My 12 Beers Of Xmas – #3 – Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery

IMAG0442 crop(12 Beery Apostles – Saints or Sinners?)

“On the 3rd day of Xmas, my true love sent to me……”

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#3 Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery

Let me be open about this. I simply LOVE Siberia. A Rhubarb Saison brewed in collaboration with the beer writer Melissa Cole, for a pale beer it ticks a lot of my boxes. Fruity and tart, fresh, slightly spicy and fabulously refreshing for a 5.9% beer. I adore it and drink it on draught wherever I can find it.

Late in 2012, Ilkley took some Siberia and aged it in oak Speyside whisky casks. They only made 700 330ml bottles. I was greedy and snaffled 12! To be fair, I have been fairly generous with my bounty and several found their way to fellow local beer lovers and friends. This bottle I picked up from Yorkshire Ales.

To this beer. The first time I drank it I was slightly underwhelmed. It was a 4 – 4.5 out of 5 where Siberia itself is a 6! I just felt that it had something taken away as much as added. I was keen therefore to give this another shot after leaving it a few months.

A golden beer with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma slightly fruity/sour with traces of that rhubarb and a Belgian yeasty funk and maybe even a touch of apple. In the mouth, more rhubarb – although not as tart as in the original – a little apple and then a hit of woody warmth wraps you up like an oaky fleece. The whisky alcohol then insinuates into the upper reaches of your nostrils. A second mouthful reveals a lightly sweet flavour that reminded me of Xmas cake icing (then I looked at the beer notes on Ilkley’s website and saw Marzipan mentioned, spot on)

A mellow finish with warmth and the woody whisky warming the throat and belly.

I’m not sure if I have mellowed towards this beer or if keeping it has improved it. It’s certainly more refreshing than a beer at 8.8% abv has a right to be. (Still prefer Siberia though!)

And I have 3 bottles left!

On that note…’til next time (tomorrow of course!)

Slainte!

Two Yorkshire Favourites – Yorkshire Ales & Revolutions Brewing

So girls like that above described are not to be so easily bribed, (With a white frock and a ring)

Punch the clock and in time you’ll get pulled apart, If you’re married on paper and not in your heart.”

The Greatest Thing – Elvis Costello (LP – Punch The Clock)

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My darling Atilla has family in Lincolnshire. Each time we travel to visit, presents a temptation for one such as I. Our usual route takes us within 10 miles of a certain beer shop in Snaith. Yorkshire Ales. Last Monday, Atilla humoured me yet again. Even better, was the fact the Adrian & Vicky opened the shop to facilitate my purchases!

It is a pretty little shop is Yorkshire Ales, located in the quaintly named “The Manor House” on Selby Rd. It’s only a small premises with 2 open rooms. Downstairs is the payment area with some non alcohol locally sourced items for sale. Upstairs however, is where the goodies are to be found!

The thing that struck me about the shop is the ethos. Ales. From Yorkshire. Simple, but effective in these times where “locally sourced” is a virtue. From the moment I first visited the shop (back in February – seems MUCH longer ago!), we just got on. Nice people Adrian & Vicky. Nice people indeed. I look forward to my visits, always intending to buy “just the 1 case” but always buying more!

This visit was to collect some bottles they had kindly put by for me. In particular, Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery and New World IPA by Northern Monk. A limited run of 700 bottles of this beer which has its origins in the collaboration beer initially brewed in conjunction with the esteemed beer writer Melissa Cole. I LOVE Siberia (the beer – not the gulag riddled Russian state!), it remains one of my favourite beers. I couldn’t miss out, could I? (Review may follow, later this week)

20130812_185153(A small sample from the haul!)

Given the fact that both my darling Atilla and my hound remained in the car, the visit was, by necessity, a short one. One of these days I threaten to stay and chat longer, but on this occasion, Adrian & Vicky were spared that ordeal!

I was going to pick up a copy of Great Yorkshire Beer by Leigh Linley (the writer of the excellent “TheGoodStuff” blog), but I couldn’t bear to take their last copy! To assuage my loss, they contacted Andrew from Revolutions (my next stop) and arranged for a copy there.

