Bottled Ales – March 2015 – Pt 1

This week, just for an experiment, I’m going to flip the order of things a little. Just to see if it works. Let’s begin….. With a bumper crop just SHAKING with Beergasms! (I spoil you – oh yes I do!)

The Beers

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Table IPA (Tickety Few) – Tickety Brew (Stalyvegas, Cheshire) – 2.9%abv – Pale AleEpicurean (W Didsbury) £2.05 (330ml)

A beautiful and clear pale golden beer, with good firm carbonation providing a lasting white fluffy collar and an aroma of tangerine and sherbet lemons. I’m drooling!

Mmmmmm…… Gooseberry and lemon tartness! The first mouthful is a tart delight, pin sharp, crisp and lemony in a light body with a light rich tea biscuit base holding up this sharp hoppage.

This is every bit as refreshing as I remember it on cask. It’s bloody lovely with that signature Belgian yeast note adding to a light banana note to the abrupt dry finish. I’m so glad that I picked this up.

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N.S. IPARammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom, Bury) – 3.5%abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Browtons (Ashton-U-Lyne)

Love the rebrand that this brewery has done. Really gives the bottles more presence on the shelf. This was the only one in the shop and it really drew my eyes.

The beer itself is an ultra pale gold with a light white head and a big nose full of passion fruit, gooseberry and kiwi. Sharp and mouth-watering.

Light bodied (as you would expect at this strength) this is hugely refreshing. Full of sharp lemony citrus with an undernote of tart gooseberry, this is a proper all day beer just so light, vibrant, fresh and zingy.

This is a proper fruity mouthful which is going down all too quickly! The fruitiness leads to a short dry finish with a little piney resin and a residual lemony note in the aftertaste. Yum.

Have a feeling that I will be giving Mr Holmes a call prior to #ISBF2015!

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Floating PintsSquawk Brewing (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Pale AleEpicurean (West Didsbury) – £2.85 (330ml)

A crystal clear sparkling golden beer, with a thin yet lasting white head and an enormous fruity aroma of peach, mango and passion fruit? Really juicy nose on this puppy.

Oh bloody hell, this is SUPERB! Medium bodied, this is just as fruity in the mouth as on the hooter! I would say apricot and peach in this first sip with one hell of a sticky resinous aftertaste. This beer punches over its weight!

Second mouthful has actually quite a full mouthfeel to it and brings a nice forthright bitterness to the party but ending in that sticky fruity piney aftertaste. This is a belter and quite possibly the best bottle I’ve had at this strength. Proper #Beergasm material this!

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Hoppy CoupleThirst Class Ale (Stockport) – 6.3%abv – IPA – 500ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I forgot for a while that, before Richard Conway “went Pro”, I’d had one of his beers before, as he’d won a brewing competition and had his Elephant Hawk brewed professionally with Jay Krause at Quantum. A belter that was.

I think he may have just bettered it.

A deep amber coloured beer this, with a lasting white foamy collar barely suppressing a massive fruity nose full of orange zest, peach and mango. A lovely aroma.

Oh my. Is that followed through in the mouth! More of the peach and mango fruitiness in this initial sip, followed up by a sticky resinous aftershock. This is a proper IPA!

Really smooth feel to this and almost a feel of the tannins you would get from drinking a black tea, herbal and quite astringent. You can’t get away from that fruitiness though! The finish of this combines that pine resin stickiness with those tannins to dry out the mouth and leave you wanting another mouthful.

Don’t mind if I do! A Beergasm.

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Prestwich Vintage 2014Beer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 8.2%abv – Barley WineBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Barley Wine. An old English beer style. I hate old beer styles. But….. He who dares……

A deep amber coloured beer with a lacey white head and an aroma full of caramelised banana with more than a hint of whisky laced marmalade.

Bloody hell but this is gorgeous and oh so warming! A Big chewy mouthful of toffee malt, with oranges soused in brandy perched on top and blasted with a kitchen blow torch. Then that slight bitter orange sweetness slides down and warms the heart of your cockles!

Then the unexpected bitterness jumped out from the beery shadows and caught me unawares. Is it just me? The older I get the more I actually GET beer styles I would have shunned as little as 5 years ago. This is bloody lovely. A beergasm. This needs ageing in wood for October!!! A proper winter warmer.

Barley Wine. An old English beer style. I love this beer! Beergasm!

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Black PigBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) / Pig and Porter (Tonbridge Wells, Kent) – 6.3%abv – Belgian Rye Porter – Epicurean (West Didsbury)

This is a righteously dark brown, almost black beer with an appetising creamy coloured head boasting an aroma that is simultaneously spicy (with a Belgian yeast note) and with more than a hint of banana split toffee. Yum! And I haven’t tasted it yet!

Oh yes. There’s the Rye! One dry and spicy little bugger this! Full bodied and quite creamy smooth, the first flavour I’d a little red wine note, followed by coffeeish roasted barley, oh…

But then that Rye does its trick and dried the bejesus out of my mouth! Wow.There’s licorice here, bitter coffee and a little dark bitter chocolate. But not much in the way of sweetness. This is one arid little bastard!

(At this point, I feel like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, with this beer playing the Billy Crystal role!)

3 years ago, I wouldn’t have known what to make of this. But in 2015, I absolutely love it! A bloody cracker. And any beer named after Captain Pugwash’s ship is always of to a good start in my book!

