Home Beers – Feb 2016 – Pt 1

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Am I lucky? Or am I just incredibly selective in what I drink? It really is rare that I open a poor bottle of beer. And THAT is generally because I’ve left it too long before I drink it.

Don’t get me wrong, there IS duff stuff out there, dull and uninspiring. But the purpose of these posts – and this blog in general – is to highlight the good stuff (IMO) for you to try, be that bottles, pubs, bars or breweries/brewtaps. That won’t change. I’m not lucky or indeed overly selective in what I buy. Nor am I a coward in that I say little that is negative about stuff.

I believe, simply, in being constructive. If I have issues, I let the people know who are in the best place to deal with them. Those are the landlord/brewer/owner etc. That works for me. Works with my personal sense of morality and ethics. It’s really easy to go on the likes of Untappd and slaughter a beer. That is not (and never will be) my “way”.

I don’t know why I felt the need to say that. The words fell out of my head on to the keyboard. That now said, I move on, to some REALLY good beers. From the North. As usual. And, just to prepare you, this includes, perhaps the bottled beer that has made the biggest impact on me.

Ever.

A BIG statement. And it may surprise you….

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Dark StoutBarearts Brewery (Todmorden) – 4.8% abv – Stout – 500ml – Barearts Shop (Todmorden)

This REALLY is a special and quirky little shop. An unremarked upon jewel, in a town recovering from recent flooding. Go help. Buy beer.

On pouring this dark beauty, I was assailed with roasted malt aromas, earthy, bitter chocolate and little coffee. A damn fine start from this creamy headed black beer. Smells pulling at my hearts strings….

Smooth in the mouth with a light carbonation, the roasted bitterness hits you from the get go. Bitter chocolate, coffee grinds and a little note of licorice in there in this earthy mouthful. Delicious.

A gentle smoky note creeps in in further mouthfuls, cosying up to that roasted barley in this silky smooth beer. Nice bitterness on the swallow. Lovely dry Stout this.

Finish is dry and roasty with a hoppy aftertaste showing through the bitterness. A lovely beer from this tiny Todmorden brewery. Just hope they weren’t hugely affected by the recent flooding.

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The Black CrossroadsCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) / Elusive Brewing (London) – 6.5% abv – StoutHeaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Black. Just how I like my Stouts. I have dark desires. And I desired this from the moment I saw it on the shelf. Beautiful head. The colour of a milky coffee. And that aroma! Roasty, touch of citrus and coconut. Mmmmmm…. Sorachi in a Stout just rocks my world.

Oh lordy. Oh lordy, lordy, lordy. Now. I bow to few in my admiration of the beers made by Shane Swindells. Anyone who has been within squealing distance of me recently (or so reads THIS tosh that I peddle), knows my feelings about Govinda.

I think he (in collaboration with Andy Parker) had made a dark beer to rival that beauty. There’s a playful fruitiness to this on the first sip. I hesitate to call it citrus. It’s not. But what follows is pure darkness. Like a dark chocolate Bounty bar dipped in ground coffee…. I’m swooning here!

Then, the bitter roast hits the sides of the tongue. Oh my. This works for me! Dirty, roasted, earthy thing that this is. I love it.

The bitter roast is just such a joy and is no doubt aided and abetted in this smash and grab on my tastebuds by some judicious hopping. Neither Shane note Andy are known for stinting in that department…

That bitterness goes through with that dark roast to a hoppy roasty finish and aftertaste.

An established star from the North (to me) collaborating with a rising start from that there South. And they’ve made a dark delight.

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TripelTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 8.2% abv – Belgian Style Tripel – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Sparkling mid gold beer, pouring slightly lively with an abundant white lacy head giving an aroma full of peach, banana and spice, with a little clove upfront.

Mmmmmm… My initial reaction to the first mouthful was to take a metaphorical step back. Woof! This is a big and full bodied thing. With plenty of that indefinable thing…. Oomph.

