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

Monday, 30 April 2012

In My Liverpool Home Pt 1

Liverpool is a great city for a beer crawl. And while there are many old favourites to be had, it’s evolving all the time. So in search of the old and new, a pub expedition was mounted to seek out and boldly go.

First stop was in the wild badlands of Birkenhead. Gallagher’s Bar brings the old concept of pubs serving more than just beer into the modern age. Frankie Gallagher and his wife Sue owned two barbers shops, but always wanted to have a pub. So when they moved in, they opened a barbers shop in the pub. Customers get a ticket and then can enjoy a pint as they wait. Pure genius, if you ask me.
Next up was the Stork Hotel on Price Street. This is looking rather isolated now and could do with a little TLC. Which is a shame as it’s a cracking CAMRA National Inventory pub that rivals some of the best. A traditional multi-roomer, it had a makeover in the early years of the last century. There’s some lovely Edwardian tiling (got ‘em at home, actually) and a fantastic mosaic floor.
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross on the corner of Victoria Street was a new one to me. It used to be an Australian theme pub called Ned Kellys. It’s now much improved and very modern with plenty of light coming in through the panoramic windows. The VC is part of the same group as the Richmond which has a similar layout, albeit on a smaller scale. The beer here was a little warm from, I think, lying in the pipes as, despite being busy, no one else seemed to be drinking cask beer.

Another new one was Bier. This small bar is in the Old Ropewalks part of town and was originally the Newington. Apparently it’s supposed to be “Camden style” (no, I don’t know what that is either) but it wouldn’t be out of place in Chorlton. Indeed, it was somewhat reminiscent of Pi and apart from serving pies, had Roosters going for £3.30 a pint.
A pit stop was then made at the excellent Egg cafe. This is the place in Liverpool for vegetarian food and serves up fresh, tasty treats from 0900-2230 every day. It was recommended by a carnivore who wishes to remain anonymous to save his street cred.

Shipping Forecast
Now, for those of you who thought that £3.30 was pushing the boat out, look away now. The Shipping Forecast on Slater St used to be Flares, the horrendous 70s themed bar. Now run by the same group who brought you Bungalows and Bears in Sheffield (no, I’ve not been either), it has low lighting and bare brick walls. It certainly has a pleasant chilled out vibe, but I’d expct no less when Otley Thai Bo is £3.80 a pint.

Next, the serious drinking begins...

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Galaxy

This is the second in Brewdog’s series of IPA is Dead single hop beers. As all the basics remain the same as the first beer, I’ll skip right into the review. Galaxy is an Australian hop that is a relative newcomer to these shores. It’s got strong characteristics that when added late in the boil produces a Citra like effect, but with more passion fruit. It’s certainly been put to good use by some brewers, but what’s it like on its own?

It poured amber with little carbonation and a small off-white head. The aroma was pine resinous heavy with a little tropical fruit peeking through. The mouthfeel was quite heavy; with pine and a lot of astringent bitterness. If Motueka tickled your tongue and cleansed the palate, then this battered it into submission.

This was quite disappointing. The malt backbone was totally swamped and this tasted for what it was: an experimental IPA. Astringency on this level makes for more difficult drinking than one should expect. Interesting, but not great for a single hop IPA and clearly second division when compared to Motueka.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Marstons Ale Shandy

This attempt at conquering the sub 3% beer market promises to be a “tasty and refreshing blend of traditionally brewed pale ale and lemonade”. It also recommends being served chilled over ice. However, as I’m judging it as a beer, albeit a low ABV one, there will be no ice here, thanks.

It’s a 500ml bottle and poured amber with good carbonation and a tight off-white head. The aroma was lemonade with a hint of the Burton snatch. That’s sulphur to the uninitiated. Taste wise, there really isn’t much to it. It’s sweet, like lemonade made with sweetener and little trace of the pale ale element.

This probably should be served over ice as something needs to numb the one-dimensional sweetness. I can’t see many beer drinkers wanting to, or being able to, drink much of this. Thirst quenching it isn’t; you are better off sticking to straight lemonade.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

München Teil Zwei

A trip out to the Andechs Monastery is always advisable if you like your beer in unusual surroundings and with great views. A 50 minute train journey takes you to Herrsching, the end of the S8 route, and from there you have several choices. An hour’s walk uphill, a 10 minute bus ride for €2.20 or a taxi for around €15 will all get you to Kloster Andechs.

