Beer & Music (Pubs with Jukeboxes Pt2) 06/08/2013

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After a couple of days “drying out” following the Marble 125 celebrations at The Marble Arch, I had all the excuse I needed when Col let me know he had the night off (he works nights). So we found ourselves embarking on a beery adventure, burning with optimisms flame! (Any XTC fans out there? No? I’ll move on….)

Having decided to find a few more pubs with Jukes, the best place to start, is with (IMHO) the best Jukebox in town. Which also happens to be in a cracking bar. Cask.

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Cask is a wee bit like the Tardis. Small and blue on the outside, but deceptively spacious on the inside. Located at 29, Liverpool Road on the edge of the trendy Castlefield district, It’s like a little slice of audio heaven with one of the most eclectic jukeboxes I know. In my opinion, it has no rival in Manchester.

On striding in, Col & I were confronted with 3 ales (the bar being immediately in front of you as you enter via the corner doors). Col went for the Celt Experience beer Iron Age, I chose Citraville APA (3.9% abv) from Ole Slewfoot Brewery from North Walsham, Norfolk (a brewery I was yet to taste) the other beer being from Dentons’ own Hornbeam (Summer IPA). The Citraville (as the name implied) used the citra hop to create a gentle grapefruit citrus aroma and a mouthful of restrained pithy grapefruit hop with a touch of biscuit sweetness for balance. A cracking start on the beer front indeed.

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I have been in this bar plenty of times, but not frequently enough recently. However, on each occasion, I had never had a seat beyond the bar area. Tonight, I boldly went where………. The place really opens up in this back room, in more ways than one. There is a lovely canopied patio area / beer garden outside which was well populated and quite a few tables with comfy chairs in here.  And BOOKS, games as well (Connect 4 anyone? No? Cowards!!!) a brave book selection as some of them were of recent vintage, proven as Col perused the James May & Oz Clarke beer book!

Whilst not exactly being a multi-roomed pub, the three distinct areas (including the beer garden) provide a little something for everyone. As stated, the beer was superb, the tunes? Great Juke with plenty of roots reggae, loads of eclectic indie, bit of rock, a really good selection and my shout for best in town. My tunes were Odessa by Caribou from the Swim album (a surprise & a particular favourite) and Morning Rain from Manchesters’ own I Am Kloot from the Natural History album. Tunes both!

By this time, we had been joined by my arch nemesis (also enjoying an Ole Slewfoot) and it was time to move onward….(via the excellent chippy next door!) to….

The Knott

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Now a Manchester institution located at the top end of Deansgate near the junction with Whitworth St, famed both for its beers and the superb food served, The Knott is justly popular. With the 3 of us striding in on this sunny evening (yes, this IS Manchester. Honest!), we headed straight for the bar. Another good selection including beers from Oakham (Green Devil IPA), Magic Rock (High Wire) and Hawkshead amongst others. I went for a beer I was yet to sample from Hawkshead. Bitter.

A golden beer with a lightly floral nose (reminding me of the Sorachi Ace hop) led to a refreshing light fruity beer with a nice floral and bitter dry finish. A lovely beer for a summers evening.

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For those unaware, The Knott is built into a (still working) railway arch which accounts for its vaulted ceilings. Another single room with a multi-room feel, the room opens up as you pass the bar. Plenty of ales and craft beers to satisfy the most discerning…….. The tunes in here were Wide Eyes by Local Natives from the Gorilla Manor album (superb!) and Next Girl by The Black Keys from Attack & Release. Superb tunage (IMHO of course!)

At this point, we had a bit of leg work to do. Walking up Whitworth St and bypassing the many arch inhabiting bars thereon, we walked past the Hacienda Apartments and bemoaned the loss of that once great club, when, on nights like these, some wag would always open the rear door onto the canal and cool down in the murky water!

Turning up the back streets, bypassing Font (sighs!) we were destined for another railway arch, this time occupied by a bar I was yet to try.

The Thirsty Scholar

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Slightly disappointingly, the theme was sacrificed at this juncture. No Juke. However, there was a very energetic, almost skiffle, band on giving it their all, so we stuck with it. Thetwo ale choices in here were both from Blakemere from Northwich in Cheshire. Navajo & Pinnacle. I plumped for the Navajo. A mistake. If that was supposed to  have hoppy citrus notes that is. I asked for a swap for Pinnacle, but for a moment, thought I wasn’t going to get one. However, it was replaced for a Pinnacle and I retired to the outside bench seating content. (With the band still banging out the tunes!)

Being inside a railway arch, the bar opens out to left and right as you approach the bar. The performance stage is to the right of the bar as you enter. Quite a nice wee place really with a rep for live music (which was for free BTW) but with DJs at weekends. Glad I popped in.

The Pinnacle was a 4.4% nice Brown Ale. Creamy and nutty and with a nicely bitter hoppy finish. A nice pint. By this point, Mr Anonymous had joined us from his evening exertions and (with Font close by) batted his sad puppy dog eyes, desirous of some “craft”. I must be getting soft in my old age! Off to Font we go then…… 

Font

TheFont-exterior

(pic : curryandbeer.co.uk)

Hardly a chore of course! No juke but as usual, great tunes. Obviously not as busy as at weekends, the bar was easily gained as my eyes lit up! Pale Ale by Five Points Brewing! Easy decision that then! Gold and slightly hazy. A sharp grapefruit and fruity mango nose on this puppy. Grapefruit upfront in the mouth with a touch of malt sweetness for balance. A short bitter and hoppy fruity finish. This was packed with flavour, far more than any beer at 4.4% abv has a right to. A really zingy refreshing beer. Beer of the evening for me.

Short walk to the final destination of the evening, past the Thirsty Scholar to its neighbour…

The Salisbury

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Not been in here for 20 odd years! Used to be a really good boozer this, with reliable selection of  good ales. Located on Wakefield Street, just down a dip off Oxford Road, you could easily miss this. Handy for Oxford Rd train station though, as steps lead up to it from outside the pub!

Another single space with a multi room feel. Bar and some seating to the left on entry with the room stretching out ahead. There is a rare red cloth pool table to the right facing the bar. The jukebox (unfortunately digital and modern in design) has a distinct  rock/metal bias. This does have a rep as a “Rock” pub. No bad thing! I grabbed a pint of All American Summer Pale from Caledonian at 4.1%. The beer was uninspiring. IN good condition, with a vaguely fruity nose and flavour, NOT what I was expecting from the words “All American”. Hops were called for, and unfortunately were not present in sufficient numbers for me. Nice enough, but bland.

20130806_223412(Yum!)

A nice relaxed feel to the Salisbury. Tunage from Led Zep (Misty Mountain Hop – Classic) and AC-DC (Back in Black). I was a happy boy. It has changed drastically over the years, but was relaxed enough, even if the beer range was somewhat….generic. Robinsons, Everards, Caledonian etc…

Being a school night, I had to drag Col away toward the chariot, sadly by-passing the siren call of Elland 1872 in Paramount (sob!)

Friends, music & beer. A good evening.

Beer of the Evening was Pale Ale by Five Points Brewing (Closely followed by the Citraville APA by Ole Slewfoot)

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Weird Beard – Great Beer From West London

Weird Beard

The first time I heard about Weird Beard was on Twitter earlier this year, I think from Burnley Dave, from The Rake at Borough Market, London (a cracking bar BTW!). A new brewery making their name in the ultra competitive London beer scene. The first time I tasted one of their beers was in Port Street, late in the evening. It was OK, but I was over refreshed and pledged to give them another try.

Last month, I got the opportunity at Font. Black Perle,a coffee milk stout. What a belter! Ticked so many of my taste boxes! A lovely creamy beer with more than a hint of latte.

