About Me

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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Thursday, 22 May 2008

We Are The Champions

It was the best of times
It was the worst of times

But that’s enough about the football-for now. A full day to prepare for the big event, but how to spend it? The lace curtains need washing, and the flags could do with hosing, but today’s not the day for the mundane. Manchester and beer beckon once again. It kicked off with a little light lunch with Selfridges Girl-the Portobello Mushrooms stuffed with Dolcelatte and a Basil & Lime Cremeolate were particularly good. All washed down with a bottle of the rather excellent Ropiteau L'Emage Sauvignon Blanc. This French white was full of gooseberries with a lovely dry finish. So good in fact that another bottle was quickly proffered.

But man does not live by wine alone, and having some time to kill before settling down for the footie, I went in search of beer and adventure. I found both at the Paramount on Oxford Road. This is yet another JDW, set in the heart of student land. As the name suggests, this was once a cinema, and now comprises of a ground floor bar and a small upstairs drinking area. Unusually, and thankfully, the toilets are also on the ground floor. This is regarded as the best JDW in town, and it didn’t disappoint today with a good selection on display. I settled for Hanby Cascade (4%) followed by Slater’s Top Totty (4%) whilst enjoying the friendly football banter.

The Hanby, like a lot of their beers, was a bit of a disappointment. Although pale, with some hop bite, it lacked the fruitiness and zest that I’ve experienced before-yet another brewery that needs to get its act together? Now, I know Tandleman likes a bit of Top Totty-well, who doesn’t-and this was in pretty good form. Some nice hop notes and a pleasant dryish finish. But time was moving on and I had a job to do: secure prime seats for football viewing. So I secured a table at the Smithfield and awaited reinforcements. These duly arrived and we spent a rather nerve racking evening in the company of the landlord and several other unashamedly biased punters. Beer wise there was little to choose between Durham Citrus Pale and Ossett Maypole. Both were 4.2% pale beers, with thirst quenching amounts of hops. As to be expected, the Durham lent towards the citrus side, whilst the Ossett had more of a hop bitter bite, which just put it ahead for my palate.

With the Red Devils once more crowned kings of Europe, we set out to join the celebrations. A great night was had by all, with only one minor hiccup. We called in at the Waterhouse, which had served me so well yesterday. I was at the bar-it was my round-with my compatriots behind me. When I ordered 3 pints the barman informed me that he wouldn’t serve the guy on the floor. Quite right I thought, but what’s that got to do with the price of bread? I reiterated my order, only to be given the same speech along with a rider about taking the piss. All became clear when it was pointed out to me that one of my companions had done a Del Boy and leant against an imaginary shelf. And amazingly it wasn’t Don Ricardo! I quickly distanced myself from him, but the barman had had enough-he refused to serve us all. When I (very nicely), queried this, the manager, a large, boorish individual came over and proceeded to lecture us. On asking (as advised) about taking a photo, we were promptly shown the door. Just what have JDW got to hide? Never fear, like General MacArthur, I shall return.

A very enjoyable day and a long, enjoyable, night.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

By yesterday’s level of excitement, Tuesday’s excursions were positively listless. However, they did produce some good beer-which, after all, is the main thing. Once more finding myself in the great metropolis, I decided to kill some time before heading home with that most natural of remedies-beer. Not bearing a grudge I decided to include another JD Wetherspoons in my trawl. And I was glad I did, as, in sharp contrast to yesterday’s fiasco, this one really delivered on the beer front and proved the best of the night.

The Waterhouse is a large, multi-roomed boozer situated on the corner opposite Manchester Town Hall. Named after Alfred Waterhouse, the famous architect who gave us Manchester Town Hall and Strangeways (as everyone still calls it), to name but two. Interestingly, he only came fourth in the competition to build the town hall, but that’s another story. It’s rather strangely laid out with a small back bar that tends to get crowded very easily. Even though it’s smarter than the average JDW (and more expensive), there is still the usual lack of atmosphere associated with JDW’s. Is Joe Stalin the only person to think any of them have any ambience at all?

