MTB with Weird Beard @ Heaton Hops – 14/03/2016

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I kind of gave up on Meet The Brewer (MTB) events a few years back. They got to feel a bit like doing a “Brewery Tour”. I’ve been around a few Micro Breweries and to be honest, they start to blur into one. Once you’ve seen four or five, it gets to be ‘variations on a theme’. A bit samey.

It’s the personalities that make both worth doing. And Gregg Irwin – chief Spreadsheet Ninja, brewer, co-owner of Weird Beard Brew Co – is definitely one of those.

And (let’s get this out of the way NOW shall we?) I rather like the beers that these fellas brew down in West London. I always have. For all of my Northern Beer Fascism, I’ve had a soft spot for these beers since I was introduced to them by The Ale Man, YAY years ago.

Yes. Damian O’Shea. The same. Now thriving in his “Award Winning” bar. Heaton Hops. A bar that has wormed its way into my cold cold heart. By being astonishingly good. It’s simple really!

And I had an agenda….(maybe) more later….

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We had six beers to get through. 4 of them – given my curmudgeonly Northern tendencies – that I had never tried before.

Like I said, Gregg is certainly no wallflower. And there were a few choice epithets sprinkled throughout the evening, to be sure – given his visceral feelings about Mild, we’re unlikely to meet halfway on some. These made the evening all the more entertaining. I certainly shed a laughter tear or five!

Rather amazingly (or not – to some – given the “craft beer” boom) Weird Beard export their tasty wares to 21 countries, 10 of them on a regular basis. They’re even making inroad in that most vin sozzled of countries. France. Apparently, a real growing market for good beer.

So. Where were we? Ah….

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So Damian had persuaded Mr Beard himself to come and chinwag with us. And this was very much a two-way street. There was at least one vegan in the cosy audience, so we had a bit of to and fro on the usage of isinglass as an aid to clarity. We had Gregg’s story as to how Saison 14 (one of the beers tonight) acquired its name – a reference to a score it obtained in a Home Brewing contest – cue withering glare at YT (recent Home Brewing judge….)

The beers started to flow….and Gregg chatted briefly about the birth of each and how the hop bill and other parts of the recipes have changed – sometimes by design, sometimes due to availability of ingredients – over time. Things like how the body that they get into beers like “Little Things That Kill”. How the beers get named – mostly from songs “LTTK” (A track by Bush), “Fade To Black” (Metallica).

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Personally, I can’t wait to taste “Relight My Fire”…..

It is – to me – sad that WB only cask approximately 15% of their output. The joy I used to find in my occasional pint of Decadence Stout – one of the best I’ve ever had – was a rare thing. A truly lovely beer. I think that it is safe to say, that cask wouldn’t be Gregg’s preferred method of dispense. Putting it mildly…..(I just had to get “Mild” in one more time….)

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To my utter delight, Jimmy from Nasi Lemak had set up a mini “street kitchen” outside the bar, so we had some truly excellent grub appearing – at intervals – on the tables (Sweet Potato fries with spicy sauce went superbly with the Choc Mint Stout – “A World Without Dave”)

It would be easy to waffle on about the beer. Safe to say that it was uniformly superb. But, briefly, from “Little Things That Kill” (Light refreshing and hoppy), “A World Without Dave” (Choc, Mint, Lush and creamy), “Fade To Black” (Smooth, Citrussy, a little Coconut – the sole cask), Saison 14 (my personal favourite – surpisingly – Cream Soda smooth, Apricot & Tangerine)

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The final two beers were hastily consumed – as myself and my mentor “Pal” had to scarper sharpish for a train. They were “Sorachi Faceplant” a BIG (8.1%) IPA that was so juicy and dangerously drinkable and “Sadako” Imperial Stout, luscious, creamy, smooth and done absolutely no justice to by being wolfed down. Unlike the spicy chicken that Jimmy wheeled out….

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(Pic : Courtesy of @Deeekos)

This was an excellent evening. There are very few things that would encourage me to travel from Bolton over 20 miles on a school night. But Damian O’Shea, Heaton Hops & Gregg Irwin managed it.

Even if I WAS the butt of a few Irwin jokes…….

And no. With nights like this, Meet The Brewer events DON’T need “Reinventing”.

They just need good beer, good people (brewers, bloggers, beer & food lovers) and intelligent conversation. Oh. And a liberal sprinkling of beery expletives…

A joy of an evening.

 

A Tryanuary Tour – Bottle Shops To Die For

I had earned my “Brownie Points”. Chores, running around, you name it, I did it. I wanted Saturday left free. I wanted some fresh beers and to try something new. Just one more thing……

Fancy a Vegan Curry for tea? I played my Ace. Job done.

So. Beer.

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Heaton Hops7, School Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport.

My first visit to the City Life Pub of the Year 2015. Well, my first since it won that most deserved of accolades!

Those who pay any form of attention to my wibblings will know that I’ve been a big fan of Damian O’Shea’s businesses since his days on Castlefield Market as The Ale Man. He always did have an eye for great bottle beers. But when he and his partner Charlotte opened this little bar in Heaton Chapel, little did they know….

In this small space, there is a most excellent selection of bottled and canned beers from all over the UK. Of course, my predilections steer more to the North of the compass and I was here in particular, because Damian had held of bottle of Cheshire Brewhouse’s Govinda (Chevallier Edition) for me.

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As I have said on this blog before, this is a small, but beautifully thought out space. With excellent beer. 2 on cask and 8 on keg, from the best of local and not so local breweries. The cask selection tends to be local, but today, he had on a cask of the luscious Milk Stout by Bristol Beer Factory. Atilla had one. I joined her. It was a creamy, slightly sweet and roasty delight. Atilla thought so too.

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The bar seems to be doing brilliantly. No surprise given the location and what Damian & Charlotte offer. A cosy and comfortable bar with an excellent product for sale. Why was I here again?

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Ah yes. THAT was why!

I could stay in this bar all day. But I had appointments elsewhere. I bade my farewells to Damian and we headed off, just as Charlotte and baby Harriet arrived…..

If you haven’t been before, it’s only 4 mins walk from Heaton Chapel train station and the 192 bus from Piccadilly drops you close too. So why not?

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Browtons – 8 Fletcher Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne, OL6 6BY

Is that Simon himself, grinning, as I took my shot? That was a long drive. Good job that I know that this bottle shop is worth it!

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Located in a semi-pedestrianised spot, opposite the famous Ashton Market, the first surprise was the cheap car parking just a couple of minutes walk away.

