Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 2

“I want to forget how conviction fits, but can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me? Oh oh oh oh
It can’t all be wedding cake, it can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it, can’t let go of it,

‘Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever, that’s why you will not survive!”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon)

(Clip courtesy Alphamatrix1 on YouTube)

As much as I love beer, I love music. Sometimes, I get all “High Fidelity” and start to make that dreaded nerd fest thing “The All-Time” list. Of course, tastes change over time, but some things stay the same. As John Peel used to say about The (mighty) Fall “Always different, always the same”. This phrase was used on Monday in The Guardian in an article about the new single by Spoon, which led me to this article where Britt Daniel, from the band, gave a brief run down of some of the standout tunes in their 21 year career so far.

Spoon are a band that I return to repeatedly when my musical palate feels a bit jaded. I’m not sure where the phrase “The kings of minimal indie” came from, and it’s probably not entirely accurate about what they do, but it fits, in that there isn’t anything in the tunes that shouldn’t be there. They’re stripped down, rhythmically tight, alternately subtle and powerful, delicate and driven.

It may sound rather stupid, but one of my favourite moments in Manchester in the last 2 years was being stood in Common Bar on Edge St one weekday evening, when the DJ played “Got Nuffin‘ and I found myself shambling drunkenly over to the DJ to say “Thank You”. Just one of (if not the) best bands out there, for me, at the moment. I just hope that they announce a date in Manchester for the new album!

Now for the beer…..

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. BronzeThe Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Wales) – 4.5% abv – Bitter – £2.19 (500ml) – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)

Amber coloured beer with a lovely white foamy head and hedgerow fruit aroma, plum, damson with a real spicy note along with toffee biscuit.

First mouthful is really fruity, with all that hedgerow fruit immediately apparent with a touch of blackcurrant too. Firm cheesecake biscuity malt underlay with a big carpet of fruity bitterness on top of it all.

That bitterness satays (or even “stays”!) awhile before giving space for a big grassy, almost oaky, hop aftertaste. A really big fruity bitter beer. Celt do some much more “experimental” beer, but it’s great to see them getting a beer as traditional as this, just right. Much maligned is bitter, as a style, but this, for me, is a fine example.
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2. Mild With No NameBillericay Brewing (Essex) – 5.5% abv – Strong Mild (Hmmm!) – £3.50 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
Another bottle, another “traditional” British beer style! But all may not be as labelled with this particular beer…..
Very dark beer, almost black with a tan coloured head and an aroma groaning with milk chocolate.

Full-bodied beer, lush and creamy textured. Full on chocolate assails the taste buds with this dark puppy. Chocolate digestives provide the body here then more sweet chocolate fills the mouth, coating the sides before subsiding and yielding primacy to a gentle bitterness and quite a big grassy hop finish.

Not sure that I would call this a mild personally, more Porter territory for me, but a fine beer nonetheless.

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3. Le IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorks) / Dark Star (Brighton, W Sussex) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £1.99 – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)
Amber coloured beer with a thin white head and a fruity aroma, but quite sweet, pineapple maybe?Caramel biscuit malt in this full-bodied mouthful, again fruity, but sticky like pineapple jam mixed with marmalade. Quite a bitterness follows that swallow, with a good resinous pine dollop to round off the aftertaste. Whilst it tastes every fraction of its strength, this is smooth and very easy to drink. Dangerously so, at the strength!  (Short but sweet!)IMAG17904. Rye Pale AleLiverpool Craft Brewery (Liverpool) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (ish!) (330ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

A small supermarket, on a fairly quiet throroughfare. Walk in past the checkout. And there, in the fridges off to the right, is more local beer (and “craft” from around the country) than anyone should have any right to expect! It’s bloody marvellous the range you can fit into such a small space! (And I didn’t even check out the shelves in the rest of the shop!)

A slightly hazy deep golden beer with a lasting soft creamy looking white head and quite a delicate citrus fruit aroma (maybe tangerine) with something more floral.

