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 ūüôā 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 РHuman Cannonball (9.2%) РSimply wrecked my mouth that night Р an absolute hop assault Рunforgettable.

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!

The Best Little Beerhouse in Texas (well, Stockport!) 08/12/2012

Following on from the previous Saturday outing, I had received my replacement bank cards. I fancied something a little different. U14s football match was cancelled. So my youngest and I fancied a drive. OK, beer WAS involved (isn’t it always!). Giving your friend and mine a call, we arranged to pick Jaz up in Manchester and head over to Stalyvegas for the Farmers Market – with the promise of a ‘surprise’ later.

It was lovely to meet the ladies from Wilson Potter Brewery who had a stand at the Market Hall. It’s always nice to put faces to Twitter handles. Once I had asked for “another bottle of ‘In The Black'”, my cover was certainly blown! I am sure that my friends will enjoy the Xmas Stocking fillers that I bought (I’m certainly looking forward to the ‘Pudding Porter’!)

There were some nice craft stalls in the hall, but (other than the VERY spicy sandwich pickle), nothing else¬†tickled¬†my fancy, so, Wilson Potter beers in hand, it was time for the ‘SURPRISE’! Back onto the M60 for a few miles, some jiggery-pokery¬†around¬†Jct 3 and we were parked up outside….

The Beer Shop

The Beer Shop, Heaton Mersey

(courtesy Panoromio / Phil Rowbotham)

Kingsleigh Road in Heaton Moor is just like any suburban road in South Manchester. Nice houses, some flats, a bloody big Tesco at the end….until you get to close to the junction with Mauldeth Road. There, at No 13 is The Beer Shop. It’s a small premises in the middle of a terrace of other retail businesses. But, for me, what lies inside is quite¬†special!

I was introduced to this liquid utopia by Jeff (Take a Bow¬†young¬†man!) who told me that if I was in the area, I should give it a try for some rarer beers. By ‘eck he wasn’t wrong!

I first went in the summer. Parking up, the owner was in the process of putting some metal tables outside. This looked a tad unusual. Why would an off-licence put tables outside? Then I went inside.

First thing to hit the eyes were, more tables. Only THEN did the reason become apparent. Handpumps. FIVE of them! I had come to buy bottles, but, when offered the chance of a thirst slaking half, I crumbled. That half was Moor Top from Buxton Brewery, a fabulously quenching pale ale at 3.6% (and my introduction to Buxtons fine beers).

After a lengthy chat with the owner (busy re-organising his storage), I fulfilled my mission and bought some bottles. Lots of them. Amongst this haul were a number of darks, including the fabulous Tsar, also from Buxton Brewery (see previous review), two Sierra Nevada beers (Stout and Porter) and various others. I was astonished to find that they also do off sales of the draught beers in 3, 5 and up to 20 litre boxes. “I’ll be back”! I said.

Next occasion was on the day of a friends’ BBQ in New Mills. 5 litres of High Wire by Magic Rock was secured. Judging by the reception it got at the BBQ, I should have brought a 20! A fabulous pale hoppy ale at 5.5%, this cemented my love of all things Magic Rock.

Anyway, back to 08/12/2012! I obviously knew what to expect. However, my ale loving companion didn’t. His eyes were opened by 6 (SIX) draught ales, 5 on handpull and one from the cask.

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(The Cask Selection РNB selectively placed 1/2 of Heartless!)

They were…Infusion Pale Ale from Conwy Brewery from North Wales, Heartless Chocolate Stout from Redwillow of Macclesfield, Dissolution IPA from Kirkstall of Leeds, Moor Top from Buxton and Drunken Duck by George Wright of St Helens. From the cask was another George¬†Wright¬†beer, Spalt 51. Now THAT is a line up! I ordered a Heartless and Jaz ordered a Spalt 51. The Heartless was in fabulous nick. 4.9% abv, black as sin, smooth, dark and with a hint of dark chocolate and lots of lovely roasted malt flavour, another beer from Redwillow that ticks all my boxes! Jaz commented very favourably on his Spalt 51 also.

Having the car, this was the last beer for me. My companion however had other plans! He proceeded to dispatch a Kirkstall Dissolution, a gloriously bitter and hoppy IPA at 5.5% and a Heartless. Suitably slaked, we set about out bottled requirements.

You can refer to the website (click the link on the name) for a stock list. Safe to say that the bottled selection comprises a¬†substantial¬†number of beers that are VERY hard to come by in your usual “Offy”. There are some that I’ve only seen VERY rarely. There are a large number of American Craft Beers stocked from brewers like Brooklyn, Flying Dog, Odell, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Ska, Stone, Anchor, the list goes on. There are also a substantial number of German, Belgian and Dutch beers as well a a select number of British craft beers. There’s even Little Creatures Brewery from Oz!

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Given the size of the shop, the selection is quite large but select. Given even the¬†shortest¬†conversation with the owner, it’s obvious that he loves beer and cares passionately about what he sells. He is more than happy to chat and advise on beer selection to match your taste, even maybe to expand your beer horizons!

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Before we get to the beer selection, further important items to note. Firstly, there is no food on site. However, last time I checked, there was an arrangement with a local Nepalese take-away that will deliver to the shop. AND you can eat in! How cool is that??? Secondly, please note the opening hours listed below. This establishment does NOT open in the mornings!

Anyhow. The selection! Firstly, Ska Brewing (Durango, Colorado US) Steel Toe Milk Stout, Odell St Lupulin ‘Extra’ Pale Ale, Stone Brewing – Oak Aged, Arrogant Bastard¬†Ale, ¬†Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10%!), Flying Dog Brewery – Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout (all USA) and Smokey and The Band-Aid smoked rye porter from Buxton Brewery.

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(Bottled Utopia!)

I then started to look for something slightly more….expensive. Something I may not have had before. I have heard Jeff and Jaz both extolling the virtues of the Norwegian craft brewers at Nogne, so I thought I’d give one a go. I opted for the Imperial Stout at 9% abv. Then, Jaz pulls out a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace! Oh dear……..I know I shouldn’t have, but I persuaded myself that I deserved something THAT special! (Check the website for the price!)

Talking about pricings. These are very competitive. The only comparable place locally for me is Micro Bar in Manchester Arndale Market. For comparable beers, the prices in The Beer Shop are certainly lower. Yes, you have to drive, or get the 197 bus from Albert Square (drops you close to the bottom of Kingsleigh Rd/ Mauldeth Rd Jct), but it is SO worth it.

Just remember the opening times!

They are :

Tuesday to Thursday 16:00 to 22:00
Friday 14:00 to 22:00
Saturday 12:00 to 22:00
Sunday 14:00 to 22:00

Slainte!