Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 2

“Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Show me, show me, show me, show me, show me”

(“Everything’s Gone Green” – New Order)

(Video clip courtesy of  Brian110x on YouTube)

The first release where New Order primarily based the backing track on the use of synthesisers. It was a bloody revelation when it backed the track “Procession” released in September 1981. For me, it also marked a departure of sorts, as the general sound and feel of the band hadn’t shaken off the suicide of Ian Curtis – in my opinion – until the release of this single.

I saw Joy Division at the now infamous concert at Bury’s Derby Hall on 08 April 1980 (a concert – a bit like the Sex Pistols at The Lesser Free Trade Hall – where thousands professed to being there!) when I saw 3 tracks performed with different singers until the bottling started after Ian Curtis (deeply unwell, as we now know) departed the stage to be replaced by Alan Hempsall (Crispy Ambulance) and – I only recently discovered – Simon Topping from A Certain Ratio. Until the above track, the sound hadn’t moved on THAT much.

Certainly, when I saw New Order’s first Manchester gig in February 1981, nothing much had changed – including the ritualistic chanting of “Wilson is a Wanker!” at the sighting of Tony Wilson on stage – how opinions change eh? (As an aside, that concert is listed on many websites as being at Manchester Polytechnic. Bollocks! Manchester gigs at “The Poly” were at Cavendish Hall until it closed. This was on Hathersage Road – just at the Oxford Rd end from Victoria Baths.)

I got pissed off with New Order sometime in the middle of a concert at Salford Uni in 1985 (Low Life tour). I walked out half way through. The last album I loved was Technique (though I bought Republic out of curiosity, I never really “got” it. It bored me. Something they hadn’t done to me until that video, shot on a beach, for Regret.

I must be getting old. Was that first concert REALLY 33 1/2 years ago?

Moving swiftly on to the beer…..

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!

IMAG1850

1. Lupy As A Toucan (Simcoe, EXP 366, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

Nice surprise to see Shane’s beers in Londis Penny Lane on a recent visit! Adding to an already excellent fridge in this beery Allerton oasis!
A deep amber coloured beer, light white head and a huge fruity nose with kiwi, peach and Mango.

A really big, full-bodied mouthful this. A bit like Um Bongo but with added bitterness and pine. By heck this is a fruity little beast, more deep Mango, but with a really substantial bitterness balancing that fruity sweetness. And that bitterness? Oh my! Uncompromising to say the least! Probably more of an IPA style than a Pale Ale. But really, I don’t give a toss, ‘cos it’s bloody lovely

WHAT a beer this is. My gums are tingling! Always a good sign!
IMAG1869
2. Amber EpicureanFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 3.9% abv – Amber Ale – £2.80(ish?) (500ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
As its name implies, an amber Ale with a white thick foamy head and an aroma choc full of peach and Mango. A fruit basket of citrus smells.

Light bodied and full on fruity with the Mango front and centre, so fruity that it could be one of my five a day! This is hugely refreshing whilst being possessed of a bracing bitterness.

This is very generous of Rik, because this is right up there with AVA for me. Salford has a brewer to rejoice in. A simply cracking beer, light fruity refreshing and bitter. Possibly the perfect summer ale for a warm Cornish evening (as it was when I drank it!)

IMAG1858
3. Jumping Juniper RyeOffbeat Brewery / BlackJack Beers (Crewe/Manchester) – Rye Ale – 5.2% abv – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)
A companion piece collaboration with Black Jack to the St Clements Pale, brewed for the Birmingham Beer Bash (whereas St Clements was brewed for a local beer festival in Chorlton). What this means, is that this is the first bottled beer that I’ve had from BlackJack!
A deep dark ruby brown beer, almost black, with a creamy looking tan colour head with a distinctive roasted aroma with the fruity juniper on top.

The body of a Stout, the hopping and fruity bitterness of a black IPA and the astringent spicy touch of the juniper allied to the Rye. This is bloody lovely. Full bodied and smoothly carbonated, The initial coffee roast & bitter chocolate leads  to a fruitiness (maybe apricot) before the coffee reasserts itself  and dries on the tongue stripping it of moisture. The juniper and Rye add to this with a spicy touch in the finish leasing to a crackle of pine needle resins in the aftertaste. Classy beer.

This is best described as a BIPA crossed with a strong mild, ever so slightly reined in, but with the added complexity and spicy dryness leant by the Rye with the fruity drying astringency from the berries. Another classic collaboration by these two excellent breweries (the St Clements was bloody good too! The shape of things to come I hope!)
IMAG1885
4. Jasmine Green TeaTickety Brew (Stalybridge, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.05 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A beautiful Pale gold, crystal clear beer, with a white fluffy lasting head and a delicate aroma with that signature Belgian yeast note and something more delicate and floral.

Light bodied and very fruity. Peach and kiwi perhaps at first taste, then the tea kicks in with that tannic dryness and light jasmine touch.

Fresh and fruity this is a lovely light and refreshing beer with that signature Belgian spicy yeast note kicking in in the finish leading to a dry lightly grassy hop aftertaste. An excellent bottle from Stalyvegas.

IMAG2000
(Apologies for shockingly bad pic!)
5. Black IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.50 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Black. Thick creamy texture head. Tingling spicy licorice on the nose.

Full bodied, creamy textured feel in the mouth, the initial hit is mango, with a little sweet apricot, but this mutates quickly into a darker shade of flavour with licorice racing forward.

This is my kind of Black IPA, more on the Stouty side than IPA on the flavour spectrum. The impressive thing is how, flavour wise, it goes from Pale to dark flavours in the same mouthful. As good as it was on cask at Stockport Beer Fest.

If this was a tune, it would be Young Americans by Bowie. A beery slice of blue eyed soul. Beautiful.

IMAG1945
6. PilsStod Fold Brewing Co (Ogden, Halifax, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Lager – £3 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)
Beautiful deep golden beer with a light white head and an aroma resembling marmalade on hot buttered toast.
A medium bodied beer, clean tasting with some nice gentle fruitiness in here, definitely a little orange but also something more coolly autumnal and hedgerow like.
Crisp and light but with a depth of flavour that’s missing in many a macro lager, plenty of bready malt for sure, but there’s a nice lightness of touch with the hopping and it reminds me of a number of German lagers I’ve had. Really smooth, fruity with a nice dry finish. A lovely beer.
In other news. Preparations for The Independent Salford Beer Festival continue and are likely to speed up as September goes on, with an actual beer list likely by the end of the month. Other developments will likely necessitate another blog post early next week.
For now, that’s it. Need to catch up on a couple of planned posts including a case from Eebria and some Cornish beers from my recent holidays. I’ll try not to bore you TOO much!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 2

“I want to forget how conviction fits, but can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me? Oh oh oh oh
It can’t all be wedding cake, it can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it, can’t let go of it,

‘Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever, that’s why you will not survive!”

