Bottled Ales – February 2015

“They’ve got their definitions and they won’t fiddle round trying to rethink them ‘cos there’s no middle ground.

Short change me and they short change the show, I almost tell myself  ‘George, change the flow’.

But they should have know better. Never send a boy to do a man’s job, that’s a waste of a go-getter.

It’s all hard work but now I got that bragging right. Try to put me in a box, but it’s not that black and white.”

(“Sad State of Affairs” – The Herbaliser ft George the Poet)

(Clip via Herbaliser TV on YouTube)

A bit of a different feel with the clip this time. One night a couple of years back, I was flicking through E-Music, looking for something to buy and I came across the album  “There Were Seven” by The Herbaliser and heard this track. I like Rap. Yes, I’m 50 years old in 8 weeks and I like Rap. I have ever since I heard the stone cold classic “Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel”. But, despite the rise of UK Rap over the last 10 years or more, nothing moved me. Until this track.

Literate, great flow and rhythm. It has everything I want. The older I get, the wider the poles, from thoughtful lyrics, message and literacy to squalling feedback and white noise. I can’t explain, I don’t have the words. I guess you like what you like. Which brings me to beer…..

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1. About ThymeBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

A pale golden beer with a light white head and the unmistakable perfumed aroma of thyme, savoury and floral.Oh WOW!!! This is a full on herbal hit! Light and refreshing with a barely discernable biscuity sweetness, this is just SO refreshing and light for a beer at this mid strength. This is just such an unusual and lovely flavour.

The other thing about it is that with a really low bitterness, this is such an easy drinking beer. Herbal thyme up front but with a nice gentle hoppy dry finish. To some people, thyme may not be up their Street, but I love this beer. My favourite that Steve has made so far. Would be perfect with some roast chicken!

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2. Chocolate PorterRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Lancashire) – 4.2% abv – PorterGreat Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
A deep ruby brown beer with lovely carbonation, producing an abundant off white head giving off a light sweet cocoa aroma.Quite full-bodied for such a mid strength beer with that cocoa / chocolate firmly in the vanguard, flavour wise. Some vine fruit too as well as a background coffee note that intensified following the swallow.

 The initial sweetness from the chocolate recedes allowing a hoppy bitterness to come through and add to that coffee to give a pronounced dry finish. A really rather lovely Porter this!
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3. Grateful Deaf (American Pale Ale) – Steel City Brewing (Sheffield) – 5.8% – Pale AleOtto
Obtained via a swap with my good buddy Otto (hope the glass got home safe!) this is a deep golden, almost Amber, beer with a lasting white head pumping out an aroma laden with sweet citrus, think orange, mandarin and a hint of Mango.Woof!!!! This is GORGEOUS! YOu get an instant hit of chewy caramel biscuit malt  which is swiftly mugged by resinous hops.  A shedload of marmalade fruit then followed by a big old resinous hit that seems to mutate into licorice root. It is a belting beer this.

The whole caboodle is rounded off by a dry resinous sticky finish. If only you could get their beer over this hill on cask. Hmmm…#ISBF2015 anyone?

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4. Baby Faced AssassinRoosters (Knaresborough) – 6.1% abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)
Beautiful can design. Really classy. Pale golden beer with a thin white head booming out an aroma containing Mango & grapefruit. Really fruity.Oh my is this a proper big IPA! Slightly sweet and chewy digestive biscuit malty base with a whole Barrow load of fruit hanging on. Mango is uppermost, sweet and tropical then tangerine and finally a hint of bitter grapefruit, maybe even a touch of pineapple. Impressively low on bitterness making this a smooth mouthful and exceptionally easy drinking. It carries its weight dangerously well.

This fruitiness eventually recedes and relents enough to give way to a fruity and quite sticky resinous finish. All in all a cracker.

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5. South Central PaleVagrant Brewing Co – 5.6% abv – Pale AleDirect from Brewer
You see what I did there? Getting the disclaimer in right at the start. I always say when I’m given something to try that I’ll only review it if (and ONLY if) I actually enjoy it……The packaging works for me. Makes me think of US liquor restrictions with that brown paper bag look. A nice hand crafted feel and touch. A good visual start.

Then the beer. A hazy righteous Manc Murky light brown /dark golden beer with a proper white fluffy head and an aroma that just reeked of the fruit basket! Peach, oranges, mango. Yum.