Unusually, the beer operation is self service with you buying your beer and getting a receipt to give the barman who pours your drink. They’re famous for their pork knuckles, but vegetarians beware: the cafeteria setup is not geared up for a carnivorous free diet.

If you can’t make the Kloster Andechs, you can try their beers at the Andescher am Dom in Munich. However, try to avoid it during football times as Bayern fans leave little room for anyone else. The Augustiner am Dom next door is an interesting place with one half being modern with TVs playing and the other half being traditional with a lovely upstairs snug.

The Hirschgarten is famous for its 8000 seat capacity, but if, as was the case this time, the weather confounds you; you can do worse than spend some time indoors. They have an impressive amount of beers on draught and offered up yet another variation on the traditional Pils glass.

The Weisses Bräuhaus is another must visit place. Being the Schneider Weisse brewery tap, the emphasis is naturally on wheat beer. However, they do offer Tegernsee as their default Helles option. Augustiner have a well deserved reputation for the quality of their beers-Edelstoff in particular-and have some great outlets in the city.

The Augustiner Großgaststätte is in the pedestrianised centre of the city and is Augustiner’s flagship pub. A rare example of German Art Nouveau grandeur, service and beer are both excellent here. The Augustiner Keller is famous for its outdoor barbecuing and superb beer garden. However, the cellar bar here is worth a visit of its own. And finally, the Augustiner Bräustuben-the brewery tap-has to be visited, if just for the atmosphere.

Of the rest; the Paulaner brewery tap on Hochstraße is a very modern new build. Also a new build, but much pubbier and atmospheric is the Paulaner Bräuhaus at Kapuzinerplatz. This is where Eugen and Ludwig Thomas started brewing in 1889 and the shiny new glistening kettles produce Thomas Zwickl beers. The zwickl, by the way, is the tap that brewers draw the beer from to test it.

You can also try the Lowenbrau brewery tap on Nymphenburger Straße. If you’re sensible, you’ll stick to the Helles or the hoppier Urtyp. If you’re not, you’ll plump for the dark and daring Triumphator. At 7.6% it’s got to be drunk by the litre, obviously.
There are plenty of other decent places to lose your money and senses in throughout Munich. And there’s also some thriving wine bars, if you fancy a change. At the airport, the Airbrau is worth a look. Their beers are the cheapest in Munich, but their “hoppy” Helles isn’t and their “very hoppy” Pils isn’t either.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

München Teil Eins

München may only be the third largest city in Germany, but it seems like the busiest. Its motto is München mag Dich, literally “Munich likes you” and people do seem to like it back. Everywhere you look, people are stuffing their face with food and drink. Not an easy task when many places are charging €4.30 for a half litre drink.

Really it’s a month or so too early to visit Munich. Ideally, you want the sunshine and their legendary beer gardens. But it is legal to sit inside a Munich pub and, without the lure of al fresco drinking to distract us, more ground was covered. In fact, all the desired stops were ticked off, save for Tegernsee which is best saved for summer.

Transport is great; with tickets that take in the underground, the overground, buses and trams and all available cheaply for groups of up to 6 people. Then there is walking, which is a great way to see some of the impressive sights and history of the city. And it’s also compulsory when out on the piss with Eddie, the eager, legal beagle.

Unfortunately, and surprisingly, the Braustuberl zum Spaten-the Spaten brewery tap was closed and up for lease, and the Spatenhaus an der Oper on Residenzstraße, flatly refused to admit us unless we were dining. Which, of course, being English we weren’t. But apart from that, we didn’t have any problems.
The Hofbräuhaus has to be visited if you’re a Munich virgin and having taken Don Ricardo there, we all awaited his verdict with baited breath. Carefully mulling his Dunkel over, he gave his measured judgement: “it’s shite”. So another satisfied customer there.