So, with a car full of beer (well, nearly!) I set off for the glamorous environs of Castleford. And Revolutions Brewing

20130805_131637(The jet-set Life of a Beer Baron!)

Revolutions Brewing started to make their excellent beers in late 2010. I could have sworn that I’d had them earlier, but that must have been before I sold the DeLorean! Following a previous visit to Yorkshire Ales, I picked up a couple of bottles of Manifesto Stout. And was smitten. For me, (in bottle at least) easily the equal of Dark Arts by Magic Rock – a beer that I love. I needed to get more.

After picking up a couple more bottles from Bierhuis of Ossett, I got the taste. Then, on a stroll following a recent MTB at Port Street……I located some draught at Soup Kitchen! Clash London Porter spotted at Soup Kitchen. A lovely beer. Some time later, I went for a little stroll around Manchester with Andrew, one of the brewers. A kindred spirit on many levels, music, beer, politics.

20130805_133855(The Wall of Fame – See if you can get ALL the music references!)

This brings me to the ethos of Revolutions. And why they chime with me. Excellent, balanced, flavourful ales all themed around music. With beers named for Kraftwerk (Braun ale!), The Beat (Beat Red), The Clash (London Porter) Devo(lution – Amber Ale). All bands of my era, all bands I love. They even made a special beer named Unknown Pleasures after the great Joy Division debut album! All the beers also have alcohol levels commensurate with a music format. So 3.3% – 33RPM (Remember them? Vinyl LPs?); 4.5% – 45RPM; 6.0% – C60 (Mmmm Tape Cassettes!), the odd one out being EP at 3.9%. But with an EP being half way between a single and an LP……..geddit?

Another good bloke is Andrew. Before he departed from The Crown & Kettle, he invited me to pop in when next in the area. Who am I to refuse? Luckily, this particular Monday was a brewing day! The only request I had, was for a nearby chippy for good old Yorkshire Fish & Chips – in order to sweeten to diversion to Atilla! See below!!!

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(The Mash Tun – NB The shovel – ready to shovel out the spent grains – Damn Hard Work!!!)

As I pulled up outside Unit 8, the smell of pale malt was in the air. Mmmmmm! Popping out to meet me, Andrew told me they were brewing a session pale ale, which, by this time was in the copper. The smell was lovely!

A quick beery chat and a swift tour. Revolutions use an 8 BBl (Beer Barrel = 36 gallons) mash tun, with the kit originally being installed by PBC Installations of Bury (owned by the legendary David Porter). They currently brew 6 times a month and with the kit they have, alongside the space they occupy, have plenty of room for expansion.

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(Fermenting Vessels)

They now occupy 2 units and have plenty of space for storage. There were lots of empty casks ready for filling and quite a stash in the cold store with a number of “swaps”. This was how I managed to stumble across the Clash in Soup Kitchen, that having been a swap with Rob from Black jack. Another thing I have to thank him for!

They make lovely, well-flavoured ales here. But, having only sampled them in bottle, we are missing a trick here in Manchester. This is damn good beer that we don’t see enough of over here. The push starts here! Speaking with Damian O’Shea (@TheAleManMcr) at his excellent stall at Castlefield Market last Sunday, he seemed keen to grab a few over here. It will be nice start. I’m also hoping that Andrew & Mark can pop over later this year for a possible MTB – I’ll keep you posted, of course!

One of the reasons I came, was to restock! So I selected a mixed case of 12 to add to the stock from Snaith – with the accent on Manifesto! The only problem I had was not enough money for all I wanted to take! Hence the 12 limit.

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(A small selection!)

For the second time on the same day, I was asked if I was going to the Great British Beer Festival. For the second time I pretended not to be jealous! I suppose that’s the hard bit about brewing. The PR bit!

It was a brief visit, but a pleasant one. I would enjoy Revolutions beers whatever. They are simply excellently made, balanced tasty beers. It just helps that they are made by a nice bloke! (And I STILL think he’s a top bloke. Even though the chippy was shut!)