An interesting fruitiness to this beer, apricot maybe with more of that tangerine. But that Rye spice leads to an almost arid dryness. Really sudden. Further mouthfuls are the same, quite lush fruitiness ended quite suddenly with tongue curling dryness. Big hoppy finish to round it off. Quite unusual, but this really works for me!

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5. Le Gran DepartFive Towns Brewery (Outwood, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From The Brewer (Bought)
My stated aim. I WILL see more beers by Five Towns in the Manchester area! The only problem with this? Malcolm Bastow’s beers are THAT full of lovely hoppy goodness, that those damned Yorkies keep it all for themselves! If ever there was reason for another War of The Roses…… Anyway, so far, they will be the only brewery with TWO beers at The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Which means….that I am SO good to you lot! It really does!!! At the moment, if you want to buy his stuff, head online to Bierhuis (Ossett) & Yorkshire Ales (Snaith & Malton). They can hook you up! (Great shops both – popping in soon)
Extremely pale golden beer with a light white head and a big citrus aroma (with some bitter orange in there) – a Five Towns hallmark.
Light-bodied and very fruity with grapefruit, gooseberry, a little lemon sharpness too. Each mouthful leaves me wanting more of that uber-dry finish that follows the fruit down the throat. In later mouthfuls, an orangey character became more pronounced. A hugely refreshing beer with a good dollop of bitterness and that pine needle resinous wash at the end of the swallow. Another Outwood cracker from Mr Bastow!
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6. Pale AleRunaway Brewery (Manchester City Centre) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the brewer (swap)
I first had this (it was one of my major reasons for going!) at a recent Black Jack open event at their brewery. Mark Welsby’s brewery is the merest of cockstrides from Black Jack. Fortunately really, because when I wanted to pop in and see Mark, I had to ask the Black Jack collective for directions!
Bright and pale gold with a lacey white head and a brash boastful aroma all sharp and tart like a withering Lily Savage one liner put down. Grapefruit and lemon asserting themselves in nasal dominance.

That grapefruit tartness carries on in the mouth, building with each sip. And with each sip comes a growing bitterness. Sliding down really easily, like a beer of this strength should. Really crisp and refreshing and moreish. Nice hoppy bitter too. A fabulous session pale ale!

That’s it for now. Enjoy this summer with some great beer.
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – October 2013

IMAG0123(Straight Outta  er…Prestwich!)

“You know an I’d ruther be sloppy drunk, Sip a-tin from the can.

Now than to be out in the street, a-runnin’ from the man”

“Bring Another Half Pint” – Sonny Boy Williamson

Been a busy month this month. What with Allgates’ Road To Wigan Beer, IndymanBeerCon and the MTB with Deeply Vale of Bury, that I’ve barely paid any mind to the bottles I have been guzzling. Time to address that! Also,located another wee shop selling good beer in the Manchester area, The Liquor Shop in Prestwich. More about that later.

In the meantime….

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. Citra (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Another single-hopped pale ale from Mallinsons? Yeah? What about it? Any more whining and I’ll drag you round the back of the bar and pour lager down your throat! And it won’t be Czech either!!!

This was a super pale beer that barely touches gold on the spectrum. Quite a delicate grapefruit citrus aroma. Medium bodied and smooth drinking with a touch of sweet biscuit malt balanced by the bitter lemon/grapefruit and piney notes. Nicely bitter without being a hop assault, a more delicate touch with this hop and better for it. Nice bitter resins linger on after the glass has been drained. Another cracker. No, I won’t say how they’ve nailed single-hopped pale ales again. I won’t!……Doh!!!

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2. Piepowder IPAYorkshire Ales (Rudgate Brewery – York) – 5.2% abv – IPA – £0 (Test sample) (£2.75 from shop – 500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

One of a series of beers with their shop own label, but brewed (in this case) by Rudgate. A golden beer with a slightly surprising almost forest fruit note on the nose with a little spice. Medium bodied with plenty of toffee malt in the mouth balanced with a good degree of bitterness. The bitterness continuing into an aftertaste with hints of fresh-cut grass. Not a US-style hoppy beast by any stretch but a good full=flavoured beer.

