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Showing posts from March, 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Lightless IPA

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We’re sticking with the local theme today. But this time RCB are transporting us all the way across the Atlantic for a Ramsbottom take on an American classic. This is a Black IPA-Lightless, geddit? Now you may be thinking, so what-plenty of them around. Even though, that would make it the first locally produced one. But no, this is a very special Black IPA. It’s only 3.9%. Yes, you read that correctly. All the taste, without the alcohol. Well, that’s the theory, but does it work in practice?
It comes in 500ml, bottle-conditioned, form and poured near black with reasonable carbonation and the merest trace of a beige head. The nose was promising: unmistakable dark fruits and, oh yes, those famous “C” hops. The body was light and just avoids being too thin; always a danger at this strength. The good news is that there is plenty of flavour. Citrus tones come through strongly with maybe a little blackberry before a satisfyingly hopped finish.
At this strength, there’s no malt backbone to sp…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Viennese Twirl

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RCB are getting well known for their interpretations of a wide range of beer styles. So, once again, today we are transported across the EU for this twist, or should that be twirl, on an Austrian theme.  I’m guessing that, by specifically referencing Vienna, they are trying to capture some of that old Viennese magic.
Regulars will have by now guessed that its 500ml and is bottle-conditioned. It’s also just creeps under the 5% barrier at 4.9%. It was very lively and poured a reddish-brown with a large, beige head. On the nose there was a little caramel and sweet malt. It’s a medium bodied beer with various notes of toasted malt, some fruit and a little residual sweetness.
Tyson says: Pleasant enough, but a little bit dull by RCB's standards.

When It's Springtime In Alaska Manchester (It's 40 Below)

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It’s Saturday. We should be at Magic Rock. We should be in Huddersfield, imbibing at the Grove. We’ve had our vaccinations and our passports stamped. But, alas, it was not to be. That darn Yorkshire weather had beaten us. For the first time, ever, a CAMRA trip had to be cancelled.
What to do? There were people literally besides themselves with alcoholic lust after depriving themselves of God’s greatest gift during the week. Of course, I hadn’t made such a schoolboy error, but always willing to help those worse off than myself, I was willing to go along to help them sate their basic needs.
Manchester was the designated alternative trip. And what a lovely, fresh day it was. Cold, some might even say. Cold enough for a Scotsman like Tandleman to wrap up in his trendy, warm Ben Sherman coat that he bought for 2 farthings. Beer wise: the Marble Arch offered an indifferent Pint and a strangely off-form Liverpool Organic Iron Men. However, the Draft was, as usual, excellent.
Liverpool Organic

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Rammy Ale

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It’s back to local beer this morning and hopefully something more palatable than yesterday’s disappointment. Actually, I recently had Rammy Ale, on cask, at the Hearth of the Ram in Ramsbottom and enjoyed it. So the temptation to try the bottled version was too great.
It’s, as usual with RCB, a 500ml, bottle-conditioned little number and this one is a straight-down-the-middle session strength 4.1%. It poured light amber with good carbonation and a medium off-white head. On the nose there was a little malt and some sweet fruit.
It’s a light-bodied beer with a nice, smooth mouthfeel. Smooth, but not tasteless. It’s a well balanced, clean tasting session beer. There’s some juicy malt combined with garden fruits that leads to a bitter-sweet aftertaste. Recalling the cask version, I’d say this is very good attempt at recreating that beer.
Tyson says: Lived up to expectations. A tasty session Bitter.

From Blue to U

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Bury town centre has been described as compact. That’s small to me and thee. So, by nature, is the real ale scene. The drinking circuit is pretty well established and has been the same for some time. Locals have long since abandoned hope that one of the last chance saloons on Silver St will transform itself into a quality beer emporium.
So it was something of a surprise to be tipped off that one of Bury’s more unbecoming bars was moving upmarket and planned to install real ale. And sure enough, the jungle drums were correct. U Bar is situated on the Rock-Silver St will have to wait a little longer for Brewdog to arrive, opposite the parish church.
If it looks familiar, that’s because it is. Long ago, it was Ronnies on the Rock, a rather smart real ale bar. Then it was Ronnies and an inexorable decline led it to being Blue Lounge and then, briefly, (spot the desperation) Red. During this time it developed a reputation for being a late night (or early morning, if you will) dive. As one …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Atlantic Discovery Red Celtic Bitter with Cinnamon & Orange

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After the last, rather disappointing, outing for a flavoured Atlantic beer, I thought I’d give them another chance. So we now have cinnamon and orange: two things that I’m not adverse to. So that bodes well. Or does it...
It’s bottle-conditioned, 330ml and comes in-to me-a surprisingly strong 5.5%. It poured dark amber with little carbonation and a small, beige head. The aroma was fairly subdued; just a hint of orange and spice.
It’s a medium-bodied beer with quite a stiff malt backbone. There’s some orange and toffee and a little spice in the background, but nowhere near as fruity as I was expecting. There’s also a little unexpected acidity that gives it a slightly unpleasant astringent aftertaste.
This was created to be drunk with dark pheasant and other game and may work on that level. However, on its own it comes across as a very strong bitter with only hints of what it promises. Quite disappointing.
Tyson says: Where’s the orange and cinnamon?

