Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Part 2

“Music in the ice-box, laughter in the dark,
Echoes in the silence, waiting for the spark,
Hold me while I’m naked, catch me if you can,
Suicide statements are the measure of the man …”

(“Do You Dream In Colour” – Bill Nelson)

(Clip courtesy Robert Jukes on YouTube)

I am a Bill Nelson fan. A true fan in that his is the only “Fan Club” that I ever joined. For a couple of years, you got a magazine (REALLY well produced) every quarter and an exclusive 7″ single with every second magazine. The output of the man was massive!

Simply one of the greatest, yet unsung, British guitarists. Starting solo and quite folky, then hitting a peak with one of the tightest rock bands of the 70s, the awesome Be Bop Deluxe. Tracks like Maid In Heaven, Between The Worlds, Love With The Madman, Ships In The Night……Oh my…..so tight…so melodic…and that guitar could make such sounds

Then, just when they looked to be getting huge in the States, he got …… bored. He went to form a more “modern” and aggressive band Red Noise. Again, utterly superb. But only one album. Check out “Sound on Sound”. Of its time, but still sharp as lemon juice!

“Do You Dream In Colour” was the “hit” single that never was. It was hamstrung in that its release coincided with a strike at the BBC in 1981, so that Top of the Pops wasn’t broadcast. It should have been huge. Bill should have had more success…..

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1. Govinda India Pale Ale (Barrel Aged Head Brewers Reserve) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8%abv – IPA – £No Idea (500ml) – The Ale Man (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)

A deep copper coloured beer with a tight soft white head with an aroma full of banana toffee laced with a boozy caramel note (aged in Brandy barrel), so inviting.

Second sniff reminds me more of a rich Christmassy fruit cake. Oh Yum!

Oh bloody hell this is SUCH A GREAT BEER. PROPER BEERGASM MATERIAL!!! A full-bodied rich and smooth mouthful. Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours just give way to a spicy hop and a very gentle (But present) bitterness. That said, this is such a smooth beer.

In the second mouthful and further, the earthy character of the hops takes more of a front seat with a building spiciness and peppery note. The aftertaste is peppery hop and a slightly smoky spirit warmth. Beautiful. There is apparently another barrel aged version of this beast. You NEED this in your glass!

#Beergasm Number 1 This week!
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2. Bohemian Antipodean PaleOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.65 (500ml) – Tottering Temple (Horwich)
Pale gold with a light white head and gentle carbonation giving really big tropical fruit aromas of mango & kiwi.

Oh my! Nice medium bodied beer this with a fabulously fruity party going on! Peach, mango, kiwi, passion fruit followed by a HUGE bracing piney sticky bitterness. Wow!

This is absolutely PACKED with flavour and feels much bigger than its strength. Further mouthfuls just confirm initial impressions. This bitterness builds to a dry finish with a really assertive piney aftertaste. Superb.

You need THIS as well!
#Beergasm Number 2!
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3. Stout PorterSeven Bro7hers Brewery (Salford) – 5.2%abv – StoutGreat Ale Year Round – £3 (330ml)
My first in bottle from this Salford brewery who – after their initial (feather ruffling) launch publicity – have settled to make some rather nice well judged beers on cask. But in bottle….
A black beer with a ruby tinge around the edges, a creamy tan coloured head and…. A subtle yet distinct aroma of… licorice & Anise. Very intriguing!

Initially tasting a little sweetness, this mouthful developed into something with a more dry and Roasted malt character, slightly bitter, but not overly, leaving the room free for some spicy licorice and herbal sweetness of the anise. A very nice mouthful indeed.

A second mouthful held more of the same, but I found a nutty note coming through in the aftertaste that was surprising and most pleasant and which gradually gave best to that gentle aniseed finish. This could work really well on draught and I need to try it soon. Salford has another brewery worth the candle it would seem!

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4. PilsShindigger Brewing Co (Here, there & everywhere!) – 5.1% abv – Pilsner -£? (330ml) – Direct from the brewer
No disclaimer needed, I did actually pay for this, I just haven’t noted a price up top as I don’t know what the retail price would be!
As Pale a gold add you could possibly wish for work a light white head and aroma of…. Mango! A Lager with a tropical fruit aroma? Hmmm.

This is now one of the few beers that I’ve had in cask, keg and bottle. Cask at ISBF, keg at MTB and now…. And it’s a bloody lovely beer too (as were the cask & keg)

First impressions in the mouth? Light, massively refreshing, clean and crisp as all good pilsner should be. With the addition of fruity hops which are more dialled down, but plenty enough! Smooth too, with a nice cereal / bready  malt backbone coming through later.

I told the fellas at the time of ISBF that this struck me as an ultra Pale Ale as much as a Lager in its cask incarnation. The bottle version reminds me (kind of) of Caesar Augustus by Williams Brothers which is a Lager / IPA hybrid (and bloody good too!)

I’m waiting for George & Paul to take a misstep. No danger yet of that. Another belter.

