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, 25 August 2011

Irwell Works Brewery Bar Opens

 There’s good news for anyone wishing to sample the wares of Bury’s very own Irwell Works Brewery. The brewery, which has been brewing since November of last year, has opened a bar. Situated on the first floor of its premises in Square Street, Ramsbottom, it offers a choice of three handpulls and is open Thurs-Sun from noon onwards.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Another week, another meet the brewer night at the Port Street Beer House in Manchester. They’re becoming a regular occurrence now and have often featured upcoming or more obscure breweries. Not last night, though, as we were in the presence of genuine British brewing royalty.

Thornbridge have developed a reputation for quality and innovation, and are well-known to those who are interested in beery matters. Realising this, the equally well-known brewer, Dominic, didn’t waste much time in senseless preamble, but led us straight into the beer tastings.
First up was the 5.1% Summer Ale. Brewed with ginger (from Waitrose) and sage. An interesting mix, but although the sage offset any excesses of ginger, subtle ginger is still ginger. So, mixed opinions here, dependent on whether you like ginger in your beer.
The second beer was Kipling. On keg. This might be considered good, if not for the fact that it’s an inferior copy of another product. That being cask-conditioned Kipling, of course. The keg version lacks the depth of flavour of the latter, and words such as “monotone” were banded about to describe its singular hop nature.
But things were about to get worse. Seaforth is their 5.9% English IPA. The idea being that, after the success of Jaipur, they would brew something similar, but with only English ingredients. A nice idea that turns out to be less than its parts. Jaipur is easy-drinking and refreshing. Seaforth isn’t; it tastes its strength and has an unflattering crystal malt tang to it.
As it happens, the mighty John Clarke, Generalissimo of Stockport Camra, was at hand, and it turned out we had similar views on cask/keg IPA. Namely that brewers, such as Thornbridge, were getting it wrong by kegging the likes of Jaipur and Kipling. The process would actually be better suited to Seaforth and its ilk. Great minds, eh?
I was getting a little worried now as we seemed to be on a slight downward spiral. What would be next? The dreaded Lord Marples? Luckily, I had no need to fear. The finale was worth the wait. Alchemy XVI is the latest in their line of experimental beers. We heard tales of Swiss brewers and two years maturation to bring this beer to fruition.

But it’s the dry-hopping that really captures you when you try it. A dry-hopped, 9.4% barley wine that is both complex and very rewarding. And don’t forget the shedload of hops that puckers the lips. Best beer of the evening. Pure genius.
*There was to have been another beer on display: Geminus, an 8.5% Double IPA. But, owing to technical difficulties, this wasn’t part of the official tasting. However, for those who waited, there was a chance to sample this afterwards. It would be unfair to judge it under these circumstances, but it seemed to have certain Lambic qualities.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Congleton and Sandbach

Saturday saw a coach of thirsty imbibers on the hunt around the Congleton and Sandbach area. Even though there was a large turnout, somehow the conversation seemed more civilised; people could get to the bar unhindered, and no funny Scottish money was in evidence. Coincidence that Tandleman was noticeable by his absence? 

Our first stop was the Queens Head in Congleton. Still retaining its traditional build of separate rooms with separate entrances, it offered an interesting selection of beers. One that caught the eye immediately was from new Cheshire microbrewer Merlin. Their Wizard was golden and generously hopped. It proved a favourite throughout the day and showed that sometimes micros can get it right from the start.
Next stop was an extended stay in Congleton proper. The Lord Mountbatten offered a good selection of local ales (more Merlin beers here), and the Counting House was an impressive Wetherspoons. Impressive with a very smart interior, an outdoor area, and still managing to be only £1.89 a pint. Oh, and they were having an Ossett festival-alongside Oakham Inferno-so plenty of excellent beer.
A quick stop at the Lodge in Alsager before our final pub calls in Sandbach. The Lower Chequer dates from 1570, and is believed to be the oldest building in town. Once again we had a good selection to choose from and we soon reacquainted ourselves with the landlord.
Hearing that the nearby Old Hall had recently reopened as a Brunning & Price outlet, the Don and I paid a visit. As to be expected from B&P, they have done an excellent job on it, and this Grade 1 listed building was well worth the visit. Six beers were on offer, including an excellent Titanic Iceberg. It was £3.30 a pint, but then, hey, you are in Cheshire.
The debauchery continued in Bury as we were led astray by Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. But it’s probably best I draw a veil over that in a family-friendly blog such as this.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Sierra Nevada Torpedo

Saturday. Time to chill out and ease into the weekend. With a busy day’s drinking ahead, I need something bold and punchy to get me in the mood. Torpedo is a self-declared “Extra IPA” and having tried it on cask recently; I’ve been waiting to try the bottled version.