Shortly after that, I found myself in contact with Damian O’Shea (known on Twitter as @TheAleManMcr). Damian kindly offered to send me a couple of bottles to try. In the year I have been wittering on about beer, nobody has done that before. A strange feeling! However, for various reasons, we never quite “hooked up”. Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some weeks and it was there that Jaz met him (and bought me a bottle, lovely fella!). Then one Sunday, I got a text to say he’d picked up a couple from Damian for me. Needless to say, I got in the old jalopy and high tailed to Manchester to pick up my loot!

Damian is the “Northern Distributor” for this brewer from Hanwell, West London. They only started brewing commercially earlier this year but have already started to find their way consistently onto some of the city’s better bars, making a name for themselves, with hoppy pales a speciality. I’d been smitten by the Black Perle (one of my top 3 of 2013), but how would I like the pales…….

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Five O’Clock Shadow

A 7.3% abv American style IPA (7% on draught). This 330ml bottle conditioned beer was deep copper coloured with a fine white head and abundant tropical hop on the nose. Made with 3 malts and 4 hops (Summit, Apollo, Citra and Columbus), this had an initial biscuit malt sweetness more than offset by some assertive hopping with the grapefruity Citra well up there, taste of apricot too with a dry grassy/herbal aftertaste. A cracking start!

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Chinook

What to expect from this beer, labelled “A Boring Brown Beer”. Well. It certainly wasn’t an aroma with licorice and spice! A deep ruby brown colour, those aromas hit me straight away. Confused me, because I wouldn’t expect licorice in a beer like this. 2 malts (pale and crystal) and single hopped, more licorice in the mouth with a little barley sugar sweetness from that crystal. 7.2% abv this and some of the alcohol warmth comes through. Nice bitterness in this beer which, to me,  I can only say (boringly) tastes dark! Which works for me! And, it’s certainly NOT boring.

Mariana Trench

(Damn! Can’t find my pic!)

At 5.1% abv, this (for their pale beers) is probably about as close as you get to a “sessionable” beer! Gold coloured with lots of citrus on the nose, mostly grapefruit (Hops being Citra and Pacific gem). Nicely balanced and surprisingly easy drinking beer this, a nice marriage of citrus hops with rich tea biscuit malt. Really refreshing beer with a nice bitter dry finish.

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Nelson Saison

Well, this was a lively little puppy! It virtually exploded into the glass! Golden to copper coloured with abundant foamy white head. Aromas of Belgian yeast funk with some floral notes and as the beer went down, more than a hint of marmalade. A surprisingly warming beer this with some elderflower in the mouth and a spicy grassy tinge. The warmth reminded of the same feeling I get with the afterglow of a nice cognac. A nice slightly spicy finish. I’m not that big on Belgian styled beers, but it surprised me how much I enjoyed this.

To sum up. If pushed, my favourite would be the Five O’Clock Shadow. A 4.5 rating for me. The others merit a 4. Considering that they’ve been commercially brewing for less than 6 months, they’re making some cracking stuff in Hanwell!

As far as getting the beers up here, Damian has a stall at Castlefield Market some Sundays. He’s a nice bloke to talk to who is evidently passionate about what he sells. His beers are from a variety of areas, I popped down last weekend and picked up my first bottle from Cheshire Brewhouse as well as stuff from the likes of Magic Rock, DeMolen of Holland, Rocky Head from London etc…nicely priced too. I picked up a DeMolen Imperial Stout for £6.Pop down and see him. He’s a decent bloke (and that has nothing to do with the samples he offers!)

Final point, some of the best labelling I’ve seen since Magic Rock. Attractive, with detailed ingredients! Not bad at all.

Right. Time to settle to see Germany beat Iceland in the Womens Euros!

On that note….til next time!

Slainte!

From Grain To Glass – Allgates Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Joshua Brooks 05/07/2013

20130705_185804(Congratulations Boys – You’re now the proud fathers of a bouncing baby beer!)

The journey began some time in May. when yours truly stumbled across an offer to two noted beer bloggers/writers Tyson the Beerhound and Tandleman from David Mayhall co-owner of Allgates Brewery in Wigan, being naturally curious and a bit of a cheeky blagger(sic), I finagled an invite from Mr Mayhall and so, on the 8th of June, I found myself along With Tyson, Tandleman, David and Jonathan Provost (head brewer) making a beer (read all about it) !

David and Jonathan kept the three of us regularly updated on the progress of the brew and, as the weeks went on, anticipation grew. The aim was to make an Oatmeal Stout at around 5% abv, but to make it hoppy. At the end of the brew day, David generously offered each of the three of us a firkin of the beer for us to sell to the pub/bar of our choice, the proceeds to go to a charity of our choice.

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My choices were fairly simple and were given on the spot. I wanted the beer to go to Joshua Brooks and the charity to be St Anns Hospice in Little Hulton. Joshua Brooks, because it is my favourite bar in Manchester. Over the last year, since I first visited the place, I’ve developed a fondness for the place. The ales are kept well by the managers James, Jon & Nicola, there’s lots of lovely leather seating, the background music is pretty much always to my taste and the beer is excellent value.

I chose St Anns Hospice because nearly 2 years ago, when my Dad passed away from Stomach Cancer, they gave fantastic support (along with Macmillan) to both Dad and us in his last few days. I’m not one to normally support health charities as I am a firm and passionate believer in, and advocate of, the NHS. However, the people at St Anns do a fantastic job in extremely trying and emotional circumstances.

As I said earlier, we were kept updated about the progress of the beer and started to look forward to the day when it was released “into the wild”. Tandleman was the lucky sod who got to taste it first in a pub. He sold his firkin to the CAMRA National Pub of The Year, The Baum, in Rochdale and tasted it on Tuesday before, during and after his local CAMRA Branch meeting. His report whetted my appetite. He’s no mug, and he committed his thoughts on the beer to his excellent blog. Read it here

Tyson has sold his firkin to Trackside in Bury (the bar at the East Lancashire Railway station) and it may hit the bar on Tuesday or Wednesday, I hope to sample it there myself .

However, mine went to Joshua Brooks. I asked that, if possible, it could go on on Friday 05/07/2013 as I REALLY didn’t want to come to Manchester on a school night and have to restrain myself! However, when James tweeted the message on Thursday evening “It’s on!”, I was mortified. I desperately wanted to taste this beer in Joshua Brooks. Some friends also wanted to try it, so we arranged to meet in the pub at 19:00. I felt like an expectant father pacing up and down on a Maternity Ward!

As myself, Colin and his lovely wife Sue entered, it looked quite busy. With a cheery word from the doorman, I hastened to the bar where, someone else had ordered a pint. Irrationally, panic set in. Was there any left? Of course, I needn’t have worried, as the usual dimpled pint mug met the swan neck and the beer was pulled.

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Black, with a reassuring off white creamy head and a lovely subtle chocolate aroma, initial sensory information was promising much. In the mouth, Daddy was a very proud man indeed! A gorgeously creamy texture, lovely chocolaty notes with a dry, quite bitter hoppy finish. I think it’s safe to say that we achieved what we set out to do. We helped to create a quite creamy, dry & hoppy stout. It is a truly lovely beer that is right up my personal beer street. Conversing with Jaz, whose opinions on beer are usually spot on, summed it up for me. He labelled it as a 5 Star beer. He doesn’t rate many as 5 Star!

Those who drank it really enjoyed it and it was gratifying to receive universally excellent feedback. I was a relieved, happy and refreshed man.

20130705_185753(A cracking line up!)

The was an excellent beery lineup as usual. With beers from Allgates (Gin Pit), Ilkley (The Mayan) and the excellent Privateer (Vanilla Jack), there was plenty of choice for me and my pals.

After another Quaker House, I opted for a Gin Pit and The Mayan. Rather strangely, the Gin Pit had virtually no head but tasted superb, with more of the slightly astringent juniper flavour than I recalled when I had it at Trackside. A nice refreshing pint, as is standard from Allgates.

Sue, on returning from the conveniences, told me that there were some artists creating a mural on the walls with marker pens. Intrigued, I had a look….

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(The full wall)

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(Detail – Note the Kim Jong Il lookalike!)