A swift drive back and a penance to pay. Dinner to be bought. Payback time!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

NB – Oh yeah. The lyric at the top…..Keeping in mind the Revolutions ethos, they recently collaborated with Stuart Neilson from the North Riding Brewpub on a Double IPA “Punch The Clock” at 7.8% abv (Anyone remember 78RPM?) – I may start every post with a lyric now!

A Few More Bottles – 01/03/2013

Not much exercise this month. Have relied on the ‘cellar’ to keep me entertained. Here’s some sozzled thoughts!

1. Brooklyn Brewery, Sorachi Ace – 7.6% abv – 750ml – £11.50 – The Beer Shop, Heaton Moor

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This holds the distinction of being the single most expensive bottle of beer I’ve ever bought. I blame Jaz totally for this one! On our last visit to The Beer Shop, he pulled this one off the shelf AFTER I had made my purchases. Between raw jealousy and with the persuasive salesmanship of the owner, I succumbed and brought out the Visa card!

The beer is a saison and comes (as you can see (!) in a champagne style bottle, cork stoppered, therefore giving that primal cork popping pleasure. Being 750ml and given my lack of a 1 litre glass, I had to decant this bottle conditioned beer.

The beer poured a slightly hazy pale golden colour with some citrus peel and candied fruit on the nose, also maybe a hint of coriander? A flavour reminiscent of something like Duvel (probably due to the Bel;gian yeast used) slightly herby and grassy fresh. There was no dominant flavour overall, just a well balanced refreshing beer with a dry grassy finish. Also, a slightly surprising warmth afterwards. Expensively refreshing. I would buy it again, but NOT in a bar, given some of the £20+ prices I’ve seen!

2. Williams Bros, Caesar Augustus – 4.1% abv – 500ml – 3 for £5 Sainsbury

(Unforgiveably, image nicked from Brewery website!)

Described by the brewer as a Lager/IPA Hybrid, this has been a valued favourite for some time. A REALLY pale beer with a white head, as you would expect from a lager. What you wouldn’t expect is the incredibly sharp floral/hoppy aroma, some resinous, citrus fuity aroma to savour. The flavour seemed to err more to the hoppy IPA style, but retained a slight malty sweetness to it.

A gloriously bitter finish to this beer with full use made of the various new world hops.

An excellent beer in its own right, but at 3 for £5? Ludicrously good value.

3. Redwillow Brewery, Smokeless – 5.7% abv – Port Street Beer House – £3 (Special Offer 6 bottles)

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Isn’t there always a story? This beer starts one night in Port Street. Drink had been taken when I spied a poster with a beery offer of 6 beers from a selection for £18. Magic Rock, Redwillow and Summer Wine were the breweries on offer. What’s a thirsty boy to do? Unfortunately, I was in no position to carry them back to Bolton so I left them at Jaz’s house. For about a month.

When I finally retrieved them from that most perilous of locations, I tucked into this beastie with haste.

A smoked porter, this poured the usually expected dark ruby to near black, a minimal cream coloured head, quickly gone. Aroma of bitter dark chocolate added to by a light smoke. In the mouth, this was creamy textured with a dark malteserish flavour, a nice smokiness coming through at the end of the mouthful. Another excellent beer from this Macclesfield brewer.

Now, the only time I had had this on draught, I was advised by my buddy that it was not quite at peak. This beer therefore, is something of a rarity in that it was excellent. I need to reappraise this beer on draught. And soon.

4. Summer Wine Brewery, Rouge – 5.7% abv – Port Street Beer House – £3 (Special Offer 6 bottles)

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(I LOVE my IndyManBeerCon glass!)

Another one from the Port Street Bargain Hunt! I’ve had quite a few of their beers, but this was a first time with this red ale.

This poured a red brown with a pale head, which stayed the length of the drink. The aroma was spicy hop with a sour edge. In the mouth? WOW this is tongue curlingly dry dry dry (a good thing, for me!) My, but this is hopped! There was  a hint of grassy green hop freshness. A beer full of flavour and wonderful for it!

