About Me

My photo
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

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: London Fields Unfiltered Lager

We’re sticking with the London connection today with another beer from London Fields. This time, though, it’s lager. But put that lynching rope away, it’s proper, unfiltered lager. See, in 2013, even CAMRA types can embrace the modern British lager.  

It’s 330ml and comes in at 4.3%. It was lively in the pour and settled to be hazy orange with a large, fluffy white head. The aroma was slightly herbal-grassy with a touch of malt. The mouthfeel was quite soft with a good malt backbone, a little bittersweet initially and then a surprising astringent finish.

Tyson says: I enjoyed this. It’s  not bad at all. Quite well balanced, but enough bitterness in the finish to tempt you to have another.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Return of the Macc Lads

Having followed the yellow brick road to Stockport last week, the logical next step was to go one stop further on the train and explore Macclesfield. Well, ok, there was nothing logical about it, engineering works had put paid to our original destination and the planning committee’s denouement was Macclesfield. After all, we had enjoyed a good afternoon there nearly a year ago. But would history repeat itself?

First stop had to be the Waters Green near to the station. It keeps funny hours (closes at 3 on Sat) but has been consistent over the years in serving a well kept pint. Today was no different with Allgates California and Oakham Inferno proving excellent choices. A quick trip over to the other side of the railway tracks brought us to another long-standing Good Beer Guide entry: the Baths Hotel.

However, things are afoot here. It’s undergoing a makeover and is now firmly in the contemporary camp with wooden flooring and large screen televisions. Whilst it’s always a shame to see a pub knocked about, if it does give it a new lease of life and bring the punters in, all good and well. The most important thing is that it’s still a freehouse, although you’ll always find local brewery 
Storm on the bar.

Next up was the Wharf on Brook St. This is another Macc favourite that offers a pleasant little drinking area round the back. Last time we called, the Marble had just ran out, but this time there was no such problem and we were soon sat enjoying a rare al fresco pint. It was down the side streets and backstreets, making sure we didn’t lose Uncle Albert on the way, to our next port of call, the Macc.

The Macc was once a moribund Holts pub before the people behind Manchester’s Knott took it under their wing. Again it now has a pleasant, contemporary feel and has blossomed with the introduction of a wide range of cask and keg beers. Pictish Apollo was tried here before a breakaway faction made for the fish and chip shop across the street. Here the fish was adjudged to be more likely Catfish than Cod.

A new one for us all was the Park Tavern. This is owned by the Bollington brewery who have furnished it comfortably, but have maintained a traditional layout with the bar on the right as you walk in. There’s a good selection of their own beers-all in good order-plus the odd guest beer/cider. But time and beer wait for no man, so it was a stroll into town for our final stop, the Treacle Tap.

The TT is yet another Macc favourite. Basically a narrow one-roomed bar, anyone familiar with the Pi chain will recognise the format. Very much at the heart of things, it’s the kind of bar that Bury town centre could do with. Although, could the Yates wine lodge crew handle it? Anyway, there was something of a split here, with some opting for a finale of 7% Stout.

Except, of course, it wasn’t the finale. We couldn’t come to Macc without making a detour to the historic Castle on Church St. This is a real cracker, splendidly described here. It was sad to see such a gem completely empty on a Saturday night, although the Merlin Avalon we had was perfectly fine.

It was most definitely train time by now and then, with Don Ricardo crying off in more need of curry than further beer; it was left to the rump to make the pilgrimage to Port Street Beer House for some Brodies Kiwi and Oakham Scarlet Macaw.

The Macclesfield triangle, as it’s known, has plenty of good pubs on offer and, at only 20 minutes from Manchester, is ideally placed for a crawl. And, if you’re lucky, the conductor won’t bother you on the journey. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

There is still time

To get yourself over to the Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook for the country’s biggest pub festival. If you haven’t been yet, you’ve missed some crackers, but there’s still this weekend to go. And with 40 beers (sparkler on, naturally) and ciders all served via handpull straight from the cellar, there’s not going to be a problem with choice or quality. 

Breakfast Beer Tasting: London Fields Pale Ale

This morning sees me kick off the weekend with one of my favourite styles: Pale Ale. These went from being something of a redundant style some years back to being reinvented along American lines with the addition of more, and unusual, hops. This contains Galaxy hops from Tasmania, so it shouldn’t be dull.

It’s a bottle-conditioned 500ml and bucks the trend for upping the alcohol by coming in at only 3.9%. It poured an attractive burnished gold with good carbonation and a large, white head. The bouquet was malt-fruit; some biscuit malt with distinct citrus notes.

