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

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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!

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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/

 

 

 

Home Beers – Jan 2016 : Pt 1

Happy New Year everyone! And Happy #Tryanuary!

I, for one, have absolutely NO intention of giving in to the detox mania that is hauling thousands in to a month of misery.

Be Happy. Happiness is seriously underrated.

Anyway, in the spirit of Tryanuary, I’ve been a bit busy. You’ll start seeing (and in some instances, tasting) the results shortly. Furthermore, in the same spirit, here are six recommendations for (hopefully) something new for you to try this month. Some will be limited, so better be quick!

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It’s Rather Hoppy DarlingCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewer. 

As Pale as a spring morning, golden and bright with a light white head pushing out a huge citrus and tropical aroma like a fruit salad chewy sweet, pineapple, kiwi, mango. Just so juicy on the nose!

Oh dear, oh dear is this GOOD! This thing is wearing a grass skirt and dancing a hula! Mango, passion fruit, kiwi dancing all around the mouth with a light digestive biscuit base. Just. So. Fruity.

The swallow is followed by a bracing bitterness and leaving a big hoppy resinous aftertaste. This is the first Beergasm of 2016 and no mistake!

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Citra PaleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Heaton Hops

Very pale golden colour, lively from the bottle shop was decanted, but nice white lacy head nonetheless with a big aroma booming out full of apricot, grapefruit and a squeeze of lemon.

Got my saliva glands going…..

Oh baby…. This is one pithy little beast.

Medium bodied, this beer hits you with tart astringent fruit, grapefruit and lemon to the fore here. The carbonation having softened after the decant, this is really smooth, fruity, but ultra dry.

Really dry. A tongue curler!

That Belgian yeast aids that dryness with a little peppery spice and helps to accentuate the dry slightly resinous hoppy finish.

Another special beer from Stalyvegas.

And only 60. I’m lucky. Grab one if you can.

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APABrewsmith Beers (Ramsbottom) – 5.0% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Direct from the brewer.

Brewsmith are in the early days of their bottled beers being in the wild. But, so far, so excellent. Everything top notch so far. But how will this stack against the Bitter, Oatmeal Stout & Gyle 50?

Mid golden in colour, a light thin white head emitting a lovely fragrance of tropical fruits, with peach, passion fruit and a hint of mango hitting the nose.

In the mouth? Light carbonation and a medium body. Really smooth on the tongue with lashings of mango and peach assailing the tongue, swiftly followed by a resinous hit of hop bitterness.

The second mouthful confirms the impressions of the first, but the hopping tastes and feels even more resinous and grassy following that tropical dance.

This is another superb beer from a brewery that have produced a range of bottles that just get more impressive as they go on.

Moderate strength Pale Ales and Stout? I wouldn’t look an awful lot further.

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  MadagascarGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck – N Yorkshire) – 5.4% abv – Vanilla Wheat Stout – 330ml – Drink (Hebden Bridge)

A deep and dark brown, almost black, beer, with a warm ruby glow, a light mocha coloured head giving an aroma reminiscent of vanilla toffee ice cream, with a little molasses or rum note. Appetising.

Oh yes. Really smooth, medium to full bodied beer this is. Really beautifully chocolaty in the mouth with a sweet cocoa malt allied to a slightly more bitter chocolate. A little sweet vanilla intrudes as you run it around the mouth. Such an easy drinking beer this.

The second and subsequent mouthfuls reveal a little rum hint following the sweet chocolate taking you towards a dry chocolate and herbal hop finish.

Another lovely beer bought from an excellent shop/bar, Drink in Hebden Bridge which fell victim to the recent devastating floods that hit that beautiful old town.

Hope they’re cleaned up and sorted soon. Am sure to visit Hebden Bridge for a few beers shortly. This’ll be my first stop.

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NowtFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Stout – 750ml – Direct from the brewer.

This beer pours as black as Hades cellar, had a lacy coffee coloured head and gave off am aroma full of dark bitter chocolate, licorice and the merest hint of smokiness. In short, seductive.

Yes. Yes. YES! I feel like Meg Ryan in the cafe table scene! Oh shit but this is bloody stunning!!!

Full bodied and unctuous, this is creamy smooth. Hitting the bullseye with an initial bitter chocolate hit, this is quickly embraced by some seriously spicy licorice, just oozing out.

