The East v West Beer Festival (aka EastWestFest) 15 -16 May 2015

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I, my friends (if I may call my sole reader that!), am becoming a bit of a Professional Northerner. Especially when it comes to beer. To my mind, there’s nothing worse than going in a Northern pub (in my case, Manchester) and not seeing a drop of Northern beer. Don’t get me wrong now, there is some simply superb beer being made all over this lovely island, but London seems to get all the press (and blogging) inches.

Nearly a year ago now, I decided to focus (almost) exclusively on beers from the North. Because, for me, the brewers up here have nothing to learn from elsewhere. There is, quite simply, some astonishing beer brewed up in these parts that gets not a lumen of the light that’s shone on the likes of Bermondsey & Hackney.

If I’m honest, as much as I adore the history of The Cousins War (aka The Wars of the Roses) and the banter that flies from each side of the Pennines, but this focus on Northern beer was the genesis of The Independent Salford Beer Festival (#ISBF2014). The beers came from Crewe to Scarborough and were mightily well received if the feedback is to be believed. So much so that we’ll be doing it again. (More on that elsewhere)

I was made up when Malcolm & Beverley Bastow from Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield took the time out and came over to Salford in October. I was even more made up when (via an independent Twitter vote) one of his beers won Beer of the Festival – AND that another Yorkshire beer came second (Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle). Mostly North West drinkers voting for two Yorkshire beers kind of felt like a validation.

EastWest Mono B

I’d heard a rumbling about a potential Northern Beer themed festival and when Malcolm confirmed that he was organising, I knew it would be something else. You see, for the uninitiated, he makes some bloody good beer in that there shed of his! But I was both humbled and astonished when he approached me to see if I would help in sourcing the beers from this side of The Hill. Even more so when I read that #ISBF2014 was one of the inspirations behind his festival!

I couldn’t say no, could I?

Red Shed from above

The little place you see above is the venue. Wakefield Labour Club. Known locally (and affectionately) as “The Red Shed”. I’m told that it has a capacity of 70. Yes, you read it right! Seventy. Or, me plus 60 others. The festival (as you can see) takes place in just under 2 weeks. As far as I’m aware, it’s pay on the door. Having had sight of the beer list, I’m just hoping that I can get in when I arrive. To say that I’m salivating is an understatement!

So, without further ado…..

From the West :

Brewsmith Beer – Nelson Sauvin (Pale Ale)

Wilson Potter – Don’t Fall (Pale Ale)

First Chop – SYL (Black IPA)

Tickety Brew – Rose Wheat Beer

Squawk Brewing Co – Pale Ale

Shindigger Brewing Co – IPA

Black Jack Beers – New Deck (Golden Bitter)

Allgates Brewery – Shogi Porter

Marble Brewery – Spring (Pale Ale)

Quantum – UK Light (UK hopped Pale Ale)

Thirst Class Ale – Pale & Interesting (Pale Ale)

From the East :

Clark’s – Billy Ruffian (Stout)

Sunbeam – Shepherds Delight (Rose Water infused)

The Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of the Caribbean (Red Rye Ale)

Atom Beers – Schroedinger’s Cat (Pale Ale – Columbus, Chinook, Citra & Mosaic!)

North Riding Brewpub – Hunters Dream (Strong Mild)

Blue Bee Brewery – Real (A Sorachi Pale Ale)

Brown Cow – Yorkshire Sovereign (Pale Ale)

Revolutions Brewing – The Golden Age of Wireless (Mild) I DO love a musical reference!

Steel City Brewing – Troika Red IPA

Whippet Brew Co – Brew Number One!

Learn To Brew – Young, Gifted and Pale (Pale Ale) (+ a mystery beer!) – I DO love a musical reference!

and last….but not least, your hosts….

Five Towns Brewery – May Day. Fully loaded brew, with Citra, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, Chinook and Equinox hops, Double IPA.

It’s a rare Beer Festival when there is THIS much Northern beer and I haven’t so much as sniffed 75% of it!

I’m going (Train & Hotel booked!) along with Yoda (aka the Arch-Nemesis) and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked forward to a beer festival this much in years!

It’s all in a good cause too, so come along and have a beer or seven and help support some good causes by er…..drinking great beer!!!!

Tune

“Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.

News guy wept and told us earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying.

I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies.
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.’s.
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.
And all the fat-skinny people. And all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people. And all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people”

(“Five Years” – Bowie)

(Clip courtesy Sante3d via YouTube)

For Malcolm & Beverley (As fans)

For everybody else – Do I REALLY need to explain this?

That’s all for now people. See you next week?

Slainte!

Bottled Beers – April 2015 – Pt 2

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I’m going to bookend this piece with 2 “thoughts” – for those who like my music related wafflings, they’ll be back soon enough.

Firstly, the CAMRA Bolton Beer Festival. I went last weekend and was chuffed to bits to see it substantially busier than the same time last year. I now appreciate far more the effort that goes into curating a beer festival. You need a team (as I also learned!) and this team selected some excellent beers. So much so, that this is the best small CAMRA festival I’ve been to. Well worth the visit next year. Congratulations to Graham, Pete, Linda, Jez and everyone else involved.

And now….to business…..

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Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.0%abv – Blonde Ale – 500ml – From the Brewery.

Luckily for me, a family outing took me close to Congleton last weekend. My reward, picking up some of Mr Swindells’ excellent beers – and nearly becoming a light lunch for a one year old terrier / guard dog of doom!

A slightly hazy light golden beer with a decent white tight foamy head and an aroma with lemon, orange and a hint of gooseberry.
Light initial sweetness yielding ground to a little tart lemon & lime and quite a sticky dry resinous touch in the aftertaste. Quite abrupt that! Bit of a surprise.

Further down the glass, a rather lovely marmalade flavour comes through which is right up my street!

This medium bodied beer works the trick. Nice and fruity, gently tart and hugely refreshing. A superb beer for a summer’s day relaxing outside in a nice beer garden.

If all 4% beers tasted something like this, I’d have no complaints. Yum.

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(I REALLY need a new camera!)
Tractor Beer IITickety Brew (Tickety Few – Stalyvegas) – 3.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)
Oh my is this a lively beastie! Ultra Pale golden beer, abundant head and a huge aroma kicking or loads of lime citrus and gooseberry. Mouth wateringly aromatic.

Light bodied as you would expect from such a low abv beer. The carbonation lends it a fuller texture than I was expecting. The flavours are sharp citrus with some lime and lemon in there, making this really refreshing and it cut through my dulled taste buds.

The finish is short and dry with a little of that fruit and a spicy dryness imparted by that Belgian yeast that TB use

As it says on the label “super light” and very easy drinking. A Ronseal beer (which is a GOOD thing!)

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EllaMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4%abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Heaton Hops
Ahhhh….It feels like AGES since I’ve had a bottle of Mallinsons!
Pale gold, almost straw coloured, with a good lacy white head and an aroma that is like a lung full of tangerine and apricot vapours.

And those flavours are totally present in this light to medium bodied beer. WOW! This is a sharp and tart little number and no mustangs! (Or mistake. Depending on your predictive text!) Initial fruity sweetness and then BANG. A crackling bitterness mugs the fruitiness and stomps on it!

This is a massively refreshing and snappy beer. That fruitiness dries off swiftly leaving a residue of sticky pine coating the tongue. Just a brilliant Pale Ale. From the Queens of Huddersfield.

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Play Your Cards Rye’tBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Copper Rye Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Not too sure about that copper bit. This is almost a red Ale with a nice white collar pushing out a dark fruity nose with more than a note of peppery spice in there.

Yup. Fruity. Burnt orange, lending a bitterness along with (strangely) a hint of strawberry? This is medium bodied and Oh. So. Dry. Rye & Dry. Seem to go together don’t they?

This gets the saliva glands going and almost immediately throws up a huge STOP sign. Nicely spicy from the Rye too. A big drying finish with a lingering splash of orange.

A superb beer. These Black Jack bottles just get better. (But if they can beat their own Deerhunter…… THAT would be an achievement!)
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IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6%abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops
A new beer from Shindigger. A pleasingly gradual expansion of their range, this is a deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a decent white head and a deep and spicy orange marmalade aroma. Yum.

Medium bodied, the oranges almost ooze out of this into the mouth. So juicy. Good malt backbone with a light toffee flavour allowing the fruitiness to rise above. There is also a slightly fragrant quality that I can’t quite identify. This marmalade character lingers for some time, fading only slightly, allowing a medium bitterness in to play.

