Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 : My “Dance Card”

MBCF

Welcome to the beer festival that shows that CAMRA “do” UK Keg! Yes, I KNOW that the Campaign has had numerous kegged beers over the years! BUT…..These are beers brewed in the UK, mostly not designed to be dispensed from a cask. That is BIG news. To be celebrated.

And it has moved from the (“a little bit awkward to get to”) Velodrome – an iconic modern venue – to somewhere infinitely more “Central”. And more historically iconic. A Mancunian architectural masterpiece. And THAT should also be celebrated.

That out of the way, I’m a lucky sod. I get to see the beer list. And it is a big list. And – instantly removing anything from Marstons – there is something for everyone. Even me.

So. Being a “tactical drinker” at beer festivals, I compile a plan of attack – a “dance card” if you will, that panders to my Northern sensitivities. Others may list beers from that there London. Not I. With one exception (noted and explained below) mine are from no further South than Crewe and no further North than Malton.

A narrow focus.

But I care precisely how much?

Here we go, in strength order. Like I said, “tactical drinking”….. And, just in case you’re interested in trying any of these yourself, I’ve included the bar on which to find them. Because I’m nice like that!

No 2 Stout – Stringers Beer – Stout – 4% abv – Bar 3

A beer that I absolutely adored in bottle from the very first sip about 3 years ago. And I have NEVER had in on cask. I have often gazed at the pump clip on the wall at Port Street and whimpered. Envious.

Bitter and roasted. As black as Donald Trump’s evil heart. I will be distraught if I don’t get to try this. My #1 priority.

Admiral Porter – Brewsmith Beer – Porter – 4% abv – Bar 1

Why? Because it’s Brewsmith. And James Smith (see what he did there?) has yet to put out anything less than excellence.

And the Admiral hop gives the lie to those who whinge that UK hops are crap. It’s an aromatic beauty of a thing.

Sorachi Ace – Mallinsons Brewery – (Single Hopped) Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Bar 2

Why? Stupid question. It’s Mallinsons. And it’s a single-hopped Pale Ale.

And – in the words of Carly Simon – “Nobody does it better”. I’ll be having a pint.

At least one….

Talisman IPA – Pictish Brewing – Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Pictish Brewery Bar

A brewery that is in need of better PR. They should be HUGE. Possibly the most underrated brewery in Greater Manchester. Brewers of simply outstanding single-hopped Pale Ales.

Unmissable.

Mr Scruff Pale – Squawk Brewing – Session IPA – 4.6% abv – Bar 3

Oliver Turton has been quietly brewing some of the best beers in Manchester for the last two years. That’s enough reason to do this.

And I love the Centennial hop.

Lupy Lager – Offbeat Brewery – Lager – 4.7% abv – Bar 2

A cask conditioned lager from one of my very favourite breweries? And it’s a one-off? Damn those CAMRA oiks! I’ll be having words with Miss Kelsall about that…..

Again, unmissable….

Orange and Rosemary Belgian Pale – Bad Seed Brewery – Belgian Pale – 5% abv – Bar 1

Rosemary in beer can be herbal Marmite to some. But I love it. And Bad Seed would be just the brewery to pull this off.

Looking forward to trying this HUGELY.

Bitter Chocolate Stout – Runaway Brewery – Stout – 5% abv – Runaway Bar

A new beer to me from the best and most consistent new brewery in Manchester. Mark Welsby makes good beer. For those with no love of keg, prepare to be converted.

Mancunian Evil Keg Filth of the highest order. And you can quote me on that!

Marmite Stout – Ticketybrew / Quantum BrewingStout – ? abv – Bar 3

Two breweries unafraid to try something different. Or unusual. This beer can be safely said to tick BOTH of those boxes.

This sounds inspired. It’s certainly interesting!

Pale Rye (Name TBC) – Track / Matt Dutton – Pale Ale – ? abv – Bar 3

OK. Track are banging out some tremendous beers with arguably the strongest core range of any Manchester brewery. I’ve been saying for AGES that Sonoma is a Manchester classic.

Factor in a collab with the best home brewer in the UK, Matt Dutton, this is going to be special! I have sampled several of Matt’s beers and he – should he choose to go commercial – is a star in the making. This beer rates as priority #2. Unmissable.

AllDay Coffee IPA – Allgates/Manchester Beer Week – Coffee IPA – 5.1% abv – Bar 1

A Coffee IPA brewed especially for the festival by the most drinkable of breweries and Connor Murphy wearing his MBW head. Read the blog piece and it sounds AMAZING!

Centennial – Torrside Brewing – Porter – 5.4% abv – Bar 3

I have been lucky enough to try beers brewed at home by each of the Torrside triumvirate. It was therefore no surprise at all when they hit the ground running when they launched late last year.

My heart lies in darkness. Torrside make great beers. A marriage made in….

Nouvelle Saison: Beetroot and Horseradish –Alphabet Brew Co – Saison – 6% abv – KeyKeg Bar

I wouldn’t miss this flavour mix for all the tea in….. Intriguing to say the least!

Sorachi Grey – Five Oh Brew Co – IPA – 6.5% abv – Bar 1

If Jamie Hancock puts his beer in cask, it is both a rare event (wonder where he did it first?) and unmissable.

This man brews good beer.

Victoria Export Stout – Bexar County Brewery – Stout – 6.7% abv – Bar 1

My sole selection from south of Crewe. Why? Because I think that I have had 3 beers that this man has brewed. All excellent and two of those (a collab with HDM and his Pecan Coffee Mild) were among the best beers I’ve had in years!

And it’s pronounce BEAR. “The X is silent. The Beer speaks for itself” Indeed….

And finally……

Rampart – Ossett/Brass Castle Collab – IPA – 7% abv – Bar 2

“Heavily hopped West Coast style IPA. Tangy bitterness & intense grapefruit, floral & tropical fruit flavours.” – Case rested!

Well. That’s that. As Rabbie Burns allegedly said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, so (like last year) I’m bound to miss one of these. But it won’t be for the want of trying!

It’s Tryanuary. Get ticking!

tryanuarydownload

 

And for those who want to plan ahead, here is the link to the full UK beer list! http://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/uk-beers/

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – April 2015

Bottles don’t appear to have been a priority in the last few weeks. Which isn’t of itself a bad thing. It’s always nice to get out to some excellent hostelries, as I have done for the last month or so.

However, I have also been lucky enough to come across some absolutely belting beers (including the best bottle I’ve had this year so far!) So, with neither further blather nor ado….Let’s begin!

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Body SnatcherBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2 %abv – BitterBrowtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

A golden beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma slightly sweet and fruity with peach and a hint of apple.

Medium bodied, this beer has that slightly sweet fruity initial flavour with again peach  and some stewed plum and forest fruit and a flowery fragrant flavour that I can’t quite pick, backed up with a bracing bitterness.

That sweetness gives way to quite a grassy and resinous aftertaste and finish. This takes me back to beers from my youth, maybe just a wee bit more bitter. And that’s no bad thing!

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Small SaisonBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale straw yellow beer with a light persistent fluffy head giving a spicy yeasty nose with notes of banana and a little gooseberry.

Oh yes. This’ll do Monkey! Tart, dry and spicy. Banana again upfront, but soon retreats in the face of some sharp and tart lemon notes which in turn yield ground to that yeasty Saison spiciness. Yum.

Second mouthful and there’s a little Sauvignon Blanc winey sharpness and tartness, that tartness leading to a short and very dry spicy finish. An incredibly refreshing beer.

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Triptych No 3Wiper and True (Bristol) – 6.7%abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)

Copper golden in colour, lively carbonation giving a big white head and an aroma reminding me of orange toffee.

Big bodied beer this. Smooth textured and really fruity with peach, orange marmalade and a hint of blackcurrant lurking at the back, also an almost yeasty dryness to finish on the swallow. Mmmm….