….I had a chat with the two guys who were creating the “Muriel” (ah…Hilda Ogden…). I can’t speak for all, but this looks superb.

The Mayan was a beast of a different hue. A chocolate and chipotle chilli stout at 6.5% abv. Black, with a creamy head (both colour and texture) and huge dark chocolate aroma. Lovely and creamy, lots of chocolate, slightly smoky with a gentle spice heat building the deeper I waded in. First time for me with this beer. I’ve previously seen excellent reports from others on this beer. All justified.

After having the Mayan, I bottled it with the Privateer Vanilla Jack not thinking I could do it justice after such a big beer. Colin gave it a big thumbs up and I will drink that one soon, especially as they’re brewing it again. I decided therefore to venture back to the beery cradle for another Quaker House. Mmmm…lovely!

Me and Jaz Quaker House(Cheers!)

A swift incidental half of Harbour Pale Ale (keg) from Cornwall was my final at JB. Hazy and pale with a lovely mango and grapefruit nose and and really refreshing citrus flavours in the mouth. A really good beer and surprisingly refreshing for a 6% abv beer, nicely balanced. (I DO like an incidental!)

Having heard from Nate Dawg, another excellent beer blogger that there might be some beers from Redwell (new Craft brewer from Norfolk) on in Font, I thought we’d better pop in!

Font was as busy as usual. No sign of the Redwell. Maybe it was in bottles, but I wasn’t in a bottle mood. I spied a Pale Ale Citra by Quantum and looked no further. 4.5% abv and er….pale, more Citra mango and grapefruit aroma. Lovely and smooth, lots of citrus flavours and a nice bitter dry finish. Another belter from Mr Krause.

I hadn’t been to Paramount for a while to have my Paramount (Elland 1872) Porter nightcap, so, I did. It is what it is, this beer. Chocolate, coffee, smoke and OH SO creamy and delicious. A deserved award winner and a permanent at Paramount. £2.60 a pint. It felt like I was stealing it!

With Colin & Sue being my chaperones and guaranteeing my safe return home, we headed off for the usual First Bus chariot. The No 37!

An excellent evening with some of my best friends. My baby tasted superb. Excellent conversations and fun lubricated by superb beer. Tandleman would most certainly approve!

(Courtesy of the generosity of David Mayhall, Allgates Brewery & those nice people at Joshua Brooks, a substantial donation will be delivered to At Anns Hospice tomorrow. A sincere thanks to all involved.)

On that note….’til next time (probably a Bristol pubs write-up)

Slainte!

Full Steam Ahead! – A trip on the East Lancashire Railway to Ramsbottom – 29/06/2013

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The genesis of this trip was when I popped to see Matt Holmes of Ramsbottom Craft Brewery. On the way home, I drove past First Chop and promised myself that I would be back soon. How very right I was! The second pull was the chance to arrive on a steam-driven locomotive. I’m no anorak, but there is something inherently romantic about steam trains, don’t you think? Anyway, when I mooted the possibility, a couple of willing victims (Oops! I meant volunteers!) identified themselves, so I set a course for the weekend after payday.

Arranging to meet Jaz & Jeff (my own craft beer Fresh Princes!) at 12:45 at Trackside (the bar at the Bury end of the ELR), I somehow found myself in Bury a full hour early! Now then, what’s a boy to do? A brief perusal of the Good Beer Guide (hereinafter GBG!) told me that there was a bar called Automatic in the building that was the old Derby Hall….Hmmmm……

Automatic

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I’ve been to the former Derby Hall (now Bury Met) 3 times. First, 07/04/1980. I was 14 and got myself to Bury to see Joy Division at a now legendary gig which was abandoned after 3 songs, one of which was fronted by Alan Hempsall (vocalist with Crispy Ambulance, one of the great unsung Manchester bands!). History tells us that Ian Curtis had a seizure that evening, meaning that the band tried to struggle on once he’d left the stage. Next thing I saw was a pint pot (dimpled!) hurtling towards Tony Wilson who was trying to calm a near riot. I never did get to see a full set by my favourite band. My major musical regret. It was my second gig.

Anyhow, I digress. Walking into Automatic, I had the feeling of walking into a posher small Wetherspoons. Looking every bit the eaterie, two distinctly separate areas here, with the Malt Bar being closed. The main room was all classy colours and wooden tables, clean lines (always handy in a pub, I find!), a bit “restauranty”, but nice enough.

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Noticing the rather scrummy looking Pork Pies, I ordered the “pie & pint” offer (value at £5) with the pint being the house beer, Silver Fox by Outstanding Brewery. The staff pulled a fair bit off (1st pint of the day, I presumed) and served me mine. Hmm…a bit hazy. Not smelling “off”, I gave it a go. Nope. Not as good as Outstanding beers are usually, I took it back and they swapped without quibble – earning some ‘Brownie points’. Next was a beer from a local brewery I had never tried, Steam Plate Bitter from Irwell Works Brewery, described as a Best Bitter at 4.3% abv. Pale gold, with a slightly buttery hop aroma. More like a blonde this for me, more butteriness in the mouth with a clean dry and gently bitter finish.

Nice bar. Local ales (Pennine and Little Valley completing the four handpumps) and a good-looking menu. Nice place.

By this point, Jeff had joined me and fancied some fodder, so we upped and headed off to our next watering hole…..

Trackside

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Located just behind the entrance of the ELR Station on Bolton Road (and accessed via the side road), another new bar to me. Housed alongside Platform 2, this single roomed pub, is long and narrow, with the bar to the rear and had the feel of an ancient English longhouse (read Beowulf) but with 10 handpumped ales.

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(One happy boy!)

So many beers, so little time! We were scheduled for the 13:30 to Ramsbottom, so chose swiftly, but wisely in my case! Allgates Gin Pit at 4.3% abv. A lovely clear golden beer, nice smooth and bitter with more than a hint of what I can only think was the juniper berries that are steeped in the brew. A lovely refreshing pint. Typically Allgates, typically excellent.

Next up, another brewery I hadn’t tasted previously. Hopstar from Darwen with their Lancashire Gold at 4% abv. Golden coloured beer (what else!) that was clean gently hoppy and really refreshing too. I’ll be back for more Hopstar.

20130629_132522(“The train now standing at Platform 4…..”)

The next leg of our journey now beckoned. With Jaz having now joined us (and wolfing his first beer down), we jumped platforms for the train to Ramsbottom. As did a seeming Stag Do dressed in a naval theme! Oh dear, won’t be the last time we see these jolly Jack Tars!

Not the longest of journeys this, but beautiful and scenic. Swiftly passing through Summerseat, where even the air smelled expensive, we were soon in Ramsbottom. Here, I will freely admit, I lost my bearings, being swiftly corrected by Jeff as where I thought was First Chop, was actually an Estate Agents!

First Chop

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(pic moblog.net)

With Jeff the Sherpa leading the way, we finally got there! Two room, with the other being below ground level, this looked like a smart contemporary bar which wouldn’t have been out of place in the Northern Quarter.

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With a slightly smaller selection than Trackside, 4 ales on handpull, with a real cider and a smattering of craft keg. More than enough for me to be getting by! First up for me was one of their own, FCB (First Chop Bitter ?) at 3.6% abv. A bronze colour, this had quite a floral hop aroma and was clean, bitter with a nice dry finish. Brewed at Outstanding in Bury, now that the First Chop Brewing arm have their own brewery (finally!) in Salford, will this now be brewed there?

Next up was another First Chop – well, ‘When in Rome’! AVA at 3.5% abv was pale gold with a lovely tropical fruit hop aroma. Flavour came through with lovely earthy hops and sweet pineapple notes. Superbly refreshing.

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(Would sir like the cask menu?)

Food time! A juicy and spicy Harissa Burger at around a fiver. Excellent.