Need more beer from Mr Ayling’s Pig and Porter in my life! Beergasm!

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Cocoa WonderlandThornbridge (Bakewell, Derbyshire) – 6.8%abv – PorterBarbeerian (Prestwich)

One dark beer. One very dark beer with a collar of beige creamy foam for a head. And SUCH a booming chocolate aroma!!! Like inhaling a Galaxy bar! Oh but it’s chocolaty!

I should cocoa! This is even more chocolaty in the mouth, but not quite as sweet as the aroma suggested. This is a full-bodied beer and no mistake. There’s a nutty quality to this that makes me think of Nutella on toast. There’s also a toffee caramel like a grown up Snickers bar, but liquefied. Definitely a peanut quality to this. Blooming delicious!

There is an appealing dryness to the finish and that nuttiness also lingers pleasantly in the aftertaste. Just a damn fine beer! Thornbridge know how to make some damn fine dark beers!

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(Shit photo time. Sorry!)
Double PerleWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell) – 8.6%abv – Imperial Coffee Milk Stout? – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

As black as Hades darkest recesses. But with a light brown foamy collar. Darkness. In beer form. I like dark stuff and this is born of darkness. The smell is like having your nose pushed into a bowl of freshly ground Java beans. Shit but this smells like I shouldn’t be drinking it before bed time!

This tastes so good, that I’m sure it was a bad idea! Huge body, creamy and unctuous. Tastes like a short sharp espresso with a milky lactose sweetness. My eyelids are pinned open. Then, beyond that bitter coffee and milky sweetness, there’s a tongue tingling spicyness in with that bitter roasty loveliness. Each sip being rounded off by a herbal hop dryness.

It’s difficult to say that this improves on Black Perle (a beer that I adore), but it’s a hell of a thing this. And like I implied. A bad thing to drink before bedtime! Sweet (coffee infused) dreams! Beergasm

(Update – I REALLY struggled to get to sleep after this!!!!!)

The Tune
“I’m gonna take myself a piece of a piece of sunshine and paint it all over my sky, yeah.
Be no rain, be no rain,

I’m gonna take the song from every bird and make ’em sing it just for me, yeah.
Bird’s got something to teach us all about being free, yeah.
Be no rain, be no rain

And I think I’ll call it morning from now on”

(“I Think I’ll Call It Morning” – Gil Scott-Heron)
(Clip courtesy Ace Records Ltd on You Tube)

It was probably about 1982/3 that I first came across the music of a man who became one of my favourite artists, Gil Scott-Heron. It was probably his best known tune “The Bottle”, marrying an unstoppable jazzy-soul groove with lyrics portraying the desperation of alcoholism. Over the years, I must have watched thousands of people – of all ages – getting their groove on to this rare groove classic. From the dancefloors of The Hacienda to The Monaco Ballroom in Hindley, it just transcends decades and stands tall. And apart. A stone cold classic.

However, it isn’t my favourite Gil song. That honour goes to the above track, a song I often find myself bawling out in the car on the way home from work. When I’m at my lowest of ebbs, that line “I’m gonna take myself a piece of sunshine……” just brings me round. The man could write. And that baritone voice……

It was great that he got a last hurrah when he released the album “I’m New Here”, subsequently being remixed to great effect by  Jamie Smith from The XX. It wasn’t that long ago when I was in 20/22 in Manchester on a quiet night when “I’ll Take Care Of You” came on. A cover of a Brook Benton song (originally recorded by Bobby Bland – of “Shoes” fame), the Gil version was subsequently looted by Drake & Rihanna on “Take Care”. A compliment I suppose. Even in his final months, with his voice little more than a rasping croak, he made the song his. The word “Legend” is over used these days. But this man IS a legend and for me, is right up there with Marvin & Stevie.

Well, that’s it for now. A bumper crop. And a righteous tune. Get some Gil in your life. You can thank me later!

3 Bar Surprise – An Evening in Manchester – 27/03/2014

“He’s cold to the kiss. In ignorance he’s dangerous, in innocence he’s bliss.

And he stalks the night with sonar senses and he holds you tight.

Masturbates the madness in you”

(“Mad Jack” – The Chameleons)

(Live Video courtesy of alkalidocklive – You Tube)

(The video link was a judgement call. The passion of live performance over the sound quality of the album track. Repeated games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide and Live Performance wins every time!)

I know that I’ve mentioned my love of the 3 albums of the first incarnation of The Chameleons, for me, one of the seminal post-punk bands. They reached their creative peak (in my opinion) with their final album, “Strange Times”, ironically, recorded with a major label, Geffen. Songs like “Swamp Thing”, “Tears”, “Soul In Isolation” and the above track “Mad Jack”, when listened to nearly 30 years later have – for me – more than stood the test of time.

Embarrassingly, I must have played my cassette of Strange Times to death and STILL never got the lyrics of “Mad Jack” right! I mean, to young ears, “Masturbates” does sound like “Must have been”, right? What this blog piece has made me do is log on to iTunes and fling some cash the way of Cupertino to download the album. An 80s rock classic. Treat yourself to some passionate lyrics and tight playing!

Now, in a slight diversion from the norm, no bottles today!