This beer doesn’t hide its strength as it’s quite warming as it slides down. More fruit in the second mouthful, with plum and more hedgerow blackberry sitting on top of the marmalade, jammy and spicy. The finish is fruity and dry leading to a sticky herbal and slightly resinous aftertaste. A proper English IPA. Big and fruity and beautiful.

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JOEFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 4.7%abv – Coffee IPAEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown beer with a light and fluffy white head and an aroma of woah….. Cold coffee. Mmmmmm…….

And oh yes…. That coffee comes through loud and clear! Lovely smooth and bitter coffee flavour in full effect but with quite a spicy hop kick at the end.

Smooth and medium bodied in the mouth, this is as good as it was on cask. The coffee is potent enough, the bitterness of the brew being added to by the grassy hops that come through in the finish.

When I first heard of this, it sounded ludicrous. But it works. Really well. Black coffee and hops. What’s not to love?

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Mint Choc StoutTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 5.2% abv – StoutEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown almost black beer with a cream coloured lacey head with a light aroma of chocolate powder and spearmint.

Another of their limited bottle “Tickety Few” range, this is medium bodied and really smooth. The flavours are really subtle and take a while to reveal their charms. First up is the chocolate, which manages the trick of not being too sweet.

Second mouthful gives a little of the mint which is very subtle and takes some finding. This may be down to using mint leaves as opposed to any extracts, which is to be applauded.

Further mouthfuls build on the minty hint and the beer takes on a pleasing kind of light mint Aero quality. The signature Belgian yeast lends its hand to a rapidly drying finish and also imparts a spicy note to proceedings.

Another really nice beer from this increasingly impressive brewery. I’d love to try this on cask.

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Calibration SourChorlton Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.3% abv – SourBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale golden and lightly hazy with a decent white head and a lightly sour and Orangey citrus aroma from the addition of Amarillo hops.

Hmmm…. A palate cleanser and no mistake. The first sip had me salivating like a rabid dog! This is surprisingly enjoyable (and I say that because Sour beers aren’t exactly my “go to” style)

Yes it is sharp and has a saliva inducing acidity, but this beer isn’t as enamel stripping as some sours that I’ve had. This has a distinct citrus fruitiness working in harmony with the sourness making it a very thirst quenching and (I go back to that phrase) surprisingly enjoyable!

The lingering aftertaste is quite marmaladey and dry.

An excellent beer. Looking forward to Dark Matter now!

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Imperial IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) 9.5% abv – Imperial IPA – Epicurean(W Didsbury)

Deep golden, almost copper coloured beer with an abundant yet quickly dissipating white head with a booming peach and Mango aroma with a hint of mandarin.

Drinks a lot easier than such a beer should! First sip reveals fruity sweetness, deep and quite savoury, heavy with mango. Almost a medicinal note – my mind off cure!

Warming and soothing add it slides down the throat too. I swear this could be just the thing to cure my little chest problem!

Big chewy malt base that these hops dance on that fruitiness is ever-present and fades only slightly into a big sticky resinous aftertaste. Impressive.

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Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

A bright golden beer with thick white head and a hugely fruity nose with gooseberry and a little orange in there.

Oh bloody hell this is good! That gooseberry upfront is bloody tart in this medium bodied belter. The fruitiness dries out almost immediately making me pocket my lips and suck in my cheeks like a Les Dawson housewife sketch! Wow that is dry!

That arid fruitiness is backed up by a bracing bitterness too and the whole is tied up with a resinous bow of an aftertaste and finish.

I had this as one of my beers at MBCF this year. That was good, but this is so much better! Woof!

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Smokehouse PorterCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.2%abv – Porter – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
I had to hunt this beast down, having been told by a colleague who saw it in the Cheshire Smokehouse in Altrincham. It was worth it!

A big dark brown almost black beer with a creamy beige head and an aroma full of chocolate and dark fruits with just a hint of wood smoke.

Oh my. This is a proper beer.

Full bodied beer this. An initial chocolate sweetness slides into a chewy fruitiness full of dark fruit. This, in turn, yields palate space to a little salty tang before that smokiness pushes to the front. At this point, my gums are tingling.

A second mouthful and the dates make their chewy fruitiness more felt, merging and blending with the chocolate to make more than the sum of their parts. In the aftertaste, I don’t know if it’s from the dates, but this starts to have a dessert wine note to it, slightly – but not overly – sweet and gently warming.

This is one hell of a beer. And one which feels as if it would just love to be drunk along with a slab of rich fruit cake. And I have another bottle. Which I’m saving for Xmas. To go with……

Bloody gorgeous stuff.

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OAPNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) / Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 9.6%abv – Double IPA – Direct from the brewers.
I spoke to Malcolm Bastow shortly before his retirement from his career as a mental health nurse. He was going to focus on brewing full-time. Obviously, this required commemorating with a beer, so he arranged a collab with the fellow hop fiend Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough. I saw Stuarts’ tweet mentioning OAP DIPA. And given that they collaborated on my favourite DIPA so far, the mighty 300, I had to have it.

Quote the bottle label “May Cause Confusion” – Hmmm…. This Amber coloured beer has a light white fluffy head with a full aroma of mango and peach tropical fruitiness.

Oh me oh my!!! This is a bar room bully!!! Full bodied is an understatement, this is certainly a big beer. And knowing how much Stuart Neilson & Malcolm Bastow like their hops, I should have expected no less!

Christ on a bike, there is a bit of everything in here!  There is tropical peach & mango, there is a bit of grapefruit, there is a while bloody forest of resinous pine, this is just so damn juicy and….. Well…. BIG!

Chewy malt, with a little toffee biscuit sweetness, meets a hop store used without restraint. This is bloody gorgeous. And maybe the best DIPA I’ve had yet (and they brewed the previous best with their 300 collab!)

Just a big juddering, knee-trembling beergasm! The best bottle so far this year. (And I’ve had a few!)

Now, for breakfast and some serious loin girding, prior to this lunchtime’s Road To Wigan Beer bus. COME ON!!!!
Tune
“Beneath the stars there are the bars that serve the bitter drink
The barman smiles at me, his wife she gives a secret wink

They listen patiently to me, my story I unfold
I see their faces change, the lights grow dim I’m losing hold”

(“Life In The Air Age” – Be Bop Deluxe – Clip courtesy of #BeBopDeluxe via YouTube)
In about March 1979, whilst listening to John Peel on a feeble transistor radio under my blankets in a cold Salford bedroom, he played a track which rocked my 13 year old world. It was called “Art Empire Industry” and was from the album “Sound On Sound” by a band called Red Noise. Thus began my love affair with the music of Bill Nelson.
Eventually, over a number of retrospective purchases, I acquired his entire oeuvre to that point. The man can play guitar. He made a guitar sound like seagulls, trains, space ships. His playing entranced me. Be Bop Deluxe, were a rock band that Nelson formed in Yorkshire in about 1972. They only had one real hit single “Ships In The Night” which was taken from the Sunburst Finish album, as was the track above (although this is the live version from the Live In The Air Age live album (which was to promote the Sunburst Finish & Modern Music albums)
Bill Nelson was one of the first 5 live artists I saw & when he toured “Quit Dreaming” at Manchester Poly (Cavendish Hall) in May 1981. I last saw him perform tracks from his entire back catalogue at the Manchester Academy in 2004. To finally hear Be Bop Tracks performed live, by the man himself, brought me to tears.
The reason I’ve included this track, other than the fact that I adore it? Bill is originally from Wakefield. Five Towns territory.

Bottles Ales – June 2014 – Pt 2

“So he paints a pretty picture and he tells you that he needs you

and he covers you with flowers and he always keeps you dreaming.

If he always keeps you dreaming, you won’t have a lonely hour.

If a day could last forever, you might like your ivory tower.

