A Change of Scenery – Deansgate 06/07/2016

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I love Manchester. The bright and shiny, the gritty and grimy, the heart and soul. I love it all. But – like many – I’ve gotten a bit lazy and comfortable in my drinking habits and it recently dawned on me that I had been frequenting the same (admittedly excellent) bars and pubs. All in the “Northern Quarter”. I needed a change.

I’m not “bored” of the NQ. Excellence never gets boring. But I’ve had plans to do a whole host of other crawls on a number of themes (Basement Bars; Live Music pubs; the list grows….) and other areas that don’t get the hectolitres of splaff that the NQ gets. This piece is – therefore – the first of many.

Deansgate area gets a bit overlooked when it comes to great beer and pubs/bars. But, if you drop the shoulder and give some of the Macro selling outlets the swerve, great beer can be had in belting venues within about 400 yards. Here’s the proof.

Knott Bar – 374, Deansgate, M3 4LY

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Originally part of the Marble empire, opening (I think) in 2002 – then named The Knott Fringe, located on the edge of an area of Manchester originally named Knott Mill, this place has been a staple of Manchester beer pretty much since it opened. Now part of a group that includes “The Bar” in Chorlton & “The Macc” in….(you guessed it!), it hasn’t missed a beat in all those years

This place holds a special place in my family’s heart, being the makers of one of the best Sunday Dinners around. So much so, that if you haven’t booked – or turn up after 2:30 – you may miss out. As we have done on occasion!

Excluding the upstairs balcony (very busy this evening), this is a single room layout which, due to the way it uses its railway arch space, gives the appearance of three separate areas. Slightly bohemian in appearance (with old posters almost performing the role of “feature wallpaper”), the Knott is utterly reliable in both the quality of its beers AND the excellence of its Jukebox (a personal passion).

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(LOOK! A Manchester railway arch that isn’t a brewery! Yet…)

And it regularly stocks Pictish beers. So a place in my heart is assured.

Tonight was no exception.

It takes a lot to tempt me away from a hand-pump featuring Dark Arts by Magic Rock. But I chose well when I went for the Nugget single hop Pale. But this is where Pictish simply rule. Single-Hopped pale ales. And this was no exception. Even out of a plastic “glass”. Disappointing to say the least. And I have no idea why they were using them.

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And whilst the aesthetics of plastic drinking vessels may be arguable, the excellence of the beer isn’t. A simply superb spicy bitterness with a deep citrus. Simply gorgeous. As ever.

A cracker of a bar.

With Jamie T (No. Not that one….) – the cheeky scamp even snuck into a picture! – joining us, a short walk around the corner was in order, whilst I puzzled as to how Castlefield was so busy on a Wednesday evening (James Bay – who? – apparently…)

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Cask – 29, Liverpool Street, M3 4NQ

I simply don’t get why more people don’t rave about this pub. I just don’t. To me, this is one of Manchester’s unsung gems.

It has it all. Great atmosphere, superb selection of genuine continental beers, great bottle/can selection, a simply MONUMENTALLY good Jukebox (the best in Manchester) and four superb handpulls normally populated with local(ish) beers (tonight from Heywood, Harrogate, Huddersfield and er….(h)Ardwick). Anyone who reads my verbage knows what comes next. Mallinsons.

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The pub/bar is again single roomed, but gives the illusion of being two separate spaces, with standing space and wooden tables/chairs near the bar with more alcovey comfy seating to the rear. There’s even a rare bit of outdoor space from this rear area…

The Emley Moor Mild was a Mallinsons that I never had previously. Smooth and chocolately, light bodied and soooo easy drinking. A delight of a beer.

Settling down to chatting, I noticed that Cask had a TV. So another beer was in order whilst catching the first half of Wales v Ronaldo. And WHAT a beer it was. Squawk IPA (ElDorado/Chinook), beautifully citrussy & bitter. Just as a US hopped IPA should be. Quite stunning, yet unsurprising, as Oli Turton has been utterly and consistently excellent with his IPAs. An essential when available.

Cask is one of those places that – once sat – I could safely go through the bar selection. A singularly superb place. And – if you’re hungry – you can even bring in your food from the (superb) chippy next door! (Just don’t forget to dispose of your wrappers….)

Onward….

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The Rising Sun – 22, Queen Street, M2 5HX

Into another postal district we go, bypassing the likes of BrewDog & the Ralph Abercrombie, approximately 200 yards from Cask we find this little Mancunian jewel. And one of Manchester’s oldest pubs.

One of those rarities known as a “cut” pub (because it has two entrances on different streets – a cut through), this single roomed and quite narrow pub can get really busy when there is a footy match on and also after office hours. With a long bar and nice bright decor it belies its 240 year age.

Think about this. This pub was here the year after the American Declaration of Independence!

Generally stocking Northern beers, with 8 hand-pumps (5 in use tonight – a wise move midweek IMO), this may not be CW central, but there’s always something that tickles my proverbial. Tonight, this was Oregon Pale by Weetwood Brewery. A truly delicious fruity hop beer, dry and grapefruity. Nice and refreshing.

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Despite there being two TVs, they aren’t particularly intrusive tonight. We just settled to chat and to the fact that Wales (by this point) had been beaten by two former OT players, just to sour the pill….. 😉

What I really like about the “Sun”, is – despite its location and apart from its age – it has a “local” feel. Like a local pub in the heart of this great city. Something that should be cherished. It isn’t “trendy”, it is what it is, A smart and attractive boozer that serves good and well looked-after beer.

I couldn’t bear any more Ronaldo, so Offski….

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Gaslamp – 50a, Bridge Street, M3 3BW

How many people who go into this fine Manc bar actually look up? Moreover, how many people walking around Manchester look up at ALL and admire the beautiful architecture?

Not many, I bet.

But, if you don’t, you miss this…

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Because what you see in the basement, was formerly the kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Street Childrens’ Mission. Which may explain the tilework downstairs that helps this place – in Summer (not that Manchester HAS a Summer) to be probably the physically coolest place in Town.

Sometimes, when I’m sat in this most excellent bar, you see people walk in for the first time. The look on their faces being “What a GREAT place!” And this never ceases to amaze me. This place cuts across generations. I brought Atilla Jnr (aka The Lovely Daughter) in here one night after she finished work and bought her her first “proper” beer. She loved both the bar AND the beer (“The Mayan” by Ilkley – seeing as you’re asking)

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What was nice to see this evening was – like the Rising Sun – that all of the hand-pumps weren’t in use midweek*.

The two that were on were from BlackJack & Six O’Clock. So both local. There were the usual excellent choices on keg too – Shindigger, Quantum, Brew By Numbers, Mad Hatter etc so all bases covered.

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Not many people seem to know that this is actually a two roomed bar, the one to the rear being a decent size and somewhere for a chat. It’s a room that never seems that busy. Go find it.

The beer Bolt from Six O’Clock being a Nut Brown IPA was lovely. Smooth, a little nutty sweetness and nicely bitter. Quite unctuous and almost creamy. Seriously nice beer.

I love Gaslamp. Quirky, great beers, sweet tunes. It just has it.

And so, to the inevitable end to this adventure. And my favourite bar.

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The Brink – 65, Bridge Street, M3 3BQ

Given that it is my favourite Manchester bar (and that the bus stop is close by for that all important last bus!) this was always going to be the terminus for this evening.

This feels like….home. Warm, welcoming, friendly. Simply a class act.

It also pulls at my hearts’ strings due to the beer purchasing policy of nothing outside of 25 miles from St Ann’s Church. Local, in other words….. More should follow Gareth’s lead.

It’s small. Probably could fit no more than 60 if packed out. With the attractive clean lines and select Mancunian imagery decor, comfy seating and excellent bar policy, it should be rammed. But, tonight, it’s quiet. Which, wanting a beer and a chat, suits.

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5 local beers. Hmmmm……And one of them is one I’ve wanted to try since I saw the clip.

Baton Rouge by Mallinsons.

