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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

Friday, 31 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog U-Boat

TGIF, eh? And that means only one thing. Yes, it’s transatlantic Porter day. Well it is now as that’s what’s on the tasting menu for today. What is a transatlantic Porter, you may ask. It’s a collaboration between Brewdog and the US brewer Victory and naturally they’ve come up with something wacky, erm, I mean contemporary and funky. Brewed with a number of specialty malts, the twist comes in the form of fermentation with lager yeast. Right now I’ve got your attention, let’s begin.
It’s a 330ml bottle and is a heavyweight 8.4%. It poured jet-black with good carbonation and a one-finger tan head. The aroma was powerful: medium smokiness with caramel, cocoa, dark berries and just a hint, if I’m not imagining it, of lager. Taste wise, this was a rich beer. Viscous and creamy with a chewy edge that reminds you of its strength but in a good way. There is a peat smokiness but also caramel, coffee, raisins and some dark fruit: maybe plums? Certainly a well concocted beer that retains its complex balancing act through to the bitter-sweet red fruit and currant finish.

Tyson says: A bastard son of a Milk Chocolate Stout and a lager; despite my initial scepticism, it works really well. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Tesco Single Hopped Kentish Ale

After yesterday’s diversion into exotic beer country, today we crash land on terra firma with what can only be described as an old-school brew. The success of New World hops, which have come to dominate the new wave of craft beers, has been something of a double-edged sword for UK hop growers. Whilst focusing drinker’s attention on the merits of hops, it has left traditional varieties struggling to compete. Now there are many fine varieties of British hops and the British Hop Association has a strategy to try and publicise the merits of each regional variety. Step forward Tesco.
This beer is brewed by Shepherd Neame who are, if that’s the correct term, the champions of East Kent Goldings. Some people say they’re the champions of producing twig beer, but I’d never repeat that here. The beer is 4.5% and comes in a 500ml bottle which, rather surprisingly, is clear. That’s really a no-no, so points deducted for that. It poured light copper with little carbonation and a thin off-white head that quickly died off. Aroma was soft caramel and toffee with a slight spicy undertone. Taste was a little bit earthy: slight floral and gently spiced malt. Typical Shepherd Neame, really.

Tyson says: Although there are many fine varieties of British hops, East Kent Goldings aren’t one of them. Not on this showing anyway. A rather insipid beer that might be a good present for your Uncle George, but is unlikely to win over many people who are looking to explore and understand just what hops do for a beer. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller Chill Pils (Orange Juice)

What have we got this morning for Wednesday’s little treat?  You know how in summer, a man’s fancy turns to just one thing? Yes, that’s right: Pilsner. Well today we celebrate summer by trying a Pilsner. But as it’s those crazy Danish guys at Mikkeller, it’s no ordinary Pilsner. No, this is a Pilsner made with genuine orange juice. Yeah you heard me correctly, this is an orange Pilsner. I’m pretty sure that’s not in the style book, but before we all book flights to Prague to cleanse our thoughts, let’s give it a try.
It’s a 330ml bottle and is spot on for strength, coming in at 4.7%. It poured, perhaps with zero surprise, a pale, hazy orange colour with a 2-finger white head. Carbonation was reasonable, if not particularly strong. The aroma is heavily dominated by orange with just a subtle hint of light malt. It’s smooth on the palate with the taste coming across as a very fresh glass of orange juice. You wouldn’t think it was a Pilsner at all. But wait for it…The bitter hop-led citrus finish is complemented by an underlying dry, slight mineral edge.

Tyson says: Mikkeller have pulled it off again. Just. It may only really reveal its Pilsner roots at the very end but it’s still a very refreshing summer beer nonetheless. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Citra Centennial IPA

It’s breakfast time but before we can tuck into all that healthy muesli, we need to refresh the palate for the day. It may be happenchance or destiny that Kernel was picked out of the cupboard, but there’s been a lot of chatter about Kernel recently amongst the chattering beer classes. They’re withdrawing from the Bermondsey Beer Mile circus as they’re becoming swamped with amateur pissheads. Think Blackpool but picture wannabe hipsters and johhny-come-latelies. So what better way to remind ourselves of what all the fuss is about?
It’s the standard Kernel minimal design bottle and comes in at 6.9%. Now Kernel more or less patented London Murky-another thing guaranteed to get the chattering beer classes chattering-so no surprise to find it poured a murky golden orange with a thin off-white head. But it wasn’t actually that murky; I was expecting a real stodge of a beer, but I’ve seen worse. Aroma was a straightforward blast of citrus: grapefruit, orange and a little tinned pineapple. Mouthfeel was good with lots of rich notes of orange, lemon, grapefruit and a touch of grassiness. Drinks well for the strength and builds to a clean, bitter citric fruit aftertaste.

Tyson says: May look murky but tastes a lot better than it looks. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller The American Dream

Ah, hot summer days that just cry out for a cold lager. What do you mean, it’s Manchester and it’s wet and cold? Everyone knows it’s always sunny inside a Mancunian heart. Anyway, it’s lager time whatever the weather. But this is no ordinary lager-you won’t find me reviewing Stella here: drinking it at the bus shelter, yes but reviewing it, no-this is craft lager. Specifically a lager from those kings of craft, Mikkeller.  
It’s a 330ml bottle and tips the scales at 4.6%. It poured golden-brown with a thin off-white head that quickly dissipated. The aroma was summery and pleasant. There were hints of apricots, breaded malt, lemon and grapefruit. The body was what you would expect, light/medium mouthfeel with the malt just lying comfortably in the background. And it was crisp like a good lager should be. So far, so normal. However, the grassy hop tones and lemon and citrus bite give the game away. These build to a clean, citru-led bitter aftertaste that refreshes the parts normal lagers can’t.