That licorice is augmented by that light smoky touch. What shocks slightly (although it REALLY shouldn’t!) is such a hoppy bitterness that follows it. And stays. Then the smokiness returns lingering through to a slightly sweet, yet dry smoky and bitter hoppy finish.

I yield to none in my love of Malcolm Bastow’s Pale Ales, but this is right up there with his best pales.

And THAT is (as The Velvelettes sang) really saying something.

Beergasm.

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XS Imperial StoutSaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 8.9% abv –Imperial Stout – 330ml – Bought from the brewery shop

I’ve held onto this for over 9 months since I bought this Hell black beer, with the slightest of fiery red tinge at the edges with a thin beige head and an aroma oozing out with vine fruits, old leather and a little sweet licorice.  Mmmmmm…..

Now then. It’s no surprise that I’m find of Imperial Stouts, but this is sooooo good! Rich, smooth, loaded with vine fruit that tastes like it’s soused with dark rum. Bitter espresso in here, with chocolate and a languorous smoky trace. This is just love…..ly!

Ooohhhhh, but this is so good. Those dark fruit flavours laden with sweet raisin just tingle, or maybe that’s the late hopping with Bramling Cross, but I’m just sinking in this here chair and luxuriating….

Yeah. Nice beer……  #Understatement

Bottled Beers – July 2015 Pt 1

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Can I bore you for a few minutes? About a facile phrase.

Back end of last week, my attention was brought to a piece by the blogging powerhouse that is Boak & Bailey. A particular paragraph was highlighted

“Of course beer is a business like any other – Richard Burhouse says it is ‘naive that people think breweries wouldn’t want to protect their brands’ – but for consumers who have bought into the admittedly facile mantra that ‘beer people are good people’, and an ideal of community co-operation between ‘little guys’, it is rather saddening.” (Click for the whole article)

Now then. I’m fairly certain (On the basis that I say little that is actually original) that I didn’t coin that phrase. But I have, however, been guilty of using it rather a lot. Let me explain why….

I started this “blog” in September 2012. With a rather innocuous and fumbling review of “Twisted Spire” by Hobsons Brewery (a beer that I still love). Its commencement – the blog – was inspired by a chat with Jaz & Jeff over a few beers in Brew Dog in Manchester. It has therefore now (does the maths) been nearly 3 years that I’ve been peddling this twaddle called an opinion.

Over those 3 years, I have met a phenomenal number of lovely people. People who wouldn’t have entered my affections if it wasn’t for writing about beer. These people are brewers, drinkers, great street food cooks, landlords etc. Good people.

These relationships – allied to the “beer writing”, all helped when I was asked to organise a beer festival for a dear friend last year. That festival became The Independant Salford Beer Festival. Within an hour of my initial panicky tweet about agreeing to do this, I was inundated with offers of help from brewers, drinkers and good Mancunians. I was overwhelmed by kindness. Good people.

In the lead up to the festival, I was stunned by how generous that brewers could be. Both with advice, help and their products. The vast majority of local beer people helped out either physically, or with publicity. Sometimes both. Food and drink bloggers waded in with offers of help. And tweeted their hearts out. All of these people helped the festival to sell out 3 of its 4 sessions. Good people.

I was swamped with offers to volunteer. From beer drinkers from not only Manchester, but also further afield. These people came together and put on a festival that people effused over. And helped to raise over £5k for the Community Centre in which it was held. Good people.

A close friend (Jeff – mentioned above) made a comment recently to me, along the lines that we seem to have found a band of brothers and sisters since that festival that now can call each other “friends” – and in a non-Facebook way. Real friends that seem to share common viewpoints on a variety of subjects. Good people

I love Manchester. I love it’s people. I love the beers brewed here, to the extent that I firmly believe that the brewing scene of Manchester needs bend the knee to no city. And that includes London.

I’m a fairly nice kind of bloke online – where beer is concerned. However, I have – on occasion – come across those from outside this fine city, who opine on this city’s shortcomings and spout nonsense about its beer scene and pubs/bars. Thinking that they know better. They don’t. At the risk of sounding pompous, I will defend this city and it’s beer scene like a lioness defends her cubs. As some have found.

Where am I going with this? I’m not really sure. I rarely am. But what I am sure of, (though the word “facile” may indeed apply to the simplistic phrase that I use, certainly in the context of the B&B piece) is that – in my experience – the people that I have come across over the last 3 years in Manchester, be they brewers, drinkers, and all those in between, people I have met as a direct result of this tosh that I spout, ARE good people.