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Pristine. Red. Hoppy as a rabbits’ tea party. Yum.

The bar has only been open for three months or so and it has quickly become a favourite of many. It’s a place where you chat with people that you’ve never met, that comes with the size. One of it’s many charms.

I was in here recently with a Liverpudlian pal, Les O’Grady who remarked on something that I’ve noted but never really remarked upon – Loos with hot water! A rarity. This bar does all of the things that seem – to me at least – to be very simple. And it does them bloody well.

And, seeing how Linda left some for me, I had to have a Santiam by Track. Holy mother of WOW is it GOOD! So full of fruity citrus and with all of that bitterness you should get in an IPA. Just SO good…..

Friendly knowledgeable staff, great beer, seriously good tunage and excellent local snackage courtesy of Beehive Food all in a small package.

Like I said. My favourite Manc bar. With good reason.

So. There you have it. A 500 yard or so walk with 5 excellent pubs. Each different. All sharing one great virtue. Excellent beer.

You see. There IS life outside that there Northern Quarter. Go explore.

*(A commonsense approach to me. I know that some will whinge about lack of choice, but it seems obvious to me that when you walk in a great bar on a Friday night and drink a seriously “tired” beer, that too many bars have too many beers on when they simply aren’t busy enough.)

 

Manchester – Where It’s At?

Cotopaxi

“There’s a destination a little up the road
From the habitations and the towns we know
A place we saw the lights turn low
The jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flow

Pulling out jives and jamboree handouts
Two turntables and a microphone
Bottles and cans just clap your hands
Just clap your hands

Where it’s at!
I got two turntables and a microphone…. “

(“Where It’s At” – Beck : YouTube Clip – GrandMa Bird)

On Friday evening, I returned home from a day at New Mills Beer Festival (bijou – as in small – to say the least) via Manchester. No plan to have a beer in “Town” at the start of the day, but plans, as you well know, have a habit of being…… shall we say…. dynamic?

Anyway. Having deposited a bottle of the most excellent “American Barleywine” by Torrside with the Arch Nemesis, I hobbled towards the Crown & Kettle.

The objective? Cotopaxi DIPA by Track. On cask.

A rare thing to see a DIPA on cask. I was lucky to try the first DIPA brewed by Cloudwater on cask on its launch day last year and (at the time) enjoyed it marginally more than the keg and bottle. A marvelous beer in the truest sense in that I wondered at the flavour and texture being far lighter (and almost “sessionable”) than a 9% beer had any right to be.

The Track was big and juicy. Chewy malt and huge hopping giving a real balance. In an age where balance is deemed unfashionable. It amazes me how brewers make such beers so eminently drinkable.

Then we went to The Smithfield. Where it was on keg.

WOW. What a difference! The carbonation and – dare I say it – the temperature, made a HUGE  difference. The beer was lifted and lightened. The hops soared over the malty landscape and simply stunned me.

From a vaguely remembered conversation with Sam (Mr Track), I seem to recall that he preferred it on cask in some ways . I have to disagree (Memory, O fickle thing!). He prefers it on keg.  And I never thought I would agree with those who say that certain styles suit Keg. This beer danced. And got me thinking….

Is this city where it’s at, beer wise?

Cask Beer – Is there a better session pale ale than Sonoma by Track? I haven’t had a better pale ale in cask in the last 12 months. Juicy, punchy and smooth. Just an absolute go to. For someone who doesn’t normally have such beers.

Manchester is choc full of great breweries banging out superb cask conditioned beers. Nowhere better. Let’s be hearing those arguments, down below.

“Craft” Keg – Unless you’ve been in hibernation for the last 7 days, you won’t have missed the reams of web inches splaffed on Cloudwater’s DIPA v3, if it’s a patch on v1 it will be a classic. They’ve been slipping out some simply stunning lagers too, vastly underrated when compared to the DIPA and IPA.

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Marble seem to be under the radar of late. But with James Kemp keen to put a stamp on the brewery, they’ve put out two crackers with Damage Plan & Built to Fall. For me, still THE brewery in Manchester all round.

However, the beer that has made my taste buds sing more than any other on keg is from Runaway. Their Pale. I’ve had it a few times in the last fortnight and it is absolutely WAILING! So fresh, light and just zipping out of that glass. Simply stunning. (The American Brown is a bit special too)

And if somebody wants to put London up? Other than Weird Beard, I’m not convinced by the hype around many London breweries. I’m just not. That isn’t parochialism. Just my taste buds talking to me.

Manchester also has an absolutely BANGING set of brewtaps that are coming into their own at this time of year too. Black Jack / Runaway (On tomorrow!) / SquawkTrack all pack out their arches with stunning beers and great food (none too shabby tunes either….) and with people like Beer Nouveau regularly opening their doors too, there’s something for everyone!

The drinking area where I struggle to justify the primacy of my beloved city is……. Pubs. It has so MANY cracking bars that you’d struggle to keep up, but….

Manchester has a thriving beer scene – Christ KNOWS I’ve been waffling on about it for long enough. This scene will be placed front and centre in June when Connor Murphy rolls out the fullness of Manchester Beer Week. Something to which I’m looking forward to hugely – I may even be…….. Ah. That’s for another time

Where this city falls – slightly – short, is in a concentration of classic freehouses. It has great pubs. But many of these are hobbled by pubco ownership which restricts the beer supply to – for me – the larger regional breweries and the huge firms like Marstons (eg Bulls Head) & Greene King (Lass O’Gowrie).

Go to places like Sheffield, Huddersfield & Liverpool though and they appear to be over endowed with classic pubs that also dispense great local beers. I was awe-struck and incredibly jealous when I strolled around both H Town & Sheff last year and wandered around in an impressed daze when we went to Liverpool recently.

Yes. We have The Marble Arch, The Crown & Kettle, but little else in the way of truly great beautiful pubs, with truly great beer. Too many pubs hobbled by pubco control – that’s a whole other argument though.

Manchester is a city where bars shine. Port Street, Pie & Ale, (Marble’s own) 57 Thomas Street, Soup Kitchen, Font, Sandbar…..the list goes on.

On balance – in the North, for sure – Manchester has “it”. For me in any case.

That’s enough inflation of that “Manchester Bubble” from me – for now. Next stop, Hebden Bridge!

Back soon.

“Down on Sheffield Street, Something is Stirring….”

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Manchester rarely makes me do other than smile. And there are days when it brings me out in a grin that makes me look like an overfed Cheshire Feline.

Saturday was one of those days.

Why? Because I was in the midst of a multitude of Mancunians. In one of Manchester’s finest breweries drinking beer from both it and one of the others. By which I mean Track & Squawk.

This was only the second time that Sam & Oli had done this. And they had learned the only lesson that they needed to. To spread the load and not try to do too much. With that in mind, they sacked doing the food themselves (and it was GORGEOUS last time) and got Manchester’s own Street Food mavens in, in their Arepa Arepa Arepa guise. Baliey & Jules.

Walking in, I forgot why I was there with the lovely Atilla. The first people I saw were Dan & Gareth from the mighty Pubs of Manchester blog and we spent 2 or 3 minutes bemoaning City getting soundly shellacked by Leicester. Where would we be in Manchester without something to moan about eh? But where’s my beer?

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I grabbed an unctuously smooth Toba by Track just before I was bear hugged by Mr Beer Nouveau….

This place proved to be a bit of a brewer magnet with Mallinsons, Black Jack, Beer Nouveau, Track and Cloudwater all present and correctly drinking damn fine beer whilst soaking in some superb tuneage….. “Under The Pressure” by War on Drugs had me almost pining for (busy in the Alps) Jeff !

It’s always a pleasure to see good people and chat about beer and more important stuff – like music and Tara Mallinson and Elaine Yendall never fail to make me chuckle. Great to see Mr Beerfinder General and Alan – Mr Beardosaurus (Cheers for bringing the Bearded Lady pal!), my Bolton comrades Linda & Pete…..too many good people!