Did I mention this was dry?

5. (Appropriately!) Five Towns Brewery, Peculiar w/Rhubarb and Ginger – 6% abv – Yorkshire Ales – £2.85

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(Lively little devil!)

This was one of my haul from my visit to Yorkshire Ales in Snaith. Lively on pouring, a golden colour with an abundant head. Aroma of stewed rhubarb with a spicy note. Once in the mouth, there was the ginger alright! Nice and spicy, without overwhelming the palate (a bit gingery like Marble Ginger, for those who know). Strangely, I thought I detected a bit of banana split sweet in the mouth along with a slight sourness from the rhubarb. Finished off with my mouth warmed by more of that there ginger.

A really nice beer, my first from this brewery. I’ll focus on them a bit more next time I pop in and see Adrian & Vicky!

And to finish….

6. Mallinsons Brewery, Citra – 3.9% abv – Yorkshire Ales – £2.50

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Another one from my Snaith haul. My first Mallinsons in bottle and one of their ‘Single Hop’ range.

On popping the crown cap, BOOM! Grapefruit and mango aroma, before I’d even poured it! Poured very pale, like Liquid Gold (anyone for Dance Yourself Dizzy? No, thought so!). Full of lovely bright hoppy flavours and surprisingly more subtle with the grapefruit in the mouth. Incredibly flavoursome and moreish.

Just one downside. I only bought the one. DOH!

Beers of the Month (Ooh, a New Feature!)

Draught

A close run thing this. But (and there’s always a BUT!), The best beer was one I had twice. Firstly at The Molly House (mislabelled, damn them!) and later at the mighty Joshua Brooks. Redwillow Faithless XVII, the Beetroot Stout was just so earthy, slightly sweet and just bloody GORGEOUS. Officially now my favourite brewer.

An honourable mention though for the always reliable Paramount (Elland 1872) Porter and Ilkley Siberia. Both unmissable when on.

Bottle

Again, close. But edging it is the Ego by North Riding Brewpub. Allsorts going on in this one (including Licorice!). See the Yorkshire Ales posting for the review.

Running it close was the bottled version of Elland 1872 Porter. See the Yorkshire Ales posting for the review (again!)

Well, I’ve bored you enough for one night. Also, I’ve got to get myself ready for a visit to Wilson Potter tomorrow to sample some of their lovely ales. And I hope to tell you ALL about it (if I don’t lose the Nexus!)

Slainte!

There And Back Again…..Wave Goodbye, Say Hello! (aka Port Street to Kosmonaut) 01/02/2013 / & More Bottles

It started with a Facebook post – something like  “Me & Holly are coming up on Feb 1st, fancy a few beers”?

Once I had thought through the numerous possible responses – featuring Bears/Woods, Pope/Catholic etc etc, I started to think about where these particular two nouvelle metropolitaines might like to go. Myself and Ben (a DJ) have similar musical tastes, so bars/pubs with decent grooves had to feature, as did, for me at least, good beer of course.

Then a liquid spanner was thrown in the works, when a colleague announced his ‘leaving do’ on the same day. With a 4 o’clock start to boot! If I wasn’t careful, this could turn VERY messy. However, having negotiated a starting point in Port Street Beer House, that meant I couldn’t finish in one of my usuals, I needed to think. And I knew just the beer to aid my contemplation…..

Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(Archive footage courtesy of ‘Yours Truly’)

Whilst I am ALWAYS open to new alcohol related opportunities, there are some beers that simply CANNOT be ignored. So, at £4.20 a pint (still a bargain for a classic!), we come to one of my favourite beers Ilkley Siberia. Brewed in collaboration with the beer writer/Sommaleier Melissa Cole, the beer is naturally hazy and uses rhubarb to impart a sour note. For me, it was love at first sip when I had it for the first time, last year, in Paramount on Oxford Rd. I also had it last week at the National Winter Ales Festival when I thought it slightly lacking sharpness. But at the liquid heaven that is Port Street, WOW!

