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

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Wentworth Oyster Stout

Wentworth have been brewing since 1999 and are based in the village of Wentworth, South Yorkshire. I’m a fan of their Oatmeal Stout, but can’t recall having their oyster variety before.

The basics: It’s a 500ml bottle that weighs in at 4.8% and claims that it is made with freshly shucked oysters. It was very lively and poured pitch black with a large foamy head. A strong aroma of roast malt and coffee with some liquorice.

Taste: Medium bodied that starts smooth, but then quickly builds to a strong impression of liquorice overwhelmed by roast malts and coffee like bitterness.

Finish: Short burst of charcoal bitterness.

Conclusion: Not bad, but just lacking that extra bite to put it in the top flight. Not sure where the oysters come in, though. One for your Guinness drinking friend.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Hopdaemon Green Daemon

This is the second Hopdaemon beer to be trialled at breakfast. Skirmshander IPA was a real disappointment, but having had this recommended, I was willing to give them another chance.

The basics: This is a 5% Helles that comes in a 50cl bottle. The bottle says it's well suited to curries or seafood, but how well would it fare alongside Oatibix?

It poured clear golden with good carbonation and a thin off-white head. There was an appealing aroma of tropical fruits-mango, peach and some citrus.

Taste: Tropical fruits combine with some sweet malt to give a good crisp texture. Nicely balanced, it’s quaffable and quite moreish.

Finish: Medium with a dry fruit hop aftertaste.

Conclusion: Works well as either a very good British version of this classic style or simply as a tasty summer quaffing ale. One for the BBQ friends.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Best CAMRA/Libya Comparison Of The Week

Customer 1: “What about that no fly zone in Libya, eh? That’ll stop that bastard Gaddafi bombing his own lot!”

Customer 2: Yeah, talk about an iron fist. He’ll do anything to stay in power.”

Customer 1: “Bit like John Clarke*.”

*JC is the chairman of Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA. Any analogy is, of course, completely spurious as he has never, to the best of my knowledge, ordered the Stockport Air Force to open fire on dissenting CAMRA members. Or has he...?.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Iceni Celtic Queen

After two disappointing beers from Iceni, I’ve been asked to give them one last go. So for today’s breakfast treat we have Celtic Queen.

The basics: It’s a 4% golden ale that comes in 500ml bottle conditioned form. It poured hazy amber-that never quite cleared-with poor carbonation and a non-existent head. Very little aroma aside from a hint of sulphur.

Taste: It tasted better than it looked. Although, to be fair, that wasn’t difficult. Some malt and fruit lingers briefly on the palate, but the underlying taste is sulphur.

Finish: Short, but pleasantly dry.

Conclusion: The best of the three Iceni beers, but condition really let this down. It quickly went flat and listless and was only saved from complete blandness by a little fruit and sulphur. It might be better on draught, but it doesn’t really change the impression that Iceni are happy to churn out middling beers. One for the postman.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Titanic Iceberg

Titanic have been brewing in Burslem, Stoke on Trent since 1985. The brewery is named after Captain Edward John Smith who was born locally and who was, of course, in command of the ill-fated liner.

The basics: Iceberg can be very refreshing on cask, so I was looking forward to comparing it with the bottled version. It’s 500ml, 4.1% and comes in a clear bottle. It poured clean golden with good carbonation and a tight off-white head. Lots of lemon and citrus fruits in the aroma.

Taste: Light and very quaffable. There’s refreshing lemon and grapefruits tones along with some spicy wheat. The Cascade hops come through to give it a very satisfying dry edge.

Finish: Lingering and dry.

Conclusion: An excellent beer. It doesn’t quite have the zesty hop punch of the cask version, not that I would really expect it to, but if you enjoy the cask version, then you will appreciate this. One for the beer rack.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Iceni Fine Soft Day

This is the second Breakfast beer I’ve tried from Norfolk brewer Iceni. Apparently it’s their best seller, so I was hoping for an improvement on their first, not very pleasant, effort.

The basics: It’s 4%, 500ml and bottle conditioned. It poured light amber with good carbonation and a good solid frothy head. Very little aroma. There was just a slight hint of maple hidden amongst the more dominant yeasty smell.

Taste: Initially not very much flavour at all and the body is disappointing for a 4% beer. Some caramel and maple does come through eventually giving it a slight bittersweet edge.

Finish: Poor. Dies before it hits the back of your throat.