The body was light with good, crisp citrus and passion fruit flavours coming through. There’s a good level of bitterness that stings the inside of the cheek and leads to a satisfyingly dry finish. This is a refreshing, easy-drinker that will satisfy your hop cravings.

Tyson says: A tasty treat courtesy of the land down under. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Kernel@Brewdog Manchester

Tuesday saw a very special meet the brewer event take place at Brewdog Manchester. There was a tap take over by Bermondsey’s very own Kernel brewery. Of course, Kernel stand in the premier league of craft brewing in the UK and so a chance to meet the man behind their success, Evin O'Riordain, was too good an opportunity to miss. There were Twitterers, bloggers, people you hadn’t heard of (hello fanboy58) and the odd person just popping in randomly.

It was great to finally meet Evin and have a bit of a chat. Of course, there were beers to be drunk.

I thought Mosaic (everyone’s favourite Citra substitute) was the best, followed by the London Sour. The Table Beer, previously a favourite, suffered a little at its new, reduced strength.

But man does not live by keg alone, so after four hours of Brewdog, it was time to sharpen the palate with some cask at Port St Beer House. And what a choice there was. Not a bad one in the whole line up. Arbpr, Dark Star and Summer Wine. Yes, please. But Jack & Jill do not live by draft alone, so bottles of Partizan were duly ordered. It seems however hard you try, you cannot escape the lure of Bermondsey. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A Little Stockport Stagger(TM) Swagger

This was going to be a tale of just one night’s adventure into the Twilight Zone. But, with a repeat performance on Saturday, the scene was set for a direct comparison of differing nights. It all started last Wednesday; the CAMRA lads were getting restless. There is, after all, only so much CAMRA related stuff you can discuss: where is the best place to get your beard trimmed, who has the best sandals, that kind of thing.

Less talk, more action was the plea. What about a stroll to the land where beer flows down the streets and the CAMRA chairman spends more time in Belgium than Tintin. Yes, we are of course referring to Stockport. Easily accessible by train, bus, unicycle or hovercraft, it’s got a very strong run of pubs on the Wellington Road North side of town.

Our first stop-the Hope-was of particular interest as it was our first visit since it had reopened as a brewpub. And very impressive it is, too, with both Wednesday and Saturday parties giving it the seal of approval. A smart, traditional layout gives us a vault on the left and a lounge to the right. Of course, beer is key and there is no shortage here. Their own Fool Hardy ales are not your average run-of-the-mill brewpub stuff and there are some good guests as well.

The next stop, the Railway, is another traditionally laid out pub that has been very dependable in recent times. Sadly, this was not the case on these visits. Wednesday saw quite a few punters in playing darts etc (they like their pub games in Stockport) but the beer situation wasn’t looking so good. Two beers ran out before they could be poured, leaving one beer that was vinegar and a watery pint of Holts. Saturday saw tumbleweeds blowing through the place and, bearing in mind Wednesday’s performance, a beer choice that didn’t entice us to risk any of them.

Beer choice and quality are seemingly never an issue in the Magnet; this famous free house offers some 13 beers for your delectation. Wednesday saw Titanic Iceberg and the mighty Quantum Citra Centennial IPA (8.1%) hit the spot. Saturday saw an even better line up with Ossett White Rabbit for starters and some sublime, hoptastic Brodies beers for the main course.

Next up: a new one on the Wellington Road North circuit. I can’t recall going in the George before, so it must have been down and out for awhile. However, that’s all changed now. A large, open-plan, interior that caters for sports viewing is possibly not for the purists. But the beer range is something rather special. A near complete line-up of Timothy Taylor beers is unheard of this side of Yorkshire and the bar staff were very friendly. Beer quality was good and with Boltmaker at £2, we had no complaints.

That just left the Pineapple and the Crown. The Pineapple, an excellent Robinsons house, was very busy with darts-playing ladies who warned us off our proposed detour to the Fairway as, according to them, beer choice was somewhat pedestrianThe Crown on Heaton Lane really should need no introduction. But for those of you too lazy to Google, suffice it to say that this long -established free house is another must visit for anyone contemplating a Stockport swagger. Saturday night saw the added attraction of some ukulele playing which proved very popular. Or was that just the Oakham Citra taking effect? 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Moncada Notting Hill Amber

Another day, another new brewery to face the breakfast beer test. Moncada, from West London, count on all fronts as, although I’ve heard of them, I’ve never come across them in cask, let alone in bottle. They are part of the controversial, so-called natural beer movement, which does not believe in using finings to keep their beer clear. Hmmm. Looks like once more I must dive, without a safety net, into the unknown.

