Historic Manchester Pubs- Pt 2 – 08/05/2014

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 (corridor – The City Arms)

“I wish that I could push a button and talk in the past and not the present tense.

And watch this hurting feeling disappear, like it was common sense.

It was a fine idea at the time, now it’s a brilliant mistake.”

(“Brilliant Mistake”  – The Costello Show ft The Confederates)

(Hyperlink video courtesy of  lisap2468 on YouTube)

Coming 2 years after the (rather harshly derided) “Goodbye Cruel World” – liner notes in the re-issue stating “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.” – “King of America” was, stylistically, a bold move by one of my favourite artists – if not quite as left field as the C&W album “Almost Blue”. There is almost no comparison between his Americana tinged 1986 classic and the likes of his bigger selling early albums like “This Years Model” & “Armed Forces” (I was strangle never overly struck on his biggest single “Olivers Army” – preferring the delights of “Accidents Will Happen”)

King of America is certainly my favourite Costello album. The lyrics (as usual) pin sharp and the subject matter spanning the range of emotions from the love-struck “Lovable” to the heart-wrenching end-of-relationship “Indoor Fireworks”, this is simply a stunning album that dragged me back into the Costello fold and is a diamond amongst the dross of late ’80s “music”. I wondered why he would want to play with members of his namesake Presley’s band The TCB Band, then I listened. the results are, quite simply, lovely. For me, the greatest album by a man who should be treated as a national treasure.

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I’m getting to that time of life when I’m meeting old colleagues at retirement dos with increasing regularity. I tend to pick and choose the ones that I go to. The sole criteria being respect. Last nights event, though I didn’t stay long, was for an utterly stand-out bloke. Unfortunately, however, the event was to be held in the Spinningfields branch of Slug & Lettuce. My sinking heart needed to be buoyed. So I floated it in the excellent Salford Arms with some colleagues of the current vintage.

Excellent pints of Black Jack Blackbird Stout (beautifully roasted and creamy with just the right amount of bitterness) and Zool by Tiny Rebel (fabulously fruity and hoppy pale ale) set the stage. As ever, both beers excellently kept by Tom – I haven’t been in for a while, but some things never change – excellent Steak & Onion ciabatta BTW – he just keeps the beer superbly in here. An essential staging post en route to Manchester.

Next up was a stop off in the re-opened Mark Addy. Again, excellent pints of Dark Revenge by Privateer (just SO smooth, coffee roast and ever so slightly hoppy and bitter – a class beer), Cascade by Blackedge (beautifully hopped, light and refreshing – probably my favourite pale by them on cask so far) and a nice hoppy Pale Ale by Shiny Brewing of Derby at 4.5% – the name of which escapes me. These were all bolted down – something I rarely do, for fear of the inevitable consequences! A really nice surprise was meeting Pete Killip behind the bar – someone with whom I’ve had many a pleasant social media exchange, but hadn’t met. Nice bloke, glad to see him back behind the MA bar. Good to see the Mark Addy open at all!

The do was…well, it WAS in the Slug….not my venue de choix! One (untried) cask ale by Hardy & Hansons (St George Ale, I think), meeting old colleagues was great and chatting to some with whom I’ve shared many a beery misdemeanour over the years was just a pleasure. It’s sad that I’m at that stage of life, when meeting old friends tends to be at Retirements or Funerals, but good people are always that, good people.

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Over a year ago, I did a piece on a mini-crawl around some of Manchester/Salford’s older pubs and planned to do a follow up (or Pt 2) soon afterwards. Well, this IS that sequel. A bit long in the making, but, safe to say, I enjoyed the making of this one a bit more than the last!

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The Rising Sun (Queen St/Lloyd St)

Manchester. The Rainy City. The umbrella in the shot says it all. It was wet. Very wet, as I sprint walked up towards the Rising Sun. I had kept the Arch-Nemesis waiting for over half an hour and felt a tad guilty. Good man that he is, if he had a grudge, he hid it well and had got me a pint of Mill Town Mild by Howard Town Brewery of Glossop.  A lovely mild, dark brown in colour, all toffee malt, caramel and chocolate in a light body at 3.5%, with little bitterness. A fine example of a Northern Mild from this local brewery.

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The ‘Sun is what can be described as a “cut” pub, with an entrance on both streets, originally designed to draw in passing trade from both streets. It is a single roomed and narrow pub with confusion surrounding its initial opening as a pub (with dates as early as 1684 being mentioned – which would indeed make it Manchester’s oldest by a distance). Logic dictates that this is probably wrong as, apparently, this part of Manchester was undeveloped at that time. I prefer to go with the date of the excellent Pubs of Manchester which gives it a date of approximately 1777. Bloody hell, the year after the US Declaration of independence!

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(This is so cute! I want it!!!)

The pub has had a refurb in the past couple of years and looks as good as I’ve ever seen it (Been drinking here – on & off – for 30 years). Nice neutral colours a few tables and comfy chairs. a couple of unobtrusive (ie: not gigantic) TVs. It’s a cracking little bolt hole, although one that is hardly a secret anymore, being 30 seconds from Deansgate and popular with the after office set. Good boozer. (Lovely tiled loos too….the toilets say a lot about a pub, ask Mrs BM!)

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Next on the list was a bit of a walk to clear out a few beer induced cobwebs. All the way across to Great Bridgewater Street, where, in the shadow of the mighty Bridgewater Hall (AND Manchester Central!), there are two gems amidst all the modernity….

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The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)

Still wet (well, it IS Manchester!), the walk was turned into a thirst-inducing power walk, the quicker to get out of the wet and into the dry!

The Britons is simply stunning. Standing in isolation and unprepossessing from the outside, it is simply BEAUTIFUL inside!

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Apparently dating from 1811 (see here courtesy http://manchesterhistory.net/), this is a true multi-roomed pub with the main room being fairly narrow with a long bar and, unusually, two entrances at the front with one giving direct access to the bar from the street.