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Chocolate Porter

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Today we go to the dark, comforting, side with a Chocolate Porter. But first, a few words about RCB’s labels. They’ve really come on and now contain detailed information with a bitter/sweet rating, RAIB logo and even how much you get back for returning it for recycling. All in all, a very professional job.
This is a bottle-conditioned, 500ml, beer and weighs in at a premium Bitter strength of 4.4%. It poured a dark, dare I say chocolate, brown with decent carbonation and a medium tan head. The aroma was pleasing enough: very chocolate rich, with a little roast thrown in for good measure.
Medium bodied in nature, the beer itself had similar chocolate notes as the aroma, but also sweet malt and molasses. I was expecting this to be sweeter, but the chocolate segment was nicely balanced by a dryness that made it clear that is this indeed a Porter. Albeit a Chocolate-Porter.
Tyson says: A chocolate coated twist to an old favourite.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB High Honey Tripel

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This morning sees a return to the dreaded honey beer, but with an even more interesting twist. They do like to play around with different yeasts at RCB and this beer is in the style of a Belgian Abbey Tripel.
It’s in 275ml, bottle conditioned, form and tips the scales at a respect-demanding 8.7%. It poured hazy amber with decent carbonation and a thin off-white head. There’s no mistaking the origins of this beer; the nose was full of sweet phenols and Belgian yeast.
The beer itself was warming and a continuation of the aroma. Phenolic tones on a medium body and a bittersweet undercurrent. It’s awhile since I’ve had a Westmalle or something of that ilk, but this Tripel, brewed in the depths of Ramsbottom, seems to have all the right characteristics.
Once again the honey is used subtly to develop alongside, rather than dominate, the other flavours. So it looks like, in the right hands, honey can work in beer.
Tyson says: If you like your beer Belgian style, forget Brussels and head for Ram…

Hawkshead Beer Festival

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Saturday night found some of the Bury CAMRA soaks, I mean beer experts, in far-off climes. Staveley in Cumbria to be precise. Why Staveley? Why for the Hawkshead beer festival, of course. Why on earth would you visit Cumbria otherwise? The setup is great; the festival is split over two floors and between two bars. I’ve not been to the Saturday evening session before and, as forecast, it was very busy. However, a good time was had by all
Highlights Allgates Mosaic: This hop seems to be doing the rounds at the moment but this is the first cask offering I’ve had. Beautiful notes of lemon, pine and tropical fruit.
Allgates Hopgate: New Zealand hops in this refreshing beauty. My tasting notes simply say “Allgates!” “Hoppy!” ‘Nuff said.
Arbor Hoptical Delusion #5: Arbor, for my money, produce the best bottled beers in the UK. And judging by this hoptastic treat, their cask beer is right up there up as well.
Arbor Triple Hop #5: A Pale Ale brewed with Galaxy, Topaz and Green Bullet. Fruity and …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Arbor Riwaka

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I had the pleasure of sampling some Arbor beers on cask at the weekend. They really are at the top of their game at the moment. And so, what better way to start a dreary Monday that with, hopefully, a guaranteed banker in terms of quality. That’s the plan, anyway.
It’s a 500ml bottle and comes bottle-conditioned and weighs in at a nice and easy 4%. It poured a good looking pale gold with excellent carbonation and a fluffy white head. On the nose there was plenty of sweetish citrus notes, tropical fruit: mango, pineapple and some grass.
The beer itself was light to medium bodied and packed full of flavour. Typically tropical, you might say. The light malt backbone was more than matched by mango, passion fruit, pineapple and a little gooseberry. The finish began fruity and became increasingly drier, eventually leaving a satisfyingly dry aftertaste.
Tyson says: Yet another stunning session beer from Arbor. Packed full of goodness, this should count as one your five-a-day.

The Thin Edge Of The CAMRA (Beer Festival) Wedge?

