & the beers that he brews. A lot. Clean, tasty and never flashy, some of the consistently best beers you’ll find around Manchester. The brewery is located in an arch at the bottom end of Gould Street from The Marble Arch. Bottom end being appropriate, that slope gets steep!

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He had a good few beers on did Rob, I went for his Stout and Bramling Cross Pale (being a coward. I chose to give the slopey shoulder to the Arbor/Alechemy collab!). The Bramling Cross was refreshing, slightly bitter with a light earthy hop character and a nice fruitiness. The Stout was gorgeous dark and roasted with some coffee and dark fruit. Right up mein strasse! Had a great gab with Mr Heggs (liberating some of his pin badges – classy little things as were his designed T-Shirt for the Website! XL Please!) Thought I saw Rik “First Chop” Garner earlier too! Or was it a mirage!

This was self-service with style and the honesty “box” soon filled up as the assembled (and rapidly growing) throng offered libation after libation to Bacchus. The Arch-Nemesis joined us at this point and was one of many who set about the Arbor/Alechemy whilst Paddy and I enjoyed a cracking hoppy bottle of Redchurch IPA with an incredibly creative “Best Before Date” that had to mean that the beer could never go off, 30/02/2014 is a date that it could never reach!

The throng was heading off in sizeable chunks toward the next destination. I had advocated the chippy on Tib Street as a good idea, but damn if it wasn’t shut! Paddy, feeling slightly peckish, headed off to Slice whilst I bee-lined for Port Street!

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Boy was it busy! Memory was getting slightly hazy at this point, but I did have a half of the cracking Soulless by Redwillow, their Black IPA. A beautiful hoppy creamy mouthful. Full of grapefruit hop and roasted coffee and choc goodness. First time on cask for me and right up with Buxton Imperial Black in my book! The conversation was flowing with beery wisdoms being freely exchanged, but I had a yearning for a slight diversion with the next  destination being set for Font for the beery locust swarm!

Paddy had never been to Joshua Brooks. It so happened that the yearning to pop in was front and centre of my feeble mind! So Paddy, Arch-Nemesis & I were soon at that Junction of Charles & Princess Streets. It was here that I had my pint of the day, Beat Box by Tiny Rebel. A fruity and hoppy pale marvel at less than 5% abv (I think!), memories of orange and tangerine? Bloody good beer. Had my first taste of Burning Sky in here too with their Pale Ale another cracking citrussy pint! Nice to see Jon Turner before he leaves to move to London. Top bloke. Hoping that the beer selection stays as good as this! (Do yourselves a favour and buy one of their Membership Cards. £3 and gives a HUGE discount on the Cask Conditioned ales!

Short walk to Font and another (as usual) great cask ale selection…….For me, Beginners Luck by Black Jack. (Must ask Rob about that name!). 5% abv, pale and fruity and nicely hopped again. Typical; BlackJack, typical Font. Quality!

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Then, the long hike! For some of the swarm, a taxi was order of the day, but for flabby guts here, I needed the walk! Swatting away the devil on my shoulder which told me to pop into Cask, a thirst had been built by the time we entered the arch containing First Chop Brewing Arm. The arch is bloody HUGE! With the bar on the left on entry (having passed the wood fired pizza seller) a short walk down a corridor (masking off the brewing kit) takes you into another enormous space housing a DJ area (Rik himself) and a stage for live performance. The moment I heard “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye, I just KNEW I was gonna enjoy this!

The rather fresh and zippy SIP was going down a treat too, soon to be followed by a MIA, then another SIP. But here, the tunes just ruled! Marvin Gaye, Nolan Porter (see above) I was just swaying to the bass until that damned man Mr Hamilton dragged me onto the floor! I must have been wobbling like a drunken elephant (whilst thinking I was moving like Fred Astaire!) Just proper good times! Nice to see Jeff and his brother Paul at this point.

All good things……the bus was calling.

To all those I spoke with : Thank you for humouring a waffling old git!

To those whose names I will have to ask for again : Sorry, my memory really IS that poor! But I enjoyed EVERY conversation I had. I had such a great time and loved every god damned minute of the day! Thanks to The Marble Arch, Rob Hamilton (Groovy Mover), Jon Turner (JB), Font and Rik Garner and the guys at First Chop for capping off a memorable day with great beer and even better tuneage. Big thanks to Paddy & Jaz for humouring me more than most!

To Shane Swindells (Cheshire Brewhouse) DAMN! How did I miss you!