IMAG0127(You can see how people, would confuse this with a certain sticky Ginger Beer, can’t you?)

3. Pale AleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Gtr Manchester) – 5.5% – Pale Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Hooray for Tickety Brew! There was a time, not so long ago when their survival was in doubt (but we won’t go there, will we Keri!). At the time at which that all kicked off, I was still yet to try one of their beers. It was probably that that stirred my indignation! Anyway, waffling over…to the beer!

This was copper coloured with a diminishing white head and a fruity cream soda / banana ice cream aroma. In the mouth I got more banana tinged toffee, a touch of Belgian style wit yeastyness. Back on the pale ale track with the finish which was quite fruity with a dry grassy hop bitterness to it. A more than pleasant beer. I’m looking forward to the Blonde! Nice distinctive labelling. Classy!

IMAG0128(Woah Tiger!)

4. Drink MeMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – Rye Pale Ale – 5.8% abv – £2.29 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

#3 & 4 came almost as a surprise. I was struggling a bit last week with stuff too boring to relate. I was stirring myself after a mid afternoon nap and sent a tweet about fancying a beer. I got a response from the above shop and determined to visit them the next day. A small atypical local shop dealing in all of life’s last-minute essentials. But, also beer. And unusually good beer at that. I could have bought loads, but stuck to the North West choices (Drink Local ain’t just a slogan. Oh No!)

Like the Tickety, had never had a Mad Hatter. My but this a lively sod! Had to use two glasses! A copper coloured beer with a spicy aroma and (another) hints of banana. Medium bodied and quite peppery with some treacle toffee matched with some resinous hopping. A yeasty note as well, but the bottle did erupt on opening! Given the rather full carbonation, this was a really nice first from this brewer. I can drool over the other 3 now. And, like the Tickety, nice labelling carrying the Alice in Wonderland thing through onto the packaging. Nice touch!

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5. Hop DitchRocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 6.0% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer from Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market. Does one at the old Victoria Bus Station too (Greengate)! This beer was golden with quite an assertive citrus nose. Quite dry in the mouth with a mouth puckering hit of lemon and grapefruit. Light biscuit sweetness for some balance here, but this is about the hops and damn fine they are too both in the aroma and the bitter finish with a lingering piney resin lingering. Another excellent beer from this London brewer.

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6. Bad HabitWeird Beard / Northern Monk Brew Co  (Collaboration – West London meets Bradford!) – 8.6% abv – Belgian Tripel – £4.00 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

I don’t usually do Belgian beers. Bit of a blank on my liquid CV. I’ve had the odd one, Duvel, Rodenbach Grand Cru (and its little brother) and a few more. Very nice they were too, but I’ve always had a rather Anglo beer sensibility. I need a tutor perhaps! However, having had beers by both of these brewers (and enjoying them), I thought I’d give it a go! (Selfless, I know!)

As you can see, another lively wee bugger this! Copper/golden in colour with huge carbonation and a yeasty and slightly sherbet lemon aroma with some cut grass and hint of clove. In the mouth however…BOOM! I wasn’t expecting THAT! Full bodied, yes. Atypical banana split toffee & clove, yes. But bugger me sideways this was hoppy and bitter! Spicy, resinous and mouth dryingly bitter. A corker! Like I said, I don’t really know Belgian beers that well. Maybe this shouldn’t taste like this. But I bloody LOVE it!

3 excellent retailers. 6 excellent beers. Can’t ask much more than that!

More to come….

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

A Bristol Stroll (or two!) 08-09/07/2013

I’m not overly fond of working away. Bit of a “home bird” really. But when the boss asked me to spend a few days in Bristol, I remembered how long it had been since I’d last been. 11 years. The drinking was THAT bad back then, that I spent a whole night in a Walkabout drinking Steinlager on a 2 for 1 special. Grim doesn’t do it justice.

Obviously, things would have improved. After all, I’ve enjoyed the delights of breweries like Arbor, Bristol Beer Factory, RCH etc up here. So the pubs must be better than the sham Aussie theme bar, right?