More beer please! Allgates Pretoria at 3.9% abv. Golden, citrus hop aroma, refreshingly bitter with a clean dry and fruity bitter finish. A really good session beer this, and first time for me I think. (There’s me banging on about not finding Allgates in Freehouses, then 2 on the same day!)

My notes show another AVA….but moving swiftly on…..

I just wish I lived in Ramsbottom. A cracking bar this, small yet perfectly formed. Excellent looking food offering, 4 ales, and a substantial number of real ciders too. Yep, a belter!

A short walk away……

Irwell Works Brewery

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Some of my family have been raving about this place for a while. It was therefore an essential visit. A small side room as you enter (to the left) and up the stairs into the main open room.

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Busy as a chippy in here! As bustling as possible. 8 pumps, 1 of them a cider, 6 Irwell Works own beers and a guest from Bank Top. Once I saw a Stout, there was no looking elsewhere, was there? Let’s be sensible about this! Irwell Works Iron Works Stout at 4.4% abv. Sweet coffee aroma, lots of roasted flavour with a touch of residual sweetness in the mouth. In excellent nick and a cracking pint (or 2!)

20130629_163554(Juliet Balcony anyone?)

A nice busy bar, well worth the visit. Modern, lots of white walls, child friendly. Anything else you want to know?

The train was calling. The last service was at 17:10 and was disappointingly pulled by a diesel! Never mind eh?

Back into Manchester and an ill-advised (by me!) walk to…..

 Joshua Brooks.

You know my thoughts on this bar by now. Reliably excellent beer at an excellent price, with excellent tunes as well. My choice to take my firkin of Allgates Quaker House Oatmeak (or even Oatmeal!) Stout. Next Friday night people!

Hawkshead Lakeland Lager at 5%abv. Cask conditioned lager. Seem to be drinking this a bit recently. Pale gold, butter popcorn aroma. Slightly toffeeish flavour, bit of butterscotch with a clean dry finish.

Pictish Summer Solstice was next at 4.7% abv. A really nicely balanced pale bitter hoppy beer. My favourite of the two. Tune of the day in here, a cover of The Antlers’ “Parentheses” by Tricky, bit of a surprise!

We then nipped into The Font to round off the evening/day.

Rock The Kazbek at 4.0% abv by Redemption from Tottenham. Nice enough pale ale, quite bitter, good condition, but not exceptional for me. Next (and finally) came Cresta Black Stout by Tempest Brewing from Kelso. This was MORE like what the doctor ordered! Black, roasted and lovely stout. A nice finish to the day!

Yes, it was indeed a long day. Not been drinking in Rammy or Bury for years. Was hoping to meet Tyson The Beerhound and Darren from GM Ale News, but, sadly, neither were possible. Never mind eh? We’ll catch up another time (especially with the Quaker House “in the wild” this week!)

An excellent day. Good friends, great beers and great bars in which to drink them. “Back of the net” ass they say!

On that note….’til next time! (Friday night at Joshua Brooks!)

Slainte!

Sunny in Manchester? 07/06/2013 (Or, the best laid plans…Pt2)

The original idea was set some time previous. A colleague wanted to see some of Manchester’s better pubs/bars. As you will see, at least I had a good time!

Word got out of a Works do at Dukes 92.

I couldn’t do it. Whenever I had been there, the beer was simply awful. Arrangements were made to meet afterwards. Needless to say, they didn’t quite work out. Hey ho. There was beer to be drunk, so I obliged!

The afternoon starts off in….

Sandbar.

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Having not been for a while, seemed like a good place tp kick off….

Being a lovely bright sunny day, there were tables outside. What’s more, there were people sat at them! Warm outside, but nice and cool inside with 7 (seven) handpumps on display. As you can see below, an excellent selection. However, I had eyes for a beer I’d had only once before. Tarantula by Privateer.

A Mild, weighing in at 3.5% abv, this was as dark as you might expect with a light cocoa nose. Lovely and smooth in the mouth, a chocolate tinge with a hoppy finish. A nice twist on a dark mild. (Almost a shame it’s only available at Sandbar!)

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(Beer Garden)

Sandbar effectively has 3 room. A large room where the bar resides and two rooms to the rear, which were formed from the addition of the next door premises. Being fairly early in the afternoon, these were quiet. A nice sized beer garden to the end of the bar was enjoyed by a few sunseekers.

Following the Tarantula, decision time. Redacre by Worth Brewery (from Poynton). A 4% deep copper coloured beer. A gently floral aroma was followed by a fruity mouthful, bitter with an increasingly dry herbal grassy finish. Not usually my kind of beer, but nice enough.

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Each time I see Sandbar, there’s something else that impresses me. Today, spotting an excellent jukebox and the notes on the “prayer board” listing the hops used in each beer. A nice touch. Nice friendly bar staff too! Ordinarily, I would have loved to have stayed, but word had reached me of other beers that needed sampling elsewhere….that elsewhere was….?

Joshua Brooks

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Again, quite a few people sat on the balcony overlooking the Medlock, enjoying the rays. Me, I had an alternative agenda!

Canasta Mild from Black Jack Beers. A black beer, slight chocolate nose, lots of roasty stuff going on. Nice and creamy textured, with a dry coffee aftertaste. Another nice Manchester Mild.

That Black jack went well with a lovely Lancashire Cheese and Onion pie from Great North Pie Co with a creamy side of mash. Just what the proverbial medical chap ordered!

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(Solace from Quantum)

Next up, the US Saison from Quantum at 5% abv. I didn’t think this was being casked! Hazy golden coloured, this was a fruity mouthful with a pronounced peachy nose. Really peachy in the mouth too, more so than I remember from a couple of weeks ago. Refreshing, grassy dry finish. A big surprise this. Great tunes in here too. Gold Panda, Yeasayer. Works for me anyway!

Let me repeat. £2.60 a pint. Every Friday! How many times do I have to repeat myself? Eh?

20130607_171438(How comfy does THAT look?)

With no James to mither, we moved on to….

Font

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(Oops – View from Font. Superb graffiti art on the arches!)

Quite busy for the time of day, but still able to get a seat. Just the one here. For me, Black Perle from Weird Beard Brew Co. Only the second beer I’ve had from this Hanwell, West London brewer. And what a belter! A 4.5% abv Milk Coffee Stout. As in a Milk Stout with Coffee! Black, with a gentle coffee aroma. Slightly sweet with a firm coffee kick, this was a lovely creamy mouthful. The coffee in the mouth was like a nice filter, rather than the usual ristretto.It was all the better for it. The tunes in here were quite retro today. Walking in to Peaches by The Stranglers set the tone.

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(DJ Booth – Love the artwork!)

Value was again superb in here. Use of the CAMRA membership rendered the Weird Beard and a pint of a 7.4% from Tempest down to £5.40. Floats MY boat!

We moved onto ….

The Knott

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Hadn’t been for a while. The balcony was busy with sun seekers whilst the bar was fairly well populated also. First choice was Titanic Stout. 4.5% abv, this black beer is an old favourite and didn’t disappoint. Black beer with a beige cream head, this had a lovely smooth creamy texture with a full roasted body with a slight bitter coffee note. An excellent dry stout.

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Next up was Rapture from Magic Rock. At 4.6% abv, I love this beer and have had it on many occasions. It was in really good condition as well. As hoppy as you would like with a big grapefruity nose, good malty body with lots of hops. The balance is on the edge with this but just works so well! £3.80 a pint seemed a tad excessive though. The Castlefield effect I guess.

Whilst the initial plan didn’t work out (though I tried!), as you can tell from the above, the afternoon wasn’t wasted!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

A Day Trip To Stockport – 18/05/2013

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I’m quite nosey me! (Bolton speak!) So when I picked up that Jaz and a group of his colleagues were planning a group tour of Robinsons (henceforth, Robbies) Brewery in Stockport, it set the limited grey matter working. I hadn’t been drinking in Stockport since the mid 80s and this struck me as an ideal opportunity to fill this knowledge gap (at least partly). Jaz made the right noises and I was in!

