Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 1

“You’re holding me back. I wonder why, you do me like that,

But you keep on holding me back. You keep on putting your foot on me,

But I, I’ve got to break away, somehow and someday,

‘Cause I wanna be somebody so bad, so bad, I wanna be somebody, I wanna be somebody so bad.”

(“Is It Because I’m Black” – Syl Johnson)

(Tune courtesy of “maxitaxiphone” on You Tube)

The first time that I heard this tune was in a sample entitled (simply) “Interlude” on the Cypress Hill album “Black Sunday”. I always wondered where the slinky soul groove came from. Then I picked up a copy of Mojo magazine with the free CD “Soul Riot” (strangely, just about the time I bought the Sly Stone album “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” – a classic) and got the true picture. SUCH a truly great tune (and under the radar for many) that deserves recognition for its deep soul groove and lyrics depicting the struggles of Black Americans in the 60s and early 70s.

What brought this up was a Meet The Brewer back in September at the Salford Arms with Rik Garner of First Chop Brewing Arm (read here), in particular, how he came to the name of the first beer listed below, named after the artist who recorded one of his favourite albums of all time, Syl Johnson. Click on the tune above and just …….

Time for business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is 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, 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…

IMAG0761

1. SYLFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 6.2% abv – Black Jaggery IPA – £3.20 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

The story of the naming of this beer just works so well for me, well, you know my love of music & beer interacting! However, as said many times before, it only resonates if the beer is any good! (NB : I believe that Jaggery is an unrefined Indian sugar – sure Rik will correct me if I’m wrong!

Black and lively with a creamy coloured head like a latte and a lovely aroma like crystallised rum, molasses and sweet chocolate. Full-bodied and initially bitter chocolate and gently sweet. Then in come the hops like a police raid on TV, booting down the doors to the palate! The finish is oh so dry and hoppy/grassy with a little lingering bitter chocolate and a loitering resinous aftertaste. Simply a superb Dark IPA! (Man spins a mean piece of vinyl too!)

IMAG0778

2. Thunderstruck – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (500ml) (Possibly £3.50)  – The Ale Man (Manchester)

As I have said previously, like many bloggers, I get some stuff to try for free. Being a beer blogger, that tends to be….you get the picture. I always say the same thing, If it’s good enough, I’ll review it. If not, a quiet word in the shell will suffice with a reason why. This was one such passed by Damian O’Shea a while back.

A light haze on this deep gold beer. Lively wee bugger too with monstrous white head. Spicy nose with a little orchard, maybe raspberry on the nose. Decent smooth mouthfeel, really refreshing with orange peel, what feels like coriander and a nice hoppy grassy bite in the finish. For me, the best I’ve had from this Suffolk brewery. Really nice refreshing wheat beer.

IMAG0779

3. Moor TopBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 3.6% abv – Pale Ale – £2 (part of a deal) (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I don’t think that I’d had anything by Buxton prior to popping into The Beer Shop in Heaton Moor about 18 months ago (just prior to starting to blog). I was lured into a swift half whilst browsing. I fell in love! Not had a bottle though….

Hopped with Chinook, this is a pale golden beer with a lasting and clinging white head giving up a lovely & subtle – yet distinct – grapefruit aroma. Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth with more of that there grassy grapefruit. Really refreshing but with an assertive bitterness teamed with a really nice fruity and resinous finish. The first beer I had on draught from Buxton and just as good in bottle as on draught. And that is high praise indeed.

IMAG0783

4. 01/02 (Amarillo & Orange) – Brew By Numbers (Bermondsey, SE London) – 5.6% abv – Saison – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

May I start by saying that I’m not sure Saisons are “my bag”. Not sure that I really understand quite what they are “for”. I mean, I know that they were made in the Benelux countries and Northern France and were meant to slake the hardest of farm workers thirsts, but…Maybe I’m just a simple soul. However, sometimes I just enjoy a beer for what it is. Here’s one such beer that I was persuaded to buy by its incorporation of my favourite hop, Amarillo!

Straw coloured and highly effervescent with an abundant white head giving off some orange and a distinctive funky note with a bit of fizzy sherbet. Mmmm….The amarillo (bias declared!) is certainly present & correct in this beer. I was just about to note the spicy wheaty characteristics of this, then I noticed that wheat flakes were used! Nice medium-bodied, prickly on the tongue with those bubbles and a nice orange citrus tone drawing you forward to the dry bitterness of the finish with some of that light spice mingling in the aftertaste with the sticky hops. A nice refresher.

