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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

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Recap: Leeds (Parte Uno)

Another trip that needs a quick recap was a little jaunt round Leeds. This peaceful little hamlet nestled in the West Riding of Yorkshire is another long-standing haunt of mine. I use to visit in its Tetley heyday when I had a relative living there and there were a few good drinks there later when a certain well-known blogger used to frequent the local taverns. In those days it was very traditional and had some cracking pubs: we’re talking when the likes of the Horse & Trumpet and the Duck & Drake were in their pomp. Of course craft beer and time wait for no man and it gradually began to lag behind its rivals. However there was a much needed boost when the Leeds Brewery started investing locally and North Bar came on the scene as a craft bar before “craft” was “craft”. Recent times have seen an even bigger groundswell of beer related growth and so it was time to update the Tyson files once more.
The big new venture in town is Tapped on Boar Lane. You could easily walk past it as the exterior is about as un-pubby as you could imagine. Perhaps not surprising as it’s a pub squarely in the mould of the American brewpub variety. There are lots of tall tables, booth seating and light wood here but the nature of the build sadly means little natural lighting. Not that you’d notice as the emphasis, as in all their outlets, is on the beer. This is dispensed via taps on the back wall with the bottom thirteen being for cask and the top fourteen being for keg. Given its location and the choice, it’s no surprise it’s often very busy. There are shiny brewing vessels and pizza, so what more do you want? My only gripe is that they need a board or screen to give you a better idea of what’s on.
Now the Friends of Ham has got a great reputation as a dining venue and a cool place to hang out. Unfortunately it’s a victim of its own success and not being very large, it can be difficult to get in. So it proved on a cold Saturday afternoon when we were told that there no was no room at the inn. Never mind, there was a new, shiny Brewdog (Crown St) to visit. The usual exposed brickwork and metal was on display here but in a much smaller space than usual. There is a little more seating upstairs but it doesn’t take much to fill this little piece of Punk heaven. Which they should do as there was a lot of hoo-ha when they announced plans for a Leeds outlet. Their propensity for self-advertisement counted against them as the powers that be apparently saw them as purveyors of strong drink etc. and made acquiring a licence somewhat difficult. Obviously no-one told them that this craft stuff is pricey.
The unusually titled Crowd of Favour (Harper St) was a Good Beer Guide entry that came recommended. I think it was the wrong time to visit or was it the wrong time to hold a handmade art market? Either way, the place was packed with mums and toddlers making life difficult for the thirsty pilgrim. Perhaps because of that, it didn’t excite on the day, but I will give this former fish and chip shop a second chance. Whitelock’s was an old favourite of mine and is under a new lease of life but sadly proved to be yet another place where you simply couldn’t get in. No such problem with The Hop. This Ossett brewery owned ale house, which is just off Neville St, gave off the same cool vibes as Brewdog albeit it on a larger scale. There was a good selection of cask on here and the Brass Castle Mosaic really hit the spot.

A nice little wander that, interesting, took in none of the pubs featured in my first blog review of Leeds way back in 2009.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller Arh Hvad?!

Now you’ll have to bear with me this morning. Concentrate. I know it’s early but you need to follow me. Those cheeky Danish chappies have done it again. This is called Årh Hvad?! Which is Danish for “say what?” but, apparently, when pronounced correctly it sounds like “Orval”. Yes, the famous Belgian Trappist beer. And it’s no coincidence, as this is Mikkeller’s take on that beer. It just so happens to be Mikkeller’s founder, Mikkel Bergsjot’s, favourite beer. It is hopped four times with Styrian Goldings and the fermentation is done with two yeast strains, one of which is brettanomyces. Ooh, sounds rather good, doesn’t it but it’s got a lot to live up to.
It’s a 330ml bottle and boasts a respectable 6.8% which is actually stronger than Orval. It poured deep copper in colour with a very large three-finger off-white head. The pungent aroma gets you straight away. Breaded Belgian yeast tones with some grape and peppery undertones. Definitely fruity and classic farmhouse twang: no doubt as to the presence of brett. This profile continues into the taste with the brett dominating more but there is still plenty of grape, some caramel at the back and maybe a hint of leather. Carbonation is good and it’s surprisingly fresh and crisp. The finish is a good dose of spiced bitterness that lingers on the palate.

Tyson says: An unusual beer that potentially made a rod for its own back. It would be sacrilege to compare it to Orval (should have tried them side by side, doh) but they do share certain key characteristics. However, regardless of anything else, this is a very enjoyable Belgian replica. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Recap: Liverpool