But what drew them here? Track & Squawk beers. Two of the locality’s finest. And they were AWESOME (just for you Elaine!). The Mallinsons ladies put me onto the Squawk Pale on keg. And a bloody fine lemony shout that was. Elaine was spot on with the lemon sherbet aroma!

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Suffice to say, it was RAMMED! And justly so. And here was what puzzled me. That Sam and Oli seriously didn’t expect it to be as busy as it was. That it was, was testament to their first effort which had people babbling excitedly on Twitter for a whole week beforehand. I could have sworn that Oli’s tagine had its own Twitter account at one point! The love was out there for this. And the people piled in.

If you build it….

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(Bailey & Jules were WELL busy!)

This Brewtap has serious legs. Great atmosphere, seriously good food and beer with tunes to match. Good times with good people.

And BRAVO to Sam, Oli, Leah, Bailey, Jules and evryone else involved. Onwards and upwards….

One more thing

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“Tinseltown in the rain…….” Isn’t Manchester a beautiful place to be?

Back soon.

J

Home Beers – Jan 2016 – Pt 2

The aim with these “Home Beers” posts was to keep them to roughly 1 per month. But I couldn’t wait to share this stunning batch. Forgive my eagerness?

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IPA (Mt Hood/Ahtenum)Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5% abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Crisp clean deep and golden. Lasting light foamy white head with lashings of tropical stuff on the nose, mango, peach and lychee? Really juicy….

Oh this is a juicy belter of a beer! Good deep body, nicely balanced malty backbone with this fruitiness say on top. Mango, apricot? A bit of peach and a lovely bite of bitterness in the swallow, lovely and spicy.

An earthiness to this hopping too, really dry with a lovely spicy hop aftertaste following the fruity, peppery finish.

Typically Squawk. All kinds of yum!

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AmberjackNeptune Brewery (Maghull) – 4.5% abv – Amber Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer

This Beer pours a lovely copper colour with a white light head giving off a big citrus aroma, orange juice and zest – like driving along the Costa del Azahar through the citrus groves. Really juicy and fragrant.

Light to medium bodied, this slides down all too easily. Wholemeal bready malt with a touch of spicy dryness (Rye?) overlaid with that orange/peachy fruitiness makes this a beautiful sessionable beer. Really refreshing.

Low on bitterness, this is a really easy drinking beer that belies its strength and feels really light and juicy. The finish is fruity and leads to a dry slightly resinous hoppy aftertaste.

A lovely beer from this new Liverpool brewery…

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Fire DamageTorrside Brewing (New Mills) – 4.9% abv – Stout – 500ml – Harvey Leonards (Glossop)

Black. Generally a good start with a Stout in my book. Nice light tan head too. And a big roasty aroma with a peaty smokiness reminiscent of my favourite peaty single malt – Lagavulin. Win. Win.

Medium bodied. That peaty smoke is quite upfront, but gradually recedes leaving behind a really nice deep malty chocolate flavour. A bit like dark chocolate Hob Nobs.

My. Kind. Of. Beer. That deep dark malty chocolate thing just rolls on and on coating my mouth in a lightly peated choccy biccy flavour.

At that strength, this is something that (on cask) I could repeat. A few times…..

Nice shop / bar too. Report soon.

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IPA (Winter Range) – Cloudwater Brew Co (Manchester) – 8% abv – er… IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Now. I don’t normally embrace the murky. But when it smells like THIS I don’t give a toss. It’s a mango bomb! Oh my, just pureed mango. Give me the pulp. Yum.

Hazy gold, lasting white head. You get the rest?

Yes. Yes. YES! Bring unto me all of your mango and peachy hops! This is a beergasm and no mistake! Um Bongo with beautifully soft carbonation. Full bodied and just such a fruity b*****d! (And I’m sober BTW!)

Big beer. Paradoxically, tastes bigger than the DIPA did when I had it on launch day at the brewery. But that matters not a jot. From the first to last mouthful, it’s just fruity and nicely spicy/bitter with the hop load. And yum. Big yum!

Warming too. That huge fruitiness never lets up and leads to a big resinous hop finish.

Just yes. And an early candidate for bottled beer of the year.

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Summat ElseFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.2% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct from the brewer.

The moment that the lever bottle top was flipped, I was assaulted with sharp and tangy tart aromas of lemon and grapefruit. Like a citrus tsunami crashing against my nostrils from this pale golden beer.

Woah! This is a big beast. There is a big sweet biscuit malty base to this, a bit like a flapjack drizzled with maple syrup. This is then overlaid with a huge fruitiness full of mango and grapefruit tartness. Lightly carbonated, this adds to the impression of a really smooth beer.

It’s described as a Strong Pale Ale. And you don’t forget that with each chewy fruity mouthful with a little apricot in there too at the finish leading to a moderate bitterness. Find of his strong Pale Ales is Mr Bastow. I can see why. This is a brute.

The fruity bitter finish leads to a substantial resinous hop aftertaste that rounds this beer off superbly. This is up there with the best English IPAs for me.

This, really is “Summat Else”. And another early candidate for bottle of the year.

Five Towns are a bit of a Yorkshire secret that Yorkshire folk like to keep to themselves (I was reprimanded by one Yorkshire drinker for recommending their beers last week) With beers like this, the secret should be well and truly OUT.

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Govinda (Chevallier Edition) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops

A beer that I adore. In all its previous incarnations. Original, Brandy cask aged, White Wine barrel aged and now this. With an old and rare strain of malt, regrown and snaffled by Shane Swindells.

How I wanted this beer SO badly.

So. Deep amber coloured with a good soft white head and a huge fruity aroma full of…. caramelised banana…. I was warned that this malt was…. different.

Oh dear. This feels like it should help me sleep…. A full-bodied beer to say the least, this IPA is a different kind of fruity. Agreed in 3 different wooden casks, then blended back to produce this. And this is one special beer.

There’s banana, vines full of raisins, hints of pear and apple all on top of a deep chewy fruit cake malt. Yes, there’s sweetness in here, this is a potent malt. But there is also a tingling smooth bitterness in every mouthful, balancing that malt.

There is a warming feeling too that this beer brings from the barrel ageing. Definite brandy and that fruit cake feels like it has been soaking in rich deep winey flavours.

The finish is long and warming, with plenty of deep grassy hopping in here, smooching in with the warmth.

This is only beer made with Chevallier malt in 2015. And Shane is proud of his baby.

He should be. This is a very special beer. Bottle of the year candidate.

And I have a spare or two that I’m going to age for a year.

I feel lucky.

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A truly superb batch of beers. I couldn’t hold on in case they all went and you couldn’t buy any. I owed you that much!

Back soon.

Slainte!

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 : My “Dance Card”

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Welcome to the beer festival that shows that CAMRA “do” UK Keg! Yes, I KNOW that the Campaign has had numerous kegged beers over the years! BUT…..These are beers brewed in the UK, mostly not designed to be dispensed from a cask. That is BIG news. To be celebrated.

And it has moved from the (“a little bit awkward to get to”) Velodrome – an iconic modern venue – to somewhere infinitely more “Central”. And more historically iconic. A Mancunian architectural masterpiece. And THAT should also be celebrated.

That out of the way, I’m a lucky sod. I get to see the beer list. And it is a big list. And – instantly removing anything from Marstons – there is something for everyone. Even me.

So. Being a “tactical drinker” at beer festivals, I compile a plan of attack – a “dance card” if you will, that panders to my Northern sensitivities. Others may list beers from that there London. Not I. With one exception (noted and explained below) mine are from no further South than Crewe and no further North than Malton.

A narrow focus.

But I care precisely how much?

Here we go, in strength order. Like I said, “tactical drinking”….. And, just in case you’re interested in trying any of these yourself, I’ve included the bar on which to find them. Because I’m nice like that!

