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!

3 Bar Surprise – An Evening in Manchester – 27/03/2014

“He’s cold to the kiss. In ignorance he’s dangerous, in innocence he’s bliss.

And he stalks the night with sonar senses and he holds you tight.

Masturbates the madness in you”

(“Mad Jack” – The Chameleons)

(Live Video courtesy of alkalidocklive – You Tube)

(The video link was a judgement call. The passion of live performance over the sound quality of the album track. Repeated games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide and Live Performance wins every time!)

I know that I’ve mentioned my love of the 3 albums of the first incarnation of The Chameleons, for me, one of the seminal post-punk bands. They reached their creative peak (in my opinion) with their final album, “Strange Times”, ironically, recorded with a major label, Geffen. Songs like “Swamp Thing”, “Tears”, “Soul In Isolation” and the above track “Mad Jack”, when listened to nearly 30 years later have – for me – more than stood the test of time.

Embarrassingly, I must have played my cassette of Strange Times to death and STILL never got the lyrics of “Mad Jack” right! I mean, to young ears, “Masturbates” does sound like “Must have been”, right? What this blog piece has made me do is log on to iTunes and fling some cash the way of Cupertino to download the album. An 80s rock classic. Treat yourself to some passionate lyrics and tight playing!

Now, in a slight diversion from the norm, no bottles today!

1) There’s been 4 bottle posts this month and I don’t want to a) bore you TOO much, and b) A snap decision whilst tilting glass to lips the other evening. A surprising evening!

The aim of this particular Thursday evening mission was to swap some bottles with the legend that is Jamie from Port Street Beer House, who, for those who don’t know, also brews some excellent beers (see previous reviews) under the guise of the “Five Oh Brew Co“. From the moment he ventured to have a chat with a certain ageing nerd holding a Nexus 7, I’ve always got on with Jamie. The bonus is in the fact that he is a top bar keep who knows his stuff (as do all at Port Street) and is damned passionate about beer. So much so, that he stuck his metaphorical head above the brewing parapet and brewed himself. Damned well too.

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So, bottle swaps done, the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) and I settle down to a pint of Pale by the Indy Man Brew House (brewed with the mighty Black Jack).  Living up to name, this was a very pale golden beer at 4%abv with simply LOADS of citrus going on! Tart and refreshing, I was damned pleased I went this route rather than the dark side. This beer would grace any bar and would be an excellent “house beer” should Port Street ever consider one. A gentle fruity bitterness in this light-bodied beer was followed by some drying fruity resinous stuff that just completed the pint nicely. Excellent. I followed this with a pint of Kipling by Thornbridge.

To be upfront, I adore the dark stuff that comes from Bakewell, but the pales? Never quite got the hype myself – not from Thornbridge, but Social Media – nice? Yes, good well made beer. But the purple prose that I have seen seems unjustified in the beers that I have had. Same here with Kipling. A lovely looking pale golden pint with a drool provoking lemony aroma. In the mouth? Just…nice. The fruitiness in the talk didn’t strut enough for me. Maybe I need to recalibrate my expectations. Over a pint of St Petersburg. Now THERE’S a beer!

With a cheery handshake with Mr Hancock and a bagful of bottles (the Nemesis had a few for me too!), we strolled off to the second of a planned 3 stops (well, it WAS a “school night”!)

Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square, Manchester)

I don’t get into Manchester often enough. I certainly don’t get into this hybrid bar/canteen/club often enough. Their beer range improves each time I enter. This evening was NO exception and contained a Manchester brewery I was yet to try on draught!

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(FOUR Dark Beers – Heaven!)

Being a bit of a stickler for all things local (where possible), I was delighted to see Squawk Brewing Porter. Had that and their IPA in bottle and both were superb. With my pub strolling outings becoming decreasingly frequent (not having done a “Hector Rivera” QUITE yet!), I don’t see the new brewers offerings in the wild. Tonight however…

Dark…..Creamy coloured and textured head with a lovely smooth chocolatey aroma. Oooh! More chocolate in this smooth full-bodied beer, some coffee hints too with a nice hoppy finish in with a gentle bitterness. I would have had another, but….my eye was wandering…..decisions decisions…..the angel on my shoulder was saying “stay local”

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(Damn that neon!)

Black Jack – Red Rye Saison was the shout. 7% abv!!! On a school night! Hugely irresponsible, but OH WHAT A BEER! Far too refreshing for a beer of this strength. A little of that yeasty funk, spice and tartness form the rye and as red as David Moyes’ redundancy cheque! Just superb. But a bit stupid! Ah well….tomorrow was another day, eh?