1) There’s been 4 bottle posts this month and I don’t want to a) bore you TOO much, and b) A snap decision whilst tilting glass to lips the other evening. A surprising evening!

The aim of this particular Thursday evening mission was to swap some bottles with the legend that is Jamie from Port Street Beer House, who, for those who don’t know, also brews some excellent beers (see previous reviews) under the guise of the “Five Oh Brew Co“. From the moment he ventured to have a chat with a certain ageing nerd holding a Nexus 7, I’ve always got on with Jamie. The bonus is in the fact that he is a top bar keep who knows his stuff (as do all at Port Street) and is damned passionate about beer. So much so, that he stuck his metaphorical head above the brewing parapet and brewed himself. Damned well too.

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So, bottle swaps done, the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) and I settle down to a pint of Pale by the Indy Man Brew House (brewed with the mighty Black Jack).  Living up to name, this was a very pale golden beer at 4%abv with simply LOADS of citrus going on! Tart and refreshing, I was damned pleased I went this route rather than the dark side. This beer would grace any bar and would be an excellent “house beer” should Port Street ever consider one. A gentle fruity bitterness in this light-bodied beer was followed by some drying fruity resinous stuff that just completed the pint nicely. Excellent. I followed this with a pint of Kipling by Thornbridge.

To be upfront, I adore the dark stuff that comes from Bakewell, but the pales? Never quite got the hype myself – not from Thornbridge, but Social Media – nice? Yes, good well made beer. But the purple prose that I have seen seems unjustified in the beers that I have had. Same here with Kipling. A lovely looking pale golden pint with a drool provoking lemony aroma. In the mouth? Just…nice. The fruitiness in the talk didn’t strut enough for me. Maybe I need to recalibrate my expectations. Over a pint of St Petersburg. Now THERE’S a beer!

With a cheery handshake with Mr Hancock and a bagful of bottles (the Nemesis had a few for me too!), we strolled off to the second of a planned 3 stops (well, it WAS a “school night”!)

Soup Kitchen (Spear Street, off Stevenson Square, Manchester)

I don’t get into Manchester often enough. I certainly don’t get into this hybrid bar/canteen/club often enough. Their beer range improves each time I enter. This evening was NO exception and contained a Manchester brewery I was yet to try on draught!

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(FOUR Dark Beers – Heaven!)

Being a bit of a stickler for all things local (where possible), I was delighted to see Squawk Brewing Porter. Had that and their IPA in bottle and both were superb. With my pub strolling outings becoming decreasingly frequent (not having done a “Hector Rivera” QUITE yet!), I don’t see the new brewers offerings in the wild. Tonight however…

Dark…..Creamy coloured and textured head with a lovely smooth chocolatey aroma. Oooh! More chocolate in this smooth full-bodied beer, some coffee hints too with a nice hoppy finish in with a gentle bitterness. I would have had another, but….my eye was wandering…..decisions decisions…..the angel on my shoulder was saying “stay local”

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(Damn that neon!)

Black Jack – Red Rye Saison was the shout. 7% abv!!! On a school night! Hugely irresponsible, but OH WHAT A BEER! Far too refreshing for a beer of this strength. A little of that yeasty funk, spice and tartness form the rye and as red as David Moyes’ redundancy cheque! Just superb. But a bit stupid! Ah well….tomorrow was another day, eh?

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Comment : Soup Kitchen is getting a wee bit like Joshua Brooks. If this selection continues along the excellent lines of tonight, could well become a “go to” bar for the NQ. Great beers and superb tunes from Mr DJ – good food too so I’m told. The full package then!

Now…..just one more eh Mr Nemesis?

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Twenty Twenty Two (Little Lever Street, Manchester. M1 1EZ)

This is a hard beastie to find. I had been once before, guided by the Arch-Nemesis. From memory, the beer was from Outstanding of Bury (just the one on cask) and they had a superb bottle range. It was the sheer physical “coolness” of the space on a mid-summer afternoon that got me. That temperature drop you get when you go subterranean (see Gaslamp). Abiding memory was of a great art space with nice beer and awesome tunes (“I’ll Take Care of You” Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX stood out)

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Tonight. Upon walking down the steps it was obvious that we had stumbled across something. This place was busier than Port Street, and you don’t say that about many bars midweek!

2 hand pumps on the bar too (along with 4 keg fonts from Outstanding) Nemesis went for the Outstanding whilst I went for TEA by First Chop. First time on draught for me. Amber to brown with a lovely somewhat earthy leafy aroma. Of course! TEA! Duh! Full bodied with good fruitiness and an earthy dry finish. I was possibly hoodwinked by the name into imagining tannins in the brew as there was quite a dryness on the tongue, almost reminiscent of Earl Grey. Worked well for me!

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(TWO TABLE-TENNIS TABLES!!!)

What we had stumbled into was the launch party for “BCN MCR” A design exhibition featuring the best art designers from both Manchester & Barcelona. This cool & trendy crowd had just been invaded by a two-man Dad’s Army! We must have upped the average age by 2 years!

Got to say, being no art connoisseur myself, I really enjoyed wandering around checking out the posters and installations.

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(Manchester weather – in poster form)

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Well. A surprising evening both on the beer front and culturally too.  3 excellent bars and superb beers – and one sluggish old man in the morning!