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5. OktoberfestRunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.4% abv – Dark Lager – £3 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round
A deep copper colour to this with a foamy off white head and an intriguing fruity aroma, some plum, a bit of barley sugar and something more… Boozy… Maybe a hint of golden rum or molasses.

Not being a big fan of darker German beers, I approached this with trepidation, I dislike Bock beers for example. Just don’t “get” them at all. However…..

Initial sweetness with some barley sugar (crystal malt?) and quite fruity, again plum but with something else too, maybe the merest hint of banana caramel. That sweetness quickly fades as a drying quality asserts itself with a feeling of rye curling the tongue.

Really smooth andfull bodied this. Those molasses come more to the fore in the second gob full. Big wholemeal bready malty base in this supporting that sweet fruitiness. And a big hint of marzipan cakiness too, giving this a seasonal feel.

A departure for Mark this. And he’s carried it off too. This could barrel age well methinks!

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6. Sorachi Ace StoutFive Oh Brew Co (Prestwich) – 6.5% abv (I think!) – Strong Stout – Direct.
I originally picked this up at the same time that I personally collected the pin of cask conditioned version for ISBF. No labels either. I was strictly instructed NOT to drink it for a couple of weeks as it had JUST been bottled and wouldn’t yet be ready. Oh I am SO glad I waited. This was one of the stars of the show at ISBF. I was drooling as I picked up the bottle opener!
Pitch black. Reassuringly so. A nice tight tan coloured and creamy looking head on this as well with an aroma that just oozes…. Bitter chocolate and (of all things) rum like an Old Jamaica chocolate bar from the 70s. Do they still make them?

Oh shit this is just SO creamy and unctuous! Coffee. Strong coffee. That bitter chocolate too. Smooth and silky, seductive, I’m hearing Ike’s Rap II by Isaac Hayes (as sampled by Portishead for Glory Box), deep melodic bass notes. Slinky. Like this beer.

But there is a lightness of hopping that lifts this beer too. A fabulous grassy dryness and a little light fruitiness. Just a little. Because this beer wallows and luxuriates in its delightful dark depths. Got a lot of love at ISBF did this. I can sure see why.

A beautiful thing.

#Beergasm Number 3!

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…

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Part 4

“Pass me that bottle of red wine, I’ll drink it here in the sunshine,

Pavements seem empty this evening, still too warm to start thinking where we should eat tonight.

Looking across the piazza, a bell-tower next to a white church,

Manchester seems far away now, still too warm to start thinking where we should go from here”

(“Bottle of Red Wine” – Dislocation Dance)

(Audio here – courtesy of 0n4s on YouTube)

More reminiscence from a waffling old git! On 11/12/1981 the weather was vile. Myself and my mate Dewey (him again) were due to watch the jazz/punk/funk band Pigbag at Eden nightclub in Town (used to be called Rafters I think) on Oxford Rd. Pigbag ended up snowed in in Bristol, unbeknownst to us as we’d turned up! We had options. My first nephew had been born that day, Michael, and I kind of fancied getting leathered with my brother, but my musical mentor of the time, Dewey, persuaded me to stay (as we humped amps down the stairs for a band who’d turned up at short notice to replace Pigbag).

That band were Dislocation Dance. That night changed my life. Quite simply, Dislocation Dance became, for me, the greatest band that Manchester has produced. Yes, I have seen Joy Division, New Order, The Fall all in their absolute pomp. But on an emotional and musicianship and, dammit, on a lyrical level, none of them came close. D Dance (as we abbreviated them) were the best musicians, and the most FUN of any band I have ever seen. Full stop. Christ, the album that the above track come from even got 5 Stars in (the now defunct) Sounds music paper. They even had a session or two on Radio 1!

DDance 2CV(courtesy : ltmrecordings.com)

However, due to the utter pap loving tastes of the time, they sold nowhere near what they deserved to. Am I biased, DAMN RIGHT I am! They gave me some of the best memories and best friends (I met my dear friend Anita at a D Dance concert!) I had in the 80s. Still going too! Saw them at The Ruby Lounge a year or so ago. Only Ian Runacres left (ONLY?) of the line up that I originally saw on 11/12/1981 (Dick Harrison, Andy Diagram, Paul Emmerson & Ian Runacres), but still sounding as fresh and pristine as 32 years earlier.

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Me : Ah Barkeep, what’s that fly doing in my beer?

Barman : I do believe it is the crawl sir!

Forgive my reminiscing waffle. 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…

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1. Manchester Mild 1987 – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 3.1% abv – Light Mild – £2.00 (4 for £8) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

As a young ale drinker, I had no local pub. I lived in an area of Salford called Lower Kersal and at that time, the pubs were a somewhat acquired taste. To acquire that taste, you had to own two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, arms full of tattoos and the words “hate” & “hate” on your knuckles. In essence, I was a bloody big soft git! Having gone to De La Salle 6th form with a bunch of good lads form Little Hulton (itself, hardly a district full of shrinking violets!), so it seemed natural, that the pub that was nearest to a local in my heart was The White Lion, a Boddingtons House.