But the night begins to turn your head around…….”

(“The Night” – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons)

(Clip courtesy of FayteKnightmare on YouTube)

One of the few high points of Motown Chartbusters 10, a series of albums that arguably peaked at No 6 and thereafter were the vinyl embodiment of The Law Of Diminishing Returns. 10 was moderately weak, but 11 & 12 I have disowned.

Who needs “Oh What A Night” and the dubious subject matter of “You’re Ready Now”, “The Night” has a bass line to die for, just a perpetual rumble, overlaid with the harmonies, brass, skittering strings. A Northern Soul classic that isn’t aired enough for me, never fails to make me “dad dance” in the kitchen!

On to the beer eh?

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. Pale Ale (Simcoe) – Wiper and True (Bristol) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.39 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls –The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A mid-golden coloured beer with a thin and rapidly dissipated white head (unclean glass the likely culprit!) Quite hazy, must have let some yeast slip through.

A full-on aroma of mango and peach tickling the nostrils and getting the saliva glands working overtime. Nicely full-bodied (considering the strength). Real full-on fruitiness with this, mango sweetness scored with a hint of tart grapefruit. Smooth mouthfeel, each mouthful just gets fruitier – starting to think how many of my 5 a day I’m getting from this!

Nice bit of pine needle in the finish to this, with the bitterness quite dialled down adding to the smooth feel. A really good fruity pale ale.

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2. Saison le Printemps –  Burning Sky (Firle, East Sussex) – 4.2% abv – Saison – £2.99 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A glowing bronze colour to this well carbonated beer, with a tight white head, quite creamy looking, giving an aroma sweet with banana split toffee, clove and something more perfumed, almost rose-water?

Light on the tongue, the floral flavour is the first thing that springs to mind in the mouth, that and a spicy note. Then clove strokes the tongue sweetly. The finish is quite grassy, spicy and dry.

Overall, whilst I don’t claim to know much about saisons, this Spring beer is hugely refreshing and light. Isn’t that the job they were originally brewed for? Job done. Damn well.

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3. Single Bramling – Ringway Brewery (North Reddish, Stockport) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

Crystal clear amber beer with a lacy bright white head and an aroma groaning with malty toffee and stone fruit, some plum and maybe a little blackberry.

Initially fruity with those hedgerow fruits like blackberry and some deep plum, a little orange too. Quite spicy and peppery too balancing the caramel biscuit malt sweetness which smoothly leads to a quite bitter finish. An oaky, lingering peppery hop aftertaste rounds this off nicely.

Paul is unapologetic in his use of British hops and swims against the current brewery tide in their rush for citrus mouth wreckers. He is Damn right and I applaud him for it. He aims for flavourful easy drinking beers. With this, he is bang on target.

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4. Quirky Kiwi – Offbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 4.6% abv – NZ Pale Ale – £2.65 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

A lovely golden colour to this, with good carbonation, a nice clinging white fluffy head giving up citrussy aromas of peach, passion fruit and a little tangerine.

Ooh, this is rather nice! Smooth and medium-bodied but with a nice prickly carbonation (if that makes sense?). Really fruity, the passion fruit upfront, with kiwi and a little peach. SUCH an easy drinking beer, this could be dangerous on cask! This smoothness extends to the bitterness, which is restrained, but still present leading to a pleasant grassy hop aftertaste.

A little cracker. And at less than £2.40 a bottle (with discount) – a bloody bargain!

IMAG16015. Cascade – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.20 (500ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

Orange golden beer with a fluffy clinging white head and a smell laden with citrus with a hint of lemon, some orange fruit and grapefruit. Really aromatic.

Medium-bodied, quite smooth textured with a gentle carbonation, this is beautifully fruity in the mouth. Feeling bigger than a 4% beer, this has a good malty biscuit backbone overlaid with bitter grapefruit, nice and tart with a bitterness that grabs your attention. That bitter grapefruit lingers long into the aftertaste, quite bracing. All the way down the glass. Lovely!

This could be a cracking session beer on draught – it was the pick of their beers at Blackedge’s open bar last week!

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6. West Coast Pale – Liverpool Craft Beer Co (Liverpool) – 6.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

Deep golden almost amber coloured beer, with a good deep white foamy head and a booming spicy tart citrus aroma, woof!

Full-bodied, gentle carbonation and really smooth feel to this. First impression in the mouth was of malty sweetness laced with apricot liqueur, which yielded primacy to something more like a bitter Seville orange with a sharp and tart lemon and grapefruit tinge lurking in the shadows. Bit of a Belgian style yeasty tinge too.

Low on the bitterness scale, there is a clinging sticky pine in the aftertaste which finishes it nicely.This is just SO smooth and lush and quite dangerously moreish at this strength.

There you go. Next time, I shall address the dire lack of dark beers!

Off to Black Jack & First Chop later. Anyone coming?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Just learned that Bobby Womack is dead and a star has just fallen from my sky. RIP Bobby – A TRUE Musical Legend.

 

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 2 – Manchester, So Much To Answer For

“If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground,

As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight.

Far from home, Elephant Gun let’s take them down one by one….”

(“Elephant Gun” – Beirut)

(Video courtesy of 4AD Records on You Tube)

About 4 years ago, I subscribed to a music download website called E-Music. I’d gotten bored with buying cheap compilations whilst supermarket shopping. Through this website, I rediscovered my love of music but in particular, guitar led music. It was though E-music that I discovered the delights of Spoon (from Austin, Texas), The Decemberists (Portland, Oregon) and Beirut (Albuquerque, New Mexico via New York)

I gleaned from the website that Elephant Gun was a popular track by this band, it was therefore the first that I sampled. I was, quite simply, blown away. Part Mexican marching band, part Eastern European village folk and the most lovely warm and slightly sad voice. That voice is Zach Condon. He is Beirut and played most – if not all – the instruments on that album “Gulag Orkestar”. I was even more flabbergasted when I learned that he wrote most of these songs and arrangements when he was about 16 years old! A young man with an old soul. I love them. The 2nd album “The Flying Club Cup” is more than worth a listen too!

Time for business. The business being beer!

Being a bit of a contrary old git, I hit upon a fantastic idea. Why not write a post about Manchester bottles, whilst firmly ensconced in that there Big Smoke? Yeah, brilliant, until you need to add the weight of 5 bottles and a laptop to the considerable luggage that I was already taking! Silly boy! But, here we are. Never said that I wasn’t an idiot!

Now normally, I do try to post on the E of Eight O’Clock on the Saturday morning (you really can’t beat a bit of morning regularity!), however, my schedule was a bit set back when the hotel “tidied up” the glasses that I brought down from Manchester. They went walkabout for 3 days! Hence, when you view the image for the Elephant Hawk, I was drinking out of tumblers!!! Enough waffling…….

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, 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. Elephant Hawk IPA – (Collab) Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) & Thirst Class Ale (Richard Conway) – 6.4% abv – IPA– £4.59  – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The inspiration for today’s rather exceptional (IMHO) tune! I’ve met Richard (Jay’s collaborator) on a couple of occasions, nice bloke and another of these devilishly talented members of the Manchester Homebrewing Group. Jay, being an exceptionally talented alechemist himself, has a rather canny knack of choosing excellent collaborators, had he done it again?

An amber (indeed) coloured beer, white head and a big citrus fruit aroma loaded with sharp grapefruit. Then, in the mouth, BOOM! Really full-bodied and fruity with a big caramel biscuit backbone supporting HUGE hops! Hugely piney with more than a hint of apricot to my gob, this is a BIG beer. Gorgeously bitter with and aftertaste that is grassy as hell, big, sticky resins clinging on. A simply superb collaboration! I missed it on cask, but reliable intelligence reports (Arch-Nemesis!) said it was tremendous. I just hope Jay brews it again!

