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

Friday, 30 April 2010

Forever Bury

The 6th annual Forever Bury Beer Festival took place at Gigg Lane last weekend. Apart from Friday, when there was literally blood on the carpet, it passed peacefully and gave punters the chance to sample a range of beers and ciders all for £2 a pint.

Local barmaid legend Rachel became a celebrity overnight by appearing on Granada Reports and is said to be now considering a move to Hollywood. It’s also rumoured that Don Ricardo asked her to autograph his left testicle.

As usual there were winners and losers on the beer front. Oakham JHB was an old friend returned to form and Forge Forged Porter was nice and silky for 4.2%. Holts Lightning Holt was light but underwhelming and Boggart Hole’s 6 VCs Before Breakfast was good-if you like butterscotch in your beer.

Another poor brewery-Bazens-were responsible for the horrible, smoky, mess that was Cuckoo’s Nest. Daleside St Georges was an easy drinking 5.2% blonde ale, as was Liverpool Pale Ale. Brass Monkey from Sowerby Bridge are usually reliable and their 4.2% Mandrill was a very satisfying, amber coloured, hoppy number.

Good discovery of the day: Morton Brewery. Both their Essington Blonde and the dry hopped Jelly Roll were thirst quenchers.

Bad discovery of the day: Castor Ales. Roman Gold was golden, but tasted very unpleasantly metallic. Serene Nene was even worse; a homebrew disaster that tasted like the brewer had been soaking his soiled underpants in the wort. However, Uncle Albert, a firm believer in the there’s-no-such-thing-as-bad-beer philosophy, proclaimed it “superb stuff”. There’s nowt as queer as folk.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Fool On The Hill

It’s often said that first they came for the smokers, then the drinkers. Who will be next? The answer, it appears, is cheese eaters. Yes, they’ve sunk to new lows and targeted the most sacred foodstuff on the planet. Cry me a river, for outrage and disgust swells in my breast.

The scene of this heinous act was Westfield Children’s Centre, in Pemberton, Wigan. Two-year old Jack Ormisher was about to tuck into a cheese sandwich that his mother had made for him, when the food police swooped.

Staff refused to allow Jack to eat his sandwich on the grounds that “it was not on its list of recommended foods.” Yes, they really do have a list of “recommended” foods. Recommended in this case meaning like it or lump it. They offered him fruit and vegetables instead. No wonder he burst into tears.

Who are these food Nazis who would crush the basic God given right of every Englishman to enjoy cheese when and where he wants?

A Cheese Nazi apologist said: “The centre has a list of recommended healthy food, according to national guidelines, which children are encouraged to eat. A cheese sandwich would not feature on the list.”

Laughingly she went on to say that no child would ever be denied food. How humane of them. Of course they’ve got it wrong, anyway. Their precious guidelines (and where have we heard this before?) are meaningless. Only recently it was proven that eating the recommended portion of veg and fruit is basically pointless. Cheese, on the other hand, has many healthy benefits.

Luckily the story has a happy ending. Jack has now been reunited with his cheese sandwiches at a nursery not run by crackpots and Stalinists. But let this be a warning to us all. We must keep ever vigilant lest our cheese eating rights be swept away.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I've Got No Strings

It all started with Cookie. Acting like some big lady blogger’s blouse, he brought politics into the rarefied atmosphere of beer blogging. Then we had the TV debates and people in the pub stopped talking about proper pub topics-sex and sport and started discussing the economy instead. Now with a raft of leaflets pushed through the door, even I am forced to admit this election malarkey is getting serious.

Now Cookie has made it clear that he won’t be voting on the basis of pubs and beer. It’s always interesting to have an insight into the lout drinker’s way of thinking, but of course for the pongy ale enthusiast, it’s a different matter.

When your best friend is the pint of Old Fart’s XXX Mild you’re nurturing in your hand and the highlight of your week is wondering if the tramp sat next to you in Spoons will share his XL bag of Mini Cheddars; there is no more important issue than pubs and booze.

