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

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: M&S Sovereign

Single hop beers have been giving beer geeks a hard-on for some time now and with Marks and Spencer now entering the fray, it was the perfect excuse to road test a few. As if hop lovers need an excuse to crack a bottle open for breakfast. Unlike Brewdog, the M&S range are all 568ml bottles and are brewed by different breweries. Which is ok as it gives the various breweries the chance to impress. Or not.

This is a 5% offering from Elgoods. This long established, family-run, Cambridgeshire brewer might not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of hops but although we know from the bottle that Sovereign is a relatively new hop (1995), it is definitely not one of the new wave of aggressive hops. It is softer, more gentle you might say, and so perhaps a better match for a traditional brewer.

Despite being called a “Golden Ale”, naturally it poured orange in colour with a small off-white head. The aroma was subdued: light cereal and toffee notes. This subtlety extended to the beer which was on the bland side. There was bread and toffee along with a rather annoying, not the say cloying, honeyed edge. Not surprising as it contains “honey flavouring”. Why, I don’t know but it takes the edge of this beer for me.

Tyson says: Elgoods have made a bit of a mess of this. Sovereign’s delicate nature needs better care to get the most out of it. Here instead of off-setting the sweet malt flavours, it seems that the master plan was to add some honey syrup to the mix. In my opinion; not a good example of a single hop beer.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


Last night at Port Street Beer House it was the turn of Beavertown to entertain the expectant hordes. And Logan Plant and business partner cum-sales-director Byron Knight were on hand to guide us through its history and philosophy. And to help us sample a few of their beers, of course. Beavertown is named after the cockney slang for De Beauvoir Town, the part of London where they are based. It may sound faintly American, but that’s intentional as well.

Logan and Byron were introduced to each other by a mutual friend who realised they both had a common interest. Los Angeleno Byron was looking to open a barbecue restaurant in London and Logan had quit his career in the music business to focus on brewing after an epiphany in a New York brewpub. If it all sounds a little rock ‘n’ roll, then that kind of sums them up. After all, Logan is the son of the Robert Plant. Sorry, but it’s the law that any article about him mentions that.

They started up at Dukes Brew and Que restaurant early last year and I paid them a visit shortly afterwards. Needless to say, they’ve come on great guns since and their new brewery in Hackney Wick boasts 13 fermenters. Logan is a Black Country boy and we had a good chat about the likes of Bathams etc. It has to be said that his love of those beers isn’t really apparent in Beavertown’s current range, but that’s a sign of how quickly they are evolving style wise.
Gamma Ray
This is a 5.4% American Pale Ale that I got to try recently in bottle. Little was I to know that I would soon be having it on draught. It’s got the increasingly popular Magnum hops to give it some background texture and then the (un)holy trinity of Amarillo, Bravo and Columbus. Yes, it’s a hop treat. A refreshing mix of grapefruit, orange and pine all add to its drinkability. My favourite of the evening.

Bloody ‘Ell
This is a 7.4% blood orange IPA and was another zesty treat. The 24 kilos of blood oranges it was made with really gives this some kick. Pale malt gives it a lighter colour than you would expect and there is enough of a malt anchor to stop it going too far. You’re left with a pithy orange bitterness and rich tropical fruit tones. Very moreish: not surprising when you realise it was dry-hopped with Amarillo and Galaxy.

Barley Champagne
This is an 8.7% attempt at a beer/champagne hybrid that, without using champagne yeast, was immediately recognisable as a Saison. And a good one at that. Those who think Saison is the work of the Devil were less impressed. It did feel quite heavy initially but the addition of Bramley apples saved it for me. That and using French Saison yeast meant that the spiciness was balanced by the crispness of the apple juice.

Black Yeti

This 5.6% Stout was envisaged as an easy drinking variant of the style and it succeeds in that aim. There is an espresso twang to it but the chocolate and hops add to the overall balance and ensure a pleasing dry finish.

Imperial Lord Smog Almighty
Great name, eh? This 10% smoked Porter was the finisher of the evening and certainly finished some people off. Again it divided opinion and some of it was left by unimpressed drinkers. Frankly I expected myself to be one of them-although I know one well-known blogger who would have mopped it up-but no. This turned out to be a complex, multi-layered beer that, as Logan wanted, didn’t overpower you with smoke. Instead you had treacle, coffee, cocoa and milk chocolate all fighting it out to produce the finish that 110 IBUs should deliver.

Logan and Byron were good value for money and I enjoyed all the beers. So well done everyone

Beer Au Naturel

With all the negativity surrounding alcohol and licensing in the press, it made a pleasant change to read the recent positive story concerning an alcohol licence application. Step forward the councillors of Birmingham’s licensing committee who are to be congratulated for their liberal and fair-minded attitude when granting a licence.