To Michelle (Offbeat), Andy & John – Damned sorry about the chippy! I owe you all a Babbies Yed!

To Simon Williams : Damn, didn’t chat enough. Don’t forget Joshua Brooks as a potential venue for the band in Manchester!

So, off to the number 37, the Beach House album Bloom and, surprisingly, no hangover! That’s good beer for you!

On that thought….’til next time…

Slainte!

Reflections? Connor. A (expletive deleted) good job, really well done. Pulled off with (almost) military precision. And, should you tire of your current job, there MUST be some town looking for a Town Crier! I speak for many when I say, Thank You! The End! (No, really!)

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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Well. That’s that. IndyManBeerCon is over for another year. Anybody still hung over? Thought so! This year, I worked two sessions earning two tickets for sessions to drink at. With the one minor quibble (re Volunteering – more later….) I had an absolute blast. Judging by the semi-orgasmic commentary on Twitter, you lot did too! Many couldn’t get there owing to not buying tickets early enough. Lesson learned eh?

Anyway – I’m not the best at waxing lyrical, I’ll leave the floral purple prose to others better qualified. I’ll just talk my usual bollocks!

I’ve already given you my thoughts on the first set-up session and Thursday, so I’ll cut to the chase…..

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

I got there a couple of minutes late. I hate being late! Got let in by the ever genial Duncan (looking mildly stressed) and entered the Volunteers Room to be given our “Pre-Match” talk. I’ll communicate my thoughts directly I think!

After that, I was behind the bar in Room 3 and, to be honest, had a fantastic time. The volunteers were fun and professional. Matt was a genial and efficient Manager and the brewers in our room were great. We had Kees Bubberman from Emelisse, Colin Stronge from Buxton, Jon from Arbor of Bristol and Jeff Rosenmeier from Lovibonds. The volunteers all enjoyed the graft and working with Bex was an absolute blast!

A quick sampling of those beers that I didn’t know and I was able to advise if asked. And we all were. The customers were, universally, friendly and knew what they wanted and, more to the point, enjoyed the beers. It was easy to identify a few favourites though. If I had a £ for each time I was asked for a Buxton Tea Saison!!! The Emelisse Innovations 25 proved popular also and I recommended it to people wanting something a little lighter. This 2.5% beer seemed to confound a few. The punters LOVED it, but most seemed to think it was a 6 or 7% beer. Certainly full of hoppy flavour for a beer at 2.5%!

From the serving of the 1st beer to putting the final glass in the glass wash tray, it was such fun. But no more volunteering. Next year, I’ll just be a paying punter and appreciate all the hard work that the volunteers and staff do – from the OTHER side of the bar!

Saturday

An early start. Met up with The Arch-Nemesis for swift couple at the ever excellent Joshua Brooks. The Five Points Brewery Pale Ale being in exceptionally good nick. A 4.4% burst of citrus fruit bitterness, dry refreshing and damned moreish! A personal favourite and a steal at £2.60!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

Quite busy on entry. A quick scan of the bar revealed a suitable candidate to start….

Citra by Brodies Brewery from Room 2. At 3.1% abv, hazy gold with a piney and grapefruit nose. Light bodied and refreshing with kiwi fruit and some more resinous pine. Refreshing and a cracker to start.

Wandered into Room 3 and stepping up a gear or two in strength. Decadence Stout by Weird Beard (5,5%). Full bodied black beer that was as smooth as Kojak’s head! Black as sin with some light coffee on the nose. Creamy in the mouth with lots of roasted flavour, chocolate and a little bitter coffee and toast. Luscious. Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers was behind the bar, really nice bloke brewing excellent beer (Have a few of their bottles stashed)

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Room 3 (AKA The Music Room AKA The Ladies Pool) was sponsored by Dark Star. It would have been churlish not to sample one of their beers, especially when it was a Green Hopped IPA! At 6.5% abv, this was upping the strength again, where was this going to end? Badly of course! Not that this beer was bad, OH NO! Pale gold, resinous pine on the nose. Mamma this was bitter! Load of fruity hops, firm biscuity base with even more resinous goodness. Lingering. I LOVE Green Hopped beers!

Next (and a HUGE Slainte! to The Beerhound for this one! Cheers Tyson!) I popped into Room 1 to check out some cask conditioned Italian beer from Toccalmatto. I missed their MTB at Port Street but heard it was a cracker. So when Tyson tweeted about some cask conditioned beer! When The Beerhound barks, you need to listen! The beer I tried was Zona Cesarini an IPA at 6.6% abv. Golden, fruity spicy aroma. Lots of hoppy goodness in the mush, oh yes, this is hoppy! Really fruity beer with long-lasting bitterness and a really grassy resinous aftertaste. One of the best of the week.

Next. Room 2. Briefly. Brodies Brewery Apricot Sour. SWEET BABY JESUS AND THE ORPHANS!!!! This was SOUR! Each time I took a mouthful I banged on the table! A Ronseal beer. With added sourness. A 3.1% abv tart palate livener!

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

Back to room 1 for a Redchurch Brewery Old Ford Export Stout. Is it REALLY 7.5%? Almost a “barrel aged” aroma, maybe rum, with this sinfully black beer. Deep bitter chocolate, some espresso and really rather bitter with an unexpectedly resinous dry finish. A kegged cracker!

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Next came another Stout, from Room2 this time. Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley at 6% abv. A big Stout which was cask conditioned, black with plenty of boozy wood on the nose, Slightly sweet in the mouth with bitterness kicking in later down the glass. A warm glow following the slightly boozy aftertaste.

Staying on the Dark Side of the street, I then ventured into caffeinated territory. Coffee In The Morning, a Breakfast Stout from Tap East in Stratford. 5.5% abv, black with an instant whack of fresh ground coffee to wake the nose up. A “Ronseal” beer this, fairly light bodied, but with loads of coffee bitterness. First beer I’ve had from this crew (I believe linked to Utobeer (Borough Market) and The Rake (possibly the coolest small bar in London!). If a coffee beer is what you want, this certainly does the job!

Time for a change. Back to Room 2 for something a bit, well, paler. Otters Tears (6% abv) from Thornbridge. If Otters cry tears like this, then get me Tarka and peel him an onion! This was mid gold with a nice earthy hoppy aroma. Really nice and bitter/hoppy in the mouth with maybe a hint of apricot fruit. A crackling bitter and resinous finish that lindered (or even “lingered”!). Nicest pale ale I’ve had from Thornbridge this!

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb5p0ch-lqM

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

Then came the (non-liquid) highlight of the evening. The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Walking in from the upper level (changing stalls) to the rear of the stage, in high theatre, they strutted in playing their instruments. When they got to the stage however, up went the bass drum and they let rip! An absolutely inspired piece of booking! Funky, uplifting and just bloody great musicians. A highlight.

Next, the ill-advised delights of Emelisse Brewery Imperial Russian Stout (11% abv) At this point, my notes came over all expletive laced! Black. Very black. Burnt toast, vinous and with an arse kicking coffee whiff. I staggered at the smell alone! Then the taste. Still boozy but with sweet coffee, bitterness, smoky with some more of that burnt toast. My notes finished Oooooohhhhhhh! Do I need say more? (I had another! But not before …..)

Blonde by Emelisse Brewery. 6.8% abv. Hazy pale with an aroma a bit like a fruity custard (or was my hooter broke?) Orchard fruit in the mouth, really fruity yet simultaneously bitter and piney resins in the finish. That Mr Bubberman can make damn good beer! (His collab Impy Stout with Marble earlier this year – made with Sorachi Ace – was a classic too!)

Was it a good night? Popes being Catholic and bears fouling wooded areas spring to mind. Yes it was. The whole shebang more than surpassed last year. The range of beers over the three days that I attended were superb. More international beers being a bonus. Excellent crowds, swift service by staff who knew their stuff (including us volunteers!)

I managed to see part sets of 2 or 3 bands in The Ladies Pool which were all excellent, with Harlequin Dynamite the icing on a very sweet cake indeed!

Meeting some people I know only from Twitter was a total bonus (take a bow Otto!). The brewers were free with their time and very friendly indeed, especially those from The Ladies Pool on Friday.

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Marble Arch, Manchester. 125 Years Beer Festival

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I’ve been drinking in The Marble Arch since the mid 1980s on and off, pretty much from when it became a “Free House”. From when the “stripping back” was in progress and had only just started to reveal the gem you can see now. Before the brewery. Before the back room was used. It was a decent boozer with one of the better selections of beers in the city. This and the City Arms on Kennedy St were the two best freehouses (if you can call the City that) in Manchester.

I didn’t realise that the pub itself was so old until the celebrations started to be planned. A little research via http://manchesterhistory.net reveals a pub on the site even earlier than 1888!

Adshead Map 1851(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

This map shows a pub called the Wellington Inn on the corner of Gould Street and Rochdale Road a full 37 years prior to the current building being erected. It is safe to assume that the current building may have replaced this earlier pub.