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(gorgeous isn’t it?)

Again, another pub I’ve been coming in for 30 or so years. Even when it was a Tetley house, the beer was superb, The usual semi-macro suspects adorn the bar, with Robbies Unicorn & Jennings Cumberland (I think) to the right. My eyes alighted on the two pumps to the left that were adorned by local; micro clips, Privateer & Outstanding being the two tonight. Having already had a Privateer, I opted for the Outstanding Brewery and its 3.9. A very pale ale at (shock!) 3.9% abv, passion fruit nose and orangey refreshing bitterness in the mouth. Just what the doctor ordered to slake the thirst. Outstanding do the simple things very well, they make damn good beer.

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A warm and friendly pub with loads of beautiful decorative features, stained and leaded glass windows here, a real fire there….the two rooms to the rear are rarely empty and are great places to have a sit down and chat with friends. Beautiful pub, friendly staff, excellent beer, do you want anything else?

Maybe whiskies? The pub has a reputation for its wide variety and huge selection. Tonight I could see why!

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Next pub, fortunately, wasn’t too far away on this damp evening!

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Peveril of the Peak (Chepstow Street)

Apparently dating from the early 19th century (again, thanks to manchesterhistory.net), this wedged shape multi-roomed pub holds a special place in my drinking history – more later!

Beautiful green enamelled tiling adorns the outside, with lots of wood and warm tones inside and more original type features than you could shake a proverbial wotsit at….The bar football table (covered over tonight) is legendary in Manchester and has been a draw as far back as I can remember. The beer choice leaves something to be desired – could they make room for a local micro on the bar? Best option tonight was a pint of Deuchars IPA, with all the local micros around, not ordinarily my first choice, but do you know what, it was a rather pleasant refreshing pint, in tip-top condition. Golden, bittersweet and refreshing. More than did the job!

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Another rarity in the city centre is the pool table in the back room (probably, the largest room in the pub. The front room (with the main bar area) curves around the bar. There is a further (rather beautiful) third room, triangular in shape, with a real fire, small, but perfectly formed – a bit like this rather unique old boozer.

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That thing about a special place in MY drinking history!

In December 1981, I was due to see a band called Pigbag at the club on Oxford Road that used to be called Rafters. They got snowed in in Bristol, Dislocation Dance stepped in and a musical love affair commenced! However, Pigbag rescheduled for early 1982 and a few of us went to see them. Now, I do NOT condone under-aged drinking……yawn!…….but we started the night in The Pev. I was drinking Carlsberg. A good pal of mine, Smudge (take a bow Martin Murray!) was drinking a brown liquid that looked rather nice. Passing me his pint of what I learned was Wilsons Bitter, I took a taste. It was creamy textured and rather lovely. I put the Carlsberg down and ordered a pint. It was my Damascene conversion. I never drank Carlsberg again. 32 years later….

As I needed a bank for some funds, my original plan had to change, as there was no machine en-route to The City Arms. Thinking on my feet, we headed to another gem – one that had been a tad controversial recently.

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The Lass O’Gowrie (Charles Street)

According to the map contained here (manchesterhistory.net again!), the Lass has been around since at least the mid 1800s, when the area was (patently) more residential, with workers housing (no doubt staffing the mills at the end of the street).

The Lass is another beautiful old pub, but one that’s been knocked about a bit inside. Recently given a bit of a facelift following the rather controversial removal of the previous landlord, The Lass looks like it might regain some of its erstwhile popularity, lost no doubt following the relocation of Auntie to Salford Quays. I still remember the fond days of the 80s when, before The Marble Arch started brewing, The Lass was the original Brewpub. They may have been made from Malt Extract, but LOG 35 & 42 added much-needed variety to the beery diet dominated by Boddingtons and the national brewing conglomerates.

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Last time I entered, there was only one local micro on, it may have even been the only beer, but tonight things looked a little healthier, with the Arch-Nemesis buying me a pint of Cherry Baby from Blakemere  (Northwich, Cheshire). Chestnut hued, with a huge fruity aroma (yes, cherries), this was an excellent lightly roasty mild with plenty of cheery flavour. Perked up my flagging taste buds!

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Good footy related chat with some guys in the small room (bottom left of pic above!)

The Lass is looking up. It was a bit quiet, but on a Thursday evening, where (other than Port Street) gets busy? Nicely decorated, beer in excellent nick, a nice option on the Oxford Rd corridor.

I couldn’t pass Joshua Brooks without going in eh? Glad I did, as there was a First Chop beer on the bar that I hadn’t had. TOC was the beer. Typical of Rik Garner’s paler offspring, golden, fruity as hell (oranges and tangerines) with a hoppy and bitter finish. Brewed for The Other City festival recently, there may not be much of this about. It was lovely and in great nick, as usual with JB. Great to see the quality being maintained following Jon Turner’s departure.

Still a bit moist, though no longer throwing down stair rods, a bit of a walk to the next pub.

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The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

Located just off Princess Street/St Peters Square, in a parallel universe, this would be an undiscovered gem. In this real timeline, this pub has been hugely popular in the 30 years that I’ve known it Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) the pub occupies what was an 18th century town house, being known as a pub from the late 19th century.

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2 main drinking areas here, the main bar area with 8 handpumps on the go, with the second room accessed by a couple of steps down. Like the Britons Protection, 2 entrances here, with the one to the left giving access to a serving hatch, enabling people to use this as an overspill from the frequently busy main rooms.

The main bar area is sparsely furnished and serves as the main (mostly vertical) drinking area. On a busy evening, it’s best to use the left hand entrance, to avoid the struggle of entering a (justly) rammed pub!

On entry tonight, I was a bit rude. I didn’t scan the pumps. My eyes hit AllgatesAll Black Mild (well, May is Mild Month!). I love this beer and needed look no further – ticking be damned! Black, light chocolate and coffee notes with a hoppy kick from the use of New Zealand hops (hence the name!). I generally have it wherever I find it. A beautiful beer that cut through the clagged up taste buds at this late stage of the evening!

