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

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Visit To Brewsmith

Brewsmith may have not been brewing for long but they have already established themselves in the top tier of local, if not national, brewers. Indeed it’s hard to recall any brewery in recent times that has started off at such a high standard of quality and consistency. James (along with Jennifer and Ted) Smith has really gone for broke with a state-of-the-art 10 barrel plant based on an industrial estate in Stubbins.
(What about popping in here?)

(Looks like a brewery)
(Wonder what this does?)
(Beer barrels...)
(One of each, please)
 Of course, having the right equipment is only half the story and then there is the little matter of being able to brew good beer. Although James claims to have to spend 70% of his time cleaning rather than brewing. Despite this or possibly because of it, his 4-core beer range has gathered an enviable reputation already. You can see why, despite the brewery technically being in Lancashire, the good folk of Ramsbottom have claimed it for their own. Why not try some of it out for yourself and see what the fuss is all about?

Thanks to James for hosting us and keeping the beer flowing.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Abel Heywood

The latest addition to Manchester’s N/4 has been open a full week now and so required an inspection by yours truly. Being the new kid on the block and it being Christmas (i.e. amateur drinkers hour) it was rammed to the rafters. The Abel Heywood, named after a famous former Manchester mayor, lies on the corner of Tuner and Red Lion St and was, until the mid-20th century, the Red Lion public house. Hydes brewery have spent a lot of money on it to transform it into a boutique hotel and pub. Downstairs is a large L-shaped room with a mix of booth seating and raised tables. Upstairs has a small drinking area to the left but is aimed squarely at formal dining. There are two handpumps upstairs and six downstairs. The pub opens at 7am for breakfast but drinkers have to wait until 11am before they can get a pint. It’s great to see a new pub open in the N/4 and given its location and if it delivers what it promises; it should do very well

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Southwark Brewing Company

Is there room for any more breweries on the famous Bermondsey Beer Mile? Well Peter Jackson thinks so. He and business partner Andy Nichol have set up the Soutwark Brewing Co on Druid St; that famous street that once hosted the then little-known Kernel and is now home to the likes of Anspach and Hobday. The operation is impressively large for a start-up; a 10 barrel kit and I was lucky enough to have a quick word with Peter on opening day. His background lies with Marstons but despite his links to that part of the world, he knew where exactly where the new brewery should be based. SBC have a slightly different approach to where they see their beer in the marketplace compared to their local rivals. Whilst admiring the craft beer movement, Peter explained that he feels that there is a gap in the market for locally brewed cask beers and, with Sean Franklin on board as consultant that is where they will be concentrating their efforts.

There was only one beer available on opening day: Bermondsey Best, a traditional English Bitter. However, they have slowly been rolling out and expanding the choice and the brewery bar now boasts four handpulls; a unique and very welcome sight on the keg dominated BBM. Beers to look out for include Bankside Blonde and King Cnut which are both brewed with Citra hops and Peter’s Stout, a powerful (8.9%) Russian Imperial Stout. Competition is fierce, albeit friendly, in the little pocket that makes up the Bermondsey beer scene but SBC have made a promising start. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Hare & Hounds Reopens

The Hare and Hounds at Holcombe Brook is one of the stalwarts of the local real ale scene and has been in the Good Beer Guide for many years. A large, open-plan pub with an excellent outdoor area, it recently changed hands again and has reopened after a £250,000 refurbishment. It’s been spruced up (“rustic contemporary” was whispered in my shell-like) and is looking much better for it. The toilets have had their long overdue overhaul and the pool table, which was wasting valuable corner space, has been replaced by seating. Overall it’s much fresher and brighter with a good mix of seating. And you need to have no fears on the beer front as it will be maintaining its complement of 10 pumps. In fact, to celebrate their reopening, there is a beer festival currently on.