So. If I may be so bold, Manchester Beer People Are Good People.

If Cornwall wasn’t so bloody far away, I’d invite B&B to come and have a beer in October!

Done. We move on to the important stuff. Northern beers. In bottles. I am a Northern beer fascist!

The Beer

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1. Sorachi AceCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.8%abv – Pale Ale – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

The smell of candied lemons assailed me as I opened this big bottle. I thought of decanting, but I chose the decadence of two glasses. Almost copper coloured in its golden depth. I couldn’t wait…..

Fruity. Really deep and fruity. Deep orange, sticky, resinous. Then something more drying and tart. Big malt spine to this and it is a very balanced beer with the fruit, the resinous hop dry sticky thing and  a decent whack of bitterness too. Then, comes a lemony bite in the aftertaste. Just to finish things off with a flourish.

Classy beer. I’d expect nothing less from Mr Swindells. An underrated brewer if ever there was one.

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2. Oberon (Session IPA) – Wharfe Bank Brewery (Pool in Wharfedale) – 4.2 % abv – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

Pouring an ultra Pale straw gold, this beer has a light white head and an aroma full of peach with a light fresh bready background.

Light to medium bodied, immediately by with peach and orange fruitiness on a freshly baked bread malty base. Right up my street. This fruitiness is then mugged by a bitter hit, courtesy of the Centennial hops. Perfectly judged on that bitterness too, not too much.

The finish is light and clean, with a nice hoppy aftertaste and a nice resinous hint. Not too intrusive.

This is (as you would expect), a really refreshing beer, Smooth, easy drinking and perfect for a warm summers day.

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3. Hoptical IllusionBrass Castle Brewery (Malton, N. Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Sorghum Pale Ale – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

This amber coloured beer is officially “Gluten Free” given its use of the Sorghum grain, the head is light and white and there is a big piney nose on this. Making my mouth water!

Ooh…. This is different! There is a deeper grainy flavour to this, really dry, almost (But not quite) rye like, very earthy. Very moreish. The hops are the next thing that you notice, there are plenty of them too, with some lovely tropical fruit flavours dancing around that grain.

The finish is, as you might guess, really dry and slightly spicy with quite a hop hit lingering on. This is a very interesting beer indeed from a brewery whose beers get better with each one that I try.

IMAG03044. EquinoxNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Beer Central (Sheffield) – £3.20

Oh wow! This ultra Pale golden beauty is singing in full voice “smell my fruit”! There is bloody loads going on under this light and soft white head. Carmen Mirandas headwear wasn’t as vivid as this. There’s a bit of gooseberry, plenty of tropical stuff too. Oh my.

In the mouth, this medium bodied belter explodes with flavour. There’s some mango, gooseberry tartness, piney nonsense too. All wrapped up in an envelope of all encompassing bitterness. This, my friends, is an absolute corker! My gums are tingling!

This has just got me smiling from ear to ear. That big old bitterness eventually subsides into a sticky piney aftertaste, waiting patiently, for that bitterness to give it permission to step forward.

What. A. Beer. (And we’ll have a collab special from NRB/Five Towns/Me for you at Salford. You ARE lucky. Oh yes you are!)

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5. Sorachi PaleTickety Brew (Stalybridge) – % abv? — Pale Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer : I got this from the brewery direct. Unlabelled. No idea of abv. No intention to review it. Until I tasted it.

Pale golden in hue with tart lemon and grapefruit aromas simply leaping from the lively white head, this is full of promise from the off!

Medium bodied with a light biscuity malt flavour that just about manages to balance some lovely sharp hoppage. This is one refreshing beer! The tart citric lemon with a dash of lime is making my saliva glands do overtime and almost making me miss that light signature Belgian yeasty spice. Yum.

Lovely juicy beer this, light, sharp and perfect summer drinking – even THIS late in the evening (it was near midnight – on a school night too!) That spiciness returns in the finish, which is very dry but with a nice hoppy remnant to keep it company.

Tickety Brew just keep getting better!

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(Clip – Because I forgot to take a pic – Oops, sorry!)

6. OzarkTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Pale as a spring morning, golden and light with an abundance of white foamy head giving off masses of citrus aroma. Mango, orange and a little hint of lemon sharpness. Tantalising.