NB : The City has been garlanded by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA Branch as their Pub of the Year 2014. This particular member from Bolton lauds this fine choice!

Finally (are you still awake?)

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The Vine (Kennedy Street – next door to The City Arms)

Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) this dates from a similar era to The City Arms, having been a pub since the late 19th century. This bijou (Salfordian for lickle!) boozer is on 3 levels. A good job really because the bar area is a bit dinky! We headed downstairs where, last time that I went in – some years ago TBF – it was used as a restaurant. Oh how my eyes were opened!

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Downstairs there was a fully fledged bar with room for the handpumps that they couldn’t fit upstairs. Fairly quiet, the A-N selected a Lancaster Blonde at 4%. Golden, with a nice refreshing hoppy fruitiness with an orange note to it. I’m just astounded that my tastebuds had survived at this stage of the evening! Nice, fruity light and refreshing. A nice pint to sign off with.

Bloody hell, that WAS an evening! (Managed to have 3 Milds as well. Happy boy!)

Thanks due to the blogs Pubs of Manchester and Manchesterhistory.net for my liberal pilfering of data. A valuable service they provide. There is an absolute dearth of information on the net about Manchester’s drinking establishment heritage. Frankly, I was embarrassed how little I would have found without the above resources. There’s a Boak & Baileyesque gap here that needs to be filled. Any takers?

 On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

“It was a fine idea at the time….” But on Friday morning it felt like a Brilliant Mistake!

Truly, Madly, Deeply Vale – Deeply Vale Brewery MTB – Salford Arms 02/10/2013

20100320-215227-860359(What a CRACKING Saturday Line-Up! courtesy http://www.Songkick.com)

“You don’t have to weird, to be wired”

(“Totally Wired” – The Fall)

Deeply Vale is a valley located to the east of Nangreaves, Bury (due east of Jct 1 of the M66 northbound).  Between 1976 and 1979 it was the site, of one of the legendary Free Festivals and at its peak (1978/1979), 20,000 people were attracted to listen to the likes of Steve Hillage, Nik Turner (ex Hawkwind) and local “New Wave” bands like The Fall and The Durutti Column. It was one of (if not THE) first festivals where the hippy counter-culture intersected with Punk.

For those of you at a tender age, I was JUST too young to attend the 1979 Festival (my first “gig” – The Damned – being on 10th December 1979) and it was a source of deep regret. However, given it’s relatively remote location, I probably would never have made it back to Salford!

The Deeply Vale Brewery therefore, has quite a romantic name in local terms (although Greater Manchester Police CID in 1979 may not have agreed. They were – legend has it – kept from the site!). The name is derived from the fact that James’ (Brewer/Owner) family originate from that area.

Fall Deeply Vale Fest(pic – http://www.elirecords.co.uk A VERY young Mark E Smith @ Deeply Vale in 1978)

Founded in 2012 near the centre of Bury by James Stewart and his parents, the brewery has quickly gained a reputation from drinkers and licensees alike for the excellence and consistency of his beers including the multi-award winning Breakfast Stout DV8.

James started to think about commercially brewing (being a full mash home brewer from a young age) whilst working at the noted Bury alehouse Trackside and started to look for premises eventually finding one on the Peel Industrial Estate. Brewing commenced in 2012 and they now make a core range of beers including Still Walking (sampled later) a 3.8% “bitter”, Golden Vale at 4.2% and DV8, the strongest at 4.8% abv.

Turning up at The Salford Arms I said a quick “Hello” to somebody I recognised from Twitter. This was Helen, partner of James Stewart the brewer. Jaz turned up along with a few others (including a fine turnout from the Bolton CAMRA Branch!) and I began to think that this might just be better attended than the last events. By the time we all settled in the front room, there were 15 or more people, which was gratifying to see and at least stopped James & Helen from feeling lonely! Then someone leaned over toward me and I realised it was Darren, who created the Gtr Manchester Ale News website / internet magazine. We’d been trying to meet for a pint for ages! We had a cracking chat,certainly a man who knows his beer.

James then gave us a brief chat about the genesis of the brewery, the recipes of the beers and the range of distribution. Distribution outside the immediate North West is handled by Mark Dade’s Boggart organisation and James handles a lot of the local distribution himself taking the beer into Lancashire and Cheshire with further outlets in Liverpool. James regularly has his beers featured in several Manchester pubs like The Angel, Marble Arch,  Soup Kitchen, Corbieres. I first sampled Deeply in The Smithfield on Swan St with Still Walking which I described as “a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish” (read more here!)

still walking clip

The brewery operates on a 2.5 barrel plant (1 barrel = 36 gallons or 4 firkins) and he brews 2 or 3 times a week spending the rest of the time doing the admin or distributing the beer around the area. What was really good to hear was the little “co-operative” that appears to exist between 3 Micros, Deeply Vale, Privateer & Ringway. They help each other out, distribute each others beers and even help to break new markets (The Ringway brewer – being  a Geordie – will be looking to break the Co-Op beers into the vibrant Newcastle beer scene.

Rather than 4 halves of different beers, given that James doesn’t bottle yet, we had but two beers on draught on the bar. First up was Still Walking, the “hoppy session ale”, a Pale Ale to my eyes. A lovely clear golden beer with a gentle fruity grapefruit nose (Cascade hops). A fruity easy drinking beer, medium bodied and really smooth with just the right amount of bitterness in the finish. A lovely refreshing easy drinking session beer.

By this point, this had become like a bit of a round table chat between like-minded people. This was really fun and quite intimate. Lots of people asking questions and voicing opinions, all in the spirit of the evening, which was really convivial.

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(One “almost built” brewery!)