Simon Browton is a man of excellent taste and has a large, varied and wide ranging selection of bottled and canned beers from some of the best breweries around. Unlike the first time I turned up, he know has an “On” licence too, so you can buy a bottle (chilled or otherwise) and settle in a comfy chair and sip and chat to your hearts’ content.

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Having has a BBF Milk Stout, we opted out of region again and had a nicely chilled bottle of Black Perle by Weird Beard and I just wallowed, puzzled by how full of flavour and full-bodied such a low alcohol beer could be! Beautifully smooth and creamy, with a nice nip of coffee. If there was a brewery that this Northern oik misses from the south, it’s Weird Beard. There! I said it.

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Yup. You can even buy a change of clothing while you are here!

A nice chat with Simon revealed (I think?) possible plans to open a draught bar/bottle shop. If so, knowing Simon, this would be an enormous thing in Ashton. Just this shop is a classy place with friendly “regulars” who we had a chat with about Manchester pubs.

I also thank Simon enormously for his suggestion to drink the Torrside American Barleywine sooner rather than later! The man was SO right as you will see in the next bottle review! Why was I here again? Oh yes…..

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Harvey Leonard’s – 22, Norfolk Street, Glossop, SK13 8BS

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(Thanks to Steven for the pic!)

Then, another long drive. This time to Glossop, because the very nice folk at Harvey Leonard bar/shop had set aside an increrasingly difficult to find beer for me. A Cloudwater DIPA!

The bar was quite busy when we got there and, being unfamiliar with the feel of the place, photos were NOT an option, but this seemed like a nice friendly local bar with the accent on the wine at that moment. But, far from being shunted to one side, the beer selection was front and centre! And there was an excellent selection!

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Thornbridge, Torrside, Buxton….The local Derbyshire breweries were well represented. Quite a bit of Cloudwater too. There was a wide selection from all over, with quite a lot of Northern stuff to tickle my fancy….But I was in a rush….I was hungry (as was Atilla)

The great news is that they’ve move since then to larger premises! 300 bottles (drink in or take-away), 4 key keg taps (rotating) I’m gonna have to come back I see! (And it’s JUST around the corner from Glossop Train Station too!)

Then, to The Globe. And the most ludicrously good value food you’re likely to get. Anywhere. We had a pint and a half of Porter (brewed on site), One Chickpea & Spinach Curry (with a Naan) and Vegan sausages, chips and onion gravy. Just. Over. £9.

Think about that when you go to Harvey Leonard’s!

It was Tryanuary. I had some new beery experiences doing this piece in both Browtons AND Harvey Leonard’s.

3 most excellent local independent beer businesses. Support them. They deserve it, because they’re good. And have soul. Unlike you local supermarket.

But, for all the hoopla last month, these places ALL deserve your custom 12 months of the year.

Because they are bloody good.

Back soon.

Slainte!

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!

Bottled Beers – January 2015 – Pt 1

“They say an end can be a start, it feels like I’ve been buried yet I’m still alive
It’s like a bad day that never ends.
I feel the chaos around me, a thing I don’t try to deny
I’d better learn to accept that there are things in my life I can’t control”

(“If I Ever Feel Better” – Phoenix)

(Clip courtesy of B.D White – via YouTube)

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For me, this is possibly the ultimate earworm – well, in its original form anyway. From a band that have – criminally – never had a hit single in the UK. I am also yet to discover so sad a song set against SUCH an uplifting melody.

Taken from their debut album “United”, this track – again, for me – explodes any myth that the French can’t make great pop music. For a while indeed, French music dominated dancefloors in the late 90s and early to mid 00s with the likes of Daft Punk (former band mates with members of Phoenix in “Darlin'”) and Justice.

I could have easily just used a clip of the single, but chose the one above to fit in two of the greatest French musical exports of the last 20 years. For a whole variety of reasons (and not just the obvious) at this particular moment, this feels right to me.

And the moment – at approximately 05:57 – when the band kick in again gives the lie to anyone who says that French bands can’t rock. A truly awesome mash-up.

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Thinking of changing the focus of this blog. Maybe a few more pub pieces and less bottles. If you don’t like that idea, let me know, my head is in a weird place at the moment and I’m even more open to persuasion than normal!

Also, I need to track down some excellent fresh new Northern beers, this one has a few “interlopers”!

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  1. Manchester Sun– Beer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 5.3% abv – Golden Bitter – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Golden beer with a persistent white head giving off a gentle fruity aroma with maybe a hint of plum & raisin.

Quite full-bodied in the mouth, that fruitiness carries on onto the palate with more forest fruit and more than a hint of marmalade. This is followed by quite a substantial bitterness and a dry finish with some grassy hops in the aftertaste.

This is what used to be called a “Premium Bitter” and would be a smidgen from a fully fledged IPA for me. Either way, an excellent beer. And do you know what REALLY impresses me, Steve says on the label what he set out to do, and – in his first two bottles – he has nailed it.

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  1. Dry Hopped Lager(Galaxy) – Adnams (Jack Brand – Southwold, Suffolk) – 4.2%abv – Lager – 330ml – Swap with my friend Simon (for a bottle of Thwaites’ 13 Guns)

Yes. A lager. From one of the Regional big boys too! One of TWO this post! A lucky find over Xmas, for which I thank Simon.

Bright and golden (as you would expect), its lingering fluffy white head giving off an aroma of fresh apples with a citric hint of lime sharpness.

In the mouth, a rich tea biscuity sweetness gives way to a light and refreshing fruity mouthful, Orchard fruits with a little lemon and a subtle floral flavour wafts across the tongue too. This is possibly one of the nicest UK lagers I have tasted thus far. Beautifully refreshing. and a joyous thing. A summer beer in midwinter!

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  1. Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja(Citra Pilsner) – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell) – 5.5% abv – Pilsner – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Yep. Another Pale golden Lager! This has a lingering white head and an aroma that is quite restrained, fresh-baked white bread being my first thought.

In the mouth, this comes to life! Medium bodied, This has a surprising depth of flavour with like a citrus jam stickiness and a quite fabulous hoppy hit post swallow. That fruitiness just keeps coming, with a little more citrus asserting itself in further mouthfuls.

This could almost convert me to Lager!

Fruity, refreshing, with a crackling grassy hop dry finish. Yum. Weird Beard strike another home run!

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  1. Dragons Tears– Black Jack Beers (Manchester) – 5.2% abv – Jasmine Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Now then, the first #Beergasm of 2015!

Hazy and golden beer with a thin but persistent white head and a slightly spicy fragrant aroma (presumably the Jasmine)

Oh but this is LOVELY! A typically good Saison in that it is terrifically refreshing, getting the saliva glands working overtime, with that yeastiness powder coating the tongue as the beer slides down.