Far better is Wirtshaus Ayingers which sits in the shadow of the Hofbräuhaus, directly opposite. They have a good range of draught Ayinger beers and the place has a modern, chilled-out vibe. We managed to see the locals off in here until we were gently reminded that even Germans have homes to go to.

I can’t say I’m struck by the Hacker Pschorr interpretation of Helles. A little sharp for my palate and their prices are at the top end, even for Munich. However, they do have some excellent pubs. The Hackerhaus is an olde-worlde sprawling mass of wood panelled rooms; while Der Pschorr, off the Viktualienmarkt, is modern and bustling.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Motueka

I fancy some IPAs today. So what better way to kick start the day than with Brewdog’s Motueka. This is part of their IPA is Dead series. Basically they take the same malt backbone and the same finishing level of bitterness: 75 IBUs, but just use one hop. So this is all kettle hopped (hops added at the beginning) and dry hopped (late addition) with Motueka hops.  

I like Motueka hops. Well, actually I like all hops, but that’s beside the point. Motueka is a great New Zealand aroma hop and has been put to excellent use by brewers such as Wigan’s very own Allgates. So I was looking forward to seeing what Brewdog could do with it.

It’s the typical 330ml Brewdog size and is 6.7% by alcohol. It poured clear amber with good carbonation and an off-white head. The aroma was grassy and some of that tropical fruit which is always good. The body was quite light and the alcoholic content was well hidden.

Taste wise; you get the classic citrus kick with a nice tang of melon thrown in. There’s a medium level of bitterness that leads to dryness at the back of the throat: always a good sign. I was curious as to how Motueka would fair on its own and it’s worked really well. Definitely one to try again.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Name and Shame A Drunk Day

The latest bright idea on how to tackle the country’s “out of control” drinking problem is to name and shame so-called binge drinkers. Yes, the solution to the menace of modern drinking is to have offenders pictured in the Monday papers as atonement for their weekend of excess.

Who has come up with this light bulb moment? Step forward national treasure Ann Widdecombe. Being a national treasure possibly explains the media’s interest in the story and why some other numpties have jumped on the bandwagon.

Taking part in a Radio 5 Live documentary about Britain’s attitude to drink; she accompanied a group of 20-something women on a typical Friday night out. Whoever thought of sending out the 64-year-old teetotaller and professional virgin on such a mission was either an idiot or a genius. Depending on your appreciation of comedic value.

Either way, the result was never going to be in doubt. Miss Widdecombe was shocked. She was shocked by the number of young professionals, particularly women, who think it acceptable to drink themselves into oblivion on Friday and Saturday nights.

And some of the sights were indeed shocking. She describes seeing scantily clad women staggering along in 6in heels, falling over and some were actually sick. It’s no wonder that: “Town centres are off limits for families and moderate drinkers, who feel intimidated by drunken revellers and worried about potential violence.”

But hold on. Isn’t she supposed to politically believe in self-determinism? And isn’t the fact that these professionals-which include teachers and scientists-are able to hold down responsible jobs and be useful members of society proof that they aren’t “out of control”? And what exactly is “binge drinking”?

It appears that Miss Widdecombe holds no truck with such arguments. She wants public drunkenness to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving or smoking. And arresting these drunks and printing their details in the newspapers would “bring back the concept of shame” for public drunkenness, she argued.

What next? Crimewatch’s rogue gallery to feature Mr/Ms X for consuming more than the recommended daily alcohol unit allowance? Anyway, I’m packing my high heels away, lest I’m featured on the front page of the Daily Mail. Again.

Drunk Again: Ann Widdecombe Investigates is on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday 23rd April at 10pm

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Time finally called at the Flying Shuttle

Some pub closures are sad. Some are inevitable. And some are, well, just for the best. So it seems with the closure of the Flying Shuttle on Highfield Road in Farnworth, Bolton. Now I know quite a few pubs in the area, but it seems I’ve missed out on visiting this little gem. Or perhaps not, as it’s been branded “Britain’s roughest pub”.

To be fair, there may be grounds for such a bold claim. It appears that the FS was the kind of pub that the Good Beer Guide might euphemistically describe as “lively” and with a “mixed clientele”. Which translates to rough and full of knobheads in the Queen’s English.