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2. Porter – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Porter– £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“I got a feeling, feeling. You’ve got me rocking and a reeling”! (Sorry, listening to The Four Tops whilst typing!)

Got this as part of a 2 for a £5 offer from Raj, but left this one a while having really enjoyed their IPA. The Darkside was calling the night before I left for London.

A deep ruby brown colour with a thick creamy (texture & colour) head, yielding an aroma including spice and mocha. A full-bodied beer, really smooth and creamy textured, the first flavour that I hit reminded me of chocolate ice cream, then a nice mid strength bitter chocolate with a little choccy caramel sweetness luring you into a quite hoppy and bitter finish. Nice resinous aftertaste too. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Excellent!

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3. Black PortBlackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 4.9% abv – Stout – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

Draught cask ale? Loads. But nary a bottle from this Horwich brewer. But bottling commenced before Xmas, I’d just been lazy. The night before I travelled down to reside in this Thames Side hotel for the last week, I hit upon the theme for this blog post, but was missing two Manchester area bottles…..To the rescue came Dan Buck from Great Ale Year! He’s a top bloke!

A black beer (“no shit Sherlock”, I hear you groan!), hugely lively with a massive cream coloured head with a chocolate and slightly sweet boozy note – the Port perhaps? Medium-bodied with initially chocolate in the mouth with some sweetness from the Port coming through. Then my rather defective tastebuds thought they got a sweet touch of strawberry! Later mouthfuls reached the developing big chocolate rounded off by a substantial hoppy character. Well. Defective tastebuds or no, I loved this! More please!

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4. FCB – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.6% abv – Bitter – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I llove Rik Garner’s beers, almost as much as the funky soulful tuneage he blasts out in his DJ sets in his railway arch brewery cum live venue cum nightclub! Keep an eye out for his once a month open nights, they’re superb!

Amber coloured beer with a nice fluffy white head clinging on with an aroma of peach and tangerine with some grassyness. Quite medium bodied for the strength with more hints of peach or nectarine, a little orange and a tiny hint of raspberry, quite a degree of bitterness with a nice pineyness (a word?) to it. The finish is bitter with a crackling resinous pine aftertaste. Another belter. This could develop into a standby beer – my ultimate accolade, as I rarely drink the same beer twice! (But I’m not a ticker. Oh No!)

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5. Dubbel – Tickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 6.5% abv – Belgian-Style Dubbel – £2.89 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another from Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent stall on Bolton Market. I need to visit more and keep up with their expanding range!

A really deep ruby coloured beer with quite a fruity sweet nose with a hint of chocolate. Quite refreshing for such a relatively high abv beer, medium bodied, there is a bit of boiled sweet in this as well as some fruity plum and a little spicyness which becomes more prominent in the aftertaste and the lingering tingle in the gums. I like TB and this was the one beer that I held back on, unsure if I’d like a dubbel – not sure I’ve tried many to be fair, but this is my favourite of their beers so far.

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6. Cuckoo Number 7 – Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 6.5% abv – Bergamot & Peppercorn Saison– £4 (500ml) – Prestwich Beer Festival but also (possibly) Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

I first sampled this whan that nice man Darren Turpin (accompanied by the lovely Jo, opened the bottle that he purchased at the Prestwich beer Festival. I really enjoyed the taste that I got, but yearned for a somewhat larger measure. So I bought one!

An effervescent golden beer with a floral aroma and a hint of fruity peach, the head diminishing rapidly. That lovely delicate aroma leads you to a full body and more floral notes (that’ll be the bergamot then!) with more tropical fruit. The slight surprise (which shouldn’t be really!) comes when the gums start to tingle. Ahh…those lovely peppercorns! This beer has it all. A certain Belgian yeastyness, lovely and fruity, delicate bergamot and tingling spice. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!

So there you go. My idiocy in carrying an additional 10 Kilos or so of weight in my luggage is laid bare. All to be a bit perverse and laud Mancunian Beers in “Craft Central”! Was it worth it?

On that note…’til next time…(Notes from my week down here)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 1

“You’re holding me back. I wonder why, you do me like that,

But you keep on holding me back. You keep on putting your foot on me,

But I, I’ve got to break away, somehow and someday,

‘Cause I wanna be somebody so bad, so bad, I wanna be somebody, I wanna be somebody so bad.”

(“Is It Because I’m Black” – Syl Johnson)

(Tune courtesy of “maxitaxiphone” on You Tube)

The first time that I heard this tune was in a sample entitled (simply) “Interlude” on the Cypress Hill album “Black Sunday”. I always wondered where the slinky soul groove came from. Then I picked up a copy of Mojo magazine with the free CD “Soul Riot” (strangely, just about the time I bought the Sly Stone album “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” – a classic) and got the true picture. SUCH a truly great tune (and under the radar for many) that deserves recognition for its deep soul groove and lyrics depicting the struggles of Black Americans in the 60s and early 70s.

What brought this up was a Meet The Brewer back in September at the Salford Arms with Rik Garner of First Chop Brewing Arm (read here), in particular, how he came to the name of the first beer listed below, named after the artist who recorded one of his favourite albums of all time, Syl Johnson. Click on the tune above and just …….

Time for business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is 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, 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. SYLFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 6.2% abv – Black Jaggery IPA – £3.20 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

The story of the naming of this beer just works so well for me, well, you know my love of music & beer interacting! However, as said many times before, it only resonates if the beer is any good! (NB : I believe that Jaggery is an unrefined Indian sugar – sure Rik will correct me if I’m wrong!

Black and lively with a creamy coloured head like a latte and a lovely aroma like crystallised rum, molasses and sweet chocolate. Full-bodied and initially bitter chocolate and gently sweet. Then in come the hops like a police raid on TV, booting down the doors to the palate! The finish is oh so dry and hoppy/grassy with a little lingering bitter chocolate and a loitering resinous aftertaste. Simply a superb Dark IPA! (Man spins a mean piece of vinyl too!)

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2. Thunderstruck – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (500ml) (Possibly £3.50)  – The Ale Man (Manchester)

As I have said previously, like many bloggers, I get some stuff to try for free. Being a beer blogger, that tends to be….you get the picture. I always say the same thing, If it’s good enough, I’ll review it. If not, a quiet word in the shell will suffice with a reason why. This was one such passed by Damian O’Shea a while back.

A light haze on this deep gold beer. Lively wee bugger too with monstrous white head. Spicy nose with a little orchard, maybe raspberry on the nose. Decent smooth mouthfeel, really refreshing with orange peel, what feels like coriander and a nice hoppy grassy bite in the finish. For me, the best I’ve had from this Suffolk brewery. Really nice refreshing wheat beer.

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3. Moor TopBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2 (part of a deal) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I don’t think that I’d had anything by Buxton prior to popping into The Beer Shop in Heaton Moor about 18 months ago (just prior to starting to blog). I was lured into a swift half whilst browsing. I fell in love! Not had a bottle though….

Hopped with Chinook, this is a pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head giving up a lovely & subtle – yet distinct – grapefruit aroma. Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth with more of that there grassy grapefruit. Really refreshing but with an assertive bitterness teamed with a really nice fruity and resinous finish. The first beer I had on draught from Buxton and just as good in bottle as on draught. And that is high praise indeed.

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4. 01/02 (Amarillo & Orange) – Brew By Numbers (Bermondsey, SE London) – 5.6% abv – Saison – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

May I start by saying that I’m not sure Saisons are “my bag”. Not sure that I really understand quite what they are “for”. I mean, I know that they were made in the Benelux countries and Northern France and were meant to slake the hardest of farm workers thirsts, but…Maybe I’m just a simple soul. However, sometimes I just enjoy a beer for what it is. Here’s one such beer that I was persuaded to buy by its incorporation of my favourite hop, Amarillo!