Liverpool is a good pub city. Or rather it is a city that is good for pubs. You know what I mean. A city full of good pubs. Pubs full of character and full of characters. Its thriving pub culture could be considered a little old-school these days by some as the craft beer scene has been slower to emerge than in some of its rivals. That, though, would be to undersell its charms and being only a 30 minute train ride away from Manchester; it’s worth a day out in anyone’s money. It’s been a haunt of mine for many years now and its seven years this month since I first recapped a trip there on this blog. So any excuse for an update…
(A good start)
The first stop was very memorable for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve never seen the Dispensary (Renshaw St) so quiet. Well I’ve never been in very early doors as it’s usually a sound bet for one before going home. Tackling it first certainly has its advantages, being able to get a seat for one and the chance for first timers to really get a look at it. The beer was also memorable, it really makes a difference being able to sink a good one for the first pint and Raw Citra Pale certainly fitted that bill. Of course some people couldn’t resist the lure of a Jaipur or two but then it is first choice for many people.
(Cosy in the Roscoe)
The Roscoe Head (Roscoe St) was also unusually quiet. Again this gave us time to better appreciate this traditional four-roomed local that has been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. Amazingly all the group (just) managed to squeeze into the small side room so I can confirm that everyone had had a wash that day. Getting a group of old soaks, I mean connoisseurs of fine ales, round Liverpool in an afternoon isn’t easy, particularly when the Colonel is in full flow, but now they had the taste for it; the hunt was on.
(I said let's play Hangman)
The Clove Hitch (Hope St) could be best described as a bistro and although bar seating is restricted on the ground floor, the downstairs Club 23 offers more and there is a little garden. I like it and they do have a good craft beer selection (Beavertown for me) but it may not be for the traditionalist. Indeed Uncle Albert wasn’t happy but then unless the pub boasts spit and sawdust, beer at 7d and barmaids built like a Yorkshire outhouse, he seldom is.
(The handpumps are...)

(Let the meeting begin)
More to his taste and the old geezers in general was the Philharmonic further along Hope St. And what’s not to like? Its faded late-Victorian grandeur conjures up a bygone age and despite currently not being in the GBG it can still muster up a decent pint of the old brown stuff. However, despite in some ways being better than in previous years, for example the opening up of the front area, overall it could do with a little TLC. Even the much fabled toilets aren’t really up to scratch.
(Ah nap time)
On a rare downside, I found the Cracke (Rice St) disappointing once again. What the GBG might call “characterful” I found just plain shabby. This place seems to trade on its reputation as John Lennon’s local when he attended the nearby art college and although the old timers enjoyed the “War Office” snug, I thought the beer selection poor and couldn’t wait to move on. Much better was the Fly in the Loaf (Hardman St) which offers a good range of beers in a comfortable, contemporary setting. Okells, despite steadfastly refusing to offer tasters (tut, tut), have done a good job in refurbishing this former bakery. It was packed to the rafters on this visit: a problem one of our crew solved by sleeping in the bay window.
(Welcome to Brewdog)
There were two more winners for me. One was the new Brewdog (Colquitt St) which like all the new ones has done away with all that post-industrial chic nonsense and is, it pains me to say it, better than its Manchester sibling. Of course Brewdog bars aren’t for everyone and it’s fair to say that it went down like a HSBC executive on a Swiss ski slope with some of the less discerning members of our party. Bier (Newington) was pleasantly laid back (more Beavertown) and, bonus this, only five minutes stagger away from the station.

Liverpool seems to be holding its own: Hope St (the Pen Factory is also worth a look) alone is proof of that and there are still plenty of pubs within easy staggering distance of the station.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Beavertown Bloody Ell (Can)

There really is no reason to have to introduce Beavertown. Their (well-deserved) reputation speaks for itself and their flagship ale, Gamma Ray, was recently voted the best craft beer in the UK. They were quick off the mark with canning (like garlic bread, it’s the future) and now the likes of Gamma Ray and Neck Oil catch the eye in craft beer fridges throughout the land. Their latest venture into the land of lightweight recyclables is their blood orange IPA: Bloody Ell. This was very well received in bottle, so the question was could the can improve on that?
It’s a 330ml can and comes in the bright cartoon style artwork that one associates with Beavertown. Befitting an IPA of character it weighs in at 7.2%. It poured a hazy orange/amber with just over a finger’s worth of bright white topping. One potential problem with the bottle was yeast residue floaters but no sign of that here. The aroma defines the term “zesty”; big, bold overtures of mango, passion fruit, peach etc. overlaid with a massive dose of freshly squeezed oranges.
The addition of blood oranges to the boil becomes even more evident in the body. The taste is uber fresh orange juice with a big dose of hops. This juxtaposition of flavours works wonderfully well to produce a pithy blend of juicy citrus and stone fruit flavours. It’s incredibly easy drinking fare and the piney, long-lasting bitter finish that lingers at the back of the throat adds even more to the experience.

Tyson says: Whoever said oranges are not the only fruit had obviously never tried this. The can blows the bottle away by delivering an incredibly fresh and eager-to-please beer.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brixton Electric IPA

When you’re running short on time and need a lift before heading out of the door, a little IPA hit seems just the ticket. Which leads nicely into this morning’s beer adventure: Electric IPA. This Brixton Brewery effort comes packaged in a nice, eye-catching design and is described as “Inspired by Electric Avenue, the beating heart of Brixton and made with New World hops, our full-bodied IPA is packed with energy and attitude. Electric perfectly balances malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness, with a floral, citrus and tropical fruit hit.”
It’s a 330ml bottle and weighs in at 6.5%. It was very lively but eventually settled down to a cloudy orange colour with a large off-white head. The aroma was very promising; lovely hints of ripe orange peel, grapefruit, pineapple and a little pine sap. This profile continued into the easy drinking body of the beer but is supplemented by a strong presence of tangerine and some bitter lime tones. The finish is long with a cleansing and bitter citrus edge.