When police raided the premises at 0030, the 13 officers were outnumbered 4-1 and the raid leader, Sgt Knight said: “We took 13 officers with us and we still did not feel safe in that pub”. This follows an earlier visit in February when police found customers still being served at 2.45am as staff were too frightened to call time.

Mind you, it looks like the locals weren’t actually buying that much on the premises, as the police found plastic bottles and cans filled with booze that people had brought in. That and the presence of cocaine residue, cannabis and a broken pool cue sharpened as a weapon.

Licensing officer PC Garry Lee told councillors on Bolton Licensing Committee: 'Not even John Wayne could sort out the problems there at the moment.” The pub’s owners Spirit couldn’t really argue with that. Their solicitor, Matthew Phipps, said: “We are extremely sorry to be here and sorry about the circumstances in which we have been called.”

However, the subsequent decision to close the pub has not gone down well with everyone. Disgruntled ex-punters, in scenes reminiscent of TV programme Shameless, started several fires around the pub; including an incredible eight in one evening. Three men have subsequently been arrested on suspicion of arson.

So is there a future for a pub where, according to one local, “if you didn’t get your teeth knocked in, it was considered a good night”? Well, according to some reports there are parties interested in reopening it as a pub. Watch out for Le Flying Shuttle: Farnworth’s first gastropub.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Tolly Cobbold & Marstons Pale

Today I’m attempting something I’ve never done before. I’m doing a double breakfast beer tasting. Now I know what you’re thinking; don’t do it, you crazy romantic fool, it’s not worth it. But fear not, dear reader, I’m taking the low abv route today. I’m seeing just how low you can really go. Bring on the 2.8% thirst quenchers.

Tolly Cobbold English Ale
Of course, this isn’t really Tolly Cobbold, but our dear friends at Greene King trying to cash in on a bygone name. Now they’ve been brewing (in my opinion only, of course, it’s all subjective, blah, blah)) cack beer for years, so a 2.8% pisswater blend shouldn’t be beyond them.

It’s 500ml and poured with good carbonation and a medium off-white head. A traditional amber in colour, the aroma was reminiscent of shandy. As was the taste that slightly pricked the tongue with a little bread dough tingle and then dies off.

Not as bad as I feared, but the monochrome shandy effect-like the beer-wears thin after awhile. I can only see this as a distress purchase for any serious drinker as it fails to deliver on any level of the taste spectrum.

Marstons Pale Ale
This is 500ml and is described as a “light and refreshing pale golden ale.” Well it poured amber with gentle carbonation and an off-white head. The aroma was significant in its absence; as was any great discernible flavour in the beer itself. Slightly soapy in nature, this was more like watered down shandy than a real beer. In fact, the blandness of it made the mediocrity of the Tolly Cobbold seem almost appealing.

So, a win for Greene King today, but I won’t be rushing out to get a crate of it in.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Weekend in the Lake District: Part Two

Broughton Mills
The Blacksmiths Arms is a CAMRA National Inventory pub. Its slate flagged floors and oak beams conjure up days gone by. However, alongside the dreaded Dent were two beers that were either yeasty or, in the second case, metallic.

Broughton In Furness
A nice compact pub crawl is possible here, accompanied by a visit to the excellent bakers. Just be aware of potential pie pinchers. The GBG Manor Arms had by far the best choice, with the only criticism being that, in a small pub of that size, the pool table was wasted seating space.

The Prince of Wales is a very busy pub as punters come and go via the railway station across the road. The pub is ok, but their own beers were a bit amateurish for my palate.

The Brown Horse Inn was another cracking brewpub. All the Winster Valley Brewery beers packed a lot of flavour into sub 4% strengths. I eventually settled for Hurdler, a fruity little 3.5% with enough hop bite to make it the perfect beer garden accompaniment.

Another architecturally impressive pub, the White Hart is a slate flagged 17th century coaching inn, complete with a wood-burning stove. Loweswater Gold was the order of the day here.

The last pub of the trip was another excellent stop. Punch had given up on the Derby Arms but, as often seems to be the case, once out of their bungling hands, it thrived. A lovely pub with some good food served quickly. And the Hawkshead Bitter wasn’t too shabby, either.