Anyway, most importantly, the beer was very good. Titanic Iceberg (4.1%) was very light, with good refreshing hop notes. Also nice and hoppy was Phoenix Hopsack (3.9%) which had a dry finish that simply demanded another pint or three. A lot of posters advertising the forthcoming wine festival which starts Wednesday, but I suspect football will intercede to make it very much a beer day.

Isn't that sweet? Kevs Special-I'm sure he is...

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)

Or crash, bang, wallop what a photograph. There I was in the big city, relaxing after a spot of Tiffin, and seeking some liquid refreshment. Being in the neighbourhood, I thought I’d check the Seven Stars at the Printworks. For those not in the loop, the Printworks is a leisure complex in Manchester city centre. It comprises a multi-screen cinema (including IMAX), and several bars. The Seven Stars is a JD Wetherspoons which, rather unusually for them, doesn’t open for breakfast. It tends to be a late night haunt, but I was still surprised at how few people there were in, considering its location and the availability of food.

A quick glance told me there was, as usual, nothing on offer likely to tempt me. So I headed for the exit, stopping only to snap a photo of the bar. And that’s where my problems began. A woman rushed up to me, completely spoiling my photo btw (hence this official one of the exterior) and demanded to know why I was taking photos. When I enquired what it had to do with her, she said she worked there. I explained it was for the web and was informed I should ask permission first. I replied I didn’t need permission-I wasn’t photographing children or even individuals, and that last time I checked it was still, mainly, a free country.

By now some apron-wearing jobsworth had joined in, enquiring if I was causing trouble. I explained once again, only to be told that I should ask permission and explain what it’s for. The reason I don’t ask permission says I, is because I won’t get it. After all, it’s about to illustrate a piece on how bad the pub is. Mr Apron then says hand the phone over or we will call the police. I think it was at this point I told him to go pleasure himself where the Fosters doesn’t shine. I was quite looking forward to a chat with the Old Bill by now, but Miss Frostyknickers intervened to say it would be better if I just left. Which is what I did. But not before pointing out that was exactly what I was intending to do some ten minutes earlier. I only wish now I had thought to snap both of them. Ah well, maybe next time.

I should point out that this incident took place BEFORE any alcohol was ingested!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Appleby's Cheshire Cheese

Or, as everyone calls it, “Mrs Appleby’s Cheshire.” For it was Lucy Appleby, who has passed away at 88, who revitalised, and secured a place for a piece of cultural history. Indirectly she was also responsible for me getting into cheese seriously, as Appleby’s was probably the first artisan cheese I sampled. Before the Second World War, Cheshire cheese accounted for 60% of all cheese sold in the UK and some 1200 farms produced it. Post World War 11, this had been reduced to 50, and by the 1960’s Cheddar had eclipsed Cheshire as the nation’s favourite. At one time all farms produced unwaxed, cloth-bound Cheshire cheeses from their own unpasturised milk; now Appleby's alone keeps this tradition alive.

Wax binding was just becoming fashionable when Lucy Appleby began cheesemaking, but she refused to have anything to do with it, on the grounds that the proper ripening and flavour of the cheese depended on its ability to breathe. Cheshire is made of morning milk mixed with that of the previous evening. After renneting the junket or curd is cut in both directions into small cubes, stirred, scalded and milled. It is cured in a warm room, pressed and turned each morning into a dry cloth. Appleby’s introduce a very small amount of starter into the milk at the beginning of the process and some say that’s what protects Appleby's from the over-acidity that mars some other Cheshire cheeses. It is generally coloured with a tasteless annatto because the tinted variety is thought to be more popular, in both the south and the north-east of England, than white.

And what does good Cheshire taste like? Well, Cheshire cheese is unmistakable in its piquant flavour; the texture should be firm and crumbly, but never dry. The unique quality of Cheshire is said, with good reason, to emanate from the pasturage over the heavy salt deposits underlying the area of the Cheshire/Shropshire border, around Whitchurch and Nantwich. The grazing Friesians absorb these flavours and it is replicated in their milk.

