Bottled Beers – May 2015

Red Shed sign

(Where I am later!)

After May 7th and the shocks contained therein, I struggled a bit. I won’t wibble on about politics, I’ve got too much to do to wallow in self-pity, what with planning for The Independent Salford Beer Fest 2015 and all, but now is a time that I cling to what’s important. People. Hence why we’re having our little bash again in October. Announcements soon.

But, on to bottles…..

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1. Rye IPARunaway Brewery (Manchester) – 5.9%abv – Rye IPA – 330ml – Andy Heggs

Thank you Mr Heggs! I finagled this from him at the excellent Shebeen 2015 whilst we were sat in Black Jack and I was getting sozzled. And very cheeky.

Copper coloured and with a firm white head, this beer gives of an aroma that reminds me of a spicy fresh-baked wholemeal loaf. But one with a distinct citrus note. Really appetising.

Smooth with very gentle carbonation, the fruity front is mugged by spicy rye dryness. The fruitiness is huge, with orange up top with more than a hint of mango. But that fruitiness can’t escape this thuggish spicy dryness. It’s brutal.

And Oh so bloody moreish.

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2. Out of Step IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 5.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Direct

(Bought direct from the brewer)

I don’t get it. Why don’t we see more of Offbeat’s beers in Manchester? Michelle makes some simply fabulous beers and I can’t se them in Manchester? Ludicrous!

A mid golden beer with a fluffy white lacy head, (slightly hazy due to a misjudged pour), really fruity aroma on this with apricot and grapefruit in the nasal vanguard.

Oh this is nice indeed. This is a full-bodied beer with just right carbonation. The fruitiness in the mouth being more apricot but this time with something a little more tropical, like mango and passion fruit. There is a bracing bitterness in this, which (to me) should be in all IPAs.

There is a cracking resinous finish to this with that fruitiness in there too. This is a belting beer from a criminally overlooked brewery. We need some of her beer in Manchester. And sharp!

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3. Fat Lady StoutRammy Craft Ales (Ramsbottom) – 4.5%abv – Stout – 500ml – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton) – £3

A black beer with a creamy coloured head giving off an aroma of bitter chocolate with a hint of licorice.

Medium bodied with an initial sweetness, that soon slides into something more dark roasted and lush. Quite creamy textured, with bitter chocolate front and centre. That bitterness wanders more towards coffee on the swallow and a substantial bitterness takes over.

This is a sessionable dark beer after my own heart, with the dry bitter finish I enjoy in a mid strength Stout. Who needs Guinness when you have beers like this?

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4. PortentousPeter Sidwell – 5%abv – Porter

Peter is (I think) one of the Manchester Home Brewers group. He certainly isn’t commercial at this stage. If I remember rightly, i saw this bottle in his hand at the MBCF and nearly ripped his hand off!

A deep ruby brown beer that is almost black with a light cream head and a  big chocolaty aroma.

A medium bodied beer, the first thing to tickle the tongue is chocolate. This is slightly sweet and really chocolaty. The next is a little winey note, like a smooth red. Then a tongue tickling spice, slightly peppery, like rocket. And all the while, that chocolate….

The aftertaste retains the chocolate, but there is a spicy woody feel to it that completes this nicely. A damn fine Porter. And brewed by a home brewer too!

The best praise that I can give, is that I’d happily pay for this at a bar. It’s that good.

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5. TuringBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton-under-Lyne) – £2.45

I was intrigued by the idea of using sage to flavour a beer. I had to give it a go……

A golden, almost amber beer with a light thin white head, lightly carbonated, with a light tropical fruit aroma (passion fruit is noted on the label – that works!)

In the mouth, there is a nice fruitiness to this initially, which meets a bitter herbal counterpart in the sage that is added to this brew, that bitterness almost catches me unawares. That bitterness fades and an almost tea like tannic aftertaste kicks in, really dry.

I  wasn’t sure about sage in a beer, but this light, Pale and refreshing beer works a treat for me. Slainte!

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6. Espresso StoutSquawk Brewing Co (Manchester) – 6.5%abv – Stout – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)

Like a chalice full of liquid pitch, this is black. A proper Stout. Dark, delightful and dangerous to look at. Almost daring you. “Go on! You know that you want me!”

Made with fresh roasted coffee from Bean Brothers, unsurprisingly, this positively reeks of coffee. As bitter as Nigel Farage as the result was called. There’s a herbal licorice note too in the background.

