Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 4

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team,

or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” Frank Zappa

(Nicked without ceremony from the excellent website www.aswiftone.com)

“Between lightning and thunder, 3 seconds the gap. A warm candle glow keeps this wood room from black,

My cat, she sleeps on an old clippy mat, purring out echoes of faint pitter pat,

As the rain pours down in the yard. Rain, that most haunting sound.

Rain, makes beautiful music and rain brings peace upon all whom it pours.”

(“Rain” – Martin Stephenson & The Daintees)

(Video courtesy of  GTG5573 on You Tube)

No link to a beer this week for the song. This choice was inspired by just looking outside of my window as I started typing!

Some songs and albums just speak of a time in our lives. Some, not many, can do that and remain timeless. One such album (for me) is Boat To Bolivia by Martin Stephenson & The Daintees. It speaks of a time when this particular young man was a-courtin’ the young lady who was to become (and remains) my wife of nearly 25 years (she’s eligible for parole next year!)

Released in 1986, it is choc full of timeless songwriting. Tackling some heavy duty subject matter with a lightness of touch, from Crocodile Cryer through to Rain – (and the reggae inflected bonus title track), this is songwriting to simultaneously wallow and delight in. Just a joy, and one of the few albums my dearest brought into the marriage that we agreed on! Ah. The memories of my darling hobbit – all 4’8″ of her- having to sit on my shoulder so she could see the band at The International II in 1989! Priceless. A great album, often overlooked. Get on Spotify and have a listen!

Anyway – On to the beer eh?

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

IMAG1128_BURST001

1. Pale – Squawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.69 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Beautifully carbonated and as gold as a Yukon wet dream, with a white head and a pacific hop aroma that makes me want to break out the grass skirt and dance a hula!

Making me drool. Seriously drool! Oooh Matron! Sharp. Really sharp in the mouth with enough grapefruit to start a fruit shop. A really bold beer! Light to medium-bodied, the initial fruitiness is immediately followed by a bitterness tsunami, crested by piney resins, like white foamy horses stamping around your mouth.

Hugely refreshing and full of flavour, go buy one and treat yourself. Oliver Turton done good. Again.

IMAG1132

2. The IPA – Anspach & Hobday (Bermondsey, S London) – 6% abv – IPA – £3.35 (330ml) – 10% for 12 Bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A new one to me, this brewery. However, having read some recent “Bermondsey Mile” posts, including one by my beery buddy TysonTheBeerhound I was expecting something interesting, to say the least. This also came with a “Raj Recommendation” too, so, if it was crap, HIS reputation was on the line with me! So…

An enticing deep golden/amber coloured beer with a lasting white head and restrained fruity yet slightly spicy aroma that carried a buttery note. Intriguing…..

Oh boy does this come alive in the mouth with the hops (Centennial, Galaxy & Columbus) singing loud and proud! Big boned ole beer this, with a good toffeeish malty spine augmented with some ripe orange marmalade leading on to a healthy helping of apricot (2 of your 5 a day in one glass. Result!).

Really smooth this, but certainly punching all of its 6% weight. The bitterness is fairly restrained but what there is, is pounced upon by a big sticky resinous finish. Big. Full-flavoured. And the head clings to the glass to the end. Classy IPA.

IMAG1145

3. Lupy As A Toucan (Amarillo, Citra, Galaxy, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 – 15% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Last Tuesday, I received some intel that a firkin of Deeply Vale’s Tipsy Porridge Stout had been tapped at Dan & Gina Buck’s excellent wee micro bar. Being like a lemming faced with a cliff….It was all lush too…DV8 barrel aged in 20 yr old Bruchladdich cask….A Beergasm…. Whilst there – just before I left – this puppy caught my eye, One of Shane Swindells’ “Lupy” range that I was yet to try….

A deep gold beer with a full white fluffy head and a hugely fruity aroma with peach and pineapple sweetness in the vanguard, Um Bongo time again!