Cheshire is the oldest recorded British cheese and is perfect for toasting, or just enjoying with a pint of real ale. Why not try some today?

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Hot Love

Well the weather put paid to ideas of some nice al fresco drinking in Bury’s far flung haunts. So a quick pint in the Trackside, and a chat with a frisky Joe Stalin, before jumping a bus up to the Hairy Mounds. First choice was Outlaw Mayflower (3.7%) which was light and easy drinking, but not quite as hoppy as perhaps expected. Leyden Dragoon (4.2%) was dark and tasted like, er, Leyden. The less said about that the better, really. Moor Revival (3.8%) was excellent, being both light and deliciously hopped with 3 varieties of American hops. Whilst Pythagoras fought off the munchies with food, I staved off hunger with more beer. Kelham Island White Rider (5.2%) was a cloudy wheat beer. An interesting concept and usually these are pretty good when presented as cask versions. However, like most of their beers, this was a disappointment. It was quite bland with only a hint of lemon to excite the palate. Northern Determination (3.8%) was more in the Leyden category, being earthy with only a slight bitterness to redeem it. Outlaw Wild Mule (3.9%) was a fitting finale before we headed back to the Trackside.

There it was more pints of Acorn Summer Pale (4.1%) which seemed to have some aphrodisiac effect on Don Ricardo. Unfortunately (for him, anyway), his amorous advances were soundly repelled, and at one point it looked like he was certain of a slap or two. However, he survived unscathed and managed to make it to the Stomach’s for a well deserved curry. Trishna supply curry’s of the highest order and my Biryani was sublime. We had requested the hottest dish that they could possibly counjour up to satisfy Don Ricardo’s twisted cravings. On the menu Vindaloo is the hottest available, but they were happy to prepare a Super Chicken Phal. This was approximately 4 times the strength of a Vindaloo and came with a good luck message inscribed on the lid. You could smell it from across the room and the chillies were eye watering from several feet away. Proving his asbestos stomach is no myth, he proceeded to rapidly scoff it, helped along with liberal amounts of Italian liqueur. I suspect the Sunday morning aftermath of that combination will be quite spectacular!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Friday on my mind

A message from Eddie, the young, eager, legal, beagle. Could I join him for a couple of pints and a discussion on Russian jam-making? I was happy to oblige. After all, like any good athlete, I think it’s important to have regular exercise. So it was we ended up in the Railside contemplating life, the universe, and billiards. Phoenix Mayfly (4.6%) was light and easy drinking, despite its strength. Sadly, the good stuff never lasts long and so it proved this time, with us saying au revoir to it all too quickly. We settled for Millstone Tiger Rut (4%) as a replacement. This, like all their beers, was lively and had a pleasing zesty body and a moderate bitter finish. However, this was beaten for beer of the evening by a new arrival. Acorn Summer Pale (4.1%) was a clear wheat beer with a great citrus bite, and a nice dry finish. Very refreshing. It managed to keep us occupied until Eddie had to leave for his water polo trials.

A nice little session that eased me into the weekend.

He's Just a Stereotype

So it’s Rangers 1 Manchester 0. Talk about stereotypes. Tattooed jocks drinking cans of Tenants Super Strength at 8am. Which bright spark decided it would be ok for 100000+ to be allowed to drink in the streets? Normally, law abiding real ale drinkers are forced to endure plastic glasses even within confined open areas. A load of tartan terrors arrive and it’s “ah bless em; let them wander round with bottles, cans, pints, whatever they like.” Actually which bright spark was responsible for inviting them in the first place? What do you think Hadrian’s Wall is for? And now of course there won’t be any screenings on Weds as the city council are running scared.

Remind me to pay my respects next time I visit Glasgae...