Straw coloured and highly effervescent with an abundant white head giving off some orange and a distinctive funky note with a bit of fizzy sherbet. Mmmm….The amarillo (bias declared!) is certainly present & correct in this beer. I was just about to note the spicy wheaty characteristics of this, then I noticed that wheat flakes were used! Nice medium-bodied, prickly on the tongue with those bubbles and a nice orange citrus tone drawing you forward to the dry bitterness of the finish with some of that light spice mingling in the aftertaste with the sticky hops. A nice refresher.

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5. Big ChiefRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj’s burgeoning shop. The selection seems to widen and improve week by week to the extent, that some weeks, you can’t move for case upon case of freshly delivered beer! Busy and deservedly so.

I haven’t had much in the way of Redemption (beer or otherwise!), and none at all in bottle, but what I have had has been superb, especially the low-abv Trinity and their Fellowship Porter, both superb beers. The bottle has a head start for me, old-fashioned and substantial. However, opening the bottle showed that the contents were far from old-fashioned!

A “London Murky” adherent? Look past the haze! Quite a hazy deep golden beer with a white head that is hanging around! Big citrus aroma sticking its head out of the foam. Nice big malty base for this beer with a bit of caramel biscuit to hang these hops on. And hops there are! Nicely bitter and fruity with big sticky resins in this. Manages the trick of sliding down real easy whilst feeling bigger than it is! Just the right amount of sweetness for balancing against the bitterness. Nice smooth and full-bodied. My first bottled Redemption will NOT be my last!

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6. Rum In The BlackWilson Potter (Middleton, N Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Stout – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another shop with an increasingly impressive range (increasing in size too!). It’s great to see what looks like a success story happening in my own town. I’m hoping that in a couple of weeks, that they’ll be able to officially let the drinkers spread out onto the tables outside in the market food court. Makes sense to use the tables provided to fullest extent! Nice to see some Wilson Potter in the range. A little birdie tells me that there may be some coming on draught too?

Darkest brown to black beer (you can only tell when held to the light) with a tan head and a lovely chocolatey aroma! Ooh but this is damned fine! Medium bodied with a lovely initially chocolatey mouthful giving way to something I do love in a stout. Nice bitter hoppage! There’s something else there too that my palate can’t quite ID, a little sweetness maybe from the rum? Molasses maybe? Whatever it is, this is up there with their recent pales for me – given my love of all things dark! A lovely roasted and hoppy finish too. Lovely!

It’s now 01:50 on Saturday morning. This blog is done and so am I! Next week will be spent working away in that there big city with, one hopes, the odd bar or two featuring?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Part 4

“Pass me that bottle of red wine, I’ll drink it here in the sunshine,

Pavements seem empty this evening, still too warm to start thinking where we should eat tonight.

Looking across the piazza, a bell-tower next to a white church,

Manchester seems far away now, still too warm to start thinking where we should go from here”

(“Bottle of Red Wine” – Dislocation Dance)

(Audio here – courtesy of 0n4s on YouTube)

More reminiscence from a waffling old git! On 11/12/1981 the weather was vile. Myself and my mate Dewey (him again) were due to watch the jazz/punk/funk band Pigbag at Eden nightclub in Town (used to be called Rafters I think) on Oxford Rd. Pigbag ended up snowed in in Bristol, unbeknownst to us as we’d turned up! We had options. My first nephew had been born that day, Michael, and I kind of fancied getting leathered with my brother, but my musical mentor of the time, Dewey, persuaded me to stay (as we humped amps down the stairs for a band who’d turned up at short notice to replace Pigbag).

That band were Dislocation Dance. That night changed my life. Quite simply, Dislocation Dance became, for me, the greatest band that Manchester has produced. Yes, I have seen Joy Division, New Order, The Fall all in their absolute pomp. But on an emotional and musicianship and, dammit, on a lyrical level, none of them came close. D Dance (as we abbreviated them) were the best musicians, and the most FUN of any band I have ever seen. Full stop. Christ, the album that the above track come from even got 5 Stars in (the now defunct) Sounds music paper. They even had a session or two on Radio 1!

DDance 2CV(courtesy : ltmrecordings.com)

However, due to the utter pap loving tastes of the time, they sold nowhere near what they deserved to. Am I biased, DAMN RIGHT I am! They gave me some of the best memories and best friends (I met my dear friend Anita at a D Dance concert!) I had in the 80s. Still going too! Saw them at The Ruby Lounge a year or so ago. Only Ian Runacres left (ONLY?) of the line up that I originally saw on 11/12/1981 (Dick Harrison, Andy Diagram, Paul Emmerson & Ian Runacres), but still sounding as fresh and pristine as 32 years earlier.

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Me : Ah Barkeep, what’s that fly doing in my beer?

Barman : I do believe it is the crawl sir!

Forgive my reminiscing waffle. Time for business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is 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, 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. Manchester Mild 1987 – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 3.1% abv – Light Mild – £2.00 (4 for £8) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

As a young ale drinker, I had no local pub. I lived in an area of Salford called Lower Kersal and at that time, the pubs were a somewhat acquired taste. To acquire that taste, you had to own two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, arms full of tattoos and the words “hate” & “hate” on your knuckles. In essence, I was a bloody big soft git! Having gone to De La Salle 6th form with a bunch of good lads form Little Hulton (itself, hardly a district full of shrinking violets!), so it seemed natural, that the pub that was nearest to a local in my heart was The White Lion, a Boddingtons House.

Owned/run by a top landlord by the name of Frank Peake, The Lion was just a top pub. Both bitter and Mild were superbly kept. The pub attracted a cross-section of the community. All ages went in and some of the best schooling I had was listening to old timers in the main room. Just quality. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Frank left. The pub went downhill. I left college to face 12 months on the dole in a politically pitiless environment. The Lion was no longer an option, my cash was devoted to travel to interview after interview for jobs that were unattainable. Col & I would buy each other a couple of beers with our bi-weekly dole cheques.

So we come to this Mild by Stockport Sorcerer Mr Krause. Based on the original Boddingtons Mild recipe. How does it measure up? Well, aside from the lack of caramel for colour, very well indeed!

Pale and golden with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma that reminded me of chocolate caramel biscuits. Light-bodied with that light caramel biscuit carrying through into the mouth, low on bitterness with a gentle grassyness in the finish and aftertaste. This is a thoroughly refreshing light Mild and tastes how I remember Boddies’ Mild to taste. A faithful recreation.

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(Sack the photographer!)

2. Brewers Gold (Single Hop) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“Oh here we go again – another single hop blah blah from bloody Mallinsons!” Well I can’t help it if they’re bloody lovely can I?

Now Brewers Gold wasn’t going to be as assertive as a Citra or Simcoe, I knew that. But I was looking forward to this…Bright gold with a white head and a gentle light fruity nose with fresh-baked white bread. Medium bodied in the mouth, a light biscuit base heightened by a gently floral and quite bitter flavour. This is a beer that you could drink all night. A session beer that is delicate and refreshing.

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3. Salted Lemon Wit – Bad Seed Brewery/Northern Monk Brew Co (Collab) – 7.4% abv – Wit Beer – £6.99 (660ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collab between two of Yorkshire’s newest thrusting Craft brewers? Don’t mind if I do!

A deep amber coloured beer with a light thin white head and an aroma with a little gentle spice (coriander seed?) , toffee and a gentle citrus note. Full-bodied and smooth in the mouth with plenty of caramel digestive but lighter with a covering of citrus with some lemon/grapefruit coming through late with more of that warming yet gentle spice – possibly from the wheat. Refreshing for such a meaty abv beer – surely the salted lemon rinds – warming the throat before a distinct resinous hop finish.  A tasty warming wit.

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4. Quelle Saison – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 4.1% abv – Saison – £2.89 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I was all for keeping this for a week or two more when I received a response for the brewery, essentially telling me that it needed to be drunk to appreciate the hops. Well, not being one to argue with the masters….