Next beer up was the one of which James said he was most proud of. Being a fellow lover of dark beers and Stouts in particular, I’m with him on that one! DV8 is the beer in question, describer by James as a Breakfast Stout as it is, effectively, an Oatmeal Stout. A fabulous smoky aroma to this. Wonderfully full-bodied and creamy, lots of chocolate in here with the undertone of smokiness. A tremendous Stout, one that we should see more of around Manchester. As the nights draw in and the wind starts to blow, this is the time when a beer like this, in front of a real fire would go down a treat. Just need to find such a place in Manchester. Ideas anyone?

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One of the questions that came up was regarding bottling. james intends to put together a small bottling plant himself, rather than sending the beer elsewhere for packaging. A smart move really. Keeping quality control of his beers from start tp finish. Tying into this is the possibility of using his skills – possibly moving the small plant in his Dads’ garage into the brewery – is the idea (floated from the room) of doing seasonal beers. James was already considering an Imperial Stout and one that caught MY imagination was the thought of a Chocolate & Cinnamon Stout or a Xmas pud Stout? I offered to do some serious mashing, always willing to help, me! For a bottle or two of course!

Tysons Deeply pic(pic – TysonsBeerBlog.Blogspot.Com)

A further gloriously creamy pint of DV8 followed whilst Darren, Jaz & I had a further chat. I seriously like Darren’s internet ‘paper, always informative and definitely worth a read if you drink around the Manchester area, check it out here. Darren had to make a move, so Jaz and I also said our farewells to James & Helen and Ken & Tom from the pub and moved on to the Mark Addy where my pint of the beautiful Dark Revenge by Privateer had something missing, a little lacking in condition. Not as good as that beer usually is for sure. Jaz was more than happy with his Gin Pit by Allgates.

We then popped in for a final beer (& a bit) to a bar I haven’t been in for ages. The Gaslamp

Located in the former kitchens of the Manchester & Salford Childrens Mission (you can still see the name in the brickwork above the entrance!) this is just one seriously cool bar! Quite quiet but with some cracking eclectic tuneage. A great beer on draught too. Kitty Hawk by Privateer. This was MORE like it! The only thing was, I couldn’t quite bottom the flavour! Certainly made me think this one, good body to it for a 4%, I presume it was the hops, but there was a real savoury element to this, almost a touch salty? Whatever it was, both Jaz & I LOVED it. They do make some cracking beers on that there Temperance Street! (AND – Rumour has it that they may be on the move! Stay tuned!

Having missed my bus, it was time for a quick half of Harbour Breakfast Stout on keg. Quite oily and heavy, this (at 8.5% abv) was more like an Imperial with lots of strong bitter coffee/chocolate and a high degree of bitterness in the finish. A proper sleeping draught!!!

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, as did this particular evening. One of the best MTBs I had been to. A lovely friendly chatty couple (James & Helen), excellent company from the Bolton contingent (Pete, Linda & Graham) and meeting Darren. Yes. A good evening all round!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

Hornbeam Brewery MTB @ The Salford Arms 25/09/2013

Hornbeam

So. It’s a Thursday. Also happens to be payday (YAY!). A choice between checking out my new Virginmedia setup, or pop down to The Salford Arms for the MTB with Dentons’ own Hornbeam Brewery. I won’t insult your collective intelligence with the obvious question…….!

A quick (almost telepathic) exchange with Tom revealed that there was no food on. So off to Caribbean Flavas on New Bridge St and possibly the saltiest meal I’ve ever had! Next time, I’ll go for the Jerk rather than curried chicken! It DID promote the thirst though!

Walking back in, there was the reassuring sight of my Arch-Nemesis at the bar. Furnishing me with a pint of Milestone Black Pearl Stout. Gloriously roasted and smooth with lovely notes of toast and mild coffee, we settled down in the front room to await the event.

Quiet. Again. What is WRONG with this picture, eh? A local brewer making an effort to come across town (on a Man U v Liverpool night to boot!) and talk about their excellent beers….an opportunity missed, to say the least!

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Kevin Rothwell – the head honcho at Hornbeam – was a most convivial host. He started commercially brewing in 2007 having been a keen “full mash” brewer at home since his teens. Brewing on a (Sketchy memory time alert!) 6 beer barrel plant (1 Bbl = 36 gallons) they brew up to 100 x 9 gallon casks a week, with about 10% or slightly less going into bottles.

In response to a question, Kevin told me that they have distributed pretty much across the whole of the North West, from Lancaster down to Derbyshire. However, now the focus is pretty much on the Greater Manchester area with a number of regular accounts. Whilst talking, Kevin was popping bottles…..first up was a taste of Black Coral Stout.

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A fruity dark beer with a good roasted malt body. Nice dark fruity notes with a hint of damson or plum. A very nice starter, but destined to be the only dark of the evening!

Another couple of people came in (Aussie couple that were also there last week) making a grand total of 4. We had a good chat around beer and sport, then Kevin broke out the White Swan. At 4.6% abv, this is a Wheat beer made with an unusual addition. Lavender. Bizarrely, this very pale golden beer had a distinct ginger note on the nose! really refreshing medium bodied beer with a really pronounced floral character. Unusual and damned tasty!

I was trying to make notes whilst the beers were coming fast! I could barely keep up! (No. Don’t weep for me. I can cope!)

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Next came Lemon Blossom at 4.1% abv. Brewed using the Sorachi Ace hop, this was again pale gold in colour with a delicate floral aroma. A distinct lemon note (a Sorachi characteristic) in  this clean easy drinking beer. Nice bitter finish with spicy hop note too.

Next came the Summer IPA again at 4.6% abv. Golden with a savoury aroma that I couldn’t quite pick. Quite fruity this, a little floral with a tinge of spiciness. Nice bitter and spicy finish.

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“Hard on the heels” came the Champagne Ale. 4% abv. Another golden beer but this time more dry and a pronounced bitterness to it. Light bodied and really refreshing, with a nicely dry slightly grassy bitter finish.