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Now, this also brought me within the gravitational pull of a certain Mr Jay Krause, Owner, Brewer and all-round hop alchemist at Quantum Brewing – I just had to ask! Didn’t I? Being the ‘good egg’ that he undoubtedly is, he invited Jaz & myself round. Whoo-Hoo! Two breweries in one day. Bargain!

So, I find myself on the train (for a change) and (meeting Jaz at Piccadilly) we set off on the 11:15 Virgin train to London Euston and a mere 10 minutes later, we’re walking up Wellington Road. Bugger me, but that is a hell of a gradient! It’s hardly the Col de la Madeleine, but I was bloody knackered before it levelled off on Hempshaw Lane where the aforementioned Mr Krause weaves his magic.

Let’s say, I struggled to find Quantum, initially! Then I remembered something Jay said about location, retraced my steps and lo! There be casks!

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(Anyone for beer barrel Jenga?)

Jay started this operation in 2011 and has quickly gained a reputation for full flavoured beers with often unusual ingredients – his Blood Orange Pale Ale has entered into legend! (And was the first beer Jaz asked about!) I first saw him at the Leeds International Beer Fest last year behind the bar and enjoyed his Stout hugely. Since then, I’ve had several of his beers and they have all been excellent, in particular his Keyworths Early using an old hop variety that could well make a comeback.

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(LtoR – Hot Liquor Tank and Copper)

Anyhoo! Located in an industrial unit off Hempshaw Lane, just outside (and UPHILL of) Stockport centre, Jay is unmistakably a one man band. I fail to comprehend how I can find so much of his beer in the Manchester area, with the size of his operation. He looks like a hell of an engineer having adapted his own mash tun to suit his own needs. 

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(Self built Mash Tun!)

He dispenses his beer in a variety of formats, Cask, KeyKeg and bottle. The bottles aren’t bottle conditioned, which will certainly help when it comes to chilling them slightly!

A 5 Bbl plant means that he can brew up to 1440 pints per brew, that’s 20 9 gallon firkins (cask) or nearly 1500 bottles! It’s good to hear that he’s making it pay, though he’s some distance off being a ‘beer baron’! This is his day job and he makes it pay by producing excellent beer which is showcased in some of Manchester’s best bars (Port Street, Joshua Brooks and Font, to name but 3!)

I was intrigued to see some of his wooden casks used for some specials. Smoked Porter aged in Caol Ila whisky cask anyone? (Trust me to miss THAT one!)

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As mentioned earlier, he produces a wide variety of tasty beers. In that vein, he allowed Jaz and myself to sample a Saison that is about to be released into ‘the wild’. This is one lovely beer! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with a lovely fruitiness and dry finish. This may be making its way in the world this week. Jaz & I both loved it. The knowledge that it’ll be served in Joshua Brooks was gratefully received. (James’ll tip us the wink, won’t you?)

As stated, Jay’s is a small, true Micro Brewery and he does all the key tasks himself, even down to the bottling. He’s one busy boy and we were really grateful that he took time out to chat with us and answer my idiot novice questions with good grace and a smile! (And a HUGE thanks for the CCC and American Amber! Reviewed soon – as long as Jaz doesn’t drink them first – they’re stored at his flat!)

A genuinely nice bloke running a human scale brewing operation. Look out for his beers, you will NOT be disappointed! (A collaboration brew is in the offing with Allgates, Jay, Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound – Two top brewers and two fables tasters – I may even sit in the bleachers and watch the fun! Watch this space, it’s gonna be superb!)

Now, for the polar opposite?

But first, we had a bit of time to spare before our 13:30 appointment at the brewing behemoth that is Robinsons, so we strolled along to the market place to have a look at the High Peak Beer Co.

I didn’t expect such a small unit! But a superb selection of beers from near and far. Had a bit of chat with (who I presume to be) the owner. Certainly knows his beer this man! Aims to snaffle himself a pub in the peak within the next 5 years with maybe a brew plant out the back. I like it! Said he’d be looking at a bit of a camping facility as well. I’m there already! Picked myself up a bottle of Axe Edge by Buxton Brewery. A cheery wave and we were off to meet our fellow beer tourists in the local Wetherspoons)

Had a nice pint of GWB Meerkat Mild here. Big ol’ Spoons, huge floor area, but 3 milds on, including George Wrights and Titanic. More later.

A short walk from Wetherspoons and we find ourselves at…..

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(Shiny new Visitors centre!)

We were given a few minutes to gather ourselves together (and, no doubt, peruse purchasing opportunities!)

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20130518_133834(Putting the cart before the – absent – horse!)

The Visitor Centre is fairly new. Lots of interactive displays around the walls with an accent on the history and heritage of the brewery. Lots of merchandise for sale from chutneys to t-shirts with most of Robbies bottled beer available to purchase, including the new “collaboration” beer with Iron Maiden, Trooper, which featured prominently as you would expect.

We were gathered together by our tour guide and shown the highways and byways of this, quite large, brewery.

Being a ‘tower’ type brewery (the process flows down with gravity!), there were a LOT of steps. If you have fitness issues (like me!) be prepared for recovery time!

There was a big accent on a recent major brewery refurb, with lots of new, efficient, kit being bought from Germany at great expense. Bright and shiny it was indeed. Industrial. This is a big business. They retained examples of most of the old kit too, which made for a nice contrast, starting at the old and new grist mills (grain grinders). Here we were shown samples of the various malts and encouraged to taste. I loved the bitter coffee flavours of the chocolate malt (surprised?)

We were also encouraged to smell sample a variety of hops. In Robbies case, mostly British with one jar of US (Amarillo). Robbies predominantly use Goldings in their beers.

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(Grist to the mill!)

The Mash Tun and Lauter Tun were next and from this point, you get an idea of the sheer huge scale of this operation. These vessels are HUGE, like icebergs, you only see what’s on the surface.

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(Old & New)

Onward to the brewing vessel (or Copper) where the hops are added to impart their aromas and bitter characteristics. Again, think of icebergs!

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Via the Hop Back room (where the spent hops are removed – like the spent grains at other stages – and sent to farms for animal feed) we were taken to the fermenting vessels. Robbies have loads of FVs and again, they are HUGE! I had to take snaps of working FVs and empty to give you the scale. The FV is where the yeast comes to the party, shakes its booty and turns all those lovely sugars into even lovelier alcohol. There were some gorgeous fruity smells in here with maybe 4 FVs at work. (Robbies also have separate vessels used to brew Fentimans botanic drinks)

20130518_144655(The yeast having a party. Check out the patterns!)

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(An empty FV. That must be 15ft deep!!! That’s a whole lot of happy juice!)

With a quick peep into a Control Room, which looked like the tidiest, cleanest office you’ll EVER work in, we were pretty much done. This is a high-tech, leaner, more environmentally friendly operation than ever.

Then were off to the bar to spend our “tokens”, each of which equated to a 1/3rd of beer. I chose a 1/3rd each of Uncle Sams pale ale, Trooper (The Iron Maiden beer) and Fredericks on keg at 6.5%. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly struck by any of them. A slight preference for the Uncle Sams which was reasonably hoppy and bitter. The Trooper was a maltier brew and fine for what it is. The Fredericks was overly cold and, for 6.5%, I didn’t get much at all.

The bar/restaurant area was quite a nice space. If open to the public (aside from tours) this could be a nice little earner. The beer is in good nick (as you would expect) and the food (limited to sandwiches today) looked quite good.

A couple of observations –

1. This a slick tour around a grand old institution which has been brought bang up to date. The tour is pretty much pitched at the curious novice with little or no knowledge. For that market, it is a fabulous lesson in the chemistry of beer. I spoke to a couple of people afterwards who found it really informative. For me (a relative novice with a modicum of knowledge), I would have liked more detail. For one thing, I asked a basic question about the cost of the refurb. The guide didn’t have the answer to hand. Things like that should be standard. With just a little extra polish, what was quite a good tour, could be a lot better.