All fruit present and correct in the mouth too. As juicy as a packet of Starburst and no mistake! Firstly the mango and peach, then a pleasant bitterness strays across the tongue a little yeastiness to mine which (intentional or otherwise) added a slight Belgian touch. No bad thing in my book.

I was at Black Jack when the boys were brewing their first batch of this on the Six O’clock Brewing kit and was yet to taste it until now. Remedied. And how.

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6. Love LaneLiverpool Craft (Liverpool!) – 4.7%abv – Pale AleBarbeerian (Prestwich)
Just as a pale ale should be. Pale golden and absolutely bursting with citrus through that white head. Oh my!Peach, Mango, even more than a hint of sharp lime. This aroma promises SO much!….

And MY does it deliver on those promises!  Fruity. So fruity. More Mango than peach, but that lime is certainly present and correct. This is absolutely lovely and so packed with fruity goodness that there simply HAS to be at least two of your five a day in here!

Nice snappy dry and resinous finish to this accomplished Pale Ale. A beaut.

 

Well. That’s it until the next batch of beery waffling and wittering. Drink Local people!
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Part 2

” If you’re lonely, I will call. If you’re poorly, I will send poetry.

I love you. I am the milkman of human kindness. I will leave an extra pint”

(“The Milkman of Human Kindness” – Billy Bragg)

Isn’t it strange how some things just grab you? Strangely, I found myself in tears with this song. It gets me every time!

Many people look at Billy Bragg  and just think of  “that left-wing loony”, the rent-a-mouth who is rolled out every time that the press want a socialist to pass comment on events that they can sneer at. Let’s face it, few in today’s “Labour” Party fit that particular bill! But that view of Billy misses a huge fact. He is one of the greatest songwriters of my generation, in a kind of spartan way, up there with Costello for me.

What it also misses, is some of the great love songs he has written – just listen to “Must I Paint You A Picture” and see what I mean! Delicacy and poise, where all people expect is thrashing guitars and a snarl. It also misses the warmth of a live Bragg performance. Having seen him live on more than a few occasions now, my faith in human nature never fails to be partially restored on exiting the venue. The man gives a shit. And I love him for it. Rant over!

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles too!

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….

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1. Stout – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Stout – £4.20 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

It wasn’t so long ago that I hadn’t heard of Squawk or Oliver Turton, grateful to John Clarke the Sage of South Manchester CAMRA for bringing them to my attention. The first couple, (India Pale Ale & Porter) have been a superb start, so I leapt on this when I saw it on the opening day at BlackEdge Brewery’s excellent new bottle shop! (Read more here)

Black. (No shit!)

Not a massive head, but what there is is tan coloured. Bit worried about this, but needn’t have! The aroma is of a chocolate neither sweet nor overly bitter with an earthiness to it. Full-bodied, the beer has a slight sweetness with chocolate and a slightly bitter coffee note, really smooth and creamy texture with a finishing bitterness which is rather nice! The aftertaste has more of that roasted bitterness with a grassy hop note.  A great beer on a cool spring evening. Another cracking beer from this Manchester brewery!

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2. High TeaRoosters Brewery (Collab with Melissa Cole) (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 6.2% – Jasmine Green Tea IPA – £4.59 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

I read a lot about this Yorkshire brewery and, to be honest, I haven’t had much of their beer and when I have, it has been at the tail end of the evening, when – if I’m honest – the taste buds have been a wee bit over worked (ONE way of putting it!). Following a twitter conversation with David BishopI decided that I needed to give Roosters a try when I’m…err….sober. So…I alighted on High Tea..Jasmine…Melissa Cole…so far so good!

A pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head and a fruity aroma that I’m struggling to identify. Oooh this is nice! Full-bodied and smooth, a bready malt base supports this fruitiness that carries through with the green tea following in line.

The flavour reveals in onion like layers. First the fruitiness, then the tea and then a more floral delicate flavour reveals itself and after every mouthful there’s a drying bitter almost tannic finish with the fruitiness and the tea holding on throughout. If only green tea tasted this good on its own, I’d drink it!

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3. DBA – Cheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4.6& abv – Strong English Ale – £3.59 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Let’s hear it for a good old English ale! Personally, I would call this a strong bitter, a maligned drink in these “C-Word” obsessed times. I love New World hoppage as much as the next drinker, but I am starting to feel like traditional beer styles are being written off – a dangerous thing in my opinion. I love a good creamy Mild and a well executed bitter can be every bit as rewarding as a big IPA. Sod it, it’s all opinion eh? Shane Swindells is adept at many styles, so this was more than worth a dabble…

Mid brown beer with a white head and quite a fruity aroma, hedgerow fruit like damson and plum. Medium bodied, this is really fruity with lots of plum and a hint of blackberry and vine fruits – actually, with hints that are rather reminiscent of Vimto! – leaving a rather curious warming feeling given its relatively light strength. A proper strong English bitter, not something I drink much of these days, but I’d certainly drink THIS again!