Tyson says: No fruit juice to go with your toast? No problem. This baby is the perfect substitute. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Stevens Point Black Ale

TGIF and what better way to celebrate that fact than with a bottle of beer. Today it’s Steven’s Point Black Ale which describes itself thus: “Dark rich roasty and complex, Point Black Ale is hand-crafted with Pale, Munich, and Roasted Malts. Handcrafted with the finest Cluster, Saaz, and Cascade hops for a robust flavor and delicious finish.”  Sounds a decent beer but, as always, the proof is in the supping.
It’s 330ml and is in the ballpark for what I’d expect from this style at 5.2%. It poured jet-black and proved very lively resulting in a 2-finger tan head. The aroma was more muted than I was expecting or indeed hoping for. A little trace of hops but more roast and forest fruit tones than anything else. The mouthfeel was very smooth with a pleasant fizz of flavour over the tongue. Gentle but definite dark-berried forest fruit overtures underpinned by a slight dark chocolate digestive malt base. This continued into the all too brief aftertaste.

Tyson says: Maybe the Munich and Saaz give the game away. This is a perfectly pleasant, if unexceptional beer. However it disappoints as a Dark Ale and works much better if taken as a black lager. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: To Øl Total Hubris

So today we start the day with a little number from those Danish wunderkinds To Øl. Now there is a very special reason for trying this particular beer this morning. Something very deep and meaningful no doubt, I hear you mutter. Absolutely. When I came home last night I had this in my pocket. Now I’m (fairly) certain I didn’t half-inch it, but what better way of disposing of the evidence if I did. Only joking, officer.
First things first. This is actually a collaboration with Swedish brewers Ølrepubliken. No I’ve never heard of them either. Only kidding. What I don’t know about Swedish brewers doesn’t need knowing. Ølrepubliken is in fact a well-respected craft beer bar/bistro in Gothenburg. To Øl, of course, are gypsy brewers and this beer, like a lot of their output, is actually brewed at De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium.

So it’s a 330ml bottle and the first thing that strikes you is the label design. No name (that is on the back) but merely a collection of seemingly random artwork clips. To Øl seem to have a thing for that sort of look. It’s officially a hoppy lager and is described as thus: “A Selfish, Never seen anything like this motherfucker, unique if it should say it self; brilliant hoppy lager created between the self-centered beeremperors: Danish To Øl and Swedish Ølrepubliken.”

It poured a light-ornage/amber with a lot of carbonation and a large two-finger off-white head. Initial aroma seemed classic lager profile but there is a lot going on here. A nice bread and malt mix more akin to a pale ale but complemented by a definite citrus edge with peach overtones. The first taste immediately pays dividends on its aromatic promise. A solid malt grain lager backbone is matched by a fistful of hops. The citrus hops come to the fore but the peach in the aroma is replaced by a pine resin and slightly floral edge. When that washes away you are left with a little granary bread on the tongue and a good amount of citric bitterness at the back of the throat.

Tyson says: Delivers on its promise: a hoppy lager. Very refreshing and moreish. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Thornbridge Jaipur X

Well true believers, today’s breakfast tipple promises to be a rare treat and no mistake. For we have the much anticipated, the much-hyped Jaipur X, no less. What the soap-on-a-rope hell is that, you may ask? It’s simple. Cast your minds back to 2005. Yes those more innocent and halcyon days when Jamie Oliver was battling Turkey Twizzlers and Prince Harry was amusing us by dressing up as a Nazi. Oh how we laughed. Anyway that was also the year that a certain beer was launched. Can you guess what it is yet? That’s right: Jaipur. And to celebrate the anniversary of that now iconic brand Thornbridge are releasing Jaipur X. X=10, you see. And you thought it meant eXtra strong.
But enough twaddle, let’s get to the beer. It’s 10% (doh) and comes in a surprisingly well endowed 500ml sized bottle. Take that you 330ml craft bottle wankers. It poured light-golden with good carbonation and a one finger white topping. The aroma is very rich and enticing. Lots of citrus: pineapple, lime, grapefruit were easily detectable with perhaps a little bit of lychee as well. Taste wise, it’s a well-balanced act of a medium-body being matched by plenty of flavour. The aroma profile continues into the taste but you’ve also got some honey and lemon in the mix and what appears to me to be Lady Grey tea.

This is a strong beer and there’s no escaping that. Initially the great hop burst that you receive tends to blank everything else out but then you do get the slightly sweet boozy aftertaste. But it’s none the worse for that and carries its strength remarkably well. It really is a jet infused version of Jaipur and rather a marvellous feat of brewing.

Tyson says: It’s Jaipur, Jim, but not as we know it.