The issue before them was whether to grant a drinks and live music/dancing licence to the Clover Spa Hotel. What’s the problem there, you may ask. Well the hotel, slogan “Dare to Bare”, is a naturist retreat. Yes, they like their fun in the altogether. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it was bound to lead to a few complaints and eyebrows being raised.

The perceived problem was whether the intake of alcohol would lead to undesirable behaviour and acts of public nudity. Some residents also complained that a licence shouldn’t be granted to a premise so close to family homes and a nursery. However, the owner pointed out he was not trying to instigate a strip club.

In fact nudity is not compulsory at the hotel and members of staff are clothed. The naturist areas are behind locked doors and only available to people attending the hotel. Furthermore, owner Tim Higgs made clear that there was nothing sexual about the nudity and often it was just about relaxing in the sun.

The three members of the committee agreed with his assessment and took only 10 minutes to grant his application. They said that the objectors had not demonstrated “evidential or casual links” for their concerns. After all, the most likely problem is someone nodding off and waking up to some very painful sunburn.

A good result for fair licensing. People should be allowed to enjoy a beer in the buff. As long as it doesn’t become compulsory at CAMRA meetings...

Monday, 19 August 2013

Left Hand@PSBH

Last week saw a special meet the brewer event at Port Street Beer House.  Those in attendance were lucky enough to spend some time with Eric Wallace, co-founder of Left Hand Brewing. LHB are an award-winning craft brewery from Colorado who are named after the local Native American Chief Niwot whose tribe wintered in the area. “Niwot” in southern Arapahoe meaning “left hand”.
Eric was a natural speaker and guided us through the various stages of the brewery from its genesis in 1990 to the large operation it is now. He is passionate about craft beer and also about getting the beer out to people as fresh as possible. But more of that later. He was obviously highly intelligent-he loves Manchester-and certainly seems to have a vision for the future of LBH.

Stranger Pale Ale
This was a very interesting first beer. Pleasant enough, if surprisingly subdued, it had sulphur and biscuit malt tones. Certainly nobody complained and indeed somebody claimed it was the best beer of the year. But then Eric dropped his bombshell. The beer was old. It was a year old keg! Cue shock-horror amongst the crafterati. They’d been done up like a turkey at Christmas.

The very serious point that Eric was making was that brewers need to get their beers out to drinkers as quickly as possible. People should be drinking beer at its best and that was a continuing problem. To try and address this, LHB are cutting the shelf life and best before dates of its beers and is reorganising its European distribution. An interesting insight into the problems of beer distribution and consumption.

400 Pound Monkey
This is an interesting beer that tends to get mixed responses. With a market full of atypical IPAs: hop led pine fests, LHB set out to do something different. They created an English style IPA by using Sovereign, Magnum and Boadicea hops and four different malt varieties. More well-balanced and akin to banana bread than your usual bitter IPA.

Milk Stout & Milk Stout Nitro

Two versions of the same beer. Left Hand were the first in America to produce a nitro beer in a bottle without the use of a widget and Eric was keen for us to taste the difference. They both were well-rounded, but the nitro version had more subdued chocolate and coffee flavours.
Twin Sisters

This double IPA-named after the twin peaks in Colorado-was the hit of the day. Powerful, but packed full of grapefruit, honey, pine and residual bitterness, this was an excellent example of the style.

Thanks again to Eric and PSBH for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Spot The Difference

Now here’s a test for you. Can you spot the difference between the product on the left and the one on the right? I know it seems easy but apparently it’s tougher than it looks. Just in case you were stumped and thought it was a trick question, I’ll clarify it for you. On the left you have Red Bull, the well known energy drink brand. Whilst on the right you have Redwell the, and I’m sure they won’t mind me saying this, not so quite well known Norfolk microbrewery.
What’s the connection? Well Red Bull have written to Redwell demanding that they change their name or face legal action. The problem is according to Red Bull-and it’s very obvious when you closely study the two products-that Redwell may “confuse” customers and “tarnish” the Red Bull trademark. Indeed I can now picture people up and down the land going to the shop for a can of Red Bull and coming out loaded up with Redwell IPA instead.

Problems arose shortly after the brewery, which is named after a street in Norwich, went to trademark its brand. A letter arrived from Hansjorg Jeserznik, Red Bull's brand enforcement manager, who said Redwell and Red Bull looked and sounded similar and it was "likely" that customers would perceive the brewery's drinks as an "imitation". They have given Redwell until the end of August to come to a resolution.

Of course this is nothing more than the usual corporate bullying than we have seen before in the drinks industry. It would be funny, if not for the headache that it has caused Redwell’s owner Paul Fisher. However, the brewery which employs only eight people, believe that they are in a strong position and hope to come to a settlement.