Oh this is such a smooth beer in the mouth! Bigging up the mango initially, this is really fruity. As the medium bodied mouthful descends down the throat, I suddenly noticed that the bitterness is really dialed down aiding the impression of smoothness.

Following the swallow is a slide into a nice hoppy slightly resinous finish. Not too abrupt. This is just a really well made Pale Ale from one of the newer “kids on the block” in Manchester.

Glad to have them around!

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7. India Pale Ale (Simcoe) – Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewers

Another disclosure…..Another freebie with no intent to review etc,,,,

Mid golden in colour and with a light and dissipating white head with an aroma full of passion fruit allied with a hint of tangy apricot. A Big fruity aroma.

Full bodied with wholemeal bready malt with the fruity aromas translated well into a juicy fruity mouthful, a veritable grocers box with apricot uppermost. This is supported by tropical fruits and a gentle note of melon.

Finishing off this satisfyingly bitter beer is a big sticky piney aftertaste.

Another excellent IPA from this Ardwick brewery. Seek it out.

IMAG03248. One At T’EndFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct

This man lines his hops. This deep golden, almost amber coloured beer, poured lively, leading to a large white head with whole groves of mango and tropical fruits leaping from the glass. This, is one hoppy aroma!

At 6.7%, this is a big, big beer. Full bodied, there is a real depth of fruity flavour in this. Peach, mango, blood orange all fight for prominence in this totally juicy beer.. The low bitterness aids this beer in slipping down all to easily taking you to a real resinous, sticky finish with marmalade tones adding to that stickiness.

The fruitiness fades in the aftertaste and reminds me of melon and rounds off this beer so well.  A Beergasm. It’s that good!(Last time I checked, there was some of this at Bierhuis in Ossett and Drink at Hebden Bridge)

IMAG03279. MarxBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 3.7% abv – (Oak Smoked) Wheat Beer – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Hazy and golden, with a light fluffy white head. The aroma reflects the oak Smoked wheat and is reminiscent of Smokey Bacon crisps – An unfairly neglected crisp flavour in my eyes!

Yup. That light smokiness carries through into the mouth. Nice carbonation leads to quite a full bodied feel, quite creamy mousse textured. A bit like Angel Delight mashed up with a pack of Frazzles actually!

For all that the thought of bacon may put some off, this is really refreshing and an excellent beer in this current “heatwave”. The smokiness is augmented by a little clove spice and maybe a hint of coriander leaf. Nice beer this – and I love the Salford linkage with some of the Communist Manifesto being inspired by the then conditions of Salford workers. Nice!

And. I’ve only just realised that each of these breweries WILL have a beer at ISBF2015

Well. That shallot for the moment. Maybe one more bottle post before I shut down the blog……for the summer, so I can focus on ISBF2015! Subliminal blogging at it’s worst! (I honestly didn’t know until I’d finished!)

Slainte.

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 1

“There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in.
The rain floods gutters and makes a great sound on concrete.
On a flat roof, there’s a boy leaning against the wall of rain
Aerial held high, calling, “Come on thunder, come on thunder”

Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes
I swear I can see your soul”

(“Sometimes” – James)

(Video clip courtesy Marblehead69 on YouTube)

When people think of James, they almost always think of “Sit Down”. A fine song. But it pales to nothing next to this. There’s something hugely poignant about that boy holding the aerial. It cuts me every time.

It took me a number of years to get James. Others got them in the 80s, not me. It took songs like this, the mighty “Laid” (“But she only comes when she’s on top”! – WHAT a line!) and the period when Andy Diagram added his trumpet to tracks like Born of Frustration to hook me in. To be honest, I can’t think of a British guitar based band I’ve loved since James…Hey ho!

I suppose that I chose this track, because sometimes, I wonder where my wittering is going. I have a moral. That moral is that when something stops being fun, it should stop.

I DO do this for fun, but it has been getting progressively harder to write and has, for a while, stopped being fun. I needed a (proverbial) shot in the arm and I received that from three, (two partially connected) sources this week. The first were some simply fantastic beers this week (including an increasingly rare “beergasm”), the second reason being a simply great night spent working behind the bar at Offbeat Brewery last night. I met some lovely people, good beer folk all. The  ever lovely Michelle, Chris, John, Caz, the lovely Mel (PLEASE Photoshop me OUT!), Otto, Phil….Thank you all. The pleasure was all mine.