Consider the worries: Will VAT be increased on pub grub? Meaning I would have to cook something myself. Will crippling bureaucracy mean cutbacks in heating? Meaning being forced to wear woolly jumpers and gloves.

Will pubs be forced to scrap showing sport on TV? Meaning I would be obliged to spend time with my relatives in order to watch the match. Ultimately will the pub actually close? Leaving me destitute and out in the street. Or worse, forced to go home.

Considering the massive issues involved here, I decided it was about time I took a close look at the prospective candidates who want my vote.*

(1) Richard Baum-Liberal Democrat. A lot of people (some who should know better) have said they intend to vote LD. I think Vince Cable is in favour of minimum pricing, but the local candidate hasn’t furnished me with any info on himself. Or even tried to canvass my vote. Falls at the first hurdle.

(2) Bill Brison-Independent. Might be an Old Fart’s XXX Mild drinker. Might not. I know nothing about him or his policies. Falls at the first hurdle.

(3) Stephen Evans-UKIP. Actually goes out of his way to say he wants the smoking ban repealed. Clearly bonkers, so let’s move on.

(4) Maryam Khan-Labour. As Labour are seen as having no practical chance of winning the seat, Ms Khan was parachuted in to give her some experience. Described to me by a high-ranking, anonymous, Labour Party mole as “vacuous”, she carries a “nice but dim” tag.

Her website mentions her commitment to investment, family, education etc but no mention of the really serious issues of pubs and beer. She is, however, the only one of the candidates I would consider sleeping with.

(5) Graeme Lambert-Pirate Party. Only 18 and seems like a nice lad. Lives down the road from me, so handy if I want to complain about my bins not being emptied. Yes, I do know that’s the Council’s responsibility.

Their manifesto seems worryingly sensible for a single policy party. Reform of the copyright laws to enable legal downloading, reform of the libel laws (overdue) and they are opposed to ID cards and the surveillance State.

But...no mention of booze. I’m concerned he might be a secret teetotaller.

(6) John Maude-BNP. Drinks in the Trackside. Obviously likes a drop of Old Fart’s XXX Mild, so he’s got half my vote already. Has a fantastic handlebar moustache, so that’s another 25% of my vote...But he’s more crackers than someone stuck in a crackers factory at Christmas. I don’t have many standards, but voting for the mentally impaired is one of them.

(7) David Nuttall-Conservatives. Allegedly a CAMRA member, but if he is, he keeps quiet about it. Of course he does, you’re thinking. Still, he hasn’t signed up to CAMRA’s Election Charter, so I’m suspicious. Proud to be a God botherer and thinks the return of fox hunting is a priority. Fails for the same reason as No.6.

So the field is still wide open. First one to deliver a firkin at my door wins my vote?

*Actually two votes-I vote on my mother’s behalf as well. Electoral fraud? Only if they catch you.  

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Beware The Midnight Pisser

He's out there. He's had a skinfull. He's desperate and ready to unload his bladder. Coming to an alleyway near you...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Moral Outrage Of The Week

Bombay Curry Cheddar? And they expect us to pay for it? Never mind meow-meow, I’m calling on the government to immediately ban this morally outrageous piece of filth before any cheese eaters are harmed by it.

Most Truthful Advert Of The Week

“Because nobody makes pizza like Pizza Hut”. Can’t argue with that. They’re shite.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bye Bye Love Booze

I raise my glass tonight in honour of Laura Hall. Ms Hall has become the first person to be barred from all licensed premises in England and Wales under a drinking banning order.

Under the terms of the order imposed at Kidderminster Magistrates' Court in Worcestershire; not only is she prohibited from buying or consuming booze in pubs, but also from drinking in nightclubs, membership clubs or hotels, and from purchasing alcohol in shops and off-licences. Just for good measure, she’s also banned from necking booze in public.

I know what you’re thinking, yes it is an impressive achievement and yes, I also thought that I would be the first to get such a ban. DBOs were introduced by the Home Office in September 2009 as a measure to prevent individuals who are causing alcohol-related disorder from entering specified licensed premises, but this is the first time one has been applied nationally.