Let’s hope this silliness can be sorted out soon.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Brew By Numbers & Oaka

Last weekend’s stroll round our fair capital threw up one or two new items of note. First and foremost is that London or more specifically Bermondsey, has gained another brewery bar. Yes that little enclave that time forgot has upped its claim to be the beating brewing heart of the metropolis once again. How long before they declare UDI?

Brew By Numbers is on Enid St, literally just round the corner from Kernel in the obligatory railway arch. BBN started in late 2012 but have only been open to the public on Saturdays for the last five weeks. Founders Tom Hutchings and Dave Seymour have the philosophy that apart from beer being interesting; it should be drinkable as well. Not a bad philosophy, it has to be said.

The brew kit is a hybrid rather than a custom build and consists of ex soft drink and dairy vessels. The brewery itself is larger than Partizan and currently offers two beers on draught as well as a range of bottles. Expansion into another arch is on the cards at some point as everyone chases the Kernel model of success. That's for the future, but for now they are happy to continue as they are.

What’s this funny name lark all about, I hear you ask. Well it simples. Each set of numbers refers to a particular style and recipe. So 02 is a Golden Ale, 08 is Stout etc and the rest is the variation on that theme. So a Golden Ale with Galaxy and Citra, for example. Clever, eh? The beers are certainly proving popular and the beard count was high on my visit. And that was just the girls.
Of course this means that there is now a cracking crawl to be had incorporating Partizan, Kernel and Brew By Numbers. And if that wasn’t enough, there is also the fantastic Maltby St Market. This one-street overflow from Borough Market offers an amazing range of culinary delights and the air is thick with enticing smells. Check out Ric and his Modern Beer Co stall for a range of London beers that you can enjoy there and then or take home with you. All at £4 a bottle. And don't forget to say hello to the girls on the olive stall. I can recommend the roasted garlic.

Not far away in Kennington I finally got round to visiting Oaka; not only the only Oakham pub in London but one of only a handful in the country. This is a smart-looking boozer with the whiff of contemporary gastro about it. They specialise in Thai food which I didn't try but have had good reports about. Chatting to the barman it was interesting to hear that they have to ration their beer selection as people in London “don’t like bitter beers.”
Now one annoying thing about Oaka-well two if you include lack of sparklers, but hey-ho it’s London-is that they don’t do halves. You can have a third, you can have a pint and you can even have two-thirds but not a half. Well sorry, that’s just barmy. By all means have these exotic measures but don’t forget the basics. Apart from that it's worth a visit and it's not that far from the oasis that is Bermondsey.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Waimea

If it’s Wednesday, then it must be IPA day. What do you mean that was last week? Oh well, better late than never. Today we return to the Brewdog single hop series. To recap: they take the same 6.7% base (a cut down version of Hardcore) and use the same malt backbone of Marris Otter, Crystal Malt and Caramalt. All the beers come out at with 75 IBUs but the gimmick here is to see how the four hops-all from different continents-compare.

Now Waimea is a brand new NZ hop, 2012 I think, that I’ve never had to my knowledge and all I know about is that it’s related to Pacific Jade. Which is of no use as this early in the morning I’m struggling to remember what that exactly tastes like. But that’s probably all for the good as it means it comes with a zero comparison slate. The bottle itself is, of course, 330ml.
It poured a nice, slightly hazy, bright amber with a large off-white head. The aroma was pungent and attractive: an unusual mix of overripe fruits, tangerine and citrus notes, along with grassy, herbal hop notes. The ripe fruit theme follows through in the taste with orange, grapefruit, peach and plum all there. Then there’s the floral, slight medicinal undercurrent. More astringent than hoppy, it gets drier and drier until the very satisfying finish.

Tyson says: The bastard lovechild of Simcoe & Galaxy? It’s certainly different and hard to find an exact match to, but in a good way.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Not In Our Town

You might think that the government’s recent decision to be sensible-for once-and scrap plans for minimum pricing would bring joy and happiness to the world. There would be street parties and dancing in the aisles. That kind of thing. Well, not in Bury if the council have their way. Whilst potholes go unfilled, rubbish is only collected fortnightly and cars park openly on pavements, our civic leaders found time to pass a motion condemning the government u-turn. It’s good to see them concentrate on the local issues that matter, isn't it?

The Labour motion calls on the government to reconsider its decision and calls it a “chilling reminder of big business’s influence.” It states: “This council recognises the public health benefits and reduced pressure on health and social care minimum pricing could bring and asks the government to reconsider its u-turn on this policy.” Now Bury Council does have a somewhat puritanical history. Who can forget the ban on the Life of Brian film? Probably something to do with wanting to keep the workers in the mills and not out enjoying themselves, but this goes too far.