Interestingly, and a sign of the times, they are also advertising their craft beer range. There's nothing to frighten the horses here with Shipyard (keg, not craft; see above) and Brewdog Punk on draught. There is a small craft bottle range that includes Sierra Nevada, Budvar, Brooklyn, Duvel, Fullers Honey Dew and, erm, San Migeul. Food is served all day and includes sandwiches, steak, and fish and chips. The pub is easily accessible by bus with both the 472 and 474 stopping outside. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Independent Salford Beer Festival

Build it and they will come was the mantra of Field of Dreams. And the Independent Salford Beer Festival, which started yesterday, adopted this positive message throughout its long and sometimes painful gestation period. Personally I would have gone for “Put beer on and they will sup it” but that’s probably why I’m not running a beer festival. Instead Jim, the blogging legend (he’ll be blushing) that is BeersManchester, ably assisted by some volunteers including his much better half and his arch-nemesis have put together a cracking festival to raise funds for St Sebastian’s Community Centre.

Think you can’t hold a beer festival in a community centre? Wrong. It’s a smart, very good venue. Think it’s hard to get to? Wrong. It’s just a bus ride away from central Manchester. Think the beer wouldn’t be any good? Wrong. It’s a very professional setup with and this is the pièce de résistance, some unusual and excellent beer. Talking of which, having tried 20 of the 35 on offer, these are my picks

Allgates Half Devil: This 3.3% Pale Ale is brewed with the Czech Kazbek hop for a soft, delicate mouth feel, refreshing pilsner-like taste that takes no account of strength. Possibly beer of the festival.
Five-Oh Sorachi Ace Stout. The only place to get this on cask. Get it while you can.
Five Towns Grounds for Divorce. Dangerous: that’s all I’m saying.
North Riding Brew Pub Fat Lad’s Mild. A 4.5% Mild? You know it makes sense.
Ringway Admiral Pale. This 3.5% wonder did what it said on the tin. Unfussy, clean and crisp; it really cleansed the palate. Possibly beer of the festival.
Seven Bro7hers IPA. Apparently too much for some people, this cemented its reputation as one of-if not THE best, local IPAs.

Well done to Jim and all his helpers and here’s to next year!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A Night With The Manchester Brewers

The question was; how to celebrate CAMRA’s Cask Ale Week? One man, Robin Bence, had the simple answer. Why not pay a visit to the nine breweries of Manchester? And to keep it even simpler, why not do it in a single evening? Thus a merry (soon to be much merrier) band of cask adventurers set off on an open top (it never rains in Manchester) bus in pursuit of life, liberty and a few bevvies. For those who can count, logistics meant that we actually started in the Boggart Hole Micro Bar in the Arndale and, sadly, we ran out of time for Blackjack. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Outside the famous Holts gates)
(First Chop)
(Star Inn, Broughton)
(Seven Bro7hers)

With all the money going to The Christie Hospital, it was drinking in a good cause. Thanks to everyone who came and, of course, to all the generous brewers. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Well it’s over for another year. Yes the dust has finally settled on the behemoth beer festival that is IndyMan. So many beers, so many thirds to sup. I was up and down to the bar more times than a bride’s nighty. If you were there then you’ll know how good it was. If you weren’t, then I won’t rub it in. In its third year now the festival, sorry convention, continues to expand and mature. Lessons were learnt from last year and everything that I saw seemed to run smoothly. There also seemed to be less broken glasses than last year: are people finally getting the hang of those dainty little measures? What was good…the beer, the company, the Brewdog bus (so I’m told) and of course the food from Honest Crust and Chaat Cart.
(Oh let's try this bar)

(Yummy Iced Tea Saison) 
The good: Arbor NS Bomb, Alechemy Citra Burst, Northern Monk Monacus NZ and Brewfist all really hit the taste spot. But this year, despite its relatively low profile, the best beers were to be found on cask. Tiny Rebel The Full Nelson Chardonnay BA beat off some tough competition to edge it with a complex and vinous treat.

The bad: There were some disappointing saisons with Partizan Iced Tea being particularly unspectacular. But Camden wins this category for the mess that was their Spiced Pumpkin Lager.

The ugly: Ultimately there could only be one winner. Step forward Against the Grain Killewitte. Described by Mr IndyMan himself, John Clarke, as smelling like sick, this smoked wheat beer tasted like smoked compost.

Only 360 days to next year’s event…

Hello St Albans We Have A Problem

CAMRA is at something of a crossroads. Actually it has been for some time. Membership continues to climb but, like many long established organisations that rely on volunteers, there is concern for the future. The solution is, of course, to recruit more young members; not only to keep CAMRA growing but to hopefully put in place the future committee members and organisers. That is what the Young Members section is for and it has done a sterling job on the ground with its representatives achieving year on year results. However, all that good work risks being undone by the latest blunder by St Albans. Rowan Molyneux is to be thanked for really pushing this into the public domain. As she says this isn’t an attack on CAMRA per se but it is something that really needs sorting out.
It’s often said that CAMRA is run by old men who drink in dusty time capsules of pubs and who are out of touch with reality. That is of course a broad brushstroke that doesn’t paint the whole picture but this particular faux pas does threaten to undermine CAMRA’s professional reputation in some quarters. Of course it shouldn’t have happened at all and there are many questions to be answered. Yes, the leaflet was a mistake in the first place but then things seemed to completely unravel. Why was the Young Members committee consulted and then ignored? Why did it take so long for CAMRA to respond to the concerns raised and then only in a half-hearted way? The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now and it will be interesting to see what sort of damage limitation exercise CAMRA runs. On the plus side, hopefully important lessons will be learnt from this whole debacle and the organisation can get back to what it should be doing: promoting real ale to one and all. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Independent Salford Beer Festival

Talking of festivals, it’s just over two weeks to the big one. Yes, the most eagerly anticipated beer festival of 2014 is just around the corner. Haven’t got your ticket yet? Why not? You’ll only regret it afterwards. Possibly for the rest of your life. There’s food, entertainment and a kick-ass beer list. And it’s all for a good cause. Get your tickets now and tell them Tyson sent you

Monday, 6 October 2014

A Tale Of Two Festivals

So first up was Ramsbottom beer festival. Held over three days, not unsurprisingly, in Ramsbottom Civic Hall, this was a charity fundraiser for Mountain Rescue. As in previous events, it was an all token affair and all 42 beers were served by handpump. This is a really good festival that was freshened up this time by the decision to include only breweries that hadn’t featured previously. Unfortunately this meant having to exclude Ramsbottom Craft but luckily meant that new kids on the block; Brewsmith, could feature. They have really got off to a flying start and their beers are already picking up a following. Their full range was available: Bitter, Pale, Oatmeal Stout and IPA. All were excellent with their IPA blowing many away with its intoxicating tropical bomb nature. There were a number of other very good beers as well, with Loch Ness Brewery delivering one of the best with their HoppyNess. I was also quite taken with the Stewart Edinburgh Festival. Stamps Swedish Blonde had no connection to Sweden that I could discern but was a Simcoe dry-hopped delight.

Next up was the slightly larger St Georges Hall festival in Liverpool. This was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous with a festival in such grand settings that offered some 300 beers and ciders. Last year saw 5,500 visitors over the four days and this year looked to surpass that total. One change from last year was the introduction of music into the main hall itself. This move, despite their being an excellent dedicated music room, proved less than successful. A hall full of that many punters doesn’t need any added noise and there were many complaints that conversation was difficult. I’m sure the South London Jazz Orchestra is very good but the conductor looked the worse for wear and the sound arrangement (according to the music teacher sat next to me) was all wrong. On the plus side there were some great beers. The Ashover Littlemoor Citra was a good start and the Black Iris American Blond was full of citrus all wrapped in a 3.6% treat. Sunny Republic Hop Dog promised the “sensation of being smacked in the mouth with a jar of marmalade.” And if you like that idea, you would have loved it. Otherwise, maybe not. But certainly enough choice for everyone and plenty of good cheese and pies as well. If you missed it, I recommend you try the winter festival in January 2015.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Wetherspoons New Craft