This is quite full bodied and has that delicate almost floral spice of the Jasmine adding to the lightness of touch. A beautifully refreshing mouthful from young Mr Hamilton & chums!

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  1. Rum In The Black– Wilson Potter (Middleton) – 4.2% abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

Black, with a milky coffee coloured head and a nose of Chocolate. Sweet and seductive.

Medium bodied, a little sweetness in the mouth gives way swiftly to a more bitter chocolate,smooth and moreish with a slight smoky note in the swallow.

Following mouthfuls give up hints of the rum in the title but with that sweetness surpassed by a lovely gentle bitter hoppy finish.

Another excellent beer from the increasingly impressive Wilson Potter.

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  1. Bristletoe– Bristol Beer Factory (Er,,,,Bristol) – 4.7% abv – Oatmeal Porter – 500ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

This is black. No shit Sherlock. It also has a rather attractive beige foam collar and a lovely slightly sweet chocolate & coffee aroma. Mocha if you will. It smells nice and….. “dark”.

Taste wise? The chocolate is almost a given. And it is chocolatey, medium-bodied and smooth from the Oatmeal, the first thing is a slight sweetness from the chocolate which fades to a dry and quite hoppy finish, really satisfying mouthful.

At times, it feels like a little lactic like a Milk Stout – never a bad thing in my particular book. It’s the body and the slight sweetness which reminds me that this is a Porter.

Never had a bad beer from BBF. This continues that streak.

Shortly after this, whilst I was having a late night watching the AFC playoff game, I decided to give something a try. The West Indies Porter by Guinness. I took one mouthful (unfortunately) and poured it down the drain. I wanted to like it. I actually have no problem with Guinness, but it was vile. Just caramel. Try it if you want, after all, I was tempted at £1.50 a bottle for a 6% beer. But remember, you were warned!

The Levenshulme Beer Festival 22-24 August 2014

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“Baby, I’ve been breaking glass in your room again. Listen.

Don’t look at the carpet. I drew something awful on it. See.

You’re such a wonderful person, but you’ve got problems”

Breaking Glass” – David Bowie

(Clip courtesy of TheBabyUniversal on YouTube)

Low. The Album. Side One. The Greatest Side Of Vinyl. Period. (I need say no more)

I have a confession to make. I like Black Jack. I liked Rob Hamilton’s beers WAY before I saw him nearly cacking himself just before his first “Meet The Brewer” event at Port Street Beer House last year. He and (now) his team just make superbly drinkable tasty beers, no show or fuss. Just damn fine beer.

Since then, the brewery joined forces and effectively merged with the burgeoning distribution concern that is/was Glassworks. This meant that alongside all that Mancunian goodness that is the card bedecked beers of Black Jack, you now have distribution for many of the luminaries of the British Craft Beer movement all around the area.

Sometimes, these things come together for the good of all. Like this weekend!

Black Jack Beers are curating the Levenshulme Beer Festival for its second year and with the list of brewers involved, it promises to be a blast! With the likes of Kernel, Weird Beard, Siren Craft, Wild Beer Co, Arbor, Hopcraft, Burning Sky……The list stretches into the sunset. Cask heads and Keg heads, even the craftiest of drinkers can sate their liquid lusts at The Klondyke Club on Burnage Range!

What I can say without fear or favour, is that if this comes even close to the chilled out vibe that I’ve felt, each time the Black Jack have opened their doors for one of their – now semi-legendary – Brewery Taps, you’re in for a treat! Great chilled out tuneage from the superb DJs and some of the best Street Food in Manchester (I’ve had grub from The Moocher & Arepa Arepa Arepa at the Taps. They know their food!)

So. Who’s coming? I’ll be there on Saturday for certain – I’ll be the old bloke palming off flyers for The Independent Salford Beer Festival!

Come on down. You won’t regret it!

Bottled Ales – June 2014 – Pt 1

“I’ll only ask you once more. You only want to believe
This man is looking for someone to hold his hand, he doesn’t quite ever understand the meaning

Never heard about, Oscar Wilde and never talk about Brendan Behan,
Don’t have to think about Sean O’Casey and don’t care about George Bernard Shaw.
You never hear about Samuel Beckett, you won’t talk about Eugene O’Neill, or Edna O’Brien and Lawrence Stern.

Shut it! You don’t understand it. Shut it! That’s not the way I planned it.

Shut it! Shut you mouth ’til you know the truth!”

(“Burn It Down”  – AKA “Dance Stance” – Dexys Midnight Runners)

(Tune clip courtesy of  Anette Roller on YouTube)

Now THIS could cause an argument. Walk into a Manchester pub and assert that Dexys were the best band in Britain in the late 70s. Then run! By this – being a lover of Soul music – I mean the first incarnation of Dexys. The band that Kevin Rowland drilled relentlessly until they were ready to be unleashed. Until they were a band whose performances, laden with passion and sweat, became things of legend.

OK the “Mean Streets” garb looked a bit contrived, but this was a band that wanted you to know that they MEANT what they were doing. That it mattered to them and they wanted it to matter to you. For an album and a half – they never did get to release that second album they were working up to (“The Projected Passion Revue” eventually seeing a form of release in 2007) – they were simply a force. They were utterly brilliant, dirty, gritty, soulful and real. Before the abomination that was Too-Ry-Ay and performing “Jackie Wilson Said” on TOTP to a backdrop of Jocky Wilson!

They reformed for an album “One Day I’ll Soar” in 2012 and released what was  – for me – the single of that year “She Got A Wiggle” a lyrical portrait of unrequited love. I love it.

There. I’ve said it. I’m a Manc who saw Joy Division & The Fall in their late 70s early & 1980 pomp. And I love Dexys. And Rowland loves Northern Soul too (The origin of the bands name…..oh, go check Wikipedia)

One more reason as to why the latter clip in particular is important to me. One night in Brewdog in Manchester, I met two buddies of mine and a couple of old friends. Of the two buddies, Jeff was en route to see Dexys at The Bridgewater Hall (as were my old friends Phil & Sue). Myself, the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff started to chat….which turned into the chat which pushed me into doing this nonsense. A beer blog was born…over a glass of Human Cannonball!

On that note – On to the beer eh?

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. The Porter – Anspach & Hobday (Bermondsey , S. London) – 6.7% abv – Porter – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

“Conceived in the 19th Century, refined for the 21st” it says on the bottle. Really? I’ve seen at least one negative comment about their beers recently, but, to be honest, I enjoyed The IPA and was more than happy to give this a try….