Leeds beer festival took place at the weekend. This is usually a must for any serious beer quaffer. Held in Pudsey Civic Hall, it offers a wide range of beers-200 this year, ciders and foreign beers. And this year, being the 20th promised extra treats such as American craft beers on draft. Normally the Bury lads would be round there like a shot and I was looking forward to joining them.
Sadly it was not to be. Why? Well this year they had a shake up and abolished halves and pints. Yep. This year it was third and two-third measures only. These are described, somewhat incongruously, as “small” and “large” measures. Of course, such terms are meaningless in the real world but I suppose add a bit of hipness to proceedings and divert attention from the lack of real measures.
Why the change? You can read the official explanation here. But for me, it doesn’t add up. And it’s particularly disappointing as it’s a CAMRA event As someone put it, with more than a touch of irony, “I bet you’re sorr…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Bumble's Ale

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Before this morning’s sampling, I have a confession to make. I don’t really like honey beers. More often than not, they are golden ales ruined by a syrupy sweetness. There are exceptions, of course, but generally they are not conducive to the hop lover or even those seeking that magical state: “balance”. With that in mind, I approached today’s treat with some trepidation.
It’s in 500ml, bottle-conditioned, form and is a session strength 4.2%. It poured hazy golden with decent carbonation and the smallest of off-white heads. The aroma was a little sweet malt evenly mixed with floral tones. Pleasingly, the beer itself was not a honey rush as feared, but instead was a well-balanced medium-bodied affair.
The taste had a biscuit malt edge overlaid with a bittersweet finish. The honey gives it a fruit-sweetness, but instead of detracting from the beer, it’s subtle enough to blend effortlessly into the mix. The grassy, floral notes help to stop this tipping over the edge and the end result is …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Atlantic Discovery Rich Cornish Porter With Blackcurrant And Molasses

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When you’re told a beer is “weird”, it tends to tickles the curiosity bone of your inner beer geek. So it was with today’s breakfast beer It certainly sounds odd, but once you’ve tried and survived a Jalapeno IPA, it’s all good clean fun.
This is a 330ml bottle, weighs in at 5.5% and comes in bottle-conditioned form. It poured Porter black with good carbonation and a small tan head. The aroma was mainly chocolate, a little coffee and (I think) black cherry.
The taste was, frankly, quite strange. There’s blackcurrant, black grape and a tangy bittersweet edge that is presumably coming from the molasses. The texture and overall experience is akin to drinking Ribena or something of that ilk.
You would be hard pressed to tell this was a Porter in a blind-tasting as, although there are roast notes in there, the dark fruit flavours throw you a curveball. It’s designed to be drank and matched with strongly flavoured food such as venison and it will probably work well with that.
Tyson says: Wort…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Sedated Monk

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How to finish the week off? What better way than with a locally brewed Belgian Dubbel? Well that’s what we have today, thanks to Matt Holmes of RCB fame. This s one of his specialty range, so don’t expect to see it in your local Tesco just yet.
It’s comes in 500ml, bottle-conditioned, form and tips the scales at a Belgian strength 7.8%. It poured dark/ruby and very lively with a large tan head. The aroma was a subtle mix; with hints of toffee, malt and some dark fruit, estery notes.
The beer itself was medium bodied and had a balance of dark berries, sweet malt and figs. There’s also phenolic notes, which I believe is characteristic of this style, and it’s warming in a burgundy way. One to be sipped whilst sat in front of the fire, I think.
Tyson says: A little too phenolic for my taste, but a good effort at this style.

No Bud Please, We're Posh

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Catching up with the international beer news, I came across an article about a very unusual licensing situation in Chicago. East Village, a sub division of the West Town district, has something of a no-go reputation as far as alcohol goes. It has some 20 liquor moratoriums in force that basically prevent the sale of packaged liquor (off-licences to us) and the opening of any new taverns. This, perhaps not unsurprisingly, has brought them into conflict with local politician, Alderman Joe Moreno who sees part of his job to encourage new businesses.
Now, in a deal brokered by Moreno, members of the East Village Association have voted 22-5 to allow Garden Gourmet Market to sell alcohol. Nothing too unusual in that, you might think. But there is an unusual stipulation. Owner Maher Farham is allowed to sell only craft beer and high-end wine. The restrictions prohibit the sale of all spirits, non-craft beers, malt brews and fortified wines.
The measures, described as “proactive” by Moreno, are…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: By The Horns Lambeth Wallk

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Keeping with the London theme, today we have another brew from one of the capital’s up and coming brewers. Founded by Chris Mills and Alex Bull, they have a 5.5BBL in Wandsworth and are starting to feature more and more on the London craft scene.
This is a 330ml bottle and is a 5.1% affair. It poured near black with good carbonation and a medium beige head. The aroma was strong roast malt, coffee and a little chocolate. The beer itself was quite silky and had roast grains, cocoa powder and acai berries in the mix.
This is a well-rounded effort with good flavours that combines a medium level of bitterness with a sweeter undercurrent. A successful first outing for BTH.
Tyson says: Silky smooth.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Partizan Columbus Cascade Bravo

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What better way to rekindle the memories of those long ago days in London than by having a Partizan beer for breakfast. This one is one of their triple combinations of hops and comes packaged in 330ml, bottle-conditioned, form and is a healthy 7.4%.
It poured a Kernelesque unclear form of red-brown with lively carbonation and a large off-white head. The aroma is tropical: mango and pineapple but slightly herbal and earthy as well. It’s medium-bodied with a good citrus kick. There’s plenty of grapefruit, mango and pine; all underpinned by a good malt backbone.
The hop tingle continues into the dry and long, bitter aftertaste. On the strong side, a la Kernel, but all handled with aplomb, as I would now expect from Partizan.
Tyson says: I don’t mind if I do.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Arbor NZ Pale Ale

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After the success of the previous Arbor Ale beer, I was delighted that the beer generator threw up another for me to sample on this rather cold Tuesday morning. It tips the scales at 4% and is a bottle-conditioned 500ml sample. It poured a nice golden-orange with decent carbonation and a small, off-white head.
The aroma was a mix of the expected tropical fruit: passion fruit, mango and citrus notes of orange and some malt. Citrus develops over the other flavours in the taste and there’s more grapefruit than anything else, but there’s also lemon and marmalade in there. The malt backbone adds rather than subtracts from the beer and the finish is a moreish, mellow dry affair.
A light-medium bodied beer that packs a lot of flavour in at a very reasonable alcohol level. Another winner from Arbor.
Tyson says: Another? I don’t mind if I do.

Crafty London

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A quick visit to that strange city of Londinium, where even Tesco closes at 11pm, at the weekend gave me and Eddie, the eager legal beagle, the chance to check up on a few places that had been flagged up as bona fide craft gold. Some were completely new to me and some were the traditional London pub reinvented.
What do you do when Kernel offers you their old brewing kit? Start a brewery, naturally. Well, that’s what Andy Smith did when he was offered Kernel’s redundant 4BBL plant. Partizan is just down the road from Kernel in Bermondsey's Almond Road and I’ve been hearing good things about them since their launch last year. Not surprising really as Andy homed his beery skills whilst working for Redemption Brewery.
They’re not ready for casking or kegging yet, but you will come across their well-designed bottles in many of London’s craft outlets. And where better than to try them than at source: the brewery is open to the public on Saturdays until 5pm. And at £2.40-£2.60 a bottle, t…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: London Fields Galaxy IPA

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Back to home waters today with an offering from London Fields who are, unsurprisingly, based in London. They’ve got a rather nice setup under the railway arches-de rigueur for craft breweries in London-and you can sample their wares at source on Saturday and Sundays.
It’s a 330ml, bottle-conditioned, package and comes in at 6%. It poured a nice, clear (for a BCA) amber with little carbonation and the smallest of off-white heads. The aroma isn’t massive but has clear elements of spicy, floral hops and a little tropical fruit. It’s medium bodied with an aggressive taste of green fruit, oranges mango and a hard mineral edge that follows into the aftertaste.
This should have been a hopheads delight. But what I’m guessing are the aggressive traits of Galaxy are to the fore and that and the mineral edge takes the shine off it.
Tyson says: Harder work than you might think.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller/To Øl Walk on Water

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It’s a rather a special breakfast beer today. It’s that much loved pastime of brewers: collaboration. And this is no ordinary collaboration; it’s one between the mighty Mikkeller and the equally mighty To Øl. So great things expected. Especially from something that advertises itself as “the lightest beer in the world”.
It’s a 33cl bottle and comes in at a-is this a breakfast beer record-whopping 14%. To slightly jump ahead, I wasn’t aware of this until I opened the bottle and then had to check the label. It’s a good job I’m not driving to work. Talking of the label, I rather like the simple design and apparently that’s the folks at Mikkeller and To Øl on the front.
It poured hazy golden with good carbonation and a medium off-white head. The aroma was a real mixed bag: lot’s of orange and peach and grassy hops, but malt and most definitely phenols. This continued in the taste where there were plenty of fruity hops but the overall result is of a sharp, alcohol-heavy flavour.
I don’t know…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Green Flash Hop Head Red