For a 6.5% beer, this feels quite light and sprightly, at first, a little sweetness then BAM! Eyelid pinning coffee hit…… Yup. That’s definitely a big coffee flavour!  With that underlying big Stout sweetness.

There’s quite a spicy thing at the back of the tongue as the beer slides you towards sleeplessness going down the throat. The roof of the mouth tingling after the swallow.

A fine beer indeed. If a little ill-advised before bedtime!

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7. Scarborough Fair IPAWold Top (Driffield, N Yorkshire) – – 500ml – Birthday Pressie!

Thank you Sue! This bright ultra Pale golden beer has a light white head and a really fruity aroma, tropical fruits with passion fruit and kiwi flying out of the foam.

Full bodied is this beastie,  whilst perversely feeling light. Really fruity with that kiwi well up there, but a big refreshing and tart lemon hit was a more than pleasant surprise! For  a beer at this strength, this is WAY too refreshing and just damned drinkable.

There’s a nice light malty biscuit and a big balancing act going on because these hops are just beautifully tart and give a big dry finish that leaves you wanting more.

An absolute belter and a really nice beery pressie amongst the cognacs & single malts!

That’s it for bottles this month. With EastWestFest tomorrow, Brighton next week and London a week later, the focus will be on pubs (and one very special beer festival!)

On that note….’til next time

Slainte!

Bottled Beers – November 2014 – Pt 1

“All I can see is black and white and white and pink with blades of blue
that lay between the words I think, on a page I was meaning to send you.
You I couldn’t tell if it bring my heart, the way I wanted when I started
writing this letter to you.

But if I could, you know I would just hold your hand and you’d understand
that I’m the man who loves you.”

(“I’m The Man Who Loves You” – Wilco)

(Video clip courtesy of “The Tonight Show” (US) on YouTube)

It’s been a while! *Yawns like a bear coming out of hibernation*

I came to Wilco rather late. Via their collaboration album with Billy Bragg, recording songs from the archives of the great socialist American songwriter Woody Guthrie that became “Mermaid Avenue”. Ahhh….”California Stars”…….

The above tune is the most accessible track on arguably their least accessible album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. The album that, perversely, brought them to mainstream attention. The album that transformed them from Alt- Country and Americana players to avant-garde. So much so that their label rejected it. Totally. So the band, via whatever channel, leaked it on the web. And became famous because of it, all over the world. There is a documentary about the gestation of the album, which, rather sadly, resulted in one of the band being (effectively) thrown out – Jay Bennett. Sadly, no longer with us. The documentary is called ” I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. I thoroughly recommend it as a document of the recording process and of the stresses and strains that that can create.

I saw the band for the first time when they were promoting their next album “A Ghost Is Born” at Manchester Academy. Jeff Tweedy, lead vocalist/guitarist, looked (and sounded) incredibly fragile. So much so, that I remember saying to my pal Chris, that I thought that he wouldn’t last the year. Songs with titles (and lyrics) like “Handshake Drugs” led to the belief that he may have been addicted. He was, it transpired, but to prescription painkillers, not the opiates that we feared. We resolved to going to see the band at Rock City in Nottingham a few months later. I now see them every time that they are in the UK.

Tweedy plays The Ritz – solo, in January. Chris picked up tickets last week. I’m excited. (Sad, for a near 50 yr old eh?)

Beer time….

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 (where I have it) 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. Dreaming Dreams – Wilson Potter (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – 3 for £7 – Direct from the brewery

Dreaming Dreams (of Amarillo – Geddit?). Amarillo. My favourite hop. Picked up on a recent (flying) visit to the brewery on one of their “soiree” afternoons following a drop off of casks remaining from The Independent Salford Beer Festival (zzzzzzzzzzz………). I didn’t know that WP had an Amarillo hopped beer other than “Is This The Way”! Intrigued and salivating, I had to pick one up.