This is one lively puppy! A booming mocha coloured head and an aroma that brought back memories of “Old Jamaica” chocolate bars from Cadbury’s – chocolate and slightly rum soaked raisins. A beautiful earthy perfume! Full-bodied and with a slight sweetness, the bittersweet chocolate is what first hits you followed by a bitterness offsetting the sweetness and an earthy hoppiness. Then there is something more….floral….? Then a dry cocoa quality….. The flavours delayering with each mouthful. Refined for the 21st Century? Not sure about that, but this IS bloody good!

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2. White QueenTatton Brewery (Knutsford, Cheshire) – 4.2% abv – Wheat Beer – £2.75 (500ml) – 10% 12 or more btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)

If memory serves, I picked this up from Dan & Gina’s increasingly popular bar, after the recent excellent Gourmet Burger & Beer Match hosted by Shaun (aka @FoodGeekUK) They’re getting busier & busier, deservedly so too. Great beers, kept well. Anyway…the bottle….

The label drew me in. Then it caught me. I absolutely love the series of historical novels by Philippa Gregory based around the life of Elizabeth Woodville (“The White Queen!) Simply excellent. The label is classy, minimal, but with a bit of regality in that font.

An intentionally hazy yellow gold brew with a thin white head and an aroma sweet with orange zest, a floral note and a little spice on the nose. Light bodied with a gentle carbonation leading to a smooth mouthfeel. There is an orangey flavour to the fore in the initial mouthful leading on to some clove and maybe a hint of cardamom. Really light and refreshing, fruity with the orange and a beautifully dry finish with a herbal hint in the aftertaste and with very low bitterness. This is so easy drinking. Really nice stab at a wheat beer. Any on cask?

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3. 13 GunsCrafty Dan (Thwaites) (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £1.99 (330ml) – 10% 12 btls or more – The Tottering Temple (Horwich, Bolton)

This deep ruby coloured beer has a lively off white head and an aroma reminding me of toast & marmalade. Orangey marmalade flavours continue in the mouth riding on the back of big biscuity sticky malt. A luxurious really smooth full-bodied mouthful, Smooth as silk, but more fruity, this is lovely. Plenty of resinous hops to make the tongue curl and the gums tingle. Yum.
The bitterness on this was dialled down. Not sure if this was due to the fact that I forgot I had this and it lay stored for a couple of months. A damned enjoyable fruity beast nonetheless. I’ll get a fresher one and see if it’s any better!
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4. Düsseldorf Altbeer – Hornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – German-Style Altbeer – £2.80 (500ml) – 10% 12 or more btls – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
The Arch Nemesis persuaded me to buy this one I think. Darker German style beers usually being too sweet for my tastes. Needless to say, I’ve learned to trust the A-N on beer over the years!
A really deep amber beer with a white head and a spicy chocolatey aroma, bit nutty too…like a Nutella on toast. Ooh… but this is a surprise….
There is a buttered toast maltyness to this, beautifully smooth medium-bodied beer. Then comes the chocolate note, like a light dusting of cocoa powder on a latte. Then a little sweetness kicks in, immediately countered by a hoppy herbal bitterness. That bitterness fades slightly into a herbal grassy aftertaste with a lingering chocolate note. Great balance to this, like all Hornbeam beers that I’ve had. Damned moreish….
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5. Imperial Russian StoutLiverpool Organic Brewery (Er…Liverpool) – 8.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.99 (500ml) – 10% off for 12 btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)
This was another one that’s been stashed for a while….Needed to de-stress the other evening with a lot of stuff re the beer festival rattling round my vacated skull. This did the trick!
Black. Oh so black. Like a liquid black hole, no light comes out of this devil. Other than the lightly scattered cream coloured head. The aroma just oozes out….bitter, VERY bitter chocolate, dark red wine, slightly tannic, and the smell of a newly flexed fresh leather belt, so fresh that you can almost hear the cow “moo”! Spicy too.
Hugely bodied, the first taste that assaults you is that bitter chocolate, then a spicy bitterness followed by a quite powerful licorice bite, sweet yet dry. Second mouthful has the tongue tingling, sweetness, yes, but that bitter licorice is followed by an almost tobacco like tone. The finish has a big boozy feel to it, quite vinous. Sweet, but with a woody edge to it. Warming. I’ll sleep well. (I did BTW!)
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6. Something Something Barrel Aged – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W. London) – 9% abv – BA Imperial BIPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man Manchester (Levenshulme & Heaton Moor Markets)
Not seen Damian in a while. Then, last time I was at Raj’s, he popped in doing a delivery and plopped this in my ravenous maw. Surprised & pleased in equal measure, I clutched it to my chest and muttered something like ….”my…precious….
Like a Black Panther, a simply stunning creature to look at. All sleek black sinuous muscle, gorgeous yet malevolent. This beer wants to eat you and your children. That creamy colour head is to lull you into a false sense of security. Approaching it warily, aroma is sweet citrus, but with a darker intent, lurking beneath the sweetness.

Oh boy, the moment the darkness slipped past my lips, the claws came out! Beautifully full-bodied and smooth… Oh so smooth…. There’s burnt toast, bitter chocolate, an earthiness… yet after all that going on… a big sticky almost marmalade citrus jumps to the rescue like Tarzan. This is stunningly good. There is a subtle and building smokiness which is none too intrusive, just there as each mouthful sinks safely down. Yes there is sweetness, but this is just so well balanced with a fruity hop dryness and resins finishing it off. Like the Panther, I’m purring! And sated.

Didn’t realise it had been so long since the last bottle piece! More soon (+ maybe an update on progress for the Beer Fest – follow @salfordbeerfest on Twitter for up to date…..zzzzzzz)
On that note…..’til next time….
Slainte!

 

Stockport Beer Festival – 30/05/2014

“And here I dreamt I was a soldier and I marched the streets of Birkenau
And I recall in spring the perfume that the air would bring to the indolent town
Where the barkers call the moon down, the carnival was ringing loudly now
And just to lay with you, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do save lay my rifle down”

(“Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect” – The Decemberists)

(Videolink courtesy of Moriah Mahan on YouTube)

I have professed my love for Portland, Oregon’s finest some time ago. Vocalist Colin Meloy just writes lyrics unlike any other I’ve come across, with a lexicon that is positively 19th Century at times and a voice that is, to some, an acquired taste. It is a taste that I HAVE acquired though, which is why they have remained one of my favourite bands ever since I first downloaded The Crane Wife on eMusic and heard the acoustic strum opening of The Crane Wife 3.

(Recommended albums : “Her Majesty The Decemberists” – 2003; “The Crane Wife” – 2006 & “The Hazards of Love” – 2009)

IMAG1350(Oh that “end of season” feeling!)

