Showing posts from October, 2011


Booths are the rather posh supermarket chain so beloved by the posh folk of the Fylde coast. Founded in 1847 in Blackpool, the company is still run by the Booth family and they now have 26 stores. Their emphasis is on locality and freshness-they are partners with Slow Food UK; thus marking them out against the other major chains. 

Traditionally they’ve been found in deepest Lancashire and Cumbria-places you either don’t want to go to or can’t get to easily. Now they have opened a store in that cradle of civilisation: Salford. Hooray. You see, I like Booths. They actually sell things I want to buy. Unlike the shit that Tesco seems to mainly fill its shelves with.
Being famous for their range of bread, beer and cheese; all a beerhound needs to live, I naturally felt obliged to pay the new store a visit. It’s in the funky (i.e. posh) MediaCityUK which, naturally, is at the terminus of the MediaCityUK tram line. This is like a Salford version of the DLR, but not quite as good, obviously.…

The One Stop No Shop

As regular readers (and there are some) will know, one of my pet hates is the overzealous shop assistant who demands proof of age when all sense and logic dictates there is no need. Several cases have been highlighted on this blog, but the latest example is a real doozy.

Diane Taylor wanted to buy her son a bottle of whisky. So she popped into a local One Stop Shop to do so. However, she was refused the sale on the grounds that she couldn’t produce any photo ID as proof of age. Considering the great-grandmother is-and I hope she won’t mind me saying this-no longer in the first flush of youth; this is somewhat of a farce.

Mrs Taylor is in fact 92. Yes, 92. And, despite producing a blood donor card and her bus pass, the witless zombie of an assistant refused to budge. As she herself put it later:”No one can convince me that I look under 25-I’ll only take 78 at a push”.

A One Stop Shop spokesman later apologised, but said staff cannot sell alcohol without seeing proof of age. What? If a …

SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival

The second SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival is well under way and will be reaching its climax today. Last year’s event was, frankly, a bit of a damp squib with too little publicity and too much focus on the appearance of Hugh & Oz. The result was less than satisfactory for all concerned.

This year’s event should prove a lot better. The festival is at the Mercure (ex Ramada) Piccadilly which, for my money, is a better venue location and facilities wise. The publicity level was ramped up and numbers on the opening night were up on last year. Certainly the choice is unrivalled; 64 beers on handpump and with sparkler-what more could you want?
Sadly, there was some disappointment on the Thursday evening as several beers performed under par. Earlier favourites such as Allgates Double Citra soon disappeared and fans of hoppy beer were left somewhat flummoxed. However, a late surge did hold out some hope for future sessions (hopefully today) with Saltaire Stateside IPA being in particular…

The Oast House

It’s often been said that what Manchester lacks is a Kentish oast house. Maybe not by me. Or you. But someone must have thought it was needed because that’s what we’ve now got. An oast house. From Kent. In return, I believe, the good people of Kent got an IOU signed by Carlos Tevez.

Oh, and before we go any further, for those not familiar with the vernacular, an oast house is somewhere where hops are dried. Like they have in Kent. This one has apparently been shipped brick by brick, via Ireland, to Spinningfields.

Spinningfields is the ultra modern business, retail and residential development that lies between Manchester Deansgate and the River Irwell. What it has been lacking is decent leisure facilities and, of course, what I mean by that is a decent pub. That is where the oast house, from Kent, comes in.

The Oast House is the latest innovation from the Living Ventures Group who own the nearby Alchemist bar. Its design is very different to anything nearby or elsewhere for that matter…

Chorlton Crawl

Chorlton-cum-Hardy or simply Chorlton, if you’re local, is a little suburb of Manchester lying some 4 miles southwest of the city centre. With a population of around 14,000, it’s a mix of yuppies (de rigueur MacBook), students (de rigueur cycles) and a large housing estate at the Chorlton Green end of town.

There’s a London vibe to it-it’s busy in the week-and there are plenty of delis as well as a plethora of (mainly) bars and pubs. Beer isn’t cheap; expect to pay £3.20 a pint, but it’s the unusual high concentration of real ale that attracts many drinkers to make the trip out of town. The Metrolink has recently started running through Chorlton making it even easier to get to and enabling you to avoid the waccy-baccy smokers who seem to populate the buses through Moss Side. With this convenience in mind, I undertook a crawl of CUH yesterday with the redoubtable Tandleman. First stop was Oddest. They usually have a good selection on here and it just so happens to be nearest to the tram …

Manchester Whisky Festival

Another year, another Manchester Food and Drink Whisky Festival. Last weekend saw the third one take place and, like every year, I felt obliged to attend. So, alongside Eddie, the eager legal beagle, Archimedes and the Whitefield Holts Bandit, we took a walk on the Scotch side of town.

