Wilson Potter Brewery – A visit in two parts!

Wilson Potter Logo

Towards the end of 2012, around about the time I started getting interested in beer again (and started to write nonsense about it!), my arch-nemesis Jaz introduced me to the beers of Wilson Potter. My first exposure to their ales was In The Black, in bottle. A lovely Stout.

Gradually I tried one or two more (always in bottle) and grew more impressed with these well-balanced and subtle beers. Eventually, I met Amanda & Kathryn (Owners & Brewers) at Stalybridge Farmers Market – they attend each month – and bought some more bottles, each of them impressive. However, I was growing frustrated at not having their beers on draught in the pubs that I visit. Eventually, I DID get a taste of one of their beers on draught at the last NWAF in Manchester.

In mid-February, Jaz told me that he was popping up to the brewery soon. I (of course) managed to hide under his coat and sneak in and enjoyed a perishingly cold afternoon in the brewery where HOORAH! I managed to drink some of their beers on draught, as nature intended.

A month or so later, I went back (again with Jaz) on a much warmer sunny day, to try some more and have a chat. (See below)

Located in Middleton, to the north of Manchester, the brewery is located in an industrial unit on the edge of town where Amanda & Kathryn use a 6 barrel plant (installed by PBC from Bury) to make beers that manage to be full of flavour without the need to commit assault on your palate.

The ladies met whilst working as primary school teachers in St Helens. A shared love of real ale led them to eventually try home brewing with full mash ingredients in Kathryn’s kitchen, initially using recipes found on home brewing websites.

Gradually they experimented with self-created recipes – again, full mash. Eventually, having visited other lady brewers at Prospect and Mallinsons and with Amanda attending a brewing course at PBC, the jump was made to full-scale commercial brewing, with trading commencing in October 2011.

20130406_141205(L to R: Copper, Mash Tun & Hot Liquor Tank)

Wilson Potter brew a number of ales utilising a variety of hops both UK & US and package them currently in both cask and bottles (bottle conditioned).

20130406_141219(Casks ready for filling)

20130406_152409(Yummy – bottles for sale)

Whilst currently brewing within capacity, they brew / have brewed 21 different beers to date (including seasonals) and – in common with Privateer in Manchester – all of the beers are below 5% abv, thus bucking the trend for huge uber-hopped beers made by lots of other micros. Their current biggest sellers are Cascale, Tandle Hill and Bon Don Doon.

Plans currently are to stay as they are (vis-a-vis expanding the brewplant) other than possibly adding a couple of FVs to allow them to brew more frequently.

20130406_170935(One of the two FVs)

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(The Cask Washers / Games stands! Get the micro Connect 4!)

This is a personal opinion (shared, I know, by Jaz) but Manchester pubs are missing a trick by not stocking these beers. They are brewed locally (within 5 miles or so of the Northern Quarter) by obviously skilled brewers and are full of flavour and (mostly) of session strength. I get a bit fed up with pubs sourcing beers from all over the country, when they have excellent stuff brewed on their doorstep. Along with the likes of Black Jack and Privateer, Wilson Potter beers deserve to take their place on bars in the City Centre. Come on you licensees! (Polemic over!)

Being a shy type (!), I didn’t chat to many people first time I visited, there were three of us on that occasion and I didn’t know that many people. However, on the second visit yesterday I had brief chats with Jock (who I’ve ‘chatted’ with on t’interweb) and the local CAMRA branch chair – and noted beer commenter – known as Tandleman (The names have been changed to protect the innocent!). Good informative conversations that I hope to pursue in the near future. Thanks fellas!

Anyway, the beer! On both occasions, we chose to start low abv and head upwards……

cascale


1. Cascale 3.7% abv – Dark gold coloured beer that proved the ideal start yesterday after a long warm walk. Nice and refreshing hoppy bitter beer with a hint of sweet caramel from the malt. (A & B)

tandle-hill

2. Tandle Hill 3.9% abv – Another really nice bitter type beer. Light and hoppy, the hops aren’t overpowering but provide a nice lip-licking bitterness. An excellent session type beer. (A)

in-the-black

3. In The Black 4.2% – Now THIS is into my territory! Black as night with a light creamy head. A gentle mocha aroma leading to a lovely creamy roasted malt mouthful. A lovely hint of coffee in the aftertaste. Simply a superb stout. (A & B)

bon-don-doon

4. Bon Don Doon 4.2% abv – Lovely pale golden colour on this ‘blonde’ beer. A citrus aroma a bit like a hint of sherbet lemons. Lovely refreshingly citrus bitterness with more than a hint of candied lemon. Nice dry bitterness in the aftertaste. (B)

ruby-red

5. Ruby Red 4.4% abv – A darker red/brown beer. Nutty, fruity and even a chocolate hint! Satisfyingly full flavoured beer. (A)

natural-progression

6. Natural Progression 4.8% abv – Copper coloured beer. Fruity again with some vine fruit in there. A hint of malty toffee as well. (A & B)

is-this-the-way

7. Is This The Way (Amarillo hopped – geddit!) 4.8% abv – Copper coloured beer. Interesting herbal / floral hop aroma. Ooh…Forest fruity in the mouth as well as having a fresh grassy taste in there with more than a hint of licorice twig (anybody remember them?). Tastes more of its strength this one. Nice and dangerously drinkable with a nice fruity hop hit.