2. Robbies are obviously on the rise, both nationally and internationally. The hook up with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden is VERY astute. This could help Robbies penetrate abroad with that HUGE Iron Maiden fan base and also into live music venues. There has been a big push with Trooper and in all likelihood, it will pay off. Massively.

Moving onwards and (literally) upwards, we popped back into the Spoons to meet up with some more people and (after a nice pint of George Wrights Mild & a sour pint of Titanic Mild – taken off on mentioning!) we were off to….

The Crown

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(A Stockport Institution)

A lovely old pub. Lots of leather and wood inside with a vast number of handpumps (too many to count!), I plumped for a pint of Millstone Stout and we eventually settled our, now enlarged group into the room to the right of the bar – where lurked two handpulls dedicated to real cider.

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(rear room)

The Millstone Stout at 4.5% was lovely. Creamy full texture, slight coffee in that nice roasted flavour with a dry finish. A really good stout. and just what was needed.

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(Nice & busy on a Saturday afternoon!)

The consensus was to move on at this point. So that’s what we did!

The Magnet

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Another pub after my own heart. Multi-roomed with a plethora of handpulls. Busy again with chatter the order of the day (as well as Tittertons Pork Pies!). Well behaved dogs allowed in as well, which was a nice touch. Busy at the bar, I plumped for a BlackJack Canasta Mild at 3.8% abv. Dark, buttery roasted aroma with a nice texture, lots of roasted malt flavour with a nice dry finish.

20130518_173826(Busy bar – lots of handpulls!)

Ina slightly lower level was a pool table, where we settled our rabble down to a game of killer. I lost (as you would expect!). The pub has a lot going for it, lots of good beer and choice of rooms with different atmospheres. The only slight issue I had, was there was a little wear and tear showing, especially with the plaster work. I wonder if the money is available to do this work? Not to take away too much from what is an excellent boozer.

We stayed for one more here, so I had an Oakham beer. Sock Monkey at 5% abv. Golden and bright, a citrus grapefruit aroma from what I thought was citra hops, a lovely mouthful of biscuity sweetness balanced with a grapefruit hoppyness. Typically Oakham, typically excellent. If we hadn’t stayed, I probably wouldn’t have spotted the nice decking area outside!

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(Well. Summer IS on the way. Isn’t it?)

Back to Manchester on Northern Rails’ finest. A quick snack from Sainsbury in Piccadilly station and off to a pub I’ve not been to in yonks!

The Bulls Head

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Judging by the beer selection, this is a Marstons pub. Fortunately for me, Jaz had chosen wisely and got me a pint of Marstons Single Hop Amarillo at 4% abv. Pale, gold and with abundant fruity hop aroma. Nice and refreshing. 2nd Single hop Marstons I’ve had recently. Enjoyed both.

Last time I came in, the pub was two roomed. Now it’s one open space with the large bar to the rear. Nice leaded windows, muted dark colours, reds and browns, quite warm feeling. Nice slightly elevated are to the front with (what looked like) a real fire range.

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It was here that the group split up. Some for home, some for food and some (guess who?) for Joshua Brooks! (Via Jaz flat to drop bottles off – amazed they got back!)

Joshua Brooks

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The magnet that pulled us in was the Baby Belgian by Offbeat Brewery. At 8% I bottled it (not literally – I’d have spilt some!), the indefatigable Jaz went that way, I went for the Last Porter Call by Titanic. Fruity, very fruity. Damsons or plums. Not much discernable roasty stuff going on. But then, it WAS late in the day! A nice beer at 4.9%.

Oakham Brewery Bishops Farewell was next. 2 Oakham in one day. Yay! Again, pale, hoppy and balanced with sweet biscuit malt. Another Oakham, another excellent pale bitter brew!

One more for my baby and one for the road. The baby in question, being another Baby Belgian for Jaz the Indefatigable (now looking rather fatigued!), the one for the road being Obsidian black IPA by Hop Studio from York. As far as the stuff in bars goes, the beer of the day. Both citrus AND coffee on the nose with bitter hops in the mouth and a slightly bitter coffee in the aftertaste. REALLY good this!

I know what to expect from Joshua Brooks (as should you, by now!) Tonight was fairly busy again, with a few coming in just before I left, for a beer prior to going downstairs to the club. More excellent beer.

At this point, I had to dash for my chariot. Past lots of young things on their way to JBs

An excellent day out, finished off nicely. The Old parts of Stockport are actually rather pretty, nice town. Hope to be back soon to explore more.

Beer of the day. Unfair really, but it was the taste of Saison from Quantum. Lovely. In the pubs it was Obsidian by Hop Studio. An excellent Black IPA. Last beer of the evening as well. How weird is that!

On that note….If you, like I, are at the BlackJack MTB at Port Street on Monday, say hello! If not….’til next time…

Slainte!

There And Back Again…..Wave Goodbye, Say Hello! (aka Port Street to Kosmonaut) 01/02/2013 / & More Bottles

It started with a Facebook post – something like  “Me & Holly are coming up on Feb 1st, fancy a few beers”?

Once I had thought through the numerous possible responses – featuring Bears/Woods, Pope/Catholic etc etc, I started to think about where these particular two nouvelle metropolitaines might like to go. Myself and Ben (a DJ) have similar musical tastes, so bars/pubs with decent grooves had to feature, as did, for me at least, good beer of course.

Then a liquid spanner was thrown in the works, when a colleague announced his ‘leaving do’ on the same day. With a 4 o’clock start to boot! If I wasn’t careful, this could turn VERY messy. However, having negotiated a starting point in Port Street Beer House, that meant I couldn’t finish in one of my usuals, I needed to think. And I knew just the beer to aid my contemplation…..

Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(Archive footage courtesy of ‘Yours Truly’)

Whilst I am ALWAYS open to new alcohol related opportunities, there are some beers that simply CANNOT be ignored. So, at £4.20 a pint (still a bargain for a classic!), we come to one of my favourite beers Ilkley Siberia. Brewed in collaboration with the beer writer/Sommaleier Melissa Cole, the beer is naturally hazy and uses rhubarb to impart a sour note. For me, it was love at first sip when I had it for the first time, last year, in Paramount on Oxford Rd. I also had it last week at the National Winter Ales Festival when I thought it slightly lacking sharpness. But at the liquid heaven that is Port Street, WOW!

This was far sharper than at NWAF and, or so I thought, there was even more rhubarb sourness. Have Ilkley tweaked the recipe? I didn’t think that this could get better. But it has, in spades. Whilst about to order my next beer, a more mature gent (not difficult, that!) commented that he had bought it earlier and couldn’t drink it! I mumbled something along the lines of “matter of taste”. The man must be MAD!!! 5.9% abv, hazy, tart and refreshing…and that rhubarb….just do your taste buds a favour! Next beer…..

Jaz had the Hand Drawn Monkey Belgian Brown Ale at 5.5% then the Siberia. I went for the Kirkstall Dissolution IPA. 5% abv a mid brown beer, quite a spicy hop aroma. The flavours surprised me. Had a slight sweetness to it that I wasn’t expecting . Delicious and refreshing, I was almost expecting to be assaulted by hops, but this was a bit more relaxed than assertive.

The  ‘leaving do’ had moved on toward The Oast House, but, strangely, my plans were elsewhere orientated. Having been taunted by my (male) victim of the evening, questioning the type of hostelry I was going to take him to, I made contact and discovered he was in Piccadilly with his partner. Burrito in belly, he started walking with us  towards Princess St, but after approximately 300 yards, ‘The Thirst’ gripped me. So we diverted to…..