No 2 Stout – Stringers Beer – Stout – 4% abv – Bar 3

A beer that I absolutely adored in bottle from the very first sip about 3 years ago. And I have NEVER had in on cask. I have often gazed at the pump clip on the wall at Port Street and whimpered. Envious.

Bitter and roasted. As black as Donald Trump’s evil heart. I will be distraught if I don’t get to try this. My #1 priority.

Admiral Porter – Brewsmith Beer – Porter – 4% abv – Bar 1

Why? Because it’s Brewsmith. And James Smith (see what he did there?) has yet to put out anything less than excellence.

And the Admiral hop gives the lie to those who whinge that UK hops are crap. It’s an aromatic beauty of a thing.

Sorachi Ace – Mallinsons Brewery – (Single Hopped) Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Bar 2

Why? Stupid question. It’s Mallinsons. And it’s a single-hopped Pale Ale.

And – in the words of Carly Simon – “Nobody does it better”. I’ll be having a pint.

At least one….

Talisman IPA – Pictish Brewing – Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Pictish Brewery Bar

A brewery that is in need of better PR. They should be HUGE. Possibly the most underrated brewery in Greater Manchester. Brewers of simply outstanding single-hopped Pale Ales.

Unmissable.

Mr Scruff Pale – Squawk Brewing – Session IPA – 4.6% abv – Bar 3

Oliver Turton has been quietly brewing some of the best beers in Manchester for the last two years. That’s enough reason to do this.

And I love the Centennial hop.

Lupy Lager – Offbeat Brewery – Lager – 4.7% abv – Bar 2

A cask conditioned lager from one of my very favourite breweries? And it’s a one-off? Damn those CAMRA oiks! I’ll be having words with Miss Kelsall about that…..

Again, unmissable….

Orange and Rosemary Belgian Pale – Bad Seed Brewery – Belgian Pale – 5% abv – Bar 1

Rosemary in beer can be herbal Marmite to some. But I love it. And Bad Seed would be just the brewery to pull this off.

Looking forward to trying this HUGELY.

Bitter Chocolate Stout – Runaway Brewery – Stout – 5% abv – Runaway Bar

A new beer to me from the best and most consistent new brewery in Manchester. Mark Welsby makes good beer. For those with no love of keg, prepare to be converted.

Mancunian Evil Keg Filth of the highest order. And you can quote me on that!

Marmite Stout – Ticketybrew / Quantum BrewingStout – ? abv – Bar 3

Two breweries unafraid to try something different. Or unusual. This beer can be safely said to tick BOTH of those boxes.

This sounds inspired. It’s certainly interesting!

Pale Rye (Name TBC) – Track / Matt Dutton – Pale Ale – ? abv – Bar 3

OK. Track are banging out some tremendous beers with arguably the strongest core range of any Manchester brewery. I’ve been saying for AGES that Sonoma is a Manchester classic.

Factor in a collab with the best home brewer in the UK, Matt Dutton, this is going to be special! I have sampled several of Matt’s beers and he – should he choose to go commercial – is a star in the making. This beer rates as priority #2. Unmissable.

AllDay Coffee IPA – Allgates/Manchester Beer Week – Coffee IPA – 5.1% abv – Bar 1

A Coffee IPA brewed especially for the festival by the most drinkable of breweries and Connor Murphy wearing his MBW head. Read the blog piece and it sounds AMAZING!

Centennial – Torrside Brewing – Porter – 5.4% abv – Bar 3

I have been lucky enough to try beers brewed at home by each of the Torrside triumvirate. It was therefore no surprise at all when they hit the ground running when they launched late last year.

My heart lies in darkness. Torrside make great beers. A marriage made in….

Nouvelle Saison: Beetroot and Horseradish –Alphabet Brew Co – Saison – 6% abv – KeyKeg Bar

I wouldn’t miss this flavour mix for all the tea in….. Intriguing to say the least!

Sorachi Grey – Five Oh Brew Co – IPA – 6.5% abv – Bar 1

If Jamie Hancock puts his beer in cask, it is both a rare event (wonder where he did it first?) and unmissable.

This man brews good beer.

Victoria Export Stout – Bexar County Brewery – Stout – 6.7% abv – Bar 1

My sole selection from south of Crewe. Why? Because I think that I have had 3 beers that this man has brewed. All excellent and two of those (a collab with HDM and his Pecan Coffee Mild) were among the best beers I’ve had in years!

And it’s pronounce BEAR. “The X is silent. The Beer speaks for itself” Indeed….

And finally……

Rampart – Ossett/Brass Castle Collab – IPA – 7% abv – Bar 2

“Heavily hopped West Coast style IPA. Tangy bitterness & intense grapefruit, floral & tropical fruit flavours.” – Case rested!

Well. That’s that. As Rabbie Burns allegedly said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, so (like last year) I’m bound to miss one of these. But it won’t be for the want of trying!

It’s Tryanuary. Get ticking!

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And for those who want to plan ahead, here is the link to the full UK beer list! http://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/uk-beers/

 

 

 

Bottled Beers – July 2015 Pt 1

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Can I bore you for a few minutes? About a facile phrase.

Back end of last week, my attention was brought to a piece by the blogging powerhouse that is Boak & Bailey. A particular paragraph was highlighted

“Of course beer is a business like any other – Richard Burhouse says it is ‘naive that people think breweries wouldn’t want to protect their brands’ – but for consumers who have bought into the admittedly facile mantra that ‘beer people are good people’, and an ideal of community co-operation between ‘little guys’, it is rather saddening.” (Click for the whole article)

Now then. I’m fairly certain (On the basis that I say little that is actually original) that I didn’t coin that phrase. But I have, however, been guilty of using it rather a lot. Let me explain why….

I started this “blog” in September 2012. With a rather innocuous and fumbling review of “Twisted Spire” by Hobsons Brewery (a beer that I still love). Its commencement – the blog – was inspired by a chat with Jaz & Jeff over a few beers in Brew Dog in Manchester. It has therefore now (does the maths) been nearly 3 years that I’ve been peddling this twaddle called an opinion.

Over those 3 years, I have met a phenomenal number of lovely people. People who wouldn’t have entered my affections if it wasn’t for writing about beer. These people are brewers, drinkers, great street food cooks, landlords etc. Good people.

These relationships – allied to the “beer writing”, all helped when I was asked to organise a beer festival for a dear friend last year. That festival became The Independant Salford Beer Festival. Within an hour of my initial panicky tweet about agreeing to do this, I was inundated with offers of help from brewers, drinkers and good Mancunians. I was overwhelmed by kindness. Good people.

In the lead up to the festival, I was stunned by how generous that brewers could be. Both with advice, help and their products. The vast majority of local beer people helped out either physically, or with publicity. Sometimes both. Food and drink bloggers waded in with offers of help. And tweeted their hearts out. All of these people helped the festival to sell out 3 of its 4 sessions. Good people.

I was swamped with offers to volunteer. From beer drinkers from not only Manchester, but also further afield. These people came together and put on a festival that people effused over. And helped to raise over £5k for the Community Centre in which it was held. Good people.

A close friend (Jeff – mentioned above) made a comment recently to me, along the lines that we seem to have found a band of brothers and sisters since that festival that now can call each other “friends” – and in a non-Facebook way. Real friends that seem to share common viewpoints on a variety of subjects. Good people

I love Manchester. I love it’s people. I love the beers brewed here, to the extent that I firmly believe that the brewing scene of Manchester needs bend the knee to no city. And that includes London.

I’m a fairly nice kind of bloke online – where beer is concerned. However, I have – on occasion – come across those from outside this fine city, who opine on this city’s shortcomings and spout nonsense about its beer scene and pubs/bars. Thinking that they know better. They don’t. At the risk of sounding pompous, I will defend this city and it’s beer scene like a lioness defends her cubs. As some have found.

Where am I going with this? I’m not really sure. I rarely am. But what I am sure of, (though the word “facile” may indeed apply to the simplistic phrase that I use, certainly in the context of the B&B piece) is that – in my experience – the people that I have come across over the last 3 years in Manchester, be they brewers, drinkers, and all those in between, people I have met as a direct result of this tosh that I spout, ARE good people.