Fruity. Orange peel, banana, peach all in there, slightly tart, then, once swallowed, a tongue curling and herbal dryness. Really pronounced. Then, a curious warmth started to spread.

The finish is dry and herbal hoppy.

I’m not someone who drinks much in the way of Belgian beer and wouldn’t necessarily know what to compare this with. I’ll have to grab another and Share with Des (ask Deeekos). He’d know.

What I DO know, is that I like this. A lot.

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Ace of SpadesBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 10% abv – Imperial Stout – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton under Lyne)

Black as the….. You know where I’m going. It’s seriously dark is this beer. The head looks like the cream you pour on top of an Irish Coffee and the smell… Oh the smell… Like the bitterest of chocolate with a little smoke and that new leather sofa smell. Winning….

Indeed…. It’s an Imperial Stout… So you just KNOW that I’m winning at life right about now? This big old body has traces of chocolate dunked in port wine, nice and bitter cocoa, a deep Espresso swills around my mouth too, making my gums tingle.

Yes there is a sweetness that is unavoidable in a beer like this, but that is more than offset by such a hoppy bitterness. Magnificent.

The finish is winey and boozy, but with a big bitter hop aftertaste.

I’m listening to Walk On By by Isaac Hayes. Drink the beer, listen to the tune. You’ll get it. Trust me. This beer just loves those bass notes!

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DIPACloudwater Brew Co (Manchester) – 9% abv – Double IPA – 330ml – Harvey Leonards (Glossop)

I was made up when Steven from Harvey Leonard’s held one of these back for me, becoming quite hard to get. And having had it on cask and keg, it would have been a shame NOT to have had a bottle….

Oh. My. Flip the lid, smell the fruit. This is fruitier on the nose than a Church Street barrow! WOW! Ultra Pale, light white head and that tropical fruit basket aroma… Grapefruit, mango, lemon….

Whilst being full of body (a bit like myself) the trick with this beer is like I said to James Campbell at the brewery on launch day. It tastes way lower on the abv. And is therefore extremely dangerous in its deliciousness.

Nicely lightly carbonated, this smooth operator lets the hops sing. And they DO sing. Again, mango, grapefruit tartness, smooth juicy orange and so much more tropical stuff that’s hard to describe. It’s just bloody gorgeous stuff. Worthy of many of the accolades it attracted in 2015.

Huge hoppy finish, nice rounded bitterness leading to a BIG hoppy aftertaste. Not a mouth wrecker unlike some. Just beautiful.

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American Barleywine 2015Torrside Brewing Co (New Mills) – 10% abv – Barley Wine – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton under Lyme)

For your own sakes, I hope that you have read this far down….

Like a 330ml jewel, this is one deep ruby beer. I swear it is glowing from within…. The aroma is a surprise. Really fruity, surprisingly so, almost like a hoppy Pale Ale, full of rich and sticky orange and something slightly more tropical that I can’t quite define. Yum.

Oh sweet baby Jesus and the orphans!!! WTF is THIS?

Rich. So so rich. Yes, there is a sweetness to this. A rich and chewy toffee malt. But before it can insinuate itself in, it’s overwhelmed by spicy fruit. And by the GODS is this spicy! Bags of juicy raisins, macerated in who knows what, juicy, vinous, but so bloody peppery!

Being honest, this was one HELL of a shock to the system. This is HAMMERED with hops! But the thing is, insanely, it works SO WELL!

The finish is very dry. Almost tongue curlingly so. And the aftertaste is just, so hoppy. Almost herbally so.

A simply magnificent achievement!

To put in simply, without undue hyperbole, this is quite possibly the bottle of beer that has made the biggest impact on my tastebuds in the 3 1/2 years I’ve been sharing with you. The last beer that made as near an impact as this, was a 2/3rd of Human Cannonball by Magic Rock. The beer that effectively started me blogging.

It’s THAT good.

On that note…..

Slainte!

Home Beers – Jan 2016 – Pt 2

The aim with these “Home Beers” posts was to keep them to roughly 1 per month. But I couldn’t wait to share this stunning batch. Forgive my eagerness?

