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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

Thursday, 3 July 2014

And The Craft Came Tumbling Down

The Sixpoint can price crash in Wetherspoons has started. Well in certain outlets, anyway. If the sell by dates are the end of July, chances are that your local will have already started selling them off for 99p. Grab ‘em while you can.
(    (1)No cans were harmed in the building of this wall. It is for illustrative purposes only and should not be attempted by non-professionals
(2)The daily alcohol unit guidelines may have been exceeded in this exercise. If worried, have a drink and forget about it.
(3)There may be a dichotomy in the evangelism of spreading the craft gospel and the actual reality. Try to smile nonchalantly when you discover that the old soaks that normally drink John Smiths have already supped all the Bengali Tiger. 

American Beer Tasting@PSBH

Tuesday evening saw Port Street Beer House kick off its annual American Beer Festival with a tutored beer tasting. Held upstairs by none other than Jeremy Strull, co-owner of Manchester speciality beer emporium Beermoth. Jeremy, a Kansan native, was the perfect host for such an event as he has vast experience in this particular field. Not that he’s a slouch in others; the first part of the talk was given other to how his beer journey began and how he got to where he is now. It’s a journey that encompassed Chicago, Belgium, Holland and, erm, Cains.  Anyway, all the beers were interesting and, as a bonus, all new to me
Jack’s Abby Jabby Brau

A 4.5% lager from the Massachusetts brewery that’s specialises in brewing lager. A classic Pilsner base given a twist with locally grown hops for aroma but keeping the bitterness down to an even-tempered 20 IBU. Clean and crisp. A
ny bitterness soon dissipates to give a refreshing, perfect for summer, session ale.

Stillwater Stateside Saison
This is a 6.8% American take on a Belgium classic. It combines farmhouse yeast and European malt with American and New Zealand hops. The result is a perfect blend of the old and the new. You get the spiced funkiness of a traditional saison but a much dryer, hop-led finish. Very pleasant. Indeed one of my posse thought that it was the best saison they had ever tried.

Heretic Shallow Grave Porter
This 7% Porter hails from Fairfield, California. It was pleasingly dark on the eye and pleasingly silky on the tongue. Rich and bold, it had a shovelful of chocolate, molasses and a slight malt sweetness. What really raised this, as Jeremy pointed out, was the tart finish that left you wanting more. Another winner.

Knee Deep Hoptologist DIPA
Back to the land of movie stars and swimming pools for this 9% heavyweight. It boasts malt from Canada, Chile, Germany and the good old United Kingdom. Not to mention Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Magnum and Hersbrucker hops. This all adds up to a palate cleansing, dangerously drinkable little number. Often these types of beers are let down by an alcohol rush but the malt backbone does its job superbly allowing the pine resin rich flavours to come through. Zesty with a crisp bite, this could be the beer of the evening.

Pipeworks Reaper vs Unicorn
The psychedelic label apparently celebrates the tale of a unicorn rising from the dead to avenge themselves on the grim reaper. Hmmm. It’s a 10% rye barley wine. Hmmm. We all know rye belongs in bread and not a beer glass and this reinforced that truism. Not only did the alcohol come through too strongly, the rye left an unpleasant burnt candy taste that made it hard to love. Too reminiscent of the dreaded crystal malt effect for my liking, I couldn’t finish this. And I wasn’t the only one.

      Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura
Now this 8.1% barrel-aged sour Stout was more like it. Dark and vinous, it was a real treat. Lots of swirling chocolate flavoured with plums, raisins, cherries and dark fruit. A really tart fruit finish completes this tour de force. Unusual and compelling.

                                                     Perennial Saison de Lis
This 5% beer was a bonus from Jeremy’s own collection. The twist being here that it’s brewed using camomile flowers. The overall impression if of apple and cinnamon: an apple crumble, if you will. Definitely a speciality beer, but certainly light on the palate and enjoyable.

So thanks to Jeremy and his wife and to Duncan and the gang at PSBH for another enjoyable evening.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Would You Like Some Ice With That?

Is it reasonable for a pub to charge for a glass of water? We’re not talking craft water, drawn from the bowels of a private spring by toiling artisans, but the ordinary stuff. Corporation pop as we called it in my day. The question has risen after Nick Molyneux, a CAMRA member, complained about one of his friends being charged 50p for a glass at the John Thompson Inn in Ingleby. Despite his group buying eight pints of beer, five glasses of wine and eight bags of crisps, the designated driver was still charged for his water.

Mr Molyneux said: “We’d travelled from Nottingham and had spent around £50 on drinks and crisps. The driver was dehydrated and was very unhappy to be told to pay. “We asked for a receipt so we could make the complaint. I went back, offered him the chance to pay my friend the money back and that would be the end of it. But he didn’t. I do not think it’s right. They should bend over backwards to get people in the pub. They are also a country pub, so there are bound to be a lot of people driving.”

The pub’s co-owner, Nick Thompson, defended the charge by saying it was for extras of ice and a fruit garnish. He also said that he was originally unaware that Mr Molyneux’s friend was part of a larger group of visitors who arrived later. Of course pubs are businesses that are free to determine their own charges but perhaps with the current state of the trade, they should look at the bigger picture. A 50p charge won’t buy much goodwill and may well put off prospective customers. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Founders KBS

I was saving this baby-a takeaway gift from the wonderful Founders meet the brewer event at Port Street Beer House-for a special occasion. My World Cup sweepstakes team being knocked out is as good an excuse as any, so here goes. It’s an 11.2% imperial Stout shot full of coffee and chocolate and then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year. Yes, you heard right. It comes with a heavyweight reputation; it’s not cheap (by American standards) and people literally queue to get hold of it. What everyone is waiting for, of course, is will it pass the Tyson breakfast beer test?