Owned/run by a top landlord by the name of Frank Peake, The Lion was just a top pub. Both bitter and Mild were superbly kept. The pub attracted a cross-section of the community. All ages went in and some of the best schooling I had was listening to old timers in the main room. Just quality. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Frank left. The pub went downhill. I left college to face 12 months on the dole in a politically pitiless environment. The Lion was no longer an option, my cash was devoted to travel to interview after interview for jobs that were unattainable. Col & I would buy each other a couple of beers with our bi-weekly dole cheques.

So we come to this Mild by Stockport Sorcerer Mr Krause. Based on the original Boddingtons Mild recipe. How does it measure up? Well, aside from the lack of caramel for colour, very well indeed!

Pale and golden with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma that reminded me of chocolate caramel biscuits. Light-bodied with that light caramel biscuit carrying through into the mouth, low on bitterness with a gentle grassyness in the finish and aftertaste. This is a thoroughly refreshing light Mild and tastes how I remember Boddies’ Mild to taste. A faithful recreation.

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(Sack the photographer!)

2. Brewers Gold (Single Hop) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

“Oh here we go again – another single hop blah blah from bloody Mallinsons!” Well I can’t help it if they’re bloody lovely can I?

Now Brewers Gold wasn’t going to be as assertive as a Citra or Simcoe, I knew that. But I was looking forward to this…Bright gold with a white head and a gentle light fruity nose with fresh-baked white bread. Medium bodied in the mouth, a light biscuit base heightened by a gently floral and quite bitter flavour. This is a beer that you could drink all night. A session beer that is delicate and refreshing.

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3. Salted Lemon Wit – Bad Seed Brewery/Northern Monk Brew Co (Collab) – 7.4% abv – Wit Beer – £6.99 (660ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collab between two of Yorkshire’s newest thrusting Craft brewers? Don’t mind if I do!

A deep amber coloured beer with a light thin white head and an aroma with a little gentle spice (coriander seed?) , toffee and a gentle citrus note. Full-bodied and smooth in the mouth with plenty of caramel digestive but lighter with a covering of citrus with some lemon/grapefruit coming through late with more of that warming yet gentle spice – possibly from the wheat. Refreshing for such a meaty abv beer – surely the salted lemon rinds – warming the throat before a distinct resinous hop finish.  A tasty warming wit.

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4. Quelle Saison – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 4.1% abv – Saison – £2.89 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I was all for keeping this for a week or two more when I received a response for the brewery, essentially telling me that it needed to be drunk to appreciate the hops. Well, not being one to argue with the masters….

A hazy gold with a white head with BIG C hop aromas, grapefruit prominent. Medium-bodied, a slight refreshing – saliva inducing – wheaty sour tinge with HUGE fruity hoppage with tart grapefruit. Really very dry in the finish with a lot of grassyness carrying over into the aftertaste. Not overly familiar with saisons, but I do like this!3IMAG0735

(I’ll be seeing YOU tomorrow!)

5. MIA First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Hoppy Brown Ale ? – £2.80 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A deep russet-brown colour to this with a clinging white foamy head and quite a fruity and chocolatey aroma. Oooh! Light-bodied with hints of chocolate initially but then BANG! In come the bitter hops. A tart bit of citrus , maybe grapefruit, but with it a huge resinous quality, quite sticky! The quite bitter chocolate stays the distance. Definitely the hoppy side of balanced, really assertive, but in a “wake up!” good way. The finish is dry and bitter and a big grassy aftertaste follows. This could wake up my taste buds at the end of a long day. I like this. A lot!

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(I NEED a 2/3rd glass! Offers?)

6. Imitera IPA – Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.00 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

Where do I begin? (I was going to extend into the lyric from the theme to “Love Story” then, better not eh?) I suppose with a #Beergasm alert!

Bronze coloured beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma of…..orange marmalade and tangerines. I adore Amarillo! Oh bloody hell! In the mouth this is GORGEOUS! Marmalade, Grapefruit (the other hop in here being that pale ale siren named Citra), caramel shortbread malty goodness mounted and given a good seeing to by my favourite hops!

It has a mouthfeel and a hoppyness that is but a smidgen from being a DIPA but is more balanced than that with slightly less malt sweetness. Those lovely bitter citrus hops just coat your mouth and tickle your tongue like a hoppy french kiss. There is a good bitterness to this with a finish that is dry and grassy and a lingering bitter fruit and resinous aftertaste. First #Beergasm of the year! Bottle of the year so far. Sets the standard.

So, there you have it for February. 6 beers that in their own separate ways more than “do the job”. Shit, I like them anyway, so Ner Ner!

On that infantile note….’til next time….

Slainte! It’s #Twissup Time!!!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 3

“It’s a freak out, nothing’s familiar, nothing seems to fit in the scheme of things.

Seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-one’s ever certain what tomorrow brings,

So don’t fall my friend, all nightmares have to end.”