So Wetherspoons’ new menu is underway. Starting on the 1st October; it promised more choice of, ahem, craft beer and dining options. Good to see salmon making a comeback and full marks for offering it as a breakfast option. But, as I always like to say, back to the beer. What’s on offer and how much is it are the crucial questions. Well looking at the drinks menu in front of me, I see that the two new draught choices: Brewdog This Is Lager and Devils Backbone are both just under £3 a pint. The bottle and can selection now come under a section labelled ‘Craftwork’ (yes, really) with cans at £1.99 and bottles at £2.49. New to can are Vedett, Budvar, Sagres and the hipster favourite: Lagunitas IPA. The bottle range is shored up with Adnams Crystal Rye IPA and Rogue Amber Ale.
(Oh no)
 Now a lot of attention has been focused on Devils Backbone; an American IPA brewed at Banks’s Brewery in Wolverhampton. Previously these American/British efforts have been served as guest cask ales. But, in for the long haul with this one, Wetherspoons have decided to sell this as a keg on its regular font range. This, they claim, ensures it is “crisp and fresh”. But what is it like? Well it poured pale amber with less carbonation than expected and a tiny rim of foam. Initially the cold hid its profile with a a slightly malty, fruit/raisin taste coming through. As it warmed, it became flabby, definitely not crisp, with a disappointing earthy hop aftertaste. They were aiming for an English interpretation of an American IPA but this falls at the first hurdle: drinkability.

(Oh yes)
For a contrast, I tried the Lagunitas. This was a lovely burnished gold with good carbonation and a fingerful of white foam. This is a complex IPA and on the nose I got orange peel, tangerine, and a hit of pine and citrus notes. The body is light for a 6.2% beer with only a slight malt sweetness underpinning it. The flavours prickle on the tongue; it’s not wave on wave of astringent hops but rather a melting pot. I got plenty of orange, melon, papaya, perhaps even a twist of summer berries before the juicy bitter-sweet aftertaste settles in. It’s a totally different beast from the other imported American IPA: Bengali Tiger, but equally as drinkable. At 5.2% the DB is a poor imitation; I can’t see any reason for cask fans to switch to it and it’s certainly not appealing enough for the dedicated craft beer fan.

So it’s California 1, Wolverhampton O. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Lancashire's Latest

Rather on the QT, Lancashire seems to have gained another brewery. The Rostron Arms is on Market Street in Edenfield which lies between Bury and Rawtenstall. Inside lies Edenfield Brewery (Magic Village Ales) which is the pet project of landlord David Swarbrick. Already offering a good range of ales, when of the locals ventured that he should install a microbrewery, he basically thought “why not?” This led to the ubiquitous Dave Porter and co installing a 4bbl plant on site. Now Dave is the first to admit he knew nothing about brewing and is still on a learning curve. That is why he has started quietly with just one beer: Old Red Dog. This is a 3.9% traditional Bitter named in honour of a much-missed local character. The recipe is still being tweaked-although it seems popular enough-and then there are plans for perhaps another two regular beers. But what does it taste like, I hear you cry. To me it tastes similar to Barnsley Bitter, so if you like that or Joseph Holts, you’ve cracked it. The 482/453/484 buses will drop you off at the door so why not get along and try it for yourself. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Pass The Bag

The anti-alcohol lobby struck again today with the somewhat, frankly, bizarre news that customers are to be breathalysed before they enter premises in Loughborough. The scheme, timed to coincide with freshers’ week, will run until November 3rd and will be trialled in five premises: Amber Rooms, Revolution, Mansion, Echoes and the Students Union. Leicestershire Police and the local council have supplied all the venues with breath test equipment and training. Now Loughborough is a small market town that is well known for being a student hotspot and, at first glance, this could be seen as a sensible measure to deal with all the ‘booze-fuelled violence’ we hear so much about. Indeed most of the media coverage seemed to feature the obligatory passed-out-drunk photo. As PC Mike Green, Beacon Officer for Loughborough Town Centre, who is the coordinator for the initiative put it: “We want to raise awareness of the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on health and well-being, as well as supporting licensed premises to help them deal with customers who have had a bit too much to drink.
obligatory photo
However, of course, this is all nonsense and doesn’t make any sense other than being yet another propaganda exercise. What is it supposed to prove or even achieve? The clue is in it being a ‘trial’ that may be rolled out later on after no doubt being trumpeted as a great success. And although ostensibly aimed at students, it equally could be applied to anyone. The daft thing is that the breathalyser is only being used as a guide and the discretion of entry will still remain with the venue. So what’s the point? And as they haven’t set out any official limits, where will the cut-off point be? The drink drive limit? When they burst the bag? The reality is you don’t need a breathalyser to tell if someone is too drunk to be allowed onto licensed premises and even it shows they have had a skinful, will that coachload of CAMRA pensioners really be trouble? Gimmick is the word we are looking for here