Conclusion: Another disappointing beer from this brewery. Sadly, it never really rises above being bland apart from a short furore into syrupy sweetness. There seems little point in going to all the trouble of bottle conditioning when the basic product is so badly flawed. One for the husband of the woman who lets her dog piss outside your house.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Hopdaemon .Skrimshander I.P.A

Hopdaemon are from Newnham, Kent and have been brewing since 2000.

The basics: This 4.5% pale ale comes in a 500ml bottle and is described as “Deliciously fruity with spicy citrus hop aromas.” It poured copper coloured with little carbonation and a thin off-white head that quickly evaporated. There was very little aroma. The slightest hint of citrus came through along with some yeast.

Taste: Medium bodied and understated with caramel malt and some sweet fruit. There’s also an unpleasant tannic tea flavour that lingers on the palate.

Finish: Burnt toast.

Conclusion: What flavours this beer did have quickly evaporated to leave an astringent aftertaste that was quite off putting. A poor example of the IPA style. One for the neighbour who still hasn’t brought your ladders back.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Teignworthy Amy's Ale

Teignworthy were established in 1994 and are based in Tuckers Maltings in Newton Abbot, South Devon.

The basics: This 500ml 4.8% bottle conditioned pale ale is named after the brewer’s first born. It poured light amber with reasonable carbonation and a thin off-white head. The aroma was subtle; a little fruit and biscuit malt.

Taste: Medium bodied, it was quite smooth and didn’t drink its strength. There was some orange, a little caramel and definite biscuit malt. I quite like biscuit malt, so I found it to be pleasantly easy drinking.

Finish: Biscuit malt with a surprisingly bitter edge.

Conclusion: After sampling the Spoons festival again yesterday, I was looking for something not too taxing. And I found it. It's a decent enough session beer with a dry, moreish, finish. But although 4.8% doesn’t register as particularly high on my radar, there are possibly weaker beers that will give you the same result. One for your sister.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Iceni It's A Grand Day

Iceni are based on the edge of the Thetford Forest, in the Brecklands area of Norfolk. Now Norfolk, for some reason, isn’t the best county in terms of good breweries and, having tried Iceni on cask, I was interested in seeing what this bottled version would be like.

The basics: It’s a 500ml bottle conditioned 4.5% golden ale. It did indeed pour a bright gold colour with excellent carbonation and a creamy white head. Aroma wasn’t strong but a little sweet spice came through. Looks good, smells ok.

Taste: Oh dear, this is where the wheels came off. The initial sweet fruit evaporates to become bitter and then unpleasantly astringent. There’s a sensation of cloying ginger which makes it quite hard to drink.

Finish: Cloying ginger that sticks to the throat.

Conclusion: This beer seems to have fallen between two rocks. It should either have more bitterness to give it a crisp hoppy bite or more ginger and be more like Marble Ginger. Instead it’s neither and I found it hard work as there is little to redeem it. One for the woman who lets her dog piss outside your house.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Green Room Icon

It’s always good to try a beer from a brewery you haven’t come across before and so it is today. Green Room Ales are based in St Austell and have been brewing since mid 2009.

The basics: The first thing that strikes you is that it’s a clear bottle. Something, I’ve always been told, most brewers frown upon. However, it does give you the opportunity to immediately size up the beer which was pale amber/golden. It’s a 500ml bottle and is 4%. It’s bottled at Keltek brewery where, I believe,  Green Room have been brewing since reaching capacity.

There was moderate carbonation and a large frothy head. Not much aroma but some fruit and biscuit malt.

Taste: Easy going and light bodied. A little fruit with some biscuit malt dryness. Slightly lager like. Nothing too demanding, but certainly not unpleasant. Would be interesting to see if the cask version has more oomph, though.

Finish: Short mix of fruit and malt.

Conclusion: A good session beer for your Cornwall holiday or at a BBQ. Possibly a good introduction for lager drinkers crossing the divide. One for your lager drinking mate.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Chimera Dark Delight

This morning I went over to the dark side. Yes, it was time to balance out all those IPAs, pseudo IPAs and Pale Ales. And what better way than with Downton Chimera Dark Delight?

The basics: Downton is the experimental sibling of the Hop Back brewery. This beer was a finalist in the Tesco 2004 Beer Challenge and has a complex mix of Challenger, East Kent Goldings, Pioneer and organic Fuggles. There’s also a little maize in there as well. It’s 500ml and bottle conditioned.

It was very lively and poured a slightly hazy chestnut colour with a large off-white head. You could detect the Pioneer hops in the aroma, along with chocolate malt and coffee.