Now this is all very good and dandy. But what’s the point of issuing such an unenforceable order? The article doesn’t carry a picture of Ms Hall. So for all I know she may be sat next to me in the Dog & Tangerine swilling pints of Old Crud Mild. What if I want to drop a coin to the Peelers and dob her in-how am I supposed to recognise her?

It’s enough to drive a man to drink

Monday, 12 April 2010

It Never Rains In Southern California London

The dust has settled. The livers have had time to recover. Yes, the great London Tour of Destruction has come to an end. The mission: show Archimedes and the Whitefield Holts Bandit some of the delights of London in just two days.

Archimedes requirements were as simple as himself-alcohol and food. We did well with the first, but somewhat forgot about the second. The WHB meanwhile wanted bright lights and dancing girls to make him feel at home, but used to beer at £1.60 a pint, what would he make of paying £4 for the same privilege?

Friday began with us waiting impatiently for Wetherspoons to open at 9am-the tension easing as the metal shutters slowly rolled upwards. And it was in Wetherspoons (Liverpool St Station) that we finished some 14 hours later. It’s a classic railway JDW, i.e. a dump, but the customers weren’t as daft as they looked. They had after all drunk them dry of two of the best festival beers-Titanic Tomahawk and Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde. Still, the Pinot Grigio and Sailor Jerry went down easy enough.

In the meantime, we criss-crossed London from Greenwich to Islington and all points in-between. Old favourites such as the Charles Lamb and my London local, the Edgar Wallace (although they were very apologetic about only having five on), didn’t disappoint.

Yellowhammer in the Old Fountain was on good form as was the Hophead in the Seven Stars. The WHB was much taken by the Inns of Court. Or, more specifically, the lady legal beagles that frequent the Chancery Lane area. He certainly made a friend for life with Handbag Girl in the Knights Templar.

However, of all the pubs visited on Friday, the clear winner was the Old Brewery at Greenwich. This was a new one to me and is the new Meantime outlet. It was the perfect setting for alfresco beer on a sunny day and it does have an extensive selection to tempt you with-albeit some of them very pricey.

Archimedes was taken by the freely available water- it’s hand drawn from wells in Little Lever, where he lives. And the WHB gasped at the lack of sawdust on the floor-it’s compulsory in pubs in Whitefield. Shame the Kellerbier wasn’t on, but the Helles etc were all good. One quibble, though. Having the likes of Harveys and Hophead on handpull is fine (if probably unnecessary), but why was the Meantime the only one not available?

Saturday saw us loitering in Pimlico library before being the first through the doors at Cask. This is one of my favourites and the strong selection didn’t disappoint again. Sat outside watching life go by, we enjoyed the likes of Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Thornbridge Hopton and Wild Swan. I also tried Thornbridge Martius which, despite being 5.2%, was a tasty, easy drinking, chestnut beer with a good spicy hop finish.

I also very much enjoyed the beers at Brewery Wharf. It’s vastly improved under new brewer, Phil Lowry and Goldfish Bowl is a fine session beer. However, the big gun in the armoury was the much hyped Hoptimum. Forget its 5.2% strength; this is a very impressive session beer for the serious hop lover.

Third best beer of the day was the unexpected treat of Mallinsons at the Market Porter. All in all, a pretty good standard was reached over the weekend. A dishonourable mention, however, must go to the Doric Arch. It lived up to its lacklustre reputation and provided an unsatisfying climax with under-conditioned Bitter & Twisted.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Those Were The Days

Passing the Ostrich in Prestwich, I noted that they are offering live entertainment. However, I fear that it will fall short of the delights they were offering way back in 1832. An eating contest of 3ibs of treacle and bread. With the contestants hands tied behind their back? Fantastic. And the Pub Curmudgeon will surely be wiping a nostalgic tear away at the thought of a smoking match between ten old women. One thought though-how is the winner decided?

Spoons A Go-Go

As already documented by the indefatigable Tandleman, yesterday saw a coach load of freeloaders attempt a massive Spoons festival crawl. Thanks must go to Chris Riley for organising it and letting us in on some JDW secrets, the various staff who served us and the girls/ladies/women that put a buffet on for us.