The whole package is wrapped up with a resinous bow, slightly sticky and a little peppery. This is another excellent beer. They are yet to miss a beat for me.

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Satanic MillsBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton U Lyne)
A deep deep dark ruby, almost black beer, with a cream coloured tight creamy head and a nose full of chocolate, a little sweet coffee and a nose wrinkling spicy touch.

Smooth and creamy in the mouth, quite full bodied this. The first flavour to register is a bittersweet chocolate, then a note of rum and maybe raisins (anybody remember “Old Jamaica” chocolate? No? I REALLY am an old git!) with a deep fruity tone.
A second sip gives more of the same, but introduces a little peppery spice to the tongue. This is really smooth. The chocolate and fruit lead to a dry chocolatey finish. A satisfying beer for a cool spring evening.
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Grounds for DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.8%abv – Belgian Tripel – 500ml – Direct from the Brewery
My Beer of the Festival at ISBF. I only managed a sneaky half. And I organised it. Bad planning! I was horrified that it ran out before I could snaffle more. So Malcolm sorted me out a 750ml bottle. The Atilla drank that! Some things just aren’t meant to be…..Or are they?
Fermented with the yeast used by Brasserie Orval in their eponymous classic, this poured a hazy straw gold with an abundant but swiftly diminished white head and the aromas of…. peach, banana, a little clove…. Just… Mmmmmm….

This. Is. A. Big. Beer. Yum! Initial sweetness, sticky with bitter orange and peach then more fruitiness with banana bringing up the rear with a proper spicy hit riding it with a whip over the first fence! (I drank this on Grand National evening, forgive me!)

That fruitiness is almost overwhelming!  I don’t really know Belgian beers all that well, but I absolutely adore this. Fruity, spicy and warming as it slides into my belly. On a cool spring evening, with a good book, what could be better!

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Carl Northern Alchemy
Now. That bookend.
Some of you may know Andy Heggs, he of the excellent video blog series Hop On The Bike. Well, on one of his trips, he and his fellow Hoppers collaborated on a beer at a brewery called Northern Alchemy in Newcastle. The beer that they created – a Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA no less – is being launched at Font Bar on Sunday. All proceeds to go to the admirable charity Forever Manchester.
As a regular proponent of the maxim “Beer People Are Good People”, it didn’t surprise me at all, when several beery linked people donated a number of items to be used as raffle prizes. Take it from me that there are some astonishingly good prizes in there!
This event is easy to attend. And let’s face it, it’s in FONT!!! If you needed any more reason to go for Christ’s Sake????
You can read my review of a sneaky advanced bottle of the Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA below. Tickets for this event are free. Click on the link hereThis event deserves to be a HUGE success. For the following reasons…
  • It’s for a brilliant and worthwhile charity.
  • There are loads of great prizes that you could win
  • It’s in FONT for crying out LOUD!!!
  • You can even MEET THE BREWER
  • Read on….

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Marmalade & Assam Tea IPANorthern Alchemy & Hop On The Bike – 7.3%abv – IPA – 330ml

The moment I popped the crown cap off, I was assaulted by orange zest aromas. From the bottle! Drool.

This is a murky dark amber in the glass, the white head in clinging and persistent and the smell is just….. Deep orange with a toffee undernote for it to ride.

Oh my giddy f***ING aunt but this is astonishingly good! Chewy and full-bodied, the first sip is like the best use of marmalade since Paddington last licked his paw. So good. Then the tannins from the tea give your drooling tongue a rub down and dry it off. Oh dear…

This is SO dry it’s almost rye like. The fruitiness floods your tongue from front to back and it is a real orange marmalade bass note. This is like a Peter Hook bass line, made beer.

The finish is sticky fruity and oh so resinous. It’s an absolute belter.

Go to Font on Sunday. Drink excellent beer. Spend money. Win Prizes. And do amazing things for this excellent charity.
Win. Win and thrice WIN!
On that note….I’m off to Peterborough to gorge myself on Oakham beers at a family 40th.
Hopefully see you on Sunday!
Slainte!

Heaton Hops – 30/03/2015 – A Classy Micro Pub

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(I thought that it never rained in South Manchester?)

I am a lucky man sometimes. It certainly felt that way, when I received an invite to a “soft opening” of a brand new bar being opened by Damian O’Shea (of “The Ale Man Manchester” fame). My plans were made to meet Andy (of “Hop On The Bike” infamy) on the concourse at Piccadilly Station – complete with rose in lapel.

Then…..Public Transport shall we say….intervened.

It was hardly an auspicious start for this opening to take place in such foul weather. Let me honest here…..If it wasn’t a bar being opened by Damian and his partner Charlotte, I wouldn’t have stepped on the bus. But I did. And I could have nearly walked quicker! As it was, I got off on Bridge Street in Manchester and marched to Piccadilly…well in advance of the bus that I’d left.

Then….

I caught the wrong train. And ended up at Manchester Airport. Yes. I know. I AM an utter idiot. Right time, wrong platform it would appear. Should have gone to Specsavers eh? Right. Back on the same train and return to Piccadilly and start with a clean slate. And more caution!

So I now find myself on Heaton Moor Road, crossing the A6 from Heaton Chapel train station onto School Lane. In the pouring rain. (I’m SUCH a poet!)

I tell you. Odysseus had less of a journey to get a beer! Homer (No. Not the yellow one!) would be proud of me. And be readying his stylus and wax tablet for a sequel!

The windows were steamy. A good sign that it was busy.

Opening the door. First impressions? Classy. Neutral paintwork on the walls, REAL wood cladding on the ceiling and upper portions of the walls, pendant lighting. It looked great. To be honest, anything less would have been disappointing. I’ve known Damian as a customer for nearly 3 years and this was what I expected from him. It looked really good and serves as a lesson in how to do this – no names mentioned.

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(Busy)

It is (by its very nature as a converted shop) small. Including a downstairs area, the capacity is 60, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, a situation that is arrived at by the provision of a number of distressed wood tables giving plenty of seating, which was all occupied as I entered and strode to the bar.

Beers. 2 on cask and 8 on keg. But I needed a pint. And, for an opening night, to have cask beers from two local breweries, Brewsmith & Thirst Class Ale, was like music to my eyes and tastebuds. So, for me, as local as it gets with a pint of Green Bullet by Thirst Class Ale of Stockport – Nicely bitter with a fruity pine flavour and a resinous finish. I enjoyed it. I had a few.

On either side wall, there are shelves and shelving full of some of the best of British Craft brewing. The first thing that I saw was a few bottles of Smokehouse Porter by Cheshire Brewhouse. Now those who know me, will know that some of those were simply BOUND to end up in my bag!

Heaton Hops Thirst Class

(Photo courtesy of Richard Conway – aka Thirst Class Ale)

Next to the Smokehouse Porter were some bottles of my Best Bottle of 2014 – (Barrel Aged) Govinda, again by Cheshire Brewhouse. Next to that, Smoked Treacle Imperial Stout by Quantum. All 3 beers should be in any serious local beer drinkers stashes – they’re in mine. But I concede that I’m rarely serious!

The beer was going down well, assisted by my pal Des shoving up and letting me sit down and drip dry. The conversation flowed as much as the beer. As I’ve said on many occasions. “Beer People Are Good People” and these are the kinds of people that Damian has been serving from his stall these last few years. They like what he does (and sells) and many, like Des and Steve (Beer Nouveau) and myself, came from 15 miles or more to enjoy this new venue. And oh how we did.

I had a look downstairs where Damian & Charlotte have created a room from what would have been cellar space, again, a nice cool look to it. just calm and clean. Spot lighting – the only way given the low ceiling – gives it a warm feel. A nice cosy space.IMAG2766

(Downstairs)

Somebody had said that this was where “the cool kids” were tonight. If so, I don’t know where I fitted in! But there were a number of faces that I knew from Des & Steve, Andy, Richard (Thirst Class) and a number of the Manchester Home Brewer group, my old buddy Jeff, Paul & George (aka Shindigger). It was just a lovely relaxed gathering

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The Craft Keg selection was a pleasure to see too, with the local likes of Runaway, Shindigger, Cloudwater & Marble in among the likes of Weird Beard. Again, certain other new bars could take note of the number of local beers on offer. I found myself amazed that I had never had the Smoked Porter by Runaway on keg previously, so that was duly remedied. Repeatedly. A gentle smoky nose and a lovely creamy texture giving up a big roasty and lightly smoked character. Beautiful beer that.