This was far sharper than at NWAF and, or so I thought, there was even more rhubarb sourness. Have Ilkley tweaked the recipe? I didn’t think that this could get better. But it has, in spades. Whilst about to order my next beer, a more mature gent (not difficult, that!) commented that he had bought it earlier and couldn’t drink it! I mumbled something along the lines of “matter of taste”. The man must be MAD!!! 5.9% abv, hazy, tart and refreshing…and that rhubarb….just do your taste buds a favour! Next beer…..

Jaz had the Hand Drawn Monkey Belgian Brown Ale at 5.5% then the Siberia. I went for the Kirkstall Dissolution IPA. 5% abv a mid brown beer, quite a spicy hop aroma. The flavours surprised me. Had a slight sweetness to it that I wasn’t expecting . Delicious and refreshing, I was almost expecting to be assaulted by hops, but this was a bit more relaxed than assertive.

The  ‘leaving do’ had moved on toward The Oast House, but, strangely, my plans were elsewhere orientated. Having been taunted by my (male) victim of the evening, questioning the type of hostelry I was going to take him to, I made contact and discovered he was in Piccadilly with his partner. Burrito in belly, he started walking with us  towards Princess St, but after approximately 300 yards, ‘The Thirst’ gripped me. So we diverted to…..

The Molly House

(Pic – Origin Unknown)

Just within the area known locally as ‘The Village’, on Richmond Street, I have only been here once previously. A really relaxed bar on two levels with a third (club venue) in the basement. After entering this evening, I silently thanked Dave the monocled quizmaster at The Salford Arms for pointing me this way. The gentle hum of chatter and background music was enhanced by the availability of somewhere to sit! There were a good number of people in the ground level bar, but it was far from packed – fairly early I suppose – so I settled to order. My choice was a Redwillow Faithless XVI* (see correction below) at 4.4%. Black, earthy, with a hazelnut hint in the roasted malty aroma, this was a beguiling stout with some nuttiness and a gentle smoky tinge to the aftertaste. Superb.

A note of caution now. The pumpclip was Faithless with the number covered. I lifted it to show XVI and asked the barman, who said it was that number. (Update- following an exchange with Redwillow, it transpires that this was ACTUALLY Redwillow Faithless XVII (17) not XVI (16). This IS the Beetroot Stout at 5.2% abv, made with 18kg of beetroot! Renders the next sentence a bit redundant really!!!)

The Faithless range are experimental beers brewed for fun, I presume and allow the brewery to play with flavours. Well, I can’t wait for Faithless XVII as Mr McKenzie has gotten even MORE playful and made it with BEETROOT. Stout and beetroot…can’t wait! (Faithless XVIII is in the brewing at the moment – details awaited!!!) There may now be an average of one per month of the Faithless range.

Just one in here, both Holly and Ben seemed to like the venue and (as importantly) the beer, but we move on, to……

Joshua Brooks

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It was here that I started to play my trump cards – being host to this particular (Guildford based) couple! This was Ben’s round (I think). The cost made his jaw droop ever so slightly! £10.40 for FOUR pints! Of excellent beers! Now. Tell me what’s not to like? Hmm? *tumbleweed drifts across blog page*

First up for me was the Raw Brewery NYPA a pale ale at 3.8%, this was nice and refreshing with a nice body, hoppy with a nice lingering hoppy dryness in the aftertaste. I don’t think I’ve had Raw beers before, so that was another first at JBs!

My gregarious companions (by now, the banter was flying across the table like arrows on a medieval battlefield!) seemed to be enjoying the Beer Geek brewery Geek Unique, so I had to try one (didn’t I?). This was a darker beer altogether, being quite amber to brown coloured. A maltier brew, some spicy hop in there but also slightly nutty with a slight bonfireish smokiness. We could have stayed for more…there were beers from DoubleTop, First Chop and Marble breweries on the bar, but we move on…but not before…..

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The ID Parade

(It was her in the middle wot did it Officer – honest!)