The Molly House

(Pic – Origin Unknown)

Just within the area known locally as ‘The Village’, on Richmond Street, I have only been here once previously. A really relaxed bar on two levels with a third (club venue) in the basement. After entering this evening, I silently thanked Dave the monocled quizmaster at The Salford Arms for pointing me this way. The gentle hum of chatter and background music was enhanced by the availability of somewhere to sit! There were a good number of people in the ground level bar, but it was far from packed – fairly early I suppose – so I settled to order. My choice was a Redwillow Faithless XVI* (see correction below) at 4.4%. Black, earthy, with a hazelnut hint in the roasted malty aroma, this was a beguiling stout with some nuttiness and a gentle smoky tinge to the aftertaste. Superb.

A note of caution now. The pumpclip was Faithless with the number covered. I lifted it to show XVI and asked the barman, who said it was that number. (Update- following an exchange with Redwillow, it transpires that this was ACTUALLY Redwillow Faithless XVII (17) not XVI (16). This IS the Beetroot Stout at 5.2% abv, made with 18kg of beetroot! Renders the next sentence a bit redundant really!!!)

The Faithless range are experimental beers brewed for fun, I presume and allow the brewery to play with flavours. Well, I can’t wait for Faithless XVII as Mr McKenzie has gotten even MORE playful and made it with BEETROOT. Stout and beetroot…can’t wait! (Faithless XVIII is in the brewing at the moment – details awaited!!!) There may now be an average of one per month of the Faithless range.

Just one in here, both Holly and Ben seemed to like the venue and (as importantly) the beer, but we move on, to……

Joshua Brooks

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It was here that I started to play my trump cards – being host to this particular (Guildford based) couple! This was Ben’s round (I think). The cost made his jaw droop ever so slightly! £10.40 for FOUR pints! Of excellent beers! Now. Tell me what’s not to like? Hmm? *tumbleweed drifts across blog page*

First up for me was the Raw Brewery NYPA a pale ale at 3.8%, this was nice and refreshing with a nice body, hoppy with a nice lingering hoppy dryness in the aftertaste. I don’t think I’ve had Raw beers before, so that was another first at JBs!

My gregarious companions (by now, the banter was flying across the table like arrows on a medieval battlefield!) seemed to be enjoying the Beer Geek brewery Geek Unique, so I had to try one (didn’t I?). This was a darker beer altogether, being quite amber to brown coloured. A maltier brew, some spicy hop in there but also slightly nutty with a slight bonfireish smokiness. We could have stayed for more…there were beers from DoubleTop, First Chop and Marble breweries on the bar, but we move on…but not before…..

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The ID Parade

(It was her in the middle wot did it Officer – honest!)

Font

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Font is rapidly becoming one of my favourite bars, if not THE favourite. And this has nothing to do WHATSOEVER to do with the discount on the beer for card-carrying CAMRA members (honest!) This has just as much to do with a) the sheer quality of the real ales / bottles on offer, and b) The fantastic tunes spun by the DJs. Now, being honest, I should be WAY too old to love a place like this, but love is a many splendoured thing!

The lovely Holly got this round in. She sported a ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin as she returned with change from £10! I think Jaz and myself were building up some ‘cred’ credits for choice of venues by this point!

Now, as usual on a Friday / Saturday evening, it was absolutely PACKED. We parked ourselves at the base of the stairs for somewhere to stand, but had to move on, so we went downstairs, where, shockingly, we found an empty table! Only one mind, because it was even more rammed down here!

The beer? For me it was Gold by Hop Studio brewery at 4.5% abv. This was pale, with some peachy aromas on the nose. (Reminded me of tinned peaches as a kid). Some hoppy dryness in here, some peachy / nectarine type flavour (from the hops?), but more than that I couldn’t figure.

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(A GPO – Post Office – weighing machine ! Love the details!)

Decision time. Where to go next? We wanted to go toward Piccadilly, cos Ben & Holly were staying at The Malmaison. But where? We’d done Port Street (well, me & Jaz). Being a tad younger than us, we plumped for….

Kosmonaut

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(Archive shot – The camera lost power!!!)

Although this bar does do real ale – normally something from Sheffield’s Kelham Island – bottles, cocktails and ambience are the thing here. Located on Tariff Street (close to Port Street) this is a bar with pumping tunage – R&B this evening – and a fabulous selection of bottled beers and cocktails. I went for a Schneider Weisse Tap 7, Jaz for a Thornbridge Jaipur with Ben and Holly on the Whisky Mac cocktail. This was a relatively short stop as there was the small matter of my chariot waiting (courtesy of First Transport.

The Schneider Weisse was a really nice wheat beer with some nice spicing and a hint of orange zest and at approx 5.5% was tonight’s sleeping draught of choice.

I think that I had achieved the objective of showing my southern based companions around some excellent pubs/bars, with excellent tunes and superb beers. They were certainly surprised and had expected some “spit & sawdust”. I was almost sorry to disappoint them!

They moved off to their nearby hotel (long day!) which prompted me to head toward Piccadilly and the weed reeking 37 bus home!

On that note….and having enjoyed several  breweries new to me!  ….Til next time (& replenished bank balance!)

Slainte!

More Bottle Blather

I do like a nice bottle, now and again, to while away the time between ‘strolls’. The following beers have been recent highlights.

1. Nogne O Imperial Stout – 9%abv

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Purchased during my last trip to the mighty Beer Shop in Heaton Moor, this is a satanically black beer with a tan coloured head (as you can see, of course. Doh!) The aroma of licorice and leather draws you in for a sip – and this is a sipping beer! A lovely creamy texture in the mouth with a flavour (initially) of licorice and bitter chocolate. The further down into the Hades like darkness that I ventured, I got some really lovely strong espresso like coffee tones. A truly majestic beer from this Norwegian brewery and a veritable bargain at (then) £5 for 500ml.

2. Harviestoun – Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 – 8%abv

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This special porter is derived from Harviestoun’s own Old Engine Oil Porter and is aged in wooden casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 18 Yr Old Single Malt whisky.

On pouring, this looked impenetrably black with a small tan head. The aroma was of treacle toffee with a smoky edge. Earthy in the mouth with some caramel toffee and a peaty smokiness in a full bodied creamy texture. The further down the glass you go, that woody, whisky cask flavour starts to warm you, not overpoweringly so. But just like a sip of a good smoky single malt, it lingers awhile.

This is a definable progression from Old Engine Oil (a beer I love). A classy beer indeed and already a contender for beer of the year in my book!

3. Stone Brewing – Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale – 7.2%abv

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My youngest, has decided to start collecting beer bottle tops (nothing to do with me!). He has quite a collection, having received a good number from my buddy Colin. However, THIS was one he had been waiting for! The bottle top which read “Arrogant Bastard Ale”. I had to smile when handing it over!

This is my first Stone beer and was again purchased on my last trip to the Beer Shop. It’s a deep ruby colour with a pale creamy head upon pouring. Some spicy hop and fruit in the nose. On tasting, there was a substantial hoppiness with some fruit. Then some treacle. There was also a flavour which reminded me of a certain boiled sweet that I couldn’t nail down. An excellent beer all in all. Just as I finished the glass, I started to detect a coffee liqueur type flavour! Yum.

4. Blakemere – Chilli Chocolate Stout – 5%abv

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Finally. Returning to a  more local beer now. This one from Cheshire and bought from Bents Garden Centre just off the East Lancs Rd in Glazebury. This is, again, a black beer with a tan/cream coloured head on pouring. There was some cayenne spice in an otherwise (unsurprisingly) roasted malt aroma. The flavour was smooth and chocolatey. But no spice. Then I started to feel quite warm inside! Very subtle and nicely done. This could easily have been harsh (as some other chilli beers) and undrinkably macho and spicy. Instead it’s a lovely balanced effort.

Stroll from Portland Street to St Peter’s Square – 12/01/2013

Yes. Yet more of my blathering on!

The previous weekend, I entered into a pact with my diminutive darling, Atilla.

No drinking during the week. No bottles, no nothing. Other than thirst!

I entered into this pact willingly (if somewhat stupidly), but, on the first available evening to break my fast, I wound up being an after midnight taxi service for Atilla!  However, the opportunity to earn brownie points couldn’t be passed up. So, rather than sip a bottle or two, I cash in my chitty and plonked myself on the 37 bus to good old Manchester, my liquid home.

