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

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. 

Meanwhile Elsewhere In London

The Craft Beer Co have big plans to conquer the world one postcode at a time. Their latest outlet situated at the corner of High Holborn and Endell Street seems designed to bring quality beer to the thirsty patrons of theatre land. The famous Shaftesbury Theatre is close by but then again, so is the Cuban Embassy and I’ve heard those lads like a drop or two of craft beer as well. Either way, it’s in a great spot for a mini-crawl encompassing the Holborn Whippet and the Cross Keys. Inside it’s what you’d expect: lots of nice wood, mirrors and shiny taps. It’s very small (location, location, location) basically just one narrow corridor of a pub with a larger lounge area downstairs. No surprises that the beer selection is excellent with a dazzling draught choice and a carefully chosen bottled range. Definitely worth a visit but perhaps not on a Saturday night.
(What is Craft like?)
(This is what Craft is like)

(Plenty of choice)
(Seats for hipsters)

(Harrild & Son)
(Smart place)
 Also excellent is the new Brewdog at Shepherd’s Bush. It claims to have the largest craft beer selection in the country and with 40 on tap, it could well be right. BD bars seem to improve with each opening and this one, along with the usual exposed brickwork and corrugated stone, comes with more than the usual quota of comfy seating. Seems even hipsters like a seat. Or is that just a London thing? Service here was very good with a very engaging and knowledgeable barmaid. Which brings us onto Harrild & Sons on Farringdon Street. This is a new pub from the folk behind the Well & Bucket in Bethnal Green and gets its inspiration from the site being once the premises of Robert Harrild; a famous Fleet St printing press manufacturer. A smart place that ticks some of the boxes but although the staff were very helpful they seemed to lack (as yet) the knowledge to go with your craft pint. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Judging At The GBBF

The Great British Beer Festival at Olympia in London is CAMRA’s flagship event and is a massive undertaking by any measure. With nearly 60,000 visitors expected on site to help shift the some 900 beers, ciders and perries of offer, it naturally generates a lot of publicity. At the focus of all this activity is the announcement of the Champion Beer of Britain. This prestigious award not only generates publicity for the campaign but gives a visible boost to the winning brewery. Just ask some of the previous winners. Sometimes the award can appear baffling and often leads to head scratching in some quarters. For example, the award going to strong dark beers for the last two years led to mutterings about what CAMRA was playing at. The process is, theoretically at least, quite simple albeit little understood even by CAMRA members. A perceived lack of transparency coupled with a rather laboured category system has lent the process an aura of mystery. But that was to change this year.

(Enjoying themselves while all the hard work goes on upstairs)
Yes, thanks to the folk at Lettherebebeer, yours truly was invited to be a judge. Obviously they wanted to bring a touch of professionalism to the proceedings. So I duly turned up on the Tuesday to do my civic duty. Being the consummate professional, I had of course abstained from alcohol for weeks beforehand. Ok, I may have had a few in the Euston Tap the night before. Or several even. Well they did have a Czech beer tap takeover. Don’t worry about it, Tyson, I hear you say. Anyone would have done the same. Thanks, I appreciate that. I had, however, abstained from spicy foods and cleaned my teeth. So my palate was fresh even if my body was a little tired. I was to be judging on one of the semi-final panels and looking at the bigwigs and celebrities milling around, I realised I’d have to be at the top of my game. Luckily, of course, I always am.

Basically CAMRA has a number of categories for all beer types: Bitters, Speciality Beers, and Porters etc. Now some of these are plainly nonsensical; the Golden Ales category springs to mind as a category so vague you could drive a Russian aid convoy through it. CAMRA, it has to be said, are well aware of the shortcomings. However you can only work within the structure you have and so the beers that have arrived at GBBF through various channels compete in their selected category. The qualifying rounds see the best of each category selected and these eventually get to compete against each other in the semi-finals. These split all the categories into two groups and I was placed on the panel that was judging Porters, Stouts, Strong Milds, Barley Wines, Speciality Beers and…Golden Ales.

There were seven of us on the panel including our chairman, Phil. He’d been swapped at the last minute with Roger Protz. Obviously Protzy had sized me up and realised he’d met his match. Being the only first-timer I was a little nervous but my fellow judges were great and Phil was an excellent chair who kept nudging us along nicely. The idea is that you rate the 6 (unknown) beers out of 10 for appearance, aroma, taste and aftertaste. You’re also presented with a copy of the CAMRA guidelines for beer styles to refer to. These actually came into play when the barley wine entry was judged to be more of an American IPA than a genuine barley wine. Technical analysis was on hand from Steve, the guy behind well-renowned American brewery Bear Republic and Deborah who was a Dr of Beerology. Well she has a Doctorate in Brewing Science, but If I were her, I’d put ‘Dr of Beerology’ on my business card. She certainly knew her C2H5OH from her C3H7OH, anyway.
(The aftermath of all the judges' hard work)
Eventually all the beers had been sampled with rough scoring and notes taken. Then it was time to revisit any that warranted a second look and then put in your final scores for the chair to collect. The sheets are then whisked away for processing and the winners go into the final. I’d say that three of our selection were discounted fairly early on and it emerged afterwards that everyone had boiled it down to two. The eventual winner-Oakham Citra-was the almost unanimous choice; with only one person putting it second. And that was that. Just time for a bit of schmoosing and then a lot of drinking. Well, beer judging is very thirsty work.

