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, 26 November 2010

Christmas Cheese: Epoisses de Bourgogne

Noddy Holder is blasting away, so it must be Christmas. Or very nearly. And naturally, one’s thoughts turn to cheese. Will M&S be repeating their Stilton offer this year? What exactly should be going on that Xmas Day cheeseboard? And how to avoid making a faux pas by matching the right cheese with the correct condiment.

It’s also a good time of year to treat oneself to a premier league cheese. Well anytime is a good time for that, but Christmas does lend a certain legitimacy to the idea. With that in mind, I humbly recommend Epoisses for your delectation and delight.

Epoisses de Bourgogne is a French Appellation d’origine controlee (AOC) cheese, which means that it can only be made in and around Epoisses. It’s an unpasteurised cow’s cheese that gets its distinctiveness from being washed in Marc de Bourgogne.

Marc de Bourgogne is a French spirit made from pressing the skins, pulp, and seeds that are left over after wine grapes are processed into wine. This produces a very harsh, fiery, pomace brandy that is either (a) wonderfully potent or (b) very rough homebrew, depending on your viewpoint.

Either way, the resulting cheese is an aromatic world beater much beloved by Napoleon. The Petit Caporal certainly knew his onions when it came to cheeses: The buttery complexion gives way to a spicy white truffle experience that sets the taste buds alight. A culinary delight that needs to be tried and one of the very few (bit of controversy here) cheeses that are too good for pizza.

A note of caution though. This is a seriously pongy cheese. It’s actually recommended keeping it out of the house. You pay £32 for a kilogram of the stuff and they advise you to put it in a shed? But it’s not rated the world’s second smelliest cheese and banned from public transport in France for nothing. It scores a nose twitching 10 on the Richter scale of smelly cheese.

Smell it, love it and have a very cheesy Christmas.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Best Explanation Of The Irish Bail Out Overheard In A Wetherspoons

Bloke 1: “I can’t believe we’re bailing Ireland out. It’s unbelievable.”
Bloke 2: “Ireland?”
Bloke 1: “Yeah, have you not seen we’re lending them £7bn. What for, that’s what I want to know?"
Bloke 2: “To be fair, the Irish have always had the best songs. “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”, now that’s a good ‘un.”
Bloke 1: “Aye I never thought of that.”

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bury Beer Festival

The lights have been dimmed and the suppings all over. Yes, Bury Beer Festival 2010 has come to an end. Around 100 beers from a wide variety of breweries have been on offer at the Met on Market St over this last weekend. Oh and not forgetting some cider and perry.

The CAMRA bar at the festival was manned by some familiar looking faces, whilst the beer was a mix of old favourites and new friends. Marble Bitter stood alongside Mallinsons Hcmf//ale which was what you would expect from Mallinsons-light, fruity and hop edged. Their Chocolate Stout was even better.

Meanwhile Crown Brewery’s Stannington Stout also proved pleasing with its mix of espresso and bitter chocolate. Their 5.1% Sam Berry IPA, described as a “dark IPA”, did puzzle some as it wasn’t actually dark.

The undoubted hop monster, hiding like the elephant in the room, was Steel City’s Nightmare on Henry St which, with 8kg of Amarillo & Cascade etc in it, certainly packed a punch.

Swiftly passing over the Leyden bar (as most people did), the main talking point was Irwell Works Brewery. Barely going a week, Bury’s latest brewery had three beers on offer. The most popular of these was Copper Plate (3.8%) which was a traditional Bitter (i.e. actually bitter) made up of five hops. They also had Pilot Pale (4%) and Steam Plate (4.3%) on offer.

Such a selection attracted punters and the glitterati from far and near. Not least the leader of the Stockport Massive, John Clarke. Although I am legally obliged to point out this was only because he made a wrong turning whilst out buying food for his pet carcajou. He is not, has never been and will never be, associated with any form of ticking. Oh no.

So, apart from the din on Saturday night: Blues does not have to make your ears ring, a successful festival. From the punters side, anyway.

London Round Up

But one pub does not London make. So, despite the obvious temptation to do so, one cannot live solely on the succulent nourishment of the Euston Tap. Well they don’t open till 4pm on a Sunday for a start.

On the plus side: Top of the pile is the Rake; maintaining its high standards. Excellent Oakham JHB (welcome back); an interesting draught beer choice and an outdoor; covered, heated area. What’s not to like? Oh and thanks for the warning that Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale (practice saying that pissed) was £4.75 a half. Well it is 11.5%.

The Bree Louise, for the second visit in a row, excelled with some very good beers. I was particularly taken with the Redemption Pale Ale (3.8%), which has a long bitter finish that really dries the back of the throat. The Market Porter and the Wheatsheaf, both in Borough, also did well.

Brodie’s Amarilla at the Old Coffee House was refreshing and well conditioned, scoring higher than the under par Dark Star Hophead in the usually reliable Harp. A first, and probably last, visit to the Moon on the Mall showed this GBG Wetherspoons to be decidedly average. Dark and gloomy, it can’t do veggie burgers because “it hasn’t got the right equipment”.

There’s no need to go through the rest of the list of mediocrity, let’s cut to the name and shame part. Step forward the George on Borough High Street. Yes it’s a tourist trap. Yes Charles Dickens was a customer. But neither of these justifies £3.50 for a pint of flat Greene King brown slop.

Even worse, taking into account its reputation, was the £3.75 a pint charged at the Brew Wharf. Hop ‘Em High was the worse of the two beers on offer. This supposed India Pale Ale was not so much flat and murky as terminal. If ever a beer needed CPR, this was it. Ok, the place was quiet, but that’s no excuse for quality of this low standard. Consider yourself on the naughty step.