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Comment : Soup Kitchen is getting a wee bit like Joshua Brooks. If this selection continues along the excellent lines of tonight, could well become a “go to” bar for the NQ. Great beers and superb tunes from Mr DJ – good food too so I’m told. The full package then!

Now…..just one more eh Mr Nemesis?

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Twenty Twenty Two (Little Lever Street, Manchester. M1 1EZ)

This is a hard beastie to find. I had been once before, guided by the Arch-Nemesis. From memory, the beer was from Outstanding of Bury (just the one on cask) and they had a superb bottle range. It was the sheer physical “coolness” of the space on a mid-summer afternoon that got me. That temperature drop you get when you go subterranean (see Gaslamp). Abiding memory was of a great art space with nice beer and awesome tunes (“I’ll Take Care of You” Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX stood out)

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Tonight. Upon walking down the steps it was obvious that we had stumbled across something. This place was busier than Port Street, and you don’t say that about many bars midweek!

2 hand pumps on the bar too (along with 4 keg fonts from Outstanding) Nemesis went for the Outstanding whilst I went for TEA by First Chop. First time on draught for me. Amber to brown with a lovely somewhat earthy leafy aroma. Of course! TEA! Duh! Full bodied with good fruitiness and an earthy dry finish. I was possibly hoodwinked by the name into imagining tannins in the brew as there was quite a dryness on the tongue, almost reminiscent of Earl Grey. Worked well for me!

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(TWO TABLE-TENNIS TABLES!!!)

What we had stumbled into was the launch party for “BCN MCR” A design exhibition featuring the best art designers from both Manchester & Barcelona. This cool & trendy crowd had just been invaded by a two-man Dad’s Army! We must have upped the average age by 2 years!

Got to say, being no art connoisseur myself, I really enjoyed wandering around checking out the posters and installations.

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(Manchester weather – in poster form)

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Well. A surprising evening both on the beer front and culturally too.  3 excellent bars and superb beers – and one sluggish old man in the morning!

Anybody fancy a game of ping-pong?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottles Ales – July 2013 Pt 2

This month has been fairly quiet by my standards! Hence, the accent on diminishing the “cellar” stock. But, they are there to drink, not as decoration of course! So, without further ado, a few more belters that I have picked up on my haphazard wanderings.

The spiel is the same, 1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website. Here goes!

1. Hackney Hopster – London Fields Brewery (Hackney, East London) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £2.38 (500ml) – Bierhuis

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I must confess that I wasn’t blown away by their Unfiltered Lager when I had it. A good UK lager, but not as exceptional as I’d hoped. THIS however worked a treat! A nice lacy white head led to a sweet citrus aroma bringing tangerines and mandarins to the hooter (slightly more mellow than advertised, and better for it). Those aromas were replicated in the mouth with the tangerine more prominent leading to a lovely dry, hoppy finish. A really refreshing fruity beer. (Nice price too!)

2. Yakima IPAGreat Heck Brewing (Great Heck, North Yorkshire) – 7.4% abv – IPA – £1.98 (330ml) – Bierhuis

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I recently found myself in the Nottingham area facing a dodgy bit of traffic one afternoon. A different route was called for and I suggested nipping for lunch in Ossett (5 mins diversion!) via a sneaky reload at Bierhuis. The butty was lovely, but no more than filling the car with some lovely beer, oh no!

Late last year saw my first (and so far only) encounter with beers from this brewer, in the form of Dark Force Treason Stout, which was my “Beer of the Festival” at the SIBA Northern bash in Manchester. I’d heard that they were going to start bottling soon, so was keen to try this when I saw it.

A deep amber beer with a nice fine white head and an aroma (for me) with toffee and raisins. The flavours were a slightly sweet raisin with a caramelised biscuit. This was a full-bodied beer (which you would expect at the strength) which had some nice resinous hop flourish. Other Yakima hopped beers I’d had, had been a bit ruinous with the piney stuff, but this had a nice warming balance to it.

3. EncoreLacons Brewery (Great Yarmouth, Norfolk) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the Brewery (500ml)

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One of the quite surprising things about doing this here “Beer Blogging” has been when a brewery asks if you’d like to try some of their beers. Lacons being one of those who contacted me, a brewer that came to my attention via the excellent Twitter feed / blog of Nathaniel Southwood (aka NateDawg).