I also had my first taste of a Cloudwater beer, their Table Beer. Refreshing and with a spicy almost Belgian yeasty note it felt like a wheat/pale ale hybrid and wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Being the talk of the town at the moment, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked what I think of Cloudwater. I shall reserve until I try a few more of their beers, but this wasn’t a bad start.

I also picked up a few bottles. Because, it would a) Be rude not to, and b) This is also an excellent bottle shop! So expect to hear more about some Cheshire Brewhouse, Offbeat, First Chop & Shindigger sometime soon!

In baseball terminology, I think that Damian & Charlotte have hit the ball out of the park here in many ways. The bar looks great. The beer choice is excellent. The background music was superb too – I abruptly broke off a conversation to exclaim “”Canopy” – The Cave Singers. Bloody hell this is a TUNE”! Most of all, by choosing this location. A bar of this type is bound to do well in The Heatons. And, for Northern oiks like me, it’s only a 3 minute walk from Heaton Chapel train station.

All in all – a result.

Postscript : It seems fitting that – given my disastrous journey TO Heaton Hops, that the return journey should also be a bit of a “mare”. A delayed train meant that I would have missed my last bus. Thanks therefore to Paul from Shindigger and his Uber account for getting me home!

Tune

“I have learnt there’s a magical spot at the hop
Come with me to the church on the corner the hop
There’s nuts and there’s crisps and there’s c-c-c-cola on tap
A good time had by those boys and those girls at the hop

Tell me what do you say (tell me what do you say)
Tell me what do you say….I tell you
Life begins at the hop, boys and girls”

(“Live Begins At The Hop” – XTC  – Clip courtesy thecatkeaton on You Tube)

In my library, there could only be one tune to finish this piece with! The mighty XTC on TOTP, things like this used to make my Thursday evenings worth staying in for when I was 14!

One of the greatest bands. Period.

Well. I better get off and gird my loins for Saturday and the Easter 2015 Road To Wigan Beer bus marathon. Come along and have beers you’ll have never tried before and the most fun you could have with your clothes on!

Slainte!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 7 – PIP – First Chop Brewing Arm / Shindigger Brewing (Salford, Manchester) – 6.3% abv – Saison

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I was chuffed to bits to have this on cask at the Independent Salford Beer Festival. To say that it went down well would be doing it a disservice. It was magnificent. Fruity, yeasty and – for the strength – hugely refreshing. A big hit.

I then had it on keg at a Shindigger MTB in Chorlton and the additional carbonation lifted it a touch I thought. I’m a big fan of both Rik Garner (First Chop) and the nomadic Paul & George so I really looked forward to getting this in bottle which – fortunately – was released just in time for the “12Beers”

Well, it loses nothing in the bottling!

Massively fruity on the nose, as you would expect from a beer containing both Citra & Sorachi Ace hops, with fields of sharp grapefruit flying out of the hazy golden glassful with a little bitter lemon edge to it.

In the mouth? Oh my! Medium bodied and just Oh. So. Fruity. Masses of grapefruit hit the mouth initially followed by that lemon sharpness, there but less pronounced, a proper sharp fruity gobfull. This is followed by a distinct resinous pine hit which gradually yields to a peppery, yeasty, funky finish. This. Is. A. Proper. Beer.

Oh boy is this good! A proper #Beergasm! Just wish I’d bought a shit ton more!

Donkey likes it!

My #GoldenPints 2014

Golden Pints Logo

Oh Shit! It’s that time of year when I’m forced to be decisive and tell you (and you probably couldn’t give a flying…..) about what I REALLY liked this year, by pre-defined category.

So, 2014 was a year when I discovered the following :

How much I love blogging about beer.

How much I really couldn’t be arsed blogging about beer.

How close you can come to a nervous breakdown (and I HAVE been there) and come through nearly unscathed (See The Independent Salford Beer Festival)

How much generally that “Beer People Are Good People”

And a huge thanks to “BeerReviewsAndy” (someone I have never met) for getting this snowball rolling…..

And….the following……

  1. Best UK Cask BeerGrounds For DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorks) – For me, the best beer at #ISBF2014. A 7.8% Belgian style Tripel fermented using yeast from the legendary Brasserie Orval, brewed at the bottom of a garden in Outwood, Wakefield, by one of the most unassuming people that I have ever met. As fruity as Carmen Miranda’s headgear and as light and tasty as a Heston Blumenthal foam. It. Rocked. My. World. (And I’m yet to really get into Belgian beer!)
  2. Best UK Keg Beer – I haven’t really had all that much, but of those that I HAVE had, I’d fall on the side of American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery – . From the first sip at Black Jack Tap (Hmmm….) to the last sip (WOW!). This beer adheres to Principle 1 of the 3 Jazwinski Beer Principles. It was a beer that improved with each and every sip. By that last sip, I could *almost* have been a convert to keg. And it was fecking astonishingly good at #ISBF2014 on cask too!
  3. Best UK Bottle or Can – I’m not gonna cop out here by choosing one each (I’ll do THAT elsewhere!). This was a close run thing. My vote – by a well groomed whisker – goes to Govinda (Brandy Barrel Aged) IPACheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire). A massively English hopped IPA at 6.8% abv, the original version was already a stunning thing, a grand riposte to those who think English hopped beers are merely brown and twiggy murk. Get Thee Behind Me Beery Satans! “Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours …. give way to a spicy hop…” Being fairly dedicated to UK – and Northern beers in particular, this proved the most intense #Beergasm that I had this year.
  4. Best Overseas Draught – Not. Really. My. Bag. Next……!
  5. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Can? Founders All Day IPA. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Fresh, zingy and oh so refreshing. Bottle? Not had many…But, from Brouwerij The Musketeers (Ursel, Belgium) – Troubadour WestKust Black Imperial IPA – A 750 ml bottle that – in the midst of a tastebud numbing cold, I could actually taste. A full-bodied fruity hop assault. With licorice. What’s NOT to like?
  6. Best Collaboration Brew – Another tricky one. Came down to a choice of two, BOTH involving the mighty Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brewpub in Scarborough. The first was 300 from Five Towns / North Riding – a big, punchy Double IPA which in no way tasted it’s strength but had more hops than Watership Down and was a damn sight tastier! However, edging this by simple force of Bitterness, is Protz’s PleasureSteel City Brewing (Sheffield) / North Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – Conceived (possibly) as a riposte to a rant from Roger Protz about the beer type “Black IPA”. All of the oxymoronic characteristics of a BIPA with a simply MASSIVE bitterness. Astonishing.
  7. Best Overall Beer – See 3 above!IMAG2241
  8. Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelBad Seed Brewery. For that hanging tag pump label. Irritating for the staff, but classy as feck. (I’ve kept the one from #ISBF2014 – don’t change fellas!)IMAG2118
  9. Best UK Brewery – On balance, this HAS to go to the brewery from which I drink the most consistently excellent and drinkable beers – Drinkability, for me, means a tasty, well hopped (or dark and roasted) beer that I can drink repeatedly without falling off my chair. For me, this means AllGates. From Sloe Stout at Manchester Beer and Cider Fest to Half Devil at #ISBF2014 and all points in between, just consistently excellent beer.
  10. Best Overseas Brewery – Moving swiftly on…..Next!
  11. Best New Brewery Opening 2014 – Controversy time! I’m going to go with Shindigger Brewing. I KNOW that they don’t have their own premises (yet!), but as a consumer, this is about the beer, right? From my first taste of Pacific Pale to the Saison/PIP at an MTB in Chorlton, they have progressed with each. and. every. beer. Cask, keg and bottle. Cuckoo? Gypsy? It’s about the beer for me, like I said. A HUGE honourable mention to Runaway Brewery and Squawk Brewing too. Manchester really IS rocking at the moment!
  12. Pub/Bar of the Year – (I’ve twisted the category – slightly!) Pub? Easy. As last year, The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (Wigan). A proper local that I need to visit WAY more often. 5 Great cask beers, friendly service, friendly locals, a real fire and a great landlord/landlady combo in Nigel and Adele. Sorted. Bar? Hmmm….Trickier. But I can’t split. So – a) Great Ale Year Round at Bolton Market for continuing to bring good beer to Bolton (and giving me a reason to visit the town!), a rare thing in the last few years for me. Great local cask/keg beers, friendly regulars, friendly hosts. Anne & Steve continue to do a sterling job. I just hope that the council could open up 6 days a week instead of 4! And – b) Wigan Central – 7 cask lines. 4 Craft keg. In Wigan? A brave move by Prospect Brewery, but one that appears to be paying off judging by the feedback that I’ve been privy to! They made a wise move in bringing Dan & Gina Buck in to run it (formerly of Great Ale Year Round – see the link there?). Great location, fabulously fitted out. Excellent beers too. (As far as the original category goes – both of the latter 2 opened this year!)
  13. Best beer and food pairing – I’m not QUITE reconstructed to that stage yet….Next!
  14. Beer Festival of the Year – 3 candidates. 1 I cannot choose. Because I organised it. The self interest element prevents me from choosing The Independent Salford Beer Festival. So, I’m left with 2. IndyManBeerCon is indeed a beery Tour De Force and remains a fixture for most sensible beer calendars (mine is set for 09:00 on 01/04/2015 – for the probable ticket release!). I DO think that cask appeared to be marginalised this year and I hear many gripes from elsewhere, but really? Just “grow a pair” and appreciate it for what it is! My winner though is AllGates‘ “The Road To Wigan Beer” in April. A fantastic selection of some of the newest and best UK breweries on cask. Spread across 6 pubs within Wigan borough. In one day. On a bus. Simply the most fun I’ve had in 2014. And fun matters.
  15. Supermarket of the YearBooths. Simple. If you have been to a branch, bought beer, then chose a different supermarket, you’re having a laugh. At your own expense. Obviously, If you live more than 20 miles south of Knutsford, you may not understand. It’s a Northern thing!
  16. Independent Retailer of the YearThe Liquor Shop (Whitefield) Now closed and reborn as specialist beer shop BarBeerian, this has been the place from which I have bought the most beer. Period. The stock is large and wide ranging (Scotland to US/Italy) and great value too. All that from a small convenience store! Now Raj has moved a couple of doors down and opened up as a specialist beer shop, he’s looking to open a small bar upstairs with craft keg & a local cask line. I wish him well with this.
  17. Online Retailer of the Year – I haven’t. I try and shop locally. Aren’t I virtuous? Next!
  18. Best Beer Book or MagazineOpening Times (Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA) – Essential semi-drunken bus home reading material. Well written & edited (Mr Clarke, take a bow!).
  19. Best Beer Blog or Website – Hmmm….Time for another split. Still up there (and one of my two) is Glenn Johnson and his “My World of Beer“. Informative, straight and tells me what I want to know. Is the pub/bar/beer good. And does it well. But locally? The Boozy Procrastinator by Deeekos, a blog that came into its own with some assertive posts on a variety of issues from IndyManBeerCon through to Myleene Klaas & Paddington Bear (in the same post!). Funny, informative, passionate. A winning combination.
  20. Best Beer AppTwitter. I think I would meltdown if I used Untappd. And not in a good way. Some people talk such utter bollocks about beer & breweries when they can be cloaked in anonymity. So no. Next!
  21. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer@BroadfordBrewer. For #TwattyBeerDoodles and so much more.
  22. Best Brewery Website/Social mediaCheshire Brewhouse. Just functional & classy.