Well, I’d picked up a few tips from beery folks like Glenn Johnson (fellow blogger) and Karen from The Evening Star in Brighton, via Twitter, so on with the walking shoes!

Now then. I was staying nearly 10 miles north of the city, near the M5, so public transport was essential. Luckily, there were 2 buses into the city stopping right outside my hotel, so, rather hot and bothered in near 30c temperatures, I embarked on the single most uncomfortable bus journey I’ve ever been on. Bloody hell, I needed a pint when I got to town!

Now, Glenn writes a good blog. I’ve never met the chap (something I would love to rectify!), but I trust his judgement. So when he recommended me The Barley Mow http://beer-writings.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/a-mini-bristol-pub-crawl.html I paid attention. And made it my first port of call. And got lost. TWICE!

Having disembarked the No 1 bus near Temple Meads Station, I asked a few people waiting for another bus for directions. Nobody had a clue! Out with the google maps. A good 10 minute walk behind Temple Meads (and across a rickety-feeling metal clad bridge) located on Barton Road is…..

The Barley Mow

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Oh but I was thirsty when I got here! Lovely cool feeling pub. Lots of blue painted panelling inside this single roomed venue, with tables both out front and in a rear beer garden (fairly busy in the sun). On the bar were 8 handpumps with offerings from Bristol Beer Factory (It’s one of their pubs), Arbor, Moor and some from further afield including Marble and Alechemy. I was hot (very) and thirsty (VERY!).  I wanted something pale and refreshing, Being a BBF pub, I chose Independence. A 4.6% abv US style Pale Ale. Copper coloured and refreshingly hoppy. A damn tasty beer to cool me down.

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(A fine selection)

Now. One of the other reasons I came here. Glenn told me about the juicy burger that he had. As well as being thirsty, I was also more than a tad peckish, being a bit past my tea-time. Cheeseburger, a side of patatas bravas and a pint of Moor Rypa (a collaboration with Beavertown of London.)

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(Yum!)

The burger was lovely and juicy, with a lovely dollop of melted cheese and a generous scoop of sautéed red onions. Really juicy and tasty. Cheers Glenn! The Moor went well with the burger, quite a spicy and hoppy rye ale at 4% abv. Actually, as far as I can remember, this may have been my first Moor on cask! Damn tasty.

The bar staff were really friendly too, so, being mellowed by the beers and the indie musical backdrop (low volume), I allowed myself to be talked into a half of BBF Southville Hop on keg at 6.5% abv (there were about 8 craft kegged offerings too!). Coming in a BBF chalice 1/2  pint glass. This was pale and gorgeously, assertively hoppy but smooth with it. Lovely beer.

(I won’t mention the 3 bottles of BBF Bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout eh? No, I’ll keep that to myself!)

One of the bar staff had a boyfriend from Chorley and we had a bit of a chat. I took the opportunity to ask directions back to Debenhams (to locate my bus stop). Armed with the knowledge, I set off to locates my bus stop, fully intending another bar. I then found myself catastrophically lost! I must have walked for about an hour before I figured out where I was (yes, yes, I KNOW I was in Bristol!). All hopes of another bar evaporated . Always tomorrow, eh?

The next day, I took precautions. I got an early lift into the city, located my bus stop and left a trail of breadcrumbs! Walking past the Bristol outpost of the Aberdonian hype merchants (incidentally, REALLY well located by the river!), I crossed the Avon in search of some casked pleasures. Taking the first right after the river, then a left, I was soon on (the rather narrow) Thomas Lane, where I found….

The Seven Stars

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By this time, I was again hot, bothered and thirsty. I liked the look of this place before I walked in. Tucked away on a narrow connecting street with tables nestling on the lane in the shade of St Thomas Church. The pub was single roomed in an L shape with the unusual sight of a pool table to the rear. I plonked myself down at a table before I checked the beers. Traditional freehouse this, nary a sniff of craft keg, but a superb 12 ales to be chosen from.