Cllr Gill Campbell led the charge and threw out clichés and nonsense statistics by the bucket-load. Minimum pricing could mitigate against the effects alcohol misuse and supermarket alcohol sales are having on the country including, but not only, unprotected sex among young people and hospital admissions. And did you know that 23% of deaths in the 18-25 year-old age group was due to alcohol?

But the best bit and the one that really got me was yet to come. Working herself up into a frenzy worthy of a Leni Riefenstahl production, she added: “It is disgraceful pubs are selling drinks at a loss-this is an uncontrolled supply of a dangerous, dangerous drug. Shockingly young people in the borough can afford to buy a bottle of vodka a week out of their own pocket money.”

Whoa. Whoa. One minute it’s supermarkets, and then it’s the Smokers Arms. They’re all in it together. Exactly which pubs are selling these drinks at a loss? I mean I know Spoons are cheap but I’m pretty certain that they’re not knocking out Carling for a loss. And what’s all this unregulated supply rubbish? The licensed trade is the epitome of regulated.

I’m afraid there’s more than a whiff of hypocrisy here as this is the very same council that has used licensing as a cash cow and turns a blind eye to over population in the off-trade. Not to mention turning the town centre into a free-for-all. More consistency and less rhetoric would have been a better approach.

Of course, the nature of these comments and the nature of politics meant that not everyone was in agreement. Sadly, they were more interested in trying to score party political points rather than the silliness of the argument itself. Liberal Democrat councillor Donal O’Hanlon questioned why the previous Labour government hadn’t brought in minimum pricing.

Meanwhile, Tory councillor Roy Walker showed he wasn’t beyond wheeling out clichés himself by blaming binge drinking on the Labour government’s licensing deregulation. With clowns like this in charge and no one to tell them that they are talking shite, it’s small wonder things are in the state they are.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Marble Arch 125 Birthday Festival

125 years and still going strong-strong being the operative word, but more of that in a moment-was the message from the Marble Arch’s birthday bash. Yes the famous Manchester landmark was celebrating and what better way to do so than with a beer festival? Now, some people were referring to it as “the Marble’s first birthday festival”. Technically true, but as I’m not holding my breath till the next one, I shall stick to calling it the Marble beer festival.

It all kicked off on Thursday which just so happened to be IPA Day. Not to be left behind with the world celebrating this iconic style, the Marble offered up a selection of, erm, IPAs. However, it was their first experience of a Salty Kiss, courtesy of Magic Rock that had people talking. Things began in earnest on Friday when the paying public were let loose inside. And the setup was quite different from normal.

Entrance was by the newly expanded beer garden which also played host to the musical entertainment. You got a glass and a programme. Payment was by coloured tokens: black=£1 and orange=25p. Tables has been removed from the pub to allow more standing room and to accommodate pop-up bars from Magic Rock and, on the Friday, Marble Brewery from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A nice touch that, getting the American Marble in on the act.

The pub front room hosted the pop-up bars and the handpulled/keg/cider/bottle beers. The back room hosted strong beers on handpulls and even stronger beers on gravity. And that’s one of the first things you noticed, there were a lot of strong beers. A hell of a lot. Indeed we were ushered in with the encouragement “Go for it. There’s a lot of rocket fuel on.” Personally I could have done with a few more sessionable beers as the ones on were very heavily tipped in favour of the Marble regular beer range.

The weakest beer tried was Pictish Angus at 4.1%. A new one to me, but sadly nothing special from this usually reliable Rochdale brewery. The same could be said of the Pilsner (4.7%) from Marble USA and their IPA (6.8%) was just ok as well. Now you don’t expect anything weak from Mr J at Quantum (American Light excepted) so I was prepared for Falconer’s Flight at 5.5%.

Blackjack Four of a Kind was the weakest we could find on the back bar (6.2%) and then there was Wild Beer Madness IPA (6.8%). Not to mention Summer Wine Devil Loves Chinook (7.2%). Can you see a pattern here?  It didn’t seem to be holding back local celebrity Mr Beige but there were a few grumbles about it. There was also some confusion as to whether all the beers listed should be on.

To have all the beers on at one time would seem logistically impossible, but I had been told they would be. And I wasn’t the only one. Several people there were under the same illusion including a Barnsley lad who had checked three times to ensure that that they were. Mind you, as he turned out to be a member of the Di-was-murdered-by-Liz conspiracy club, I had to discount his testimony on credibility grounds.

Overall an ambitious effort marred by a few niggles. Perhaps next time they can look at layout and beer selection.
Beer of the festival: Kernel Pale Ale Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic.