Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

1387627933220

“She had an horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beat.
When I looked in her eyes they were blue. but nobody home.
Well she could’ve been a killer if she didn’t walk the way she do and she do.
She opened strange doors that we’d never close again.”

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

Strangely – for someone who regards himself as fairly to moderately shy – I like meeting new people, especially ones who have a particularly strong interest in beer. I met two such at Damian O’Sheas excellent stall at the Urban Market in Salford a few weeks back. They were Dan & Gina Buck and have been selling beers at Farmers Markets for a while now. I was quite excited when I learned that they were planning to open a “Micro Bar” in the semi-arid area that is central Bolton, in the refurbished Market. The centre of Bolton isn’t exactly blessed with bars with great beer (IMO, of course) and Bradshawgate IS a bit of an obstacle course resembling downtown Beirut on a Saturday night, but I’m quite excited about what Dan & Gina have planned.

Unless I have something WAY wrong, the aim is to stock mostly (though not exclusively) local beers with an accent on flavour and quality. I for one can’t wait until the opening day, which, at the moment, is set for the 21st of this month. A diary date indeed! (BTW – The couple tweet – and retail – as @GreatAleYear). I’ll certainly be there enjoying a little “warm up” before the Manchester Beer & Cider Fest the next day!

Anyway, down to business…..

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

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

IMAG0470

1. Rednik StoutBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 4.1% abv – Stout – £2.05 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Stout + Buxton Brewery. My favourite style of beer by one of the best breweries in the UK. What can go wrong? Well, nothing! This is a cracker! (And, at the price, a bloody bargain!)

Just as a good Stout should be, opaque (courtesy of Tandleman that one!), black with a creamy tan head that released a distinct lightly sugared mocha aroma. A nice start.

Medium bodied and smooth in the mouth, the initial dark chocolate flavour combining the bitter with subtle sweetness was followed by a smooth milky coffee which mingled with a light smoky note and some tingling spiciness ending up with a bit of a dry hoppy flourish, grassy but not overpowering the roasted malty stuff. The last word I wrote on my notes was “yum!”

As far as low strength Stouts go, this is as good as it gets. Superb.

IMAG0510

2. A Little Lupy (Single Hopped – Galaxy) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj and his growing Whitefield beer selection. I had the Stormy Point collab beer from Shane last month (see here) and was as impressed as I had been when I had it on draught. Having had one or two of his “12 Bar Blues” series before, I was really looking forward to this.

Poured a lovely glowing golden colour with a thin white head which gave up a fruity hop aroma with peach and tangerine sweet citrus to the fore. Medium bodied, this beer is full of sweet citrus with tangerine up front, cut with a little lemon sharpness. Slips down really easily this. A really refreshing and fruity mouthful, gently bitter, leading to a sharp dry finish with a resinous grassy aftertaste in with the fruit. Another absolute belter at a relatively low gravity! I’m led to believe that he may be doing more single hop variants of this beer. I’m keeping an eye out for those, whilst drooling!

IMAG0512

3. Hit The Fairy LightsWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 4.6% abv – (Festive!) Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another one from Raj and, for Weird Beard, I broke my rule of not drinking “festive” beers. I have had some truly appallingly lazy “Xmas” beers and, as a result, usually shun such things. However, having been so impressed by the output from this West London brewery, I made an exception. And I’m glad I did!

Poured a pale gold with a rapidly diminished white head.  First aroma to hit was a fruity orange, then a gentle aniseed/licorice like note. Medium bodied, an initial flavour of soft citrus, maybe satsuma or orange sits on a nice bready malt backbone then, quite surprisingly a sudden resinous dryness hits with a light bitterness. There is Star Anise added to the boil in this which I got more in the aroma than in the mouth. Still, an impressive beer, and for a “Festive” pale ale, this is the best “Xmas” beer i think I’ve had short of a big Stout!

IMAG0517

4. Scary MonstersRevolutions Brewing / Five Towns Brewery (Collab) – 4.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

One of a number of beers I picked up from a visit last week to Adrian & Vicky’s Snaith emporium, including 2 more with a David Bowie theme from Five Towns (must be fans those Bastows!). Being a fan of Black IPAs, this was the first I reached for.

There is a pale twin of this beer – Super Creeps – but unfortunately, I missed it. Gutted! Being from TWO of my favourite breweries – Oh I know how this is going to go!

A really deep ruby coloured beer, would be almost black without being held up to the light. As soon as I opened this lively bottle, I was hit with a big citrus aroma (and my nose was a foot from the bottle!) Aromas shooting from the glass include tangerine and peach. Another medium bodied beer this, the first thing that I got was the citrus with those fruity aromas matched in the mouth – peach/nectarine and tangerine. This is immediately followed by a bitter note with perhaps licorice and bitter chocolate. The next layer was a tongue curling dry grassyness with some great late revealing hoppage. I don’t want this beer to end! Just brilliant – and unfortunately limited to 700 bottles I believe.

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

Now, for two start-ups! One a shop/micro bar – opening soon! The other……a World first review for a new brewery!

IMAG0518

5. Gamma Ray – Beavertown Brewery – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – or soon to be!)

I was ashamed to say that, until the Beavertown MTB at Port Street last year, I hadn’t had any of their beers. I went to the MTB purely on the recommendations of two people whose good taste I trust implicitly, Jeff & Jaz (See what I did there!). The beers were universally superb and the first that I had that evening, was this, on keg. I loved it,

When Dan from Great Ale Year Round said that he had some for launch day, I got in early!

Hazy gold, light white head clinging to the glass, the initial aroma was a lovely sweet mango with maybe just a hint of tart grapefruit in the background.

Smooth as a freshly ironed smooth thing in the mouth, more fruity mango, slightly sweet and biscuity backbone leading to a dry herbal hoppy finish. Each mouthful is just SO smooth, I could almost forget that it was bottled! So fruity yet so dry and grassy. Damn, why have I waited for so long to buy some of these? (Got an 8 Ball and a Smog Rocket lined up too. Lucky me!)

IMAG0508

6. Cuckoo Number 2Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – IPA – £4 (330ml) – Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

“Drum roll please!” – I do believe that this may be the first review of a beer by this fledgling brewer. I feel quite honoured at that! And quite daunted. Ah bollocks to the wittering!

I picked up on this brewer on Twitter the other day and made some enquiries. I swiftly realised that his beers were limited in availability and currently retail in only one location. Cuckoo on Bury New Road in Prestwich. Being the excitable type, myself and the ever lovely Atilla popped up to snaffle one for review. And at £4 for a 7% beer, from a bar, I was made up with the price! I think we’ll be back. Atilla liked the look (and smell) of the food! Busy bar, nice friendly staff. No draught ales, but Brightside & this brewer in bottle. Good enough for me!

However, it’s all about the beer. Is it any good? Damn right it is!

Starting with the bottle. No branding, just a tag, dangling like a cigarette from Alain Delon’s lips. Minimalist and damn classy! (I’m sure the brewer wouldn’t agree!). reminded me a touch of Bad Seed in that respect, with that hanging tag. But THE DAMN BEER! Oh….OK….

Amber coloured with a light white fluffy head and a lovely big citrus aroma (hopped with Warrior, Columbus & Citra) with deep grapefruit tones and a background note of toffee. A full-bodied beer with initial big grapefruit flavours mellowing in the swallow to more of a peachy tone, then it warmly slides down the throat, caressing your insides like an internal fleecy blanket. Then you breathe after the swallow and the resinous pine floods into the mouth like a wave on a beach. The finish is simultaneously fruity and dry with a more gentle resinous note hanging around like a barfly.

An impressive first beer for me from this brewer. I was lucky enough to also pick up a Smoky Stout from the brewer himself which I’ll let settle and have next week. If it’s anywhere near as good as this, you’ll be hearing about it!

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

London Calling – Craft Beer Bars In The Big City 07/03/2013

Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth (or the ready meal aisle), an invite to a swanky function in “The City”, presented this thirsty Northern Boy with an opportunity simply too good to pass up. Some new bars in virgin territory! Plonking the BM bags in t’hotel room, my buddy and I find ourselves walking along Tachbrook Street in Pimlico towards….

Cask Bar SW1

20130307_181620

Located at the corner of Charlwood and Tachbrook Streets, this is a bar I’ve wanted to visit ever since I drank at its sister bar in Brighton nearly 2 years ago. A large open plan room, with plenty of seating. fairly modern looking bar with some interesting artwork on the walls

20130307_172043

(Modern bar)

Being utterly famished, we ordered a couple of their special “heat” burgers (excellent!) and perused the bar. A goodly selection indeed including 2 each from DarkStar, Thornbridge and Buxton, there were at least 8 ales on plus 10 or so on craft keg. 2 DarkStar Sussex Extra Stouts at 4.5% were ordered whilst we awaited the food. Lovely and creamy, dark and handsome beer with a slight coffee tinge to it, an excellent start.

20130307_172105

(Interesting Artwork)

The burgers arrived, nice and spicy and needed something to deal with the spice, Buxton Dark Nights did the trick! A US Style Porter at 4.6%abv, dark brown some roasted flavour, but really well hopped. Wowsers! This, to me, is how a porter really should be, roasted malt and bitter.

My buddy was taking time to accustom himself to the Buxton, I had however demolished mine and looked for a wee half of something. Thornbridge St Petersburg Imperial Stout? Don’t mind if I do! Lovely dark coffee aroma from that tan coloured head, coffee, licorice flavours and SO much more. If you’ve never had it, it’s a beer to try before you die. Add it to your lists! (BTW, it was getting V Busy by 6 O’clock!)

Moving on, we met some associates from The Emerald Isle and had a break with a couple of Guinness. However, my craft beer muse was calling, so I grabbed a cab ‘cos my poor feet were aching in new shoes, and stopped at…..

The Holborn Whippet

20130307_205216

Located at the Kingsway end of the lovely Sicilian Avenue, 2 distinct rooms either side of a central bar. No handpumps here, but air dispense (like the Euston Tap, I think). Very friendly and helpful staff in here! More Buxton was had here, on this occasion Rednik Stout at 4.1% abv. Nutty, smooth and bloody gorgeous! Buxton can’t do wrong in my eyes.

20130307_215128

(The Whippet Cask Selection – ‘beer from the brick’ indeed!)

Introducing my companion to new beers, we next had a Kirkstall Black Band Porter at 5.5%. First time I had this was at the Leeds International fest last September. Again, lovely and smooth almost more of a stout were it not for the bitter edge, nice roasted coffee flavour. Another winner.

My pal was slacking by this time, so I sought another sneaky half. I spied a Kernel Pale Ale. But damn! Just emptied! Never mind, the really friendly barman swiftly changes for another by Kernel. 5.6%, pale and bloody seriously hoppy with a whole citrus grove leaping from the (1/2) glass! Tremendously sharp and refreshing (in a slightly boozy way!)

Jumping the tube now, one change and we were heading south of the river toward London Bridge and the world famous Borough Market. Located around the back of the market is Winchester Walk. There, in the shadow of the historic Southwark Cathedral lurks…….

The Rake

Such a tiny wee bar, but with an inordinate amount of character! Immediately welcomed by friendly bar staff, including a Northerner from Burnley! 3 ales on handpump with a number of kegged offerings. Focussing on the handpumps, we went for Ilkley Stout Mary. Another brewery that can do no wrong for me. Lovely, smooth, creamy. Some cappuccino with a light smoky hint. Yum!

20130307_223454

Fyne Ales are a brewery I’ve longed to drink on cask. Two here! This is probably what finished me off! I forsook the charms of Avalanche to dally with a pint of Superior IPA.

A pint of stupidity at 7.1% abv, this was one fabulously hoppy strong beer! Full on citrus flavours with grapefruit right up there. A fyne (groan!) end to the evening!

We got chatting to a couple from them there States, seemed to be the bar owners. Great chatting to them. Check the white boarded wall out when you go. Brewers from far and wide signing. A quirky touch!

20130307_225716

(A small section of ‘The Wall’)

Another great bar, one hell of a find and one to which I shall return next time I’m down. Takes some finding, but it’s well worth it!

With the exception of the strong Fyne and St Petersburg, prices were pretty much what you would pay in some Manchester bars, £3.60 a pint or thereabouts.

Great bars, great beer. I love this mallarkey!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!