Prague Odds and Ends

I discovered I wasn’t a fan of Krusovice beers and that’s probably explains why I didn’t rate their Beograd outlet. On the other hand, I did enjoy Ferdinanda and their beers. All I can say about U Rudolfina is that it was dirty. Not only cleaner, but immeasurably better was the U Bulovky Richter brewpub. This had some good beers and the brews at Klasterni pivovar Strahov weren’t bad either. I really enjoyed the monastery setting of Klasterni senk and the Klaster light was quite refreshing.

While I don’t agree with Gazza on the delights of the Prvni Pivni Tramway, I do concur with his assessment of Pivovarský Dům. This really was excellent. Very smart, non-smoking, and with menus in English and Russian. Some good looking food as well, although once again, sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try any. Beer wise: the Bock was terrible, the Coffee was more like Nescafe and the Banana tasted like those old banana pop drinks you use to get before all the additives were banned. On the plus side, the Dark was good and the Pale and Wheat were both excellent. And let’s not forget the nettle beer. As can be seen this was a lovely shade of green-urine was mentioned, but if my pee was that colour I would be very worried. Anyway, I approached it rather warily as the aroma wasn’t giving anything away. However, it turned out to be quite moreish with a nice dry finish. For someone who has managed to drink a whole pint of JW Lees before now, it wasn’t any problem at all. Even their weird champagne beer with muscat grape extract proved quite tasty.

Just to show I can also rough it with the spit-and-sawdust Camra brigade, an honourable mention should go to U Sadu. This was a great boozer with decent Weizenbier and communist memorabilia adorning the walls. Oh, and it kept real drinking hours-an impressive 0800-0400. County Life proved an excellent veggie haunt with extra strength roast garlic soup a particular delight. Whilst Kogo proved an excellent source of Italian cuisine. Entertainment wise, Club Reduta lived up to its reputation as Prague’s premier jazz spot-I can see why Vaclav Havel took Bill Clinton here.

There’s a lot of Baroque to be seen in Prague and I was particularly impressed with the Church of St Nicholas. You can’t go to Prague without paying homage to Kafka and I clocked as many references as possible, including his sister’s house at 22 Golden Lane where he stayed for a short time. He’s actually buried in the New Jewish Cemetery, but of far more interest was the Old Jewish Cemetery with the impressive Klausen Synagogue at its entrance. Trawling round these cultural attractions I stumbled across some excellent beer shops in the vicinity whose cheap delights somehow made their way into my homeward bound luggage. Although after lugging two heavy bags home on a warm Sunday afternoon I did begin to question the wisdom of bringing back so much beer.

Prague-a mixed bag, but like anywhere it’s what you make of it. I would recommend it, but just don’t leave your jacket in your hotel room.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Prague Musings Dve

Beer wise there were some very reasonable Dark beers. And I quite enjoyed some of the crisp Pales that we came across, although they were not generally in the German class of quality. Ditto for the Wheats, which generally didn’t quite deliver as much as they promised. Tankova, or unpasturised Pilsner Urquell, was a novelty and although noticeably less gassy than its ordinary stablemate, the novelty factor did fade remarkably quickly. Likewise the real Bud and the various yeast beers that seem to be all the rage. I was suitably impressed with beers from both Bernard and Ferdinand, but less so by what Krusovice had to offer.

Ok, let’s talk specifics. U Fleku more than lived up to its billing. A great place with some excellent beer. I think Gazza is a little churlish with it. What more can you ask for than good beer in a good location? Is it expensive? Well, it’s not actually. Tourist prices of 60Kc seem cheap when some backstreet dives were asking 80Kc. Even better was Pivovarsky Klub which was handily close to the hotel. This is a delightful bar offering a great range of beers. My only grip was that they throw you out at 2300-hardly the stuff of continental Europe. U Medvidku was vast and pricey, and the world’s (allegedly), strongest beer was, frankly, pants.