(“Don’t Fall” – The Chameleons)

(Courtesy of You Tube user “HeadfulOfHollow”)

Whilst my musical awakening encompassed the Motown and Rod Stewart of my big sister with the Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath of my eldest and Bowie/Lou Reed & Iggy of my elder brothers, the years when I really discovered the true power of music to inspire, came in the early 1980s. The first 3 concerts I went to were The Damned in October 1979, Joy Division in April 1980 and Crispy Ambulance in approx October 1980 and my first time in a pub – The Millstone on Thomas Street in Manchester.

Margaret Thatcher imprinted her hatred of the last true Working Class and her policies started to destroy the industrial heartland of my home area. Wittingly or no, it was against this backdrop that arguably one of the greatest Manchester bands of the 1980s sprung forth, The Chameleons. I think I still remember hearing “In Shreds” for the first time when my mate Dewey bought it as a 7″ single and was absolutely blown away by the power of both chords and words. Mark Burgess remains one of the greatest songwriters of that era for me and improved album upon album ending their run prior to breakup on a US Major label (Geffen) with the immaculate “Strange Times” in 1986 – Mad Jacks, Tears, Swamp Thing – frequently overlooked Manchester classics.

Yes, I know they originated in Middleton (see Wilson Potter below), but whilst they may never have achieved the mythic status of Joy Division, or the mega sales of New Order or even the hipster cred of A Certain Ratio, they were – for me – one of the greatest Manchester bands. Great songs and powerful tunes.

Right then, I hope you forgive my reminiscing waffle as we get down to 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…

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1. Don’t FallWilson Potter  (Middleton, N. Manchester)- 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

See above for the inspiration for the name of this beer!

Ultra pale gold this, a white fluffy head with a gloriously sharp fragrance of lemon peel and pith, really zingy. This lemony tip carries on into the mouth where it had a surprisingly full body for such a pale lowish abv beer. Wow this is sharp! The lemon is mellowed off a touch with something a little milder like tangerine or mandarin whilst losing none of its dry bite. Good bitterness to this with a really dry resinous finish with a little bitter lemon in the aftertaste. I though that In Shreds had it, but another Chameleon beer takes the Middleton Crown. An absolute belting session beer. Must have this on draught! (Now to suggest a collab brew with me, Amanda, Kathryn and Mark Burgess! Maybe a wheat beer….Swamp Thing anyone?)

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2. India Pale AleSquawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

After posting a review of one of the Five Oh Brew Co beers and commenting that they were Manchester’s most recent brewer, the inestimably knowledgable and well-connected John Clarke corrected me by mentioning Squawk, I was hoping to catch Oliver at the Manchester Beer Fest for a chat, but you know how things get when the beer starts to flow……

An amber coloured beer with a small white head and a lovely fruity aroma with some bitter Seville orange. Ooh, this tastes big. A big digestive biccy malt base holding up some lovely sticky citrus hops with marmalade being the first thing that comes to mind. A full-bodied beer and really well-balanced with a nice bitterness in the dry finish and some resinous stuff in with a light orangey marmalade aftertaste. A really nice first beer from this brand new brewery! And, lucky me, I have a Porter lurking in my stash……!

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3. Hello Spaceboy – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.34  – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

As with a lot of the adventurous small breweries around at this time, Five Towns seem to brew a lot of “one offs” just like this Bowie themed beer. Next time, I’ll try to drink / write them up quicker, so you lot can also taste just how damned good these beers are!

Very pale straw coloured beer, white head and a big grapefruit and lemon aroma, nice and sharp and nose twistingly tart. Light bodied with just sharp sharp hoppage! Ooh is it tart! Really light, sharp light biscuit like an arrowroot or rich tea balancing this sharp grapefruit and bitter lemon hop attack. Nice and bitter with a fabulous resinous aftertaste with more than a trace of that lemon bitterness. Another light cracker from this increasingly excellent Wakefield brewer! More please!

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4. Citra Noir –  Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Black Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

What’s this? Me, champion of all things pale and single hoppy like, from Mallinsons, slurping on a dark ‘un! The world has gone all upside down! To be honest, whilst I was chuffed to bits at the Manchester Beer Fest to get some of Mallinsons Amarillo (a pint, natch!) on cask, I just missed out on the intriguing Citra Noir. So, when I noticed that Raj had some in, I latched onto it like a vampire on a blood bag!

Black ale, cream tan head with a mingled coffee and fruity aroma. OOH. The coffee is a 3 on the strength scale in the mouth, really smooth in this medium-bodied ale. Then a gentle tart citrus quality comes in. A black beer should simply NOT be as refreshing as this! Some ground coffee bitterness in this along with the fruit in the finish and the herbal hoppy resinous stuff in the aftertaste. Yum! Fruity, Coffee and resinous hops. What’s not to like? This is my idea of a sessionable baby Black IPA, can we have a cask in Manchester please ladies? Pretty please???