The third reason was a belting shop I entered for the first time…

On to the beer….where would we be without it?

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. A Wee BitWilliams Brothers (Kelliebank, Alloa, Scotland) / Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, USA) – 4.8% abv – Dark Ale – £3.19 (?) (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Manchester)

A collaboration beer between these two was intriguing. Brooklyn have their own, almost unassailable reputation in the beer world, whilst Williams Brothers quietly make some of the best beer you could find in a supermarket (Caesar Augustus? Fraoch?), I was intrigued. That and it was a dark ale!

A really deep dark ruby beer with a creamy coloured head and a gentle smoky note over a chocolate base in the aroma.

Oooh! Medium-bodied with a gentle carbonation. This is a really subtle tasty beer. A smooth milky chocolate starts you off which is swiftly augmented by a little treacly sweetness (treacle & honey being added to this brew) then a gentle peaty smokiness which reminds me of a light peaty whisky like Jura or Ardbeg. A really delicate dark tapestry being woven here.

A really smooth mouthful gives way to a smoky dry finish with a whisper of grassy hop. A beautiful beer.

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2. The One (Amarillo) – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, Bolton) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale (Single hopped) – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)

I initially struggled to enjoy beers from this brewery. But, I now realise, that this was almost certainly down to the pubs where I tasted my first beers, because with each taste in both bottle and from trusted bars (Great Ale, Tottering Temple…) those same beers are revealed in a different – shining – light. Their beers also seem to get better with each one I try….especially the pales!

A bright golden beer with a light white head and the familiar deep orange aroma of this beautiful hop.And there it is again in this medium bodied mouthful, that lovely sticky Seville marmalade bitterness. Yum! My favourite hop, well utilised in this single hop pale.

A smooth drinking, medium-bodied and lovely Orangey mouthful. The sweet fruit is followed by a building bitterness that increases with each mouthful. That bitterness is rounded off with a big hoppy aftertaste. Which increases after each sip.

Easy drinking and full of flavour. Another belter from Horwich.

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3. Neck Oil – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, London) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – £2.40 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A can. My first British beer, canned, for……… Picked up, when the subject of canning arose in a conversation with Simon, the owner, in this excellent Didsbury outlet – small, yet perfectly formed (the outlet, NOT Simon!). I have a feeling I’ll be back – and it’s ALL Rowan Molyneux’s fault!

An Ultra Pale golden beer poured from such a funky looking can. The first UK canned beer I’ve had since I was a teenager! As lively as a new puppy on its first walkies, the huge white head releasing a massive citrus aroma, initially smelt like Mango, but more tart like sugared breakfast grapefruit (do people still put sugar on it?)

Fresh. Zingy and fresh. That tart citrus assaults the mouth on first sip. Drying the tongue out en route to its appointment with the throat. The little biscuit malt sweetness in here is mugged by citrus and pine needle dry bitterness. This is a really easy drinking beer. For me, as good and as fresh as the Founders I  had as a train beer recently. I could get to like this canned stuff!

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4. Stockport Sour (Pineapple & Scotch Bonnet) – Quantum Brewing (Stockport) – 2.3% abv – Sour Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Sets out stall – I am not a big fan of UK brewed sour beers. There, heresy expounded! I may not be quite “on trend” here, but until this beer, my thoughts wandered towards the argument “leave it to the Belgians – the Masters”. But – unsurprisingly – being from Quantum I suppose, I “got” this….

Ultra Pale yellow gold and hazy. Giving the misleading appearance of a wit to the unwary. The head soon dissipated leaving the unmistakably sour fruity aroma with the pineapple there in the background.

That thing about being unwary? Just take a mouthful. Our maybe a sip to accustom yourself! Light bodied as you would expect, the pineapple sweetness initially surprises, almost instantaneously giving best to a sour note. No. More than a note. This is distinctly sour, but not tongue wrestlingly so. The kicker is in the subtitle…. Scotch Bonnet? Oh yes. You feel it like a threat first. Like watching Nightmare on Elm Street… You know that Krueger is there… You just can’t see him… Until it’s too late…

That sharp peppery heat isn’t an incendiary flame, just a tongue tingling sharp spice. But this beer does what all good sours should, it gets those saliva glands pumping like like a Texan gusher!

This is really refreshing beer. I kid you not. I’m not a big fan of UK attempts at sours (as said above), but really enjoying this from Jay. Pineapple? Check! Scotch Bonnet? Check! Another cracker from Mr Krause!