IMAG0784

5. Big ChiefRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj’s burgeoning shop. The selection seems to widen and improve week by week to the extent, that some weeks, you can’t move for case upon case of freshly delivered beer! Busy and deservedly so.

I haven’t had much in the way of Redemption (beer or otherwise!), and none at all in bottle, but what I have had has been superb, especially the low-abv Trinity and their Fellowship Porter, both superb beers. The bottle has a head start for me, old-fashioned and substantial. However, opening the bottle showed that the contents were far from old-fashioned!

A “London Murky” adherent? Look past the haze! Quite a hazy deep golden beer with a white head that is hanging around! Big citrus aroma sticking its head out of the foam. Nice big malty base for this beer with a bit of caramel biscuit to hang these hops on. And hops there are! Nicely bitter and fruity with big sticky resins in this. Manages the trick of sliding down real easy whilst feeling bigger than it is! Just the right amount of sweetness for balancing against the bitterness. Nice smooth and full-bodied. My first bottled Redemption will NOT be my last!

IMAG0786

6. Rum In The BlackWilson Potter (Middleton, N Manchester) – 4.2% abv – Stout – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another shop with an increasingly impressive range (increasing in size too!). It’s great to see what looks like a success story happening in my own town. I’m hoping that in a couple of weeks, that they’ll be able to officially let the drinkers spread out onto the tables outside in the market food court. Makes sense to use the tables provided to fullest extent! Nice to see some Wilson Potter in the range. A little birdie tells me that there may be some coming on draught too?

Darkest brown to black beer (you can only tell when held to the light) with a tan head and a lovely chocolatey aroma! Ooh but this is damned fine! Medium bodied with a lovely initially chocolatey mouthful giving way to something I do love in a stout. Nice bitter hoppage! There’s something else there too that my palate can’t quite ID, a little sweetness maybe from the rum? Molasses maybe? Whatever it is, this is up there with their recent pales for me – given my love of all things dark! A lovely roasted and hoppy finish too. Lovely!

It’s now 01:50 on Saturday morning. This blog is done and so am I! Next week will be spent working away in that there big city with, one hopes, the odd bar or two featuring?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

First Chop Brewing Arm – MTB @ The Salford Arms 18/09/2013

First Chop

“The dark brown shades of my skin only add colour to my tears.

Oh, that splash against my hollow bones, that rocks my soul.

Looking back over my false dreams that I once knew,

Wondering why my dreams never came true.”

(Syl Johnson – “Is It Because I’m Black”)

A few weeks ago now, I noticed as tweet from one of my favourite pubs of the last 12 months – T he Salford Arms – that mentioned a series of up and coming ‘Meet The Brewer’ events with local Manchester area breweries. The first was with the excellent Privateer with its equally excellent ringmaster / owner, Matt Jervis. I was gutted that circumstances precluded me from attending, I do love the beers that Peter Curran and Matt bang out. Balanced, tasty and resolutely non-ludicrous with that strength!

Black Jack was next with Rob Hamilton. Another top bloke punting out excellent beer. Again, even though I’d been to one at Port Street, I wanted to go, but couldn’t!

However, a visit to my nice bank resolved some of my (ahem) difficulties, so I wasn’t going to miss the next one. First Chop.

I’d had a few of their beers around Manchester. Uniformly excellent they were too. I also popped in recently to their restaurant / bar in Ramsbottom (where it all started). You can read about that hereAn assured recommendation for a bar that would not be out of place in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

Got to say, with an advised 6pm start time, it was a damn struggle getting there on time! But with a hoppy ale at the end, my smiling face (!) presented itself at the bar with an open wallet and lolling tongue. A swift greeting to Tom who runs the bar (and keeps a damn fine pint!) and I had a pint of First Chop ‘Hop’ in my greasy mitt.

hop2501

(We also got this later – but what the hell!) – This is a golden pale beer with lots of citrus hop on the nose, lemon up there as well as a hint of grapefruit. Lovely and fruity/bitter in the mouth with a really good body base for a 4.1% abv beer and lots of citrus. This comes from (what I later learned to be) the FIVE hops used (Bobek, Cascade, Chinook, Citra & Simcoe), nice grapefruit in the finish with a touch of piney resin from the Simcoe. Lovely beer that you could drink all night!

At this point, I sensed that Tom was colluding with someone at the side of the bar….so being a nosey (and somewhat cheeky) sod, I introduced myself to Rik Garner, Mr First Chop Brewing Arm himself. And proceeded to cure his insomnia with my incessant waffling and questions!