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IPA (Mt Hood/Ahtenum)Squawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5% abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Crisp clean deep and golden. Lasting light foamy white head with lashings of tropical stuff on the nose, mango, peach and lychee? Really juicy….

Oh this is a juicy belter of a beer! Good deep body, nicely balanced malty backbone with this fruitiness say on top. Mango, apricot? A bit of peach and a lovely bite of bitterness in the swallow, lovely and spicy.

An earthiness to this hopping too, really dry with a lovely spicy hop aftertaste following the fruity, peppery finish.

Typically Squawk. All kinds of yum!

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AmberjackNeptune Brewery (Maghull) – 4.5% abv – Amber Ale – 330ml – Direct from the brewer

This Beer pours a lovely copper colour with a white light head giving off a big citrus aroma, orange juice and zest – like driving along the Costa del Azahar through the citrus groves. Really juicy and fragrant.

Light to medium bodied, this slides down all too easily. Wholemeal bready malt with a touch of spicy dryness (Rye?) overlaid with that orange/peachy fruitiness makes this a beautiful sessionable beer. Really refreshing.

Low on bitterness, this is a really easy drinking beer that belies its strength and feels really light and juicy. The finish is fruity and leads to a dry slightly resinous hoppy aftertaste.

A lovely beer from this new Liverpool brewery…

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Fire DamageTorrside Brewing (New Mills) – 4.9% abv – Stout – 500ml – Harvey Leonards (Glossop)

Black. Generally a good start with a Stout in my book. Nice light tan head too. And a big roasty aroma with a peaty smokiness reminiscent of my favourite peaty single malt – Lagavulin. Win. Win.

Medium bodied. That peaty smoke is quite upfront, but gradually recedes leaving behind a really nice deep malty chocolate flavour. A bit like dark chocolate Hob Nobs.

My. Kind. Of. Beer. That deep dark malty chocolate thing just rolls on and on coating my mouth in a lightly peated choccy biccy flavour.

At that strength, this is something that (on cask) I could repeat. A few times…..

Nice shop / bar too. Report soon.

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IPA (Winter Range) – Cloudwater Brew Co (Manchester) – 8% abv – er… IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

Now. I don’t normally embrace the murky. But when it smells like THIS I don’t give a toss. It’s a mango bomb! Oh my, just pureed mango. Give me the pulp. Yum.

Hazy gold, lasting white head. You get the rest?

Yes. Yes. YES! Bring unto me all of your mango and peachy hops! This is a beergasm and no mistake! Um Bongo with beautifully soft carbonation. Full bodied and just such a fruity b*****d! (And I’m sober BTW!)

Big beer. Paradoxically, tastes bigger than the DIPA did when I had it on launch day at the brewery. But that matters not a jot. From the first to last mouthful, it’s just fruity and nicely spicy/bitter with the hop load. And yum. Big yum!

Warming too. That huge fruitiness never lets up and leads to a big resinous hop finish.

Just yes. And an early candidate for bottled beer of the year.

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Summat ElseFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.2% abv – Pale Ale – 750ml – Direct from the brewer.

The moment that the lever bottle top was flipped, I was assaulted with sharp and tangy tart aromas of lemon and grapefruit. Like a citrus tsunami crashing against my nostrils from this pale golden beer.

Woah! This is a big beast. There is a big sweet biscuit malty base to this, a bit like a flapjack drizzled with maple syrup. This is then overlaid with a huge fruitiness full of mango and grapefruit tartness. Lightly carbonated, this adds to the impression of a really smooth beer.

It’s described as a Strong Pale Ale. And you don’t forget that with each chewy fruity mouthful with a little apricot in there too at the finish leading to a moderate bitterness. Find of his strong Pale Ales is Mr Bastow. I can see why. This is a brute.

The fruity bitter finish leads to a substantial resinous hop aftertaste that rounds this beer off superbly. This is up there with the best English IPAs for me.