Basics: This is a 350ml bottle and is 7.2% by alcohol volume. There’s Pale, and Crystal malt in there, along with Magnum and some Crystal hops. The name refers to their unique Torpedo dry-hopping system which combines Magnum, Crystal, and Citra to deliver 65 IBUs.

It poured clear amber with a generous off-white head. The aroma was strong and gave off malted bread, citrus and floral hops.

Taste: Strong initial flavours of tropical fruit and some light citrus and an unmistakable pine texture. A sweet malt backbone just peeks through to give some balance to the powerful hops and masks the alcohol perfectly.

Finish: Long and lingering dry hop blast.

Conclusion: Plenty of bold flavours here, but carefully balanced to create a very enjoyable and easy drinking strong IPA.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Letter of the Law

I was in a pub last night, enjoying some of Thwaites excellent Triple C, when a notice caught my eye. Displayed very prominently at the bar was a sign detailing two offences under the 2003 Licensing Act. One informed you that it was illegal for you to purchase alcohol for someone who was under 18. But it was the second one that really caught my attention.

The second warning stated that it was an offence for anyone under 18 to purchase or attempt (my emphasis) to purchase alcohol. Attempt to purchase? The pub operates an “Age 21” policy, but even so, any would be under-age purchaser would most likely simply be turned away. How many are people are fined for committing this offence annually?
Indeed, I’ve never heard of any child being convicted of this offence, so the total numbers must be very small. Of course, the real purpose of the notice is to act as a deterrent to under-age purchasers. In which case, it might be wise not to reveal its likely impotency.

For the Metrolink tram signs that proudly boast “X number of people were caught without a ticket last year” tend to be counter productive. Instead of putting possible fare dodgers off, it usually engenders the response “If that’s how many are caught, imagine how many are getting away with it. It must be easy!”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Bye Bye Youngs

The end of a long chapter in brewing history was announced today with the news that Youngs are to exit brewing. They are selling their 40% stake in Wells & Young to their business partner, Charles Wells, who will pay £15.1 million to take full control of the company.
Some will say this was inevitable after Youngs sold off their own brewery and became a minority shareholder in another venture. Of course, Youngs claim that it’s beneficial as it allows them to concentrate on their pub estate. But we’ve heard that before. More likely they are heading for pubco obscurity once their supply agreement with Wells comes to an end.

So, sad, but predictable, as these things often are.

Monday, 8 August 2011

London Update

Last week in London wasn’t just about the GBBF. It also offered an unrivalled opportunity to measure the state of the local drinking scene. Unrivalled because, with the country’s biggest beer festival in town, there could be no excuse for not putting on a good show.

Let’s accentuate the positive: Top of the tree and straight in at numero uno with a bullet is the new kid on the block, the Craft Beer Co. Situated on Leather Lane, it’s obvious that a lot of time, money, and effort has gone into this place. The result? 16 handpulls and 21 others on draught. All in a modern, stylish, but relaxed environment.
But it’s not just about numbers. The selection-of both cask, and keg, is simply the best in London. And quality; the most important factor, after all, was excellent. The guys are enthusiastic and seem to have a good game plan. They’re also taking a punt and opening on Saturdays. Which is just what is required for beer enthusiasts who can only make it on weekends.

Other heavy hitters were the Euston Tap and the Southampton Arms. The ET nailed us with a splendid pint of Stone Ruination. I was going to say an expensive, splendid pint, but as £8 is the new benchmark, £7+ seems piffling. The SA had 11 real ales and 5 ciders, all served in good condition, but I think they have to be careful with their selection policy. Eclectic doesn’t always equate to good.
I can’t go without mentioning the seemingly retro disdain for sparklers in some quarters. Greenwich, in particular, was guilty of this. Are they too posh to sparkle or what? I mean the Richard the First is a classic boozer, but get sparkling, folks. Even worse was the Greenwich Union where the staff claimed not even to have a sparkler to affix. Thereby infringing my human rights and denying themselves the ability to showcase their beers in the best possible way.
Let’s finish on a high note. The lads from Steel City Brewing (actually just Gazza, I think) teamed up with Brodies to produce a hopbomb called Mental Hop Bastard. It does what it says on the tin. A great name for a great beer.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Flying Dog@PSBH

Wednesday saw a sell-out crowd attend the latest Port Street meet the brewer event. Interest was high as the evening’s guests were the guys from America’s very own Flying Dog. FD have been around for some 21 years, and over that time have graduated from a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado to a state-of-the-art brewing facility in Frederick, Maryland. 

Drinkers on this side of the Atlantic may be familiar with some of their distinctive bottled beers which grace many beer festivals and the better stocked bars and pubs. Over here to explain their philosophy-good people drink good beer, bad people drink bad beer, and answer questions were brewmaster Matt Brophy and CEO Jim Caruso. Both were enthusiastic and coped admirably with an increasingly rowdy audience.