A gorgeous Pale golden beer bought on a brewery soiree last weekend, this has a clinging lasting white head with a fine carbonation giving an aroma of a light marmalade with a hint of apricot. Oh wow! For a fairly light strength beer, this has quite a punch!
The first sip brings that marmalade to the party, juicy and sticky, so full of marmalade flavour that Paddington Bear would love this! A stonking dry and bitter finish too, quite bracing. With a substantial resinous pine hit in the aftertaste. An admittedly brief description, but it was that good that I was a little lost for words!
Each new Pale that Kathryn & Amanda release gets more assertive. And more impressive. This is up there with Don’t Fall. And that is a huge complement! A cracker, up there with the best of the Mallinsons single-hopped Pales for me. Speaking of which…..
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2. SPA (Session Pale Ale) – Mallinsons (Huddersfield, W Yorks) – 4.1% abv  – Pale Ale – £2.79 (500ml) – 0 – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
If I had a brewery that I regret not being included at the aforementioned bijou beer fest, it is Mallinsons. And hell did I try….They’d grace any bar. But moving swiftly on (and there’s always next year!)
Lively wee devil this one, took a while to decant. Really Pale golden colour (almost a trademark) with an abundant white foamy head giving off a really fruity aroma full of peach and tangerine juices.
First taste, oh yes! Medium bodied and a now more subdued carbonation. Some peach, some passion fruit and what a whack of bitterness backed up by sticky pine resins. Woof! This is another Huddersfield cracker. A little grapefruit says hello in the next mouthful, backed up by that assertive bitterness and mouth gumming piney resins. As Omar Little might say in The Wire “Oh indeed”!
This is a beauty of a pale ale. Fruity, bitter, a little sharpness and a snap sticky pine aftertaste. Oh yes.
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3. Protz’s Pleasure – Steel City Brewing / North Riding Brewpub – 5.3%abv – Black IPA – ? (500ml) – 0 – The Ale Man Manchester (Various locations)
This beer was inspired – if that is the right word – by a phrase used by beer writer (and CAMRA Good Beer Guide editor) Roger Protz, who said “Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.” A brief perusal of the internet may reveal that a number of aspiring brewers were “encouraged” to try making a BIPA on the strength of THAT statement!
If Steel City have a mission statement, it has one word. That word is “HOPS”. Pair this cuckoo brewer with Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub) and his evident love of that green flower, then there was only one way this was going to go…..
Appearance : Black with a thick creamy head and a noise full of chocolate, licorice and some citrus hints.
Medium bodied and quite smooth in the mouth, WOW is this bitter! Flavours of bitter chocolate, burnt toast topped off with a distinct grapefruit citrus tang. Finished with an almost incredible, astonishing bitterness!
The smoothness is almost creamy textured as I take a second mouthful and those flavours intensify. That massive bitterness is rounded off with a sticky pine resin dry finish. I’m Gobsmacked! (I think that this MIGHT have been the desired effect!)
N.B. I’m REALLY looking forward to Damian (The Ale Man) opening his own bar in Heaton Moor! (Coming soon)
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4. Light – Briggs Signature Ales (Huddersfield) – 2.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 0- Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)
The fact that a new brewer gets to use the kit at Mallinsons, must – in my eyes at least – mean that he has high standards. You have to be damn good for your pales to measure up to the beers of Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall! This is how Nick Briggs (former brewer at Elland) has set himself up for a potential fall. But has he…
Has he bloody hell! A lively golden beer with abundant white foamy head and a noise full of peach and Mango. Really fruity and with a floral hint that I can’t quite pick.
Quite a medium bodied beer – surprising at this strength! Initial thoughts are of a rather fruity ice cream full of peach and – strangely – strawberry. A really fruity creamy textured mouthful.
The second mouthful brings a little pineapple to this fruity party but also a strong dry bitterness followed by a dry resinous aftertaste. All in all, a surprising beer indeed. A cracking fruity, bitter Pale Ale.
This is a “Small Beer” in abv only!
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5. Old Norrell – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W. Yorks) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £0 (500ml) – Direct from the brewery
Picked up whilst delivering back empty cask from our recent “bijou beer bash”, this was a nice surprise! Got to see Malcolm in action too, with a spot of cask filling. A proper small micro in operation. If I’m right, he has now retired from his “day job”, which – with the addition of a fermenting vessel – will mean both an increase in brewing AND (hopefully) more of his beers over in Manchester – you heard it here first!
Pale golden with a persistent lacy white head giving a big lemon and grapefruit aroma. Lovely fresh & zesty.
In the mouth this is beautiful and sharp. And as bitter and twisted as a Nigel Farage speech! Courtesy of the Sorachi Ace hop methinks. Medium bodied, the first flavour to hit is a bitter lemon mingled with tart grapefruit. A gooseberry note too. Lovely and fresh this in no way tastes its strength.
The fruity tart and beautifully bitter mouthful has a little malty, bready sweetness which gives best to that tart bitterness, a dry sharp finish and resinous grassy hop aftertaste. A pleasure of a beer that I’d love to try on draught.
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6. Marmalade Porter – Wold Top Brewery (Driffield, N. Yorks)  – 5% abv – Porter – £? (330ml) – ? – Wold Top Stall (Cottingham Food & Drink Festival)
A gift from a very dear friend (Phil), this was a huge surprise at the end of a hectic day visiting beery people all over the North. I’ve had some very nice beers indeed from Wold Top (in particular their TdF beer Hello Velo). So to get a Porter flavoured with marmalade, was a bit of a boost!
This is a beautifully black beer with a coffee coloured head giving off milk chocolate and a hint of rum soaked raisins and sweet orange in the aroma.
Ooh Matron! This is a lovely creamy smooth full-bodied mouthful just oozing chocolaty luxury in the first sip! The sweetness from the chocolate is augmented but an Orangey tinge, prior to submitting to a finishing bitterness with a coffeeish edge.
A second mouthful brings some more of the Orange forward, slightly sticky before fading in the face of that bitter coffee and a herbal grassy hop dryness with more than a hint of rum in the aftertaste. A lovely beer. Just wish I knew where he got it from! (Update – See above!)
(Locally, you can get some of their “core” beers in Booths)
Now that #ISBF2014 is washed up, dried and put away like good crockery, normal service can be resumed!
On that note….’til next time….
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – December 2013 Pt 2