This, really is “Summat Else”. And another early candidate for bottle of the year.

Five Towns are a bit of a Yorkshire secret that Yorkshire folk like to keep to themselves (I was reprimanded by one Yorkshire drinker for recommending their beers last week) With beers like this, the secret should be well and truly OUT.

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Govinda (Chevallier Edition) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.8% abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops

A beer that I adore. In all its previous incarnations. Original, Brandy cask aged, White Wine barrel aged and now this. With an old and rare strain of malt, regrown and snaffled by Shane Swindells.

How I wanted this beer SO badly.

So. Deep amber coloured with a good soft white head and a huge fruity aroma full of…. caramelised banana…. I was warned that this malt was…. different.

Oh dear. This feels like it should help me sleep…. A full-bodied beer to say the least, this IPA is a different kind of fruity. Agreed in 3 different wooden casks, then blended back to produce this. And this is one special beer.

There’s banana, vines full of raisins, hints of pear and apple all on top of a deep chewy fruit cake malt. Yes, there’s sweetness in here, this is a potent malt. But there is also a tingling smooth bitterness in every mouthful, balancing that malt.

There is a warming feeling too that this beer brings from the barrel ageing. Definite brandy and that fruit cake feels like it has been soaking in rich deep winey flavours.

The finish is long and warming, with plenty of deep grassy hopping in here, smooching in with the warmth.

This is only beer made with Chevallier malt in 2015. And Shane is proud of his baby.

He should be. This is a very special beer. Bottle of the year candidate.

And I have a spare or two that I’m going to age for a year.

I feel lucky.

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A truly superb batch of beers. I couldn’t hold on in case they all went and you couldn’t buy any. I owed you that much!

Back soon.

Slainte!

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 : My “Dance Card”

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Welcome to the beer festival that shows that CAMRA “do” UK Keg! Yes, I KNOW that the Campaign has had numerous kegged beers over the years! BUT…..These are beers brewed in the UK, mostly not designed to be dispensed from a cask. That is BIG news. To be celebrated.

And it has moved from the (“a little bit awkward to get to”) Velodrome – an iconic modern venue – to somewhere infinitely more “Central”. And more historically iconic. A Mancunian architectural masterpiece. And THAT should also be celebrated.

That out of the way, I’m a lucky sod. I get to see the beer list. And it is a big list. And – instantly removing anything from Marstons – there is something for everyone. Even me.

So. Being a “tactical drinker” at beer festivals, I compile a plan of attack – a “dance card” if you will, that panders to my Northern sensitivities. Others may list beers from that there London. Not I. With one exception (noted and explained below) mine are from no further South than Crewe and no further North than Malton.

A narrow focus.

But I care precisely how much?

Here we go, in strength order. Like I said, “tactical drinking”….. And, just in case you’re interested in trying any of these yourself, I’ve included the bar on which to find them. Because I’m nice like that!

No 2 Stout – Stringers Beer – Stout – 4% abv – Bar 3

A beer that I absolutely adored in bottle from the very first sip about 3 years ago. And I have NEVER had in on cask. I have often gazed at the pump clip on the wall at Port Street and whimpered. Envious.

Bitter and roasted. As black as Donald Trump’s evil heart. I will be distraught if I don’t get to try this. My #1 priority.

Admiral Porter – Brewsmith Beer – Porter – 4% abv – Bar 1

Why? Because it’s Brewsmith. And James Smith (see what he did there?) has yet to put out anything less than excellence.

And the Admiral hop gives the lie to those who whinge that UK hops are crap. It’s an aromatic beauty of a thing.

Sorachi Ace – Mallinsons Brewery – (Single Hopped) Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Bar 2

Why? Stupid question. It’s Mallinsons. And it’s a single-hopped Pale Ale.

And – in the words of Carly Simon – “Nobody does it better”. I’ll be having a pint.

At least one….