(“The Underdog” – Spoon)

(Clip courtesy Alphamatrix1 on YouTube)

As much as I love beer, I love music. Sometimes, I get all “High Fidelity” and start to make that dreaded nerd fest thing “The All-Time” list. Of course, tastes change over time, but some things stay the same. As John Peel used to say about The (mighty) Fall “Always different, always the same”. This phrase was used on Monday in The Guardian in an article about the new single by Spoon, which led me to this article where Britt Daniel, from the band, gave a brief run down of some of the standout tunes in their 21 year career so far.

Spoon are a band that I return to repeatedly when my musical palate feels a bit jaded. I’m not sure where the phrase “The kings of minimal indie” came from, and it’s probably not entirely accurate about what they do, but it fits, in that there isn’t anything in the tunes that shouldn’t be there. They’re stripped down, rhythmically tight, alternately subtle and powerful, delicate and driven.

It may sound rather stupid, but one of my favourite moments in Manchester in the last 2 years was being stood in Common Bar on Edge St one weekday evening, when the DJ played “Got Nuffin‘ and I found myself shambling drunkenly over to the DJ to say “Thank You”. Just one of (if not the) best bands out there, for me, at the moment. I just hope that they announce a date in Manchester for the new album!

Now for the beer…..

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!

IMAG1789

1. BronzeThe Celt Experience (Caerphilly, Wales) – 4.5% abv – Bitter – £2.19 (500ml) – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)

Amber coloured beer with a lovely white foamy head and hedgerow fruit aroma, plum, damson with a real spicy note along with toffee biscuit.

First mouthful is really fruity, with all that hedgerow fruit immediately apparent with a touch of blackcurrant too. Firm cheesecake biscuity malt underlay with a big carpet of fruity bitterness on top of it all.

That bitterness satays (or even “stays”!) awhile before giving space for a big grassy, almost oaky, hop aftertaste. A really big fruity bitter beer. Celt do some much more “experimental” beer, but it’s great to see them getting a beer as traditional as this, just right. Much maligned is bitter, as a style, but this, for me, is a fine example.
IMAG1791
2. Mild With No NameBillericay Brewing (Essex) – 5.5% abv – Strong Mild (Hmmm!) – £3.50 (500ml) – 10% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton Market)
Another bottle, another “traditional” British beer style! But all may not be as labelled with this particular beer…..
Very dark beer, almost black with a tan coloured head and an aroma groaning with milk chocolate.

Full-bodied beer, lush and creamy textured. Full on chocolate assails the taste buds with this dark puppy. Chocolate digestives provide the body here then more sweet chocolate fills the mouth, coating the sides before subsiding and yielding primacy to a gentle bitterness and quite a big grassy hop finish.

Not sure that I would call this a mild personally, more Porter territory for me, but a fine beer nonetheless.

IMAG1792
3. Le IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorks) / Dark Star (Brighton, W Sussex) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £1.99 – 0 – Booths (Media City, Salford)
Amber coloured beer with a thin white head and a fruity aroma, but quite sweet, pineapple maybe?Caramel biscuit malt in this full-bodied mouthful, again fruity, but sticky like pineapple jam mixed with marmalade. Quite a bitterness follows that swallow, with a good resinous pine dollop to round off the aftertaste. Whilst it tastes every fraction of its strength, this is smooth and very easy to drink. Dangerously so, at the strength!  (Short but sweet!)IMAG17904. Rye Pale AleLiverpool Craft Brewery (Liverpool) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (ish!) (330ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

A small supermarket, on a fairly quiet throroughfare. Walk in past the checkout. And there, in the fridges off to the right, is more local beer (and “craft” from around the country) than anyone should have any right to expect! It’s bloody marvellous the range you can fit into such a small space! (And I didn’t even check out the shelves in the rest of the shop!)

A slightly hazy deep golden beer with a lasting soft creamy looking white head and quite a delicate citrus fruit aroma (maybe tangerine) with something more floral.

An interesting fruitiness to this beer, apricot maybe with more of that tangerine. But that Rye spice leads to an almost arid dryness. Really sudden. Further mouthfuls are the same, quite lush fruitiness ended quite suddenly with tongue curling dryness. Big hoppy finish to round it off. Quite unusual, but this really works for me!

IMAG1785
5. Le Gran DepartFive Towns Brewery (Outwood, W Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From The Brewer (Bought)
My stated aim. I WILL see more beers by Five Towns in the Manchester area! The only problem with this? Malcolm Bastow’s beers are THAT full of lovely hoppy goodness, that those damned Yorkies keep it all for themselves! If ever there was reason for another War of The Roses…… Anyway, so far, they will be the only brewery with TWO beers at The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Which means….that I am SO good to you lot! It really does!!! At the moment, if you want to buy his stuff, head online to Bierhuis (Ossett) & Yorkshire Ales (Snaith & Malton). They can hook you up! (Great shops both – popping in soon)
Extremely pale golden beer with a light white head and a big citrus aroma (with some bitter orange in there) – a Five Towns hallmark.
Light-bodied and very fruity with grapefruit, gooseberry, a little lemon sharpness too. Each mouthful leaves me wanting more of that uber-dry finish that follows the fruit down the throat. In later mouthfuls, an orangey character became more pronounced. A hugely refreshing beer with a good dollop of bitterness and that pine needle resinous wash at the end of the swallow. Another Outwood cracker from Mr Bastow!
IMAG1786
6. Pale AleRunaway Brewery (Manchester City Centre) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – Direct from the brewer (swap)
I first had this (it was one of my major reasons for going!) at a recent Black Jack open event at their brewery. Mark Welsby’s brewery is the merest of cockstrides from Black Jack. Fortunately really, because when I wanted to pop in and see Mark, I had to ask the Black Jack collective for directions!
Bright and pale gold with a lacey white head and a brash boastful aroma all sharp and tart like a withering Lily Savage one liner put down. Grapefruit and lemon asserting themselves in nasal dominance.