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5. Lupy As A Toucan – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.8% abv – Pacific Pale Ale (my description!) – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy & Motueka hopped amber coloured beer with an abundant white fluffy head and a tremendously fruity sweet aroma, with peach, pear and pineapple all mingled in. Ooh, big biscuity bready malt with a little sweetness added to the sweet fruity hopping with pineapple a little peach and something that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Then, after a humourous Tweet series with Ade from Saltaire Brewery, Shane and the legend that is Phil Hardy, I got it. Alcoholic Um Bongo! Remember that? “Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in The Congo”? Quite apt really as Congleton is known locally as The Congo!

The finish is nice and dry without being mouth puckeringly so with a lightly peppery herby finish reminiscent of Rocket (Salad AND Um Bongo? I’m really looking after you lot!) Dangerously drinkable for the strength.

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6. BAM! –  Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.0% abv – Belgian/Pale Ale hybrid – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

With a couple of new beers from this SW postcode brewer in his locker, Damian chucked a couple of samples my way to get my thoughts. I’d happily pay the price above for this! Can I pay it much more of a compliment? To be Frank (I never did like my REAL forename!), I’ve liked each of the beers from Rocky Head that I’ve tried, so…here goes this one!

Golden with a white head and a fruity and lightly spicy aroma that makes my nose twitch! The fruitiness being something akin to a cross between grape and pineapple with something like the funk of a Duvel. Full-bodied, this has something of the best of both worlds, that slight yeasty banana quality of a Belgian with the dryness and slight resinous quality of New World hops, maybe even a hint of rhubarb! Lightly sweet, dry (Very much so in the finish) some boiled sweet in there too. Another good beer from this increasingly impressive London brewery.

Well. That’s another 6 done and a fresh order in for a vat of Andrews Liver Salts! One or two exciting things that I hope come off in the pipeline for the next month or so including a visit to Great Ale Year Round tomorrow for an MTB with my nearest brewer (if I keep saying that, what are the chances of a bacon butty one morning in Radcliffe?)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt1

“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” – David Bowie)

(Video link above courtesy of mack89464 on You Tube)

I have a saying that I use. “Trust me about Music & Beer – I’m pants at everything else!” Self deprecating, possibly, but Family, Friends, Music & Beer are my true loves (the last two being interchangeable). I try to make the lyric at the top of each post one that relates to something below. As you will see, that certainly applies here!

Five Years is taken from the classic David Bowie album “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” and is, in my opinion, the standout track on an album that has been in my all-time Top 10 for the last 30 years. Each of the 11 original tracks from the aforementioned “Five Years” all the way through to “Rock & Roll Suicide” are stone cold classics, burned into my brain since my two elder brothers were playing it 41 years ago. For me, the first of a run of classic albums which, in my opinion, ran all the way through to Low and Heroes (Side 1 of Low – the “pop” side, is still the single best side of ANY album! Anyone who disagrees had better choose his pistol carefully!)

As I am typing this (21:05 on Friday), I’m playing the album. It just never dates. I simply refuse to believe that it only reached #5 in the UK album charts!

Anyway, revelry over. This damn blog is supposed to be about beer…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next. If you haven’t, you’ll soon learn! ……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…

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1. Dirty Blond – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 3.9% abv – Blond Ale – £0 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

I may have said this before, but if I have, forgive me for boring you but it needs re-stating. Since I have been writing this beery drivel, I have been lucky enough to receive bottles for free – not loads, but some – and when I do, I say the same thing each time. If I like it enough, I’ll review it. If I DON’T like it, I communicate my thoughts and reasons directly. My wafflings are there to highlight Good beers for my poor misguided readers to try. There. I say this, because this was passed (along with the Black Shuck from the same brewer) to me some time ago by Damian (The Ale Man) to see what I thought. He liked it himself, but fancied a second opinion.

This is a golden beer (as you can see, Doh!), with a light fluffy white head and a floral, slightly spicy aroma. It’s fairly light bodied in the mouth, fruity, very dry and has a big dry resinous finish. Really refreshing with a substantial grassy aftertaste. What a nice session pale this could be on cask! Hope we see it up in t’ North soon! Damian now has four beers from the Hellhound guys, well worth a try.

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(My only decent 2/3rd pint glass got dropped!)

2. IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 7% abv – IPA – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another one that I received gratis, but this time, direct from the brewery. A most pleasant surprise, as I really love the beers from Hawkshead! I believe they were bottling limited run beers using a new micro bottling plant, this comes hence.

An amber coloured beer with a white head and apricot and orange aroma spilling forth. Slightly sweet on the nose. Toffee too maybe. Ooh….Sweet caramelly biscuit malt but some huge hopping here for balance. Full bodied, some malty sweetness and really fruity with apricot and a hint of grapefruit in here. A big bitter piney finish with piney resins staying on way after the swallow. An absolute cracker and one to be treated with a degree of respect.

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3. Five Years – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Pale Ale / IPA – £3 ish (I think!) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

I love Bowie. I love Five Towns beers. So, a series of Bowie themed beers brewed by Five Towns? A match made in whatever religious destination floats your boat!