Novomestsky Pivovar was interesting, but sadly they wouldn’t allow you to stay if you were only drinking. I would have pushed the point, as advised by Gazza, but my companions had already concluded it wasn’t our type of pub. Well maybe not theirs, anyway. Which brings me onto the Prvni Pivni Tramway. This is accurately described by Evan’s guide as smoky and dark. Yes it’s a locals pub that is indeed dark and smelly, selling average beer. Oh and it’s tram themed-I think that’s supposed to be good. Frankly, when it’s 23C outside the last place I want to spend the afternoon is somewhere like that. I could have stayed in Bury for that. But people do often confuse different with good, and basic for atmospheric, and hence it has its supporters. Sometimes though, a pig in a poke is exactly that…

Prague Musings Jedna

I went, I saw, and I drank. A lot. So goes the story of Prague. Forty three pubs and various other establishments visited. The good, the bad, and the ugly Thank God I can’t remember all of them! My general impressions seem to be on an accord with Tandleman’s. Beer wise, it’s okay, if not spectacular, although as the Big T says, when it is good, it’s very good. Despite the hordes of stag parties, its image as a cheap beer haven is something of a myth, with prices varying greatly. The transport system makes it very easy to get round-I loved the metro, but even with a good map the lack of street names in central areas can cause problems. Facilities for disabled travellers were frankly shocking for an EU country. Yes the waiters were (generally), as surly as promised, and they need to visit Germany to see how an efficient beer totting system operates.

Guide wise I also concur with TM. They all suffer from, probably unintentional, personal bias. Gazza’s was the best for idiot proof directions, and if sometimes his scooping obsession blinds him, his enthusiasm was a treat. Evan Rail’s guide was very thorough but a little editing is needed here I would suggest. A pub isn’t good simply by lieu of selling unpasturised Urquell. Ditto a basic boozer just selling Bud. Sometimes a dump is just a dump. Quality varied as did price. 30Kc seemed to be an average, although many places were more expensive. With pubs in Wenceslas Square charging 90KC, the hotel bar seemed (unusually for a hotel) a bargain at 70Kc. Which was something I was glad about when I picked up the bar tab on Sat night/Sun morning…

We Are The Champions

So, having shook off the post-Prague blues, it was time to celebrate. What to do? Something amazing, something spectacular, obviously. Fireworks? No, too sunny for that. A grand street party? Maybe another time. A few drinks round Manchester had to suffice then. Followed by some alfresco drinking outside the Trackside. Where I was joined by the Whitefield Holts Bandit for a couple. I knew what I was going to be drinking later, so early doors were spent experimenting. Titanic Black Ice (4.1%) was dark and interesting-roast malts as expected, but hints of fruit and pepper as well. Howard Town Hope (4.1%) was light and completely lacking in character. This brewery has really gone off the boil and all their new beers seem to be very average. Hornbeam Bitter (3.8%) proved to be the best of the lower strength beers, with a nice bit of bitterness coming through. Joe Stalin staggered in for (literally this time) one drink, and his departure coincided with the WHB also leaving. Left alone, without a chaperone, what else could I do but try the special Marble IPA. This 6.6% beauty had the hue and bite of a true IPA, or what purists like to think of as a real IPA anyway. What matters is that it was very good and kept me company till the sun was setting over the yardarm. At which time I gingerly made my way to Pizza Pioneer and treated myself to a half price pizza-as I’ve discovered the sort of treat all too rare in foreign climates.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Wednesday's Child is Full of Beer

At last a chance to detox-better late than never. But, oh no, I’m afraid not. A business visit to Hydes brewery leads (naturally) to a few pints at their well appointed bar. And then a quick couple in the Britons Protection. Never mind, there’s still all night to pack and chill out. But, oh no, I’m afraid not. A message from Eddie, the young, eager, legal, beagle. Could I meet him for a Harvey Wallbanger and a discussion on pre Romanov art? Absolutely not. And yet somehow I found myself going al fresco at the Trackside. Bazens Knoll Street Porter was good, but naughtily posted on the board as Janet Street Porter. Northern Hit and Run (4.5%) was bizarre, with an overwhelming raspberry puree taste. We tried our luck at Wetherspoons only to find all 3 beers on offer were undrinkable. A taxi up to the Lamb revealed George Wright Brewers Ruin (4.3%) which was on the sweet side for their beers. Thoroughbred Gold (4%) was also sweet at the Help Me Thro, but the Wainwrights was much better. Finally we tried some Moorhouses Premier at the Dusty Miller. Then it was time for me to pour myself into a taxi and for Eddie to get curried up.