It’s a bottle-conditioned 500ml and, although I was told this was 4.9%, the bottle clearly says 4.7%. It poured hazy amber with good carbonation and a medium off-white head. The aroma was pleasant: malt/toffee, apricot and a little grapefruit. A solid malt backbone anchored the flavour to red fruit, some spice and grapefruit and finishes on a decent bitter note. Amber ales are very easy to get wrong, but this is a well-balanced, excellent example of the style.

Tyson says: Forget the finings debate, this Amber ale is a tasty treat 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Wild Beer Scarlet Fever

A little excitement at the Tyson kennel this morning as Wild Beer finally came up in the beer lucky dip draw. You can read about their approach to all things beery here. I’ve been wanting to put them to the breakfast test for some time so, without further ado, let’s have it.

It’s a 33cl bottle and comes in at 4.8%. It’s billed as a ruby-red ale, but poured more of a hazy amber/brown with good carbonation and a modest beige head. The aroma was quite deep: a pleasant mix of caramel, brown sugar and lots of C hops.

It was surprisingly light on the mouthfeel and went down very easily. There’s a good mash-up of malt, toffee, dark berries, a little pine and, oh yes, a good blast of citrus flavour that lasts into the moderately dry finish.

Tyson says: Worth the wait. A very tasty and satisfying brew. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: La Socarrada

First, the important disclaimer. Today’s breakfast beer treat comes courtesy of the kind folks at ultracomida. They are the exclusive distributors for La Socarrada; a Spanish craft lager originating from Xativa-Valencia. The distinguishing feature here is that it’s made with rosemary and rosemary honey. Now I like a bit of rosemary on my pizza or a pinch with some cheese, so was looking forward to trying this.

It’s a big boy: 75cl and 6% and comes in a stylish, minimalist design with just a gold label attached to give any clues to its contents. Full marks for design, then. It poured a hazy amber with good carbonation and a healthy white froth on top. The aroma was promising; a little herbal with ginger spice and some rosemary.

The beer was medium-bodied and hid the strength well. Initially it seemed herbal in nature, rather sweet followed by a pepperiness. However, the rosemary soon takes hold, followed by another wave of rosemary and then more rosemary. There is something of a bittering finish, but it’s quickly replaced with, yes you guessed it, rosemary.

This beer can be summed up in one word: ROSEMARY. I like rosemary but here it completely overwhelms the malt and everything else. This is definitely a specialist beer. Interesting, yes, but although it may be a good match for pork dishes or something of a similar nature, it’s just too much on its own.

Tyson says: Too much rosemary for this beerhound. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Oh Sunny Day

Spring has sprung. The clocks have gone forward. A young man’s fancy turns to women beer. We have bright sunny skies and warm weather...well almost.  Am I setting the scene for you? Because today we have a premium Bitter that should be ideal for this time of year. Now I’ve had this on cask in Ramsbottom, so once again was looking forward to trying the bottled version.

It’s 4.6% and, as usual for RCB, comes in 500ml bottle-conditioned form. It poured straw in colour with minimum carbonation and the merest hint of any head. There wasn’t much in the aroma, but I did detect some sweet malt. The body was light, with a very mellow flavour. The pale malt is balanced by a little bitterness that last through to the bitter-sweet finish.

I enjoyed this on cask and while the bottled version doesn’t quite replicate that experience, this is still a pleasant drop.

Tyson says: A well-balanced, easy-drinking premium Bitter. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Bolton Beer Festival

This weekend sees the welcome return of Bolton Beer Festival after too long an absence. Organised by Bolton CAMRA, this year’s event had a promising start last night and hopes are high that it will prove a resounding success. There is still plenty of time-and beer-for people to come along. All necessary info is to be found on the poster on the left. Held at Bolton Ukrainian Club, the venue is easily accessible by public transport. Guys and gals coming from Bury should get the 471 Rochdale-Bolton bus and get off on Bradford St straight after the Esso/Tesco Express on the left. It's then just a short walk to turn left into Castle St and you'll find the, rather impressive, club on your left. Good hunting. 

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB My Precious

The beginning of the end of the working week and what better way to celebrate than with a Pale Ale? Well, what about a premium Pale Ale? Because that’s what we have this morning. Ringers (the in-term for Lord of the Rings fans) will recognise the allusion to Gollum immediately, but it is, of course, all about the beer.

This comes in the now familiar Ramsbottom Craft Brewery 500ml bottle and is a bottle-conditioned 5.3%. It poured with an appealing golden hue, good carbonation and a thin off-white head. The aroma was a light, but pleasant mix of malt and orchard fruit.

The beer itself was medium bodied and hid the alcohol well. There was a crisp biscuit malt backbone with juicy fruit tones, a little spice and a very pleasing dry finish. Crisp, refreshing and moreish. Very satisfying, it has to be said.