Anybody fancy a game of ping-pong?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 2

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Well. That’s that. IndyManBeerCon is over for another year. Anybody still hung over? Thought so! This year, I worked two sessions earning two tickets for sessions to drink at. With the one minor quibble (re Volunteering – more later….) I had an absolute blast. Judging by the semi-orgasmic commentary on Twitter, you lot did too! Many couldn’t get there owing to not buying tickets early enough. Lesson learned eh?

Anyway – I’m not the best at waxing lyrical, I’ll leave the floral purple prose to others better qualified. I’ll just talk my usual bollocks!

I’ve already given you my thoughts on the first set-up session and Thursday, so I’ll cut to the chase…..

FridayVolunteering (Bar 3 – The Music Rm)

I got there a couple of minutes late. I hate being late! Got let in by the ever genial Duncan (looking mildly stressed) and entered the Volunteers Room to be given our “Pre-Match” talk. I’ll communicate my thoughts directly I think!

After that, I was behind the bar in Room 3 and, to be honest, had a fantastic time. The volunteers were fun and professional. Matt was a genial and efficient Manager and the brewers in our room were great. We had Kees Bubberman from Emelisse, Colin Stronge from Buxton, Jon from Arbor of Bristol and Jeff Rosenmeier from Lovibonds. The volunteers all enjoyed the graft and working with Bex was an absolute blast!

A quick sampling of those beers that I didn’t know and I was able to advise if asked. And we all were. The customers were, universally, friendly and knew what they wanted and, more to the point, enjoyed the beers. It was easy to identify a few favourites though. If I had a £ for each time I was asked for a Buxton Tea Saison!!! The Emelisse Innovations 25 proved popular also and I recommended it to people wanting something a little lighter. This 2.5% beer seemed to confound a few. The punters LOVED it, but most seemed to think it was a 6 or 7% beer. Certainly full of hoppy flavour for a beer at 2.5%!

From the serving of the 1st beer to putting the final glass in the glass wash tray, it was such fun. But no more volunteering. Next year, I’ll just be a paying punter and appreciate all the hard work that the volunteers and staff do – from the OTHER side of the bar!

Saturday

An early start. Met up with The Arch-Nemesis for swift couple at the ever excellent Joshua Brooks. The Five Points Brewery Pale Ale being in exceptionally good nick. A 4.4% burst of citrus fruit bitterness, dry refreshing and damned moreish! A personal favourite and a steal at £2.60!

IMAG0082(Spot The Brewers in Room 2 – I can see 3!)

Quite busy on entry. A quick scan of the bar revealed a suitable candidate to start….

Citra by Brodies Brewery from Room 2. At 3.1% abv, hazy gold with a piney and grapefruit nose. Light bodied and refreshing with kiwi fruit and some more resinous pine. Refreshing and a cracker to start.

Wandered into Room 3 and stepping up a gear or two in strength. Decadence Stout by Weird Beard (5,5%). Full bodied black beer that was as smooth as Kojak’s head! Black as sin with some light coffee on the nose. Creamy in the mouth with lots of roasted flavour, chocolate and a little bitter coffee and toast. Luscious. Gregg Irwin, one of the brewers was behind the bar, really nice bloke brewing excellent beer (Have a few of their bottles stashed)

IMAG0106(The lull before the musical storm!)

Room 3 (AKA The Music Room AKA The Ladies Pool) was sponsored by Dark Star. It would have been churlish not to sample one of their beers, especially when it was a Green Hopped IPA! At 6.5% abv, this was upping the strength again, where was this going to end? Badly of course! Not that this beer was bad, OH NO! Pale gold, resinous pine on the nose. Mamma this was bitter! Load of fruity hops, firm biscuity base with even more resinous goodness. Lingering. I LOVE Green Hopped beers!

Next (and a HUGE Slainte! to The Beerhound for this one! Cheers Tyson!) I popped into Room 1 to check out some cask conditioned Italian beer from Toccalmatto. I missed their MTB at Port Street but heard it was a cracker. So when Tyson tweeted about some cask conditioned beer! When The Beerhound barks, you need to listen! The beer I tried was Zona Cesarini an IPA at 6.6% abv. Golden, fruity spicy aroma. Lots of hoppy goodness in the mush, oh yes, this is hoppy! Really fruity beer with long-lasting bitterness and a really grassy resinous aftertaste. One of the best of the week.

Next. Room 2. Briefly. Brodies Brewery Apricot Sour. SWEET BABY JESUS AND THE ORPHANS!!!! This was SOUR! Each time I took a mouthful I banged on the table! A Ronseal beer. With added sourness. A 3.1% abv tart palate livener!

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(Space. The Final Frontier!)

Back to room 1 for a Redchurch Brewery Old Ford Export Stout. Is it REALLY 7.5%? Almost a “barrel aged” aroma, maybe rum, with this sinfully black beer. Deep bitter chocolate, some espresso and really rather bitter with an unexpectedly resinous dry finish. A kegged cracker!

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Next came another Stout, from Room2 this time. Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Acorn Brewery from Barnsley at 6% abv. A big Stout which was cask conditioned, black with plenty of boozy wood on the nose, Slightly sweet in the mouth with bitterness kicking in later down the glass. A warm glow following the slightly boozy aftertaste.