Font

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Font is rapidly becoming one of my favourite bars, if not THE favourite. And this has nothing to do WHATSOEVER to do with the discount on the beer for card-carrying CAMRA members (honest!) This has just as much to do with a) the sheer quality of the real ales / bottles on offer, and b) The fantastic tunes spun by the DJs. Now, being honest, I should be WAY too old to love a place like this, but love is a many splendoured thing!

The lovely Holly got this round in. She sported a ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin as she returned with change from £10! I think Jaz and myself were building up some ‘cred’ credits for choice of venues by this point!

Now, as usual on a Friday / Saturday evening, it was absolutely PACKED. We parked ourselves at the base of the stairs for somewhere to stand, but had to move on, so we went downstairs, where, shockingly, we found an empty table! Only one mind, because it was even more rammed down here!

The beer? For me it was Gold by Hop Studio brewery at 4.5% abv. This was pale, with some peachy aromas on the nose. (Reminded me of tinned peaches as a kid). Some hoppy dryness in here, some peachy / nectarine type flavour (from the hops?), but more than that I couldn’t figure.

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(A GPO – Post Office – weighing machine ! Love the details!)

Decision time. Where to go next? We wanted to go toward Piccadilly, cos Ben & Holly were staying at The Malmaison. But where? We’d done Port Street (well, me & Jaz). Being a tad younger than us, we plumped for….

Kosmonaut

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(Archive shot – The camera lost power!!!)

Although this bar does do real ale – normally something from Sheffield’s Kelham Island – bottles, cocktails and ambience are the thing here. Located on Tariff Street (close to Port Street) this is a bar with pumping tunage – R&B this evening – and a fabulous selection of bottled beers and cocktails. I went for a Schneider Weisse Tap 7, Jaz for a Thornbridge Jaipur with Ben and Holly on the Whisky Mac cocktail. This was a relatively short stop as there was the small matter of my chariot waiting (courtesy of First Transport.

The Schneider Weisse was a really nice wheat beer with some nice spicing and a hint of orange zest and at approx 5.5% was tonight’s sleeping draught of choice.

I think that I had achieved the objective of showing my southern based companions around some excellent pubs/bars, with excellent tunes and superb beers. They were certainly surprised and had expected some “spit & sawdust”. I was almost sorry to disappoint them!

They moved off to their nearby hotel (long day!) which prompted me to head toward Piccadilly and the weed reeking 37 bus home!

On that note….and having enjoyed several  breweries new to me!  ….Til next time (& replenished bank balance!)

Slainte!

More Bottle Blather

I do like a nice bottle, now and again, to while away the time between ‘strolls’. The following beers have been recent highlights.

1. Nogne O Imperial Stout – 9%abv

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Purchased during my last trip to the mighty Beer Shop in Heaton Moor, this is a satanically black beer with a tan coloured head (as you can see, of course. Doh!) The aroma of licorice and leather draws you in for a sip – and this is a sipping beer! A lovely creamy texture in the mouth with a flavour (initially) of licorice and bitter chocolate. The further down into the Hades like darkness that I ventured, I got some really lovely strong espresso like coffee tones. A truly majestic beer from this Norwegian brewery and a veritable bargain at (then) £5 for 500ml.

2. Harviestoun – Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 – 8%abv

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This special porter is derived from Harviestoun’s own Old Engine Oil Porter and is aged in wooden casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 18 Yr Old Single Malt whisky.

On pouring, this looked impenetrably black with a small tan head. The aroma was of treacle toffee with a smoky edge. Earthy in the mouth with some caramel toffee and a peaty smokiness in a full bodied creamy texture. The further down the glass you go, that woody, whisky cask flavour starts to warm you, not overpoweringly so. But just like a sip of a good smoky single malt, it lingers awhile.

This is a definable progression from Old Engine Oil (a beer I love). A classy beer indeed and already a contender for beer of the year in my book!

3. Stone Brewing – Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale – 7.2%abv

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My youngest, has decided to start collecting beer bottle tops (nothing to do with me!). He has quite a collection, having received a good number from my buddy Colin. However, THIS was one he had been waiting for! The bottle top which read “Arrogant Bastard Ale”. I had to smile when handing it over!