In the mush…. Mmmm…Really fruity! The first mouthful yields a luscious peachyness upfront, then a full-on bitterness, feels like there’s more to this…so, peeling back another onion layer….orange and tangerine, followed by that wave of bitterness again. This is another lovely beer…Oops..another layer…some mango too. Then that bitterness as night follows day….Really dry bitter and grassy finish to this too. Another cracker from Mr Swindells in “The Congo” (Rhymes with “Um Bongo”…No? Ach nuts! I’m no poet. And I know it!)

IMAG1148

4. Niamh’s Nemesis – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.7% – Strong Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery – 0 – 

Is there a pub out there that would do me a favour, near Manchester. Get some of this beer in!

This was among 13 other bottles that I liberated from Malcolm Bastow’ s boxes when I recently popped in to collect some casks for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer Festival. Thank you Malcolm! (On a winner immediately with the Gaelic name!)

A golden beer with a nice white lacy head and an aroma bursting with grapefruit and apricot tartness.

Really fruity again this. Full of body, with a light biscuity malt, bitter fruitiness gatecrashes in with more grapefruit and some nice tart gooseberry (hopped with Nelson Sauvin & Cascade). Fruity mouthful after fruity mouthful, this is one superb Pale Ale. I could swear I got a taste of rhubarb in there too…..

Each mouthful is followed by a good strong bitterness and the finish is really dry with those piney beasties just lurking around the corner in that aftertaste, for the unwary. This is really easy drinking, perilously so at the strength. Another corker from Outwood!

IMAG1149

5. Mystery Beer 002 – Craft Rebellion (Who knows?) – 5.9% abv – Milk Stout – £0 (500ml) – 0 – Direct by mail

Nice shape to this bottle! The second beer to try that I’ve received from this shop. The idea of the Mystery being that you try it and see if you can figure who it is. Of course, I’m rubbish, ‘cos I’d never have had the 001 (Saison) as Partizan! Saisons may not be my personal luggage of choice….a Milk Stout however….

“Oooooooh….STOP!” (Listening to “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies as I drink this!)

Impenetrably black. (Always a good start with a stout!) A beautifully full cappucino coloured head and a nose full of…freshly roasted coffee!…Yummy!

Bloody hell this is SO good! The first thing I get is a full-bodied, creamy smooth mouthful with that bitter coffee, like the reveille being sounded on Sgt Bilko, eye-opening!

Then, like another one of those onion layer things….that lactic sweetness pops its head out and says “Hello!”  This is lush! That milky sweetness slips down oh so beautifully and reveals something slightly warming as it slides. The finish for this is slightly sweet with that bitter roast for balance. A cracking Stout!

IMAG1150

6. Smoked Porter – Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) / Northern Monk Brew Co (Holbeck, Leeds) – 6% abv – Smoked Porter – £1.80(I think!) (500ml) – Saltaire Brewery Bottle Shop

Another collaboration from those nomadic monks, this time staying a little closer to their Yorkshire roots. (Should be brewing in their own brewery in Holbeck about now!). Have enjoyed each beer thoroughly so far, I couldn’t see a collaboration with the reliably excellent Saltaire being any different!

Almost totally black beer with a latte coloured head and an aroma with some treacle toffee and a gentle whiff of wood smoke.

This is full-bodied and really silky smooth in the mouth (oat malt). Slightly sweet, there is definitely something of the bonfire about this beer, treacle toffee certainly and a definite subtle smokiness. There is a gentler bitterness to the finish, quite dialled down on the scale, but nonetheless, there is a grassy note in the finish along with that subtle smoke. It’s a cool evening tonight and this is perfect! Please brew this again fellas, this autumn would be nice!

Another cracking batch there. Next post might be a wee brief review of the CAMRA Bolton Beer Fest from this weekend.

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 4

“They say no news is good news, the little girl wants information,

Mother just gives her some pills to choose and says ‘Go use your imagination'”

(“You Little Fool” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions)

(Video courtesy of “jjarcos1v” on You Tube

I bought my first 3 vinyl 7″ singles at the age of 13 with 2 £1 notes (remember them???) I found soggily stuck to the road during my morning paper round. I think (well, it WAS 35 years ago) I bought them at a shop on Salford precinct. They were…..