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Another day, another new type of IPA. You’ve had the double, you’ve had the imperial and everyone by now has had a black IPA. But have you had a red IPA? Yes, red. Well I haven’t. This has been recommended to me and comes with a glowing reputation amongst our American cousins. However, and whisper this only in an empty room, some people regard this actually as an amber ale, albeit it a heavily hopped one. Not being a fan of the amber/red (crystal malt, crystal malt) style generally, I’m somewhat dubious as to its credentials. However, Green Flash is an excellent brewery, so I’m willing to suspend my suspicions.
It’s a 12oz bottle and weighs in at 7%. Interestingly, last year’s batch was 6.4%, but they have cranked the alcohol up to cope with the increase in IBUs from 55 to 70. It poured hazy amber with good carbonation and a large beige head. The aroma was a pungent blast of floral hops-not much pine-and some good grapefruit and melon notes. And is that a little sweet malt in there as …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller Czechnet Pilsner

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Another morning, another beer brewed not where you might think. Today’s offering is from the mighty Mikkeller, who are as Danish as Lurpak. However, I’m led to believe that this beer is brewed at De Proefbrouwerij, who are as Belgian as Tintin. It’s all Scandinavia to me. What do you mean Belgium isn’t Scandinavian? Well, it jolly well should be.
It’s a 33cl bottle and is 4.6%; a quite moderate strength for Mikkeller. It poured a healthy looking golden with good carbonation and a large white head. The aroma wasn’t what you would expect from a Pilsner; it was floral hops and a little lemony. The taste was crisp and dry. Lemon again with a slightly spicy, mineral edge that gives way to a bitter-sweet finish.
Let’s make one thing clear. This is not a Pilsner. So I’m going to mark it down for that. However, put that out of your mind-if you can-and as you would expect from Mikkeller, it’s a nice enough number if you like fruity, hoppy beers.
Tyson says: Stop calling it a Pilsner and I might h…

Craft in the Valley

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Now every man needs the love of a good woman. Or a beer. Finding myself without the former, the other day, I went in search of the latter. And, somewhat surprisingly, my travels took me to the wilds of Rossendale. And the valley of Rossendale is indeed wild. From the gentle hobbit folk of Stacksteads to the rednecks of Bacup (Bak-up) it revels in its reputation as the Royston Vasey of Lancashire.
Now, like anywhere, there are good pubs to be found, but generally the beer bubble hasn’t even arrived here, yet alone burst. A gastropub is one with an inside loo and craft beer is just a phrase in a foreign dictionary. But hold on...what’s this? Has craft beer sneaked into the valley?
Well it appears it has. For the Griffin brewpub in Haslingden now has a sign outside proudly acclaiming its “craft beers”. Now, with changing brewers and beers priced at £2.10 a pint, it may not be your atypical craft setup. But full marks to them for spotting an opportunity to ride the craft wave. Even the del…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Batch 16

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This morning’s little appetizer is one from the Batch Brew microbrewery who are based in the faraway city of Winchester. However, I believe that their beer is actually contract brewed at Oakleaf. It’s a 500ml bottle and is 5%. I’ve not come across any of their beers before, but I like the branding. It says cool in a graphics designed, funky way and the suggested food pairing hints at the audience they’re aiming at.
It poured hazy golden with medium carbonation and a very small off-white head. The aroma is quite mild but with discernible citrus notes of lemon and orange with surprisingly little wheat beer character. There’s more citrus in the flavour, but grapefruit dominates the pack here and leads to a dry, fruity aftertaste.
You can’t imagine this being mistaken for a Belgian or German wheat beer, but it’s very good, nonetheless. The wheat component is neatly stripped back to allow the bold citrus flavours to really shine in a refreshing (almost) pint.
Tyson says: That will do nicely…

Deeply Vale Brewery

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Bury, as the official brewing capital of Britain, can lay claim to breweries ranging in size from the in-a-garage Ramsbottom Craft to the monolithic Outstanding. And somewhere in-between we have the new kid on the block, Deeply Vale. Started in November 2012 by Jim Stewart, a one-time familiar face behind the pumps at the Trackside, DV has quickly established itself on the local beer circuit.
The premise is simple. To brew a small core range and build from there. Currently there are three beers in the range; with DV8 recently picking up beer of the festival at the Ramsbottom RNLI event. Jim is particularly fond of this beer as, being a dark beer fan by nature; he considers it the ace in his pack. Plans are afoot, however, to add another beer to the range. Given his predilections, Jim would like to do a brown ale, but is asking for suggestions. I’m pushing for an IPA.
The brewery is an impressive little number with Jim doing all the installation, bar the electrics, himself. The floor ha…