 

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Part 2

“Music in the ice-box, laughter in the dark,
Echoes in the silence, waiting for the spark,
Hold me while I’m naked, catch me if you can,
Suicide statements are the measure of the man …”

(“Do You Dream In Colour” – Bill Nelson)

(Clip courtesy Robert Jukes on YouTube)

I am a Bill Nelson fan. A true fan in that his is the only “Fan Club” that I ever joined. For a couple of years, you got a magazine (REALLY well produced) every quarter and an exclusive 7″ single with every second magazine. The output of the man was massive!

Simply one of the greatest, yet unsung, British guitarists. Starting solo and quite folky, then hitting a peak with one of the tightest rock bands of the 70s, the awesome Be Bop Deluxe. Tracks like Maid In Heaven, Between The Worlds, Love With The Madman, Ships In The Night……Oh my…..so tight…so melodic…and that guitar could make such sounds

Then, just when they looked to be getting huge in the States, he got …… bored. He went to form a more “modern” and aggressive band Red Noise. Again, utterly superb. But only one album. Check out “Sound on Sound”. Of its time, but still sharp as lemon juice!

“Do You Dream In Colour” was the “hit” single that never was. It was hamstrung in that its release coincided with a strike at the BBC in 1981, so that Top of the Pops wasn’t broadcast. It should have been huge. Bill should have had more success…..

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1. Govinda India Pale Ale (Barrel Aged Head Brewers Reserve) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8%abv – IPA – £No Idea (500ml) – The Ale Man (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)

A deep copper coloured beer with a tight soft white head with an aroma full of banana toffee laced with a boozy caramel note (aged in Brandy barrel), so inviting.

Second sniff reminds me more of a rich Christmassy fruit cake. Oh Yum!

Oh bloody hell this is SUCH A GREAT BEER. PROPER BEERGASM MATERIAL!!! A full-bodied rich and smooth mouthful. Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours just give way to a spicy hop and a very gentle (But present) bitterness. That said, this is such a smooth beer.

In the second mouthful and further, the earthy character of the hops takes more of a front seat with a building spiciness and peppery note. The aftertaste is peppery hop and a slightly smoky spirit warmth. Beautiful. There is apparently another barrel aged version of this beast. You NEED this in your glass!

#Beergasm Number 1 This week!
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2. Bohemian Antipodean PaleOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.65 (500ml) – Tottering Temple (Horwich)
Pale gold with a light white head and gentle carbonation giving really big tropical fruit aromas of mango & kiwi.

Oh my! Nice medium bodied beer this with a fabulously fruity party going on! Peach, mango, kiwi, passion fruit followed by a HUGE bracing piney sticky bitterness. Wow!

This is absolutely PACKED with flavour and feels much bigger than its strength. Further mouthfuls just confirm initial impressions. This bitterness builds to a dry finish with a really assertive piney aftertaste. Superb.

You need THIS as well!
#Beergasm Number 2!
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3. Stout PorterSeven Bro7hers Brewery (Salford) – 5.2%abv – StoutGreat Ale Year Round – £3 (330ml)
My first in bottle from this Salford brewery who – after their initial (feather ruffling) launch publicity – have settled to make some rather nice well judged beers on cask. But in bottle….
A black beer with a ruby tinge around the edges, a creamy tan coloured head and…. A subtle yet distinct aroma of… licorice & Anise. Very intriguing!

Initially tasting a little sweetness, this mouthful developed into something with a more dry and Roasted malt character, slightly bitter, but not overly, leaving the room free for some spicy licorice and herbal sweetness of the anise. A very nice mouthful indeed.

A second mouthful held more of the same, but I found a nutty note coming through in the aftertaste that was surprising and most pleasant and which gradually gave best to that gentle aniseed finish. This could work really well on draught and I need to try it soon. Salford has another brewery worth the candle it would seem!

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4. PilsShindigger Brewing Co (Here, there & everywhere!) – 5.1% abv – Pilsner -£? (330ml) – Direct from the brewer
No disclaimer needed, I did actually pay for this, I just haven’t noted a price up top as I don’t know what the retail price would be!
As Pale a gold add you could possibly wish for work a light white head and aroma of…. Mango! A Lager with a tropical fruit aroma? Hmmm.

This is now one of the few beers that I’ve had in cask, keg and bottle. Cask at ISBF, keg at MTB and now…. And it’s a bloody lovely beer too (as were the cask & keg)

First impressions in the mouth? Light, massively refreshing, clean and crisp as all good pilsner should be. With the addition of fruity hops which are more dialled down, but plenty enough! Smooth too, with a nice cereal / bready  malt backbone coming through later.

I told the fellas at the time of ISBF that this struck me as an ultra Pale Ale as much as a Lager in its cask incarnation. The bottle version reminds me (kind of) of Caesar Augustus by Williams Brothers which is a Lager / IPA hybrid (and bloody good too!)

I’m waiting for George & Paul to take a misstep. No danger yet of that. Another belter.

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5. OktoberfestRunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Dark Lager – £3 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round
A deep copper colour to this with a foamy off white head and an intriguing fruity aroma, some plum, a bit of barley sugar and something more… Boozy… Maybe a hint of golden rum or molasses.

Not being a big fan of darker German beers, I approached this with trepidation, I dislike Bock beers for example. Just don’t “get” them at all. However…..

Initial sweetness with some barley sugar (crystal malt?) and quite fruity, again plum but with something else too, maybe the merest hint of banana caramel. That sweetness quickly fades as a drying quality asserts itself with a feeling of rye curling the tongue.

Really smooth andfull bodied this. Those molasses come more to the fore in the second gob full. Big wholemeal bready malty base in this supporting that sweet fruitiness. And a big hint of marzipan cakiness too, giving this a seasonal feel.

A departure for Mark this. And he’s carried it off too. This could barrel age well methinks!