Tyson says: Does what it says on the tin. I’d like to try this on cask. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Hit & Miss

The miss of the Easter weekend? The beer festival at the Fishermans Retreat near Ramsbottom. Having not held such an event for some time, expectations were high. Although always on the very expensive side for food-gastro with a capital G, and beer, quality has never been a problem. And there are still fond memories of their old festival in a marquee and its row of handpumps. Ok, the event wasn’t well publicised, but a pub of this standing-well any pub really, with time and equipment at its disposal, should put on a good show. However, the beer on opening night had clearly been tapped too late in the day. And at £3.50 a pint, that is completely unacceptable.

However, our Easter weekend disappointment was eased by a visit to the newly opened Font bar in Chorlton. Situated opposite the leisure centre and just up from the likes of Pi and the Beagle, this is a welcome addition to the Manchester drinking scene. Its interior is reminiscent of the TARDIS and whilst it’s clearly still a work in progress; it’s clearly hit the floor running with the beer selection. A very impressive list of cask, keg and bottle (Partizan, anyone) that will bring out your inner beer geek. And a generous 25% discount for CAMRA members makes it better value than Wetherspoon! 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tuesday Quality Control

Life’s all about variables. And so it is with life, so it is with pubs. At the weekend, when the place is buzzing and the ale is flowing, the Blue Parrot may seem the greatest thing since squeezy ketchup bottles. However, visit it later in the week and the choice and quality may not be as good. It’s what we here in these parts call the Tuesday night test. So called because there’s a tradition of visiting hostels on, yes, a Tuesday night. And yes, there are hostels being visited as I scribble this.

However, last week saw something a little different: a rare foray into the twilight zone of daytime drinking by Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. He thought it would stand him in good stead for later in life. After all, a retired solicitor can’t spend all his time on the golf course, can he? But first there was the small matter of wangling some time off. As a valued associate at Sue, Grabbit and Runne, any absence would surely be noted. The solution: grab a lady’s mannequin, put tweed slacks on her, a little costume jewellery and a deerstalker, and no one will be the wiser.

Our journey began at Cask on Liverpool Road. We called in here specifically to try the new Pictish seasonal: Amphora. Richard Sutton at Pictish has been quietly producing some of the best beer around for some 13 years now and is one of the unsung pioneers of single hop beers. This one, probably due to the inclusion of Saaz, is a mellow affair, but like all Pictish beers, very quaffable.

Our next stop-Knott-can usually be relied upon for some tasty treats and it didn’t let us down on this occasion. There was the refreshing Adnams Kristal White Ale and the even more refreshing Castle Rock Pale; which was in the best condition I’ve ever had it. But the pick of the bunch was undoubtedly Twin Peaks: the 5% collaboration between Thornbridge and Sierra Nevada. At £5 a pint, it had to deliver. And it did. Crisp citrus flavours, lemon and grass and the pine kick that you want from an American Pale Ale. A class act.

Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for Partners Pure Gold in the Britons Protection. Now there are a lot of “Gold” or “Golden” beers around and the first thing you notice is that they aren’t golden at all. So it was with this. Hmmm. And, although they are obviously trying to imply certain characteristics, these so-called “golden” beers are often found lacking. So it was with this. Not surprising, perhaps, at only 3.5%, but a weak body was overwhelmed by the use of four different malts. Quite unpleasant, really.

No such problems at the Font on New Wakefield St. This has really built itself up over the years and is now one of the top beer destinations in the city centre. With the 25% off for CAMRA members, we were laughing into our wallets with some delicious Thornbridge KiplingBut man does not live by cask alone. Spying some lesser-spotted Arbor beers in the fridge, we had no option but to try them. At £5.50 a pop for 3.8% and 4.4% respectively, it may have been sensible to share a bottle each. However, we’re nothing if not sensible, and so we were soon each tucking into bottles of Hoptical Delusion and Man v Beer. Both beautiful, unfiltered, hop heaven.

Somewhat giddy with hop fever, we made our way to the Salutation. This gem really is tucked away but has been catering to the student population since Moses was a boy. It’s had a few changes over the years since I used to prop up the bar, but its latest is the best yet. It seems to be modelled on an Islington pub and is now a comfortable, smart pub with a good range of craft beers. Recommended.

With most students in hibernation, it’s perhaps not surprising that the last two were disappointing. The Sandbar was quiet and the beer under par, whilst the Joshua Brooks fell at the first hurdle: beer choice. Day had turned into late evening by now, but we still managed some whisky on home turf in the Art Picture House before settling down for an excellent Asha curry.

As for Eddie: his bosses commended him the next day for his most productive Tuesday ever.