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(Coming soon to a throat near….er…me!)

“We all know you are soft ‘cos we’ve all seen you dancing,

We all know you are hard ‘cos we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again,

You’re the boy with the filthy laugh, you’re the boy with the Arab Strap”

(“The Boy With The Arab Strap” – Belle & Sebastian)

Remember the Channel 4 series “Teachers”, if you do, The Boy With The Arab Strap was the theme tune. Surely one of the greatest Indie tracks of the last 20 years with some absolute killer lines, including the best fade out lines I’ve ever heard!*

Austerity is beginning to bite hard on the BM Millions (or lack of) so I have barely ventured forth across the moat into the big wide world of draught beer. My thoughts have been mostly taken up with an idea floated by my friend Gerry….to set up a small beer festival! This being to raise funds to help a local Community Centre in Salford which is run by Gerry herself.

There are distinct ups and downs to this proposition. Ups? The tweets of support and offers both of help and of beer supply from the good brewers (and drinkers) of Greater Manchester and beyond. As I’ve said previously, the good nature of people in the local beer world is to be marvelled at and I, for one, have really appreciated every tweet and message I have received! Downs? The mere thought of the WORD “logistics” is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat!

The general idea will be to feature beers from the North, Lancashire, Gtr Manchester and Yorkshire. Micros Only. In the New Year, I’ll be spreading my beery tentacles and tapping the “Great & the Good” on the shoulders for advice. Don’t be surprised when it happens to you!

Back to the matter at hand eh? As usual, the good and the indifferent have passed my lips this month, but, if you’ve read this before, I only try to highlight the truly good for your pleasure! A bit like a beery Santa’s list (but 2 or 3 times per month!)

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……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, 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. Natural ProgressionWilson Potter Brewery (Middleton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.8% abv – Strong Bitter (?) – £2.23 (3 for £7 – 500ml) – Direct from the Brewery

There’s not an awful lot that I can say more about these excellent brewers (I hate the term “Brewsters”!), they just make excellent tasty beers, continue to do so and finally seem to be getting a little traction in Manchester City Centre. Much deserved. And, if the mighty Tandleman likes them, then who am I to argue?

I picked this up on a recent visit along with 2 others (In Shreds & Is This The Way – see elsewhere on the blog) and it is a fine amber beer with a white lacy head and had an aroma containing raisin and maybe plum. Full-bodied in the mouth, the flavours that stood out were more subtle raisin and a little plum, followed by a big bitter finish with a good herbal grassyness in the aftertaste. This isn’t a beer that boasts and brags from the rooftops about its IBU score. Just damned tasty. Another excellent beer from these Middleton brewers.

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2. Hello VeloWold Top Brewery (Driffield, E Yorkshire) – 4.2% abv – Pale Ale – £1.98 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Picked up this one on my last visit to Yorkshire Ales. If I remember aright, one of Vickys suggestions when I was looking for a final bottle or two to round out my purchase. That visit feels like AGES ago! I was worried, that having held onto it for quite a while, it may have lost some of its sparkle and zest. I needn’t have fretted!