Of the beers, three bottles were sampled. First up was Doggie Style, a 5.5% Pale Ale. This was well-balanced with the Cascade hops giving it a nicely rounded dry-hop finish. Next was the Belgium IPA, Raging Bitch. Again this was very drinkable for its strength and the Columbus and Amarillo hops complemented the Belgium yeast perfectly.
The third bottle-Double Dog-a double IPA, was more problematic. Despite being aggressively hopped with Cascade and Columbus, there was no mistaking the alcohol in this 11.5% effort. This made it slightly harder to neck than I usually like my beers, but an interesting beer, nevertheless.

However, the best was yet to come. We were treated to a cask version of their Single Hop Centennial Imperial IPA. This was copper in colour with lots of floral and herbal hops, plus a little citrus, in the aroma. Taste was excellent and although you could tell it was strong, the hop bitterness really cut through the sweetness to give a long, satisfying finish.

It really was a cracking pint and further proof that cask conditioning can work with strong IPAs. We had two surprises with this beer: Firstly when we were told it was 10%-it didn’t seem like it. And secondly, when we went downstairs and found it on sale for £8 a pint. Yes, Manchester has seen its first £8 cask pint. Now, whose round was it...?

So another great evening at Port St. Well done to everyone concerned.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

No Smoke Without Fire

Although much beloved by every sane person on the planet, the smoking ban still manages to fuel debate and generate the odd story or two. These used to be along the lines of non-compliance or defiance, but seem to have mainly died up. So it is even more surprising, and disappointing, to find someone in trouble simply for trying to comply with the law.

Dawn Lemm, of the Judge and Jury, in Colwyn Bay, was given a fixed penalty fine of £350 for breaching regulations. Her crime? While waiting for official “No Smoking” signs to arrive, she put her own up. Sadly for her, these didn’t show “a graphic representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar which crosses the cigarette symbol’.

Dawn’s impromptu signage was also the wrong size: the law requires them to be rectangular and with the shortest side at least 6.3in long. Now this all seems very petty to me, and it’s not surprising that Ms Lemm refused to pay.

However, although the long arm of the law may not be able to reach the likes of Colonel Gaddafi, Llandudno magistrates had no such problem in dealing with Dawn and her heinous crimes. They fined her £150, with £120 costs, and £15 victims’ surcharge.

The Value of Pi(e)

Thousands of eager punters will descend on London this week as GBBF fever grips the nation. No doubt they will, at some point, try some of the fine hostelries that London has to offer. And, no doubt, they will, at some point, eat a pie. But beware. London holds many dangers apart from painted ladies and unsparklered beer.

Today’s lesson for the unwary concerns a pie. Not just any pie, though. A 3-English-cheeses pie. A “homemade” 3-English-cheeses pie, to be exact. Now this culinary delight was purchased from a GBG pub that will have to remain nameless for now. Ok, it was the Bree Louise near Euston station, since you asked.
Doesn’t it look yummy? Doesn’t it look inviting? All puffed-up and round. But, just like a Camra blood-letting initiation, there’s more to it than that. Or rather; less to it. For as soon as the outer perimeter was breached, it collapsed into its constituent parts. This appeared to be just flaky pastry and nothing else. Not a trace of any cheese, English or not.
Yes, the pie was a dry, flaky husk. And my companions seemed to fare little better with their offerings. Polite enquiries as to if perhaps the fillings had been omitted were met with an indifferent shrug. To add insult to injury, the “seasonal vegetables” accompaniment was served in a dish immersed in some murky white liquid.
A thoroughly disheartening and dismaying experience, but I am sharing this personal tragedy so that perhaps you can be spared a similar fate.  
There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them. Let’s be careful out there and let’s do it to them before they do it to us.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

With Bells on Their Toes

Eccentric, some might say crackers, brewer Sam Smiths featured in the news recently as their spat with Cropton reached the High Court. Now they’ve hit the headlines again, with a seemingly strange enforcement of their strict no music policy.

The story centres on the Slubbing Billys. This innocuous troupe of Huddersfield based Morris Dancers had been performing in Durham city centre and fancied a pint. Now some would say that Morris Dancers and pubs go together as naturally as, well, Morris Dancers and pubs. But not the Swan and Three Cygnets, it appears.

For, shortly after entering the premises, the 15 strong group were asked to leave. Troupe member Duggs Carre said that: ”There was no room for argument. We were just kicked out. One of our group, in his Morris Men gear, had just ordered a pint without any problems. But two female members came in with the bells on their shoes and a woman member of staff shouted ‘No bells’ and that was it.”

This seems a tad extreme for, as Carre points out:” When you sit down, the bells don’t make any noise.” Fellow troupe member Jill Morris(!) said that they had performed all over the UK and Europe without any problem. She added: ”Apparently bells on our toes mean we will NOT have music wherever we go.”

A Sam Smiths spokesperson, as usual, had nothing to say on the matter.