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Tyson is an underpaid writer, beer anarchist and cheese addict living in the North West of England.
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A Night With The Manchester Brewers

The question was; how to celebrate CAMRA’s Cask Ale Week? One man, Robin Bence, had the simple answer. Why not pay a visit to the nine breweries of Manchester? And to keep it even simpler, why not do it in a single evening? Thus a merry (soon to be much merrier) band of cask adventurers set off on an open top (it never rains in Manchester) bus in pursuit of life, liberty and a few bevvies. For those who can count, logistics meant that we actually started in the Boggart Hole Micro Bar in the Arndale and, sadly, we ran out of time for Blackjack. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Outside the famous Holts gates)
(First Chop)
(Star Inn, Broughton)
(Seven Bro7hers)

With all the money going to The Christie Hospital, it was drinking in a good cause. Thanks to everyone who came and, of course, to all the generous brewers. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Well it’s over for another year. Yes the dust has finally settled on the behemoth beer festival that is IndyMan. So many beers, so many thirds to sup. I was up and down to the bar more times than a bride’s nighty. If you were there then you’ll know how good it was. If you weren’t, then I won’t rub it in. In its third year now the festival, sorry convention, continues to expand and mature. Lessons were learnt from last year and everything that I saw seemed to run smoothly. There also seemed to be less broken glasses than last year: are people finally getting the hang of those dainty little measures? What was good…the beer, the company, the Brewdog bus (so I’m told) and of course the food from Honest Crust and Chaat Cart.
(Oh let's try this bar)

(Yummy Iced Tea Saison) 
The good: Arbor NS Bomb, Alechemy Citra Burst, Northern Monk Monacus NZ and Brewfist all really hit the taste spot. But this year, despite its relatively low profile, the best beers were to be found on cask. Tiny Rebel The Full Nelson Chardonnay BA beat off some tough competition to edge it with a complex and vinous treat.

The bad: There were some disappointing saisons with Partizan Iced Tea being particularly unspectacular. But Camden wins this category for the mess that was their Spiced Pumpkin Lager.

The ugly: Ultimately there could only be one winner. Step forward Against the Grain Killewitte. Described by Mr IndyMan himself, John Clarke, as smelling like sick, this smoked wheat beer tasted like smoked compost.

Only 360 days to next year’s event…

Hello St Albans We Have A Problem

CAMRA is at something of a crossroads. Actually it has been for some time. Membership continues to climb but, like many long established organisations that rely on volunteers, there is concern for the future. The solution is, of course, to recruit more young members; not only to keep CAMRA growing but to hopefully put in place the future committee members and organisers. That is what the Young Members section is for and it has done a sterling job on the ground with its representatives achieving year on year results. However, all that good work risks being undone by the latest blunder by St Albans. Rowan Molyneux is to be thanked for really pushing this into the public domain. As she says this isn’t an attack on CAMRA per se but it is something that really needs sorting out.
It’s often said that CAMRA is run by old men who drink in dusty time capsules of pubs and who are out of touch with reality. That is of course a broad brushstroke that doesn’t paint the whole picture but this particular faux pas does threaten to undermine CAMRA’s professional reputation in some quarters. Of course it shouldn’t have happened at all and there are many questions to be answered. Yes, the leaflet was a mistake in the first place but then things seemed to completely unravel. Why was the Young Members committee consulted and then ignored? Why did it take so long for CAMRA to respond to the concerns raised and then only in a half-hearted way? The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now and it will be interesting to see what sort of damage limitation exercise CAMRA runs. On the plus side, hopefully important lessons will be learnt from this whole debacle and the organisation can get back to what it should be doing: promoting real ale to one and all. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Independent Salford Beer Festival

Talking of festivals, it’s just over two weeks to the big one. Yes, the most eagerly anticipated beer festival of 2014 is just around the corner. Haven’t got your ticket yet? Why not? You’ll only regret it afterwards. Possibly for the rest of your life. There’s food, entertainment and a kick-ass beer list. And it’s all for a good cause. Get your tickets now and tell them Tyson sent you

Monday, 6 October 2014

A Tale Of Two Festivals

So first up was Ramsbottom beer festival. Held over three days, not unsurprisingly, in Ramsbottom Civic Hall, this was a charity fundraiser for Mountain Rescue. As in previous events, it was an all token affair and all 42 beers were served by handpump. This is a really good festival that was freshened up this time by the decision to include only breweries that hadn’t featured previously. Unfortunately this meant having to exclude Ramsbottom Craft but luckily meant that new kids on the block; Brewsmith, could feature. They have really got off to a flying start and their beers are already picking up a following. Their full range was available: Bitter, Pale, Oatmeal Stout and IPA. All were excellent with their IPA blowing many away with its intoxicating tropical bomb nature. There were a number of other very good beers as well, with Loch Ness Brewery delivering one of the best with their HoppyNess. I was also quite taken with the Stewart Edinburgh Festival. Stamps Swedish Blonde had no connection to Sweden that I could discern but was a Simcoe dry-hopped delight.