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5. American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery (Dantzic St. Manchester) – 5.7% abv – US Brown Ale – Swap (330ml) – Direct from the Brewer

As it says, this is a brown beer.

This is really lively, with a mushrooming white head booming out aromas of mango and grapefruit. Seductively drawing me in, but into what? Fruitiness is what!

Boxes and boxes of mango, peach and tart grapefruit hit the tongue immediately, walking the walk that the aroma talked. The first mouthful finished dry, suddenly dry. Onwards….full-bodied, a big toasty wholemeal bready malt base with lashings of hoppy stuff spread all over it, again really fruity but with a dryness that gets the side of your tongue and turns it inwards almost to preserve moisture.

On keg, this improved the further down the glass you went.This is no different, with other flavours hitting further down,like a rye spiciness and almost a licorice like note. The finish is dry, slightly sweet with a big hoppy aftertaste. Another superb beer from Dantzic St!

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6. Slovenian IPATickety Brew (Stalybridge) – 5.8% abv – IPA – £2.05 (330ml) – 0 – The Epicurean (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester)

The first thing that I noticed was the home-made look of the labels….then that they were situated next to a bottle of Tickety Brew Jasmine Green Tea….! But where were the usual labels? Then I looked on the reverse….A (rather) limited run of only 96 bottles….I feel somewhat privileged and lucky to have been able to snaffle one of there. Here’s why…

A beautiful golden beer, frisky as a kitten with a wool ball, huge white head and a big but gentle fruity aroma, peach and passion fruit, with that TB Belgian yeast tang.

Oh this is beautiful! Full-bodied and smooth with a fine carbonation, a little peach, a lot of passion fruit and no little orchard fruit as well, sweet apple (in a REALLY good way!)
The yeast, combined with the hops, provides for a witheringly dry finish to the mouthful. Quite surprisingly resinous. This beer provoked my first Beergasm of the week. I feel that my notes don’t do this beer justice. I like TBs beers and have been a big supporter, but this is a whole new level. Sod the labels….Get this! (And THAT price? Call the cops, ‘cos this feels like I stole it!)
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7. TurvyOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 6.5% abv- Black IPA – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Markets)
Look at that seductive glassful of desire!

Black. As black as a Stout and equally opaque. A head creamy in both colour and texture Crooks Its finger and beckons you on to a nose of bitter chocolate and sweet licorice. Promises promises!

Oh baby! Is this one beautiful beer! Sweet Jesus! Totally different to all the BIPAs I’ve had before with its lack of tart citrus nose, but all the better for it!

A rich, rich mouthful. Smooth as the proverbial bottom, but silky smooth past the lips, there’s like a creamy almost buttery smoothness with that bitter chocolate roasted malty base, then leading you to some really bitter resinous hoppage.

Oh shit. Think I’m having one of those there Beergasms! This is THAT good!

This is everything I could want. Roasted & bitter, resinous and buttery smooth. A hell of a beer. Again, I don’t think that my notes have done this beer the justice that it deserves.

It. Rocked. Me. Out. Of. My. Seat. It is up there with the 300 from Five Towns. I can praise it no higher. One of the best bottles I’ve ever had. Year end podium material in my Golden Pints 2014!

“Great Beer Brewed By A Chick”? She’s a great “chick”, brewing great beer. This just…….

If you have the time today, GO to Crewe and enjoy some of the simply fabulous beers Michelle & here top team have put on in their First Friday Festival. Then thank me later!

That’s all folks!!! Bar one more thing!

This week, I had a couple of mates around to help me reduce my stash. Des & Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis). The bulk of the beers will form a separate blog post next week, however, Des – being a fine beery bloke of the highest order – has commenced my schooling in the arts of Belgian beers.

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These two beauties from De Ranke & Girardin are the start of my Belgian experience. The Gueuze, a fine mouth-watering sour and a superb “bitter” (Belgian style being anything BUT a “Bitter”!) were astonishingly good. I will leave others better qualified than me to pass judgement on these two rare beauties, but I both enjoyed them HUGELY and thank Des for bringing them and both Des & Jaz for a top evening. My next stop in the “Belgian Odyssey” will feature these two beauties. Things of rare beauty….

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I’m a lucky boy!

And on that note….til next time….

Slainte!