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4. Dark Rum – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.6% abv – Porter – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% off 12 or more bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Another gleaned from my recent visit to the new BlackEdge Brewery outlet. A cracking place if you’re near Horwich (or even browsing around at Middlebrook!).

Unsurprisingly black with a light tan head and a chocolate and slightly smoky aroma. Oh yes! First flavour impression was of a treacle toffee, then that the treacle was coated in chocolate, then was soaked in some rum….layered like an onion!

Full-bodied and smooth, the light chocolate carries on through each mouthful but with each, the sweetness of the rum comes through more and more. The finish is quite dry and there is a distinct grassy hoppy aftertaste. Glad I waited for this. Superb. Need another bottle!

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5. Cuckoo Number 6 – Five Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, N Manchester) – 7% abv – US IPA – Swap (330ml) – 0 – Direct from the brewer himself!

I’m immensely proud that (I think) I was the first blogger to review one of the fine beers brewed by Jamie Hancock, ex of Port Street Beer House – now of Beermoth on Tib Street. He has now, commercially, brewed a number of beers in different styles that have met with almost universal acclaim – certainly within my earshot anyway! With a little investment in larger brew kit, he’ll be going far.And soon! You heard it here 41st!

I was gutted that I couldn’t make his Keg launch on Wednesday of a variant of his excellent Smoked Stout, I don’t say that lightly either. I was therefore forced into the welcoming embrace of this beer….. which was…

Deep gold with a lasting white head and an aroma with Lemon and maybe Apricot. OOH! Big dirty hoppage in here!

Big body with some jaffa cake marmalade sweetness immediately pounced on and wrestled to the ground by resinous hops! Fruity with orange and apricot in the bitterness, this is a full on flavoured beer, but again, really smooth and easy drinking.

Each beer Jamie makes just gets better and better. The finish is fruity and dry with that resinous afterteaste lurking in the shadows. A superb beer!

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6. 300Five Towns Brewery /North Riding Brewpub (Wakefield/Scarborough) – 7.3% abv – DIPA – £0 – 0% – Direct from the brewery

I’ve liked the beers made by Malcolm Bastow from the first sip. This man can brew on that 2.5 barrel kit in his “shed”. Beers from 2.9% to an Imperial Stout, all fabulous. Why pubs and shops over this side of the hill aren’t knocking down his door still phases me, only Allgates seem to have got the message about his beers. Wigan drinkers are lucky sods and there’s another 4 casks over here for The Road To Wigan Beer next week! If I had a shop or pub….. And don’t get me started about the tremendous beers made by Stuart Neilson  at his Scarborough brewpub!

Bright and pale gold with a nice white head and a huge mango aroma, really fruity, making my mouth water!

Really full-bodied. There’s plenty of bready malt lending a slight sweetness supporting a massively fruity hop charge, oh but this is HOPPY!  With bucket loads of mango dancing around my mouth, it was coated with a tropical fruity goodness. Mouthful after fruity mouthful!

This merits a #Beergasm and no mistake! A gentle, barely perceptible bitterness among the fruity hop assault leads to a  pine and big grassy finish. An absolute belter up there with any DIPA I’ve had.

“Let’s Give Them Something To Drink” Indeed!

A really strong batch of beers this week, but this is probably the best bottle I’ve had so far this year – and THAT is saying something!

Right then…I’m off for a cold shower!

On that note…’til next time…(The Road To Wigan Beer next week – on the bus!!!)

Slainte!

P.S. Given the recent excellent blogging efforts of  Glenn Johnson on Weight Loss whilst still drinking and the continuing excellence of Paddy McGrath, I have been shamed into following in their rather large footsteps and will henceforth be trying to lose weight whilst drinking excellent beer. At the end of each week’s bottle post I shall not how I’m doing and am doing this by merely curtailing my snacking habits.

Last Monday 07/04/2014, I weighed a ludicrous 17st 12lbs. This morning, I am down to 17st 3lbs. A good start I suppose!

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

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I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

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The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

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Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

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(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

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(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

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Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

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3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!