That grapefruit tartness carries on in the mouth, building with each sip. And with each sip comes a growing bitterness. Sliding down really easily, like a beer of this strength should. Really crisp and refreshing and moreish. Nice hoppy bitter too. A fabulous session pale ale!

That’s it for now. Enjoy this summer with some great beer.
Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 3

“It’s a freak out, nothing’s familiar, nothing seems to fit in the scheme of things.

Seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-one’s ever certain what tomorrow brings,

So don’t fall my friend, all nightmares have to end.”

(“Don’t Fall” – The Chameleons)

(Courtesy of You Tube user “HeadfulOfHollow”)

Whilst my musical awakening encompassed the Motown and Rod Stewart of my big sister with the Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath of my eldest and Bowie/Lou Reed & Iggy of my elder brothers, the years when I really discovered the true power of music to inspire, came in the early 1980s. The first 3 concerts I went to were The Damned in October 1979, Joy Division in April 1980 and Crispy Ambulance in approx October 1980 and my first time in a pub – The Millstone on Thomas Street in Manchester.

Margaret Thatcher imprinted her hatred of the last true Working Class and her policies started to destroy the industrial heartland of my home area. Wittingly or no, it was against this backdrop that arguably one of the greatest Manchester bands of the 1980s sprung forth, The Chameleons. I think I still remember hearing “In Shreds” for the first time when my mate Dewey bought it as a 7″ single and was absolutely blown away by the power of both chords and words. Mark Burgess remains one of the greatest songwriters of that era for me and improved album upon album ending their run prior to breakup on a US Major label (Geffen) with the immaculate “Strange Times” in 1986 – Mad Jacks, Tears, Swamp Thing – frequently overlooked Manchester classics.

Yes, I know they originated in Middleton (see Wilson Potter below), but whilst they may never have achieved the mythic status of Joy Division, or the mega sales of New Order or even the hipster cred of A Certain Ratio, they were – for me – one of the greatest Manchester bands. Great songs and powerful tunes.

Right then, I hope you forgive my reminiscing waffle as we get down to business. The business being beer!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is 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, 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…

IMAG0681

1. Don’t FallWilson Potter  (Middleton, N. Manchester)- 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton, Lancashire)

See above for the inspiration for the name of this beer!

Ultra pale gold this, a white fluffy head with a gloriously sharp fragrance of lemon peel and pith, really zingy. This lemony tip carries on into the mouth where it had a surprisingly full body for such a pale lowish abv beer. Wow this is sharp! The lemon is mellowed off a touch with something a little milder like tangerine or mandarin whilst losing none of its dry bite. Good bitterness to this with a really dry resinous finish with a little bitter lemon in the aftertaste. I though that In Shreds had it, but another Chameleon beer takes the Middleton Crown. An absolute belting session beer. Must have this on draught! (Now to suggest a collab brew with me, Amanda, Kathryn and Mark Burgess! Maybe a wheat beer….Swamp Thing anyone?)

IMAG0680

2. India Pale AleSquawk Brewing Company (Ardwick, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £2.50 (2 for £5 – 330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

After posting a review of one of the Five Oh Brew Co beers and commenting that they were Manchester’s most recent brewer, the inestimably knowledgable and well-connected John Clarke corrected me by mentioning Squawk, I was hoping to catch Oliver at the Manchester Beer Fest for a chat, but you know how things get when the beer starts to flow……

An amber coloured beer with a small white head and a lovely fruity aroma with some bitter Seville orange. Ooh, this tastes big. A big digestive biccy malt base holding up some lovely sticky citrus hops with marmalade being the first thing that comes to mind. A full-bodied beer and really well-balanced with a nice bitterness in the dry finish and some resinous stuff in with a light orangey marmalade aftertaste. A really nice first beer from this brand new brewery! And, lucky me, I have a Porter lurking in my stash……!

IMAG0538

3. Hello Spaceboy – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale – £2.34  – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

As with a lot of the adventurous small breweries around at this time, Five Towns seem to brew a lot of “one offs” just like this Bowie themed beer. Next time, I’ll try to drink / write them up quicker, so you lot can also taste just how damned good these beers are!

Very pale straw coloured beer, white head and a big grapefruit and lemon aroma, nice and sharp and nose twistingly tart. Light bodied with just sharp sharp hoppage! Ooh is it tart! Really light, sharp light biscuit like an arrowroot or rich tea balancing this sharp grapefruit and bitter lemon hop attack. Nice and bitter with a fabulous resinous aftertaste with more than a trace of that lemon bitterness. Another light cracker from this increasingly excellent Wakefield brewer! More please!

IMAG0685

4. Citra Noir –  Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.9% abv – Black Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

What’s this? Me, champion of all things pale and single hoppy like, from Mallinsons, slurping on a dark ‘un! The world has gone all upside down! To be honest, whilst I was chuffed to bits at the Manchester Beer Fest to get some of Mallinsons Amarillo (a pint, natch!) on cask, I just missed out on the intriguing Citra Noir. So, when I noticed that Raj had some in, I latched onto it like a vampire on a blood bag!

Black ale, cream tan head with a mingled coffee and fruity aroma. OOH. The coffee is a 3 on the strength scale in the mouth, really smooth in this medium-bodied ale. Then a gentle tart citrus quality comes in. A black beer should simply NOT be as refreshing as this! Some ground coffee bitterness in this along with the fruit in the finish and the herbal hoppy resinous stuff in the aftertaste. Yum! Fruity, Coffee and resinous hops. What’s not to like? This is my idea of a sessionable baby Black IPA, can we have a cask in Manchester please ladies? Pretty please???

IMAG0686

5. Lupy As A Toucan – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.8% abv – Pacific Pale Ale (my description!) – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy & Motueka hopped amber coloured beer with an abundant white fluffy head and a tremendously fruity sweet aroma, with peach, pear and pineapple all mingled in. Ooh, big biscuity bready malt with a little sweetness added to the sweet fruity hopping with pineapple a little peach and something that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Then, after a humourous Tweet series with Ade from Saltaire Brewery, Shane and the legend that is Phil Hardy, I got it. Alcoholic Um Bongo! Remember that? “Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in The Congo”? Quite apt really as Congleton is known locally as The Congo!

The finish is nice and dry without being mouth puckeringly so with a lightly peppery herby finish reminiscent of Rocket (Salad AND Um Bongo? I’m really looking after you lot!) Dangerously drinkable for the strength.