It poured nearly black with a frothy khaki head. It certainly looked the part: rich, thick and creamy. The pungent aroma was a blast of freshly ground coffee, bittersweet chocolate and, yes, bourbon. This continued into the creamy, almost silky mouthfeel. In the first swig you get the coffee and chocolate and then the bourbon burn kicks in. As this warm-glow effect travels down, it neatly compliments rather than overpowers the other flavours.

Another swig and you can detect figs, plums and a dark berry sweetness. These fade into a bittersweet finish that really tests the taste buds. This is really good. I’m guessing that if I let this warm up more, there would be even more flavours to discover. As it is, it’s a real humdinger that packs a lot in but cleverly avoids the pitfalls of many barrel-aged beers.

Tyson says: Well-deserved of its reputation. A classic. 


The meet the brewers events at Port Street Beer House have been coming thick and fast lately. Most recent was the visit of super-scooper royalty Gazza Prescott from experimental brewery Hopcraft. GP has been a well-known face on the beer scene for some time now and, shall we say, holds some rather robust views that he is happy to share. Just don’t mention CAMRA or twig beer (think Shepherd Neame) though and you should be alright. It’s not unnatural for lovers of the hop to want to progress to using it themselves and Gazza managed that ambition when, along with Dave (unpronounceable) Szwejkowski, he formed Steel City Brewing.

However his partnership at Hopcraft with Tom Barlow, from Pixie Spring Brewery, is a totally different kettle of hops. Unlike other breweries, Hopcraft don’t believe in having a core range of beers and only have one regular-Tidy Bitter. This leaves them free to experiment and indulge their whims. Makes you realise you’re in the wrong job, doesn’t it? An enjoyable evening: the highlights being Simcoe+ and Sturgeon General that blended Simcoe seamlessly with Galaxy. Definitely not twig beer!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Craft Not Dead Shock

The news some time ago that Wetherspoons were to slash the price of their Sixpoint American craft cans was greeted in some quarters with knowing nods and “I told you so” homilies. Spoons shouldn’t be selling craft beer and certainly not craft canned beer. What were they thinking? No hipster would be seen dead in a Spoons, right? And craft is for the crafteratti and not for the plebs, after all. Sadly for the doomsayers, it seems the end is not nigh just yet. While sales in some regions have struggled to match London volumes, Wetherspoons have felt confident enough to reorder them. Learning their lessons, it’s not as many as last time and the starting price will be lower to encourage faster take up. So mainstream craft is officially not dead. Or not yet, anyway. Let’s see how this plays out in part two.

In the meantime, look out for the remainder that expire around September to be reduced to 99p. Why not put a tiger in your tank? 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Bus To The Pub

Manchester and the outlying suburbs contain a myriad of interesting pubs. Pubs for all ages and tastes. The only problem is getting to them all. If only there was a bus that took you from door to door of these fine imbibing establishments. Well last year North Manchester CAMRA had the bright idea of organising just such a community service. This year, with the involvement of other CAMRA branches, the event was bigger and better but with still the same basic idea. An hourly bus service would run throughout the day connecting all the stops. Just hop on the double decker, buy your day ticket from the driver and wait for the beer to start flowing.

Obviously you could spend as long as you wanted in each pub. But, with 20 potential pubs to choose from, the best idea seemed to be sample as many as possible. We started by banging on the door of the Jolly Angler on Ducie Street near Piccadilly Station. This small, street-corner Hydes pub was built in 1814 and has been a stalwart of the Manchester drinking scene for many a year. Today it’s still knocking out a good pint of Hydes for £2.60. From here it was straight onto the bus and onwards to Gorton.

The Vale Cottage is tucked away in the Gore Brook conservation area. It describes itself as “the country pub in the city” and with low-beamed ceilings and a cosy interior, it certainly is a pleasant stop. Several choices of beer here but I think I went for Copper Dragon at £3.10 a pint. Not far away is the Robinsons owned Plough. This is a Grade 11 listed building that is in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The landlord was kind enough to give us a bit of a guided tour and it really is rather splendid. There is a large vault, a lobby and three traditional rooms to choose from. Some of the building dates from 1702 although most of the interior is in its 1893 form. Hoptimum Prime (£2.60) was the preference here.

Chorlton-the next stop-has many fine drinking options, but as the selection in the Bar was so good, we stayed there for the duration. The next place was a new on me. The Steamhouse in Urmston is based in the former railway station building and boasts a choice of eight beers. One to revisit, I think. From the relatively new to the positively old. The Lamb in Eccles is a multi-roomed marvel. Dating from 1906, it is another deserved Grade 11 listed entry in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The now rare Holts Mild was on good form at only £2.16 a pint.

There was more Holts to be had in the Union Tavern in the shape of Holts Bitter at £2.30. This Victorian street-corner boozer is the sort that has sadly all but disappeared from Salford. With a landlord who has been in situ since 1976, this is a pub that reminds you of what locals used to be like. And talking of locals; the next stop, the Star Inn is owned by its regulars. It became the first urban community owned pub in 2009 after Robinsons put it up for sale. There was a bit of a beer festival going on during our visit which may explain us missing the bus. Or it may simply be that with drinking now in double figures, timekeeping was getting a little laissez-faire.

Undeterred we bravely staggered on to the Duke of York. This was a real gem and worth the walk. A grand Victorian multi-roomed Holts pub, it somehow survived the council clearance projects of the last 50 years that decimated every other nearby building. The layout inside is a real testament to the ambition of Victorian brewers and it was a fitting end to the day’s activities. Well not quite the end, as naturally we had to have a nightcap in where it had all begun: the Jolly Angler. Much to the amusement of the landlord who had encountered us some 10 hours previously.

A grand day out. Here’s to next year