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On the bottle front, we finished up with one of the core range. Top Hop. 4.2% abv, with more of a deep golden hue. A more straightforward example of a traditional bitter, but full flavoured really fruity hopped with a cracking dry finish.

Whilst drinking these latter beers, Ken, one of the owners joined us. Asking a few questions himself, he was also puzzled at the attendance and I think, if there are further events after Deeply Vale next week, they may be on a different evening to encourage a greater attendance. Chaeck out their website via the link above. Nice bottle shop.

Ken then popped in with this little beauty!

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A cracking little tapas platter, highlighting the good food being prepared here. Really tasty with the mussels, a seafood paella and a mini burger. Went superbly with the Top Hop and Champagne Ale!

The nemesis and I couldn’t leave without the Orange Blossom on cask, could we? This is a lovely golden beer with some subtle earthy hops in the aroma. Dry, with some subtle orangey stuff going on at the back of the tongue. Nice dry and grassy bitter finish.

The theme of the evening? Other than my whining about the poor turnout? Tremendous well-balanced and tasty beers. All at a drinkable strength. Made with having more than one in mind. No bad thing to me. Another brewer from our beloved area making balanced tasty beers at a drinkable strength, alongside the likes of Wilson Potter and Privateer. Nice to see all these brewers thriving in this great city of ours!

We wandered off to other pastures! Absolutely SCANDALOUS on a school night. But hey-ho! I had got wind of some nice beers at Pie & Ale on Lever St so off we strode across the Northern Quarter.

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(pic: creativetourist.com)

Pie and Ale by Bakerie. A relatively recent addition to the thriving Northern Quarter scene, this places loses nothing compared to some of the more established NQ bars. The price upped a notch in here, but for what I had in mind, that was no issue! (And the Nemesis was paying!!!) Obsidian from The Hop Studio in the fine city of York. A cracking Black IPA at 5% abv. Lovely sharp sherbet grapefruit nose, with coffee notes in with the citrussy hops. A cracking pint. On the basis of the occasions that I have had this, one of the best beers I’ve had this year!

I do like Pie & Ale. No food this evening (being 9 ish) but great pies, having had the pleasure previously!

I couldn’t resist thee siren call emanating from the area of Port St!

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A belting chat with Al behind the bar, excellent barman who’s a keen home brewer. A kindred spirit in many ways, we shared our horror and disbelief at ale bars with no ale (Lower Turks take note!) over a pint of Graveyard Eyes Porter from Hopcraft Brewery from Pontyclun in South Wales. I do like Sorachi Ace in a dark beer. It adds a certain lightness and lifts what can be a heavy flavour into something much lighter. This was a cracker. The usual roasted character of Porter, quite creamy as well, but the Sorachi Ace…….yum! First time from this brewer for me. Will NOT be the last!

So. Nearing bedtime on this fine Thursday evening, I’m off to recline with a good book and a glass of DOC by First Chop. Damned tasty too….that review can wait!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

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

First Chop

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

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

Looking back over my false dreams that I once knew,

Wondering why my dreams never came true.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

A Toast To An Old Friend 24/04/2013

I went to 6th form college over 30 years ago.Whilst there, I met some great people who went on to become good close friends. Some of us drifted apart through work and geography. Two such people were Martin ‘Doigy’ & Jan Doig. Good people, caring, loving and friendly. And utterly devoted to each other. About two years ago, social media placed us back in contact and we’d shoot the breeze on Facebook (with Doigy) and Twitter (with Jan).

Eventually, an opportunity was engineered to meet up and we did this in The Knott. To my delight, they hadn’t changed. Then living in Cambridgeshire, geographically we were separated, but culturally, we were of a piece. For his sins, Doigy had become an avid beer ‘ticker’ who maintained a meticulous list of the beers he tasted. To my joy, he was also a devotee of “The Dark Side”. Milds, Stouts and Porters were his thing, as they are mine. Doigy also had a love of Northern Soul music, another of my passions. Doigy, Jan & I spent a pleasant couple of hours in The Knott and I made a loose approach to Doigy to come and join Me & Jaz at an upcoming beer festival.

Sadly, we buried Martin on 25/10/2011. He was 47. A good, extremely fit man taken in his prime.

Yesterday would have been his 49th birthday, so along with two of his good friends, Col & Jaz (who knew him far better than I) we met up on his birthday to toast his life and memory with 3 particular bottled beers and to visit two Manchester pubs that he would’ve adored.

doigy spud jan jc(Doigy wasn’t ALWAYS that small! Pic – courtesy of Bob The Chiropodist)

Colin & I started our deliberations a touch earlier, with a beer Doigy would’ve enjoyed. In The Black from Wilson Potter at The Salford Arms. This is the first time that I’ve had this 4.2% stout in ‘the wild’. It didn’t disappoint. Smooth creamy and lovely mocha ish flavours.

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(In The Black indeed!)

He keeps a good pint does Tom. Great to see their beer in Manchester now. A swift pint of another beer from another of my favourite brewers, Dainty Blonde by Privateer. Pale, delicately floral with a hint of elderflower. Really refreshing. Now we had to move on. We said a hasty farewell to Tom and headed to Jaz’s bachelor pad!

The most abiding legend about Doigy was The Toast Mountain. He simply loved his toast. This love was used as a jump off point for some home brewing friends to create a beer in his honour. The obvious name for this beer (a stout, of course!) was ‘Doigys Toast‘. It was therefore most appropriate that this should be the first beer of the evening.

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(‘Doigys Toast‘. A Toast to the Toastmeister!)

Made by a home brewer noted as “Bradys Brews”,rather scarily there is no %abv noted, but a very dark brown to black beer came out of the bottle with abundant cream coloured, but quickly dissipating head. This one scared me, because I was worried, that having had it for so long in storage, it would be like Sarsons. Pleased to say that it was anything but! A deep dark aroma of licorice and spice, a thin texture, but more licorice in the mouth and a chocolate tinge. Just a little. Tasted a touch ‘yeasty’ toward the end, but all-in-all a decent beer with which to toast a decent man.