My thanks to my fellow judges and to Anne and Abbie for looking after me. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Grain 3.1.6

This morning’s wake me up before you go-go is Grain’s 3.1.6. They’re from Norfolk and although we don’t see much of them in these here parts, I’ve heard good things about their beers. This has been recommended as a summer supper (as in supping) and it comes in a 330ml bottle and is a mere 3.9%. The twist here is it is brewed using lager malt. Anyway, it poured a pale golden with a fair sized fluffy white head and good carbonation. The aroma is digestive malt with lemon and a slight floral tang. Taste wise, it was quite dry and refreshingly fruity. Orange and lemon come through with perhaps a bit of lychee and a slight grassiness. A nice crisp finish wraps the package up nicely. 

Tyson says: Perfect summer refreshment

Saturday, 9 August 2014


The latest addition to the Manchester city centre beer scene is Allotment on Dale St. Now tipping a hat to the craft beer movement/phenomenon/hype (delete at will) has long been de rigueur for any self-respecting new opening, but some are more serious contenders than others. For a long time installing a handpull was a badge of intent and although that isn’t now necessarily the case, it has to be said that only Brewdog have had the chutzpah to pull that strategy off successfully. For a good example of close-but-no-cigar, one only has to look at the recently opened Cane and Grain on Thomas Street. A nice enough spot that ticks some template boxes: quirky, exciting menu, exciting cocktails etc. And someone presumably thought they’d better have a go at craft beer as well. Que Meantime, Camden and six supposed American beers. I say supposedly as the likes of Sam Adams and Shipyard are faux craft at best and shouldn’t be listed as USA beers when they aren’t brewed there. For the record, the Shipyard was £5 a pint; flat and watery.
Cane & Grain
It's an allotment
An allotment with a bar
Allotment, on the other hand, could be a genuine contender. Given the golden proviso, as always, of if it can generate the business. It’s on the site of one of Manchester’s oldest pubs: the Haunch of Venison (you don’t see many called that now) although I only knew it when it was called Nickleby’s and sold Boddingtons. Nicklebys closed on the 1990s and the pub became a clothes importer. Now it’s part of the N4 regenration and potentially links a pub crawl of the Soup Kitchen, Pie and Ale, Kosmonaut and Port Street Beer House. The look is quintessentially English (the clue is in the name) as is the food. More importantly is that there are four cask beers on. I was told that there will be a Lancashire ‘Red Rose’ theme to the beers generally, but non-Lancastrian Robinsons was guesting on this occasion. Worth keeping an eye on.

Allotment is open Sun-Weds 12-midnight, Thursday until 1am and weekends until 2am. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Hop At The Chop

Saturday saw a posse of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury CAMRA members ride over the border into North Manchester. Salford to be precise as they paid an official visit to the First Chop Brewing Arm. Owner Rik Garner was on hand for the full guided brewery tour and to serve the occasional pint. It’s hard to see past HOP when it’s on form but AVA certainly ran it a close second. Pictured is cider-loving Mike Robinson presenting Rik with the ROB award for 2014 Cider Pub of the Year for the First Chop in Ramsbottom. Yes, it sells a good range of cider as well as some cracking beers.

Now where to go to after a brewery tour? The pub, obviously. So it was round to the New Oxford in Bexley Square for an alcohol top up. Unfortunately they had just had an unexpected large party in and the beer board was looking a little bare. So after a quick one, we headed for the Salford Arms and settled in there. Tom, the gaffer here, is really enthusiastic about his beers and really gives the place a welcoming vibe.

After seeing off Stopwatch Sid and his assistant back on the train to leafy Greenfield; it was a case of what to do next? The pub, obviously. Well it was still daylight after all. With Blackjack having one of their soirees at the brewery, it would have been rude not to go.  And very nice it was too. For those not in the know, Rob’s little outfit is at the bottom of Gould Street (that’s the one by the Marble Arch) but is only open, as yet, on certain weekends. The Pokies went down well but Arbor Beech Blonde stole it for me here.

The crowd was now thinning and decisions had to be made. What to do next? The pub, obviously. Well it was still daylight. Just. So up to the Marble Arch we went to enjoy some Summer. Very sensibly some people were dining before setting off home. But Sensible isn’t my middle name (it’s Wolfgang) so there was one more stop for a nightcap. Port Street Beer House. Well it is IPA week. A very refreshing Magic Rock High Wire was quickly followed by Toccalmatto’s sublime wonder that is Zona Cesarini. Now I’m sure this was followed by something equally awesome, but it’s all a bit hazy after that. I did get home safely, though, as I distinctly recall the arrival of my super-sized double garlic, jalapeno special. A grand end to a grand day.