A while later, I received a card through the door from Parcelforce. Nipping to the “drop off point” (ie : the local Post Office) I collected said package. Unfortunately, Parcelforce brutalised the packaging, so, 3 bottles sent, 2 received intact. B*stards!

Anyhow (whinge over!) This is an amber coloured beer with a white head which diminished fairly quickly. A light citrus fruity nose leading to a medium body which was clean and refreshing with citrus flavours (a light sugared grapefruit)  and a surprisingly slight smoky note with a nice dry gentle hoppy finish. A pleasing first encounter with this resurrected Norfolk brewer. (Note : Prior to takeover – and eventual closure by Whitbread, Lacons had a sizeable tied house estate, including a good number in London. Note the mirror in this review...https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-southampton-arms-gospel-oak-london/)

4. AAPA (Anglo American Pale Ale) – Rocky Head Brewery (Wandsworth, SW London) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man Manchester

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Another beer sourced from the excellent stall run by Damian O’Shea at Castlefield Market.

A lively golden beer with a light haze with a gentle citrus aroma featuring grapefruit, mango and apricot touches. In the mouth this was medium bodied with more citrus hop stuff with a bit of sharp lemon and grapefruit cutting through. Nicely bitter with a nice dry, hoppy finish. One to watch for on draught this and very nice first from this brewery!

5. Beat RedRevolutions Brewing Co (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Red Ale – £2.39 (500ml) – Bierhuis

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I’ve had a few bottles of Revolutions beers recently and a choice encounter with their Clash London Porter in Soup Kitchen. Some superb beers. I recently had the good fortune to meet Andrew from the brewery in Manchester and had a couple of beers with him. A really top bloke with superb taste in music, as you may expect if you follow the themed names of the beers!

This is a deep ruby coloured beer with a nice spicy hop aroma. Some biscuity malt sweetness more than offset with some spicy hop flavours. I thought I got a hint of chocolate as well!  Nice bitterness with a lasting herbal grassy hop aftertaste. Another really nice beer, nearly made me “Twist & Crawl” (cue cringing attempt at musical punnage!)

6. India Pale AleBad Seed Brewery – 7.3% abv – IPA – £2.34 (330ml) – Bierhuis

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I dearly hope that the name is connected to a Nick Cave reference! This was another fruit of my recent traffic enforced “diversion” to Ossett! A deep gold almost amber beer with a full-on dirty hop aroma courtesy of Columbus, Cascade and Chinook varieties. Fruity marmalade as well on the nose followed by a huge dry hoppiness in the mouth, plenty of citrus fruit here balance by a lovely sweet malt backbone. Don’t be fooled though, the hops are the star attraction here, really bitter and resinous. A fabulous lingering piney resin taste in the aftertaste.

This beer prompts a slight change in my “Beers of the Month”. It is THAT good!

Anyway, better get off before my Sunday Dinner ends up in the dog!

Back in the fresh air next week at The Marble 125 Years celebration next Saturday. See you there!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

An astonishingly hoppy beer from this new Malton brewer. (And wait ’til I tell you about the Espresso Stout – WOOF!)

Port Street Beer House – American Beer Festival 24/06/2013 – Beer Presentation by Andreas Falt

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(pic : Portstreetbeer.co.uk)

Last night saw the start of the Port Street Beer House American Beer Festival – a celebration of craft brewing, if you will – featuring draught beers of distinction from the gold old, bad old (delete as personal politics dictate!) US of A. There are undoubtedly some great beers that come out of the States and we were going to taste some of them!

As we enter (as is now standard) we received the traditional 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each entitles you to a “sample” of beer being presented this evening (frequently a half pint). The first of these beer was Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner by Rogue Brewery from Newport, Oregon. A pale beer at 5.2% abv, it was a nice enough pilsner style beer, quite refreshing, but undistinguished compared to what came later!

20130624_173614(The Rogue is above the President’s head to the left!)

As well as tasting the beers, we were going to be guided through by the Ambassador (love the title!) from The Brewers Association in Europe – Andreas Falt. (The Brewers Association is the body in the US that represents many Craft Beer brewers).

An excellent relaxed public speaker our Mr Falt! He led us through a kind of “time-line” of US Brewing from 1900 through to the “Craft Years” which (acc to the Brewers Association) started in 1980 – effectively with the founding of Sierra Nevada Brewing by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi in Chico, California and the brewing of their landmark beer Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

The timeline started in 1900 with approximately 3000 breweries operating in the US, these breweries making standard beers of the day including Lagers, Ambers and Bitters. Via Prohibition, The Great Depression and WWII, this number plummeted to less than 50! Prohibition being key here. The brewers that survived did so by still making drinks, just diversifying into fizzy pop production (or Coors Lite, as we know it! Am I the only one actually frightened by JC Van Damme’s teeth? Avoid that dentist!!!)