We moved on to a beer that Doigy stated was his favourite. Mrs Simpsons Thriller in Vanilla by Brown Cow Brewery 5.1% abv

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(His all-time favourite)

A very dark brown beer. Again, the head quickly vanished. A hint of vanilla in the aroma and (possibly?) treacle. Slightly thin in the mouth, but lovely roasted malt flavours, slight bitterness with a vanilla twist. Not as ‘full-on’ as some vanilla beers, but nice for all that.

Next (and last of the bottles) is Bad Kitty Vanilla Porter by Brass Castle Brewery 5.5% abv

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Doigy would have loved this beer! Black with more than a hint of vanilla, a touch of Bournville chocolate, not TOO bitter but plenty of nice dry vanilla, not too sweet though. The head again dissipated quite quickly, so probably wrong temperature or glassware issues, because, having had this before, lack of head wasn’t previously  problem. Despite that, this is still a damn fine beer. Both of the above were sourced from that excellent shop Yorkshire Ales in Snaith, East Yorkshire.

At this juncture, we went for a short walk to a bar that Doigy would’ve loved. The Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012

(recycled pic alert!)

Pretty much guaranteed a good pint in here. I was delighted to note that there was still some Citra from Oakham Ales  on, so at 4.2% I dived in. My first time for this beer on draught that I have loved from a distance in bottled version. Loads of citrus from the eponymous hop on a biscuity malt base. Yum! However, Col fancied a swap, so I then got the bonus of a Dark Star Brewing Carafa Jade. A red ale made with German Carafa barley and NZ Pacific Jade hops, this was a spicy zingy beer with lots of citrus hop aroma. Bloody lovely! They know their stuff in here. Good knowledgable bar staff serving excellent beer.

Just the one here, as The Crown & Kettle was calling!

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For my last of this evening, my eyes alighted on Off Kilter Porter by Offbeat Brewery of Crewe. Lovely and creamy black beer with lush choc and coffee in the mouth, maybe a spicy hop touch too. Really smooth and quite quite gorgeous.

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(Off Kilter going down well!)

Colin, having ordered the Rat In The Hat from the Rat Brewery, started to eye my Off Kilter Porter covetously. Being the kind of guy that I am (and in the spirit of the evening!) I swapped. The Cat was a nice fruity hoppy beer, golden in colour with a slight haze, refreshing.

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(Nice selection with 3 from Ossett)

That was that for another evening. Another excellent evening with good beer, good friends and good conversation. And doffing our collective caps to a top bloke.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte Doigy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Hot Liquor – water – Tank & Mash Tun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now. For the beer……..

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

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

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(Blonde meets the Red)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slainte!

Recent Bottle Tastings

Just 3 to point out from recent sampling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

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I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

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The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

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Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

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(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

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(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

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Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

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3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!

A Two City Stroll 2 – 29/12/2012

Christmas 2012.

Family meal.

In a pub with 5 handpumps.

The beer was dire.

I drank tea! I stuck to my guns and steadfastly refused to drink the likes of Greene King IPA.

Does that make me a beer snob? Do I care? (You know the answers!)

So. On the final Saturday of 2012, I felt justified in seeking the welcoming warmth of hostelries with handpumps. And good beer. Having met Jeff for the first time in many a year a couple of months back, (and discovering a mutual love of quality beer)  there was an outing planned for Manchester. A quick check of my diary revealed a family do that afternoon. Having negotiated my exit strategy with my beloved Atilla, it was game on. So on this particular Saturday evening, I find myself on a bus, Manchester bound reading a text calling off the meet.

What’s a thirsty boy to do? A quick call to my good friend (and frequent drinking companion) Mr Jaz and I find myself exiting the bus a couple of stops early and entering…..

The Salford Arms

(Image courtesy of http://www.fancyapint.com)

Walking up to the bar, there was only one pump occupied with a clip. However, a quick smile from Tom and he declaimed that he was busy putting two more ales on! So, joining the 4Ts Brewery Magnc pale ale was, firstly, Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack Brewery. One of those for myself and a 4Ts for Mr Jaz secured, I settled down in a comfy leather chair and awaited my partner in crime.

As per our last visit, Tom had said that the nice fellow at Black Jack was reformulating the beer to make it vegan. This had now been accomplished. I hadn’t had the ‘house ale’ previously and was really looking forward to it, so much so, that I didn’t wait to see what the second new ale going on was!

As I started to sip the Salford Arms ale, Jaz walked in. (I had had a sneaky sip of the the 4Ts Magnc whilst waiting and it was a lovely pale beer with some complex hopping, spicy with some citrus but with a smooth malt base. A very nice beer which I will try again). The Salford Arms ale was superb. Pale as Kate Moss but with more body, it was lovely hoppy brew at 4.3% abv, nice juicy malt in there but the right side of hoppy and bitter. If I am going to drink pale beers, this is how I like them! Another excellent beer by Black Jack!

Now. The plan was to have one and then move on. But, as you know, plans do indeed have a habit of changing. This one changed when Tom brought over a sample of the other beer that went on at the same time as the ‘house ale’. The beer was brewed by a recent addition to the Manchester brewing brotherhood Privateer. A quick sip showed that this was a beer that demanded  further exploration. The beer was called Dark Revenge, was 4.5% abv and was appetisingly black! A lovely aroma combining chocolate and some coffee notes, the flavour was of a nice smooth dark roasted stout with a flavour that I got as subtly chocolate. Jaz detected more coffee than I did, but hey! I wasn’t complaining. This was my first beer from Privateer and with flavour as good as this, it won’t be my last! An excellent pint. The pub was reasonably busy in this Xmas / New Year interlude and deservedly so. Tom has got the beer turning over really well and seems to feature local micros in the main (all 3 last night were local). An excellent pub.