The saddest part of this is that the venues have decided to take part in this tomfoolery probably in some misguided attempt of appeasement. The Students Union in particular should hang its head in shame. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kona Longboard

We’re keeping with the lager theme this morning with an island lager from Kona brewing. With the climate of Hawaii, you can easily imagine local surfers quenching their thirsty with one of these on a sun struck beach. I suppose the clue is in the name, but how does it fare in a (slightly) less exotic environment?

It’s a 120z bottle and comes in at 4.6% on the strength scale. It poured clear golden with plenty of carbonation and a medium off-white head. The aroma was very subtle with hints of sweet malt and honey. Taste wise; it was very light, almost watery, on the palate with some biscuit malt and a slight honeyed bitter-sweet finish. Personally I would have preferred a crisper, dryer finish.

Tyson says: Probably better suited to a beach in Hawaii than a backyard in Bury.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog This Is Lager

There could only be one choice for today’s breakfast tasting. Yes we’re going all topical, well it had to happen one day, with a taste of the beer that’s on everyone’s lips. Or will be from October if you’re a Spoons punter. I had so many people asking me what Brewdog’s new lager was like; it seemed only fair to actually try it. So here we go.

It's a 330ml bottle and is 4.7% which I would say is in the right ballpark, strength wise. Interestingly it's given the Brewdog spin by describing it as a "21st Century Pilsner". It poured a nice looking golden colour with plenty of carbonation and a large white fluffy head. The aroma was pleasant enough: a little bready with some sweet malt. The first thing that strikes you with the flavour is how smooth it is. There’s nothing here to make the horses bolt; perhaps somewhat surprising given the ‘10x hops’ tag. There’s the obvious Pilsner malt backbone with a little honey and a slight grassy dryness that leads to a bitter-sweet finish.

So overall a perfectly pleasant, if not earth-shattering beer. Served chilled on draught, it might just have the crisp edge it lacked in the bottle. They’ve not reinvented the wheel or even the Pilsner style, but it’s none the worse for that.

Tyson says: Will this see off the like of Carling and Tuborg? No/Yes/Possibly. See Brewdog Fake Lager for clues. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Brewdog Draught Available In Spoons: Finally

So the Dog has landed. Craft has finally gone mainstream. They’ve jumped the shark. Or something like that. Yes, Brewdog have finally landed the big one: a tap on the Wetherspoons bar. It’s been the worst kept secret in the beer universe that the boys from Aberdeenshire-and their shareholders-have long had their eyes set on joining Tim Martin’s empire of the ales. First it was going to be Punk IPA and its seemingly inevitable arrival was (constantly) being hailed as proof that craft beer had broken out of its bubble. Except it didn’t arrive. Instead the Americans got in first and Brewdog had to settle for a place alongside the cans and bottles in the fridge. But now, at last, their time has seemingly come.
From the 1st October, Brewdog’s new lager ‘This Is Lager’ will be available on draught in 200 Spoons. By March of the following year, it will be available in all of their pubs. Quite a, if somewhat inevitable, feat. And clever, too; they’re not fighting for the affection of the rather snooty crafteratti but aiming for the jugular with a lager brand. Of course this has traditionally been seen as a waste of time, such is the stranglehold of the multinational brands. But now is the time of craft, allegedly, apparently, and Spoons would seem to be the ideal partner for anyone engaged in such a venture.

But what is this miracle brew? Well it was launched this week with the usual modest PR from Brewdog. Pack leader James Watt said: "Lager is often demonised or derided as the choice of drink of chavs and louts, which is the result of laddish marketing that diverts attention away from taste and enjoyment and undermines the potential of lager as a creative and artisanal beer. If we can redefine lager in the UK, we will redefine our relationship with alcohol. We can actually start to reverse binge drinking trends currently being tackled by toothless and misguided legislative proposals unlikely to ever see the light of day anyway."

So their mission is to redefine lager and our relationship with alcohol whilst making a few quid at the same time. Ambitious or just another day at Brewdog HQ? This Is Lager is said to contain ten times the amount of hops found in ordinary lager and then there is the pricing issue. But for now it looks like it’s Carling v Craft round one. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

This morning we are trying of the fine brews from one of the big boys of American craft brewing: Sierra Nevada. The USP of this particular offering is that it is brewed in open fermenters thereby lending a certain unpredictability and uncertainty to the finished beer. This isn’t meant to be your usual run-of-the-mill American Hefeweizen but an authentic Bavarian one. But can the mighty SN pull it off?
It’s a 350ml bottle and is 4.8%. It poured hazy amber with a small white head. The aroma is fairly subtle, as to be expected with this style, but there’s unmistakable banana and clove. Yes, it’s definitely clovey. Taste wise, it’s smooth on the palate with traces of wheat, lemon and of course, more banana and clove. No bubblegum kick, though. It’s a little tart rather than sour and there’s a balanced, slightly sweetened finish.

Tyson says: Does what it says. An enjoyable palate cleanser. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Things Really Are BIgger In Texas

You know those days when that 6 pack of Stella just isn’t enough. Sure you could get a 12 pack but please, what are you, a wimp? Well luckily a brewery in America has come up with the mother ship of takeouts. They’re offering 99 cans for $99. And it’s craft beer, no less. Brewdog, eat your heart out. But before you jump on a plane to buy one of these 8 foot beauties, be warned that the brewery, Austin Beerworks, has made it clear that this will be a limited release. It’s almost like it’s a marketing gimmick…

Are You A Brewhead?

Well are you? Is this you?

One who truly enjoys, supports, and loves BEER (craft beer, and homebrew). This may include (but not limited to) hopheads, beer geeks, beer connoisseurs, beer snobs, brewers, homebrewers, etc..A brewhead takes pride in what they drink and/or brew. Quality plays a large part in the beers they purchase or brew.They have appreciation for the work that goes into the beer they are drinking. They know there is more to beer than just alcohol. There’s a story, a person (or team), a craft…an experience under every bottle cap. One who is involved in the craft beer industry and/or community.Collecting coasters, caps, bottles, and beers is a common hobby. Trying new beers, touring breweries, attending beer events, etc are also common."

If so, rejoice in being celebrated in song

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Fourpure Session IPA

Today we are back in our nation’s beloved capital; London and that most excellent of Bermondsey’s brewers: Fourpure. One only has to look at the popularity of Founders to see how lower strength IPAs are really catching on. This one is inspired by New York and comes in that most discerning of craft containers, the can. It’s 330ml and is 4.2%, so bang in the Best Bitter strength range but, at 40 IBUs, there’s far more bitterness. Hence the style, I guess.

It poured clear amber with lots of carbonation (well it is in a can) and a large off-white head. The aroma was intoxicating-that cliché of citrus: lemon, pineapple and grapefruit with peach and a hint of caramel. Very nice. Initially it seemed quite prickly on the tongue and, given the lack of alcohol, a little weak but then the flavour hits you in wave after wave. Unmistakable Cascade hop n nature with plenty of the other ‘C’ hops as well. There is a firm malt backbone underpinning it that balances it all out rather smartly, but you are left with a resinous bitter finish that demands another gulp.

Tyson says: Another winner from Fourpure that punches well above its weight.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brixton Effra Ale

We’re staying with London breweries with this morning’s effort from Brixton Brewery. It’s named after the Effra River that flows under Brixton and is their take on an American Amber Ale. An ambitious brew that pairs five malts with Northdown, Pilgrim, Aurora, Ahtanum and Summit hops. The end result should be lime, pine and grassy hops.
It’s 4.5% and comes in a 330ml bottle. It poured, not unexpectedly, amber with reasonable carbonation and a medium tan head. The aroma was a little bready with some woody notes and a touch of sweet red fruits. Taste wise, it was quite soft on the palate with an earthy dryness that was balanced against a jam-like sweetness of red fruit and a little toasted caramel. The finish was semi-dry but rather spoilt by a twang of malt sweetness.