Pale gold to straw coloured beer, white head with a mango and orangey aroma. Full bodied nice sponge cakey sweet malt balanced with some serious piney hoppage (Mosaic) Marmalade richness in there too. Mmmm….! Wow this is dry! Really, really fruity and dry. The resinous hops are making my gums tingle! This is almost in DIPA territory without being as sweet as some. Just so moreish…like all Five Towns. Absolutely Lush! If I have my way, we’ll see some of their draught in Manchester. AND SOON!

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4. Topaz (Single hopped Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Blah blah blah – Mallinsons. Blah blah blah – Single hopped Pale Ale….. OK. But I come over all Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough!

Bright & Gold with a white head giving up a honeyed aroma with a little citrus that I couldn’t pick, maybe sweet satsuma? Smooth carbonation and easily slips down the throat, the sweet satsuma/tangerine comes through in the mouth with a substantial bitterness. More assertively bitter than the other SHPs Mallinssns have done, but still a superb beer with a strong bitter finish and resinous aftertaste. Yum, yum and thrice yum!

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5. Elixium –  Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) / Elixir Brew Co (Collab) – 5.9% abv – Porter – £4.15 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

From the latest and most welcome addition to Bolton’s fairly parlous town centre drinking scene, a cracking wee bar with great local draught beer and an excellent bottle selection!

Black with a beige tan head and a deeply chocolatey aroma. Full bodied, chocolatey, like a real 75-90% bitter chocolate,a slight London Porterish sourness (original porters being sour beers) initial light sweetness, roasty and quite an appealing bitterness to it. A cracking earthy hoppy dryness in the finish. Breathe in after a mouthful and a light smokiness wafts over your mouth. Another cracker comes forth from Hempshaw Lane!

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6. Hivemind – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.6% abv – Honey Red Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

An amber to red coloured beer, white head with a fresh zingy citrus aroma – nectarine upfront – fruity and sweet. Full-bodied, sharp and citrussy in the mouth, grapefruit tartness and quite resinous and a finish both tart and piney. A little honeyed sweetness in the aftertaste along with the piney resinous stuff. Some honeyed beers can be cloying and just TOO sweet, this is quite simply a corker and the use of honey is really well judged. I like it!

Well, that’s all folks! Well, for another week anyway!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 3 (aka Where There’s Smoke….)

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Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 2

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The Heart of Darkness – Warming Beers For Winter (a.k.a. Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 3!)

1385318340020(A small – yet perfectly formed – haul from @TheAleManMcr, coming soon to a publication near you!)

If you have followed my sozzled ramblings for any length of time, you’ll know that my heart is – generally – given over to the darker side of beer. In winter, that becomes even more so. The only variation is that Milds tend to be pushed slightly aside whilst I reach for those heavier, more potent and maltier brews, Porters, Stouts and their steroid abusing children, Imperial Stouts.

There really is something that warms the cockles and makes me feel seasonal about these (mostly) black beers. Maybe it’s the roasted malt, perhaps it’s the chocolate or maybe (in more extreme cases) it’s just the bloody alcohol! Whatever it is, when the chill winds start to blow, it’s for these magnificent roasty wee beasties that I yearn.

Whilst I was thinking of committing my darker thoughts to a blog post, a blogger that I follow (Glenn Johnson) got in first, read his posts here. Whilst reading it, I gathered my thoughts and rooted through the stash. I had been storing a few just for this time of year and it was time to break them out! Spoiler alert though, a beer in this list that is likely to finish in my Top 3 bottles. Dark beers, who’d have thought!!!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……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… We’ll do this one, in ascending order of ABV shall we?

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1. Railway PorterFive Points Brewing Co (Hackney, E. London) – 4.8% abv – Porter – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market – Greengate, Salford)

I like Five Points beers. Starting commercial brewing only 8 months ago in Hackney, they came to my attention on a visit to Damian O’Shea’s stall, which was then at Castlefield Market (He does a few now, including – this weekend – at Spinningfields in Manchester, go say Hello!). First beer I tried was a trial brew of a Red Rye ale (Which I think may have become their “Hook Island Red”), it was superb. The Pale Ale soon followed, easily as good. Now I’ve been waiting to try this, having recently had an exceptional (cask conditioned) pint at Font in Chorlton recently.

A black beer with a lovely creamy tan head and a chocolate & coffee aroma. A lovely smooth, creamy, full-bodied mouthful, initially smooth and chocolaty, then  a bitter chocolate hit and then a lovely and slightly bitter roasted coffee leading to a nice earthy bitterness. The chocolate and coffee merge into a smooth mocha which slouched awhile in the aftertaste. Easily as good as on cask. Lovely.

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2. Manifesto – Revolutions Brew Co (Castleford, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – Stout – Mixed case (500ml) – Direct from the Brewers

I know that I reviewed this beer earlier this year, but another review seemed inevitable when I discovered this buried in the stash. And ’tis the season……..