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6. Sorachi Ace StoutFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6.5% abv (I think!) – Strong Stout – Direct.
I originally picked this up at the same time that I personally collected the pin of cask conditioned version for ISBF. No labels either. I was strictly instructed NOT to drink it for a couple of weeks as it had JUST been bottled and wouldn’t yet be ready. Oh I am SO glad I waited. This was one of the stars of the show at ISBF. I was drooling as I picked up the bottle opener!
Pitch black. Reassuringly so. A nice tight tan coloured and creamy looking head on this as well with an aroma that just oozes…. Bitter chocolate and (of all things) rum like an Old Jamaica chocolate bar from the 70s. Do they still make them?

Oh shit this is just SO creamy and unctuous! Coffee. Strong coffee. That bitter chocolate too. Smooth and silky, seductive, I’m hearing Ike’s Rap II by Isaac Hayes (as sampled by Portishead for Glory Box), deep melodic bass notes. Slinky. Like this beer.

But there is a lightness of hopping that lifts this beer too. A fabulous grassy dryness and a little light fruitiness. Just a little. Because this beer wallows and luxuriates in its delightful dark depths. Got a lot of love at ISBF did this. I can sure see why.

A beautiful thing.

#Beergasm Number 3!

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 2

“Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Show me, show me, show me, show me, show me”

(“Everything’s Gone Green” – New Order)

(Video clip courtesy of  Brian110x on YouTube)

The first release where New Order primarily based the backing track on the use of synthesisers. It was a bloody revelation when it backed the track “Procession” released in September 1981. For me, it also marked a departure of sorts, as the general sound and feel of the band hadn’t shaken off the suicide of Ian Curtis – in my opinion – until the release of this single.

I saw Joy Division at the now infamous concert at Bury’s Derby Hall on 08 April 1980 (a concert – a bit like the Sex Pistols at The Lesser Free Trade Hall – where thousands professed to being there!) when I saw 3 tracks performed with different singers until the bottling started after Ian Curtis (deeply unwell, as we now know) departed the stage to be replaced by Alan Hempsall (Crispy Ambulance) and – I only recently discovered – Simon Topping from A Certain Ratio. Until the above track, the sound hadn’t moved on THAT much.

Certainly, when I saw New Order’s first Manchester gig in February 1981, nothing much had changed – including the ritualistic chanting of “Wilson is a Wanker!” at the sighting of Tony Wilson on stage – how opinions change eh? (As an aside, that concert is listed on many websites as being at Manchester Polytechnic. Bollocks! Manchester gigs at “The Poly” were at Cavendish Hall until it closed. This was on Hathersage Road – just at the Oxford Rd end from Victoria Baths.)

I got pissed off with New Order sometime in the middle of a concert at Salford Uni in 1985 (Low Life tour). I walked out half way through. The last album I loved was Technique (though I bought Republic out of curiosity, I never really “got” it. It bored me. Something they hadn’t done to me until that video, shot on a beach, for Regret.

I must be getting old. Was that first concert REALLY 33 1/2 years ago?

Moving swiftly on to the beer…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Lupy As A Toucan (Simcoe, EXP 366, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

Nice surprise to see Shane’s beers in Londis Penny Lane on a recent visit! Adding to an already excellent fridge in this beery Allerton oasis!
A deep amber coloured beer, light white head and a huge fruity nose with kiwi, peach and Mango.

A really big, full-bodied mouthful this. A bit like Um Bongo but with added bitterness and pine. By heck this is a fruity little beast, more deep Mango, but with a really substantial bitterness balancing that fruity sweetness. And that bitterness? Oh my! Uncompromising to say the least! Probably more of an IPA style than a Pale Ale. But really, I don’t give a toss, ‘cos it’s bloody lovely

WHAT a beer this is. My gums are tingling! Always a good sign!
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2. Amber EpicureanFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 3.9% abv – Amber Ale – £2.80(ish?) (500ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
As its name implies, an amber Ale with a white thick foamy head and an aroma choc full of peach and Mango. A fruit basket of citrus smells.

Light bodied and full on fruity with the Mango front and centre, so fruity that it could be one of my five a day! This is hugely refreshing whilst being possessed of a bracing bitterness.

This is very generous of Rik, because this is right up there with AVA for me. Salford has a brewer to rejoice in. A simply cracking beer, light fruity refreshing and bitter. Possibly the perfect summer ale for a warm Cornish evening (as it was when I drank it!)

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3. Jumping Juniper RyeOffbeat Brewery / BlackJack Beers (Crewe/Manchester) – Rye Ale – 5.2% abv – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)
A companion piece collaboration with Black Jack to the St Clements Pale, brewed for the Birmingham Beer Bash (whereas St Clements was brewed for a local beer festival in Chorlton). What this means, is that this is the first bottled beer that I’ve had from BlackJack!
A deep dark ruby brown beer, almost black, with a creamy looking tan colour head with a distinctive roasted aroma with the fruity juniper on top.

The body of a Stout, the hopping and fruity bitterness of a black IPA and the astringent spicy touch of the juniper allied to the Rye. This is bloody lovely. Full bodied and smoothly carbonated, The initial coffee roast & bitter chocolate leads  to a fruitiness (maybe apricot) before the coffee reasserts itself  and dries on the tongue stripping it of moisture. The juniper and Rye add to this with a spicy touch in the finish leasing to a crackle of pine needle resins in the aftertaste. Classy beer.

This is best described as a BIPA crossed with a strong mild, ever so slightly reined in, but with the added complexity and spicy dryness leant by the Rye with the fruity drying astringency from the berries. Another classic collaboration by these two excellent breweries (the St Clements was bloody good too! The shape of things to come I hope!)
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4. Jasmine Green TeaTickety Brew (Stalybridge, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.05 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A beautiful Pale gold, crystal clear beer, with a white fluffy lasting head and a delicate aroma with that signature Belgian yeast note and something more delicate and floral.

Light bodied and very fruity. Peach and kiwi perhaps at first taste, then the tea kicks in with that tannic dryness and light jasmine touch.

Fresh and fruity this is a lovely light and refreshing beer with that signature Belgian spicy yeast note kicking in in the finish leading to a dry lightly grassy hop aftertaste. An excellent bottle from Stalyvegas.

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(Apologies for shockingly bad pic!)
5. Black IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.50 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Black. Thick creamy texture head. Tingling spicy licorice on the nose.

Full bodied, creamy textured feel in the mouth, the initial hit is mango, with a little sweet apricot, but this mutates quickly into a darker shade of flavour with licorice racing forward.

This is my kind of Black IPA, more on the Stouty side than IPA on the flavour spectrum. The impressive thing is how, flavour wise, it goes from Pale to dark flavours in the same mouthful. As good as it was on cask at Stockport Beer Fest.

If this was a tune, it would be Young Americans by Bowie. A beery slice of blue eyed soul. Beautiful.

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6. PilsStod Fold Brewing Co (Ogden, Halifax, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Lager – £3 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)
Beautiful deep golden beer with a light white head and an aroma resembling marmalade on hot buttered toast.
A medium bodied beer, clean tasting with some nice gentle fruitiness in here, definitely a little orange but also something more coolly autumnal and hedgerow like.
Crisp and light but with a depth of flavour that’s missing in many a macro lager, plenty of bready malt for sure, but there’s a nice lightness of touch with the hopping and it reminds me of a number of German lagers I’ve had. Really smooth, fruity with a nice dry finish. A lovely beer.
In other news. Preparations for The Independent Salford Beer Festival continue and are likely to speed up as September goes on, with an actual beer list likely by the end of the month. Other developments will likely necessitate another blog post early next week.
For now, that’s it. Need to catch up on a couple of planned posts including a case from Eebria and some Cornish beers from my recent holidays. I’ll try not to bore you TOO much!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Manchester Northern Quarter Bar Crawl – 19/07/2014

“I’ve been up to Villiers Terrace to see what’s a-happening.
There’s people rolling ’round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine

Been up to Villiers Terrace, I saw what’s a-happening
People rolling ’round on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string
You said people rolled on carpet, but I never thought they’d do those things”

(“Villiers Terrace” – Echo & The Bunnymen)

(Video clip courtesy of ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube)

In 1979 /1980, when I was 14, my favourite bands were Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. Joy Division were a slight hand-me-down from my elder brother, but “The Bunnymen” (as we all called them at the time) were all mine. “The Puppet”, “Pictures On My Wall” & “Rescue” (12″ – naturally) were three of the earliest records that I bought for myself. Where Joy Division seemed to embody the somewhat dour, industrial chic of Manchester, “The Bunnymen” & Ian McCullough in particular, were effortlessly cool, a certain cockiness too, maybe. But just so cool.