Staying on the Dark Side of the street, I then ventured into caffeinated territory. Coffee In The Morning, a Breakfast Stout from Tap East in Stratford. 5.5% abv, black with an instant whack of fresh ground coffee to wake the nose up. A “Ronseal” beer this, fairly light bodied, but with loads of coffee bitterness. First beer I’ve had from this crew (I believe linked to Utobeer (Borough Market) and The Rake (possibly the coolest small bar in London!). If a coffee beer is what you want, this certainly does the job!

Time for a change. Back to Room 2 for something a bit, well, paler. Otters Tears (6% abv) from Thornbridge. If Otters cry tears like this, then get me Tarka and peel him an onion! This was mid gold with a nice earthy hoppy aroma. Really nice and bitter/hoppy in the mouth with maybe a hint of apricot fruit. A crackling bitter and resinous finish that lindered (or even “lingered”!). Nicest pale ale I’ve had from Thornbridge this!

IMAG0096(Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band – Video Below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb5p0ch-lqM

(Courtesy of Ashjkennedy on You Tube)

Then came the (non-liquid) highlight of the evening. The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Walking in from the upper level (changing stalls) to the rear of the stage, in high theatre, they strutted in playing their instruments. When they got to the stage however, up went the bass drum and they let rip! An absolutely inspired piece of booking! Funky, uplifting and just bloody great musicians. A highlight.

Next, the ill-advised delights of Emelisse Brewery Imperial Russian Stout (11% abv) At this point, my notes came over all expletive laced! Black. Very black. Burnt toast, vinous and with an arse kicking coffee whiff. I staggered at the smell alone! Then the taste. Still boozy but with sweet coffee, bitterness, smoky with some more of that burnt toast. My notes finished Oooooohhhhhhh! Do I need say more? (I had another! But not before …..)

Blonde by Emelisse Brewery. 6.8% abv. Hazy pale with an aroma a bit like a fruity custard (or was my hooter broke?) Orchard fruit in the mouth, really fruity yet simultaneously bitter and piney resins in the finish. That Mr Bubberman can make damn good beer! (His collab Impy Stout with Marble earlier this year – made with Sorachi Ace – was a classic too!)

Was it a good night? Popes being Catholic and bears fouling wooded areas spring to mind. Yes it was. The whole shebang more than surpassed last year. The range of beers over the three days that I attended were superb. More international beers being a bonus. Excellent crowds, swift service by staff who knew their stuff (including us volunteers!)

I managed to see part sets of 2 or 3 bands in The Ladies Pool which were all excellent, with Harlequin Dynamite the icing on a very sweet cake indeed!

Meeting some people I know only from Twitter was a total bonus (take a bow Otto!). The brewers were free with their time and very friendly indeed, especially those from The Ladies Pool on Friday.

Oh, I just enjoyed it. Can you tell?

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 1

20131008_155421(The Splendour that is The Victoria Baths)

Doing this bloggy type thingy, one of the first things I wrote about was The Independent Manchester Beer Convention or IndyManBeerCon. A Beer Festival revelation, not only featuring some of the best beers that the UK had to offer, but held within the legendary Victoria Baths on Hathersage Rd. I remember getting my first drink and taking 45 minutes just to drink in the wondrous surroundings. The building may have been in need of substantial further refurbishment, but (and I don’t use this word lightly) I was awestruck. Stunning stained glass windows, beautiful balconies, lots of almost secret rooms. Ohh…….

Organised by the people behind Port Street Beer House, A Place Called Common & The Beagle, I was chuffed to bits to hear that the sequel was to have the same location. Another opportunity to say WOW!

For 2013, The “Convention” was to expand into 4 days from last years two. That was to be expected. Last year was incredibly popular, rightly so. The combination of the excellent beers, superlative “Street Food” and that oh so sumptuous location was a winner from the moment the doors first opened. Last year, I attended as a punter on the Friday and worked the bar on the Saturday. It was, quite simply, the most fun I’d had with my clothes on!

I had to ask myself, “Could they better last years’ effort?”

I assisted with one of the “Set Up” sessions on Tuesday. Partly (let’s be honest!) for a free session ticket. However, my main motivation was to see what the place looked like BEFORE the “beer locusts” arrived on the Thursday evening, draining everything in their path!

20131008_124305(Room 1 – The beers had just started to arrive)

The logistics of this organisation are simply boggling. Before the beer started arriving, the first job to do was washing and drying glassware. And there was A LOT OF IT! Just as we got started, Magic Rock and Marble arrived with their beer deliveries. Magic Rock had their own room (the room in which Brewdog were located last year), so that was easy. The Marble beers had to be delivered to their bar which was in room 1 – thank the gods for cask carriers!

20131008_124421(No. Those are empties. Is it just me, or does this look like a shrine?)

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(The REAL “Angel of the North”!)

What, with more glass deliveries – yes, I smashed a couple, sorry! – price labelling (casks), multiple brewery deliveries and bar construction, let’s just say, we were kept fully occupied!

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(Room 3)

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(Room 2 – View toward Food Vendor area)

I enjoyed this hugely. Met some nice volunteers. Got to meet Claudia, Duncan, Rosie and Jamie from the Port Street empire (nice to put names to faces that you see so often!), it was just, FUN.