So. If I may be so bold, Manchester Beer People Are Good People.

If Cornwall wasn’t so bloody far away, I’d invite B&B to come and have a beer in October!

Done. We move on to the important stuff. Northern beers. In bottles. I am a Northern beer fascist!

The Beer

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1. Sorachi AceCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.8%abv – Pale Ale – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

The smell of candied lemons assailed me as I opened this big bottle. I thought of decanting, but I chose the decadence of two glasses. Almost copper coloured in its golden depth. I couldn’t wait…..

Fruity. Really deep and fruity. Deep orange, sticky, resinous. Then something more drying and tart. Big malt spine to this and it is a very balanced beer with the fruit, the resinous hop dry sticky thing and  a decent whack of bitterness too. Then, comes a lemony bite in the aftertaste. Just to finish things off with a flourish.

Classy beer. I’d expect nothing less from Mr Swindells. An underrated brewer if ever there was one.

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2. Oberon (Session IPA) – Wharfe Bank Brewery (Pool in Wharfedale) – 4.2 % abv – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

Pouring an ultra Pale straw gold, this beer has a light white head and an aroma full of peach with a light fresh bready background.

Light to medium bodied, immediately by with peach and orange fruitiness on a freshly baked bread malty base. Right up my street. This fruitiness is then mugged by a bitter hit, courtesy of the Centennial hops. Perfectly judged on that bitterness too, not too much.

The finish is light and clean, with a nice hoppy aftertaste and a nice resinous hint. Not too intrusive.

This is (as you would expect), a really refreshing beer, Smooth, easy drinking and perfect for a warm summers day.

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3. Hoptical IllusionBrass Castle Brewery (Malton, N. Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Sorghum Pale Ale – 330ml – Beer Central (Sheffield)

This amber coloured beer is officially “Gluten Free” given its use of the Sorghum grain, the head is light and white and there is a big piney nose on this. Making my mouth water!

Ooh…. This is different! There is a deeper grainy flavour to this, really dry, almost (But not quite) rye like, very earthy. Very moreish. The hops are the next thing that you notice, there are plenty of them too, with some lovely tropical fruit flavours dancing around that grain.

The finish is, as you might guess, really dry and slightly spicy with quite a hop hit lingering on. This is a very interesting beer indeed from a brewery whose beers get better with each one that I try.

IMAG03044. EquinoxNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) 4.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Beer Central (Sheffield) – £3.20

Oh wow! This ultra Pale golden beauty is singing in full voice “smell my fruit”! There is bloody loads going on under this light and soft white head. Carmen Mirandas headwear wasn’t as vivid as this. There’s a bit of gooseberry, plenty of tropical stuff too. Oh my.

In the mouth, this medium bodied belter explodes with flavour. There’s some mango, gooseberry tartness, piney nonsense too. All wrapped up in an envelope of all encompassing bitterness. This, my friends, is an absolute corker! My gums are tingling!

This has just got me smiling from ear to ear. That big old bitterness eventually subsides into a sticky piney aftertaste, waiting patiently, for that bitterness to give it permission to step forward.

What. A. Beer. (And we’ll have a collab special from NRB/Five Towns/Me for you at Salford. You ARE lucky. Oh yes you are!)

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5. Sorachi PaleTickety Brew (Stalybridge) – % abv? — Pale Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.

Disclaimer : I got this from the brewery direct. Unlabelled. No idea of abv. No intention to review it. Until I tasted it.

Pale golden in hue with tart lemon and grapefruit aromas simply leaping from the lively white head, this is full of promise from the off!

Medium bodied with a light biscuity malt flavour that just about manages to balance some lovely sharp hoppage. This is one refreshing beer! The tart citric lemon with a dash of lime is making my saliva glands do overtime and almost making me miss that light signature Belgian yeasty spice. Yum.

Lovely juicy beer this, light, sharp and perfect summer drinking – even THIS late in the evening (it was near midnight – on a school night too!) That spiciness returns in the finish, which is very dry but with a nice hoppy remnant to keep it company.

Tickety Brew just keep getting better!

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(Clip – Because I forgot to take a pic – Oops, sorry!)

6. OzarkTrack Brewing Co (Manchester) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Pale as a spring morning, golden and light with an abundance of white foamy head giving off masses of citrus aroma. Mango, orange and a little hint of lemon sharpness. Tantalising.

Oh this is such a smooth beer in the mouth! Bigging up the mango initially, this is really fruity. As the medium bodied mouthful descends down the throat, I suddenly noticed that the bitterness is really dialed down aiding the impression of smoothness.

Following the swallow is a slide into a nice hoppy slightly resinous finish. Not too abrupt. This is just a really well made Pale Ale from one of the newer “kids on the block” in Manchester.

Glad to have them around!

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7. India Pale Ale (Simcoe) – Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewers

Another disclosure…..Another freebie with no intent to review etc,,,,

Mid golden in colour and with a light and dissipating white head with an aroma full of passion fruit allied with a hint of tangy apricot. A Big fruity aroma.

Full bodied with wholemeal bready malt with the fruity aromas translated well into a juicy fruity mouthful, a veritable grocers box with apricot uppermost. This is supported by tropical fruits and a gentle note of melon.

Finishing off this satisfyingly bitter beer is a big sticky piney aftertaste.

Another excellent IPA from this Ardwick brewery. Seek it out.

IMAG03248. One At T’EndFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct

This man lines his hops. This deep golden, almost amber coloured beer, poured lively, leading to a large white head with whole groves of mango and tropical fruits leaping from the glass. This, is one hoppy aroma!

At 6.7%, this is a big, big beer. Full bodied, there is a real depth of fruity flavour in this. Peach, mango, blood orange all fight for prominence in this totally juicy beer.. The low bitterness aids this beer in slipping down all to easily taking you to a real resinous, sticky finish with marmalade tones adding to that stickiness.

The fruitiness fades in the aftertaste and reminds me of melon and rounds off this beer so well.  A Beergasm. It’s that good!(Last time I checked, there was some of this at Bierhuis in Ossett and Drink at Hebden Bridge)

IMAG03279. MarxBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 3.7% abv – (Oak Smoked) Wheat Beer – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Hazy and golden, with a light fluffy white head. The aroma reflects the oak Smoked wheat and is reminiscent of Smokey Bacon crisps – An unfairly neglected crisp flavour in my eyes!

Yup. That light smokiness carries through into the mouth. Nice carbonation leads to quite a full bodied feel, quite creamy mousse textured. A bit like Angel Delight mashed up with a pack of Frazzles actually!

For all that the thought of bacon may put some off, this is really refreshing and an excellent beer in this current “heatwave”. The smokiness is augmented by a little clove spice and maybe a hint of coriander leaf. Nice beer this – and I love the Salford linkage with some of the Communist Manifesto being inspired by the then conditions of Salford workers. Nice!

And. I’ve only just realised that each of these breweries WILL have a beer at ISBF2015

Well. That shallot for the moment. Maybe one more bottle post before I shut down the blog……for the summer, so I can focus on ISBF2015! Subliminal blogging at it’s worst! (I honestly didn’t know until I’d finished!)

Slainte.

Bottled Beers – May 2015

Red Shed sign

(Where I am later!)

After May 7th and the shocks contained therein, I struggled a bit. I won’t wibble on about politics, I’ve got too much to do to wallow in self-pity, what with planning for The Independent Salford Beer Fest 2015 and all, but now is a time that I cling to what’s important. People. Hence why we’re having our little bash again in October. Announcements soon.

But, on to bottles…..

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1. Rye IPARunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.9%abv – Rye IPA – 330ml – Andy Heggs

Thank you Mr Heggs! I finagled this from him at the excellent Shebeen 2015 whilst we were sat in Black Jack and I was getting sozzled. And very cheeky.