I could have drunk the Privateer all night, but, as you know, a stroll is a stroll. So, we headed off toward……

The New Oxford

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Slightly damp stroll from The Salford, the front of the New Oxford was quite busy so we opted for the back room and a little rugby union (Munster v Ulster, as you’re asking!). Not before choosing a pint of Axholme Chocolate Stout at 4.9% abv. Another new brewery for me. This one from North Lincolnshire. Settling down in the back room, this beer was intially thin in texture but the mouthfeel improved as I drained the glass. A lovely smooth chocolate flavour followed with the lovely roasted malt. A nice first pint from this brewery (an interesting website too – http://www.axholmebrewing.co.uk)

The night was enlivened at this point by a group of West Brom fans sat next to us. Beer lovers too. Passionately bemoaning the biased coverage on TV which only showed Man U and swearing that they were camped in opposition territory all second half. We had a chuckle indeed. We chatted about The Post Office Vaults (near New St Station in Birmingham centre) and they extolled the virtues of The Black Eagle in Hockley (now stored in the memory bank!) Nice blokes. We move on….(a substantial stroll) to….

Cask

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Really busy in here. It was that busy and loud with conversation, that I could barely hear Manchesters’ greatest pub jukebox! Jaz had an Abbeydale whilst I latched onto the North Star Porter from Facers. I’ve drunk more Facers recently than I ever drank when they were located in Salford! The North Star has a nice roasted nose and a nice texture (not too thin at 4% abv) dark roasted coffee flavours and a touch of sweet chocolate. Excellent friendly bar staff again. Now at this point I got a phone call from Rob (see Castlefield Area Stroll) who was also looking for a pint having been at the same function as me earlier. The Facers Porter was a nice pint, but the were other pastures to graze upon. Next stop…….

The Knott

Pleasantly not quite as rammed as Cask, but busy enough, there were a couple of beers that caught my eye here, both at the higher end of the price range, but worth it. I left the Redwillow Shameless to have as a second pint in here and plumped for Thornbridge McConnells. 5% abv and £3.80 a pint, this was a lovely looking dark brown to black beer with a nice caramac (new colour!) coloured head. A little sweetness in the aroma led to a nice creamy stout. A lot of subtlety in here with no particularly dominant flavour. A touch of vanilla, some lovely smooth almost caramel chocolate roasted flavour from the malt. Just an excellent understated pint. I’m beginning to appreciate again that flavour doesn’t have to be an assault to be good. During this pint, Rob joined in the fun and after a quick update on the function fun, he too settled down to enjoying a pint of McConnells – I’m starting to think he’s gradually shifting to the Dark Side!

The only slight disappointment came next. I was REALLY looking forward to a pint of Redwillow Shameless, the 5.9% abv Double Pale Ale. Unfortunately, as I’m draining the last of the Thornbridge, it ran out! Damn! Ah well, another pint of McConnells all round could barely be described as a hardship now, could it? Anyhow, after this dark interlude, I was in the mood for a final pint of dark pleasure (and we needed to head toward the bus station of course…) so, in the steady drizzle (and Rob without a jacket….!) we mosied on down to….

Paramount

Anybody who knows me, knows what happens when we get here! There was a large selection of Xmassy type beers with typically Xmassy type ‘humourous’ names like Rogered Rudolf and the like. Maybe I’m a bit of an Eberneezer about such things. Just give me a beer name that gives me a hint as to the flavour and I’m content!

Anywho, I’m a simple soul, with simple tastes. So, having the merest sniff of the JW Lees Plum Porter (which Rob pronounced as full of plum flavour), the cry went up “Paramount Porter Please“. 6.5% and (at this stage of the evening) with a texture that felt like black Angel Delight, this was my sleeping draught of choice! Glorious with some roasted cocoa bean action going on, there was a lop-sided smile on my face! As usual, quite busy in here and deservedly so.

Finishing the pint, we headed in the drizzle for Piccadilly and my personal homing pigeon, the 37 bus – this time with Rob for company (with the Kebab lust in his heart!)

Until Next Time. And a Happy New Year to one and all!

Slainte!

(Next Stroll – Historic Manc Boozers – suggestions please!)

A Salford Stroll – 10/12/2012

To have one more ‘stroll’ in 2012 was decided when my good buddy Col informed me that he had a free night on Monday. (He’s not precious, he works nightshift!) As there was a particular pub I’ve been wanting to try for a while and one I wanted to revisit, I decided that a waddle around Salford was in order (or, at least, a small portion of it.)

Getting off the 37 bus opposite Salford Central train station, I showed Col where 6 (SIX) pubs had been lost since my youth. In order, The Pen & Wig (Wilsons/Websters) on New Bailey Street, The Albert Vaults (Tetley/Free), The Tallow Tub (Chesters) and The Punch Bowl (Tetley/Robinsons) all Chapel Street. Moving into Greengate (as was), I pointed out the former locations of The Three Legs of Man (Robinsons) and The Old Shears (Wilsons) on Greengate. I mention these, because they were all pubs of great character(s) which I frequented when I first started drinking real ale in the early 80s. They were great pubs, dearly missed. 2 of the buildings still stand (Albert Vaults and Punch Bowl) but sadly, never to be warm welcoming pubs again, I fear.

Anyway, reverie over! I chose this slightly convoluted route to another old favourite. One that I hadn’t visited for many years…..

The Eagle (AKA The Lamp Oil Shop)

The Eagle, Salford, Review And Elegy

(Courtesy of http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk)

As I’d told Col, The Eagle was an old friend it took me a long time to find. Located on Collier Street, set back slightly from the Trinity Way inner ring road this is a PROPER Salford back street boozer! Frankly it’s amazing that it is still standing. Back in the day (I HATE that phrase!), it was one of many pubs in the Greengate district.  Once thriving. Now all gone. You could say that The Eagle is truly The Last Bird Standing. The pubs all catered for the factories in the Greengate and Trinity areas. Again, gone. In their place, posh high-rise flats and car parks for the Arena. Progress eh?