So, a very successful trip overall. Memorable for some great pubs, Stopwatch Sid flying solo, and a dodgy late night curry.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Weekend in the Lake District: Part One

Last weekend saw the passport holding members of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury CAMRA spend a long weekend in the Lake District. Now the LD is a funny place; there are no tripe mines and no black pudding trees. But there is some stunning scenery and some great pubs. Unfortunately some are very difficult to navigate by coach and some are just impossible.

Been here a few times over the years and although it’s a convenient base, it’s basically a one-horse, tourist trap. I was warned that the Queens is considered a little rough and certainly the presence of Dent on the bar was enough to send me scuttling away.

The Oakthorpe had a very limited selection, but the Grey Walls proved more fruitful. They had Theakstons Best, Old Peculiar and Old Rosie cider on. But the pick of the bunch here were the beers from Pennine Brewery in Batley, Their Real Blonde was an easy drinking, fruity session beer which, according to the pumpclip, contains 2.27 units of alcohol per pint.

The Good Beer Guide listed Elleray was my pick of the pubs. It offered a comfortable and pleasant drinking environment, decent food and, most importantly, some very well kept beer. Interestingly, for price-watchers, the Loweswater Gold here was £3.15 as compared to £3.40 in the Oast House in Manchester.

Not much more can be said about here than others have already said. Home to the fantastic Hawkshead Brewery, it’s a must visit when in the area. Friday afternoon was mainly spent supping the various Hawkshead delights, where Alex, Matt and Anne made us feel right at home-i.e. pissed.

Staveley is also home to the GBG listed Eagle & Child which is definitely worth a visit of its own. Windermere is only five minutes away by train, but be warned, it’s easier to get a train there than it is to get one back. Legend has it that there is also a bus.

A lot of pubs here, but not that much choice. Still, some decent Coniston and Hawkshead beers to be had, if you know where to look. Albeit it at tourist prices. Yet again, the GBG delivered the goods, with the Royal Oak being the best in town.

Ah, the famous Watermill Inn. Once renowned for the breadth of its beer range. Then it became a brewpub and now the bar groans with their own beer which ranged from yeasty to mediocre. Too many pumps and not enough quality control; as even the guest beers seemed tired.

You can get the bus from Windermere here, but there isn’t much to detain you for long.

Nether Wasdale
Very picturesque, remote, area that surprisingly boasts two pubs opposite each other. The Screes Inn is sadly no longer a free house as it has been bought by Robinsons. However, the Strands Hotel more than makes up for it.

Not only is the Strands a fine looking boozer, but it’s very well run by an enthusiastic and welcoming landlord/brewer. The Strands beers themselves were excellent; not a trace of homebrew here. Despite its location, the pub sells a lot of beer, with drinkers preferring darker beers. The Dark Mild just edged a tough choice for best beer, with its flavour-packed 2.7% winning rave reviews from everyone who tried it.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Winnners and Losers at the Hare & Hounds

Well the tables have been wiped and the slop buckets emptied. Yes, yesterday saw the final day of the first Hare & Hounds beer festival of this year. The unseasonably good weather we had on the first weekend certainly helped as the pub was even busier than usual. With over a hundred beers flying out in the first few days, there were fears of a beer drought, but thanks to good planning, that never came to pass. So well done to Andy & Lynne and all the team there.

How was it for you? Well, it was an unashamed tickers fest. Even more so after the initial beer rush led to many beers appearing that were not on the official list. Which left many tickers caught between sexual arousal and despair as they feared they may be miss out on a crucial tick.

For the rest of us, these events usually mean plotting a course carefully between trusted breweries and the unknown depths. The first part was easy, but with so many new ones appearing, the second wasn't so easy. There were a few more than usual of the pale, but still malty, beers and a few of the boring and brown type, but still plenty to enjoy. Some of the Milds and Stouts were particularly good.

Winners: Rather predictable, but it’s hard to see beyond the quality of Mallinsons. All five of theirs were very good, indeed, with Stella and Summit perhaps just edging it as the best two.

Losers: DB Brewery of Runcorn. Not sure if they hadn’t cleaned the mash tun out or whether they were supposed to taste something like unfermented Greenalls.