1965 marked a major brewing point in the US with the purchase of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco by Fritz Maytag and, in particular, the making of their first really hoppy beer, Liberty Ale in 1972.

The explosion in home brewing following the lifting of its abolition by Jimmy Carter in 1975 led, eventually to the setting up of breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Albion and New Belgium through to the likes of Rogue, Odell etc.

Next came the second offering on the beer front (we’ll skip the CASK CONDITIONED Sierra Nevada Torpedo for now, shall we?) this being Modus Hoperandi by Ska Brewing of Durango, Colorado. At 6.8% abv (note the rising alcohol levels as we go along!), I have never had this legendary beer. Amber, I didn’t get much of an aroma (I generally let kegged beer warm a bit before I drink it!) but in the mouth? A different matter entirely, Quite well-balanced, but with shed loads of tropical fruit and piney notes. This was much more like it!

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There are currently approximately 2800 breweries in the US, of which 1600 are “Brew-Pubs”, a very popular type of venue in the ‘States. Did you know there are 57 breweries (inc Brew-Pubs) within the city limits of Portland, Oregon? Me neither, but I’d love to go! In essence, most beers brewed in the US never get exported far because they are drunk locally. A quick chat through the most popular beer styles (IPA, Pale Ale and Ambers), the relatively recent phenomenon of canning craft beers (Modus Hoperandi being predominantly canned) and the recent introduction of lining the cans to exclude the “metallic taste” and thus keeping the beer fresh and tasting better. (An interesting anecdote about a blind tasting with CAMRA members preferring Maui Coconut Porter – a CANNED beer of all horrors! Ha!)

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The next beer was the Belgian Style Blonde IPA by Sierra Nevada at 7.4% abv (abv rising again!). (The first time that Andreas himself had tried this) Pale, with a bubblegum and cream soda aroma, I’m not sure about this being an IPA, but it would have been the best Belgian Wit I’ve had, if it was from Belgium! A truly excellent smooth Wit, slightly sweet with a hint of banana split. Superb (NEARLY my favourite of the evening!) and apparently a style growing in popularity in the US.

A quick talk from Andreas about the regional preferences for beer in the US (East Coast – European styles, Mid West, slightly hoppier with European influences too – Odell Cutthroat Porter for example, and then West Coast – HOPS from the Yakima Valley!) and the criteria that determines what is actually a “Craft Brewery” in the US. (Amount of beer produced (vast!), independent ownership and traditional ingredients.) Also a little thread on the experimental nature of US Craft Brewers.

Next beer up was up the scale again at 9% abv and was Iniquity Black Ale by Southern Tier Brewing from Lakewood, New York State. An initial chocolate and hoppy, citrus aroma gave way to hints of chocolate overlaid by piney, resinous hops. Black IPAs are not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but they work for me. And this was excellent. Can also be described as a Cascadian Black Ale. (If anybody sees their Creme Brulee over here, let me know ‘cos my buddy Col REALLY wants one!)

At this point, food was up. Some excellent chilli topped Hot Dogs, but, being slow, everybody else had snaffled all the Jalapenos! Greedy little sausages!!!

Andreas explained as to how, once you go over the 8.5% mark, American brewers start to use the prefix “Imperial”. In response to an audience query, Andreas conceded that there was essentially no difference between a Double IPA (DIPA) and an Imperial IPA, to merriment from the audience! A quick chat re “Barrel Ageing” and sour beers. Also a recommendation about Crooked Stave brewery of Denver, especially for sours.

An interesting comparison of ostensibly similar beers in Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Ska Modus Hoperandi. Both big IPAs but with markedly different hop characteristics (Citrus v Piney resins)

The final presentation beer was from Flying Dog of Frederick in Maryland and was their Green Tea Imperial Stout at 10% abv. With four different malts and hopped with Warrior hops, this was as black as sin and had a lightly smoky nose and offered a boozy promise backed up in the mouth with loads of roast, more than a vinous warming hint and, TEA. I could actually taste tea in all that darkness. I just wanted to wallow in this! That lucky sod Chris stood next to us had two ‘cos his missus wasn’t keen!