How the hell did Stockport County end up in The Skrill North league?

This was only my third Stockport Fest. I enjoyed last year hugely but my fondest memories are of the first one I attended. I can’t say what year it was, but it would have been BC (Before Children – aka Pre 1992!) It was THAT long ago, that Sam Smiths Museum Ale was all the rage and Atilla & I (staffing a charity stall) were serving that and Wilsons Bitter. Nobody seemed to pay the Wilsons any mind, which made me smile as there was more for me!

It has to be said, that Stockport always has an interesting beer list. This was enhanced this year by the addition of a Bar Nouveau, stuffed with brand new beers! This was located in the below stand area along with the food and the entertainment. Wanna guess where I ended up?

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With lots of lovely local beers down here, I just parked my well upholstered ass down on a chair and planted roots!

My beers here were….

1. Ringway BreweryReddish Ruby – 4% abv – Red! Off white head and caramel /slightly treacle nose. Medium bodied with some toffee caramel in themouth but not overly sweet. Some blackcurrant hints in this single English hopped beer and it had a nice bitter finish. Makes some damn fine beers does Paul and respect to him for sticking with English hops.
2. Wilson PotterDreaming Dreams – 4%  abv (I do like a slow start!) Typically excellent Wilson Potter pale beer. Golden and crystal clear. Fruity aroma, clean drinking, smooth and really fruity & refreshing – I do love a bit of Amarillo (d’ya get the quote?) (Their excellent “Don’t Fall” – see previous review here – won Beer of the Festival!)
Bit of a break here while I grabbed some excellent beef stew next door!
Bumped into Darren (he of the excellent Manchester drinking reference work “Greater Manchester Ale News“) and his better half Jo. Always nice to chat with people who know their beer (click his link above for news of another festival coming in Chorlton soon!) Also nice to chat with the ever affable John Clarke from the host CAMRA Branch – one of the many local CAMRA members of my acquaintance who talk much beery sense! Back to the beer ticking!
3 . Squawk Brewing Pomegranate Porter – 3.7% abv – Pomegranate? Intriguing!  Dark brown with an off-white head, berry fruit aroma with good roast backbone. Fairly light bodied, really fruity with that Pomegranate, and a smooth chocolaty hint. Beautiful! Slight sweet yet dry finish.
4. Deeply ValeDeeply Red – 4.2% – Very red indeed! Off white head with gentle red fruit and light spice aroma. Very fruity and very smooth, with a slight spice and astringency from the Rye used. A fine beer.
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(A bit of steel bandage!)
The we turn to the dark side!!!!!
5. Shindigger CraftBlack IPA – 5.5% – At that strength, I held back a bit before trying it. So much so that I had a minor scare when I thought that it had gone! However (and this would be my only minor complaint of the day…) this was somewhat down to the pumping of the beer being a bit of an issue. This beer was beeeeeeautifully black, with a creamy white head and a fantastic citrus aroma with a darker roasted edge. Oh but in the mouth! A devilish blend of roast and citrus. An earthiness of dark roast and licorice with leavening of grapefruit citrus. Beautiful.
6. (And my final beer from Bar Nouveau!) Tickety Brew – Black IPA – 5.5% abv – Black with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Cream colour head with a fruity citrus nose and slight spicy tint. Oh this Is lovely! Spritzy, citrus, a hint of blackcurrant with a roasted base. Hugely fruity, dry finish, low bitterness with that Belgian yeast popping up to say ‘hello’  at the end. Bit of chocolate too. Lovely.
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(bit busier upstairs!)
Whilst it was still quite busy upstairs, it was as nothing compared to the Saturday last year!
7. Shindigger CraftWest Coast IPA  – 5.2% abv – A golden pale with a nose of orange fruits. Full-bodied, really fruity with the citrus edged by a light gooseberry tartness. Refreshing, and again a spritz to it, with a really hoppy finish. Lovely.
My final beer was another newbie for me but from an “old” friend of a brewery….
8. Blackjack BeersFarmhouse Brown – 4.8% abv. Quite a rye-ish aroma to this, that made my nose wrinkle. Really tasty, a lot of fruit, but hugely dry with a real earthy quality. Savoury and again, surprisingly zingy. Mmmm.
There were one or two more consumed, but these were the pick of the bunch for me. All of the beers in the Bar Nouveau were excellent, but there was just something tongue tingling about that Tickety Brew that edged it for me.
A couple of diversions prior to the train led us to….
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The Armoury – (Shaw Heath, Stockport) – Just a quick pint of Robbies Brazilian Blonde in here. Ok, yet unexceptional given the previous fluid intake! However, the pub is a thing of beauty with loads of wood and some mock Tudor detailing inside.
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As I said, just a swift one in here before moving on to….
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Ye Olde Vic – (Chatham Street, Stockport) where I had a refreshing and fruity pint of Solstice by 3 Tuns Brewery (Bishops Castle, Shropshire). A refreshing citrussy and sharp pale ale from this rarely seen brewery (in these parts anyway!)
Myself and the Arch-Nemesis (who else?) carried on for a bit whilst our excellent companions  headed off elsewhere.
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An excellent pint of K*ntish Beard by Weird Beard in Joshua Brooks was our prize for walking from Piccadilly to this excellent (and great value!) bar…..
One or two more followed …… We’ll leave it there shall we?
In short. another excellent beer selection at Stockport. One of the best CAMRA beer festivals. Well worth the journey next year!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2014 – Pt 3

Johnny was an actor, oh you must have known? He wore his new Max Factor, nearly stole the show,

You go and tell me he’s not the only one. Ah, night creatures, strangest features, white faces and painted eyes.

Tongue teasers, oh you young deceivers, night creatures on your heels so high… “

(“Night Creatures” – Be Bop Deluxe)

(Tune courtesy of  “Notle Miroma” on You Tube)

One evening, some time in 1979, this particular 14-year-old boy was furtively listening (through earphones) to The John Peel Show on Radio One, when he played a track which caught my attention. I think it was “Art, Empire, Industry” by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. It blew me away with its energy and fizz, a melding of synthesizers and punk energy. I went to Virgin Records on Market St in Manchester and bought what I thought was the track I heard. The single I bought was “Revolt Into Style” and was the start of a love affair with all things Nelson.

Gradually, I learned of his previous band, Be Bop Deluxe. Emanating from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, they started out as a Glam Rock band with the album Axe Victim (from which the above track is taken) before making what – for me – is their masterpiece, Futurama. Containing the fabulously complex “Between The Worlds” and the short but mighty “Maid In Heaven”, the delicate “Jean Cocteau” (A Nelson hero) it’s a magnificent Rock album up there with any UK album of the mid-70s for me.