Taste: Mouthfeel was surprising smooth. Roast malt and coffee bitterness then dominate heavily. Sadly I could only detect the faintest hint of chocolate. Not a session beer, this one clearly marks itself out as a winter warmer.

Finish: Dry with a lingering bitter coffee aftertaste.

Conclusion: If you’re a diehard fan of Old Ales, then this might hit the spot. Otherwise, the casual drinker might struggle with its singularity. I suspect it will be a lot better in its cask form. One for your second cousin.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Crooked Tree IPA

Today’s breakfast treat is Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA. Dark Horse are an American brewery based in Marshall, Michigan.

The basics: No sign (again) of any ABV. Are all American drinkers psychic or is it they just don’t care? Anyway, it’s a standard 12 oz bottle. It poured hazy amber with good carbonation and a very tight off-white head. It had an appealing, quite strong, hop aroma of pine and grapefruit.

Taste: Quite full bodied and hinting at a high ABV. Pine and floral hops strongly dominate upfront to give it a “classic” IPA taste with some grapefruit at the back. Not as astringent as I was expecting.

Finish: Quite short; piny.

Conclusion: More balanced than many American IPAs, but, for me, just lacking that killer punch that would make it stand out more from the competition. One for your uncle.

Update: Ok so it’s 6%. It tastes stronger, so I’m marking it down for lack of ease of drinking.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Beer of the Week & Hawkshead Beer Festival

For the first time, there’s been a tie. Ossett Oregon Pale, sampled in the Art Picture House, was a beautiful blend of fruit and bitingly dry hops from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. And then there was the incomparable Fyne Jarl with its full on Citra experience. This was served yesterday in superb condition at the Hawkshead Brewery Beer Festival.

Not unexpectedly, there was no shortage of excellent beers at Hawkshead as they were showcasing SIBA’s 2011 Medal Winners. I didn’t personally have a bad one all day, but I did sample the Foxfield Unzipped which was drawing a few complaints and found it to be full of unpleasantly diacetyl flavours.

The rest of the beers were uniformly good. Pick of the bunch? Well a lot of people (including me) were impressed with Stringers Yellow Lorry. This was a fine example of the use of Amarillo hops. Using both Amarillo and Citra was Hawkshead Citrillo. This tropical fruit hop delight was very moreish indeed. As was Bowland Admiral which was bursting with floral hop tones. And Marble’s collaboration with Whim-Utility Special-was very impressive as well.

An excellent festival and an enjoyable day out that ended with some more Hawkshead Windermere Pale and a nightcap of Phoenix Arizona in the Art.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Pale Ale Columbus

Needing something, hopefully, refreshing after yesterday’s exertions, it was time for a Pale Ale breakfast once again.

The basics: This is another one from London microbrewery Kernel. It’s a 50 cl bottle conditioned 5.3% beer flavoured with the American hop Columbus. It poured hazy amber with reasonable carbonation, but a small head that almost immediately evaporated. The aroma wasn’t very strong, but grapefruit and marmalade were detectable.

Taste: Quite mellow and medium bodied, the first impression of marmalade gives way to some pleasing hop bitterness. Easy drinking enough, but there’s not much else going on taste wise.

Finish: Very brief. Disappointing.

Conclusion: If this was 4.3% then it would be more impressive. But, although it doesn’t drink its strength, it simply hasn’t got enough going for it at 5.3%. There are several more impressive beers out there. One for your sister.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Punk IPA (Canned)

Saturday. The weekend proper. Time to cut loose and boogie on down. No time for an Oatibix breakfast today, though. We’re off to Cumbria and the Hawkshead Brewery Hall for their beer festival. Amongst others, the mighty Tandleman will also be there. And, as we all, know he drinks like a fish, so I’m having a proper Spoons breakfast later.

In the meantime and to mark the occasion, I thought I would try something different. But I know what you are thinking. Brewdog in a can? That’s got to be wrong, right? Well if anyone can get away with putting Punk IPA in a can, Brewdog can.

The basics: I like the look of the can, but why is it so farting small? 330 ml is a joke. Or is it just a con to make you buy twice as much as you normally might? Naughty Brewdog.

The beer is 5.6% and was (I believe) canned at Daniel Thwaites. They have gone for light filtration and, interestingly, it’s unpasteurised. It poured amber coloured with weak carbonation and a little head that quickly evaporated.

Aroma was pleasant. Not pungent, but mango and grapefruit came through

Taste: Not bad, but noticeably sweeter than the present cask version and much less bitter than the previous bottle version which was 6%. Grapefruit and citrus hops are present, but there’s no hiding a sweet caramel undertone. Easy drinking for 5.6%, though.

Finish: Very short bitter bite that dies almost immediately.

Conclusion: Not a bad beer and it works in a can-to a fashion. However, it fails to live up to the hype and the initial promising aroma. Brewdog had this beer nailed and dropping the bitterness and ABV smells, frankly, of dumbing down. Which is particularly disappointing given the lengths they have gone to establish their reputation. One for your mate who usually drinks canned Boddingtons.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Southern Tier Pale Ale

This is a Pale Ale from the Southern Tier brewery. No, I’ve never heard of them either. But according to the bottle they are based in Lakewood, New York. So the countdown to the weekend begins with an American Pale Ale.

The basics: According to the bottle, it’s 12 oz. interestingly, there’s no ABV printed on the bottle-I shall check on that later. It does say that it’s brewed with two types of malt and two types of malt, but doesn’t give any details.

It poured a lovely golden straw colour with good carbonation and a tight capped frothy head. The aroma is less intense than an IPA, but is still very inviting. Clear notes of grapefruit and tangerine are present.

Taste: Crisp and medium bodied with zesty grapefruit, some tangerine and well balanced bitterness. Whatever the strength, it’s easy on the palate and very moreish. After last night’s excesses, it’s certainly hitting the spot.

Finish: Slowly dries out to leave a slight grapefruit bitterness at the back of the throat.

Conclusion: A very satisfying and accomplished beer. It would pass muster as an IPA and as a Pale Ale, it excels. A keeper.

Update: Some uncertainty here, but it’s most likely 6%. It certainly doesn’t taste like it, so well done, guys.

Breakfast Pie Tasting: Cissy Greens Cheese & Onion

After a night celebrating that great Scotsman, St. Patrick, sometimes Oatibix doesn’t cut it as a breakfast. Your body is crying out for carbohydrates and something slightly tastier. Step forward Cissy Greens’ cheese & onion pie.

Cissy Greens is a Lancashire institution. Based in Haslingden, the shop has been producing pies to the same recipe for nearly 100 years. People flock from all over the country to try their hand-raised works of art.

Their cheese & onion pie is a delicate blend of rich, tasty, cheese and proper onions in a mouth-watering packet of pastry. No Hollands pies gloop here, thank you very much.

Now if only I had a beer to go with it...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Nelson Sauvin

This the fourth and final part of the “Punk is dead” quartet and showcases New Zealand’s very own Nelson Sauvin hop. This is high in alpha acids and is possibly my favourite single hop when used in cask beer, so I had high hopes for this bottle.

The basics: No surprises that it’s 330ml, 7.5% and has 75 IBUs. Nor that it’s golden with a good sized frothy head. The aroma is pungent, an intoxicating mix of ripe gooseberries, mango and peach.

Taste: A smooth mouthfeel soon gives chase to an intense zesty hop bitterness of gooseberries and tropical fruit. The hops tingle on the tongue and in the cheeks. Very moreish and ridiculously easy drinking for a 7.5% beer.

Finish. Tropical fruit bitterness that demands you have another.

Conclusion: A hopheads delight. The best of this Brewdog range. One to keep.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Bramling X

This is the third in the series of “Punk is dead” single hop IPAs and showcases the rather humble Bramling Cross variety. The theory goes that this fine English hop is often swallowed up when combined with other more exotic varieties, so why not give it top billing?

The basics: Once again it’s 330ml, 7.5% and has 75 IBUs. It pours deep golden with subtle carbonation and a large off-white head. Aroma is completely different from the other two in the series with no notable citrus tones. Instead you get a spicy apple & blackcurrant olfactory experience.

Taste: Richer and deeper in texture than the other two IPAs. Any mellowness quickly gives way. A hint of plums, but the spicy, tart fruit, bitterness dominates. I enjoyed the puckering (puckering, I said) level of bitterness, but simply not as easy on the palate as the Citra.

Finish: Surprisingly short-lived given the previous bitterness.

Conclusion: An excellent breakfast, indeed anytime, beer if you like your beers on the bitter side. However, it simply wasn’t as moreish as the Citra and drank more like its strength.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Sorachi Ace

This is another in the Brewdog series of “Punk is dead” and this time showcases Sorachi Ace. This is a Japanese hop and an unusual choice for an IPA. Having had it on draught at the Grove recently, I was looking forward to comparing it with the bottled version.

The basics: It’s 330ml, 7.5% and has 75 IBUs. It pours a golden hue with decent carbonation and a large, soapy head. The aroma is pungent lemon and fennel.