I even remember buying my first combat jacket (but not “Camo”) to wear to go and see them, from Afflecks Palace (Yes Manchester hipsters, it really HAS been open THAT long!) There were rumours of a “Mystery Gig” swirling around in late 1980 and I desperately tried to get a ticket. To no avail. I think that I missed the last ticket held by Discount Records (Manchester old ‘Indoor Market’ with its entrance off Pall Mall) by a couple of hours. I was gutted. That concert ended up being recorded and saw release as an EP called “Shine So Hard” (An Atlas Adventure)

Rather controversially (some may think), I disowned the band upon the release of the single that was their commercial breakthrough “The Back of Love”, I remember hearing the track on a John Peel Session and thinking it was a sack of shite (Salford colloquialism!), so when I heard a shinier version as a single…..

I drifted back after that album “Porcupine” when they released the classic “Ocean Rain”, but the album (and period) from which “Villiers Terrace” is taken “Crocodiles”, is still their highlight for me.

The Bunnymen kindled a love of the City of Liverpool – though it was at least another 7 years before I was to visit. Strange to find – a couple of years ago – when I was desperately researching my family tree (prior to Dad passing away), that an entire branch of my family could be traced back to the area of Toxteth St Mary! Never leaves you I suppose!

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I really didn’t MEAN to end up in Manchester, honest! It was just meant to be a little nip in to Great Ale Year Round, to sample the bear I helped to shovel out (that most glam of jobs!). That beer is Station to Station IPA. Brewed by Allgates in collaboration with Five Towns of Wakefield, it was a 5.6% mango fuelled delight. Lightly hazed, it was fruitier than a Carmen Miranda headdress! Utterly lush. Glad that I drank it in a great bar, which is undoubtedly what Dan & Gina Buck have. It was nice to see them back in harness after a well-earned holiday!

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I’m off to the mighty County / Republic of Kernow soon (Perranporth, to be exact), so, given that a) I hadn’t been in The Lowers Turks Head for nigh on 30 years and b) there was a Cornish Beer Festival ongoing, we (well, the Arch-Nemesis is ALWAYS nearby!) opted to start here.

The Lower Turks Head (Shudehill – Opp the Bus Station)

Behind that beautiful historic tiled facade (the pub itself, perhaps dates back to as early as 1745), a lot of money has been spent to make this pub shine!

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Busy as hell in here and almost as warm on this humid July afternoon! 2 floors, classy decor shading, fairly dark with lots of wood. We grabbed pints from Padstow Brewery and headed off for some air!

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(Never smile at…..)

Unfortunately, this pleasant outdoor 1st floor terrace also doubled up as a smoking space, but I NEEDED to feel a breeze! The beer was fine, Padstow Brewery “Pilot” 4% abv. A deep ruby red beer, with a chocolate aroma, a bit like a Snickers, a touch nutty. Light bodied, bit like a mild, quite refreshing, lightly hopped.

Given that I love a local beer or two, I’ll have to pop back in on a more “normal evening to judge the offering, but to be fair, the pub looks great and was BLOODY BUSY!


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The Blue Pig (High Street/Back Turner St)

First time for me in this bar. Opening in 2012, this passed me by a bit – being a bit of a “pub” bloke. I’ve obviously denied myself some rare pleasures, because I love this place! Big open room with a bit of a bohemian feel. Nice flourishes all over the place and it was as busy as a chippy with great tunes (The Walkmen, The Smiths) all but drowned out by the sound of conversation – just the way it should be!

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Quite a bit of cocktail action going down as we entered, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the small (2), yet perfectly locally formed cask offering! Shindigger Pale and Black Jack’s Oddingtons. I hit the Shindigger which was in good nick. A fine fruity refreshing pint. This bar probably has the beer selection spot on. 3 pumps, but 2 on, both local. I like it and I like this bar. Not too cool, just a good feel to it. My note uses the word “decadent”. Probably sums it up! I’ll be back.

Odd Bar

(Photo “nicked” from Odd Bar itself!)

Odd Bar (30/32 Thomas Street)

Just around the corner….Odd Bar. One of a 4 bar chain (Is The Blue Pig part of the group?) First time for me again. Top indie tuneage. Offbeat & Tickety Brew beers on the bar. Good start. A fine pint of Tickety Brew Stout. All the roasted malt you could want and that Belgian Yeast spiciness, luxurious and smooth.
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A Lively bar, dark tones, red and browns lots of photos adorning the walls with some seriously decadent wallpaper. Loved the purple fabric  hanging from the ceiling, made me think of a bedouin tent! Beautiful.

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Nice airy room upstairs too. Like Arnie… I’ll be back! A jukebox too? Maybe another juke crawl soon! Just the one in here as the table we occupied was reserved! On to….

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Common Bar (Edge Street)
From the first moment I walked in to Common to the strains of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” by Magazine, I fell in love with this place. The original bar that spawned the monster that became Port Street, The Beagle, IndyManBeerCon…… Now Manchester institutions all!
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2 main rooms, plenty of seating, lots of exposed brickwork and loads of artworks and posters adorning the walls. It really is just cool as fuck, but without trying too hard at it. Great food too! Two cask beers and a whole bunch of “craft keg” offerings. I went for the Moor Brewery and their Confidence at 4.6% abv. A hazy, ruby red beer with a citrus fruit nose allied to some forest fruit. In mouth, medium-bodied with lemon, grapefruit on top. Sharp and fruity. A damn fine beer. A damn fine bar.
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Terrace Bar (Edge Street/Thomas Street – dual entrance)
Bloody hell but this was rammed! Described elsewhere as “the prettiest ginnel in Manchester”, this 2013 bar has lots more exposed brickwork. The fact that it was really busy says a lot.
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Lots of decent breweries on offer from 6 handpumps. I went for Ringmaster from Magic Rock. I tried, but…no. Not for me. Lacked the sheer zing of Magic Rock for me. Had a swift half of Kernel IPA (Citra, Simcoe, Cascade) on keg, which was a bitter citrus delight. I like the bar, again, some great funky tunes and a fine beer selection shows that they are trying hard. Worth a visit.
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57 Thomas Street (Thomas Street – unsurprisingly!)
This is a small yet perfectly formed bar space which has carved itself its own niche in the Northern Quarter. Single room with a long table (apparently constructed from old floorboards), where alternately, you can see people chatting, drinking and eating or alternately playing various board games. It just is that easy-going and …cool (that “other” C word again!)
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(Beer Porn – Lagonda in all her golden glory!)
A few keg fonts as you enter, but the bar top cask dispense is a distinguishing feature. A physically cool (perfectly so) pint of Lagonda IPA was a delight. A Manchester classic. Fruity and lush. Really refreshing for a 5% beer. Spot.On.
The great thing about the above bars…they’re within 100 yards or less of each other, often opposite!
And then…the longest walk of the evening. All of 200 yards or so!
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Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square)
A bar that should NOT be overlooked in the search for good beer. And I mean DAMN good beer! The feel of a Cantina in this big open room, which really should be fuller than it was! Loads of bench seating with some high window seats to watch the NQ go by. Good food apparently too. Live music venue downstairs has some cracking acts on too!
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Tonight, the beers were Shindigger, Squawk, Titanic & Arbor. Now, you know me! Ordinarily, I go local where I can. And I would have done, were it not for the fact that, leering at me, then winking seductively, was Arbor’s Breakfast Stout. Was it REALLY 7.4%? Did I REALLY have a pint? Oh but it was utterly sublime! More coffee than Starbucks could shake a stirring stick at. Creamy and unctuous. Ohhhhh…..Would have had another, but the chariot was waiting!
A fine afternoon in the company of the Arch-Nemesis as always. Great beers in some fabulous Mancunian bars.
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Stockport Beer Festival – 30/05/2014

“And here I dreamt I was a soldier and I marched the streets of Birkenau
And I recall in spring the perfume that the air would bring to the indolent town
Where the barkers call the moon down, the carnival was ringing loudly now
And just to lay with you, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do save lay my rifle down”

(“Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect” – The Decemberists)

(Videolink courtesy of Moriah Mahan on YouTube)

I have professed my love for Portland, Oregon’s finest some time ago. Vocalist Colin Meloy just writes lyrics unlike any other I’ve come across, with a lexicon that is positively 19th Century at times and a voice that is, to some, an acquired taste. It is a taste that I HAVE acquired though, which is why they have remained one of my favourite bands ever since I first downloaded The Crane Wife on eMusic and heard the acoustic strum opening of The Crane Wife 3.