I’m not too big to say that I wept, the night I finally heard “Maid In Heaven” live, along with a whole host of Be Bop tracks when Nelson played a back catalogue concert in  Manchester a few years back, songs I never thought that I’d hear live, guitar solos I never thought I’d experience in the flesh. Bill self-records and releases these days and has a prodigious output, many tracks reflecting his futuristic wonder of the 50s and 60s (his childhood). But in the words of Bowie “Boy could he play guitar”

Moving swiftly on to the usual subject matter…bottled beers…

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Eastoft Elderberry Stout – Axholme Brewing Co (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Surprise! We start, with a dark beer!

Black beer with a creamy tan head and a delicate floral aroma with a roasty hint. Medium bodied, the floral characteristics come through in the mouth backed up by a smooth almost chocolatey roasted malt character. There is a pleasing light bitterness in the finish followed by a light herbal grassy note and a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste. An unusual yet really pleasant stout.

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2. Dark Hopfler – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 2.5% abv – Dark Milk Ale – £3.49 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Knowing that Weird Beard like to name their beers after some kind of musical link, I am hereby making an assumption that this is some reference to Mark Knopfler. If so…

I HATE Dire Straits! Any tune by them reminds me of 1985, being stuck in a hospital bed (after having my nose fixed – not that you’d tell!) and I could hear was “Money For Bleeding Nothing”! On repeat. REPEATEDLY!!!

Moving swiftly on! This is a black beer with lively carbonation giving a fluffy latte coloured head with huge citrus hop aromas of grapefruit mingled with a really milky coffee.

Surprisingly full-bodied for such a light beer, not as thin as I would have expected at this strength. The hops are in your face with apricot and mango in the vanguard. This is followed by a very subtle milky coffee and a burnt toast undernote with a little lactose sweetness (just a little) creeping past the defences near the end. A sweet milky finish leads to quite a resinous finish. Dark Milk Ale just about describes it! Would love to try this on handpull through a sparkler!

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3. Anubis Porter – Raw Brewing Company (Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5.2% abv – Porter – £3.00 (500ml) – 10% off 12 Bottles – The Tottering Temple (Hampson Street, Horwich)

Shall we get the dark stuff out of the way eh?

Having had Raw on cask before, primarily at Joshua Brooks, I was keen to try this bottle that I picked up on the Opening Day (read here) of the Blackedge Brewery bottle shop!

Virtually black beer with a thin cream coloured head and a full chocolate and toffee caramel aroma. Mmmm….medium bodied, initial flavour was a nice bitter chocolate with a malty caramel toffee backbone, slightly sweet yet with quite a bite to it. For a non-bottle conditioned beer, this is excellent! This is added to with a pronounced bitterness from the hops and quite a grassy aftertaste with that deep chocolate toffee staying throughout. An excellent first bottle from a brewery that I’ve enjoyed on cask.

And now, for some lighter stuff!

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4. India Pale Ale (Amarillo) – The Kernel Brewery (Bermondsey, S London) – 7.2% abv – IPA – £3.29 (330ml) – 10% for 12 bottles – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

My favourite hop. In a single hop IPA. By one of the most renowned breweries in London. A no-brainer really when Raj pointed this bad boy out to me!

Hazy and dark golden beer with a white head and a full-on fragrant orange marmalade aroma, booking out of the glass! I took a moment to calm down.

Full-bodied (unsurprisingly) with rich sweet marmalade sliding all over the tongue, using it as its own playground, the marmalade doesn’t retreat in the face of a encroaching bitterness that’s really satisfying. The bitterness itself leads to a big resinous pine and fruity finish. Each mouthful left me wanting more! And I do want more.

A classy beer using my favourite hop to its maximum. Superb!

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5. Shipwreck IPA – Liverpool Organic Brewery (er..Liverpool!) – 6.5% abv – IPA – Swap with a colleague (500ml) – 0 – Direct from the Brewery

A colleague from the office (Cheers Dave!), picked this up whilst on a tour of the brewery last weekend, for which I am truly grateful. (The swap, was for a bottle of Saltaire/NMB Co Smoked Porter – a review of which, next weekend perhaps?)

Amber coloured beer with a light white head a toffeeish nose with a hint of fruit, maybe orange. Full bodied with big caramelly malt laying a base for the fruitiness of the hops, with more orange and peach for me leading to a good strong bitterness and a substantial fruity, grassy and pine aftertaste which tingles on the tongue. A really fruity big-boned beer this. Had this on draught at The Angel some months back, this is just as good.

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6. NZPA – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 6% abv – Pale Ale – £3.75 (A swap) (330ml) – 0 – From the brewery shop

This, quite possibly, comes within my top 5 pale ales. I’ve had it on a number of occasions and wherever I have it (incl Wetherspoons) it is universally potent and tasty with booming fruity hops. I was chuffed to bits therefore, when my good pal (and colleague) Chris picked one up following a rather strenuous bike ride that started – and ended – in Staveley. Being a perfectly sensible chap, he nipped in the Beer Hall and (amongst other delights) picked this up for me. Damned fine fellow!

Just look at that colour! A beautifully bright golden beer with good carbonation, giving a generous lasting white head which yielded a beautiful citrussy aroma bursting with grapefruit, kiwi and a hint of mango.

This is every bit as lovely as the cask version that I’ve adored for so long! Full-bodied and smooth in texture the fresh tart citrus leaps onto the tongue with the grapefruit being the Silverback here, dominant and powerful without being overwhelming. An excellent assertive bitterness to this too, just like the cask version, which is followed by an aftertaste both dry and resinous. Every bit as good as on cask. Superb!

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7. Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (3 for £7.50) (330ml) – 15% for 12 bottles – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

A disclaimer on this one. This was passed by this new Manchester area brewer  (currently “Gypsy Brewing” at Outstanding Brewery in Bury) for free via my buddy Dan at Great Ale Year Round. Usual rules applying. I only review if I enjoy it. And BOY did I enjoy it!

Firstly, the branding.

Plays to my prejudices with a slightly distressed looking blue and white combo, with their woven motif. Something in the back of my mind also has The Shindiggers being one of the earliest of Manchester gangs? (I’m probably wrong!) Either way, the name has a whiff of romance about it for me.

The beer? A deep gold with excellent carbonation and a lasting white head releasing aromas of citrus fruits, with apricot and grapefruit prominent. Mmmm…Really smooth considering it’s from the bottle. Really balanced too, with a good light biscuity malt backbone being ridden by lovely citrussy hops, with initially grapefruit then a more subdued tangerine or orange coming through. In later mouthfuls, I thought I got a lemon note too. Nice bitterness adding to this refreshing beer with a finish that retains the fruit but adds a substantial resinous pine dryness.