The plan was to have 35 beers on between the participating venues. This amounts to nearly all the beers that are currently available-about a dozen or so are held back till later in the festival. I wasn’t keeping score, but a quick head count makes me think I tried 27-some of the better ones twice!

First stop was the Regal Moon. An impressive choice here with three rows of festival beers. Theakstons Grouse Beater was thin and unmemorable. Morrells Oxford Blue, despite the bizarre use of a long gone brewery was ok, as was Davenports Beer Hunter.

I found Batemans Hedgerows a refreshing palate cleaner, but the beer of the festival was discovered early on: Titanic Tomahawk. This had hops aplenty and a juicy body to go with it. There was just time for one local to get barred for eating too many (six) free bacon butties and then we were off.

The Cotton Bail in Hyde provided some al fresco drinking and a chance for some more sampling. Sharps Gentle Jane wasn’t hazy at all-despite the festival notes-but was pleasant enough. Triple FFF stunned many by winning Champion Beer of Britain with the decidedly average Alton’s Pride. On that basis they should do well with Rock Lobster.

Much better was the Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde which was excellent and one that was repeated later. However, Fremlins was the disappointment of the festival: thin and without any of the promised flavours.

Stalybridge has the look of a town on permanent half-day closing and the Society Rooms had all the atmosphere of a gents’ lavatory on a wet Tuesday afternoon in October. However, there was nothing wrong with the beer; with Trashy Blonde going down a storm. The Herold Black Chalice was also very good.

The Ash Tree in Ashton was the first chance to sample Zululand Blonde and a disorderly queue duly formed. However, as often with continental beer cask attempts, it failed to live up to the hype. Not bad, but less than the sum of its parts and a little too sweet for my palate.

No such problem at the Up Steps in Oldham where the excellent Goose Island Honkers was greeted with enthusiasm by most. Although a few wimps, I mean dissenters, found it “too much in your face”. The guy to my right had been to the brewery and thought it a very good match. Meanwhile another of our party was reminiscing about seeing Jimi Hendrix play, just round the corner, many moons ago.

Last stop was the Squire Knot for some Boon Army (named after Clint Boon), some free Allgates and a buffet. I felt a bit sorry for the Allgates team as most people (not the beardy-weirdies, obviously) were more interested in the footie rather than meet the brewer. Apparently this was a phenomenon repeated up and down the land, although the result left many wishing they had stoked up on free beer beforehand.

So there you have it. Get down to your local Spoons for some cheap pongy ale. And, if you are a beardy-weirdie, don’t forget that you can use your vouchers-despite what some might say. Although, as I discovered, this may mean that you only get a 49p reduction instead of 50p, as the price cannot go below £1 a pint. Still, some sacrifices are worth making.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Stockport Swagger

If reports have reached you of strange individuals roaming the streets of Stockport, never fear, it was merely a group of thirsty travellers. A motley crew, including such luminaries as Eddie, the eager, legal beagle and Uncle Albert had decided to try several of the local watering holes

First stop was the Nursery in Heaton Norris. This is a classic 1930s multi-roomer and was CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year 2001. And, although we didn’t indulge (old school rules-no eating whilst drinking), the chippy opposite looked very enticing as well.

The Nursery is a Hydes pub selling a good range of their own ales and guest beers as well. Hydes Jekyll’s Gold and Roosters Celtic Corker were both judged as being excellent. You could while away many a happy hour here, but the drinking was just beginning, so off we went.

We managed to fortuitously flag down a passing 364 bus and were soon ensconced in our second stop. The Hope Inn still bears the signage of its original owner-Hardy’s Crown Brewery, who were based in Hulme and were swallowed up by United Breweries in 1962. These days it serves a pint of the lesser spotted Bass.

A very short walk took us to the Labour club next door. This was like going back in time with Thwaites Original at only £1.50 a pint and despite being the first poured, was in good form. It was Stockport CAMRA’s current Pub of the Year next-the Railway on Wellington Road North. This is a smart, ex-Punch tavern, which now serves a good range of ales. The Darkstar Golden Gate was very tasty.

