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

Friday, 28 January 2011

Port Street Beer House

Okay, so last night was the opening evening of Manchester’s latest enfant terrible beer bar. The Port St Beer House is situated on, er, Port Street in an unfashionable part of town, not far from Piccadilly.

Now, if you were opening a post Noughties bar, what would you have on? Thornbridge? Dark Star? Brewdog? Yes, it did indeed promise all of that-and more. But was it any good? Well it turned my piss the colour of Highland spring water. But more of that later.

After a couple of aperitifs, we arrived a wee bit early, only to discover it was still officially closed. A quick nosey, but no beer, soon had us back in the Castle for another warm up snifter. Which was okay, but...no sparkler. WTF? Come on guys, get a grip.

Back at Port St and the place had somewhat of a Euston Tap feel to it. If somewhat bigger. A downstairs bar gives way to a large, comfortable, upstairs room with the toilets on the floor above.

Having secured a prime corner seat, the challenge was set. How much of the draught beer could be drunk in an evening? Perusing the choices, this seemed no mean task, with five cask beers and 14 other options to tackle. I quickly dismissed the likes of Leffe and Veltins and, despite my liking for it, Fruh Kolsch.

Acorn Gorlovka
was a good start, but the lure of Brewdog 5am Saint on handpump proved too strong. Of course, this is a classic, dry hoped, amber ale from the Scottish bad boys and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did the Bacchus Framboise which had a lovely tart raspberry edge to it. Mind you, at £6 a pint, your expectations are pretty high.

Prospect Hop Vine Bitter was a new one for me and had a pleasant, delicate, herbal hop aroma to it. A step above it was Thornbridge Chiron. This was a very well balanced beer; an enticing tropical fruit aroma gave way to a dry and hoppy beer that was Kiplingesque, but more rounded.

I have to say that, yet again, Brewdog Zeitgeist failed to inspire me. Interesting, yes. Moreish, no. The only other disappointment was Grand Ridge Gippsland Gold. I have to say at this point that all the staff were very helpful and pleasingly efficient. Well done. And all the beer was in good nick, too.

Anyway, this Australian old school Bitter was recommended by someone (John, Jim, Johnny?) but I found that after the initial sweet malt, it has very little going for it. Unlike the Franzikaner Hefe-weiss which was exactly what you would hope from this style of beer.

Frankly, it all gets a bit hazy after that. There were some Italian bottles (Del Borga Duchessa?) that were about £5 a pop and some more that were about twice as much. And there was some Moravka. Definitely some Moravka.One or two familiar faces appeared and I definitely had a chat with Deathly Hallows. Of course, at some point, the Brewdog Hardcore IPA beckoned...

So a very promising start to what will undoubtedly become one of the stars of Manchester’s beer scene. Proof of a good night came when, in the toilets, a guy commented (yes, I know, but its 2011) that my piss was as clear as Highland spring water. Anywhere that can turn your piss clear in an evening has got to be good.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Beer of the Week

Hawkshead Windermere Pale. This is a classic beer and takes some beating, anyway. But it’s not just about throwing it down your neck and falling down drunk. It’s about the moment, the ambience and the life experience of drinking a beer. Apparently.

So this one wins on any number of criteria. Not sampled at the NWAF, but at the City. Not the famous City Arms on Kennedy St, but the City on Oldham St, just a bit further up from the Castle.

This authentic slice of Mancunian life attracts what CAMRA likes to call a “mixed clientele”. There are the old timers calling in after shopping, the Moss Side lads who jealously guard the pool table and some footie fans watching the match. And, on this occasion, two guys straight out of Shameless, popping E and gulping down cans of Coke.

It’s a great place to people watch and where else in Manchester, nay indeed the country, could you walk in on Stylistics Karaoke? The house beer is brewed by Acorn and there is usually a Stout on as well. Acorn Gorlovka this time around. And, sometimes, there’s a guest beer to try. Which is where the wonderful Hawkshead Windermere Pale came in.

NWAF: How Was It For you?

As someone famously said:“We came. We Saw. We drank.”
video

And so it was at the National Winter Ales Festival. Or NWAF as the law says we have to call it. This was a sheer cornucopian indulgence of all things beery. Oh and cider and perry as well; but I didn’t try any of that. Or any of the bottled stuff, either, come to think of it. I had my hands glasses full sampling mucho cask beer and foreign draught.

Anyway the place was a sweatshop of staff (or unpaid mugs, as they are known in the trade) working, beavering, slogging away to serve the thirsty punters. And Tandleman was there as well. Shaking hands, signing autographs-all that kind of celebrity thing. He actually let me have his for the discounted price of £10. What a guy.