Next up was the slightly larger St Georges Hall festival in Liverpool. This was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous with a festival in such grand settings that offered some 300 beers and ciders. Last year saw 5,500 visitors over the four days and this year looked to surpass that total. One change from last year was the introduction of music into the main hall itself. This move, despite their being an excellent dedicated music room, proved less than successful. A hall full of that many punters doesn’t need any added noise and there were many complaints that conversation was difficult. I’m sure the South London Jazz Orchestra is very good but the conductor looked the worse for wear and the sound arrangement (according to the music teacher sat next to me) was all wrong. On the plus side there were some great beers. The Ashover Littlemoor Citra was a good start and the Black Iris American Blond was full of citrus all wrapped in a 3.6% treat. Sunny Republic Hop Dog promised the “sensation of being smacked in the mouth with a jar of marmalade.” And if you like that idea, you would have loved it. Otherwise, maybe not. But certainly enough choice for everyone and plenty of good cheese and pies as well. If you missed it, I recommend you try the winter festival in January 2015.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Wetherspoons New Craft

So Wetherspoons’ new menu is underway. Starting on the 1st October; it promised more choice of, ahem, craft beer and dining options. Good to see salmon making a comeback and full marks for offering it as a breakfast option. But, as I always like to say, back to the beer. What’s on offer and how much is it are the crucial questions. Well looking at the drinks menu in front of me, I see that the two new draught choices: Brewdog This Is Lager and Devils Backbone are both just under £3 a pint. The bottle and can selection now come under a section labelled ‘Craftwork’ (yes, really) with cans at £1.99 and bottles at £2.49. New to can are Vedett, Budvar, Sagres and the hipster favourite: Lagunitas IPA. The bottle range is shored up with Adnams Crystal Rye IPA and Rogue Amber Ale.
(Oh no)
 Now a lot of attention has been focused on Devils Backbone; an American IPA brewed at Banks’s Brewery in Wolverhampton. Previously these American/British efforts have been served as guest cask ales. But, in for the long haul with this one, Wetherspoons have decided to sell this as a keg on its regular font range. This, they claim, ensures it is “crisp and fresh”. But what is it like? Well it poured pale amber with less carbonation than expected and a tiny rim of foam. Initially the cold hid its profile with a a slightly malty, fruit/raisin taste coming through. As it warmed, it became flabby, definitely not crisp, with a disappointing earthy hop aftertaste. They were aiming for an English interpretation of an American IPA but this falls at the first hurdle: drinkability.

(Oh yes)
For a contrast, I tried the Lagunitas. This was a lovely burnished gold with good carbonation and a fingerful of white foam. This is a complex IPA and on the nose I got orange peel, tangerine, and a hit of pine and citrus notes. The body is light for a 6.2% beer with only a slight malt sweetness underpinning it. The flavours prickle on the tongue; it’s not wave on wave of astringent hops but rather a melting pot. I got plenty of orange, melon, papaya, perhaps even a twist of summer berries before the juicy bitter-sweet aftertaste settles in. It’s a totally different beast from the other imported American IPA: Bengali Tiger, but equally as drinkable. At 5.2% the DB is a poor imitation; I can’t see any reason for cask fans to switch to it and it’s certainly not appealing enough for the dedicated craft beer fan.

So it’s California 1, Wolverhampton O. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Lancashire's Latest

Rather on the QT, Lancashire seems to have gained another brewery. The Rostron Arms is on Market Street in Edenfield which lies between Bury and Rawtenstall. Inside lies Edenfield Brewery (Magic Village Ales) which is the pet project of landlord David Swarbrick. Already offering a good range of ales, when of the locals ventured that he should install a microbrewery, he basically thought “why not?” This led to the ubiquitous Dave Porter and co installing a 4bbl plant on site. Now Dave is the first to admit he knew nothing about brewing and is still on a learning curve. That is why he has started quietly with just one beer: Old Red Dog. This is a 3.9% traditional Bitter named in honour of a much-missed local character. The recipe is still being tweaked-although it seems popular enough-and then there are plans for perhaps another two regular beers. But what does it taste like, I hear you cry. To me it tastes similar to Barnsley Bitter, so if you like that or Joseph Holts, you’ve cracked it. The 482/453/484 buses will drop you off at the door so why not get along and try it for yourself.