My choice was from a brewery I had never previously tried, Cavendish Stout by Shardlow Brewery from Derbyshire. Nice dark brown, malty body with a slightly sweet finish I thought, given the flavour and the transparency, I’d have it as more of a sweetish poster than a stout. Did the job though! A mini beer fest was on at the pub with beers from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, nice idea.

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Being in the mood for something more…pale and hoppy now, I spied two from Oakham – Green Devil and Tranquility. On the basis that I’d had the Green Devil, I opted for the Tranquility at 6.5% abv. But hold on! Is that an Imperial Russian Stout? Trotsky from Potbelly Brewery at 7.5% abv. A half of each seemed in order!

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First, the Oakham. Really hoppy this, pale gold, lots of grapefruit citrus hops. Nice bitter finish too with a good bit of juicy malt for balance. The Trotsky was black, spicy and winey. Lots of roasted malt with more than a hint of licorice in the spice. Bittersweet finish. Nice, but ill-advised at this stage! Again, nice bar staff and friendly chatty regulars who seemed to know their beer. Given the lack of food, I asked for directions to another pub, Cornubia, which were freely given. Nice friendly pub.

Cornubia

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A hidden gem tucked away behind offices on Temple Street. A few tables on decking outside this single roomed pub – again, L shaped. Some quirky items dotted about, including what looked like an empty parrot cage! Friendly staff again. I was faced with a fine choice of beers, including 3 from Fyne in Scotland. I chose a Fyne Maverick, a dark bitter at 4.2% abv. Nice and bitter without being as assertively hopped as the Jarls and Avalanches. Slightly maltier than I expected, but quite refreshing for a dark beer! Good eclectic tunage in here, from Lynyrd Skynyrd, through Sly Stone to The Carpenters!

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(They may have sold an ale or two in Cornubia!)

This is obviously a pub that serves a wide variety of ales. The walls were simply covered in pump clips! Nice hand made pork pie in here too with some “interesting” chutneys. Including one called “Devon inferno”. Well, I had to! (And it was as hot as the pie was meaty!)

Just the one in here, didn’t want to be caught out with the buses again. One more bar to try too! Walking straight back over the river, past the aforementioned Brewdog, a straight line took me back to Rupert Street. Hmmm….where is this pub……what’s with those damned steps……?

I started to remember something from all those years ago. These “Christmas Steps” looked very steep and awfully familiar! I hauled myself up. Facing me was Zero Degrees, a relatively recent Bristol feature, but I turned right along (and up) Colston Street to….

Colston Yard

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Ever had that Deja Vu feeling? I’ve been here before. But it never looked like this! Last time I came here was over 10 years ago. It was then the Smiles’ Brewery Tap and a much smaller pub. Now, it’s owned by the equally local Butcombe Brewery. On approach, I noted the shaded tables outside, I needed to cool down again!

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Quite contemporary inside with olives and reds. Some leather pouffe style seats alongside the regular tables. Without being a multi-roomed affair, there were a few distinctly separated areas within this bar. 5 ales. 3 from Butcombe and two from Everards. With the “when in Rome” maxim to the fore, I went for a Matthew Pale Ale at 3.8% abv. I was glad that I did! Fresh, fruity (Amarillo) and refreshingly hoppy, what a nice light pint!

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Nice food as well. Notwithstanding that my first choices weren’t available, a Vegetarian tapas platter more than did the trick! Some seriously interesting bottles in here with local Wild Beer Co well represented (I picked up an 11% Wildebeest!). On another evening I would have been tempted by a bottle of Alaskan Smoked porter, but, on this occasion, I went for a half of something lighter.

That was the Beach House Pilsner from Old Dominion Brewery of Dover, Delaware in the US of A. Like a cross between Urquell and our very own Black Jack Lager, fruity/floral, golden crisp and refreshing.

Really nice bar this. For which I thank Karen Wickham profusely!

I fancied a relatively early night, so I (sh)ambled toward those “Christmas Steps”…remember, all downhill from here….!

20130709_193538(down, down, down…)

Back next week. Maybe the Meat tapas platter next time!

On that note….’til next time!

Slainte!