Towards the end of 2012, around about the time I started getting interested in beer again (and started to write nonsense about it!), my arch-nemesis Jaz introduced me to the beers of Wilson Potter. My first exposure to their ales was In The Black, in bottle. A lovely Stout.
Gradually I tried one or two more (always in bottle) and grew more impressed with these well-balanced and subtle beers. Eventually, I met Amanda & Kathryn (Owners & Brewers) at Stalybridge Farmers Market – they attend each month – and bought some more bottles, each of them impressive. However, I was growing frustrated at not having their beers on draught in the pubs that I visit. Eventually, I DID get a taste of one of their beers on draught at the last NWAF in Manchester.
In mid-February, Jaz told me that he was popping up to the brewery soon. I (of course) managed to hide under his coat and sneak in and enjoyed a perishingly cold afternoon in the brewery where HOORAH! I managed to drink some of their beers on draught, as nature intended.
A month or so later, I went back (again with Jaz) on a much warmer sunny day, to try some more and have a chat. (See below)
Located in Middleton, to the north of Manchester, the brewery is located in an industrial unit on the edge of town where Amanda & Kathryn use a 6 barrel plant (installed by PBC from Bury) to make beers that manage to be full of flavour without the need to commit assault on your palate.
The ladies met whilst working as primary school teachers in St Helens. A shared love of real ale led them to eventually try home brewing with full mash ingredients in Kathryn’s kitchen, initially using recipes found on home brewing websites.
Gradually they experimented with self-created recipes – again, full mash. Eventually, having visited other lady brewers at Prospect and Mallinsons and with Amanda attending a brewing course at PBC, the jump was made to full-scale commercial brewing, with trading commencing in October 2011.
Wilson Potter brew a number of ales utilising a variety of hops both UK & US and package them currently in both cask and bottles (bottle conditioned).
Whilst currently brewing within capacity, they brew / have brewed 21 different beers to date (including seasonals) and – in common with Privateer in Manchester – all of the beers are below 5% abv, thus bucking the trend for huge uber-hopped beers made by lots of other micros. Their current biggest sellers are Cascale, Tandle Hill and Bon Don Doon.
Plans currently are to stay as they are (vis-a-vis expanding the brewplant) other than possibly adding a couple of FVs to allow them to brew more frequently.
(The Cask Washers / Games stands! Get the micro Connect 4!)
This is a personal opinion (shared, I know, by Jaz) but Manchester pubs are missing a trick by not stocking these beers. They are brewed locally (within 5 miles or so of the Northern Quarter) by obviously skilled brewers and are full of flavour and (mostly) of session strength. I get a bit fed up with pubs sourcing beers from all over the country, when they have excellent stuff brewed on their doorstep. Along with the likes of Black Jack and Privateer, Wilson Potter beers deserve to take their place on bars in the City Centre. Come on you licensees! (Polemic over!)
Being a shy type (!), I didn’t chat to many people first time I visited, there were three of us on that occasion and I didn’t know that many people. However, on the second visit yesterday I had brief chats with Jock (who I’ve ‘chatted’ with on t’interweb) and the local CAMRA branch chair – and noted beer commenter – known as Tandleman (The names have been changed to protect the innocent!). Good informative conversations that I hope to pursue in the near future. Thanks fellas!
Anyway, the beer! On both occasions, we chose to start low abv and head upwards……
1. Cascale 3.7% abv – Dark gold coloured beer that proved the ideal start yesterday after a long warm walk. Nice and refreshing hoppy bitter beer with a hint of sweet caramel from the malt. (A & B)
2. Tandle Hill 3.9% abv – Another really nice bitter type beer. Light and hoppy, the hops aren’t overpowering but provide a nice lip-licking bitterness. An excellent session type beer. (A)
3. In The Black 4.2% – Now THIS is into my territory! Black as night with a light creamy head. A gentle mocha aroma leading to a lovely creamy roasted malt mouthful. A lovely hint of coffee in the aftertaste. Simply a superb stout. (A & B)
4. Bon Don Doon 4.2% abv – Lovely pale golden colour on this ‘blonde’ beer. A citrus aroma a bit like a hint of sherbet lemons. Lovely refreshingly citrus bitterness with more than a hint of candied lemon. Nice dry bitterness in the aftertaste. (B)
5. Ruby Red 4.4% abv – A darker red/brown beer. Nutty, fruity and even a chocolate hint! Satisfyingly full flavoured beer. (A)
6. Natural Progression 4.8% abv – Copper coloured beer. Fruity again with some vine fruit in there. A hint of malty toffee as well. (A & B)
7. Is This The Way (Amarillo hopped – geddit!) 4.8% abv – Copper coloured beer. Interesting herbal / floral hop aroma. Ooh…Forest fruity in the mouth as well as having a fresh grassy taste in there with more than a hint of licorice twig (anybody remember them?). Tastes more of its strength this one. Nice and dangerously drinkable with a nice fruity hop hit.
(A = Visit #1, B = Visit #2)
Now then. I’m biased. I love darker beers. So my vote would go for In The Black as my personal favourite. This is a beer that could replace almost any stout on the bar – especially that drab irish stuff.
Amanda and Kathryn brew beers at a drinkable strength, with bags of flavour. Beers that display more subtlety than most and are really well-balanced. I thank them both for giving me the chance to drink them in the condition they are meant to be served. Good beer in good company. Two of my holy trinity. Now for the third. Let’s be seeing this in some of those lovely Manchester pubs!
And…no. I haven’t been paid to write this. I’m just a fan!
One more thing. I couldn’t agree more with Tandleman. Their bottled beers are excellent. If you can’t buy from the brewery, they have a list of stockists on their website. Failing that, pop to Ashton or Stalybridge Farmers Markets and buy some direct from the brewers! Drink local people!
On that revelatory note….until next time (Hopefully pubs and jukeboxes!)
(N.B. If you want to visit the brewery website, just click on any logo /pump clip)