For quite a young bloke, he’s been a busy boy these last few years! He started out as a chef and founded the bar / restaurant in the mid to late noughties. Having a love of good beer, he developed the yen to make his own beer. So, in 2012, he decide to try his hand at brewing his own beers. He approached Outstanding Brewery in Bury who agreed to let him use some of their spare capacity. The first beer was the Hop I tasted first. The range soon began to expand (as did demand) and the original plan for occasional brewing went out of the window!

So the search for new premises began and to invest in his own kit! Since this summer, Rik has occupied an arch  under the railway off Trinity Way in Salford and commenced brewing with a new 8 Bbl (Beer Barrel) plant.

He’s busy indeed. From that ‘occasional’ brewing idea, he is currently brewing 3 times a week and spends the rest of his time selling and distributing as well as the admin work (which he is still involved with at the bar in Rammy!). The beers are growing in popularity and have won several awards. They are also popping up all over the country from the North East to the South West (and all areas in between!). He has been so busy and successful, that he is having to look to bring someone in – now THERE’S an opportunity! (I offered myself up. I guess that the chuckle fro Rik, allied with the utter lack of technical ability, may mean that I need not apply. Another dream shattered!!!)

Good beer, great company (Rik, not me!) and a cracking pub. Now, where were we…ah yes, the beer!

The ticket for entry cost a whopping £5. For which you receive 4 beer samples. 4 1/2 pints….or so I thought! We settled into the lovely curved front room of the Salford, Rik parked himself, took out his samples and began. He handed out samples of 4 of the 5 hops that were used in ‘Hop’ and encouraged us to give ’em a good rub and sniff. From the Bobek, which was quite subtle and earthy, they got progressively more resinous through to the Simcoe….mmmmmm….Simcoe! Her also brought some of the pale malt that he used in the hop which was lovely Rich Tea biscuit with a dash of Horlicks.

We were furnished each with a half pint of Hop as previously described.

Next up was a bottle of ‘TEA’. Rik seems to name all his beers with 3 letters – AVA is named after his daughter! MIA after her bessie mate…….TEA was simply a damn good Brew! No arguing with that eh? TEA was golden, and at 5% abv, perhaps a shade darker than HOP and was fuller bodied with lovely darker tasting hoppy fruity flavours with a lovely dry bitterness in with the citrus. A distinctive grassy bitter finish. Getting the bottle was a surprise, but I think that Rik wanted us to sample 4 beers. there were only 2 of his on draught.

tea250

20130918_212042

sip250

Linda and Pete from Bolton (Good CAMRA members both) arrived and the chat flowed! First time I’d met Pete. It was obvious from our conversations (and his questions for Rik) that – like Linda – he is passionate about his beer! Not sure about his love of bottled stuff, but he, like me, enjoyed the two that Tom produced from behind the bar! The next one being SIP.

A 5.4% abv Pale Ale made with pale malt and loads of NZ hops, this had some delicious and more subtle tropical fruit going on with light grapefruit and lemon in nose and mouth leading to another dry and fruity bitter finish.

syl250

Finally came the darker dangerous delights of SYL. This is a Black Jaggery IPA. Jaggery being an unrefined dark sugar made from Date palm sap. I love the fact that it is named after Syl Johnson, the soul singer who recorded Riks’ favourite album (I’m now gonna buy it today!) “Is It Because I’m Black” a cracking soul tune you can catch here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxvquwCqC2w The beer it helps to make is indeed dark and dangerous. A spicy nose with more than a hint of licorice, there is the flavour of dark vine fruits in the mouth with more licorice in a dry, pleasant, slightly herbal finish. Beautiful beer, but hardly advisable on a school night!

This was unfortunately sparsely attended for such a good brewer (and engaging personality), but the lack of attendees led to a far more intimate feel that the events at Port Street. This meant more time to chat with Richard, Pete & Linda (which was a pleasure) and some of the other attendees. A cracking finish to a great (if slightly tipsy) evening! That’s be the SYL then!

For a fiver, this was an absolute steal. Let’s hope more come for Hornbeam Brewery, next Wednesday!

Even though the bulk weren’t at the MTB, it was nice to see The Salford busy midweek. Tom and the gang are obviously doing things right. I can say for sure, that he knows how to keep a pint! Just make sure there’s food next week….I was damned hungry by the time the 37 deposited me outside Beers Mansions!!!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!