Brewed to commemorate the award of Le Grand Depart for 2014 (the start of Le Tour de France), this beer was ultra pale with the white head being only a shade or two pale than the body! The aroma upon pouring was quite sharp with some lemon and maybe a touch of grapefruit to my mind (not what I would expect of First Gold & Goldings!) Medium-bodied with some initial light sweetness followed by a building bitterness and some more sharp citrus.Not overpowering, but really palate refreshing. A bitter and dry finish being followed by some earthy grassyness in the aftertaste. A nice surprise this, really refreshing. They will be brewing this again in the summer. Appropriate, because this would be a perfect summers day beer, thirst quenching.

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3. Pale (Simcoe, Columbus, Chinook) – Partizan Brewing (Bermondsey, SE London) – 4.7% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

Another beer that had been stashed for some time. And yet another that I needn’t have worried about! A very pale golden beer, lively white head with abundant citrus aromas of passion fruit, grapefruit, some zingy lemon and a hit of pine. Again, medium-bodied with more citrus joy, grapefruit and lemon tartness with a hint of kiwi later on. There is some light malteser sweetness in here, but the hops have the throne in this palace! A really refreshing zippy beer, with a very dry bitter and resinous finish. Easily up there with the best of the London Pale Ales that I’ve had this year!

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4. Fresh – The Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 5.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Wild Beer are a brewery that have crept under my radar a bit. The first beer I can recall having was the coolab (I’ll stick with that spelling!) with Fyne Ales, the ludicrously refreshing Cool As A Cucumber. Last month, I reviewed a bottled I’d had for months (Wildebeest), this is only the second bottle I have had. I want more.

Golden, with a lively foamy white head and an appetising apricot and grapefruit citrus aroma. Tart grapefruit and pine in the mouth, really fresh and refreshingly zingy and tart with citrus. Some bready malt sweetness for balance, but a big bitter and resinous finish with the green stuff lingering. A really refreshing lively beer. Moreish in the extreme for a 5.5% beer. Raj has a few more. I think I’d better treat myself in the New Year!

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5. Chinook (Single Hopped) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Here he goes again…blah blah Mallinsons….blah blah Single hopped Pale Ales….blah blah blah…. Well what can I do? Do you want me to lie and say that they are crap? Well I won’t, so there!

Pale gold with quickly diminished white head. Aroma of peach with a hint of bitter grapefruit. In the mouth, medium bodied and smooth, with the peach and grapefruit, a touch of kiwi and a bitter hit of pine grassyness. That citrus mellows into more of a tangerine as you go further down the glass. The beer has a bitter finish with lingering citrus and pine in the aftertaste. Refreshing bitter and dry. In short, a damned fine Pale Ale. I’ll say it again, I wish I lived in Huddersfield!

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6. HOPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Gtr Manchester) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Spinningfields, Manchester)

Firstly, It was great to see Damian (The Ale Man) inundated with custom on Saturday, even given the somewhat windy conditions. A nice busy spot near the Nat West Bank. I’m pleased, because he’s a decent bloke selling outstandingly good beer (see my mini haul at the top of the page!) and long may this continue!

Anyway, to Mr Garner’s beer! With a name like HOP, I wonder what it’s going to taste like? Pale gold and lively out of the bottle, the white head yielding an immediate grapefruit citrus aroma hit with a little lemony bitterness too. Medium bodied, plenty of hops with a nice balancing hint of sweetness, fruity with grapefruit and lemon tangoing across the tongue with maybe a bit of apricot as it slips down. Plenty of bitterness and a big resinous aftertaste. Superb Salford beer. Hurrah for my hometown! I’ve heard that Rik maybe having an open day at  the brewery on 25th Jan with a bar and all. I’m gate crashing! His beers are simply too good to miss! (I was up in Ramsbottom last week. If you get there, try the First Chop bar. Then thank me!)

Well. That’s more waffle than you’ll get in an Amsterdam Pancake Huis! And for now…..

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

*If you listen to the song to the end, the last line that is easily audible is “…as the cigarette catches…and sets off the smoke alarm” then it fades away. However, turn up the volume and you will hear the killer final lines…”What do you make of the cool set in London? You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks. She’s a waitress and she’s got style.” All delivered in Stuart Murdoch’s sugar sweet and world-weary tone. Gorgeous!