I left the organising of this stroll to Jaz, who took the opportunity to factor in a pub I hadn’t been into since 22/04/2005 (it was a MEMORABLE end to the day, trust me!) and one I hadn’t previously visited. So, at 7 o’clock, I find myself walking along Portland Street and entering the pub I hadn’t been in since my 40th birthday drink……

The Grey Horse

(image – marthamusing.blogspot.com)

2 days after my 40th birthday, was the last time we did the “Rail Ale” crawl from Leeds. This pub was where the ‘do’ disintegrated following a contretemps with a BNP St Georges Day outing. The event stays embedded in my subconscious (unsurprisingly!), but I drifted away from regular drinking in Manchester sometime around then. The Grey Horse was a pub I frequented regularly up to that point, a vibrant, often boisterous but always friendly boozer with more of the feel of ‘a local’ than any other pub in Town.

On approach, it was nice to see that one thing had certainly not changed…..lace curtains at the windows! Up the steps into the instantly familiar small space. It’s a single room pub with the small bar to the left and tables snaking around the back wall facing the bar area. The place was packed. That much hasn’t changed either. The Horse is a Manchester drinking institution and has been for as long as I’ve been drinking. The pub is a throwback to the 80s and beyond. I felt like I was stepping back in time.

Jaz was already at the bar and furnished me with a pint of “Winter Cheer”, the Xmas seasonal offering from Hydes. Also on the bar on handpull were ‘Original’ and ‘1863’, both bitters. The Winter Cheer was 4.4% abv and had a distinctive red colour. Being a winter seasonal beer I was expecting some clove or cinnamon spicing with maybe some citrus peel. If I’m honest, I didn’t get much of anything really, a bit of forest fruit perhaps, it just reminded me any number of malty ‘bitters’ from the 80s. Disappointing first beer of the evening. On the upside, there was a bit of a birthday do going on and the raucous singalong rendition of The Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk” was a thing of joyous beauty!!! The staff were really friendly as well.

The Horse is a truly great place to drink. Just a shame that the beer didn’ t drink great!

Beating the retreat, we headed across Portland Street into the Village towards Richmond Street and……

The Molly House

(Image – Spottedbylocals.com)

This pub was recommended to me by Dave, the monocled quizmaster at The Salford Arms. It occupies two floors, but we only went in at ground level. By no means as rammed as The Grey Horse, the bar had a really relaxed feel, a few tables, a couple of comfy chairs and some bench tables at the back. The bar has a reputation for food and the kitchen is on this level. Five handpumps with 2 beers from both Beartown and Redwillow and one from Dunham Massey – all 5 beers from Cheshire micros!

Given my love of ‘The Dark Side’ (and the fact I’d never tasted their beers on draught), I opted for Dunham Massey ‘Dark’

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(What IS this vogue for dimpled glasses???)

This is a nice mild, with some hints of chocolate both on the nose and in the mouth. A fabulous brown to almost black beer (as you can see!), reasonably thin in texture as you might expect at 3.8% abv, but a nice smooth drink, more than making up for the earlier diappointment – the stroll was back on track!

The Molly House also has an exceptional range of spirits lined up behind the bar……

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and as much as I fancied a shot of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, duty called, one I was looking forward to as we returned to…….

Joshua Brooks

(Image – joshuabrooks.co.uk)

Having cut through the Village and headed up Princess Street, it was quite a surprise to find the bar sparsely populated. This bemuses me. This bar serves a variety of well kept ales, local micros mostly, has lots of comfy seating and a relaxed air. (Though I’m sure the venue downstairs gets more lively!) I can only think that this is to do with it’s location, just outside the centre and 150 yards from Oxford Road. If only people knew……

First up for me was ‘Redcurrant Stout’ by Clarence & Fredericks (South London brewer). This beer at 5.4% abv is an inviting black ale. A malteser aroma. So far so good….then you taste. Tart! No, I mean the flavour – not me! That’ll be the redcurrants then! Blackcurrants too. Quite astringent from the fruits, but paradoxically, quite smooth feel in the mouth. The flavour (if not the appearance, reminded me almost of a Lambic. A challenging but rewarding beer. Books and covers eh?

Being now my round, I thought I’d play my Joker card! I introduced myself to James at the bar and collected a membership card – there are benefits to this. trust me, I’m a beer doctor! I had a chat with James, bloody nice bloke. We had a bit of a beery and social media chat. I had never been in the venue downstairs so he kindly offered to show me around the club in the basement. A proper small venue that reminded me of 80s live music venues like The Boardwalk. Thanks James!

Anyway, to the strains of great background tunage like Phoenix, Little Dragon and Sleigh Bells, I settled down to a pint of Redwillow Heartless. Comfortingly smooth and chocolatey Stout at 4.9% abv. I’ve written about this previously (see Best Little Beerhouse…), so suffice to say, I will order this whenever I see it. It’s THAT good!

Enjoying oursleves hugely, we decided to have one more. For me, this was another beer from Privateer (previously a first time brewer for me – at The Salford Arms last month). This time ‘Roebuck’ a palish (is that REALLY a word???) brew at 3.8%. As soon as I ordered it, I worried it was a mistake to drop down the abv range. However, this beer improved all the way down the glass. Full of flavour with a really nice malt/hop balance. This would make an excellent ‘session’ beer (for those who do such things – me? Never!). Thanking James and the other bar staff, we headed off into the night toward……

The Font

(Image – manchesterbynight.com)

If it was ever going to get messy, this was the place it would start! The cause? Hawkshead XBP, an extra special ‘Imperial’ version of Brodies Prime. 8.5%  abv of danger!

Jaz was up for a pint! The angel on my shoulder told me this was a bad idea, so we settled on a compromise. A 1/2 of Hawkshead each with a pint of something else, Jaz went for the Quantum, I went for the Rapture by Magic Rock. Clutching our two glasses each, we descended to locate a space – blood and sand it was HEAVING!

Described as a ‘Red Hop Ale’ and 4.6 % abv, Rapture has a deep amber/red colour and loads of hoppy flavour. I had this at Port Street a few months back (at a similar stage of consciousness!) and the sharp flavour was superb. Same here. Another superb beer from Magic Rock.

Now the Hawkshead XBP? A lovely slightly sweet, quite nutty and coffeeish beer. Cafe au lait colour to the head, coffee aroma with some hazelnut, a REALLY creamy texture. This is a beer to adore and fear in equal measure! A fabulously dangerous mouthful of dark flavours. Not to be taken lightly, but certainly one to return to…repeatedly!

As usual, Font was virtually full to bursting…4 deep at the bar…lots of cocktail shaking going on. The CAMRA Card discount makes this place ludicrously good value for Manchester. 3 pints for £8? And one of those at 8.5% abv? How do they do it? Must be MAGIC! The usual great tunage (some classic old school hip-hop !) and a queue to get in. Reminded me of The Hacienda back in 1982! (But without the good beer!)

Next….

Paramount

If you’ve read this blog before, you can guess what happens here! Paramount Porter (aka Elland 1872). Creamy, dark, roasted, dangerously moreish and (at 6.5% abv) probably ill-advised! But sod it, I don’t get out THAT much really, do I? The evening was descending into madness by now, but, with 1/2 hour to spare, we nipped into the other local ‘Spoons,

The Waterhouse, but….memory fails me! Ah yes, Saltaire New World Red. Red ale, nicely sharp and bitter (owing to mix of hops from Oz, US and New Zealand). 5.2% abv and my nightcap of choice this evening! Just as I started to settle, that angel on the shoulder reminded me that the last bus was imminent………quick step, then the 37 home! I hope my drunken tweeting made sense!

Oh, for a change, all my worldly goods got home this time! (Wallet, Phone etc….long story!)

On that note ….. Until next time (probably near The National Winter Ales Festival)

Slainte!