(A = Visit #1, B = Visit #2)

Now then. I’m biased. I love darker beers. So my vote would go for In The Black as my personal favourite. This is a beer that could replace almost any stout on the bar – especially that drab irish stuff.

Amanda and Kathryn brew beers at a drinkable strength, with bags of flavour. Beers that display more subtlety than most and are really well-balanced. I thank them both for giving me the chance to drink them in the condition they are meant to be served. Good beer in good company. Two of my holy trinity. Now for the third. Let’s be seeing this in some of those lovely Manchester pubs!

And…no. I haven’t been paid to write this. I’m just a fan!

One more thing. I couldn’t agree more with Tandleman. Their bottled beers are excellent. If you can’t buy from the brewery, they have a list of stockists on their website. Failing that, pop to Ashton or Stalybridge Farmers Markets and buy some direct from the brewers! Drink local people!

On that revelatory note….until next time (Hopefully pubs and jukeboxes!)

Slainte!

(N.B. If  you want to visit the brewery website, just click on any logo /pump clip)

Captured! – A Visit To Privateer Beers 26/03/2013

A few month ago, I was introduced to the beer made by Privateer Beers by Tom at The Salford Arms (A great place for good beer!). The beer was dark, seductive and damned tasty. That beer was called Dark Revenge. I had been abducted by The Privateer. Subsequently, I had the Roebuck, a paler beer at another excellent drinkerie, Joshua Brooks. Another excellent beer, brewed in the centre of Manchester, no less! I had to learn more.

After a brief, but fun and informative chat in Sand Bar (where Privateer supply the ‘house beer’ Tarantula) last week with the owner, Matt , I find a tweet inviting myself and (arch-nemesis) Jaz to pop along to the brewery! This was almost Vito Corleone territory…..as if I could refuse…….

20130326_185644(Insert own pirate related pun ….here)

Good grief…it was weather for ‘brass monkeys’. This was amplified by both the walk from Piccadilly and the fact that the streets off Fairfield Street are like wind tunnels. Eventually, we crossed the Mancunian Way onto the other side of the aptly named Temperance Street, where young Matt has his brewing playground!

As well as ironically locating a brewery on Temperance Street (in an arch under the railway line at No 80), one of the great things here, is that Matt built the brewery. Once the building was sourced in early 2012, he spent 6 months or so building the kit, testing etc. Brewed by himself and Peter Curran (ex brewer at Moorhouses of Burnley), the beers were released into the wild in about October 2012 and are served in a number of pubs in the area. They have also travelled as far as Kent, Berkshire, Suffolk, London and the North East. Impressive from a standing start less than 6 months ago! I personally have had the beers in 4 bars in the area and they have been uniformly superb. This makes my ‘Drink Local’ philosophy a joy!

All of the engineering, plumbing etc is his handiwork. And mightily impressive it is too! Five main vessels in here, the hot liquor tank and mash tun (where the malted barley is steeped in hot liquor to make the sugary stuff – wort), which then goes to the ‘copper’ (brewing vessel – where the hops impart their distinct aromas and flavours) and two fermenting vessels (where the yeast gets to play and make the beer!)

20130326_190104

(Hot Liquor – water – Tank & Mash Tun)

The copper is 6 1/2 Bbl (beer barrels – 1 = 36 Gallons), which means that each ‘brew’ can be as much as nearly 1900 pints. Breaking this down, this means that they can produce 26 x 9 gallon firkins (the cask that goes to the pubs) for each brew. Each brew is transferred from the copper to the Fermenting Vessels (FVs) where the yeast does its job – sometimes TOO vigorously!

20130326_190057(The Copper and 2 FVs – Those glasses didn’t stay empty for long!)

Once you include the empty casks and those that are filled and ready to move, you soon learn that they make the most out of this small space. The space above the office is used to store hops and empty casks. There is a small room to the right of the cooling unit which is used as the malt store. This place is compact and, for the time being, does the job.

Matt (Jervis, the owner) is a very entertaining and convivial host and gave a chat about the beers, a brief history of the brewery and answered some questions whilst showing off his baby – the  brewery itself. His brewing ‘mission’ is to brew tasty beer at a strength no greater than 5% abv. This is admirable at a time when many brewers seem to equate flavour with high strength and massively hopped beers. On occasions, I like those beers too, but mostly I want a beer that is balanced, that I can taste without falling over every second pint. In my experience, this is what Privateer do. And do well.

The beers are also, currently, all cask conditioned. Huzzah!