IMAG0696

6. BAM! –  Rocky Head Brewery (Southfields, SW London) – 7.0% abv – Belgian/Pale Ale hybrid – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

With a couple of new beers from this SW postcode brewer in his locker, Damian chucked a couple of samples my way to get my thoughts. I’d happily pay the price above for this! Can I pay it much more of a compliment? To be Frank (I never did like my REAL forename!), I’ve liked each of the beers from Rocky Head that I’ve tried, so…here goes this one!

Golden with a white head and a fruity and lightly spicy aroma that makes my nose twitch! The fruitiness being something akin to a cross between grape and pineapple with something like the funk of a Duvel. Full-bodied, this has something of the best of both worlds, that slight yeasty banana quality of a Belgian with the dryness and slight resinous quality of New World hops, maybe even a hint of rhubarb! Lightly sweet, dry (Very much so in the finish) some boiled sweet in there too. Another good beer from this increasingly impressive London brewery.

Well. That’s another 6 done and a fresh order in for a vat of Andrews Liver Salts! One or two exciting things that I hope come off in the pipeline for the next month or so including a visit to Great Ale Year Round tomorrow for an MTB with my nearest brewer (if I keep saying that, what are the chances of a bacon butty one morning in Radcliffe?)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt 2

“On the pad before my eyes, paper cries, tellin’ lies.

The promises you gave from the grave of a broken heart. Hmmm

Every day I spend my time, drinkin’ wine, feelin’ fine,

Waitin’ here to find the sign that I can understand,

Yes I am, oh.”

(“In A Broken Dream” – Python Lee Jackson)

This song was originally released in 1970, but by the time of its UK re-release in 1972, Rod Stewart was banging out some of the finest blues-rock singles of the age, songs that MORE than stand the test of time, even now. “Maggie May”, “Reason To Believe”, “Handbags & Gladrags”, “You Wear It Well” not to mention the all-time classic single “Stay With Me” that he recorded as a member of possibly the most lashed up and lashed together of all rock and roll bands “The Faces”. Pistols at dawn for anybody who denies the greatness of that run of classics! To think that he was paid for his vocal on my featured lyric….with a set of seat covers for his car!

Anyway, down to business…..that being BEER of course…..

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…

IMAG0562

1. Brodies Prime Export – Hawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 8.5% abv – Strong Dark Ale – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another of the batch that I received unexpectedly in the post. Sometimes, I can’t believe my luck!

Liquid ebony to the eye and twice as pretty! A light cream coloured head yielding an aroma containing deep dark bitter chocolate and some nose wrinkling spicy hop? Ooohhh! In the mouth this is full-bodied (as you would expect), but far from glutinous. A perfect balance of sweet & bitter. Licorice, bitter chocolate, a touch of cognac, and sweet strong coffee assail the taste-buds  and give the insides of the belly a warm luxurious massage! Licorice and chocolate linger into the finish with quite a hoppy perky aftertaste. I love Brodies Prime, but this is EVEN better!

IMAG0655

2. Monster Mash – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Strong Mild – £2.48 – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

Damn! I could have used the lyric from the classic Bobby Pickett & The Cryptkickers for the header (“I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight…”)

OK, I’ll get on with it….. Dark brown almost black was this puppy, with a creamy tan coloured head and a milk  chocolatey aroma with a hint of sweet coffee. It was full-bodied and creamy in the mouth, with chocolate at first on the tongue, then some bitter coffee and lovely toasty flavours in with the roast. This led to a dry finish with a little bitterness and a lingering coffee note in the aftertaste. Another Wakefield belter from Mr Bastow!

IMAG0658

(Now THAT’S what I call Amber!)

3. American Amber Ale – Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 5.3% abv – Amber Ale – £4.19 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

The first time that I drank this, was on draught at Port Street Beer House. Astonishingly good (as have been all of Jay’s beers that I have tried), it was somewhat darker than anything resembling amber, buy BOY did it taste good! But in bottle?

No worries there! Yup! It’s an amber coloured beer alright, with a white head and a big citrussy aroma, the dominant whiffs being tangerine and peach. Full bodied and really fruity (tangerine, tart grapefruit) with a bready malt base supporting those fruity hops (all SEVEN) and rounded off with a nicely bitter finish and an aftertaste with lingering fruit and sticky piney resins. Yet another superb beer from the Hempshore Lane laboratory!

IMAG0644

4. Clearwater Pale AleAxholme Brewery (Luddington, N Lincolnshire) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.59 (less discount for 12 or more) (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A brewery whose beers can be found rarely but increasingly in certain select pubs like The New Oxford in Salford, Mike & Jules Richards create some fine beers, but like many smaller brewers, rarely find their way this neck of the woods. Shame really!

Pale gold with ever such a light haze and an aroma yielding  some peach and maybe grape to the nose. Medium bodied and lacking a little in carbonation, but really refreshing with almost a cask feel to it. Quite dry with peach and tangerine flavours to the fore giving way to quite a dry finish, with a gentle bitterness at the back of the tongue. A nice beer from the North of Lincolnshire.

IMAG0660

5. Black Betty – Beavertown Brewery (Hackney, E London) – 7.4% abv – Black IPA – £3.49 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

About a year ago, I had never even HEARD the term “Black IPA” never mind tasted one! And now……Black is indeed the new Pale! This was a Beavertown beer that I’d heard loads of good verbage about, but was yet to try…..

Black with a chocolate-brown tinge at the head when held up to the light, the head is a tan colour but quickly faded to traces, giving up a powerful citrus aroma of grapefruit mingled with something earthier and spicier like licorice root. Making this old boy’s saliva glands go into overdrive! Once it passes the lips it is like a dark grenade! In the mouth the citrus is peach and mandarin and really sharp, with the carbonation enhancing the tingling of the gums. Entwined with that – like a vine – is that licorice again with a bitter chocolate note. This is the first time that I have had this beer in any form and it is bloody marvellous! A superb balance of sweetness and hoppy bitterness and resins. The finish is dry and bitter with lingering pine and bitter chocolate. A class act!

IMAG0661

6. Broken Dream – Siren Craft Brew (Finchhampstead, Berkshire) – 6.5% abv – Breakfast Stout – £0 (330ml) (£3.60 in shop) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

I popped in this afternoon whilst in Bolton and had a superb pint of Deeply Vale DV8 (funnily enough, another Breakfast Stout) and it was great to see Dan & Gina doing well in their brave but welcome (ad)venture. Some MTBs coming up too!