Oh well plenty of time for packing and detoxing tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Casino Royal

Well, the plan to detox before Prague is going to pot. I knew I should have timed the trip to Ireland better. Anyway a couple of al fresco pints on Monday were matched by a more substantial session yesterday. It started innocently enough with a lecture on “Understanding probability theory as a conceptual life model,” although, admittedly, the subject is enough to drive anyone to drink. Or to eat and drink, to be strictly accurate.

Taking advantage of the Early Doors deal at Numero, we were able to enjoy 3 courses for £17. Numero is an excellent Italian restaurant that is part of the Manchester 235 casino complex. Getting 3 courses for £17 is great value, but man does not live by pasta alone. So obviously wine was called for. A fierce debate was concluded with me conceding round one to Crusan Carignan-Syrah, VdP Côteaux de Fontcaude. This wasn’t bad as far as French plonk goes, with a spicy red body and a soft fruit finish. Next up was a bottle of Berri Estates Shiraz, from our Rolf Harris friends. This proved a very complex wine. Medium bodied, it had ripe blackberries and cherries on the nose, with a palate of spicy pepper, coffee, and toasted vanilla. Interesting, but I needed something more quenching. My choice was from Chile-Colchagua Valley, Casa La Joya Reserve Gewürztraminer. This was slightly sweet, but had a very pleasant peach contour to its body.

Time to swap back to Europe again. Cleverly avoiding our French cousins, I tackled Spain next with Torres Mas Rabell, Penedès. This is a 100% Parellada variety making it pleasantly dry without the wood ageing that some of these wines can suffer from. Time was pushing on, so I had to finish on Bay of Fires, Tigress Sauvignon Blanc. This Tasmanian devil of a wine is an intense experience of lemon and gooseberry with a lovely crisp finale. Then it was time to hit the casino, but a little drink in the bar first? A Brandy Alexander? Sure, why not. Didn’t she use to be an 80’s porn star, though? An Alabama Slammer was followed by a Fluffy Duck (?) which I blame on my luck at Blackjack. Eventually I managed to scramble in a taxi and get home for some well earned rest.

The detox starts tomorrow…definitely.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Lush But Not Plush

Lush is a bar in the centre of Bury. Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s a dump. Last November it gained some notoriety by becoming the first venue in Bury to have its licence revoked since the new licensing regime came into force. But before Bury residents could pop the champagne corks, it had reopened as “good as ever.” Oh dear, was I the only one who saw what was coming? Don’t the licensing committee read my letters? Perhaps they do, or it might simply be a case of once bitten, twice shy. For the powers that be have thrown out an appeal against the bar’s second enforced closure.

Last month’s incident centres round what police called a “serious degree of mismanagement.” Or what locals are calling a (John) Waynesque Wild West free-for-all. The first the police knew about it was when they spotted a blood drenched, punch happy, yob staggering around in the early hours. Further investigations revealed that a little altercation had taken place at Lush. Captured on CCTV was a fight involving brick, knives, and glass bottles. The resulting melee ended up with three people stabbed and one beaten unconscious. And what did the staff do? Ring 999 of course. Er, no, it appears they did absolutely nothing. Call me cynical, but I can’t help but think that the manager was thinking more about his licence than public order. Now I’ve learnt the reasons behind this bit of horseplay and it’s just what you’d expect from numptys of their calibre. Although no “innocents” were injured, and half of me thinks anyone setting foot in such a cesspit deserves a smack, it’s just not on. It wouldn’t be too bad if the media led on “Knobhead in Shit Keg Dive Attacks Other Knobhead in Shit Keg Dive.” But alas, I can’t see the local paper putting it like that. It will just be more ammunition for the anti alcohol brigade.