The current core range consists of Roebuck (an amber brew, nicely hopped with Centennial hops) at 3.8% abv; Dainty Blonde (a pale, blonde beer) at 4.2% abv and Dark Revenge (a strong Mild) at 4.5%. This is augmented by the house beer made for Sand Bar on Grosvenor Street, a 3.5% Mild called Tarantula, which is delicious.

Now. For the beer……..

Matt had tapped two 9s. One of Dainty Blonde and one of a new brew (which will be added to the core range) called Red Duke, a red beer at 4.8% abv. Being there first, myself and Jaz had the pleasure of having the Dainty Blonde to ourselves! A lovely, smooth blonde beer. Well balanced, nicely hopped with Amarillo hops for a nice slightly citrus aroma with a gentle bitterness.

As we finished our Blonde, a number of other guests arrived including Graham and Lin from Bolton CAMRA Branch and a group of local amateur brewers. The conversations started to flow (as did the beer). Then we were introduced to the Red Duke. Matt acknowledged that this wasn’t the reddest of reds, but it was red enough in comparison with the Dainty Blonde.

20130326_204259

(Blonde meets the Red)

The Red Duke is a red/brown beer which has a maltier base that the Blonde. A slightly more complex beer with flavours of toffee and caramel in there nicely offset with the American (Centennial & Amarillo) hops. Jaz enjoyed it and told me that I would too. He wasn’t wrong either (he knows me FAR too well!)

One of the ambitions that Matt has is ‘Vertical Integration’ (my words). Matt has run a pub or two and there is total sense in the quality control afforded by controlling everything from grain to glass. I hope they get themselves a bar soon as I like his philosophy around drinking  and I’d like to see the results.

Other than Graham and Matt (obviously Jaz!), I hadn’t met any of the other people there before. I personally had some excellent and fun chats with a few of the brewers group who knew their beers (and far more than me about how they are made!!!). Good people, who I’m sure I’ll meet again. I would like to try real home brewing at some point, but I think I’d need to extend my house first! (And hide the kit from my darling Atilla!)

Before I realised it, it was 22:50 and I had to get to my chariot (at latest) by 23:40! So a hasty but heartfelt thanks to Matt, a quick cheerio to everyone else and myself, Jaz and Simon (met tonight for first time!) hot footed to Port Street for a quick sleeping draught. I wanted a Stout, but the thought of having to quickly drink a Thornbridge St Petersburg simply terrified me, so ….

Quantum – Keyworths Early. An excellent and slightly complex beer from Mr Krause! Don’t know what the hops are in this but a nice fruity dryness to the finish. Another brewery without a mis-step for me!

Was nice to put some faces to twitter names last night, including seeing David from Sweden late on in Port Street. Unfortunbaately far too late to have a chat due to rushing for the chariot home!

Once again, an excellent evening. Some good beer lubricating some really good chatting. Isn’t this what beer is all about?

Now, when was that lovely T-Shirt being made in XXL, Matt?

Slainte!

Recent Bottle Tastings

Just 3 to point out from recent sampling.

  • Tandle Hill by Wilson Potter 3.9% abv (Direct from the Brewers – £7 for 3 500 ml bottles)

20130314_210733

A golden coloured, bottle conditioned beer with lively carbonation. A floral hoppy aroma. A dry and refreshingly bitter beer with a lingering grassy fresh dry aftertaste. Looking forward to getting some more soon. Superb local brewer. Would LOVE to see their beer on draught in Manchester.

  • Green Devil IPA by Oakham Brewery 6%abv (£3.50 for 660ml from Brewery Tap P.H. in Peterborough)

20130316_215353

I have some friends in Peterborough. My buddy Rob was popping down to see them, so, it felt like an opportunity to source this beer. As it happens, he got the last two from the pub shelves. They themselves were unsure as to next time they’ll get it in. Oakham aren’t even sure about the next time they’ll bottle it!

Anyway, this golden coloured bottle conditioned beer gave out an abundant tropical citrus smell with pineapple and some pink grapefruit. Lovely! Nice, sharp and bitter with some more tropical stuff in the taste, pineapple and grapefruit again upfront. Really smooth with a lingering dry fruitiness. This was like a souped up Citra with extra warming properties. Some complexity in the aftertaste, grassyness and I thought a touch of something darker like a herby licorice. Some peachy too. Bugger it, maybe my senses are shot! A damn fine beer.

  • Dry Stout by Stringers Brewery 4.5% abv (£2.19 for 500ml from Booths at Media City, Salford)

20130317_194054

I can’t believe I’ve never rated this superb stout before! I always grab a couple of bottles of this when I go to Booths, as well as their equally superb IPA.

A carbon black beer with a tan head. A gorgeous earthy dark roasty aroma. Loads of roasted malt flavours with a touch of smokiness and a dry bitter finish. This is one of my favourite bottled stouts. Unfortunately, I’m still yet to have it on draught. I live in hope. If anybody notices this on draught within 20 miles of Bolton, TWEET ME!!!