Dan passed me this to see what I thought (knowing my love of most things dark!) and I am so glad he did!

A true stout. Black and opaque, a dark tan creamy head with an aroma of mocha with memories of chocolate flavoured ice cream sauce topping! Mmmm….Full bodied and ever so chocolatey! Really creamy and smooth on the tongue. The chocolate fades (if that is the right word) into more of a mocha feel with coffee increasingly making its eye-opening presence felt. The mocha sweetness is balanced with some nice grassy hopping which comes into play nearer the finish which has a blend of chocolate sweetness and hoppy dryness. I wasn’t that impressed when I tried this at the recent beer fest (unlike their awesome Soundwave), but this is more than a class above. A corker! (And a steal at the price!)

Being a total empty head, I forgot my beers of the month for January….so here goes….

Draught – AmarilloBrightside Brewing (Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester) Pale and VERY interesting, the orangey hop character of the Amarillo shone through in this fruity marvel. A deserves SIBA Gold Medal winner. Apparently, they’re having this on draught at the Great Ale Year Round MTB next week. Can’t wait!!!

Bottle – StrannikNorthern Monk Brew Co – “Creamy full-bodied and oh so bad…..I feel like I’m committing adultery with a beer!” – Enough said!”

That’s enough of my wittering & waffling for one week I think!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

PS : (I lied!) Allgates Brewery have brewed more of the luscious Quaker House Oatmeal Stout (My beer of the year 2013!), can’t wait to wrap my chops around that beauty again!

Bottled Ales – February 2014 – Pt1

“I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys, electric irons and T.V.’s
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.
And all the fat-skinny people. And all the tall-short people.
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people.
I never thought I’d need so many people”

(“Five Years” – David Bowie)

(Video link above courtesy of mack89464 on You Tube)

I have a saying that I use. “Trust me about Music & Beer – I’m pants at everything else!” Self deprecating, possibly, but Family, Friends, Music & Beer are my true loves (the last two being interchangeable). I try to make the lyric at the top of each post one that relates to something below. As you will see, that certainly applies here!

Five Years is taken from the classic David Bowie album “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” and is, in my opinion, the standout track on an album that has been in my all-time Top 10 for the last 30 years. Each of the 11 original tracks from the aforementioned “Five Years” all the way through to “Rock & Roll Suicide” are stone cold classics, burned into my brain since my two elder brothers were playing it 41 years ago. For me, the first of a run of classic albums which, in my opinion, ran all the way through to Low and Heroes (Side 1 of Low – the “pop” side, is still the single best side of ANY album! Anyone who disagrees had better choose his pistol carefully!)

As I am typing this (21:05 on Friday), I’m playing the album. It just never dates. I simply refuse to believe that it only reached #5 in the UK album charts!

Anyway, revelry over. This damn blog is supposed to be about beer…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next. If you haven’t, you’ll soon learn! ……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…

IMAG0520

1. Dirty Blond – Hellhound Brewery (Hadleigh, Suffolk) – 3.9% abv – Blond Ale – £0 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

I may have said this before, but if I have, forgive me for boring you but it needs re-stating. Since I have been writing this beery drivel, I have been lucky enough to receive bottles for free – not loads, but some – and when I do, I say the same thing each time. If I like it enough, I’ll review it. If I DON’T like it, I communicate my thoughts and reasons directly. My wafflings are there to highlight Good beers for my poor misguided readers to try. There. I say this, because this was passed (along with the Black Shuck from the same brewer) to me some time ago by Damian (The Ale Man) to see what I thought. He liked it himself, but fancied a second opinion.

This is a golden beer (as you can see, Doh!), with a light fluffy white head and a floral, slightly spicy aroma. It’s fairly light bodied in the mouth, fruity, very dry and has a big dry resinous finish. Really refreshing with a substantial grassy aftertaste. What a nice session pale this could be on cask! Hope we see it up in t’ North soon! Damian now has four beers from the Hellhound guys, well worth a try.

IMAG0541

(My only decent 2/3rd pint glass got dropped!)

2. IPAHawkshead Brewery (Staveley, Cumbria) – 7% abv – IPA – £0 (330ml) – Direct From Brewery

This is another one that I received gratis, but this time, direct from the brewery. A most pleasant surprise, as I really love the beers from Hawkshead! I believe they were bottling limited run beers using a new micro bottling plant, this comes hence.

An amber coloured beer with a white head and apricot and orange aroma spilling forth. Slightly sweet on the nose. Toffee too maybe. Ooh….Sweet caramelly biscuit malt but some huge hopping here for balance. Full bodied, some malty sweetness and really fruity with apricot and a hint of grapefruit in here. A big bitter piney finish with piney resins staying on way after the swallow. An absolute cracker and one to be treated with a degree of respect.

IMAG0532

3. Five Years – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Pale Ale / IPA – £3 ish (I think!) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

I love Bowie. I love Five Towns beers. So, a series of Bowie themed beers brewed by Five Towns? A match made in whatever religious destination floats your boat!

Pale gold to straw coloured beer, white head with a mango and orangey aroma. Full bodied nice sponge cakey sweet malt balanced with some serious piney hoppage (Mosaic) Marmalade richness in there too. Mmmm….! Wow this is dry! Really, really fruity and dry. The resinous hops are making my gums tingle! This is almost in DIPA territory without being as sweet as some. Just so moreish…like all Five Towns. Absolutely Lush! If I have my way, we’ll see some of their draught in Manchester. AND SOON!

IMAG0535

4. Topaz (Single hopped Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 4.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.29 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Blah blah blah – Mallinsons. Blah blah blah – Single hopped Pale Ale….. OK. But I come over all Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough!

Bright & Gold with a white head giving up a honeyed aroma with a little citrus that I couldn’t pick, maybe sweet satsuma? Smooth carbonation and easily slips down the throat, the sweet satsuma/tangerine comes through in the mouth with a substantial bitterness. More assertively bitter than the other SHPs Mallinssns have done, but still a superb beer with a strong bitter finish and resinous aftertaste. Yum, yum and thrice yum!

IMAG0646

5. Elixium –  Quantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) / Elixir Brew Co (Collab) – 5.9% abv – Porter – £4.15 (500ml) – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

From the latest and most welcome addition to Bolton’s fairly parlous town centre drinking scene, a cracking wee bar with great local draught beer and an excellent bottle selection!