Black as sin with a tan coloured head and a dark chocolate and slightly smoky roasted aroma. Full bodied and creamily smooth , with firstly, dark and seductive bitter chocolate, then overlaid with a  lively espresso, then a light smoky note. Very dry and bitter with the smokiness intensifying and a warming feeling with maybe a rum note. Just the beer for a cold winters evening  in a nice cosy Manchester pub. This is simply a bloody delightful stout. Possibly the best I’ve had in bottle.

I have just noticed that Revolutions have a batch ready in cask. Come ON Manchester! There HAS to be a pub to bring some over here!!!
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3. Mud City StoutSadlers Ales (Stourbridge, W Midlands) – 6.6% abv – Stout – £1.49 (500ml) – Home Bargains, Farnworth

Now and again, you can come across some absolute BARGAINS in “bargain” shops. For instance, B&M Bargains stock Citra by Oakham at £1.79, however, when I saw THIS puppy at THAT price Atilla got more in the trolley than she bargained for!

A really deep ruby coloured beer that was as close to black as it could be with another tan cream head but with an aroma reminding me of molasses and dark rum with a sweet vanilla note. Full-bodied and creamy smooth. A little sweetish vanilla upfront more than balanced with a following bitter chocolate and cocoa flavour that followed and blended with it and gave a nice slight warmth. A big malty beer this, comforting with that vanilla sweetness and big chocolate flavours leading to a gentle bitter finish. Really impressive, shame I have never seen it on draught.

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4. Ola Dubh 16 – Harviestoun Brewery (Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland) – 8% abv – Whisky Barrel-Aged Porter – Mixed Case – Mail Order from the Brewery

One that has been left for a while this. Part of a Fathers Day gift from my youngest 2 kids, I was chuffed to bits when it arrived, the pack included two each of this, Ola Dubh 12, & 18 , Engineers Reserve and 4 Old Engine Oil. Dark paradise!

Based on Old Engine Oil, one of my favourite Porters. Poured black with a creamy tan head and an aroma mingling dark chocolate, leather and fresh tobacco. Really full-bodied with chocolate, a swish of peaty whisky and a distinctive nutty note that brought to mind brazil nuts (my favourite!) and a lightly burnt buttered toast. The finish was nutty and smoky lifted slightly with some grassy herby notes. My notes finished with the words “bloody lovely stuff”. Just about sums it up!

My arch-nemesis tells me (whenever I mention this beer) that he has been privileged to have this beer in cask conditioned form. You could REALLY fall out with someone!

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5. Smoked Imperial Treacle StoutQuantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 9.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £5.15 –  (500ml)The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collaboration beer with the crew behind The IndyManBeerCon that was available cask conditioned at that festival. I had my first taste there and it was simply stunning. Treacly, gooey, bitter, fruity…it was a siren of a beer and it well and truly had me smashed upon its rocks! I was surprised to hear of it in bottled form, thinking (mistakenly, obviously) that it was a festival “one-off”. Glad it’s not!

I thank Raj at The Liquor Shop for stashing a couple for me (BTW – Bear in mind that Raj discounts 10% for 12 and 15% for 24 bottles). A pitch black beer with a beige head and a gentle smoked aroma mixed with something more delicate, yet elusive, a floral character perhaps. In the mouth though….Ooooohhhh! Wasn’t sure if Jay had brewed this or if it was refined, it was THAT viscous! Dark chocolate, burnt toffee and warming port wine were my first notes, then a building smokiness with that floral note coming through in the mouth as well as well as a woody note. Really warming beer with a surprisingly resinous finish cutting through. With 5 different hops and 8 (EIGHT) different malts, this is a BIG beer. It’s also bloody brilliant. A dark monster from the evil genius that is Mr Jay Krause!

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6. WildebeestThe Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 11% abv – Imperial Stout – £8 (330ml) – The Colston Yard (Bristol) (Try Beermoth in Manchester)

This had been stashed since July, when I found myself in Bristol on a training course. Stashed for cold nights like these.

No light comes from this beer, it’s like a boozy black hole. What tan coloured head that there was quickly dissipated but it had a big espresso aroma with a hint of sweet vanilla. Described as an Imperial Espresso Chocolate Vanilla Stout. In that respect, this is a Ronseal beer as it gives you loads of those flavours. In the first oily mouthful I could get each of those tastes. Dense, oily and sticky with bitter espresso and chocolate and something a little fruitier, maybe a hint of blackberry. This was a lovely warming sleeping draught of a beer with a surprisingly big grassy bitter finish. Warning. NOT one to have as the first beer of the evening!

Well, that’s it for now…maybe some paler beers next!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – October 2013

IMAG0123(Straight Outta  er…Prestwich!)

“You know an I’d ruther be sloppy drunk, Sip a-tin from the can.

Now than to be out in the street, a-runnin’ from the man”

“Bring Another Half Pint” – Sonny Boy Williamson

Been a busy month this month. What with Allgates’ Road To Wigan Beer, IndymanBeerCon and the MTB with Deeply Vale of Bury, that I’ve barely paid any mind to the bottles I have been guzzling. Time to address that! Also,located another wee shop selling good beer in the Manchester area, The Liquor Shop in Prestwich. More about that later.