Thursday

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(Room 2 – early on)

I hate being late. Especially when it’s my own fault. However, I couldn’t turn up covered in emulsion paint, could I? Trust me, It is NOT a good look! So, by the time that Jaz (Arch-Nemesis), Chris (Sacrificial Lamb) and I got in, the place was already busy. Having not eaten since breakfast though, first priority was food. The Meat Paella from Las Paelleras fitted the bill. Lots of lovely beery soaky plump rice grains with oodles of paprika and chorizo and chicken……drool……superb value at £5.

Firstly, with the beer, we need to talk about the measures. These are all priced for the 1/3rd of a pint. As you enter the building you pay/show your ticket, and are given a beer menu for that particular day. You are also given a stemmed glass marked with a line for the 1/3rd pint measure. Trust me, this works. The glass is lovely and delicate (Translation? Easy to smash on the way home!). This measure gives you the opportunity to try more beers. Personally? I just think that it’s more civilised than swilling pints!

At the bottom of the beer list is a wee map, showing where the various locations for functions are located. After a few, trust me, it would be easy to get lost whilst admiring this gorgeous interior!

First beer of the evening had to be light in alcohol, refreshing and hoppy. Quantum NZ Light at 3.6% abv was all that and more. Pale gold, fruity hop nose with the flavours of kiwi and passion fruit in the mouth. Tasty and damned refreshing. Having sat down to enjoy my Quantum with the paella, I was struck by the music. The sound of saxophone. And there they were, up on the balcony. Live music, nice touch. (Of course…if I had been paying attention to the website….)

It was getting a little busier at the bar in room 2, but service was till swift, so I stayed in here for another. Beadica’s Well (Barrel Aged) by Thornbridge. Whilst I hardly have beergasms over Thornbridge’s pale output, the darks generally rock my world. This was no exception. Black with a light creamy head. Smoky wood and toffee nose leading to more woody smoke, some treacle notes with some warming spirit drifting up your nose. Performed the trick of tasting above it’s relatively moderate 5.3% abv strength.

IMAG0029(Bar in Room 1)

Next came a walk into Room 1 to sample one of the IMBC Collaboration beers. Farmhouse IPA with Marble Brewery. At 7.4%, for the price of just a single token, this was a bargain! First on the nose, I got  quite hoppy notes with some yeasty Belgian funk. But in the mouth, the Saison character takes over. Quite spicy, yeasty and with a touch of peachy fruity sweetness. Superb.

IMAG0041(Room 3 – The Music Room)

Into Room 3 now for something a little different. Tea Saison from Buxton Brewery. Made with Cherry and Cranberry fruit teas allegedly! But where fruit teas can be a flavour let-down, this was anything but! Really tart and fruity aroma, the taste was akin to a Kriek, tart and mouth puckering. Really fruity and tart/sour with a finish that was sharp and as dry as a bone. Probably my second favourite of the evening.

Venturing into the Turkish Baths room now for a Dark Arts by Magic Rock – Kegged, therefore slightly too cold for my tastes, this is still a damned tasty strong stout with a firm dark roast malt body and the spiky flavours of bitter chocolate and coffee. A really good beer. Here is where I firmly come down on the cask conditioned side. Texture and temperature. I just think that cask (for me) wins hands down. Do I have all knowledge? Do I bollocks! I just happen to believe that cask conditioned, Dark Arts is a classic and one of my all-time favourites. On keg, it’s simply a really nice strong stout. And cold.

At this point, I went for a looksie into Room 3 where there was a band playing. They were called All We Are, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in company, I could have listened to them all evening. They sounded simply superb.

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Back to room 2 now. Weird Wit Black Jack Brewery collaboration with Weird Beard of Hanwell, W London. At 5% this was hazy gold with a gentle fruity aroma. This got going when it hit your taste buds! Quite full-bodied for a 5% beer, fruity, you could taste the melon as well, but this was simultaneously quite bitter with a marked resinous finish.  tasted a bit like a hybrid of a saison and an IPA. And in a VERY good way!

Stepping up on the abv now, next up was Blackberry King of Clubs by Black Jack Brewery Black and really fruity aroma. This was full of blackberry flavour. A full bodied dark roasted stout full of bitter coffee, chocolate and tart berries. Joint Beer of the Evening in my book! Along with…

Oh yes! From the moment that I saw this coming into the building on Tuesday, I just HAD to have some! Imperial Treacle Stout by Quantum (IMBC Collab beer) It says 8.6% on the menu, but 9.1% on the clip. Ooooohhhh smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back in time for breakfast! Unctuous, silky, oily and oh so bad for you. I REALLY don’t think anyone else should touch this beer. Leave it all for me. There’s a love! Black, alternately sweet with that gooey treacle, then bitter, then fruity. It was just soooo good, er…I mean terrible……er…Just leave it all for me. OK! Young Mr Krause has played another blinder! Cheers Jay.

To be honest, I took it really easy last night. I just enjoyed myself. Long chats with Peter (aka Tandleman) and his lovely lady Eileen to whom I could listen all evening dispensing beery pearls of wisdom (Eileen, of course ;-)) and some cracking chats with Matt from Privateer Beers (should have had his Dark Revenge here, CMON!) and his lovely friends Helen & Maria (I think?). Matt may be moving his brewery soon and it was nice to see him, especially talking positively about the future of the brewery. Helen has connections with the West Riding Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, a place I love of old. Long chat with Helen, birds of a feather views wise.