A hazy gold with a white head with BIG C hop aromas, grapefruit prominent. Medium-bodied, a slight refreshing – saliva inducing – wheaty sour tinge with HUGE fruity hoppage with tart grapefruit. Really very dry in the finish with a lot of grassyness carrying over into the aftertaste. Not overly familiar with saisons, but I do like this!3IMAG0735

(I’ll be seeing YOU tomorrow!)

5. MIA First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Hoppy Brown Ale ? – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A deep russet-brown colour to this with a clinging white foamy head and quite a fruity and chocolatey aroma. Oooh! Light-bodied with hints of chocolate initially but then BANG! In come the bitter hops. A tart bit of citrus , maybe grapefruit, but with it a huge resinous quality, quite sticky! The quite bitter chocolate stays the distance. Definitely the hoppy side of balanced, really assertive, but in a “wake up!” good way. The finish is dry and bitter and a big grassy aftertaste follows. This could wake up my taste buds at the end of a long day. I like this. A lot!

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(I NEED a 2/3rd glass! Offers?)

6. Imitera IPA – Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.00 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

Where do I begin? (I was going to extend into the lyric from the theme to “Love Story” then, better not eh?) I suppose with a #Beergasm alert!

Bronze coloured beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma of…..orange marmalade and tangerines. I adore Amarillo! Oh bloody hell! In the mouth this is GORGEOUS! Marmalade, Grapefruit (the other hop in here being that pale ale siren named Citra), caramel shortbread malty goodness mounted and given a good seeing to by my favourite hops!

It has a mouthfeel and a hoppyness that is but a smidgen from being a DIPA but is more balanced than that with slightly less malt sweetness. Those lovely bitter citrus hops just coat your mouth and tickle your tongue like a hoppy french kiss. There is a good bitterness to this with a finish that is dry and grassy and a lingering bitter fruit and resinous aftertaste. First #Beergasm of the year! Bottle of the year so far. Sets the standard.

So, there you have it for February. 6 beers that in their own separate ways more than “do the job”. Shit, I like them anyway, so Ner Ner!

On that infantile note….’til next time….

Slainte! It’s #Twissup Time!!!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 5 – Saisonniere by Urthel Brewery

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“On the 5th day of Xmas, my true love sent to me….”

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#5 Saisonniere by Urthel (Ruisdede, West Flanders)

Not a brewery I am overly familiar with, this is the product of a Sunday lunch at Kosmonaut in Manchester (excellent bar/venue – just around the corner from Port Street Beer House) – there were a few Belgians on offer, so I made hay (it’s amazing the concessions from Atilla that a good Sunday lunch will procure – that sounded SO much better in my head!)

Pale gold with a light haze and an aroma with a slight yeasty spice, cream soda and a gentle fresh grassyness coming from a fluffy white head. Ooh…refreshingly tart (but not overwhelmingly so), that creamy soda flavour comes through, smooth as a Sinatra love song, gently fruity, tart with a fabulously bitter and unexpectedly resinous aftertaste. Quite spicy too. This 6% Saison is an unexpected belter and one I would be more than happy to snaffle on a night out. (Saint or Sinner? Result = Saint!)

Apart from Beer No 1 and that verminous Redbreast, I count myself lucky!

On that note…’til next time (It’s Chrisssssmaaaaas!)

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 1

20131008_155421(The Splendour that is The Victoria Baths)

Doing this bloggy type thingy, one of the first things I wrote about was The Independent Manchester Beer Convention or IndyManBeerCon. A Beer Festival revelation, not only featuring some of the best beers that the UK had to offer, but held within the legendary Victoria Baths on Hathersage Rd. I remember getting my first drink and taking 45 minutes just to drink in the wondrous surroundings. The building may have been in need of substantial further refurbishment, but (and I don’t use this word lightly) I was awestruck. Stunning stained glass windows, beautiful balconies, lots of almost secret rooms. Ohh…….

Organised by the people behind Port Street Beer House, A Place Called Common & The Beagle, I was chuffed to bits to hear that the sequel was to have the same location. Another opportunity to say WOW!

For 2013, The “Convention” was to expand into 4 days from last years two. That was to be expected. Last year was incredibly popular, rightly so. The combination of the excellent beers, superlative “Street Food” and that oh so sumptuous location was a winner from the moment the doors first opened. Last year, I attended as a punter on the Friday and worked the bar on the Saturday. It was, quite simply, the most fun I’d had with my clothes on!

I had to ask myself, “Could they better last years’ effort?”

I assisted with one of the “Set Up” sessions on Tuesday. Partly (let’s be honest!) for a free session ticket. However, my main motivation was to see what the place looked like BEFORE the “beer locusts” arrived on the Thursday evening, draining everything in their path!

20131008_124305(Room 1 – The beers had just started to arrive)

The logistics of this organisation are simply boggling. Before the beer started arriving, the first job to do was washing and drying glassware. And there was A LOT OF IT! Just as we got started, Magic Rock and Marble arrived with their beer deliveries. Magic Rock had their own room (the room in which Brewdog were located last year), so that was easy. The Marble beers had to be delivered to their bar which was in room 1 – thank the gods for cask carriers!

20131008_124421(No. Those are empties. Is it just me, or does this look like a shrine?)

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(The REAL “Angel of the North”!)

What, with more glass deliveries – yes, I smashed a couple, sorry! – price labelling (casks), multiple brewery deliveries and bar construction, let’s just say, we were kept fully occupied!

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(Room 3)

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(Room 2 – View toward Food Vendor area)

I enjoyed this hugely. Met some nice volunteers. Got to meet Claudia, Duncan, Rosie and Jamie from the Port Street empire (nice to put names to faces that you see so often!), it was just, FUN.

Thursday

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(Room 2 – early on)

I hate being late. Especially when it’s my own fault. However, I couldn’t turn up covered in emulsion paint, could I? Trust me, It is NOT a good look! So, by the time that Jaz (Arch-Nemesis), Chris (Sacrificial Lamb) and I got in, the place was already busy. Having not eaten since breakfast though, first priority was food. The Meat Paella from Las Paelleras fitted the bill. Lots of lovely beery soaky plump rice grains with oodles of paprika and chorizo and chicken……drool……superb value at £5.

Firstly, with the beer, we need to talk about the measures. These are all priced for the 1/3rd of a pint. As you enter the building you pay/show your ticket, and are given a beer menu for that particular day. You are also given a stemmed glass marked with a line for the 1/3rd pint measure. Trust me, this works. The glass is lovely and delicate (Translation? Easy to smash on the way home!). This measure gives you the opportunity to try more beers. Personally? I just think that it’s more civilised than swilling pints!

At the bottom of the beer list is a wee map, showing where the various locations for functions are located. After a few, trust me, it would be easy to get lost whilst admiring this gorgeous interior!

First beer of the evening had to be light in alcohol, refreshing and hoppy. Quantum NZ Light at 3.6% abv was all that and more. Pale gold, fruity hop nose with the flavours of kiwi and passion fruit in the mouth. Tasty and damned refreshing. Having sat down to enjoy my Quantum with the paella, I was struck by the music. The sound of saxophone. And there they were, up on the balcony. Live music, nice touch. (Of course…if I had been paying attention to the website….)

It was getting a little busier at the bar in room 2, but service was till swift, so I stayed in here for another. Beadica’s Well (Barrel Aged) by Thornbridge. Whilst I hardly have beergasms over Thornbridge’s pale output, the darks generally rock my world. This was no exception. Black with a light creamy head. Smoky wood and toffee nose leading to more woody smoke, some treacle notes with some warming spirit drifting up your nose. Performed the trick of tasting above it’s relatively moderate 5.3% abv strength.