I Don’t Wanna Go To Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions; What A Waste – Ian Dury & The Blockheads & Jocko Homo – DEVO. I’m rather proud of those being my first! No “Birdy Song” here….oh no!

As I got older, my love of the music of Declan MacManus (Mr Costello) has grown and deepened. In my opinion (Isn’t that all that blogs are…Opinion?) his greatest album remains one of his more obscure, in that it lacked an obvious hit single. The album I refer to is Imperial Bedroom. You Little Fool was the lead single (there were only 2) and reached #52 in the UK whilst the album reached #6 (#30 in the US, where Costello is more revered than he is here). From the multi-layered and somewhat schizoid opener “Beyond Belief” through “Shabby Doll”, “You Little Fool” all the way to the utterly beautiful “Town Crier” the album remains in my all time lists, certainly within the Top 20 (I really must list them in one of my Hornbyesque moments!)

Costello is still, for me, one of the greatest lyricists writing in the English language. I haven’t seen him live since the Mighty Like A Rose tour. Something I would like to address. He remains a superb live performer. (Still plays “You Little Fool” too!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes

IMAG0876

1. Windrush StoutBrixton Brewery (er…Brixton, S. London) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.65 (330ml – inc Discount) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

To be honest, I’d never heard of this brewer until one recent afternoon, I spent far too much time & money in Raj’s excellent emporium (which is ALL too easily done!). Each time I go in there is more and more beer on his shelves. I hear that he may be opening a beer shop/bar later this year. Should be interesting!

This is an opaque black beer with a head creamy in both colour and texture. The aroma is of roasted barley and a gentle milky coffee. Medium bodied, initial flavours are of roasted malt with a hint of bitter chocolate followed by a pronounced bitter character. The finish is dry with quite a grassy hop aftertaste. A nice stout indeed with none of the sweetening additives like chocolate and quite Irish in character in my opinion.

IMAG0884

2. AVA – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Blonde Ale – £2.42 (500ml – inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Superstar DJ and occasional brewer (!) Rik Garner (He really IS a brewer, honest, just that he spins some great vinyl!) brews some quite phenomenally good beers in his well-appointed Salford Railway arch! I’ve had (and recommended to others – frequently) AVA on cask, but I’d struggled to find it in bottle. Until Dan & Gina stepped in with their expanding range of local beers!

If this was any paler, it’d be water! Straw yellow with a fluffy white head and a tart citrussy aroma with lemon zest and a little grapefruit. Ooh but this is a tart little number! Quite medium bodied for such a low abv beer, this is chock full of tart grapefruit and bitter lemon. Initially, quite a shock, but this is one seriously quenching refreshing beer, a nice bitter lemony hoppy finish rounds it off nicely. A beer of such low strength has no right to be so full of flavour! A belter. It is a rare beer that I always have when I see it on draught. This is one such.

IMAG0886

3. Mango Beach – Ramsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml – inc disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another brewery I see all too little of in bottles. I did have some draught, but that was in Ramsbottom itself and I don’t see Matt’s beers often enough, but then I saw them in Great Ale Year Round and all was right in the world!

A deep golden beer with a lingering white head and a juicy fruit aroma with mango (surprise) and peach upfront. Smooth and full-bodied. The fruit is upfront on the tongue with that juicy mango dancing a Macarena! Really smooth and almost creamy (mangoes & cream anyone?) A lovely fruity beer with a dry finish and substantial resinous and fruity aftertaste. A cracking beer from this small Rammy brewery. Nice to see his beer available closer to home!

IMAG0889

4. Rat-A-Tat-Tat – Fool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.72 (500ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Never been to The Hope in Stockport, nor ever had a Fool Hardy Brewery beer in any form. So I was glad to see some at Dan & Gina’s excellent little Micro Bar in Bolton Market. The beer itself………….