Black with a beige tan head and a deeply chocolatey aroma. Full bodied, chocolatey, like a real 75-90% bitter chocolate,a slight London Porterish sourness (original porters being sour beers) initial light sweetness, roasty and quite an appealing bitterness to it. A cracking earthy hoppy dryness in the finish. Breathe in after a mouthful and a light smokiness wafts over your mouth. Another cracker comes forth from Hempshaw Lane!

IMAG0642

6. Hivemind – Weird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 5.6% abv – Honey Red Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market, Manchester)

An amber to red coloured beer, white head with a fresh zingy citrus aroma – nectarine upfront – fruity and sweet. Full-bodied, sharp and citrussy in the mouth, grapefruit tartness and quite resinous and a finish both tart and piney. A little honeyed sweetness in the aftertaste along with the piney resinous stuff. Some honeyed beers can be cloying and just TOO sweet, this is quite simply a corker and the use of honey is really well judged. I like it!

Well, that’s all folks! Well, for another week anyway!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 3 (aka Where There’s Smoke….)

Continue reading

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 2

Continue reading

Bottled Ales – January 2014 – Pt 1

1387627933220

“She had an horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beat.
When I looked in her eyes they were blue. but nobody home.
Well she could’ve been a killer if she didn’t walk the way she do and she do.
She opened strange doors that we’d never close again.”

(Scary Monsters & Super Creeps – Bowie)

Strangely – for someone who regards himself as fairly to moderately shy – I like meeting new people, especially ones who have a particularly strong interest in beer. I met two such at Damian O’Sheas excellent stall at the Urban Market in Salford a few weeks back. They were Dan & Gina Buck and have been selling beers at Farmers Markets for a while now. I was quite excited when I learned that they were planning to open a “Micro Bar” in the semi-arid area that is central Bolton, in the refurbished Market. The centre of Bolton isn’t exactly blessed with bars with great beer (IMO, of course) and Bradshawgate IS a bit of an obstacle course resembling downtown Beirut on a Saturday night, but I’m quite excited about what Dan & Gina have planned.

Unless I have something WAY wrong, the aim is to stock mostly (though not exclusively) local beers with an accent on flavour and quality. I for one can’t wait until the opening day, which, at the moment, is set for the 21st of this month. A diary date indeed! (BTW – The couple tweet – and retail – as @GreatAleYear). I’ll certainly be there enjoying a little “warm up” before the Manchester Beer & Cider Fest the next day!

Anyway, down to business…..

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…

IMAG0470

1. Rednik StoutBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 4.1% abv – Stout – £2.05 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Stout + Buxton Brewery. My favourite style of beer by one of the best breweries in the UK. What can go wrong? Well, nothing! This is a cracker! (And, at the price, a bloody bargain!)

Just as a good Stout should be, opaque (courtesy of Tandleman that one!), black with a creamy tan head that released a distinct lightly sugared mocha aroma. A nice start.

Medium bodied and smooth in the mouth, the initial dark chocolate flavour combining the bitter with subtle sweetness was followed by a smooth milky coffee which mingled with a light smoky note and some tingling spiciness ending up with a bit of a dry hoppy flourish, grassy but not overpowering the roasted malty stuff. The last word I wrote on my notes was “yum!”

As far as low strength Stouts go, this is as good as it gets. Superb.

IMAG0510

2. A Little Lupy (Single Hopped – Galaxy) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another beer from Raj and his growing Whitefield beer selection. I had the Stormy Point collab beer from Shane last month (see here) and was as impressed as I had been when I had it on draught. Having had one or two of his “12 Bar Blues” series before, I was really looking forward to this.

Poured a lovely glowing golden colour with a thin white head which gave up a fruity hop aroma with peach and tangerine sweet citrus to the fore. Medium bodied, this beer is full of sweet citrus with tangerine up front, cut with a little lemon sharpness. Slips down really easily this. A really refreshing and fruity mouthful, gently bitter, leading to a sharp dry finish with a resinous grassy aftertaste in with the fruit. Another absolute belter at a relatively low gravity! I’m led to believe that he may be doing more single hop variants of this beer. I’m keeping an eye out for those, whilst drooling!

IMAG0512

3. Hit The Fairy LightsWeird Beard Brew Co (Hanwell, W London) – 4.6% abv – (Festive!) Pale Ale – £3.89 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

Another one from Raj and, for Weird Beard, I broke my rule of not drinking “festive” beers. I have had some truly appallingly lazy “Xmas” beers and, as a result, usually shun such things. However, having been so impressed by the output from this West London brewery, I made an exception. And I’m glad I did!

Poured a pale gold with a rapidly diminished white head.  First aroma to hit was a fruity orange, then a gentle aniseed/licorice like note. Medium bodied, an initial flavour of soft citrus, maybe satsuma or orange sits on a nice bready malt backbone then, quite surprisingly a sudden resinous dryness hits with a light bitterness. There is Star Anise added to the boil in this which I got more in the aroma than in the mouth. Still, an impressive beer, and for a “Festive” pale ale, this is the best “Xmas” beer i think I’ve had short of a big Stout!

IMAG0517

4. Scary MonstersRevolutions Brewing / Five Towns Brewery (Collab) – 4.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorks)

One of a number of beers I picked up from a visit last week to Adrian & Vicky’s Snaith emporium, including 2 more with a David Bowie theme from Five Towns (must be fans those Bastows!). Being a fan of Black IPAs, this was the first I reached for.

There is a pale twin of this beer – Super Creeps – but unfortunately, I missed it. Gutted! Being from TWO of my favourite breweries – Oh I know how this is going to go!

A really deep ruby coloured beer, would be almost black without being held up to the light. As soon as I opened this lively bottle, I was hit with a big citrus aroma (and my nose was a foot from the bottle!) Aromas shooting from the glass include tangerine and peach. Another medium bodied beer this, the first thing that I got was the citrus with those fruity aromas matched in the mouth – peach/nectarine and tangerine. This is immediately followed by a bitter note with perhaps licorice and bitter chocolate. The next layer was a tongue curling dry grassyness with some great late revealing hoppage. I don’t want this beer to end! Just brilliant – and unfortunately limited to 700 bottles I believe.

I hereby start the campaign to have it brewed again!

Now, for two start-ups! One a shop/micro bar – opening soon! The other……a World first review for a new brewery!