Tyson says: Too many types of malt? The wrong pairings? I don’t know but I’m not convinced that this works at all. Instead of a complex, balanced beer, they’ve ended up with a so-so one that really doesn’t know what it is. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Beavertown Quelle Saison

This morning’s breakfast pick-me-up comes courtesy of a dry-hopped saison from Beavertown. A canned dry-hopped saison, no less. I know what you’re thinking: “has the world stopped turning and nobody told us or has he been on the herbal cigarettes again?” But I kid you not; I told you canning was the future. And saisons are so retro; they’re still the future as well. The first thing to say is that I do like the Beavertown can designs. They’re very colourful and striking but, of course, I’m here for the beer.

It’s 4.1%. It poured a hazy, pale yellow with good carbonation and a large off-white head. The aroma was slightly subdued but a pleasant mix of pineapple, lemon, spiced wheat and a little pepper. The beer is light on the palate with the hops heavily dominating. Now the history of this is that it started out as a pale ale, had a French yeast infusion and then was dry-hopped with American hops. So perhaps that’s not surprising. It’s very dry with lots of tropical fruit tones and only a hint of sourness that alludes to its claim to be a saison. I found it very refreshing and moreish.

Tyson says: A saison? I think not. An excellent, slightly exotic pale ale: yes. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Stevens Point Belgian White

Ok it’s over the pond we go for this morning’s breakfast accompaniment. Stevens Point are in Wisconsin-rather them than me-and I’m quite a fan of their IPA, so was looking forward to this. It’s 5.4% and is a miserly 15 on the IBU scale; about what you’d expect from this style of beer. Ingredients wise, it has Hallertau and Saaz hops, a Belgian yeast strain and is flavoured with Curacao orange peel and coriander.

It poured hazy yellow with reasonable carbonation and a medium sized fluffy white head that didn’t hang around. The aroma was a little bready with some orange and herb in the background. Body wise it was light on the palate, hiding the alcohol well, with a gentle mix of bread, orange and a faint spiciness. Typical of the style, if understated. The finish was more of the same with a gentle fade out.

Tyson says: Acceptable but unremarkable. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Down Memory Lane: A Visit To The Clarence

The Clarence situated on the corner of Silver Street in Bury is the last surviving pub of that once proud street. Nowadays it boasts a rather less than stellar collection of part-time bars and wannabe pubs. But back in the day, the pubs were bold statements of intent from ambitious breweries. The Clarence, juxtaposed with the busy thoroughfare of Bolton Street, was an impressive multi-floored public house with guest rooms that gave panoramic views right up to Holcombe Hill. By the time I got to frequent it in the late 1970s, its glory days-like all the old-timers-were over but it still remained impressive. There were less travelling salesmen than there used to be but it still offered cheap B&B and still boasted a modified version of its original multi-roomed layout. This made it popular with under-age drinkers who could purchase their drinks and scuttle into an unobserved corner. I remember being fascinated as it had by then a rarity: an upstairs room with bar. I think this was the original billiards room. My brother in law was a very keen snooker and pool player and when he moved in there, it hosted many a snooker match. 

(Clarence 1977)

It was also unusual in that it was a Vaux pub. The Sunderland brewer had a small number of pubs in the Bury area but their beers never really suited the local palate and I can’t claim to have been a fan. After the implosion at Vaux, Whitbread bought their estate and Boddingtons arrived at the Clarence. By now it was a single open-plan entity and with each new owner, it deteriorated along with its customer base and real ale. There was a little hiatus with the restoration of the original fireplace and a flirtation with Taylors Landlord, but even calling it the Duke of Clarence couldn’t ultimately stop the rot. Why all this nostalgia? Well because, against all odds, it’s coming back. Bigger and better than ever. Owner Lee Hollinworth is really bringing something special to Bury and last week I got to have a peek inside. Darren Turpin, he of the mighty Greater Manchester Ale News, has written an excellent summary of the visit here. I’d just like to add my thanks to Lee, Craig, Brian and Lisa for the opportunity and to remind people to put the opening night of Friday 3rd October in their diaries. It looks like the Clarence is ready to shine again.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Barney's Good Ordinary Pale Ale