As you can see from the plaque at the top of the side elevation of the pub, the current building dates from 1888 (hence the 125 Years celebration!). The “stripping back” (the word “strip” may feature later!) revealed such an architectural gem, that it attained Grade II listed status in 1998.

Yes, I know. You all KNOW it’s a beautiful pub! You know ALL about the legendary sloping mosaic tiled floor. All about the tiled ceilings with exposed original metal work. You probably already know about how the brewery started making their own beers in 1997…….zzzzzzz. Ok, Ok…….

The Event

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The Beer Festival forms but a part of the celebrations throughout 2013. Albeit a 4 day part! Tickets were released earlier in the year and it was really a case of getting in quick. You knew it was going to be busy. And because the pub is fairly narrow, you just KNEW it was going to be rammed….didn’t you!

Tickets were a reasonable £5 for which you received a commemorative 1/2 or pint glass. Payment was via tokens (£1 or 25p in value) purchased upon entry. Basic principle being the more that you bought, the more “free” tokens you received (£20 buying £22.50 etc…)

Jeff had bought the tickets and we arranged to meet in Manchester, myself and Jaz arriving first. Needless to say, it was BLOODY HEAVING! However, the organisation was really efficient, so you had your glass, tokens and “venue map” in hand in no time and could fight your way through the throng to get to the business end.

“The bar” was effectively spread out over 5 areas. The main pub itself with its large array of handpumps and keg fonts. Today, in the main room, this was supplemented by pop-up bars from Magic Rock and “The Portable Street Beer House” courtesy of your friends and mine at Port St, the latter dispensing kegged beers from The Marble Brewery in Albuquerque in New Mexico! The there were two further “bar” areas in the old back room (in bygone….former site of the brewery) AND……..Black Jack Brewery, where Rob Hamilton had opened his gate and doors for a further bit of fresh air drinking (more later)

20130803_154541(I LOVE it when brewers can chat with the punters!)

Thinking strategically, I decided on something light and refreshing to start with. Chalkboards above the bar displayed what appeared to be the beers that would be available over the course of the 4 days (slightly confusing/frustrating), but a scan of the bar revealed some relatively low strength delights. Including my first pint….

Jacobs Ladder (Cask Conditioned) by Buxton Brewery at 2.7% abv! Pale gold, with a sharp citrus aroma. Some lovely sharp tropical hop flavours in here. A really refreshing beer and another 3 points in the bag for Buxton (C’mon, the footy season has just started!)

Zenith (Cask Conditioned) by SummerWine from Holmfirth was next for me at 4% abv. Another juicy sharp pale ale. Fragrant with peppery hops, a lovely, slightly resinous, hoppy refreshing mouthful with a lovely dry bitter finish. This day was getting good! Then…….

Cannonball (Dry hopped with Simcoe – Cask Conditioned) by Magic Rock. At 7.4% abv, was a bit early in the day, but REALLY wanted to have a pop at this before it went. It just didn’t work for me. Slightly warm, musty smelling in the glass, there were definitely hops in there, but no zing like I expect from Simcoe (a powerful hop that I adore), the only flavour I could get was that of red delicious apples. If I wanted that, I’d go for a cider……..Not for me. Didn’t finish it. (Not done THAT in a while!)

Draft by Marble got me back on track at 3.9%. Cool, pale light and hoppy. Just what was needed after that mis-step.

It was getting uncomfortable busy, and, consequentially warm. So, with one more arrival possible (having been joined by both Jeff and Terry by this stage, Jaz & I sloped off to see what was happening at Black Jack.

20130803_192223(“Underneath the Arches….”…aww c’mon, SING!)

Damn! That is one devil of a slope on Gould Street! Scene of many a legendary uphill trek from what used to be a cracking pub, The Queens Arms on Red Bank, up to The Marble. Now, we were looking for another brewery. Luckily, young Mr H had provided some useful signage and we were soon in an open airy courtyard with some lovely smelling food on the go.

About 6 or 7 handpumps in here, mostly dispensing Robs fine beers, I was on a cool keg tip here….I spied a beer from a London brewer that I’d heard loads about, but was yet to sample. Redchurch Brewery with Hackney Gold at 5.5% abv. Gold obviously not being a colour description for this amber to tawny coloured brew. Nice malty spine with generous hopping (Cascade and Nelson Sauvin). Took me a while to get into this, but it really grew on me.