In summary. The venue is stunning. The beers were excellent and (mostly) well priced. The food was superb and laid on by the Guerilla Eats street food collective. The entertainment was first-rate (I don’t recall music last year?) The PSBH empire have raised the bar again. I could wax even more lyrical, but there are others more eloquent than I who will do that far better.

There is room to breathe – unlike most other fests. Room to chat (and be heard). It;s just civilised.  I enjoyed myself so much, that I completely lost track of time! So much so, that I finally paid attention to one of Matt’s (Privateer) prompts and realised that I had just over 10 minutes to get to Piccadilly and my last bus home (the look in Jaz’s eye indicated that his futon was NOT an option!)

TAXI!!!

Back to work there  (hopefully behind a bar) later – say hello. I’ll (probably be the oldest bloke behind the bars! And no beard!!!)

I’m hearing that there are still some tickets for Sunday going. Do yourself (and your taste buds) a favour. Come on down. Good food, great beer and a SPECTACULAR venue – worth the entry fee alone. Check http://www.indymanbeercon.co.uk/ for details!

On that note (and this may be further added to on Sunday!)…til then

Slainte!

‘Manchester. A Beer Is Born!’ JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale Launch / Joshua Brooks 17/04/2013

So. A random e-mail leads me to the VERY windy streets of Manchester and a clearing of my schedules to taste a new beer by Middleton based JW Lees. This being held in Rain Bar (Rainy City – geddit!), bizarrely, Lees’ sole outlet in the centre of Manchester.

Rain Bar(pic – fancyapint.com)

The entrance to the bar was cordoned, this being a private function, so wristbands on, er, wrists, myself and my arch-nemesis Jaz set off to the bar where conversation was already flowing (Well, Tandleman was at the bar too, so it would be!). We settled ourselves down to watch the slide show of iconic Manchester photographs that had been pulled together by Kevin Cummins.

Opened by Lees in 1999, I must have walked past this warehouse on numerous occasions in the 80s without paying it any mind. The name, the industrial link, the minimalism of all that exposed brickwork. It’s Manchester to its core this place. I like it.

The evening was beginning to take shape with the appearance at the bar of Kevin Cummins, Mark Radcliffe and Bez, the latter pair putting in a publicity shoot appearance behind it on the pumps.

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(I’m sure young Radcliffe’s in there somewhere!)

The Manchester themed canapes (the Black Pudding parcels were tremendous!) were doing the rounds as William Lees-Jones gave us a presentation on the beer and what inspired it. A pale beer with initial fresh hoppy aroma, easy drinking at 3.7% abv and quite refreshing, it evolved from a couple of the seasonals that the brewery released in 2011/2012. The intention – according to W L-J – is to push this nationally. It has been a while since a Manchester beer had such a presence nationally and I wish them well. (BTW – I preferred the draught markedly over the bottled version, which is slightly different and is 4.1%)

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(Manchester Pale Ale – Take a Bow!)

Williams’ speech over, Mark Radcliffe took over and was hugely entertaining (isn’t he always?) and hosted a 10 question quiz, with the prize being a years’ supply of the beer (and a years’ supply of curry too!). I lasted 5 questions!

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(The WRONG answer!)

Quiz over, the genial Bez took over custodianship of the decks and the Manchester tunes got funkier “Shack Up” by A Certain Ratio? Oh yes, back to my youth!

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(And The Bottled Version)

Quite a distinctive branding and label for this beer, which stands out from other Lees products. Simple and explanatory, which may help in the supermarket off-trade.

An enjoyable evening made better by chatting to a couple of Lees’ publicans from different generations. One from the Ring O’Bells in Middleton and a young couple from The Victoria in Holmes Chapel. Good company both.

The whole presentation was slick and firmly rooted in Manchester. The photographs were stunning (all from local amateurs), the quiz (even as A or B) was fiendishly difficult and the music was superb (even if it drifted away from Manc artists toward the end!)

A good launch. Wish them well. (Now then, where IS that bottle of Manchester Star?) And thank you to Niamh from Tangerine PR for the invites!

Collecting our ‘goodie bags’ (I’m a sucker for these things!), myself and Jaz sloped off for t’watch us some footie. This led us to ……

Joshua Brooks.

Last night was possibly unique for me. A ‘Freehouse’ with 5 outstandingly good ales on the bar. AND 4 OF THEM WERE DARKS!!!! As Van Morrison once sang “I’m in HEAVEN’!

20130417_200443(The Dark Side indeed!)

Being a glutton for punishment, I sampled them all.

First up was the ‘Liquid Mint Aero’ that is Thornbridge Baize. 5.5% abv, black with a minty and vanilla aroma. A gloriously well balance stout with more than a hint of mint (poetry comes as standard!) and chocolate without being cloyingly sweet. A hell of an achievement this beer!

Next, one of the two darks on from Titanic Brewery. Firstly the Cappuccino Stout at 4.5%. I raved about this when I first had this last year. Lovely stout with some nice coffee bitterness.

Next was Darkness by the relentlessly excellent Dark Star brewery. A black IPA at the low abv of 3.5%, a superb achievement to get so much flavour into such a low alcohol beer, coffeeish, citrussy, confounding. But a reaaaaally nice beer.