Today we are off to Scotland for our breakfast trick or treat. We try to escape their imperial yoke but the Scots continue to taunt us by sending their beer over here. Haven’t we suffered enough with Deuchars? Anyway Barney’s promises to be different and is brewed on the original Summerhall brewery site in Edinburgh. It’s a 330ml bottle-conditioned 3.8%.

It poured a hazy dark gold/amber with reasonable carbonation and a large white head. The aroma is sweet malt, a tang of orange and a little yeasty. It’s light-perhaps a little too thin-on the palate with a little lemon and caramel malt coming to the fore. The finish is medium dry with a little grainy residue.

Tyson says: Ambitious title but not quite hitting the mark. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Fourpure Pils

A potentially interesting breakfast treat this morning with this can, yes can, of Fourpure Pils. Fourpure are one of the leading exponents of the now famous Bermondsey Mile and their beers, rightly in my view, are considered some of the best in London. As an up and coming brewery of note, it’s not surprising that they have decided to enter the canned market as its clearly the future for their kind of product. But is it any good?

It’s a 330ml can and is 4.7%. It’s brewed with Hallertauer and Saaz hops and is fermented, unsurprisingly, with a Bavarain yeast. It tips the scales at 35 International Bitterness Units, so not that far off Holts Bitter level. It poured a lovely clear golden colour with excellent soft carbonation and a large long-lasting head. The aroma was light breaded malt and a little hay.

It has a recommended serving temperature of 6’C and at that, it really has a clean and crisp refreshing bite. Let it warm up and you get even more of the mellow malt and slightly grassy hop notes. It’s got a lot more bitterness than you’d expect and any vanilla notes are well hidden. The finish is pleasingly dry and you are automatically guzzling another mouthful before you know it. Fans of Jever will like this.

Tyson says: Excellent. Welcome to the future. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

To London Once More We Rode

Another day, another tour round London. This time craft was definitely off the agenda. Why? Well because we were escorting Uncle Albert round. Now as he reaches for the defibrillator when prices reach £2 a pint and the only craft he thinks is in arts & craft, it was always going to be a more traditional crawl. First stop was the Royal Oak on Tabard St. This classic Victorian street corner boozer is of course Harvey’s only outlet in London and worth a visit on that basis alone. Next up was a visit to see how the other half live in Belgravia. The Grenadier should need no introduction: once the local of the Duke of Wellington, it has hosted celebrities such as Madonna and now Uncle Albert. Although smelling salts were needed when he saw the price of a pint of Landlord.
(First of many)

(The Grenadiers latest recruit)

Blackfriars station has had some £600M spent on it and very nice it looks too. Just as impressive is the Blackfriars pub which boasts some interesting Art Noveua designs. It’s amazing to think that such a splendid pub was set to be demolished in the 1960s and only intervention by the likes of John Betjeman saved it. And talking of historic pubs, just round the corner on Fleet St is the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, this is a behemoth of a pub with a warren of rooms and cellars. Past patrons have included Dr Johnson and Charles Dickens and it reminded Uncle Albert of what pubs were like when he was a lad. The price of the Sam Smiths didn’t hurt, either.

(This pub is nearly as old as me)
(Look what I've bought)
From the historically large to the historically small. The Seven Stars on Carey St is a beautifully quirky establishment that dates back to 1606. Its close proximity to the Royal Courts of Justice ensures a steady stream of legal types celebrating or commiserating cases.  Legendary landlady Roxy Beaujolais keeps a regal eye on proceedings and those of you with longer memories will remember her once equally famous cat: Tom Paine. The Harp in Covent Garden is another rightly famous drinking institution that won CAMRA’s national Pub of the Year award in 2011. One turned into two etc., in there but we still managed to squeeze in the Euston Tap and managed some beer for the train home as well. A job well done said Uncle Albert.