(Recommended albums : “Her Majesty The Decemberists” – 2003; “The Crane Wife” – 2006 & “The Hazards of Love” – 2009)

IMAG1350(Oh that “end of season” feeling!)

How the hell did Stockport County end up in The Skrill North league?

This was only my third Stockport Fest. I enjoyed last year hugely but my fondest memories are of the first one I attended. I can’t say what year it was, but it would have been BC (Before Children – aka Pre 1992!) It was THAT long ago, that Sam Smiths Museum Ale was all the rage and Atilla & I (staffing a charity stall) were serving that and Wilsons Bitter. Nobody seemed to pay the Wilsons any mind, which made me smile as there was more for me!

It has to be said, that Stockport always has an interesting beer list. This was enhanced this year by the addition of a Bar Nouveau, stuffed with brand new beers! This was located in the below stand area along with the food and the entertainment. Wanna guess where I ended up?

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With lots of lovely local beers down here, I just parked my well upholstered ass down on a chair and planted roots!

My beers here were….

1. Ringway BreweryReddish Ruby – 4% abv – Red! Off white head and caramel /slightly treacle nose. Medium bodied with some toffee caramel in themouth but not overly sweet. Some blackcurrant hints in this single English hopped beer and it had a nice bitter finish. Makes some damn fine beers does Paul and respect to him for sticking with English hops.
2. Wilson PotterDreaming Dreams – 4%  abv (I do like a slow start!) Typically excellent Wilson Potter pale beer. Golden and crystal clear. Fruity aroma, clean drinking, smooth and really fruity & refreshing – I do love a bit of Amarillo (d’ya get the quote?) (Their excellent “Don’t Fall” – see previous review here – won Beer of the Festival!)
Bit of a break here while I grabbed some excellent beef stew next door!
Bumped into Darren (he of the excellent Manchester drinking reference work “Greater Manchester Ale News“) and his better half Jo. Always nice to chat with people who know their beer (click his link above for news of another festival coming in Chorlton soon!) Also nice to chat with the ever affable John Clarke from the host CAMRA Branch – one of the many local CAMRA members of my acquaintance who talk much beery sense! Back to the beer ticking!
3 . Squawk Brewing Pomegranate Porter – 3.7% abv – Pomegranate? Intriguing!  Dark brown with an off-white head, berry fruit aroma with good roast backbone. Fairly light bodied, really fruity with that Pomegranate, and a smooth chocolaty hint. Beautiful! Slight sweet yet dry finish.
4. Deeply ValeDeeply Red – 4.2% – Very red indeed! Off white head with gentle red fruit and light spice aroma. Very fruity and very smooth, with a slight spice and astringency from the Rye used. A fine beer.
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(A bit of steel bandage!)
The we turn to the dark side!!!!!
5. Shindigger CraftBlack IPA – 5.5% – At that strength, I held back a bit before trying it. So much so that I had a minor scare when I thought that it had gone! However (and this would be my only minor complaint of the day…) this was somewhat down to the pumping of the beer being a bit of an issue. This beer was beeeeeeautifully black, with a creamy white head and a fantastic citrus aroma with a darker roasted edge. Oh but in the mouth! A devilish blend of roast and citrus. An earthiness of dark roast and licorice with leavening of grapefruit citrus. Beautiful.
6. (And my final beer from Bar Nouveau!) Tickety Brew – Black IPA – 5.5% abv – Black with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Cream colour head with a fruity citrus nose and slight spicy tint. Oh this Is lovely! Spritzy, citrus, a hint of blackcurrant with a roasted base. Hugely fruity, dry finish, low bitterness with that Belgian yeast popping up to say ‘hello’  at the end. Bit of chocolate too. Lovely.
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(bit busier upstairs!)
Whilst it was still quite busy upstairs, it was as nothing compared to the Saturday last year!
7. Shindigger CraftWest Coast IPA  – 5.2% abv – A golden pale with a nose of orange fruits. Full-bodied, really fruity with the citrus edged by a light gooseberry tartness. Refreshing, and again a spritz to it, with a really hoppy finish. Lovely.
My final beer was another newbie for me but from an “old” friend of a brewery….
8. Blackjack BeersFarmhouse Brown – 4.8% abv. Quite a rye-ish aroma to this, that made my nose wrinkle. Really tasty, a lot of fruit, but hugely dry with a real earthy quality. Savoury and again, surprisingly zingy. Mmmm.
There were one or two more consumed, but these were the pick of the bunch for me. All of the beers in the Bar Nouveau were excellent, but there was just something tongue tingling about that Tickety Brew that edged it for me.
A couple of diversions prior to the train led us to….
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The Armoury – (Shaw Heath, Stockport) – Just a quick pint of Robbies Brazilian Blonde in here. Ok, yet unexceptional given the previous fluid intake! However, the pub is a thing of beauty with loads of wood and some mock Tudor detailing inside.
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As I said, just a swift one in here before moving on to….
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Ye Olde Vic – (Chatham Street, Stockport) where I had a refreshing and fruity pint of Solstice by 3 Tuns Brewery (Bishops Castle, Shropshire). A refreshing citrussy and sharp pale ale from this rarely seen brewery (in these parts anyway!)
Myself and the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) carried on for a bit whilst our excellent companions  headed off elsewhere.
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An excellent pint of K*ntish Beard by Weird Beard in Joshua Brooks was our prize for walking from Piccadilly to this excellent (and great value!) bar…..
One or two more followed …… We’ll leave it there shall we?
In short. another excellent beer selection at Stockport. One of the best CAMRA beer festivals. Well worth the journey next year!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

The Road To Wigan Beer – Easter 2014 – 19/04/2014

Edna Million in a drop dead suit, Dutch pink on a downtown train.

Two dollar pistol but the gun won’t shoot, I’m in the corner in the pouring rain.

Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup,

Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon; I can’t stand up.”

(“Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits)
(Video courtesy of Kenneth Sutherland on You Tube)

Tom Waits. Not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but SUCH a great songwriter. I love him. So There!

Take the following ingredients…

1 sunny day, 1 train, 1 bus, 6 excellent pubs (including my Pub of the Year 2013!), multiple award-winning beers. Mix vigourously. What do you get? Read on!

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I had been looking forward to this day since the previous event last October, so, when Allgates announced that not only would there be a “Road To Wigan Beer” spanning the Easter holidays, but that the bus would be touring their pubs again, it was an event that I simply couldn’t miss! With permissions both sought and granted by Mrs BM (a saint of a woman!), I reserved seats for both myself AND the Arch-Nemesis….If it was anything like last year, I might need support near the end!

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Catching the train on a magnificently sunny spring day (for Walkden), the carriage swiftly became rammed with Bank Holiday sand seekers, en route – presumably – to Southport. Standing room only! By the time we got to Wigan Wallgate, it was that warm ON the train, I was only too glad to get off. At this point, I realised my morning error. I hadn’t had a drink of any kind whatsoever since the previous evening. That first pint couldn’t arrive soon enough!

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The Anvil (Dorning Street, next to Wigan Bus Stn) is the Allgates Brewery tap (being a 2 minute stroll from the brewery) and whilst being fairly open plan, has the feel of a multi-roomed pub, bright with lots of light it has 7 handpumps dispensing Allgates own beers and varied guest ales. Multi-award winning (check out the certificates on the wall just past the bar!) this is one busy pub, so I was quite surprised to find a table free for the arch-nemesis & I to rest our weary bones!

Now, you may recall a recent post where David (Brewery Co-Owner) and myself went “over the hill” into the land that time forgot (Yorkshire) and picked up loads of casks for this very festival (read here). The first beer I had today was the last that we picked up that day. A certain symmetry, no?

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Bourbon Milk StoutSonnet 43 Brew House (Coxhoe, Co Durham) A good strength to start with at 4.3%, this was pitch black with a lovely tight creamy tan coloured head. With a milky coffee aroma, this was full-bodied and luxuriously smooth, little lactic sweetness with more smooth milky coffee, just when you start looking for the bourbon, there is a slight boozy backnote. A slightly sweet yet gentle hoppy finish to this. Was really hoping to have this. A cracker to start with.

My thirst kind of…almost slaked, there was time for a swift half before the chariot was harnessed….

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BlondeAtom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) 4% abv. Pale gold with a nice fluffy white head and a slight fruity aroma, this came alive in the mouth. Light-bodied and quite tart with a gooseberry sharpness to it. Really juicy, refreshing and light. Wished I had time for a full pint! The usual well-kept beer that you expect from the Anvil…managed to have the briefest of chats with Andy Heggs from the excellent HopOnTheBike but the chariot had been harnessed….