IMAG0518

5. Gamma Ray – Beavertown Brewery – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.85 (330ml) – Great Ale Year Round (Bolton – or soon to be!)

I was ashamed to say that, until the Beavertown MTB at Port Street last year, I hadn’t had any of their beers. I went to the MTB purely on the recommendations of two people whose good taste I trust implicitly, Jeff & Jaz (See what I did there!). The beers were universally superb and the first that I had that evening, was this, on keg. I loved it,

When Dan from Great Ale Year Round said that he had some for launch day, I got in early!

Hazy gold, light white head clinging to the glass, the initial aroma was a lovely sweet mango with maybe just a hint of tart grapefruit in the background.

Smooth as a freshly ironed smooth thing in the mouth, more fruity mango, slightly sweet and biscuity backbone leading to a dry herbal hoppy finish. Each mouthful is just SO smooth, I could almost forget that it was bottled! So fruity yet so dry and grassy. Damn, why have I waited for so long to buy some of these? (Got an 8 Ball and a Smog Rocket lined up too. Lucky me!)

IMAG0508

6. Cuckoo Number 2Five-Oh Brew Co (Prestwich, Manchester) – 7% abv – IPA – £4 (330ml) – Cuckoo Bar (Prestwich)

“Drum roll please!” – I do believe that this may be the first review of a beer by this fledgling brewer. I feel quite honoured at that! And quite daunted. Ah bollocks to the wittering!

I picked up on this brewer on Twitter the other day and made some enquiries. I swiftly realised that his beers were limited in availability and currently retail in only one location. Cuckoo on Bury New Road in Prestwich. Being the excitable type, myself and the ever lovely Atilla popped up to snaffle one for review. And at £4 for a 7% beer, from a bar, I was made up with the price! I think we’ll be back. Atilla liked the look (and smell) of the food! Busy bar, nice friendly staff. No draught ales, but Brightside & this brewer in bottle. Good enough for me!

However, it’s all about the beer. Is it any good? Damn right it is!

Starting with the bottle. No branding, just a tag, dangling like a cigarette from Alain Delon’s lips. Minimalist and damn classy! (I’m sure the brewer wouldn’t agree!). reminded me a touch of Bad Seed in that respect, with that hanging tag. But THE DAMN BEER! Oh….OK….

Amber coloured with a light white fluffy head and a lovely big citrus aroma (hopped with Warrior, Columbus & Citra) with deep grapefruit tones and a background note of toffee. A full-bodied beer with initial big grapefruit flavours mellowing in the swallow to more of a peachy tone, then it warmly slides down the throat, caressing your insides like an internal fleecy blanket. Then you breathe after the swallow and the resinous pine floods into the mouth like a wave on a beach. The finish is simultaneously fruity and dry with a more gentle resinous note hanging around like a barfly.

An impressive first beer for me from this brewer. I was lucky enough to also pick up a Smoky Stout from the brewer himself which I’ll let settle and have next week. If it’s anywhere near as good as this, you’ll be hearing about it!

Finally, Happy New Beer to you all!

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

My Golden Pints 2013

Golden Pints Logo(Bloody Conformist!)

15 1/2 months ago, I decided that there weren’t enough people talking bollocks about beer, so I decided to join them by talking even MORE bollocks about it! What have I learned in that time?

1. That people LOVE talking bollocks about beer in even greater numbers than 15 1/2 months ago, and

2. That there are some lovely people in that number.

Last year, I just listed my favourite draught (NOT DRAFT!!!!) and bottled beers, because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I thought I would expend more words by following the acknowledged format! So, at 06:00 on Monday 23/12/2013, here goes….