What an excellent beer for a first in bottle! (Will be seeking it out on draught on The Road To Wigan Beer tomorrow!)

Next up? The Road To Wigan Beer – Pt 3 (for me) – The pub crawl by bus! Tomorrow!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 4

“They say no news is good news, the little girl wants information,

Mother just gives her some pills to choose and says ‘Go use your imagination'”

(“You Little Fool” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions)

(Video courtesy of “jjarcos1v” on You Tube

I bought my first 3 vinyl 7″ singles at the age of 13 with 2 £1 notes (remember them???) I found soggily stuck to the road during my morning paper round. I think (well, it WAS 35 years ago) I bought them at a shop on Salford precinct. They were…..

I Don’t Wanna Go To Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions; What A Waste – Ian Dury & The Blockheads & Jocko Homo – DEVO. I’m rather proud of those being my first! No “Birdy Song” here….oh no!

As I got older, my love of the music of Declan MacManus (Mr Costello) has grown and deepened. In my opinion (Isn’t that all that blogs are…Opinion?) his greatest album remains one of his more obscure, in that it lacked an obvious hit single. The album I refer to is Imperial Bedroom. You Little Fool was the lead single (there were only 2) and reached #52 in the UK whilst the album reached #6 (#30 in the US, where Costello is more revered than he is here). From the multi-layered and somewhat schizoid opener “Beyond Belief” through “Shabby Doll”, “You Little Fool” all the way to the utterly beautiful “Town Crier” the album remains in my all time lists, certainly within the Top 20 (I really must list them in one of my Hornbyesque moments!)

Costello is still, for me, one of the greatest lyricists writing in the English language. I haven’t seen him live since the Mighty Like A Rose tour. Something I would like to address. He remains a superb live performer. (Still plays “You Little Fool” too!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes

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1. Windrush StoutBrixton Brewery (er…Brixton, S. London) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.65 (330ml – inc Discount) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

To be honest, I’d never heard of this brewer until one recent afternoon, I spent far too much time & money in Raj’s excellent emporium (which is ALL too easily done!). Each time I go in there is more and more beer on his shelves. I hear that he may be opening a beer shop/bar later this year. Should be interesting!

This is an opaque black beer with a head creamy in both colour and texture. The aroma is of roasted barley and a gentle milky coffee. Medium bodied, initial flavours are of roasted malt with a hint of bitter chocolate followed by a pronounced bitter character. The finish is dry with quite a grassy hop aftertaste. A nice stout indeed with none of the sweetening additives like chocolate and quite Irish in character in my opinion.

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2. AVA – First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 3.5% abv – Blonde Ale – £2.42 (500ml – inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Superstar DJ and occasional brewer (!) Rik Garner (He really IS a brewer, honest, just that he spins some great vinyl!) brews some quite phenomenally good beers in his well-appointed Salford Railway arch! I’ve had (and recommended to others – frequently) AVA on cask, but I’d struggled to find it in bottle. Until Dan & Gina stepped in with their expanding range of local beers!

If this was any paler, it’d be water! Straw yellow with a fluffy white head and a tart citrussy aroma with lemon zest and a little grapefruit. Ooh but this is a tart little number! Quite medium bodied for such a low abv beer, this is chock full of tart grapefruit and bitter lemon. Initially, quite a shock, but this is one seriously quenching refreshing beer, a nice bitter lemony hoppy finish rounds it off nicely. A beer of such low strength has no right to be so full of flavour! A belter. It is a rare beer that I always have when I see it on draught. This is one such.

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3. Mango Beach – Ramsbottom Craft Brewery (Ramsbottom, Nr Bury) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml – inc disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Another brewery I see all too little of in bottles. I did have some draught, but that was in Ramsbottom itself and I don’t see Matt’s beers often enough, but then I saw them in Great Ale Year Round and all was right in the world!

A deep golden beer with a lingering white head and a juicy fruit aroma with mango (surprise) and peach upfront. Smooth and full-bodied. The fruit is upfront on the tongue with that juicy mango dancing a Macarena! Really smooth and almost creamy (mangoes & cream anyone?) A lovely fruity beer with a dry finish and substantial resinous and fruity aftertaste. A cracking beer from this small Rammy brewery. Nice to see his beer available closer to home!

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4. Rat-A-Tat-Tat – Fool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.72 (500ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Never been to The Hope in Stockport, nor ever had a Fool Hardy Brewery beer in any form. So I was glad to see some at Dan & Gina’s excellent little Micro Bar in Bolton Market. The beer itself………….

Black with a beige/tan head and a lovely welcoming aroma of chocolate/cocoa. Oh yes, my boxes are ticked! Medium to full-bodied and with a lovely smooth feel. The chocolate I would describe as just short of a “Bournville” flavour, bittersweet. A lovely mouthful with a nice hoppy bitter edge to it and quite a nice hoppy/coffee edge to the aftertaste. Excellent!

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5. K*ntish Beard – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.2% abv – American Wheat Ale – £3.23 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

I had this on cask at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival & was hugely impressed….until a certain young Mr Sweeney from Bank Top guzzled mine (“by accident”, but I don’t hold grudges….much!) It was called Camden Beard then……We shan’t go into the murky waters of corporate bullying again, shall we? But I DO love that asterisk! (Apply your own vowel)

A deep gold almost amber beer this with a clinging white head and a big whack of citrus hop on the nose (presumably the Cascade & Centennial). Really smooth in the mouth with almost a creaminess to the texture making it feel really full-bodied.

Refreshing, as you would expect of a Wheat Beer, there’s all kinds of fruitiness in the mouth, with satsuma, grapefruit, a bit of apricot….this mellows to the satsuma/tangerine following the swallow. There is an understated bitterness to the finish followed by a nice, none too assertive resinous aftertaste with a lip smacking tangerine taste. And I drank this all myself!

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6. Interocitor – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 7% abv – Strong Pale Ale – £4.25 (500 ml inc Disc’t) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

Always like to have one of Jay’s beers in the stash. Call it a Comfort Blanket!

A deep golden almost bronze coloured beer, minimal white head quickly diminished leading to a herbal grassy aroma. Full-bodied in the mouth with a certain hedgerow fruitiness with a little gooseberry maybe? Smooth and easy drinking, dangerously so for a beer of this strength!

Lots of fruity British hoppage in here on a big malty backbone. A gentle fruity bitterness in the finish. A lingering grassy fruity aftertaste. One of those beers where UK hops just work real fine. Big bodied (like myself), full flavoured and tasty! (Unlike….)