One of the new giants of the Stockport drinking scene loomed large next. The Magnet is a freehouse that has an interesting layout with rooms on different levels. It’s run by the same team who used to have the famous Crown on Heaton Lane and the experience shows. Some decent stuff on font, Brooklyn Lager, Flying Dog etc in the fridge and 14 beers on handpump.

With so much choice, it wasn’t easy to pick just one, so we had to stay for two. Ossett Madeleine Lilly was good-light and nicely hopped, but for me Hornbeam Moody Ale was the beer of the day. It had a lot of flavour for 3.6%, mixing a perfect blend of biscuit malt and citrus hops that lasted well into the finish.

A quick pit stop at the Midland to admire the tiling and sink a pint of Copper Dragon Best and then it was the aforementioned Crown. Here again the selection was impressive, but Pictish Rakau was, for me, the pick of the sampled beers.

Another old friend next: the Swan with Two Necks. This Robinsons pub was built in 1926 and features in CAMRA’s Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. Stockport’s finest also featured in our last stop-the Arden Arms. Yet another classic Robinsons pub that had the first timers here drooling. 

Noting that the sun had set and signs of beer fatigue were showing, it was time to head back home. We shall gloss over the failings at the Trackside where we called for a nightcap. An excellent day in terms of both pubs and beer and proving Stockport is still in the top tier as far as drinking is concerned.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Disappointment Of The Week

Millstone True Grit. Has the lustre come off this once fine ale?

Pub Of The Week

The Marble Arch. Back to its imperial best with 10 on midweek and all the Marble beers in excellent form. Meanwhile, in a bit of a turnaround, current CAMRA favourite the Angel only had half of its pumps in action.

Money Booze Makes The World Go Round

It’s been a lesson in economics type week. First I leant that the law of supply and demand has led to (in America), prostitutes earning far less than they did 100 years ago. Now I learn that our cousins across the pond are applying the law of S&D to man’s greatest commodity: booze.

Yes, the Exchange Bar & Grill in Gramercy, New York has modelled itself on the New York Stock Exchange. So they have a ticker showing current drinks prices which fluctuate as customers’ drinking patterns change. They even have a bell that the bartender rings “when the market crashes”. This usually leads to trebles all round.

Levent Cakar, one of the partners in the business, holds a Masters degree in economics and explained the thinking behind it:”We want the atmosphere to be like the stock market. Except, unlike the stock market, nobody is going to have any stress or lose any money”.

So will we be seeing this phenomenon over here? Given the current level of ant-drink paranoia, it seems unlikely. A shame, really. I can picture the scene...Tandleman stockpiling pints of J.W. Lees in the THT. Drinking when prices are low, selling when prices are high. Who wouldn’t pay to see that?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Brendan Goes Belgium

Bury microbrewer Leyden brew out of the Lord Raglan pub in the scenic hamlet of Nangreaves. Their core beer range is themed around the Crimea with names such as Light Brigade and Sevastopol. They do, however, also turn out seasonal beers and special one-offs.

In recent times they have become more experimental and have looked abroad for inspiration. Their first attempt at a cask version of a foreign beer was the unforgettable Leydenhosen which was launched at the first Hare & Hounds beer festival. Such was the success of this; it was quickly followed by Ramsbottom Reichsnau Gold and Brendan’s Dunkel.

Now they have made their first foray into the bottled Belgium market. Leyden Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale promises the best of Lancashire married with the delightful taste of a traditional Frambozen. Brendan Leyden explained “We sell a lot of Frambozen in the pub and we also sell a lot of brown ale as. It just seemed natural to try and mix the two and produce a Lancashire Frambozen. The locals can’t get enough of it and there is some talk of trying a Nangreaves Gueze next”.

Leyden Frambozen is available in limited numbers from the pub and comes hand wrapped in half champagne bottles. It pours deep ruby in colour and begins with the aroma of fresh red raspberries. This is followed by the ripe seductiveness of a fruity brown ale and delicate malt notes. If there is enough demand, a cask version might also be trialled.