So let’s hope this time it is finally curtains for Lush. Ideally, it might prove a sanitary lesson that licensing is less about numbers-lets have lots in the centre, but woe betide a local trying to get a late night licence, and more about quality. And looking at the infrastructure surrounding late night town centre drinking wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Yesterday Once More

Another day, another beer. A few warm up pints in the Lamb watching the footie. George Wright’s Mild (4%) was dark, with hints of sweet malt. Some debate had gone on as to how to celebrate the Bank Holiday, but I detected a weary inertia. Hence, I suspect the easy option-meet at the Trackside. I’d had my fill of Haka so stayed clear of that little time bomb. Bazens Joule in the Crown (4%) was light, but rather thin and insipid. The complete lack of any condition didn’t help. Much better was Bradfield Farmers Stout, which at 4.5% really carried some flavour. Dark brown/black in colour, the initial impression is of chocolate, coffee, and roast malt. Taste is quite complex with sweet chocolate and toffee in the mix. The finish was a little disappointing with the dryness quickly giving way to sweet malt.

Having sampled several on the bar, I was in need of something with bite. By now the gang were all gravitating towards the Haka-particularly impressive for the WHB who had been warming up on Holts. Well he isn’t called the Whitefield Holts Bandit for nothing. I found Titanic Golden Age (4.6%) struck the right balance for me, combining body and taste and much more moreish than the Haka. All too soon, it was goodbye from them. Oh what to do? Too early to call it a day, too late to go home, get changed and hit the town. So it was I accepted the “B” team’s offer of a drink at the Hare & Hounds. Here I really enjoyed the Hawkshead Lakeland Gold (4.4%) nice and fruity, and their Brodie’s Prime (4.9%) which was dark and rich in flavour.
Back in Bury, I couldn’t resist calling in at the Peel. Having rubbished their beer choice, I settled for a double Laiphroaig. Well, two actually. Then it was just time for a biriyani before bedtime beckoned.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Friday's Child

Oh no, a message from Eddie, the young, eager, legal, beagle. Could I join him for a Pina Colada and a discussion on Victorian ornithology. I was still laagered up from yesterday, but resistance is futile as they say. So with Wetherspoons once more a complete waste of time, it was down to the Trackside for some liquid relief.

A varied selection, but they were mostly on the strong side. Batemans XXB and Vale Gravitas both weighing in at 4.8%. The Vale, despite its name, was golden in colour and had a nice fruity hop presence. Bazens Pacific (3.8%) would have been ideal, but despite recent promising signs, this had that awful smoky taste that seems to be ever present now. Okells Castletown (3.8%) was copper coloured and had an easy going fruit/malt balance. However, we were drawn inextricably to Oakham Haka which at 5.7% wasn’t ideal session material, but the lure of the hop proved too much. A golden beer with a pronounced citrus hop kick, it went down all too easily.

We would have moved on, and saved our liver (and our heads), some grief, but for Joe Stalin. He was just calling in for one and joined us for a chat. Of course, one very rarely means one, and so it proved this time. I don’t know if it was the Haka kicking in, but somehow we ended up bluetoothing "Das Mädchen unter der Laterne” (Lili Marlene) to each other. That, and his tales of youthful sexual experimentation, kept us enthralled. Luckily the more reasonable Bradfield Blonde (4%) came on towards the end of the session and we just managed a Titanic Golden Age (4.6%) before we were beaten by the bell.
A night of philosophy and politics. Of art and music. Of sexual derring-do. Not to mention six hours worth of beer disappearing down the urinal of life...

Friday, 2 May 2008

Outstanding Brewing In Bury

A note from a concerned reader. My last posting wasn’t a song title as, apparently, is customary. Well, ha, I was going to call it “The Lamb lies down on Broadway” which is a pithy little Genesis number. However, there is no way Tottington Road can be confused with Broadway, so I didn’t. But thanks for writing.