Right then. That’s it for another week. It’s getting late and I need my ugly sleep to be ready for a MTB with Privateer Beers at Great Ale Year Round tomorrow (Saturday) morning. See you there?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – March 2014 – Pt 3

“I want to live, I want to give, I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.

It’s these expressions that I never give, that keep me searching for a heart of gold.

And I’m getting old.

Keeps me searching for a heart of gold. And I’m getting old.”

(“Heart of Gold” – Neil Young)

(Video courtesy of “clydeman” on You Tube)

Being 48, closing rapidly on 70, the older I get, the more I appreciate great classics of popular music, be they Rock, Soul, Rhythm & Blues or even Doo-Wop. Don’t get me wrong, I can bang the ear-buds in on the bus and nod to the joyous noise of Fuck Buttons as much as anyone else, but sometimes you know, I just yearn for the simpler musical pleasures. Like Springsteen, Neil Young flicks all of my musical switches.

I could have easily chosen the equally classic “After The Goldrush”. Guitar, harmonica and voice. What else do you need. Click on the hyperlink above and wallow (if you’re of a nervous disposition, or have a loathing of laptop music, you may want to avoid the Fuck Buttons link!)

Moving swiftly on this Friday evening to the subject at hand. Beer. In bottles no less!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

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1. SoundWave Aussie IPASiren Craft Brew – 5.6% abv – IPA – £3.08 (inc discount) (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

The “straight” version of this on cask at Manchester Beer & Cider Festival made a HUGE impression on me. I had to give this antipodean variant a go, didn’t I?

A deep gold, almost amber beer this, with a thin white head and quite an orangey aroma promising much delight within. Full bodied and quite bitter initially (in a really good way!) with masses of tart fruit and pine overlaying a big malty bread base. The fruit subtly changes further down the glass to more of a mandarin orange without yielding an inch on the resinous front! Really grassy. Definitely a beer for now, a cool spring evening in front of a warm glowing…laptop! Excellent.

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2. Shark Biscuit – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 7.2% abv – Australian IPA – £3.23 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

(Bear in mind that Raj offers a 10% discount for 12 or more bottles)

I yield to no one in my love of these beers out of West London. I haven’t had the joy of meeting Bryan, but Gregg is a top bloke and they brew some simply astonishingly good beers (stops typing to avoid a Decadence Stout inspired #Beergasm!), This is another!

Amber beer with a nice foamy white head and a lovely fruity orangey aroma booming out. Oohhhh…This is bloody smooth! Full-bodied with big digestive biscuit maltiness, but not sweet. The orange mellows into a nice marmalade richness which fills the mouth, coating it completely with bittersweet orange. A hell of a beer this, with a nice bitter finish and a lingering grassy note. A stunningly smooth, well balanced IPA.

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3. Old Ford Export StoutRedchurch Brewery (Bethnal Green, East London) – 7.5% abv – Stout ? – £3.59 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Writing about beer is fairly easy. However, sometimes your opinions can make you seem a proper numpty. So, I shall combine a question with my opinion shall I?

When is a Stout, not a Stout? The answer? When it is Old Ford Export Stout!

Black as the pits of hell with the fires out! Big latte coloured head with an aroma that is fruitily reminiscent of a Black IPA. If this is a Stout then it is bloody well hopped! There is indeed LOADS of roasted malt flavour with bitter coffee in the mix, but this is as hoppy as a wallaby! A fabulous beer, but as a stout, it is verging on Black IPA territory – and none the worse for it! In short, a bloody excellent BIPA. Those expecting the comforting roasty notes of a well made Stout, be prepared for a surprise!

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4. Kooky GoldOffbeat Brewery (Crewe, Cheshire) – 4.2% abv – Golden Ale – £2.60 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

(Note current offer of 15% off online & in shop – not sure how long that offer will last!)

Since meeting the lovely Michelle (Basically, she didn’t yawn when I waffled at her for a couple of minutes on the Manchester #Twissup), I was determined to get my maws on a couple of bottles. The problem was, that I would normally source them from Damian, but Manchester Markets are out of season! I was delighted to note therefore,  that my pals Dan & Gina were stocking a few of Crewe’s finest. Problem solved!

Pale gold and lively with a white head emitting a lovely gentle toasty marmalade aroma. Medium bodied, smooth and easy drinking with more orange marmalade coating a light biscuit base and caressing the mouth with its juicy malt before a gentle fruity bitterness sways into view, followed eventually by a nice dry piney finish. A brilliant light, juicy and sessionable refreshing beer. Result. Just need to see more on draught now. Er…Dan?

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5. Session Pale Ale – Blackedge Brewery (Horwich, N of Bolton) – 3.5% abv – Pale Ale– £2.13 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

With that 15% off offer, this was a BARGAIN!!!

Deep gold verging on amber with a white head and a nose of gentle grapefruit, peach and mandarin. Medium bodied for such a light abv beer, really fruity with all of the above playing their part supported by a nice light spongey cake base, bit like a Jaffa cake (but without the chocolate!). A beer has rarely been so aptly named!

This is really well-balanced, refreshing and fruity with the gentlest of bitter finishes followed at the rear of the mouth with a waft of fresh spring grass in the aftertaste. Another superb refreshing beer. Nary a bottle by Blackedge for ages, then (like buses in the countryside), two in two weeks!

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6. GovindaCheshire Brewhouse – (Congleton, Cheshire) – 6.8% abv – IPA – £4.50 – inc discount – BARGAIN (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

With the under note on the bottle saying “Centenary Gyle Head Brewers Reserve”, this held out the promise of being something special. I like Shane Swindells’ beers. A lot. But heavy hopping with British hops?

Beergasm Alert! A deep amber coloured beer supporting a persistent clinging white head and yielding quite a honeyed fruity aroma. Really smooth and full-bodied this. The initial flavour impression is quite forest fruity with a little hint of hiney (or honey, if you like!), quickly followed by a tidal wave of grassy hop, but without the resinous nature of New World hops.

I think that the aim with this was to make a classic, heavily hopped, British IPA. Now, I have never hit the high seas to India, nor – to be fair – am I ever likely to, but this would be more than worth a sup as it hit the sub-continent quaysides! A triumph of a beer. Would have been easy for Shane to bang a load of C hops in, but this is SUPERB! Definite Bottle of The Year contender!

If Shane is right and this improves with age, I’m DAMN glad I’ve got another to lay down. Could be a classic!

Well, that’s it for another week. Still recovering, in truth, from a week working in London. Not to mention the visit to a pub or two! (write up to follow)

However

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!