  • Best UK Cask beerAllgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Yes Tyson, you guessed correctly! Simply the best Stout I think I have ever tasted. Can I be accused of bias because (along with Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound) I helped to brew it (well, stir the mash and shovel out the Mash Tun!), yes I can. Am I? No. I double checked on numerous occasions with my Jiminy Cricket (Jaz, the “Arch-Nemesis’) and he agreed and he’s NOT biased. A gloriously roasted, bitter, hoppy and luxuriously smooth alchemical concoction nursed to glorious fruition by Jonathan Provost, David Mayhall and the guys at Allgates. My proudest moment of the last 14 years. Thank you. (Honourable Mentions – Buxton Brewery – Imperial Black. Simply astonishingly good one night at Port Street, and Weird Beard – Black Perle. At 3.5%, simply WOW. A gorgeous Coffee Milk Stout at the strength)
  • Best UK Keg Beer – Ilkley BreweryDinner Ale – Unlike the vast majority of the beery blogosphere, I am not particularly well-travelled. My drinking has been pretty much limited to the North and – in particular – to cask conditioned and bottled beers. However, thanks to the miracles of Beer Festivals and the mighty Port Street Beer House, I have managed to sample a number of UK kegged beers, some absolute crackers among them. However, the one that stood out was Dinner Ale at the Leeds International Beer Festival. The most zingy and refreshing keg beer I’ve had all year. Refreshing is a quality that is seriously underrated.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerRevolutions BrewingManifesto – Creamy, luxurious, bitter chocolate, espresso, smoky, warming. Simply a classy strong Stout brewed without fanfare and just damn great. I love it and I love Revolutions Music & Beer ethos. Short and sweet (for a change!) (Honourable mention to Weird Beard – Decadence Stout. Bloody gorgeous bitter and hoppy Stout)
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer – Brouwerij Emelisse – Imperial Stout (Sorachi Ace) – Bought by the arch-nemesis at The Marble Arch at the end of a refreshing evening. Vinous yet delicate. Brutal yet gentle. I was astonished at the delicate flavours of this beer. Light and floral yet with all the heft of an Impy Stout. Do I have a clue what I’m talking about? Probably not, but I enjoyed it hugely.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Not really my bag….Next!
  • Best Collaboration Brew – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – For the reasons above stated. It was a Collaboration and the best beer I have had this year, therefore….
  • Best Overall Beer – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout  – By definition….
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelWeird Beard – Just superb design which would fail utterly if it wasn’t backed up by a consistently superb product. “Follow The Beard” indeed…..(Honourable mention to Bad Seed Brewery – Just minimal and classy)
  • Best UK BreweryAllgates Brewery – From my first sip of All Black Mild, I fell in love. Simply great drinkable beer. Consistently tasty, consistently excellent and immensely good value . Beer brewed without compromise but with that sometimes elusive quality. Sheer drinkability. Another underrated quality. (HUGE Honourable mentions to Five Towns, Mallinsons, Revolutions (all Yorkshire), Quantum & Wilson Potter from whom I’ve always drunk exceptional beer)
  • Best Overseas Brewery – I envy others better travelled than I. No Opinion.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – Bad Seed Brewery – Given that many of the beers I have drunk this year are from breweries new to me, I COULD have cheated. However, Bad Seed launched this year and whilst I have had nothing on draught by them, their bottles have been nothing short of first-rate. Chuffed to bits that they seem to be getting wide distribution. Let’s have something from them on cask in 2014! (HM to Five Points – All 3 beers being superb)
  • Pub/Bar of the Year – I’m going to cheat. I’m going for a bar AND a pub. BarJoshua Brooks (Manchester) – I could easily give this to Port Street Beer House. Many would and justifiably so. But I am contrary. I LOVE Joshua Brooks. Yes its a big old space. But it ticks loads of my boxes. Comfy seating, great tunes, friendly staff and a simply fabulous beer selection (recently upped to 8 handpulls I believe). And also the best damn value in Manchester on a Friday night. £2.70 a pint! For cracking cask conditioned ales from the greatest and the best breweries in the UK.  Pub Hare & Hounds (Hindley, Wigan) – The local I never had. Just a humble local boozer (Allgates) with a real fire, a dartboard, friendly locals and a landlady and landlord (Nigel & Adele) who keep an excellent pint and a friendly welcome. I just feel at home here and that’s what a good pub should be about. (Wigan CAMRA branch. Sort yourselves out and get this pub into the GBG. A travesty!)
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013Pie & Ale by Bakerie (Manchester) – A tad expensive on occasion perhaps, but great beer (mostly local) selection kept well. A great bar, deservedly popular (great pies too!)
  • Beer Festival of The Year – I was going to go for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer which was, quite simply, the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on this year and introduced me to breweries I’ve seen nowhere else (Bexar County Brew anyone?) and the bus journey was something to behold. If it runs again (the bus) you simply must try and get on it! However, I’m going to go all soft and go for IndyManBeerCon. Fabulous location, great beer, excellent entertainment. Met some lovely people and enjoyed the festival hugely. Yes, I had some issues, which I hope have been taken on board, but they shouldn’t (and don’t) detract from what was a great feat. More breweries for 2014 please!
  • Supermarket of the YearBooths. Knocks everyone else in the North into a cocked hat. Including Waitrose,
  • Independent Retailer of the Year – Yorkshire Ales – Probably the most difficult category to call for me. I genuinely agonised over this. There are some truly excellent retailers over this side of the hill, Damian O’Shea (Ale Man Manchester), Beermoth, The Liquor Shop as well as the Bierhuis in Ossett. Honourable mentions to all. BUT. Adrian & Vicky Pettit have a lovely little shop in Snaith with an emphasis on local produce. It’s this local ethos that swings it for me, They’re damn nice people too.
  • Online Retailer of the Year – I’m lucky. I shop local and in person. No Opinion.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine Opening Times (South Manchester CAMRA)- From Pub Curmudgeon to Stagger, just a great read.
  • Best Beer Blog or WebsiteGlenn Johnson’s blog. – Neither flash nor fancy. Just descriptions good beer (mostly!) in pubs that I’d love to go in, in places I’m unlikely to visit. Whilst I’m spoilt in Greater Manchester, I’m still jealous. (HMs to David Mayhall (his evisceration of Brew Dog “Equity For Punks” being the single most retweeted RT I’ve put out!) Nathaniel Southwood who manages the feat of being informative whilst making me chuckle repeatedly, Tandleman & Tyson I doff my cap to both! I wish I wrote as well as all of these fellas)
  • Best Beer AppPerfect Pint. Tells me what beer is currently on in my favourite pubs. Works for me!
  • Simon Johnson Award For Best Beer Twitterer – The mighty Nathaniel Southwood. Smart, opinionated, witty, frequently ranting. Always spot on. (HM to JazzyJollyJaunt without whose inspiration (and tolerance!) I wouldn’t be doing this. Thank you.)
  • Best Brewery Website/Social Media Weird Beard
  • Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – Black Country Pork Scratchings and Hobsons Twisted Spire at the River & Rail in Hampton Loade on the banks of the Severn. Time and place. I am a rather simple soul!

Well. That’s it from me. There’s a lot of good beer out there. Let’s hope for even more in 2014. Have a great festive season.

Slainte!

My 12 Beers Of Xmas – #3 – Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery

IMAG0442 crop(12 Beery Apostles – Saints or Sinners?)

“On the 3rd day of Xmas, my true love sent to me……”

IMAG0453

#3 Speyside Siberia by Ilkley Brewery

Let me be open about this. I simply LOVE Siberia. A Rhubarb Saison brewed in collaboration with the beer writer Melissa Cole, for a pale beer it ticks a lot of my boxes. Fruity and tart, fresh, slightly spicy and fabulously refreshing for a 5.9% beer. I adore it and drink it on draught wherever I can find it.

Late in 2012, Ilkley took some Siberia and aged it in oak Speyside whisky casks. They only made 700 330ml bottles. I was greedy and snaffled 12! To be fair, I have been fairly generous with my bounty and several found their way to fellow local beer lovers and friends. This bottle I picked up from Yorkshire Ales.

To this beer. The first time I drank it I was slightly underwhelmed. It was a 4 – 4.5 out of 5 where Siberia itself is a 6! I just felt that it had something taken away as much as added. I was keen therefore to give this another shot after leaving it a few months.

A golden beer with a rapidly diminished white head and an aroma slightly fruity/sour with traces of that rhubarb and a Belgian yeasty funk and maybe even a touch of apple. In the mouth, more rhubarb – although not as tart as in the original – a little apple and then a hit of woody warmth wraps you up like an oaky fleece. The whisky alcohol then insinuates into the upper reaches of your nostrils. A second mouthful reveals a lightly sweet flavour that reminded me of Xmas cake icing (then I looked at the beer notes on Ilkley’s website and saw Marzipan mentioned, spot on)

A mellow finish with warmth and the woody whisky warming the throat and belly.

I’m not sure if I have mellowed towards this beer or if keeping it has improved it. It’s certainly more refreshing than a beer at 8.8% abv has a right to be. (Still prefer Siberia though!)

And I have 3 bottles left!

On that note…’til next time (tomorrow of course!)

Slainte!