Black with a beige/tan head and a lovely welcoming aroma of chocolate/cocoa. Oh yes, my boxes are ticked! Medium to full-bodied and with a lovely smooth feel. The chocolate I would describe as just short of a “Bournville” flavour, bittersweet. A lovely mouthful with a nice hoppy bitter edge to it and quite a nice hoppy/coffee edge to the aftertaste. Excellent!

IMAG0891

5. K*ntish Beard – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.2% abv – American Wheat Ale – £3.23 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I had this on cask at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival & was hugely impressed….until a certain young Mr Sweeney from Bank Top guzzled mine (“by accident”, but I don’t hold grudges….much!) It was called Camden Beard then……We shan’t go into the murky waters of corporate bullying again, shall we? But I DO love that asterisk! (Apply your own vowel)

A deep gold almost amber beer this with a clinging white head and a big whack of citrus hop on the nose (presumably the Cascade & Centennial). Really smooth in the mouth with almost a creaminess to the texture making it feel really full-bodied.

Refreshing, as you would expect of a Wheat Beer, there’s all kinds of fruitiness in the mouth, with satsuma, grapefruit, a bit of apricot….this mellows to the satsuma/tangerine following the swallow. There is an understated bitterness to the finish followed by a nice, none too assertive resinous aftertaste with a lip smacking tangerine taste. And I drank this all myself!

IMAG0894

6. Interocitor – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 7% abv – Strong Pale Ale – £4.25 (500 ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Always like to have one of Jay’s beers in the stash. Call it a Comfort Blanket!

A deep golden almost bronze coloured beer, minimal white head quickly diminished leading to a herbal grassy aroma. Full-bodied in the mouth with a certain hedgerow fruitiness with a little gooseberry maybe? Smooth and easy drinking, dangerously so for a beer of this strength!

Lots of fruity British hoppage in here on a big malty backbone. A gentle fruity bitterness in the finish. A lingering grassy fruity aftertaste. One of those beers where UK hops just work real fine. Big bodied (like myself), full flavoured and tasty! (Unlike….)

Right then. That’s it for another week. It’s getting late and I need my ugly sleep to be ready for a MTB with Privateer Beers at Great Ale Year Round tomorrow (Saturday) morning. See you there?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Sainsbury – Great British Beer Hunt 2013

20130914_143119

This is the third year of this competition, but I have to confess that years 1 & 2 almost passed me by completely. It was only in the aftermath of the 2012 iteration, that I picked up on the 2 winners Mocha by Batemans (slightly sweet, but v moreish) & J W Lees’ Manchester Star – a recreated recipe of a 19th century beer initially created in collaboration with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, I think I still have a bottle of that lurking somewhere!

This year however, I picked up on some of the buzz via Twitter & Facebook and headed to my nearest branch.

The competition works like this. This year, over 150 bottled beers were entered in the four regional competitions (Scot/NI, North, East & West) and, through customer tasting sessions, were whittled down to five from each region. These 20 beers are then stocked across the Sainsbury estate and, via volume of sales, are further whittled down to 12 which go through to a final judging by “beer experts” (sorry, couldn’t help myself – Just can’t get over Worthington White Shield winning Champion Bottle Beer of Britain at GBBF!)

Prize for 1st place? Shelf space in over 250 stores. 2nd place? 100 stores. A significant deal for almost any Micro!

Walking in to my branch at Bolton, the beers were clearly on display and separated from the main booze aisles. Now, despite a thoroughly undeserved reputation as a bit of a lush, there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to attempt all 20 beers! So I got selective. I bought 10 or so different bottles (in varying quantities) Here’s the best of the bunch that I bought.

One further point. My usual format for listing changes here, as all the beers were bought from the one retailer and all cost the same price – a ludicrously cheap £1.50!!!