Taken on in the last 12 months by the team who renovated The Castle (another old favourite), I was intrigued to see what they had done with it. I was not to be disappointed.

Layout wise, they’ve left well alone. A smart move. A lick of paint in classy subtle warm tones set the scene (that and the Xmas tree being put up!) They’ve made good use of the small back yard and the back room looks better than I had ever seen it before. This is a comforting, warm welcoming pub. As I said earlier a PROPER Salford back street boozer! AND, the smallest pub in the Holt estate (or was).

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Walking into the pub, ‘Is that REALLY Guy Garvey’? Indeed it was, enjoying a chat. Star struck (I’m a sad git!), I didn’t wan’t to say hello for fear of being a bumbling idiot (A 47 year old one at that!). So, Beer choice took over. On the bar, Holts Bitter, Holts Mild, Holts’ winter brew Bah Humbrew and Shepherd Neame Spitfire. The Bah Humbrew having just run out, we settled for 3 pints of Mild. In good nick as well, roasted malt and slightly bitter – Holts Mild as it should be! The pricing seemed slightly high (£2.70 I think), but is more than worth it for supping in what is one of a rapidly diminishing breed. The true back-street pub. It is a classic, sensitively refurbished. Changing little, enhancing much. Nice jukebox as well, bit of folk, bit of reggae. The Eagle in the 80s was renowned for its Juke.

Those aforementioned flats give me hope for the pub. A lot of people live within a coin toss of The Eagle now. I hope they wake up and see the polished gem from their balconies. And patronise it. A classic pub. I’ve had some great times  in The Lamp Oil. I hope to have more. Back soon.

(If I may venture just a slight improvement suggestion? Ditch the Spitfire for a local Micro? There are loads – after all, this IS the team behind The Castle! – A Black Jack, Outstanding, Quantum?)

Having congratulated (who I presumed was) the Landlord on a job well done – apologising to the nice Mr Garvey for interrupting! – we walked past two other lamented pub losses (The Black Friar and The Braziers – Boddingtons) and were generally moving toward Chapel Street. Getting our thirsts back, we decided to pop into….

The Kings Arms

Walking into The Kings, the knitting club was pearling away in the Snug. The main room was quite quiet so we were swiftly served with Facers Porter (Me) and Blackedge American Pale (Jaz & Col). I’d forgotten I’d had the Facers Porter in The Smithfield recently, but never mind eh? Mocha on the nose, coffee and dark roasted malt with a chocolate hint in the mouth. Fairly potent for a ‘school night’ at 5.5%abv, but SO nice! I sampled the Blackedge as well. This had an amped up hop nose with a smoother American hop flavour (amarillo?)

I was gutted to note (too late) that Old Tom was on cask on the bar!


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(A pleasure denied!)

We had a nice chat in The Kings over the beer. A chance to note the other beers on the bar. 2 more from Facers, 1 from Happy Valley and one from Copper Dragon. A nice selection. Weird to see a bar in Salford with 3 from Facers now that they’ve moved from Salford to Flintshire!!!

Some of the decor took my eye. I’ve always loved the 7″ singles covers on the wall from the heyday of punk and New Wave, but the vast number of hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs? Nice!

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By the way. More excellent music. Al Green, The Imposter (Pills & Soap!) Ahhh….we move on, to……

The Salford Arms

Walking silently back in….It WAS quiz night after all! We slid towards the bar (very quietly) with a quick Hello to Tom, we ordered the Iron Gate Stout by Black Iris Brewery. First beer from this brewery for me. I snatched the first pint poured. Just after the second…disaster. Finito! Being the consummate gentleman, Col gave up the pint to Jaz and chose a pint of Hornbeam. The Iron Gate was SUPERB! A lovely smooth coffee roast tinged Stout. Nice and dry. Certainly worth seeking out. Another at 5.5%abv. Possibly sensing our disappointment at the Stout expiring, Tom indulged in some cellar wizardry (barrel tilting!) and conjured up another 3 pints for the team. Nicely done!

20121210_205730[1](beats the usual decorations – White Xmas anyone?)

Whilst that was going on, I had a belting chat with The Quizmaster, Dave. A lovely bloke who patently loves a nice pint and a nice pub to drink it in. He loved similar pubs to me and managed to suggest one I am yet to visit, The Molly House. One for the early new year methinks!

A quick chat with Tom reveals more Saltaire soon to come…was that a Triple Chocoholic with CHERRIES!!!!!??? He also has hatched plans with Black Jack to make the house beer Vegan by using alternative finings. Given the Vegan food evenings they have on a Tuesday, an excellent move. They’re serving some excellent beer here. Just remind me when that Saltaire is on! (Defintitely worth the 8 mile bus journey!)

Having had two, it was time to move on. Farewells said, we strode off along Chapel Street to….

The New Oxford

A perennial favourite of both myself and Jaz, but the first time for Col. Again, fairly quiet, bit of rock on the Juke.

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(Beer Heaven Pt 2 – The Bottles)

The usual large selection to choose from. Dark Side wins again with a Townhouse Brewery Barney’s Stout. The usual roasted malt flavours present. Nice enough, but after the series of 5.5%ers, possibly a bit light! I finished off with Hop from Blackedge. Again, possibly suffered from the time of the evening. 3.6% abv not wisest at this late stage. A nice bitter though. Pale, slightly bitter with a balanced flavour and aroma (Bramling Cross hops?). Slightly maltier than I expected (I love to be assaulted by hops!)

A nice end to the stroll, Col and myself headed for the 37 bus (we actually got the 8 and walked!), Jaz probably headed off to a central bar (knowing him!). A good evening, with good company, excellent pubs and excellent beer. Isn’t this how it always should be?

Til next time.

Slainte!