Tyson says: Excellent. Do say: “A well-crafted lager”. Don’t say: “Wassup”.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Cloudwater IPA

This morning’s aperitif comes from that new(ish) kid on the Manchester craft beer block: Cloudwater. Since their official launch in March they’ve been taking not only the local scene by storm, but causing a few national ripples as well. Now there’s a lot you could talk about with Cloudwater; their seasonal approach to beer or their label design, for example. But what has struck me is the quality of their product. I’ve tried more or less all of their output, through various styles that I’m more or less keen on, but the quality has been top-notch throughout. Something which I wish I could say about some other so-called ‘craft’ brewers.
This is a 330ml bottle and comes in at 7.2%. Handily there’s lot of info on the back:

Yeast: US05
Malt: Best Ale, Clear Choice, Wheat Malt, Caramalt, Dark Crystal
Hops: Green Bullet, Perle, Citra, Summit, Galaxy, Centennial

It poured a solid orange-some might say proper IPA colour-with about half a finger’s worth of off-white foam. It’s slightly hazy but there’s no London Murky funny business here. The aroma was pungent and, to my schnozzle at least, very pleasant. There’s lot of fresh pine, melon, grapefruit and pineapple balanced out by a sweet fruit/sherbet underlay.

Unsurprisingly after that introduction, the taste didn’t disappoint. Basically it’s more of the same but with a little twist or two.  Quite firm bodied, the malt backbone does an outstanding job of underpinning the bold flavours without dominating the profile. This does not drink like a 7.2% at all. Plenty of bold pine and citrus notes with mango and mandarin orange/marmalade there in the mix as well. It’s all about the hops shining through rather than being an out and out bitter fest, but the sticky grapefruit bitter finish really does reset the taste buds and demands another gulp.

Tyson says: A superbly crafted IPA that could well prove to be the benchmark for the British take on this style. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A sad loss to the fabric of Bury’s drinking culture was the recent closure and sale of the Dusty Miller on Crostons Road. On the face of it, this is just another out of town boozer that has become a victim of changing times and tides. However, the Dusty’s contribution to local beer history is far greater than at first it might appear. Even though it dates from 1834 it was not historically significant, although its 3-room layout was somewhat unusual and the split room serving bar is becoming a rarity. No, the importance of the Dusty lies in the history woven through its brickwork: of its customers and its one time role as an important destination pub for real ale seekers.

An impressive list of Bury’s most well-known characters have propped up and, in some case, fallen over its bar stools over the years. Indeed Eddie, the once eager legal beagle, and his faithful sidekick Trumpet Dave were weaned on the pumps there. And Eddie’s own esteemed father, the Oberst, has put in many years’ faithful service in there as well. Not to mention CAMRA legend, Stuart the Glass. At a time when beer choice was very limited, its acquisition by Moorhouses offered a unique alternative to other offerings in the town. Its progress was steady, as was the norm in the old school of pub management.


There was no real mystery as to its eventual success. Through hard work and effort the long-serving landlord built up local support through a series of quiz and sports teams. It got into the Good Beer Guide and remained in for many years. I recall several CAMRA meetings being held there and it was a popular stop on the (in)famous Independents Day coach trips. It held beer festivals-unusual in Bury pubs at that time and also offered another rarity of the time: guest beers. Such was the buzz in pre-digital times that, when word did get round of a particularly good one on offer, drinking plans were altered and there was no need to guess where Bury’s finest imbibers were to be found. Another thing it will be fondly remembered for is its legendary lock-ins. A prerequisite for any good pub back in the day.

However, the Dusty was always balanced on something of a cliff edge. The surrounding area was never gentrified and in its heyday relied on light industry to supply its customers. When that declined, the pubs remained something of an anachronism, full of strip acts and hardy drunks. The Dusty was tame compared to the likes of the Blue Bell that had to have reinforced glass to cope with all the damage wrought but, having been banned from his chosen local, you would come across the odd headcase in there. When it was run as a tight ship, it was never a real problem and you got used to hearing some interesting conversations about the merits of Moroccan Black.


The reinvigoration of Bury town centre, the general decline of corner street pubs and changes in personal further weakened the Dusty’s position. I reported back in 2012 how it had been given an unexpected lift with Britain’s self-proclaimed most controversial landlord, Nick Hogan, taking the helm. I said I was expecting fireworks, but sadly his reign proved more of a damp squib. It’s fair to say than from his disastrous so-called celebrity opening night (more people were interested in chatting to the Oberst than the alleged celebrity) to his ill-judged remodel along the lines of an American diner, it was pretty much a plunge to the bottom. As the last man standing, it had a window of opportunity to cash in on that status but, with the locals leaving in droves, the clock was ticking down.
In many ways the fate of the Dusty is symbolic of a familiar picture: a victim of changing times and bad management. But for its ex-regulars its closing is far more significant and marks the end of an era. For it wasn’t just another local, it was THEIR local