The first beer sampled at the event was Black Bull Sauce of the Niall. This was a 4.5% stout named after Sunderland FC’s chairman, Niall Quinn. Last beer sampled was (I think) Thornbridge Merrie. This was (I think) a 5.9% copper coloured Christmas pudding type of drink with spiced fruit, ginger and cinnamon all in the mix. I think.

All the beers sampled were in good condition and some of the third samples were very generous. But my pick of the best, in no particular order, goes something like this. Best Mild would have to be Kissingate Black Cherry Mild-an interesting mix of fruit and Amarillo hops. Amarillo hops also were much in evidence in Hydes Old Amarillo. There was no subtlety here. Just a wonderful orange bouquet followed by an intense bite of Amarillo hops. A hopheads delight.

Other beers enjoyed: All of the Cumbrian breweries, including two new ones to me-Great Gable and Greenod. The new stout from Ramsbottom’s very own Irwell Works, Iron Plate, was also quite tasty. However, you couldn’t disagree with the judges who crowned Hop Back Entire Stout as the Champion Winter Beer of Britain.

Well done to all those concerned and congratulations to Hop Back and all the other winners. Another year and another successful event. If CAMRA have got any sense, they will leave the event where it is. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: William Bros 80/-

Today’s a big day. Yes it the start of the national Winter Ales Festival (NWAF to those in the know) in Manchester. Who’s going? Ok, now lower your hands. A big day requires two things to kick start proceedings: A big breakfast and a beer.

Now this not being the Noughties, it’s perfectly acceptable, beer etiquette wise, to sometimes skip the large breakfast. And so we find ourselves sampling a bottle of Williams Bros 80/-. That’s 80 shillings in that old funny money that your dad told you about.

William Bros are a Scottish brewery that started out in a homebrew shop way back in 1988. Based in Alloa, they now bottle (and cask) well known beers such as Fraoch and the seaweed beer, Kelpie. 80/- is a 4.2% recreation of a classic Scottish style and comes in a 500ml bottle.

It pours an appealing deep red/brown colour and the initial aroma burst is of roast malt and chocolate. This carries on through to the flavour; with smoked malt, chocolate and toffee all discernible in a slightly light body. There are some tart fruit undertones, but not enough for my liking.

The finish is nice and dry, but quite brief. Overall an interesting beer, but perhaps could do with being a tad stronger. Its overwhelming maltiness prevents it from being moreish enough for me, but it complemented the Oatibix rather well.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Beer of the Week

This has to be Cropton North Peak Vicious American Wheat IPA. Quite a mouthful in more ways than one-it certainly seems hard to recall its full name after a gallon of it has washed down your gullet.

This 6% hybrid delight was sampled at the Old Wellington in Manchester. I was somewhat surprised to find that it more than delivered on its interesting premise of balancing an American heavy hopped IPA with the refreshing tang of a wheat beer.

Perhaps the moreish result is less surprising when you look into its pedigree. It may be brewed by North Yorkshire’s Cropton Brewery, but the man behind the beer is American. Mike Hall, who is a Master Brewer and a senior member of the International Brewers Guild, met the Cropton gang during their tour of Northern Michigan micro breweries.

The beer is made using four different hops and is named after the legendary Dogman (part antelope, part jackal) which, according to US folklore, roams Northern Michigan. It’s on sale in Nicholsons and M&B pubs and I recommend it for hopheads who like their hops with a little extra kick.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

2011: The Year For FemAle(s)?

So 2011 has begun much as 2010 started. With a treasure hunt. The treasure, in this case, being that most elusive of things: the female beer drinker. Yes, after more false starts than the 1993 Grand National, it’s Molson Coors turn to take the lead in this search for the seeming Holy Grail.

With beer sales in decline and profit margins squeezed down to 2p on a pint of Carling, MC are keen to expand the market laterally by tempting more women to drink the nectar of the gods. According to Mark Hunter, chief executive of Molson Coors UK, the company has spent £1M asking some 30,000 women exactly why they don’t drink beer.

And the answer? They don’t like it.

'It is perceived as bitter, bloating and served in buckets,' is Mr Hunter's curt summary of the survey.

His solution? A new exciting beer to go on sale later this year. He’s playing things a little close to his chest as yet, but a more female friendly version of Carling appears to be the most likely option.

One possible stumbling block is the name, as they don’t want to totally alienate the classic “blokey” Carling drinker. 'It needs a unisex name as we wouldn't want men to reject the idea,' says Hunter. 'The more unisex it is, the more credibility it has.”

FemCarl, anyone?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Don't Look Back In Anger

Another year over.
And a new one just begun.

So that was the year that was. Wasn't it shite? It’s customary at this time of year to do a review of the last 12 months. But if you think I’ve got time to waste looking at lists, comparing and contrasting; then think again. However, despite having difficulty recalling only yesterday, I will attempt a brief summary of 2010

Well Matt Cardle proved the eventual winner, but who can forget Rebecca Ferguson? Hold on, sorry, that’s meant for my X-Factor blog. Back to the hops and malt stuff.

Beer

As usual, it was a mixed bag. There were some excellent new beers, but plenty of dull brown (and other colours) beers as well. Ever man and his dog seem to be brewing now, but often it appears the dog is doing the brewing. Even the mighty Thornbridge dropped a clanger or two.

Meanwhile we’re still waiting for the Great Leap Forward. But despite a lot of hype, the new keg isn’t the new cask. Yet. However, there are some very positive signs and with the likes of Kernel and others, I’m expecting good things for 2011.

Locally, Outstanding Brewery is still going strong and we gained one new and one potential new brewery. Oh and we still have Leyden.

Pubs

Sheffield continues to dazzle and kept its grip on its beery crown. It remains the “Holy City”, the “Valley of Beers”, and the “Scoopers Paradise”. Birmingham, Huddersfield and Leeds also more than held their own as far as pubs go.

Manchester, on the other hand, continued its almost imperceptible decline. There’s moans and grumbles amongst the faithful. Sure the old favourites are still there, but some are treading water a little and the action seems to have shifted to the suburbs.

The new Marble outlet hardly set the city alight and a handpump here and there doth not a beer city make. The vibrancy of several years ago has been replaced by a slight sense of stagnation. What Manchester needs is a mainstream heavy hitter. There are some potential glimmers of light, so watch this space.

Locally the trend overall was very much a reflection of the national scene. Sadly too many closures and too many underperforming pubs that could do such much better. The availability of foreign beer also remains a problem and the town centre really needs a bar for grownups.

However, we still have one of the best cask pubs in the country in the Hare & Hounds, Ramsbottom is the new Chorlton (so I’m told), the Major has become the unofficial tap for Irwell Works Brewery and the Good Samaritan has recently bounced back with a vengeance.

And with the Thwaites guest beer scheme due to start later this year, there’s plenty for local drinkers to celebrate.

Awards

Best UK Cask Beer: Based on its form in the Regal Moon and because its nectar in a glass-Thornbridge Kipling. Or possibly Pictish Nelson Sauvin/Acorn Motueka/Fyne Jarl. Honourable mentions for Phoenix Hophead as the beer most consistently enjoyed and Windermere Pale for pushing the envelope.

Best UK Bottled Beer: Kernel 1890 Stout.

Best UK Supermarket: They’re all robbing bastards.

Best Pumpclip: Whichever one I’m currently facing.

Best UK Brewery: Acorn. Not only for producing a mind boggling number (36?) of excellent IPA style beers, but for their consistency across the board.

Best UK Draught Beer Not Served By The Traditional Method Of Handpump: Meantime Kellerbier.

Best Beer Festival: Hare & Hounds, Ramsbottom.

Best Pub: The Grove, Huddersfield.

Best Beer Twitterer: Erm

Best Beer Blog: Hmmm. Is anyone still writing them? All a bit Noughties, aren’t they? But, in brief moments of sobriety, I do enjoy Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. Ron has really carved himself an individualistic niche here-not an easy task. Even when he’s wrong (as he was about pub numbers) he’s very informative and who else could have me scrambling about for a copy of the 1955 Licensing Act.

I’m also been very impressed with Oh Good Ale. Not only is it depressingly well written, Phil discusses topics I’m interested in and presents his arguements very clearly. A good read-even if he can’t tell the difference between a pub and a bar.

Best Storm In A Pint Pot: The hilarious cask/keg method-of-dispense debacle.

In 2011 I’d Most Like To: Do more pissed live blogging. Not because it's better, but because it will stop me wasting valuable drinking time and give me even more of an excuse to visit the pub.

Ok that’s enough of that. I’ve expatiated enough. Time for a cheese nightcap.

December's Beer Of The Month



Mallinsons National. A 4.8% pale blonde beer with a light citrus aroma and an easy drinking light body. Mouthfeel is bitter citrus hops and the finish is a long, dry, moreish experience. Very refreshing.