Every year the event gets bigger and better. This year saw it held at the Lowry in Salford. The premise is simple. You pays your money and then have four hours to sample as many whiskies as you can. Binge drinking for the connoisseur pisshead, if you like. There are different approaches to handling it and everyone has their own strategy. Some go alphabetically, some go clockwise, and some try to seek out the rarest whisky they can find. My own approach is to avoid the stingy bastards and find the person with the shakiest hands when dishing out the measures. Technically they advise that you progress through the five broad types in order. So, delicate and sweet first (e.g. Glenlivet), then fruity and flora…

Manchester's Not So Super Superloo

This is one of Manchester's so called "superloos" on Stevenson Square. Manchester City Council leases each one from JCDecaux at a cost of £28,000 per year. But lack of use-hardly surprising if this is typical-means that they only raise an average of £3,400 in revenue. Leaving the Manchester taxpayer to stump up the rest. Makes you glad not to be one of those, eh? Here's an idea: what with the shortage of public loos in Manchester, why not ditch the superloo and, with the saving, employ somebody to supervise a proper toliet?

Manchester Food & Drink Festival

Talking of festivals, Manchester’s annual Food & Drink Festival is currently in full swing and heading for its climax this weekend. There’s cooking demonstrations, food stalls-plenty of cheese, and lots to delight the olfactory system. Look out for the old pizzeria van and grab yourself a great pizza courtesy of their amazing portable fibreglass clay ovens.

Drinks wise, there’s the cocktails tent and of course, the beer festival hub. Here they’ve had a range of beers on, all served in soft, non-plastic, biodegradable cups. Allgates Citra seemed particularly popular. Today it was the turn of Stockport brewers Robinsons to take centre stage. Debuting was the new beer from Bury’s very own megastars Elbow. Named after their album, it’s an easy drinking 4% golden ale. Also on offer is the full range of Robinsons and there’s Chocolate Tom in bottles. There’s also the Old Tom Ploughman’s, although it’s not really a Ploughman’s as it comes with pate.

Beer Festivals: Soup Kitchen

Once beer festivals were the almost exclusive domain of CAMRA and perhaps a few specialist pubs. Increasingly however, with some notable exceptions, we are seeing the decline of the traditional CAMRA festival. More and more pubs and non traditional venues are holding them. The current Wetherspoons promotion is a good case in point. Organised on a national scale, it’s hard to beat for choice and price. There’s no doubt this increase of choice is a good thing. But there’s a danger sometimes that this leads to more enthusiasm than quality. After all, beer festivals can be tricky beasts at the best of times, and organising the first one brings problem of its own. I was interested, therefore, to learn that the Soup Kitchen in Manchester was holding its inaugural festival. The Soup Kitchen is on Spear St. Not far from the Port St Beer House, it’s now established itself on the extended Manchester N/4 beer crawl. It offers a limited, but often unusual, beer selection in a relaxed, mock canteen …

The Oxford Companion to Beer

Firstly, my thanks to Linda and the kind folks at OUP for sending me a copy of this hefty beast. I’ve finally found some time to have a little look at it and it’s been quite rewarding. It aims to be the beer equivalent of the well regarded Companion to Wine and at one level, the Companion to Food and Drink. And in many ways it succeeds.

Let’s be clear from the start. This is a scholarly work. With over 1100 entries and 166 contributors, it lays a serious claim to be the most comprehensive single book ever published on the subject. It certainly goes beyond the usual detail often found in the books that bestride the beer-buffs bookshelf. That’s not to say that it’s not for the layperson or that it’s densely written. It isn’t, but some of the articles may lead to some head scratching amongst non-brewers.

As is usual with these kinds of books, I found the best way to appreciate it was by dipping in at random. This is made easier by the alphabetical layout, which is heavily cross-reference…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

Bit in the doldrums today. So it’s time to reach for something with a hop kick to blast those blues away. Come on down Shoals Pale Ale from Smuttynose Brewing Company from New Hampshire, USA.

Basics: It’s an unfiltered 12fl oz bottle and is 5% ABV. It poured amber with a solid white head. There was a pungent, very appealing, aroma of bread/biscuit malt and plenty of tart fruit hops.
Taste: Medium bodied and very accomplished. There’s pepper and pine hops carefully matched to a doughy malt backbone. A crisp hop bitterness tingles in the mouth.
Finish: Crisp and lingering bitterness.
Conclusion: Tasty. An excellent example of the American Pale Ale style.