This is my first Stone beer and was again purchased on my last trip to the Beer Shop. It’s a deep ruby colour with a pale creamy head upon pouring. Some spicy hop and fruit in the nose. On tasting, there was a substantial hoppiness with some fruit. Then some treacle. There was also a flavour which reminded me of a certain boiled sweet that I couldn’t nail down. An excellent beer all in all. Just as I finished the glass, I started to detect a coffee liqueur type flavour! Yum.

4. Blakemere – Chilli Chocolate Stout – 5%abv

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Finally. Returning to a  more local beer now. This one from Cheshire and bought from Bents Garden Centre just off the East Lancs Rd in Glazebury. This is, again, a black beer with a tan/cream coloured head on pouring. There was some cayenne spice in an otherwise (unsurprisingly) roasted malt aroma. The flavour was smooth and chocolatey. But no spice. Then I started to feel quite warm inside! Very subtle and nicely done. This could easily have been harsh (as some other chilli beers) and undrinkably macho and spicy. Instead it’s a lovely balanced effort.

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

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I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

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The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

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Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

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(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

20130125_142020[1](Digging that chandelier!)

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(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

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Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

20130125_173046[1](Starting to get busy now!)

3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!

Blather About Bottles – 09/01/2013

It’s that time of the year isn’t it. Christmas has been and gone, as has the bank balance in an orgy of spending! The reins get applied to the strolling. Bugger me I’m fed up! However, the consolation is that it forces me to dig into those boxes stored just off the kitchen. You know, the ones filled with all manner of bottled beer! Malty manna from that place up there, you know…..The Beer Shop!

Anyway, I was under frim (or even firm) orders from Atilla to deplete the stash before I even batted an eyelid at The Beer Shop, Beers of Europe, or even Booths! So, it was with a heavy heart 🙂 that I FORCED myself to locate the bottle opener……

Redwillow Ageless

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This was one of four bottles purchased at the SIBA Festival in Manchester (4 for £9! ) and was the only one of the four to be bottle conditioned. Being about as sensitive as a bull in the proverbial, this one got shaken up. Badly. So, I had to let it lie for a while….

When I finally plucked up the courage to flip the lid, oh boy! I was reaquainted with the knowledge that Redwillow are one of my favourite breweries. This beer (a Double IPA) poured golden with a light head, slightly hazy but the spicy citrus hop aroma hit from the off. At 7.2% abv, this is obviously not a beer to trifle with (insert own sherry reference!). A nice balance between intense hoppyness and firm malt base. Lovely and bitter and really smooth in the mouth for a bottled beer. A fine lasting bitterness in the aftertaste. I like this!

Tatton Brewery – Obscure

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I first clapped eyes on this beer on draught in The Mark Addy in Salford (NOT Manchester – got it?), Jaz had this one whilst I had an Acorn Old Moor Porter. He enjoyed it, but couldn’t quite figure it out. Anyway, a fine colleague of mine (Take a bow Mr D!) managed to pick up a bottle of this for me (and a Beartown Wojtek – see below), for which I was suitably grateful! When I opened it, I was puzzled as hell!!!

5.7% abv. It poured black. To my eyes, a porter or a stout. A cream coloured head…so far so good….then the aroma….sugared grapefruit? Banana Split ice cream? Fudge? WTF is going on? Spicy hops? I needed a lie down. The flavour only befuddled me more! Yes, there was roasted malt in there, and a tinge of dark chocolate. But rhubarb??? The label says “Not Your Obvious Beer” – They’re not kidding either. I love hop monsters and the like, but sometimes…you just need something that makes you think. This made me think in spades. A candidate for my bottled beer of the year! (Going to try to get to the brewery late spring-early summer!)

Beartown Wojtek 5.5% abv

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I had tried for ages to get my hands on a bottle of this! Finally, at the SIBA Fest (see previous blog) I managed it. In with the Redwillow at £2.25. Bargain! Then, when I get into work the next week, that lovely Mr D got me another one! Ta muchly!

