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!

An Impromptu Northern Quarter Stroll – 02/11/2012 (or…”The best-laid schemes o’mice an men gang aft agley”)

This week, chez Heels, the dust has been flying. For a change, it was the stairway walls that were getting plastered, by my good friend Mr Wood. Now I had made a rather rash statement last Sunday (after two days committed blog research!), that I was pulling up the drawbridge and retreating from strolling for a couple of weeks.

However, Rabbie Burns knows far more about plans going wrong than I do, so, with my bank balance diminishing with the plaster dust, and the said dust drying my throat….sod plans! A quick call to my mentor and arch-nemesis¬†Mr Jaz (at that time, at The Bury Beer Festival – excellent reports!) and I find myself on the (late) 18:44 from Farnworth to The Rainy City, which certainly lived up to its name!
So, at 19:15 I found myself shaking the raindrops off the new coat at the bar of……
Angel

Now I’ve known this pub in a number of incarnations. When I first drank there was my first Xmas works stroll back in 1984. Back then it was a Tetley house called The Weavers, a 2 room pub with an upstairs function room (with the legendary Victor Brox performing that particular night!). A fine pint of Tetley it was too.

Then it subsequently became a freehouse under The Beerhouse moniker. A fine pub it was too, with a variety of well kept beers. Now it is known as The Angel and styles itself as a Dining Pub. The main restaurant room being in the upstairs area (formerly frequented by Mr Brox et al) the downstairs area occupied by the “pub” bit is an open plan in an L shape with the bar on the left as you enter. There are a number of hand pumps on display, with a good selection from the likes of Liverpool Organic, Pictish, Norfolk Brewery and Hawkshead. Dining Pub or not, this is one excellent drinking venue!
Seeking the comfort that familiarity brings, I opted for one of my favourite pale ales, Hawkshead Windermere Pale a 3.5% abv brew. As clear as you would want it, lovely and golden with a nice tight head. Like myself, it seemed a bit subdued, not its usual assertive self, perhaps the Jalfrezi I had recently eaten had dulled my tastebuds? Who knows! It was a nice pint in any case served by a very friendly and helpful young barman who tried to tempt me with a Pictish Beata!
Some minutes after the arrival of Jaz, he felt compelled to furnish me with a pint of Norfolk Brewery Moon Gazer Ruby Ale. A dark Ruby Mild at 4% abv, this had a lovely nutty aroma. Flavours were a biscuity roasted malt, a really nice pint. There was another Norfolk Brewery beer on the bar which came with the Jaz seal of approval, but, you don’t have a stroll while sitting on your bum! So, 5 minutes later and a 300 yard walk and we were back at one of my favourite venues….

Common Bar

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As busy as a chippy! We beat a path to the bar. Both pumps were occupied, one with a beer from Brightside Brewery from Bury. Ordinarily, I would have had one and ‘gone local’, but the other pump sported an Ilkley Brewery pump clip! The beer was The Green Goddess, another collaboration with the beer writer Melissa Cole. Two weeks ago, I eulogised about their other collaboration Siberia. Well, this is right up there also!
(pic – Courtesy of Joshua Brooks – ‘sorry’ – ed)
Green Goddess is desrcibed as a green hop IPA. I must confess, by the flavour, I’d have had as a wheat beer! Slightly hazy, and golden with cream soda in the aroma, the flavour, fresh cut grass, resinous hops. The ¬†best recommendation I can give is…I stayed for another! (¬£3.15 – using my Common Card.- Bargain!) We move on…..to……
Terrace Bar (opposite Common) on Edge Street.
Again, busy as a chippy! Recently opened bar on Edge Street with 2 entrances – the other being on Thomas Street. The Edge Street side has a large open area with a DJ booth (I think!), the room then narrows into a corridor through which you access the bar. Lots of exposed brickwork, excellent powerful sound system, lots of cocktails being served to a predominantly young crowd.
The usual suspect lagers in evidence alongside 6 handpumps. 3 of these seemed to be occupied by Marston beers, but I opted for a beer by Happy Valley. The beer was hazy, not very well kept and VERY disappointing at ¬£3.80 a pint. No issue with Happy Valley, as I¬†know¬†they brew excellent beer. This fault falls on the venue. Needless to say, we beat a hasty (and somewhat disappointed) retreat. (I won’t be back in a hurry!) to……
 
So much has been written about this pub. What I will say for my part, is that it’s the best pub in Manchester. Period.
Last night, I walked in to be greeted by JP behind the bar who recognised me from my stint behind the cask bar at IndyManBeerCon. The man has a formidable memory! Top bloke!
The beer.
First up was Resistance by the mighty Summer Wine Brewery from Holmfirth. A dark mild at 3.9% abv. Lovely dark brown beer with a nice roasted aroma. Nutty dark roasted malt flavour. Went down a treat after the previous pint!
Next – Fireside Porter by Ilkley Brewery. Having not had much on draught by Ilkley, I’m now on a bit of a run! Dark beer, roasted malt and smoky aroma. For the strength (4.2%) this was a¬†surprisingly¬†flavourful¬†beer. Some vine fruit, smoky roasted flavour. Yum! Another excellent brew from Ilkley.
A touch of stupidity next! Generous George from Kirkstall. 6.6% abv was a stretch too far. Loads of flavour but by ‘eck it tasted it’s strength! One to try slightly earlier in the evening I think!
Finally, again on Kirkstall. This time their Framboise on keg. Lovely tart raspberries! Really refreshing.
Again, the bar staff speak for a pub. The staff last night at Port Street were friendly and ever so knowledgeable about the products they serve. Stood at the bar, I watched them help a number of customers with their choice of beer with an unfailing polite manner. This stuff works and makes for return visits. It works for me!
With that, It was off for the last 37 bus back to Farnworth! See you soon.
Slainte!