WMere Pale Label

1. Windermere PaleHawkshead Brewery (Staveley , Cumbria) – 4% abv –  Pale Ale – 500ml

Firstly (and I feel like I’m back at school here!), I misplaced my photo of the poured bottle. I did take one, honest sir……it was there this morning……

Pale as a spring morning but with the pungent aroma of autumns harvest of that beast of a hop, Citra! If you have ever had this on draught….It’s just as pale, just as hoppy. Sweet and sharp on the nose with pineapple and grapefruit, light bodied but absolutely PACKED with hoppy flavours with more grapefruit having the edge. A nice slightly sweet rich tea biscuit base allows the hops to party. Nice very dry bitter finish. Slightly boosted in strength to 4% (draught on cask being 3.5% abv) but loses none of its refreshing ability. More please!

20130921_183018

2 Gonny No Brew ThatWilliams Bros Brewing (Alloa, Scotland) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml

I thought that at this strength, that this beer might suffer in comparison. Not a bit of it! Pale and gold with a pineapple marmaladey nose. Quite full-bodied for this strength with a doughy bread base balanced by a cutting orangey bitterness. A nice fruity bittersweet finish. Nice beer at this strength.

20130921_204836

3. Crafty Dan – Daniel Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 6% abv – Strong Pale Ale – 500ml

Brewed on a smaller brew kit used for Thwaites seasonal range, this is one of quite a few Thwaites beers I’ve had this year which is seriously impressive. Deep gold, abundant white foam head with an aroma of orange marmalade on warm bread. In the mouth, more slightly bitter Seville marmalade hops with a nice big biscuit malt base. Hints of warming rum or Curacao. A nice bitterness in the finish with a spicy orange tang. A Blackburn Belter!

20130921_224515

4. India Pale AleHarbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – IPA – 500ml

One of two Harbour beers that I bought. Not had much of their stuff, but what I have had has been impressive, but on keg. This was a bronze coloured beer full of citrus aromas. Medium bodied and really citrus fruity with gum tingling piney resins swirling around the mouth. A really nice hoppy bitter beer with sufficient malty sweetness for just the right balance – with the hops on top that is! Very tasty indeed!

20130923_184233

5. Porter No 6Harbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 6.8% abv – Porter – 330ml

Just to ramp the strength back up and to introduce some shade into all this light stuff! The second from Harbour. A deep ruby, nearly black beer with a surprising raisin wine aroma (for this strength). A mouthful of caramel maltyness with a nice coffee and sweet chocolate flavouring. This was quite warming as it slipped down – again, surprisingly so at this strength point. A touch sweeter that I usually like my porters, but a truly cracking bottle!

20130922_212854

6. WayfarerOrkney Brewery (Cawdor, Nairnshire, Scotland) – 4.4% abv – IPA – 500ml

A really pale beer with a distinctive citrus aroma, reminiscent of bitter lemon. Balanced malt base but overlaid with cascade and amarillo hop zing, more grapefuit and lemon puckering the lips. Really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly resinous finish. First Orkney I’ve had in a while. A cracker.

20130924_133159

7. Infra RedHardknott Brewery (Millom, Cumbria) – 6.2% abv – Red IPA (I suppose!) – 330ml

This almost exploded as I opened it. A ruby red beer with an aroma of cough candy, spicy and slightly yeasty. Again, in the mouth, the cough candy of the crystal malt is evident, but with quite a bitter hoppy hit. Quite bitter and spicy in the finish with a spicy hop lingering.

There you go. I didn’t burden you with the ones that I didn’t quite get. The Querkus Smoked Porter was particularly disappointing and the Hunters Devon Dreamer was a bit yeasty (may have shaken and not settled to be fair)

I know that this is now a bit late in the game, but if you bought any of the above, you’d be doing yourselves a favour IMO! And, you only have until next Wednesday. What are you waiting for???

If you ask me for my favourites….I’d have to say the Crafty Dan, and the Harbour Porter. The others just being shaded, but only just! Certainly, if the Bolton stores’ sales are anything to go by, the Hawkshead Windermere Pale has been selling well. Just look at the picture at the top!

On that note…’til next time…(probably Hornbeam MTB at The Salford Arms tomorrow evening!)

Slainte!