A pale gold when poured, with a nice white head. Some nice, fresh yet subtle citrussy hops on the nose. A lovely biscuity malt that reminded me of the base of a good banoffee cheesecake! Balanced up with some nice citrus hop flavour. A nice dry hoppy aftertaste too. Like I said above, sometimes a hop monster isn’t what’s required and a nice well made beer is just what you want. Beartown are proud of the awards they have won for this beer. Rightly so as well. I see quite a bit of their beers in some supermarkets, I just wish this was one of them!

Fyne Ales – Jarl 3.8% abv

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When I first encountered this beer, was the first time I came across Fyne Ales. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of E H Booths supermarkets within a short drive. They stock 4 or 5 of Fyne’s beers. Jarl was the first I tried. There aren’t many beers that shock me, but this most certainly did.

This pours paler than most lagers. The aroma hits you first, some assertive hopping here with grapefuit or apricot prominent. Then the flavour…BANG! Assertive didn’t do it justice….grapefuit again..maybe even a touch of lemon…wow, this is a really hoppy beer. On draught, it would make a fabulous session beer. But herein lies the rub….I’ve never had it on draught….what I would give…….!

Suffice to say, that if anybody hears of it on draught within a 30 minute train journey of Bolton (and told me in time, of course!), I’d be forever in their debt. In the meantime, do yourselves a favour, get to Booths!

Buxton Brewery – Smokey and the Band-Aid 7% abv

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Firstly. Let me get this out of the way. My boss bought me a bottle of this for Xmas. How fecking cool is that eh? (Last year it was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!) Needless to say, we get on famously (nice one Mick!) Totally independently, I picked one up at the formidable Beer Shop in Heaton Moor (see previous blog – Best Little Beerhouse…..), so I have a spare. Lucky me!

This is one of Buxtons “Special Reserve Series” (number 2) and is a Smoked Rye Porter. It’s also bloody gorgeous!

Pouring a deep deep brown, almost black. The aroma? Bonfire debris. Intense smoky bacon, Lagavulin (my favourite single malt!), peat smoke.

The flavour? Initially smooth, slightly sweet with some smokiness. Then the peatyness fills the sides of your mouth like an Islay single malt. For the strength, this is surprisingly warming. A lovely smooth almost cask-like texture, the smokiness isn’t overpowering, it’s just mmmmmm……..

A fabulous beer! Another bottle of the year candidate. Buxton just keep making bloody good beer. I just need to get hold of a Series 3 – and if anyone has a Series 1 knocking about……..!

Just one more thing. 2012 was a year of rediscovering beer again. Thanks to my good buddy Jaz for that! Now seeing as everybody seems to give laurels out….who am I to buck the trend. Nice and simple though. Just best bottle and best draught for me!

Draught

Tricky this. All through this blog, I’ve rattled on consistently about how my favourite beer is Magic Rock Dark Arts. And how I love the Dark Side. But, Magic Rock beat themselves! All because of a night that started in BrewDog on Peter Street in Manchester…..

1. Magic Rock – Human Cannonball (9.2%) – Simply wrecked my mouth that night –  an absolute hop assault – unforgettable.

2. Magic Rock – Dark Arts 6% (need I say more?)

3. Ilkley Siberia 5.9% – Thank you Ilkley and Melissa Cole for this rhubarb gem – a classic!

Bottle

This was the year I started to truly appreciate bottle conditioned beer. And strong beer. Oh sod it!

1. Tatton Obscure – see above – Truly astonishing!

2. BrewDog Abstrakt 7 (12.5%) – Thank you to Will at IndyManBeerCon for this. Loved working and drinking at that festival. And buying this! (Port, Whisky,Xmas Cake…..ooohhhh)

3. Buxton – Smokey and the Band-Aid – see above. Subtly smoky, just a great advertisement of the brewing arts.

Right, enough. Another stroll soon as the bank is replenished!

Until next time.

Slainte!