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Next came a walk into Room 1 to sample one of the IMBC Collaboration beers. Farmhouse IPA with Marble Brewery. At 7.4%, for the price of just a single token, this was a bargain! First on the nose, I got  quite hoppy notes with some yeasty Belgian funk. But in the mouth, the Saison character takes over. Quite spicy, yeasty and with a touch of peachy fruity sweetness. Superb.

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Into Room 3 now for something a little different. Tea Saison from Buxton Brewery. Made with Cherry and Cranberry fruit teas allegedly! But where fruit teas can be a flavour let-down, this was anything but! Really tart and fruity aroma, the taste was akin to a Kriek, tart and mouth puckering. Really fruity and tart/sour with a finish that was sharp and as dry as a bone. Probably my second favourite of the evening.

Venturing into the Turkish Baths room now for a Dark Arts by Magic Rock – Kegged, therefore slightly too cold for my tastes, this is still a damned tasty strong stout with a firm dark roast malt body and the spiky flavours of bitter chocolate and coffee. A really good beer. Here is where I firmly come down on the cask conditioned side. Texture and temperature. I just think that cask (for me) wins hands down. Do I have all knowledge? Do I bollocks! I just happen to believe that cask conditioned, Dark Arts is a classic and one of my all-time favourites. On keg, it’s simply a really nice strong stout. And cold.

At this point, I went for a looksie into Room 3 where there was a band playing. They were called All We Are, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in company, I could have listened to them all evening. They sounded simply superb.

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Back to room 2 now. Weird Wit Black Jack Brewery collaboration with Weird Beard of Hanwell, W London. At 5% this was hazy gold with a gentle fruity aroma. This got going when it hit your taste buds! Quite full-bodied for a 5% beer, fruity, you could taste the melon as well, but this was simultaneously quite bitter with a marked resinous finish.  tasted a bit like a hybrid of a saison and an IPA. And in a VERY good way!

Stepping up on the abv now, next up was Blackberry King of Clubs by Black Jack Brewery Black and really fruity aroma. This was full of blackberry flavour. A full bodied dark roasted stout full of bitter coffee, chocolate and tart berries. Joint Beer of the Evening in my book! Along with…

Oh yes! From the moment that I saw this coming into the building on Tuesday, I just HAD to have some! Imperial Treacle Stout by Quantum (IMBC Collab beer) It says 8.6% on the menu, but 9.1% on the clip. Ooooohhhh smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back in time for breakfast! Unctuous, silky, oily and oh so bad for you. I REALLY don’t think anyone else should touch this beer. Leave it all for me. There’s a love! Black, alternately sweet with that gooey treacle, then bitter, then fruity. It was just soooo good, er…I mean terrible……er…Just leave it all for me. OK! Young Mr Krause has played another blinder! Cheers Jay.

To be honest, I took it really easy last night. I just enjoyed myself. Long chats with Peter (aka Tandleman) and his lovely lady Eileen to whom I could listen all evening dispensing beery pearls of wisdom (Eileen, of course ;-)) and some cracking chats with Matt from Privateer Beers (should have had his Dark Revenge here, CMON!) and his lovely friends Helen & Maria (I think?). Matt may be moving his brewery soon and it was nice to see him, especially talking positively about the future of the brewery. Helen has connections with the West Riding Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, a place I love of old. Long chat with Helen, birds of a feather views wise.

In summary. The venue is stunning. The beers were excellent and (mostly) well priced. The food was superb and laid on by the Guerilla Eats street food collective. The entertainment was first-rate (I don’t recall music last year?) The PSBH empire have raised the bar again. I could wax even more lyrical, but there are others more eloquent than I who will do that far better.

There is room to breathe – unlike most other fests. Room to chat (and be heard). It;s just civilised.  I enjoyed myself so much, that I completely lost track of time! So much so, that I finally paid attention to one of Matt’s (Privateer) prompts and realised that I had just over 10 minutes to get to Piccadilly and my last bus home (the look in Jaz’s eye indicated that his futon was NOT an option!)

TAXI!!!

Back to work there  (hopefully behind a bar) later – say hello. I’ll (probably be the oldest bloke behind the bars! And no beard!!!)

I’m hearing that there are still some tickets for Sunday going. Do yourself (and your taste buds) a favour. Come on down. Good food, great beer and a SPECTACULAR venue – worth the entry fee alone. Check http://www.indymanbeercon.co.uk/ for details!

On that note (and this may be further added to on Sunday!)…til then

Slainte!

Beavertown Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 19/08/2013

print layout labels

(Welcome to Beavertown!)

I have a confession to make. I am a Beavertown Virgin! Or I was, until Logan Plant (Brewer) and Byron Knight (Ringmaster and hat wearer supreme!) rolled in and rocked up at Port Street last night!

If you’ve never been to one of these events, a brief introduction. For some time now, the guys at Port Street Beer House have periodically, on a Monday evening (when  otherwise shut) been inviting some of the best brewers in the UK (and further afield) to come in and showcase their beers. This is done in a structured fashion. You buy a ticket up front (these events ALWAYS sell out!) for which, upon entry, you receive 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each of these entitles you to a sample measure of each of – generally – 5 beers presented by the brewers throughout the evening. The brewers introduce each beer, talk about the genesis of each and give an overall potted history of their business. There!

Having forgotten all about the matchday traffic, then stressing out having got caught up in it, there’s something calming and reassuring about the organisation that Port Street bring to these events. Once I’d obtained my raffle tickets / beer tokens, I was much calmer. Once I had been presented with my first beer (Gamma Ray ) by Jaz, I just knew I was in for a good evening!

The Gamma Ray at 5.4% abv was a hazy gold coloured Pale Ale with a full aroma of mango citrus from the hops (Magnum, Columbus, Bravo & Amarillo), quite full bodied for the strength with loads of resinous piney hop stuff going on! Really fruity & refreshing with a wonderful dry bitter finish. A superb start.

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(Logan & Byron – Comedy Superstars!)

Then came the comedy! Logan and Byron bounced off each other all night, on occasion, like Run DMC but powered by hops! They explained their coming together in 2011 and the origin of the brewery being – until recently – attached to and an integral part of Duke’s Brew & Que a BBQ joint on Downham Rd in De Beauvoir Town, Hackney. “Beavertown” coming from the Cockney corruption of their locale. They brew on a 4 Bbl (Beer Barrel = 36 Gallons) kit and after originally having only 4 FVs (Fermenting Vessels) they now – following on from their recent relocation – have treble that number and are brewing 8 (EIGHT) times this week!

Logan apologised for any errors down to tiredness due to their hectic schedule, but he needn’t have worried. Both guys were on fire with the banter. Both obviously passionate about what they do, Logan was introduced as the brewer and Byron as the man behind Duke’s. Showing how integrated both sides of the business are, there  were several ideas given for food matching with each beer, something they obviously think carefully about and – more importantly – enjoy hugely.

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(Gamma Ray & Barley Champagne Saison)

Next beer up was the Bloody ‘Ell, a blood orange IPA at 7.4% abv arrived at by LOTS of ZESTING! Not an obvious fruit beer and truly more of an IPA. They used 25Kg of blood oranges in this brew with an extra pale malt, handpeeling the zest and adding the squeezed juice at the end of the boil. Byron described how well this went with a Duck a l’Orange burger in Edinburgh (Or Dick a l’Orange – eh Logan?). This beer was another crackling hoppy pale, with the oranges coming through subtly almost like a marmalade essence in there coming through at the end following the zippy and bitter hops. The trick with this, like many of their beers (as I was to discover) is that they taste light, fresh and WELL below their strength!

The third beer (and last of the pales) was Barley Champagne at 8.7% abv, made with a French Saison yeast and Bramley apple juice from their nearest orchard in Kent. A real lightness of touch again here, for me, a gentle yeasty funk with a tart sweetness from the apples coming through. Again a fresh fruity beer with dangerous alcohol levels hidden somewhere! Stronger, but comparable with Ilkley Siberia for me – never a bad thing in my book!