In the meantime….

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……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). 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…

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1. Citra (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Another single-hopped pale ale from Mallinsons? Yeah? What about it? Any more whining and I’ll drag you round the back of the bar and pour lager down your throat! And it won’t be Czech either!!!

This was a super pale beer that barely touches gold on the spectrum. Quite a delicate grapefruit citrus aroma. Medium bodied and smooth drinking with a touch of sweet biscuit malt balanced by the bitter lemon/grapefruit and piney notes. Nicely bitter without being a hop assault, a more delicate touch with this hop and better for it. Nice bitter resins linger on after the glass has been drained. Another cracker. No, I won’t say how they’ve nailed single-hopped pale ales again. I won’t!……Doh!!!

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2. Piepowder IPAYorkshire Ales (Rudgate Brewery – York) – 5.2% abv – IPA – £0 (Test sample) (£2.75 from shop – 500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

One of a series of beers with their shop own label, but brewed (in this case) by Rudgate. A golden beer with a slightly surprising almost forest fruit note on the nose with a little spice. Medium bodied with plenty of toffee malt in the mouth balanced with a good degree of bitterness. The bitterness continuing into an aftertaste with hints of fresh-cut grass. Not a US-style hoppy beast by any stretch but a good full=flavoured beer.

IMAG0127(You can see how people, would confuse this with a certain sticky Ginger Beer, can’t you?)

3. Pale AleTickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Gtr Manchester) – 5.5% – Pale Ale – £1.99 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Hooray for Tickety Brew! There was a time, not so long ago when their survival was in doubt (but we won’t go there, will we Keri!). At the time at which that all kicked off, I was still yet to try one of their beers. It was probably that that stirred my indignation! Anyway, waffling over…to the beer!

This was copper coloured with a diminishing white head and a fruity cream soda / banana ice cream aroma. In the mouth I got more banana tinged toffee, a touch of Belgian style wit yeastyness. Back on the pale ale track with the finish which was quite fruity with a dry grassy hop bitterness to it. A more than pleasant beer. I’m looking forward to the Blonde! Nice distinctive labelling. Classy!

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4. Drink MeMad Hatter Brewing (Liverpool) – Rye Pale Ale – 5.8% abv – £2.29 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

#3 & 4 came almost as a surprise. I was struggling a bit last week with stuff too boring to relate. I was stirring myself after a mid afternoon nap and sent a tweet about fancying a beer. I got a response from the above shop and determined to visit them the next day. A small atypical local shop dealing in all of life’s last-minute essentials. But, also beer. And unusually good beer at that. I could have bought loads, but stuck to the North West choices (Drink Local ain’t just a slogan. Oh No!)

Like the Tickety, had never had a Mad Hatter. My but this a lively sod! Had to use two glasses! A copper coloured beer with a spicy aroma and (another) hints of banana. Medium bodied and quite peppery with some treacle toffee matched with some resinous hopping. A yeasty note as well, but the bottle did erupt on opening! Given the rather full carbonation, this was a really nice first from this brewer. I can drool over the other 3 now. And, like the Tickety, nice labelling carrying the Alice in Wonderland thing through onto the packaging. Nice touch!

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5. Hop DitchRocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 6.0% abv – Pale Ale – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer from Damian O’Shea’s stall at Castlefield Market. Does one at the old Victoria Bus Station too (Greengate)! This beer was golden with quite an assertive citrus nose. Quite dry in the mouth with a mouth puckering hit of lemon and grapefruit. Light biscuit sweetness for some balance here, but this is about the hops and damn fine they are too both in the aroma and the bitter finish with a lingering piney resin lingering. Another excellent beer from this London brewer.

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6. Bad HabitWeird Beard / Northern Monk Brew Co  (Collaboration – West London meets Bradford!) – 8.6% abv – Belgian Tripel – £4.00 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

I don’t usually do Belgian beers. Bit of a blank on my liquid CV. I’ve had the odd one, Duvel, Rodenbach Grand Cru (and its little brother) and a few more. Very nice they were too, but I’ve always had a rather Anglo beer sensibility. I need a tutor perhaps! However, having had beers by both of these brewers (and enjoying them), I thought I’d give it a go! (Selfless, I know!)

As you can see, another lively wee bugger this! Copper/golden in colour with huge carbonation and a yeasty and slightly sherbet lemon aroma with some cut grass and hint of clove. In the mouth however…BOOM! I wasn’t expecting THAT! Full bodied, yes. Atypical banana split toffee & clove, yes. But bugger me sideways this was hoppy and bitter! Spicy, resinous and mouth dryingly bitter. A corker! Like I said, I don’t really know Belgian beers that well. Maybe this shouldn’t taste like this. But I bloody LOVE it!

3 excellent retailers. 6 excellent beers. Can’t ask much more than that!

More to come….

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!