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(our beery chariot!)

Disappointingly not as full as last year, quite a few less locals on board. But with the Bury Militia, mobilised by Ramsbottom’s own beery Ratko Mladic (aka the Legendary Tyson The Beerhound!), I was minding my Ps & Qs!

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The Crooke Hall Inn – (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground) This was the kind of day when The Crooke really can come into its own, owing to its fabulous location on the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It really is stunning in the sunshine. Having heard that Greg (the Landlord) had 9 handpumps fully loaded, guess who was first into the pub?

Now. There were a number of beers in the Festival menu that I REALLY wanted to try. One of them was the marvellous Sonnet 43 and another was on the bar here at The Crooke!

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Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – This was a beer in demand. So much so, that there was a logjam at the bar with only one pump in constant use! This forced Greg to ask the following question

Q. “Anybody want anything other than Shindigger?”

A. (Alan Wass – Wigan CAMRA Branch) “Yes”

Q. “What would you like?”

A. “Half of Shindigger please!”

Laugh? I nearly bought a round! But once I’d dabbed the laughter tears from my eyes, I could pay attention to the beer in front of me….

The Pacific Pale was a deep golden colour, almost amber in fact,  with a tight white head and a lovely citrus fruit aroma. Medium-bodied, it was so refreshing with really zingy citrus flavours. Dry and tart in the finish, it was excellent. What was even better was the price. £2.40 a pint. (TWO POUNDS FORTY PENCE!) Bloody marvellous!

I bent my head around the corner to tell Andy the price. I quickly turned to what I thought was the sound of a jaw hitting the floor!

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Now how pale do you like your Pale Ales to be?

LubelskiPictish Brewing Company (Rochdale, Lancashire) 4% abv – Single-hopped with the eponymous Polish hop, this was a lovely light, sharp and tart pale beer with more gooseberry notes. Medium-bodied and REALLY refreshing. The Arch-Nemesis has been banging on about Pictish for years. I’m now officially a convert!

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Just time for another swift half in this lovely multi-roomed pub with this fabulous location for summer days!

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Risky BlondeFool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) 4.4% abv – Brewed at The Hope Inn on the A6 in Stockport, I hadn’t even so much as sniffed a Fool Hardy beer until a recent bottle from Great Ale Year Round. This was my first encounter on draught, so I wasn’t leaving the Crooke until I had it!

A bit fuller-bodied than the Pictish, this was slightly maltier too. deep gold and another nice tight white head. Smooth and creamy textured in the mouth, this had a tart fruity edge to it too and a nice dry bitter finish. Lovely!

I must say that I REALLY tried hard to persuade Greg to join us again on the bus! But he manned the beery barricades like a trooper!

Back on the Magic Bus!

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Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley) – Bit of a Tardis is The Union! Looks quite dinky from the outside, but 3 distinct drinking areas with two bars front and back. Some of the guys had food in here and it looked bloody good! But, I only had eyes for beer at this stage!

Beyond The PaleElland Brewery (Elland, West Yorkshire) 4.2% abv – Not sure this was a Festival listed beer (the are 4 Elland beers listed), this was still a logical choice. Bloody glad I did too! £4.20 for TWO pints!!! Ludicrous pricing.

Bright golden beer, with a peachy aroma to my nose. Really refreshing again, fruity and bitter (Cascade hopped) with a tart grapefruit finish. Another cracker (Their 1872 Porter should be any beer drinkers “Bucket List”!)

As I finished the Elland, Was that a Black Jack clip being attached to a pump? Hmmm

New Deck – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) 4.2% abv – I know what to expect from the beers brewed by Rob Hamilton, quality hoppy pale beers. This was no exception! Tart and refreshing with big grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied and oh-so moreish. Really zingy, nice bitter finish and quite a pine needly aftertaste. Just YUM!

Ding Ding!

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The White Lion (Leigh Rd, Leigh)

Like Greg at The Crooke & the mighty Nigel at The Hare & Hounds, Harry is just SUCH a friendly Landlord who happens to keep a cracking pint in this 3 roomed pub in Leigh Town Centre.

Pale Ale – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv Well, the Blonde impressed me, so it would’ve been positively rude not to give the Pale Ale a try! Golden with a white head and a fruity aroma. Medium-bodied, fruity and zesty this fella! Nicely sharp, fruity and very refreshing with a sharp dry bitter finish. Another excellent beer from this “first-time” brewery for me.

At this point, a note on the festival. One of the things that draws me to Allgates pubs is the beer selection, Their own beers are excellent, the guest beers are selected from the best micros around. But the with the festival beers, David and the team make a point of searching out not only the best, but some of the newest breweries out there. Atom, for instance, have only been brewing since December 2013! And these beers are priced…how can I put it….ludicrously competitively! Some of these beers would be nearly DOUBLE the price you’d get them in Manchester! Sermon over. Back to the beer eh?

Chilli Plum PorterWaen Brewery (Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) 6.1% abv OK. So it’s NOT a festival beer! I don’t give a toss, this is just LUSH! Hellish good beer indeed! Black, satanically so. Beautiful chocolate aroma which carries on into the mouth, really smooth and full-bodied and fruity with the plum coming through, creamy almost. Lovely and soothing…then that heat at the back of the mouth! Woof! This is SUCH a good beer! If I needed to sell my soul….in a heartbeat!

Ding Ding!

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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley, Wigan)

What can I say. I’m biased when it comes to this wee 2 roomed boozer. I love it. So much so, that it was my Pub of the Year 2013. Why? It’s a feeling thing. It feels like the local that I never had. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Like a local should be. Nigel (mein host) also keeps a damned good pint! (Which helps)

Chocolate Cherry MildDunham Massey Brewery (Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire)

A deep reddy brown beer with a creamy coloured head and a chocolate and fruity nose. Ronseal beer alert! (Does exactly what it says…..) Initial chocolate on the tongue, followed by a layer of tart cherry, light bodied but really smooth and an easy drinking beer that you could do all day. The fruitiness of the cherries leads to a light bitterness in the finish. A beautiful beer. Nigel does love his darks. As do I!

Was damned sure that I had another beer in here, but without notes…..Doh! I’ll be back later in the week!

Ding Ding (I think even the dinger was getting tired by this point!)

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The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan) Effectively, the final stop – starting to feel the pace by now!

Classic two roomed local this. The main room was thronged by the time we got in. Nice and busy, added to by us lot wading in too!

Here, were two more of the breweries I was keen to try, especially as I’d help to pick up the beers! First off…

Gold – Stod Fold Brewing (Stod Fold, Nr Halifax) 3.8% abv A light fruity aroma to this golden (almost amber) beer. Lightly fruity in the mouth too, refreshing and easy drinking with a nice bitter finish. Really smooth session beer this. I want more.

A Day At The Races – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W Yorks) 3.9% abv – I could bore you to distraction about my love of Malcolm Bastow’s beers, but see my previous post here for that!

This straw golden beer had a big grapefruit aroma from its white head. In the mouth, lemon & grapefruit conspired to refresh my somewhat jaded palate! Really sharp, tart and refreshing. A beautiful light pale ale, as hoppy as a Watership Down screening. A nice piney aftertaste too. More Mosaic? Classy sharp beer to end the night!

Cracking hot pot supper in here, thanks to the pub. Lovely, just what was needed!

As much as the beer, the great pleasure of the day for me was just chatting to like-minded folk. Mark, the Wiganer now ex-pat in Edinburgh (on Rose St, the jammy bugger!), Andy Heggs, Tyson The (Legendary – Even Tandleman thinks so!) Beerhound, David Mayhall, Nigel, Greg, Alan Wass (thanks for the tears at The Crooke!) and more that my drink sozzled brain seems to have forgotten (sorry!). All great people with whom it was really lovely to chat. You made this boring old man smile, memories of which have made his birthday hangover seem worthwhile! To you all, a huge SLAINTE!

An even bigger thanks to Stig and his pals for laying on the bus, without which, you wouldn’t be reading this! Cheers fellas!

This festival lasts until next Sunday. At the risk of insulting you, you need to try at least two of these pubs! (The Anvil & The Hare are BOTH within 2 minutes of the Wigan – Manchester Victoria rail line – Evening return ticket? £2 – you’d save that on two pints!) Do your taste buds a flavour and get on that train!

Warning – This post may be added to later in the week!

But on that note…’til next time…

Slainte!