Copper coloured and with a firm white head, this beer gives of an aroma that reminds me of a spicy fresh-baked wholemeal loaf. But one with a distinct citrus note. Really appetising.

Smooth with very gentle carbonation, the fruity front is mugged by spicy rye dryness. The fruitiness is huge, with orange up top with more than a hint of mango. But that fruitiness can’t escape this thuggish spicy dryness. It’s brutal.

And Oh so bloody moreish.

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2. Out of Step IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 5.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Direct

(Bought direct from the brewer)

I don’t get it. Why don’t we see more of Offbeat’s beers in Manchester? Michelle makes some simply fabulous beers and I can’t se them in Manchester? Ludicrous!

A mid golden beer with a fluffy white lacy head, (slightly hazy due to a misjudged pour), really fruity aroma on this with apricot and grapefruit in the nasal vanguard.

Oh this is nice indeed. This is a full-bodied beer with just right carbonation. The fruitiness in the mouth being more apricot but this time with something a little more tropical, like mango and passion fruit. There is a bracing bitterness in this, which (to me) should be in all IPAs.

There is a cracking resinous finish to this with that fruitiness in there too. This is a belting beer from a criminally overlooked brewery. We need some of her beer in Manchester. And sharp!

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3. Fat Lady StoutRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom) – 4.5%abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton) – £3

A black beer with a creamy coloured head giving off an aroma of bitter chocolate with a hint of licorice.

Medium bodied with an initial sweetness, that soon slides into something more dark roasted and lush. Quite creamy textured, with bitter chocolate front and centre. That bitterness wanders more towards coffee on the swallow and a substantial bitterness takes over.

This is a sessionable dark beer after my own heart, with the dry bitter finish I enjoy in a mid strength Stout. Who needs Guinness when you have beers like this?

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4. PortentousPeter Sidwell – 5%abv – Porter

Peter is (I think) one of the Manchester Home Brewers group. He certainly isn’t commercial at this stage. If I remember rightly, i saw this bottle in his hand at the MBCF and nearly ripped his hand off!

A deep ruby brown beer that is almost black with a light cream head and a  big chocolaty aroma.

A medium bodied beer, the first thing to tickle the tongue is chocolate. This is slightly sweet and really chocolaty. The next is a little winey note, like a smooth red. Then a tongue tickling spice, slightly peppery, like rocket. And all the while, that chocolate….

The aftertaste retains the chocolate, but there is a spicy woody feel to it that completes this nicely. A damn fine Porter. And brewed by a home brewer too!

The best praise that I can give, is that I’d happily pay for this at a bar. It’s that good.

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5. TuringBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne) – £2.45

I was intrigued by the idea of using sage to flavour a beer. I had to give it a go……

A golden, almost amber beer with a light thin white head, lightly carbonated, with a light tropical fruit aroma (passion fruit is noted on the label – that works!)

In the mouth, there is a nice fruitiness to this initially, which meets a bitter herbal counterpart in the sage that is added to this brew, that bitterness almost catches me unawares. That bitterness fades and an almost tea like tannic aftertaste kicks in, really dry.

I  wasn’t sure about sage in a beer, but this light, Pale and refreshing beer works a treat for me. Slainte!

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6. Espresso StoutSquawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.5%abv – Stout – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Like a chalice full of liquid pitch, this is black. A proper Stout. Dark, delightful and dangerous to look at. Almost daring you. “Go on! You know that you want me!”

Made with fresh roasted coffee from Bean Brothers, unsurprisingly, this positively reeks of coffee. As bitter as Nigel Farage as the result was called. There’s a herbal licorice note too in the background.

For a 6.5% beer, this feels quite light and sprightly, at first, a little sweetness then BAM! Eyelid pinning coffee hit…… Yup. That’s definitely a big coffee flavour!  With that underlying big Stout sweetness.

There’s quite a spicy thing at the back of the tongue as the beer slides you towards sleeplessness going down the throat. The roof of the mouth tingling after the swallow.

A fine beer indeed. If a little ill-advised before bedtime!

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7. Scarborough Fair IPAWold Top (Driffield, N Yorkshire) – – 500ml – Birthday Pressie!

Thank you Sue! This bright ultra Pale golden beer has a light white head and a really fruity aroma, tropical fruits with passion fruit and kiwi flying out of the foam.

Full bodied is this beastie,  whilst perversely feeling light. Really fruity with that kiwi well up there, but a big refreshing and tart lemon hit was a more than pleasant surprise! For  a beer at this strength, this is WAY too refreshing and just damned drinkable.

There’s a nice light malty biscuit and a big balancing act going on because these hops are just beautifully tart and give a big dry finish that leaves you wanting more.

An absolute belter and a really nice beery pressie amongst the cognacs & single malts!

That’s it for bottles this month. With EastWestFest tomorrow, Brighton next week and London a week later, the focus will be on pubs (and one very special beer festival!)

On that note….’til next time

Slainte!

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

 East west Poster

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t say no, could I?

Red Shed from above

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

So, without further ado…..

From the West :

Brewsmith Beer – Nelson Sauvin (Pale Ale)

Wilson Potter – Don’t Fall (Pale Ale)

First Chop – SYL (Black IPA)

Tickety Brew – Rose Wheat Beer

Squawk Brewing Co – Pale Ale

Shindigger Brewing Co – IPA

Black Jack Beers – New Deck (Golden Bitter)

Allgates Brewery – Shogi Porter

Marble Brewery – Spring (Pale Ale)

Quantum – UK Light (UK hopped Pale Ale)

Thirst Class Ale – Pale & Interesting (Pale Ale)

From the East :

Clark’s – Billy Ruffian (Stout)

Sunbeam – Shepherds Delight (Rose Water infused)

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

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

North Riding Brewpub – Hunters Dream (Strong Mild)

Blue Bee Brewery – Real (A Sorachi Pale Ale)

Brown Cow – Yorkshire Sovereign (Pale Ale)

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

Steel City Brewing – Troika Red IPA

Whippet Brew Co – Brew Number One!

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

and last….but not least, your hosts….

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

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

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

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

Tune

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

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

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

(“Five Years” – Bowie)

(Clip courtesy Sante3d via YouTube)

For Malcolm & Beverley (As fans)

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

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

Slainte!

Historic Manchester Pubs – Pt 4 – 14/03/2015

Blame Coneygree. Yes, blame a horse. It was the horse’s fault that I was out last Saturday. For those NOT in the know, Coneygree won the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. And I backed it, along with 4 other winners. So I fancied a pint. And a trip down memory lane.

It’s all too easy to go in the same pubs all the time. I’m as guilty as anybody else. But on this night, I wanted something different to the usual comfortable “same old”. So in a week of new beery launches (think Cloudwater and Piccadilly Tap), it felt right to check, take a step back in time and…you know…appreciate what we’ve already got.

So, when I met the Arch Nemesis, within striking distance of Port Street Beer House, we turned right – onto Dale Street – and kept walking. To somewhere far less vaunted. But a Manchester jewel.

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The Jolly Angler – Ducie Street

It seems to me that my visits to this pub are separated by decades, which saddens me. This is one of the smallest pubs in Manchester and – given it’s location adjacent to the rapidly redeveloping Piccadilly Basin – is precisely the kind of pub that we could lose.

Walking in, the first thing that I noticed was the absence of the old pool table. A shame, but it really opens up the place, allowing a few more tables. The next thing was, just how bloody friendly the place was, both mine host and the punters around the bar were just so warm and welcoming! Which was quite a surprise, given that this is a “Blue” pub and we walked in just one minute from the end of the Burnley v City match and City were 1-0 down! The sound of a title challenge flowing down the drain…… Banter was exchanged whilst beers were ordered.

Located at the junction of Ducie Street and Pigeon Street, properly tucked away in the shadows of Piccadilly Basin’s flats and warehouses, there has been a pub on this site for over 125 years and (according to the excellent resource ManchesterHistory.Net) it is positioned on the site of a former school. I’ve seen it described as an “Irish pub”. It isn’t. It has had (and may still have) Irish folk running it – it certainly has the kind of friendly welcome I associate with true Irish pubs from over the water.