Talisman IPA – Pictish Brewing – Pale Ale – 4.2% abv – Pictish Brewery Bar

A brewery that is in need of better PR. They should be HUGE. Possibly the most underrated brewery in Greater Manchester. Brewers of simply outstanding single-hopped Pale Ales.

Unmissable.

Mr Scruff Pale – Squawk Brewing – Session IPA – 4.6% abv – Bar 3

Oliver Turton has been quietly brewing some of the best beers in Manchester for the last two years. That’s enough reason to do this.

And I love the Centennial hop.

Lupy Lager – Offbeat Brewery – Lager – 4.7% abv – Bar 2

A cask conditioned lager from one of my very favourite breweries? And it’s a one-off? Damn those CAMRA oiks! I’ll be having words with Miss Kelsall about that…..

Again, unmissable….

Orange and Rosemary Belgian Pale – Bad Seed Brewery – Belgian Pale – 5% abv – Bar 1

Rosemary in beer can be herbal Marmite to some. But I love it. And Bad Seed would be just the brewery to pull this off.

Looking forward to trying this HUGELY.

Bitter Chocolate Stout – Runaway Brewery – Stout – 5% abv – Runaway Bar

A new beer to me from the best and most consistent new brewery in Manchester. Mark Welsby makes good beer. For those with no love of keg, prepare to be converted.

Mancunian Evil Keg Filth of the highest order. And you can quote me on that!

Marmite Stout – Ticketybrew / Quantum BrewingStout – ? abv – Bar 3

Two breweries unafraid to try something different. Or unusual. This beer can be safely said to tick BOTH of those boxes.

This sounds inspired. It’s certainly interesting!

Pale Rye (Name TBC) – Track / Matt Dutton – Pale Ale – ? abv – Bar 3

OK. Track are banging out some tremendous beers with arguably the strongest core range of any Manchester brewery. I’ve been saying for AGES that Sonoma is a Manchester classic.

Factor in a collab with the best home brewer in the UK, Matt Dutton, this is going to be special! I have sampled several of Matt’s beers and he – should he choose to go commercial – is a star in the making. This beer rates as priority #2. Unmissable.

AllDay Coffee IPA – Allgates/Manchester Beer Week – Coffee IPA – 5.1% abv – Bar 1

A Coffee IPA brewed especially for the festival by the most drinkable of breweries and Connor Murphy wearing his MBW head. Read the blog piece and it sounds AMAZING!

Centennial – Torrside Brewing – Porter – 5.4% abv – Bar 3

I have been lucky enough to try beers brewed at home by each of the Torrside triumvirate. It was therefore no surprise at all when they hit the ground running when they launched late last year.

My heart lies in darkness. Torrside make great beers. A marriage made in….

Nouvelle Saison: Beetroot and Horseradish –Alphabet Brew Co – Saison – 6% abv – KeyKeg Bar

I wouldn’t miss this flavour mix for all the tea in….. Intriguing to say the least!

Sorachi Grey – Five Oh Brew Co – IPA – 6.5% abv – Bar 1

If Jamie Hancock puts his beer in cask, it is both a rare event (wonder where he did it first?) and unmissable.

This man brews good beer.

Victoria Export Stout – Bexar County Brewery – Stout – 6.7% abv – Bar 1

My sole selection from south of Crewe. Why? Because I think that I have had 3 beers that this man has brewed. All excellent and two of those (a collab with HDM and his Pecan Coffee Mild) were among the best beers I’ve had in years!

And it’s pronounce BEAR. “The X is silent. The Beer speaks for itself” Indeed….

And finally……

Rampart – Ossett/Brass Castle Collab – IPA – 7% abv – Bar 2

“Heavily hopped West Coast style IPA. Tangy bitterness & intense grapefruit, floral & tropical fruit flavours.” – Case rested!

Well. That’s that. As Rabbie Burns allegedly said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, so (like last year) I’m bound to miss one of these. But it won’t be for the want of trying!

It’s Tryanuary. Get ticking!

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And for those who want to plan ahead, here is the link to the full UK beer list! http://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/uk-beers/