A final chat from Andreas. Of 212 Million Hectolitres of beer produced in the States, 7% of this is “Craft”, 15 million Hectolitres (that’s near 3 BILLION pints!). The largest export markets are Canada, Sweden & the UK. But only 1% of US Craft beer gets exported. Just shows how much gets drunk locally! A comment about trying to break into Germany provoked a chuckle or two!

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(POTUS viewed through the PRISM!)

Andreas is an accomplished and genial public speaker. It is obvious that he loves his job (and who wouldn’t!) and is passionate about the beers he promotes on behalf of his employers. This was an excellent event and one I would certainly attend next year! Andreas also told me earlier that he will be involved with an Italian Craft bar at IndyMan later this year. Can’t wait. A nice guy!

It was great to chat with a few people last night, Tyson (all too briefly), Chris and his missus stood next to us (thanks for the chin-wagging!), James & Jon from Joshua Brooks. A wide cross-section of people here tonight, all united by a love of great beer!

Favourite brew? As if you need to ask! The Flying Dog Green Tea Imperial Stout was simply sublime. Followed closely by the Sierra Nevada Belgian Style Blonde IPA, a gorgeous Wit (IMHO!)

Thanks again to MC Jamie and the guys at Port Street for putting on a superb event. Get in there before that Sierra and Flying Dog sell out!

Ooh! Had to have a 1/2 pint or three of the Sierra Nevade Torpedo on CASK! SUCH a gorgeous hugely hopped citrussy beer. Stunningly good and a candidate for beer of the month!

Now. A 10:00 chuck out was a bit early for me, so we (Jaz & I) toddled over to Soup Kitchen for a final beer.

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I suppose it WAS a Monday evening, but it was virtually deserted! But I was SO glad I popped in! Revolutions Brewing! Clash London Porter! Oh I was one happy chap! I’ve been agitating to get their Manifesto Stout over here for a while now, but this will MORE than do! A lovely porter at 4.5% abv with plenty of roast and coffee but significant bitterness in the finish. Can we have some more over that there hill please!

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(Happy days!)

That then was it for the evening. I really enjoyed Andreas’ talks and the beers he presented topped off by a total surprise in Soup Kitchen. Back of the net!

So, Jaz & I go our separate ways, with me towards my chariot, supplied by First Buses!

On that note…’til next time! (Bury / Ramsbottom and the East Lancashire Railway this weekend!)

Slainte!

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!

Impromptu Stroll Northern Quarter 01/12/2012

As the week drew to a close, the yearning for draught beer grew stronger. Finally, on Saturday evening, I could stand the drought no longer. Being able to resist anything except temptation the Oracle was consulted and tea-leaves were read. The stars aligned over Manchester. But where? A quick word with your friend and mine, indicated a meeting place of….The French Xmas Market on King Street. What MADNESS was this? A bar, with no real ale!

Not only that, but KRONENBOURG! Needless to say, having braved herds of people and the chill air, I plumped for a swift Vin Chaud avec Cognac (get Moi!). However, there was only so much Allo Allo accentry I could prendre, so, the metaphorical shepherds crook was wielded, the madding crowds were braved and we found ourselves hiking across town toward Le Quartier de Nord (ENOUGH FRANGLAIS!!!) and approached……

The Angel

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As with everything else in Manchester this mad evening, it was crammed with bibulous humanity. It was quite a feat to reach the bar, but, after some weaving about we got there. The usual fine selection of beers were present (including an intriguing Black Isle Stout at 10.6% abv!). However, for the first beer of the evening, I chose a beer from Liverpool Organic – Shipwreck IPA at 6.5%. This was a big beer. A sturdy malt base overlaid with huge tropical hop flavours, mango? Grapefruit? Very assertive and very moreish. Not a beer to trifle with but hugely enjoyable. Another brewery producing an exceptional range of beers. (Kitty Wilkinson Stout being a personal favourite!). Jaz had a Culloden Oatmeal Stout by Beer House Brewery. It looked lovely (and tasted mighty fine – so I’m told!)

I wanted more. I wanted a half of that Black Isle Stout! But the bar was thronged. So, disappointed, we strode off toward…..