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A single room is almost split in two by the entry door and – as a result – curves around the entrance with table either side. The bar is small and the sole cask beer is Hydes Original. The Arch-Nemesis ordered two pints and we sat down to admire its charms and it IS charming. Did I say it was tiny? This is just a bright uncluttered pub with the accent on conversation. And a decent pint. The Hydes Original just did the trick. Nice bitterness with a bit of spicy orange fruit in there. And at £2.70 a pint, is this the cheapest standard pint in Manchester (outside of a Wetherspoons)?.

This is a classic old school pub, the likes of which seem to be disappearing. More people need to experience pubs like this. It’s a thing of beauty and overlooked by those who prefer the hipster chic of nearby Northern Quarter bars. This is real Manchester. My City. And I adore it all the more.

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The Bulls Head – Jct of London Road / Fairfield Street

A 5 or 6 minute walk back along Ducie Street, turning left along London Road and past the – still stunning – historic London Road Fire Station, lies a grander proposition.

Located on an unusual triangular plot, extremely handy for Piccadilly Station being just 60 seconds walk from the Fairfield St entrance, this is another open plan, single roomed effort. Lots of wood, really decorative and ornate, Victorian style lighting. Just to the left of the entrance is a strange, attractive small raised seating area. Quirky.

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According to the pubs’ own website, there has been a pub on this site since 1787, whilst according to the goldmine that is “Pubs Of Manchester“, 1786 is quoted both of which would make it one of Manchester’s oldest boozers. It is safe to say that it has seen the city reshaped around it, Fairfield Street itself didn’t exist and appears to have crashed through adjoining buildings, leaving the Bulls Head in splendid isolation.

The beer….is (tonight) entirely comprised of beers from the Marstons stable of breweries. I plumped for a beer that I’ve sampled on my frequent trips to Hampton Loade, Sumbeam by Banks’. And it was lovely. Refreshing, Marmaladey and just the right amount of bitterness.

Not as intimate as The Jolly Angler perhaps, but an impressive pub nonetheless. Some accommodation coming soon apparently, will make a pleasant change to all the faceless hotels that Manchester seems to have.

Crossing back over Fairfield Street and returning along London Road to Gore Street….

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The Waldorf – Gore Street

Turning left onto Gore Street feels almost like stepping back in time. That said, I’d forgotten how close this pub was to London Road.

Big and open – again, single roomed – pub. Lots of wood. 3 sided bar with the usual macro suspects. 4 handpumps, 3 in use. Landlord, Doom Bleurgh….and…..Phoenix White Monk! Oh the joy!

Formerly the Woseley Hotel (source Pubs of Manchester & others), ManchesterHistory.Net doesn’t give it an age, but this MUST be over 100 years old and it was (in 1929 – source Pubs of Manchester) called The Woseley Hotel having been so named in 1883 changing to its current name in 1929.

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Lots of wood in evidence. Looks like the Waldorf has escaped being knocked about unlike some nearby pubs, it retains a certain Mancunian charm.

Sparsely populated this particular evening, there was a particularly refreshed individual hovering close to the jukebox who seemed to have a love of 90s indie music. Am I the only person who thinks that great music by-passed the 90s?

The beer was in good nick though. Nice to see Phoenix on the pumps, a brewery I see all too rarely in Manchester these days.

Cutting across toward Chorlton Street – since WHEN did Stagecoach enclose the entrance to the bus station with barriers ??? – we headed toward two of the smallest pubs in town, almost side by side on Portland Street….

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The Circus Tavern – Portland Street

Back in the 80s & 90s, the only way that you could get in The Circus after 7pm at the weekend was (so legend has it) via a little known entrance via the rear. It is, indeed, tiny. The size of the bar is legendary and for many years, all you could get was Tetley Bitter – no lager or cider to be had.

It was THAT busy, that I couldn’t take pictures. This pub is….narrow…..and tight!

The corridor is incredibly narrow. It is always full though as both of the rooms that are on the right hand side rarely seem to have a spare seat. This is a pub that, when people get a seat, they keep it. Again, lots of wood and plenty of original features. The pub is rated as having an interior of National importance by CAMRA and is indeed Grade II listed.

I see no reason to doubt the excellent “Pubs of Manchester” blog, which dates the pub at 1790. The pub has attained legendary status with its diminutive nature perversely attracting more customers and is rated by many as one of Manchester’s “must visit” attractions.

The pub is dominated by pictures of Celebrities (real Manchester “A” listers) that have visited over the years, although – being a blue – there was something quite disturbing about a semi-naked George Best seemingly watching me while I drank my pint! I had the Robinsons “Dizzy Blonde” which was, according to Jaz was the lesser of the two, with Tetley’s winning out.

Just a door away….

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The Grey Horse – Portland Street

Almost as narrow as The Circus, The Grey Horse has a single roomed layout, and – as such – feels considerably more spacious.

The Horse has the feel of a local in the big city. Single roomed, as stated, this has what I think may be a unique feature in Manchester, toilets that are semi – outdoor. Quirky, but the entrance area is covered unlike in the 80s.

Two Hydes pubs tonight. Both feel really welcoming and friendly. The Grey Horse being considerably the more busy, no doubt being on Portland Street helps in that regard.

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Again, mainly Hydes’ beers with a rare sighting of Butcombe Bitter as a guest in Manchester, I had Hydes’ Beer Studio offering “Styrian Aurora”. Vast improvement on the Robbies from next door, if not exactly the highest of praise, it was a good fruity beer with a bitter edge. Justly busy and with all the noise down just to conversation. A joy.

This was an early finish, so we scooted across town for a couple in The Crown & Kettle, my favourite Manchester pub. I won’t wax lyrical about the pub, but the Squawk IPA (Cluster Galena Chinook) at £2.95 and 6.3% was absolutely stunning. I had to have 2!

Whilst Manchester has several justly lauded hostelries, it’s always the unheralded pubs like The Jolly Angler that appeal most to me. In the words of “Two Cousins” by Slow Club “Hold on to where you’re from, it’s where your heart goes when you’re done”. Thanks, as before, to two great repositories of pub information, Pubs Of Manchester (go follow on Twitter!) & Manchester History. Net – without whom…..

Tune

“They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum.

And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em”

(“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell)

(Clip courtesy “musicben2” on You Tube)

Why the tune?

a) Recently included it on a mix tape, and

b) Sums up my feelings about the need to appreciate things while you still have them. Like the pubs above.

I’m not anti-progress, just think that forwards is the not the only direction! We have some truly great pubs in this great city, like the Jolly Angler.

In the week that Piccadilly Tap opens a few hundred yards away, I know where MY heart lies.

See you soon.

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2015 – Pt 1

This week, just for an experiment, I’m going to flip the order of things a little. Just to see if it works. Let’s begin….. With a bumper crop just SHAKING with Beergasms! (I spoil you – oh yes I do!)

The Beers

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Table IPA (Tickety Few) – Tickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Cheshire) – 2.9%abv – Pale AleEpicurean (W Didsbury) £2.05 (330ml)

A beautiful and clear pale golden beer, with good firm carbonation providing a lasting white fluffy collar and an aroma of tangerine and sherbet lemons. I’m drooling!

Mmmmmm…… Gooseberry and lemon tartness! The first mouthful is a tart delight, pin sharp, crisp and lemony in a light body with a light rich tea biscuit base holding up this sharp hoppage.

This is every bit as refreshing as I remember it on cask. It’s bloody lovely with that signature Belgian yeast note adding to a light banana note to the abrupt dry finish. I’m so glad that I picked this up.

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N.S. IPARammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom, Bury) – 3.5%abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Browtons (Ashton-U-Lyne)

Love the rebrand that this brewery has done. Really gives the bottles more presence on the shelf. This was the only one in the shop and it really drew my eyes.