Finally, Titanic Chocolate & Vanilla Stout. Again, as with the Cappuccino, this uses Titanic’s dry Stout as the basis and runs off in another direction. Smooth an dreamily creamy. Choccy, Ice Creamy, I just adore this beer. It’s up there with Triple Chocoholic by Saltaire and Dark Arts by Magic Rock for me. It completes my ‘Holy Trinity’ of stouts!

Nice to chat with James again and even better when United drop points (WHAT a goal by Diame!) and The Blues slutch a win against Wigan.

With the beer selection that JBs has, allied to the superb condition in which it is always served, this bar should be packed night after night. I don’t know when drinkers are going to catch up, but, until they do, I’ll pick my favourite leather chair, enjoy the excellent tunes and sink a pint or three!

An excellent evening, as ever, with Mr Jaz with some excellent beers all told!

On that note…..Until next time….

Slainte!

London Calling – Craft Beer Bars In The Big City 07/03/2013

Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth (or the ready meal aisle), an invite to a swanky function in “The City”, presented this thirsty Northern Boy with an opportunity simply too good to pass up. Some new bars in virgin territory! Plonking the BM bags in t’hotel room, my buddy and I find ourselves walking along Tachbrook Street in Pimlico towards….

Cask Bar SW1

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Located at the corner of Charlwood and Tachbrook Streets, this is a bar I’ve wanted to visit ever since I drank at its sister bar in Brighton nearly 2 years ago. A large open plan room, with plenty of seating. fairly modern looking bar with some interesting artwork on the walls

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(Modern bar)

Being utterly famished, we ordered a couple of their special “heat” burgers (excellent!) and perused the bar. A goodly selection indeed including 2 each from DarkStar, Thornbridge and Buxton, there were at least 8 ales on plus 10 or so on craft keg. 2 DarkStar Sussex Extra Stouts at 4.5% were ordered whilst we awaited the food. Lovely and creamy, dark and handsome beer with a slight coffee tinge to it, an excellent start.

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(Interesting Artwork)

The burgers arrived, nice and spicy and needed something to deal with the spice, Buxton Dark Nights did the trick! A US Style Porter at 4.6%abv, dark brown some roasted flavour, but really well hopped. Wowsers! This, to me, is how a porter really should be, roasted malt and bitter.

My buddy was taking time to accustom himself to the Buxton, I had however demolished mine and looked for a wee half of something. Thornbridge St Petersburg Imperial Stout? Don’t mind if I do! Lovely dark coffee aroma from that tan coloured head, coffee, licorice flavours and SO much more. If you’ve never had it, it’s a beer to try before you die. Add it to your lists! (BTW, it was getting V Busy by 6 O’clock!)

Moving on, we met some associates from The Emerald Isle and had a break with a couple of Guinness. However, my craft beer muse was calling, so I grabbed a cab ‘cos my poor feet were aching in new shoes, and stopped at…..

The Holborn Whippet

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Located at the Kingsway end of the lovely Sicilian Avenue, 2 distinct rooms either side of a central bar. No handpumps here, but air dispense (like the Euston Tap, I think). Very friendly and helpful staff in here! More Buxton was had here, on this occasion Rednik Stout at 4.1% abv. Nutty, smooth and bloody gorgeous! Buxton can’t do wrong in my eyes.

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(The Whippet Cask Selection – ‘beer from the brick’ indeed!)

Introducing my companion to new beers, we next had a Kirkstall Black Band Porter at 5.5%. First time I had this was at the Leeds International fest last September. Again, lovely and smooth almost more of a stout were it not for the bitter edge, nice roasted coffee flavour. Another winner.

My pal was slacking by this time, so I sought another sneaky half. I spied a Kernel Pale Ale. But damn! Just emptied! Never mind, the really friendly barman swiftly changes for another by Kernel. 5.6%, pale and bloody seriously hoppy with a whole citrus grove leaping from the (1/2) glass! Tremendously sharp and refreshing (in a slightly boozy way!)

Jumping the tube now, one change and we were heading south of the river toward London Bridge and the world famous Borough Market. Located around the back of the market is Winchester Walk. There, in the shadow of the historic Southwark Cathedral lurks…….

The Rake

Such a tiny wee bar, but with an inordinate amount of character! Immediately welcomed by friendly bar staff, including a Northerner from Burnley! 3 ales on handpump with a number of kegged offerings. Focussing on the handpumps, we went for Ilkley Stout Mary. Another brewery that can do no wrong for me. Lovely, smooth, creamy. Some cappuccino with a light smoky hint. Yum!

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Fyne Ales are a brewery I’ve longed to drink on cask. Two here! This is probably what finished me off! I forsook the charms of Avalanche to dally with a pint of Superior IPA.

A pint of stupidity at 7.1% abv, this was one fabulously hoppy strong beer! Full on citrus flavours with grapefruit right up there. A fyne (groan!) end to the evening!

We got chatting to a couple from them there States, seemed to be the bar owners. Great chatting to them. Check the white boarded wall out when you go. Brewers from far and wide signing. A quirky touch!

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(A small section of ‘The Wall’)

Another great bar, one hell of a find and one to which I shall return next time I’m down. Takes some finding, but it’s well worth it!

With the exception of the strong Fyne and St Petersburg, prices were pretty much what you would pay in some Manchester bars, £3.60 a pint or thereabouts.

Great bars, great beer. I love this mallarkey!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!