This truly came into its own when I ordered a Salt Beef, Piccalilli and Mustard sandwich from The Moocher pop up truck! Lovely tender pulled salty beef, nice crunch from the veg and a bit of mustard heat on beautiful artisan bread. The spiciness of the Hackney Gold earned its spurs here and was a cracking foil to the sarnie.

Having obtained a freely available seat just along from a gaggle of current and former Port Street people including Will, now well into his career change, (brewing at SummerWine – nice chat earlier!), we settled in for a few more

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Being a warm day, I stayed with the keg offerings at Black Jack. Next up was Black Jacks’ own Mosaic, a single hopped pale ale at 5.2% abv. Golden and slightly sweeter than I expected, it didn’t take long for the piney hops to come through. Nice and refreshing again. Whilst mostly hop-forward (to quote a phrase!) Rob makes some lovely balanced beers here!

Sticking with Mr Hamilton’s fine beers, I had a Schafkopf next, Robs’ take on a German Wheat beer (I think!) which was a bloody good stab, if I may be so bold! Refreshing, quite sharp with a yeasty and herbal tinge to it. A really good UK take on a German wheat beer.

At this point, the Table football became free and provided Terry and I an energetic diversion (modesty forbids from mentioning the winners name! Close game though) and we worked up a slight thirst.

Now. Those who regularly read these waffling verbal wanderings of mine, may have noted an omission from the days efforts. No dark beer! I just HAD to put that right, didn’t I? I did it with one of my favourite beers from 2013 (previously had on cask), but this time on keg. Black Perle by Weird Beard Brewing from that there London. Being a “Coffee Milk Stout”, it was as black as you would expect. 4.5% abv, it had a gentle coffee aroma and in the mouth the coffee came though like a strong latte, shot through with a little lactic sweetness. Lovely. (As has happened before, another beer I prefer on Cask – a texture thing – but a really nice beer)

The siren call of an Imperial Stout was almost physically lifting me from the bench seating, so, bidding farewell to Mr Hamilton, we set up back up Everest (oops) Gould Street, back to the press of humanity at HQ, The Marble Arch.

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(Dancing? In an ale house? oh yes!)

Here, the entertainment mooted in the advertising was in full swing, with a 4-piece band playing their takes on Irish classics. The percussion was provided by courtesy of an enormous bass drum slung over the shoulder and hanging low, bringing to mind (for those of a certain vintage) the Viz character Buster Gonad (with his unfeasibly large testicles)! They were making a joyous racket (the band not Buster…..), but we had to head indoors for “refreshment”. Now, the idea was to snaffle a final beer. That being the Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout (at 11% abv, my sleeping draft of choice!) however, something I had wanted to try (from the complete opposite end of the abv range) was spied on cask.

Cool as a Cucumber a collaboration between Fyne Ales and The Wild Beer Co. I love Fyne. I hadn’t had anything from Wild Beer yet (though a bottle of Wildebeest is lurking in my stash) A beer with cucumber was sufficiently intriguing to sample with a pint. Oh that cucumber is there alright. The beer tasted as if it was liquified and the green colour removed. It was an absolutely refreshing, fresh cleansing beer. With the cucumber, I’m not sure I would want more than 2, but it was a stunning effort which worked. A real palate cleanser.

Now. The entertainment again. The landlady informed us that the bar was closed for a while and asked the drinkers to step back for a while. Then we saw why!

20130803_205226(This WAS a surprise!)

To the joyous strains of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”, on come 3 dancers, clad in towels. The men in the audience strained for a view! This near burlesque was a fabulous piece of theatre to say the least! A fun diversion.

Back outside to that big drum and some jolly Irish tunage. Finally, my sleeping draft de nuit. The Emelisse. The fact that it is an Imperial Russian Stout, tells you that is as black as sin. It had a gorgeous deep smoky aroma which carried through in the mouth. Sweet yet dry. Smoky, oily, vinous and warming. A gorgeous end to a superb day.

From the moment I had a paella in Piccadilly Gardens from a street food stall, to the moment I walked from The Marble with a smile on my face, this was a truly lovely day. A well-organised fest (albeit VERY busy), with superb beer, great food and excellent entertainment. To top it off, time spent chatting and laughing with old friends. Isn’t that what this beer lark is all about, eh?

Thanks to the organisers, Marble, Rob at Black Jack, The Moocher for that superb Salt Beef sarnie. Above all, Terry, Jeff and Jaz. Without whom…….

This fest is still on today. Get down there and treat yourself!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!