The Smithfield

(pic courtesy of http://www.the-smithfield-hotel.co.uk)

It was almost a year to the day, the last time I’d been in the Smithfield. Too long. Often bypassed en-route to other bars. No longer. The Smithfield has the feel of a welcoming Salford local. The kind of local I wish I had near me. A wide selection of beers, including a house beer by Facers (formerly of Salford, now of Flintshire, North Wales). As we walked in, a game of pool was going, the Italian Football (the Turin Derby, as you’re asking!) was on telly and a couple next to us were serenading us (unbidden!). Facers Porter was my choice in here. A dark brown beer at 5.5% abv, a slightly sweet start gave way to fruity dark roasted malt, the sweetness tending toward a mocha coffee kind of thing. A nice pint in a lovely friendly boozer. Certainly worth a visit. Onward we go…….

Bar Fringe

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Every time I go into The Fringe, more quirkiness reveals itself! From the breweriana on the ceiling (see above, literally!) to the Green Man wall hanging and the Motorbike on the ledge (see previous visit), The Fringe never fails to please. Great Jukebox doing sterling work again, the bar got very full as soon as Jaz and I got served. A pint of Prescott Ruby Stout was order of the day. A dark brown, rather that jet black, smooth roasted flavour was had. Didn’t catch the strength, but approx 4.5%. A very nice pint indeed.

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(Design – Bar Fringe. Pic – Yours Truly!)

I love The Fringe. Would gladly have stayed for more, but it was getting busy. And, how could this be a ‘stroll’ without moving on…..

The Crown & Kettle

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A short walk from The Fringe, just across Oldham Road. A gem of a different hue. Another well stocked bar, plenty of choice. But, you know me. When The Dark Side calls, I submit totally. On this occasion, Peerless Oatmeal Stout from the Wirral.

A 5% abv Stout. A lovely smooth flavour, dark roasted with a hint of sweetness from the oatmeal. Another excellent beer from Peerless. I took my time enjoying its dark pleasures whilst a fabulous musical selection washed over me. Somebody working tonight had an obvious love of Northern Soul! Bobby Hebb, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Valli……

Jaz advised me to have a little look around. Once I’d taken my eyes off the poster featuring the stunning Christina Hendricks, the architecture of this great pub was glorious. Vaulted ceilings, Stained glass. This is a gorgeous building housing 3 separate drinking rooms, each room having a different feel.

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20121201_212214[1]   (I love a nice feature…or 2)

Finishing the Peerless. We headed in the general direction of Port Street to check out a rumour that 3 Magic Rock ales (including the immense Dark Arts) were on. However, that’s a long walk. And I’m sure you’ll have concerns about dehydration (as did we!), so a stop at……

Soup Kitchen ……was prescribed – medicinal purposes of course! Quite busy here on Spear St! But getting to the bar was easy enough. It didn’t take long to select a pint of Dark Star Old Chestnut. 4%abv. Not a Stout, not a Porter, not a Mild. Hmmm……Is this a Brown Ale? A darkish brown beer, an initial slight sweetness gave way to something much more mysterious. Some slight bitterness. Couldn’t quite place this one in a category. A very nice ale nonetheless from an excellent brewery. (Espresso Stout anyone?)

Now then. Off to Port Street. Disaster! I followed a couple of lads heading for the door and No Entry! The place was heaving. Slightly deflated at no Magic Rock…. we headed for pastures new…at least for me.

Kosmonaut

(Needless to say, courtesy of  http://www.kosmonaut.co)

As stated. I was a Kosmonaut virgin. Up the steps into the bar. Excellent tuneage pumping out. Proper Saturday night feel. Jaz slotted straight in at the bar. Nice friendly staff. Excellent vibe generally.

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2 bottles of Goose Island Matilda were soon to hand. described as a strong Belgian ale, this had echoes of a fine wheaty beer to me, a bit of coriander and clove on the tongue. Possibly deceptive, as I was drinking from the bottle. Nice beer though.

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(Anyway, back to those friendly bar persons!)

On seeking the facilities, a whole new level opened up! Downstairs, as well as the loos, there is another room with loads of space down there. This is one excellent venue. Apparently, they do excellent food as well. Like a certain Austrian exile “I’ll be back”.

We tried our luck back at Port Street. Jaz went first this time and entry was gained. Busy, as you would expect. Just enough time to wolf a pint of Magic Rock Dark Arts. Now officially my favourite beer and a more than adequate night cap! Deep dark roast, by turn buttery toast and coffee roast, full of flavour and dangerously, dangerously alluring and moreish! Unfortunately I had a bus to catch.

Back to the 37 bus and back to that beer desert that is Farnworth. Ticket shown, iPod on…..home.

Next day, no wallet…….bugger!

With that……Til next time…..

Slainte!