After a splendid afternoon spent watching football, a tour of Manchester seemed like the natural thing to do. Aren’t those chaps at JDW having a beer festival? I believe so, old boy. In that case let us make haste to the nearest hostelry and imbibe some of Mother’s Nature’s greatest gifts.
First stop was the Moon Under Water on Deansgate. A giant, soulless place, that use to be a cinema. The lack of natural light doesn’t help with the ambience and the place is packed with an eclectic mix of characters. From the upstairs bar we sampled Firestone California Pale Ale (4.5%) and Sharp’s Own (4.4%) which made for an interesting contrast. I have to agree with other commentators who found the Firestone underwhelming. The initial Burton Snatch gives way to a short bitter finish, and that’s that. Not a hint of any hops. The Sharps was dark amber and had a malty/barley mouthfeel that led to a lingering bitter finish.
Once we had managed to get served downstairs, we tried Wadworth Camrale and Badger Toad’s Croak, both of which failed to impress. Camrale (4%) was indeed deep golden, but that as was as far as the tasting notes went in terms of accuracy. It tasted like every, and any, other Wadworth. Certainly no sign of “a punchy hop kick,” and those on the tasting panel who chose this beer should hang their heads in shame. Toad’s Croak (3.8%) was tawny and had a hint of fruit but otherwise was quite forgettable. I tried a half of Meantime Coffee Porter (5%) and wish I hadn’t. The mouthfeel certainly was intense and too harsh for my palate.
Moving on we decided to try the Waterhouse next. This was much quieter, although still nicely busy. Not much on the festival front, but we tried the two new ones. J.W.Lees Autumn Glow (4.2%) was described as having a “subtle hop aroma,” which was true-the hop was VERY subtle. So subtle, in fact, that you couldn’t detect it. Definitely a Lees beer. Everards aren’t particularly good brewers but their Equinox wasn’t bad. At 4.2% it was quite well balanced, with only a bit of sweetness coming through at the end.
Not a festival beer but on the bar, nonetheless, was Saltaire Stateside IPA. This seemed very promising but at 6% we had to be sure. It was then that we came across something of a festival abnormality. We asked for a taster before we committed to a pint, only to be told that they’re not offering them during the festival. The barman explained that they considered 3 thirds the perfect way to sample beers. But, as we pointed out, we didn’t want to try 3 beers, only the Saltaire. An impasse had been reached, with some people wanting to vote with their feet. The feminine voice of cool reason prevailed and we ended up with halves. It was worth waiting for as it certainly had a clear hop kick, but there was no escaping the alcohol in the body which reminded you of its strength.
Our next stop-The Bank, had a good selection as usual, but Oakham Inferno (4%) was the standout beer on offer. Beautifully hopped, this pale beer is an old friend and very moreish. One pint turned into two and then we decided on the N/4 for a nightcap. The Crown & Kettle had a poor selection so we headed straight for the Smithfield. Unfortunately the beer choice here wasn’t very good either, although I felt obliged to try a half of Northern Deep Dark Secret, but it was so poor I left most of it. We yomped up to the Marble and were rewarded with a very healthy range of beers. Phoenix Spotland Gold and Marble Pint went down well before it was time to stagger back for our bus to Bury.
Arriving there hungry and ever so slightly pissed, we pushed the boat out and hit Pizza Pioneer for a sit down slice of heaven. Slightly disappointed with the range and quality of JDW festival beers so far, I’m hoping things improve next week.