So overall, with a few notable exceptions, London once again performed reasonably well. But although things might be considered to be getting better vis-a-vie temperature, there is still a lamentable lack of sparkler use, something which needs to be addressed if our capital is really serious about beer quality. Because someone told me the Olympics are coming...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Euston Tap: The Shocking Truth

Well what a week. Pete Brown tried his best to stir up a storm (hint: next time try smoking ban/sparklers), but ultimately failed to win me a fiver. In the blue corner Tandleman got in touch with his feminine side and came over all “tired and emotional” and made some very funny comments which he, rather sadly, later retracted.

Meanwhile down amongst the plebeians, there was drinking to be done. This involved a much anticipated visit to the Euston Tap. Well more than one, actually. These things can’t be rushed.

So everyone has heard about the Euston Tap. Everyone has heard that it’s outside Euston station, is tiny and has only one, yes one, toilet. But is it any good? Well the shock news is that...yes it is. It’s excellent actually.

A small downstairs bar area is complemented by a comfortable little room upstairs. This is navigated via a splendid spiral staircase which, like Everest, is no problem going up pissed, but requires caution on the descent. A beer carrier (that’s not the nickname for the barman) is handily available to facilitate carrying several pints up there.

A very impressive range of draught beers are served a la American style from the back wall taps. The 8 cask options include Thornbridge/Marble and guests. All were in excellent condition and the Wild Swan at £2.70 was a snip. Kegged Kipling and Timmerman’s Peche also hit the spot.

The fridges contain an Aladdin’s cave of bottled beery delights. On my visits, this included beers from Australia’s Little Creatures, Dogfish and the Left Handed Brewing Company.

So an unqualified success and a bar fit to grace the great cities of the world. Even Manchester. But the best bit? They do 26" pizzas. Respect.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Cheese-Preference or Dogma?

"Is that blue or white Stilton?"

This was the first question I got asked when I mentioned on Twitter that I had just purchased some for my supper. And when I replied it was blue, there was a supplemental question: “Is that pure Stilton or with raisins etc?”

These questions are of course of no interest to most cheese eaters, but they are paramount to a certain small section of cheese lovers. And it got me thinking-what if it had been white Stilton with raisins? Or mango? Would that have been so wrong?

Caerphilly, Lancashire, Brie; they all have their admirers, but has personal preference given way to dogma? For me it’s whether the cheese is good or bad. I’ve no problem with Stilton & raisins. Or even Stilton with mango & ginger..

However, the mere mention of extraneous food stuffs in cheese sends Crackers-members of CRAC, the Campaign for Real Authentic Cheese, into a stupor. And don't even mention pasteurisation. Their forums are full of debate over whether Stilton is even technically real. Or is it a mere shadow of “real” cheeses such as Roquefort?

Common sense says it's about the cheese. If I give you a cheese that doesn't fit with your definition of cheese, but is generally regarded as a flavourful, quality cheese, you could:

Eat it and say, "Amazing - it's not about real or keg- it's just about the taste of the cheese."
Eat it, and perhaps say something like, "Wow, I still prefer real cheese generally, but I'll admit there are some pretty damn good cheeses that are pasteurised and contain extraneous food stuffs."
Say, "If it's not real cheese I refuse to eat it. It must be rubbish."

Most people would say option 1, whilst most Crackers would probably go for option 2. However, I have met people who live by option 3. These are the kind of people who are hung up with methods of dispense. What packaging does it come in? Is it shrink-wrapped or cloth bound?

The point is we are all on the same side. We all love cheese. But If CRAC insists on sticking to its outdated manifesto, I fear it risks being marginalised in years to come. If it wants to survive, it needs to modernise and take a good look at the cheese counter in the local supermarket.

Perhaps a step in the direction of being more inclusive would be if it changed its name to the Campaign for the Revitalization of Artisan Cheese. Sadly, with CRAC members unable to even agree on the use of rennet, I fear this will remain a pipe dream.

I've tried to outline the argument in reasonable terms, understand CRAC’s position and specify why I think it's wrong. I'd be hugely grateful if you wanted to respond in kind.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Goodbye Kelly Ryan

So it’s goodbye to Kelly Ryan, brewer extraordinaire at Thornbridge. He’s heading back to New Zealand and will no doubt be commencing his brewing adventures in the land of the Hobbit. Frankly they need him. The land of the long white cloud produces some excellent wine, but, despite having some damn fine hops, their beery output isn’t great.

This will no doubt change for the better when Kelly gets a grip of matters over there. In fact, John Key, their PM had better watch out, as I foresee a Thornbridge inspired takeover of this corner of the empire. It should be a piece of cake after helping to craft beers such as Jaipur, St Petersburg and Kipling. Ah, Kipling. Of course there was also Lord Marples, but, hey, no one’s perfect...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

SIBA Northern: First Night Review

Last week saw the SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival at the Palace Hotel in Manchester. The first thing to say is that my impressions are only based on the opening night. I believe things got better and a venture of this size, making its debut, was always bound to have a few teething problems.

So what was it like? Well, the setup was great. 56 handpulls complete with sparkler, naturally, were sat atop the bar. The gimmick of a fresh glass each time was fine, although some old-timers were heard grumbling about it. It did cause a little confusion amongst some of the staff and there had to be the odd reminder that a half pint glass isn’t the same as a pint glass, despite being worth the same deposit.

Slightly surprising was the number of beers that weren’t quite up to scratch. Particularly affected seemed to be the lighter session beers, whilst the darker, stronger, ales seemed more robust. Attendances were disappointing due to poor publicity and some people were put off by the admission prices. However, these are all issues that can and, I believe, are being addressed.

Beer of the session: Iikley Lotus IPA which did do what it said on the tin. And it was worth the entrance fee alone to see Tandleman looking splendorous in his “gay pink” staff uniform. Of course it was really “cerise”. Or so they told him...