The beer itself is an ultra pale gold with a light white head and a big nose full of passion fruit, gooseberry and kiwi. Sharp and mouth-watering.

Light bodied (as you would expect at this strength) this is hugely refreshing. Full of sharp lemony citrus with an undernote of tart gooseberry, this is a proper all day beer just so light, vibrant, fresh and zingy.

This is a proper fruity mouthful which is going down all too quickly! The fruitiness leads to a short dry finish with a little piney resin and a residual lemony note in the aftertaste. Yum.

Have a feeling that I will be giving Mr Holmes a call prior to #ISBF2015!

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Floating PintsSquawk Brewing (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Pale AleEpicurean (West Didsbury) – £2.85 (330ml)

A crystal clear sparkling golden beer, with a thin yet lasting white head and an enormous fruity aroma of peach, mango and passion fruit? Really juicy nose on this puppy.

Oh bloody hell, this is SUPERB! Medium bodied, this is just as fruity in the mouth as on the hooter! I would say apricot and peach in this first sip with one hell of a sticky resinous aftertaste. This beer punches over its weight!

Second mouthful has actually quite a full mouthfeel to it and brings a nice forthright bitterness to the party but ending in that sticky fruity piney aftertaste. This is a belter and quite possibly the best bottle I’ve had at this strength. Proper #Beergasm material this!

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Hoppy CoupleThirst Class Ale (Stockport) – 6.3%abv – IPA – 500ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I forgot for a while that, before Richard Conway “went Pro”, I’d had one of his beers before, as he’d won a brewing competition and had his Elephant Hawk brewed professionally with Jay Krause at Quantum. A belter that was.

I think he may have just bettered it.

A deep amber coloured beer this, with a lasting white foamy collar barely suppressing a massive fruity nose full of orange zest, peach and mango. A lovely aroma.

Oh my. Is that followed through in the mouth! More of the peach and mango fruitiness in this initial sip, followed up by a sticky resinous aftershock. This is a proper IPA!

Really smooth feel to this and almost a feel of the tannins you would get from drinking a black tea, herbal and quite astringent. You can’t get away from that fruitiness though! The finish of this combines that pine resin stickiness with those tannins to dry out the mouth and leave you wanting another mouthful.

Don’t mind if I do! A Beergasm.

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Prestwich Vintage 2014Beer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 8.2%abv – Barley WineBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Barley Wine. An old English beer style. I hate old beer styles. But….. He who dares……

A deep amber coloured beer with a lacey white head and an aroma full of caramelised banana with more than a hint of whisky laced marmalade.

Bloody hell but this is gorgeous and oh so warming! A Big chewy mouthful of toffee malt, with oranges soused in brandy perched on top and blasted with a kitchen blow torch. Then that slight bitter orange sweetness slides down and warms the heart of your cockles!

Then the unexpected bitterness jumped out from the beery shadows and caught me unawares. Is it just me? The older I get the more I actually GET beer styles I would have shunned as little as 5 years ago. This is bloody lovely. A beergasm. This needs ageing in wood for October!!! A proper winter warmer.

Barley Wine. An old English beer style. I love this beer! Beergasm!

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Black PigBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) / Pig and Porter (Tonbridge Wells, Kent) – 6.3%abv – Belgian Rye Porter – Epicurean (West Didsbury)

This is a righteously dark brown, almost black beer with an appetising creamy coloured head boasting an aroma that is simultaneously spicy (with a Belgian yeast note) and with more than a hint of banana split toffee. Yum! And I haven’t tasted it yet!

Oh yes. There’s the Rye! One dry and spicy little bugger this! Full bodied and quite creamy smooth, the first flavour I’d a little red wine note, followed by coffeeish roasted barley, oh…

But then that Rye does its trick and dried the bejesus out of my mouth! Wow.There’s licorice here, bitter coffee and a little dark bitter chocolate. But not much in the way of sweetness. This is one arid little bastard!

(At this point, I feel like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, with this beer playing the Billy Crystal role!)

3 years ago, I wouldn’t have known what to make of this. But in 2015, I absolutely love it! A bloody cracker. And any beer named after Captain Pugwash’s ship is always of to a good start in my book!

Need more beer from Mr Ayling’s Pig and Porter in my life! Beergasm!

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Cocoa WonderlandThornbridge (Bakewell, Derbyshire) – 6.8%abv – PorterBarbeerian (Prestwich)

One dark beer. One very dark beer with a collar of beige creamy foam for a head. And SUCH a booming chocolate aroma!!! Like inhaling a Galaxy bar! Oh but it’s chocolaty!

I should cocoa! This is even more chocolaty in the mouth, but not quite as sweet as the aroma suggested. This is a full-bodied beer and no mistake. There’s a nutty quality to this that makes me think of Nutella on toast. There’s also a toffee caramel like a grown up Snickers bar, but liquefied. Definitely a peanut quality to this. Blooming delicious!

There is an appealing dryness to the finish and that nuttiness also lingers pleasantly in the aftertaste. Just a damn fine beer! Thornbridge know how to make some damn fine dark beers!

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(Shit photo time. Sorry!)
Double PerleWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell) – 8.6%abv – Imperial Coffee Milk Stout? – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

As black as Hades darkest recesses. But with a light brown foamy collar. Darkness. In beer form. I like dark stuff and this is born of darkness. The smell is like having your nose pushed into a bowl of freshly ground Java beans. Shit but this smells like I shouldn’t be drinking it before bed time!

This tastes so good, that I’m sure it was a bad idea! Huge body, creamy and unctuous. Tastes like a short sharp espresso with a milky lactose sweetness. My eyelids are pinned open. Then, beyond that bitter coffee and milky sweetness, there’s a tongue tingling spicyness in with that bitter roasty loveliness. Each sip being rounded off by a herbal hop dryness.

It’s difficult to say that this improves on Black Perle (a beer that I adore), but it’s a hell of a thing this. And like I implied. A bad thing to drink before bedtime! Sweet (coffee infused) dreams! Beergasm

(Update – I REALLY struggled to get to sleep after this!!!!!)

The Tune
“I’m gonna take myself a piece of a piece of sunshine and paint it all over my sky, yeah.
Be no rain, be no rain,

I’m gonna take the song from every bird and make ’em sing it just for me, yeah.
Bird’s got something to teach us all about being free, yeah.
Be no rain, be no rain

And I think I’ll call it morning from now on”

(“I Think I’ll Call It Morning” – Gil Scott-Heron)
(Clip courtesy Ace Records Ltd on You Tube)

It was probably about 1982/3 that I first came across the music of a man who became one of my favourite artists, Gil Scott-Heron. It was probably his best known tune “The Bottle”, marrying an unstoppable jazzy-soul groove with lyrics portraying the desperation of alcoholism. Over the years, I must have watched thousands of people – of all ages – getting their groove on to this rare groove classic. From the dancefloors of The Hacienda to The Monaco Ballroom in Hindley, it just transcends decades and stands tall. And apart. A stone cold classic.

However, it isn’t my favourite Gil song. That honour goes to the above track, a song I often find myself bawling out in the car on the way home from work. When I’m at my lowest of ebbs, that line “I’m gonna take myself a piece of sunshine……” just brings me round. The man could write. And that baritone voice……

It was great that he got a last hurrah when he released the album “I’m New Here”, subsequently being remixed to great effect by  Jamie Smith from The XX. It wasn’t that long ago when I was in 20/22 in Manchester on a quiet night when “I’ll Take Care Of You” came on. A cover of a Brook Benton song (originally recorded by Bobby Bland – of “Shoes” fame), the Gil version was subsequently looted by Drake & Rihanna on “Take Care”. A compliment I suppose. Even in his final months, with his voice little more than a rasping croak, he made the song his. The word “Legend” is over used these days. But this man IS a legend and for me, is right up there with Marvin & Stevie.

Well, that’s it for now. A bumper crop. And a righteous tune. Get some Gil in your life. You can thank me later!