CHOW TIME! Smoky hot dogs fully loaded with slaw, jalapenos, fried onions and mustard. Genius! Just what Dr Beers ordered!

Now sliding across the street to the Dark Side…….

20130819_201242(8 Ball & Black Yeti)

Next up was Black Yeti, a Stout at 5.6% abv. Brewed with one of the brewers from Camden, they used a lot of paler roasted malt in this with a late dump of hops in the boil. Firmly on my home ground with this! Black, smooth, beautifully so. Smoky, lovely bitterness and a substantial coffee note for me. BUT not a coffee bean in sight! Nice dry bitterness in the finish too.  A classy beer and a definite winner for me!

Logan quickly talked about the “All Seeing Eye” imagery and the likeness to the imagery on the US Dollar bill. A really clever branding that features – in various twists – on many of their beers. Like Byron said, a “Cease & Desist” from the US Treasury would do their publicity wonders! They are using local artists now for their newer beers coming up with smart individual designs, but always with the pyramid in there. Superb designs that would transfer well to T-Shirts and other merchandise. Byron also related an interesting description of the term Craft Beer mentioned to him by Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. A beer is “Craft Beer” when you know the brewer!

20130819_201321(Oh My!)

Imperial Lord Smog Almighty. A Smoked Porter. 10% abv. The biggest abv beer that Beavertown have brewed. A natural extension from another beer “Smog Rocket”. Sounds like it had its historic origins in a collaboration with Brewdog called Catherine’s Pony (named after Catherine The Great – A LEGENDARY fondness for equine capers! Cue LOADS of horsey puns). They take great pride in being the first UK Brewery to collaborate with the Aberdonian Pranksters, rightly so.

Containing more smoked malt, Jaggery, tons of hops (110 IBUs!!!). They had a face off with Brewdog in Shoreditch with this beer and “Kicked Their ASSES!!!”

This is a TREMENDOUS BEER! Oh my! Creamy as a Cornish scone, viscous, oily, quite bitter with sublime coffee notes. Buttered rye toast, a bit of whisky in there too which is surprising as it hadn’t been barrel-aged! Reminded me of one of my all-time favourite porters, Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18, but stronger. What a serious beer this is, but with a wink in the eye and a grin on its face!

One to watch out for will be the collaboration brew with Wild Beer, a sour provisionally titled “Wild Beaver”, coming soon! Maybe one that my buddy Damian O’Shea could get for his stall???

I had a chat with both Logan & Byron. Top blokes who hosted this superbly, confident public speakers who must have had a LOT of recent practice. Came across really well and obviously care hugely about what they do and how it’s perceived, which last night was very well indeed.

Cheers fellas. You busted my Beavertown cherry and put a lop-sided grin on my face! (Or was that the Imperial Lord Smog Almighty?)

Finished off the evening with a beer that wasn’t subject to presentation, the 8 Ball Rye IPA, lovely rich and spicy with even more hoppy goodness! The evening was rendered complete once I’d had a chat with Connor Murphy of the “Beer Battered” blog and the mighty Tyson the Beerhound, even introducing the two! A quick chat with a focus on the recent Tickety Brew / Crabbies nonsense – keep an eye out for this, ‘cos if it doesn’t sort soon, Manchester should make some noise!!!

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(Coming Soon!)

Right then, my back is creasing in agony after all this typing, so time to head for the fridge to see what goodies can anaesthetise me!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

 

 

 

Weird Beard – Great Beer From West London

Weird Beard

The first time I heard about Weird Beard was on Twitter earlier this year, I think from Burnley Dave, from The Rake at Borough Market, London (a cracking bar BTW!). A new brewery making their name in the ultra competitive London beer scene. The first time I tasted one of their beers was in Port Street, late in the evening. It was OK, but I was over refreshed and pledged to give them another try.

Last month, I got the opportunity at Font. Black Perle,a coffee milk stout. What a belter! Ticked so many of my taste boxes! A lovely creamy beer with more than a hint of latte.

Shortly after that, I found myself in contact with Damian O’Shea (known on Twitter as @TheAleManMcr). Damian kindly offered to send me a couple of bottles to try. In the year I have been wittering on about beer, nobody has done that before. A strange feeling! However, for various reasons, we never quite “hooked up”. Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some weeks and it was there that Jaz met him (and bought me a bottle, lovely fella!). Then one Sunday, I got a text to say he’d picked up a couple from Damian for me. Needless to say, I got in the old jalopy and high tailed to Manchester to pick up my loot!

Damian is the “Northern Distributor” for this brewer from Hanwell, West London. They only started brewing commercially earlier this year but have already started to find their way consistently onto some of the city’s better bars, making a name for themselves, with hoppy pales a speciality. I’d been smitten by the Black Perle (one of my top 3 of 2013), but how would I like the pales…….

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Five O’Clock Shadow

A 7.3% abv American style IPA (7% on draught). This 330ml bottle conditioned beer was deep copper coloured with a fine white head and abundant tropical hop on the nose. Made with 3 malts and 4 hops (Summit, Apollo, Citra and Columbus), this had an initial biscuit malt sweetness more than offset by some assertive hopping with the grapefruity Citra well up there, taste of apricot too with a dry grassy/herbal aftertaste. A cracking start!

20130702_213006(“A Boring Brown Beer”?)

Chinook

What to expect from this beer, labelled “A Boring Brown Beer”. Well. It certainly wasn’t an aroma with licorice and spice! A deep ruby brown colour, those aromas hit me straight away. Confused me, because I wouldn’t expect licorice in a beer like this. 2 malts (pale and crystal) and single hopped, more licorice in the mouth with a little barley sugar sweetness from that crystal. 7.2% abv this and some of the alcohol warmth comes through. Nice bitterness in this beer which, to me,  I can only say (boringly) tastes dark! Which works for me! And, it’s certainly NOT boring.

Mariana Trench

(Damn! Can’t find my pic!)

At 5.1% abv, this (for their pale beers) is probably about as close as you get to a “sessionable” beer! Gold coloured with lots of citrus on the nose, mostly grapefruit (Hops being Citra and Pacific gem). Nicely balanced and surprisingly easy drinking beer this, a nice marriage of citrus hops with rich tea biscuit malt. Really refreshing beer with a nice bitter dry finish.

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Nelson Saison

Well, this was a lively little puppy! It virtually exploded into the glass! Golden to copper coloured with abundant foamy white head. Aromas of Belgian yeast funk with some floral notes and as the beer went down, more than a hint of marmalade. A surprisingly warming beer this with some elderflower in the mouth and a spicy grassy tinge. The warmth reminded of the same feeling I get with the afterglow of a nice cognac. A nice slightly spicy finish. I’m not that big on Belgian styled beers, but it surprised me how much I enjoyed this.

To sum up. If pushed, my favourite would be the Five O’Clock Shadow. A 4.5 rating for me. The others merit a 4. Considering that they’ve been commercially brewing for less than 6 months, they’re making some cracking stuff in Hanwell!

As far as getting the beers up here, Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some Sundays. He’s a nice bloke to talk to who is evidently passionate about what he sells. His beers are from a variety of areas, I popped down last weekend and picked up my first bottle from Cheshire Brewhouse as well as stuff from the likes of Magic Rock, DeMolen of Holland, Rocky Head from London etc…nicely priced too. I picked up a DeMolen Imperial Stout for £6.Pop down and see him. He’s a decent bloke (and that has nothing to do with the samples he offers!)

Final point, some of the best labelling I’ve seen since Magic Rock. Attractive, with detailed ingredients! Not bad at all.

Right. Time to settle to see Germany beat Iceland in the Womens Euros!

On that note….til next time!

Slainte!