Yesterday I paid a visit to Bury’s new brewery. I’d heard they were close to operational and thought I’d better check on progress. The Outstanding Brewing Company is based in Britannia Mill, which is situated in a rather run down part of town. It’s a joint venture between Paul Sandiford, Glen Woodcock and David Porter. Dave, of course, is formerly of Porters Brewing and former owner of the much missed Arthur Inn. Glen is an engineering chum of my brother’s acquaintance, whilst Paul is currently a solicitor with Lancashire County Council.

The brewery is quite spacious for a new setup, but it needs to be with all that is planned. Physically it’s a 15 barrel plant running alongside a 2.5 barrel experimental unit. A barley wine was produced on this last week, but apparently “experimental” was the word to describe it. The main plant will eventually be producing a wide range of cask ales including cask lagers. Bottling will also be done on the premises. I say eventually because, not unexpectedly, they are behind schedule. Apart from getting their own brewery up and running, Dave and Glen are still busy installing them for other people. Including a certain Mr Ramsay. Add to that the training scheme they run on site for brewers and it’s no surprise things are lagging behind.

However, I was able to sample their Pilsner and Amber Bock which have been laagered since January. They are just in the process of matching carbonation and I was happy to help with my sampling skills. The Amber Bock is indeed amber and tastes all of its 6%. I’m not a huge fan of this style of beer and although it’s a better representation of its kind than, say Cains was, it probably needs a little tweak. I was pleasantly pleased with the Pilsner, however. This was pellucid, with soft floral notes and a good clean finish. Very drinkable for a 5% and the carbonation was just about right I’d say. Obviously these decisions can’t be rushed though, but eventually I left, very happy, clutching the first fruits of their bottling efforts. Another project I shall be keeping you updated with.

I could bore you with some nice pics of gleaming fermentors. That is if I had thought to take any. Instead I decided to snap legendary scoffer “The Stomach” polishing off the buffet, a mere 40 mins before we were due to have a curry. I blame an afternoon spent on Bock & Pilsner. In fact, I blame those two for me gambling on a Balti Ashwarl with extra garlic and chillies. But that is a tale for another time…

Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Lamb

The Lamb Inn is a cosy roadside pub on Tottington Road. It’s about 1.5 miles from the centre of Bury and is served by the 468 and 469 buses. At one time Tottington Road was a good crawl in itself and, in my schooldays, you were considered lucky if you made it into the centre of Bury. Now, like everywhere else, it’s a different story. The pubs are still there, but trade is much scarcer and a good pint is hard to find. Some years ago, the Lamb was just ticking along as yet another undistinguished locals boozer. Then Derek and his son took over, and they were keen to bring cask back to the fore. They tried various beers and now seem to have hit upon the winning formula. Most of the time there is just one beer on, but it’s always a George Wright brew. Interestingly, such is the locals’ high regard for the brewery that it changes every time. This approach to quality over quantity has paid off and trade is now steady at 4 firkins a week. Last night I enjoyed Northern Light (4.5%) a new GW beer to me. It was intensely bitter and certainly not for the fainthearted. It certainly tickled my palate, but would probably cause palpitations in the average John Smiths drinker. A very good beer in a very well run local. So good, in fact, that the intended two or three became five. For the anoraks, I also noted that they have football in HD.

Nutter of the Day/Week etc

As it’s polling day, I’ve decided to instigate this award. I was going to let it pass, but the cheeky git had the affront to leaflet my gaff, so the gloves are off. Nutter of the moment is Phil Sedman, local BNP candidate. He’s a young nutter-25, and seems proud to be a nutter. Apparently I’m not supposed to give his address, so let’s just say he lives on Handley Street. Why not pay him a visit? Of course, this is not incitement to superglue his letterbox, flour bomb him, or any other such high japes. Gosh, that would be awful, and very, very, naughty.