Taste: Medium bodied, but not as easy drinking as the Citra. Somehow it seems stronger. There’s lemon, pine and fennel and a trace of bubblegum. Definitely unusual.

Finish. Medium bitterness with a tart fruit finish.

Conclusion: An interesting way to showcase this odd hop. Not as moreish or complex as the Citra, though. Perhaps it needs to be combined with more citrus flavours? One for your second cousin.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Citra

After a night imbibing far too much Darkstar American Pale, the correct choice of breakfast beer is more essential than ever. Hence my parched throat and weary body eagerly awaited the hop boost that would set me up for Monday.

Brewdog Citra is part of their “IPA is dead” range. The premise is simple: you use the same malt backbone, the same strength and the same level of IBUs, but concentrate on highlighting one single hop. This one is Citra, one of the current darlings of the North American hop scene.

The basics: It’s 330ml, 7.5% and has 75 IBUs. It pours crisp and golden with good carbonation and a nice frothy head. Aroma is pungent with plenty of citrus, tropical fruit and pine.

Taste: No pretence at subtlety here. If you like Citra hope, you’ll like it. If not, move on. Medium bodied, the taste is all about grapefruit, citrus, pineapple and pine all combining for a powerful hop fix. Doesn’t drink its strength.

Finish. Surprisingly short, but a pleasing medium bitterness.

Conclusion: An excellent breakfast pick-me-up beer. Not complex, but easy drinking (for hopheads) and an interesting twist on the IPA genre. One for your mother.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: 77 Lager

This is the Brewdog gang’s interpretation of a lager. It’s described as a “juxtaposition pilsner”. So there you go.

The basics: It’s a 330ml bottle and comes in at 4.9%. It poured a lovely golden colour with plenty of carbonation and a soft, soapy head. Aroma is quite subtle with mainly sweet malt and a hint of citrus.

Taste: Smooth mouthfeel of the malt backbone with a nice crisp hop edge balancing it out. Classic Pilsner, really and very tasty as a Sunday treat.

Finish: Short but satisfying. Balanced to the end.

Conclusion; An excellent example of the Pilsner style. This is refreshing and very moreish. One for your dad.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Infra Red

See what I’ve done there? Combined a Beer of the Week with a Breakfast Beer Tasting. Clever, eh? And they said I’d never be let out unsupervised.

Having tried the cask version this week, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to compare it to the bottled version. Hence today’s breakfast beer. As it turns out, they’re very similar, so I’m treating this as a straight bottle review.

The basics: This is a 500ml 6.5% ruby red “oxymoronic IPA”. Which means it isn’t really an IPA. Just as a “Black IPA” isn’t an IPA. These brewers will have their little jokes. But am I bovered? Nope. As long as it tastes ok, they can call them what the hell they like.

It poured a ruby red (no surprise) with light carbonation and a large head that soon evaporated. The aroma was hoppy (no surprise) but also some sweet fruit balancing it out a little.

Taste: The Cascade and Centennial hops certainly come out in the first blast, but there’s also something else there. This might be the Crystal Malt which, some have suggested, is overly represented. I didn’t find that and thought it quite well balanced. It did seem a quite heavy beer-more like a Double IPA-with a chewy hop texture.

Finish: Pleasing. Not overtly long, but the hop bitterness gradually fades rather than a sudden disappearance.

Conclusion: Whether you want to call this an IPA or an experimental red ale, it’s a bit of quality, particularly from such a small brewery. One for your friend who thinks Greene King IPA is an authentic IPA.

Beer of the Week: Hardknott Infra Red

This was sampled on cask at the Port St Beer House. For a description, see the above review.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: 5am Saint

This is an “iconoclastic amber ale” brewed by the notorious/infamous, never knowingly uncontroversial, Brewdog of Fraserburgh, Scotland.

The basics: It’s a 330ml bottle weighing in at 5%. It boasts no less than five varieties of malts, including Caramalt (a very pale Crystal Malt) and Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo hops. For good measure it’s dry hopped with Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial. Ahtanum and Nelson Sauvin.

It poured a deep amber colour with very good carbonation and a healthy looking frothy head. Aroma was zesty citrus and some tropical fruit.

Taste: This one tends to wash over you as the Nelson Sauvin battles for dominance on your tongue. The malts give it some depth but it’s the tart hops that really linger.

Finish: Short and tart.

Conclusion: A pleasing little diversion for hopheads, but it lacks the complexity of some of its rivals. Personally I think it’s better on draught. One for your hophead friend.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Go To The Mardi Gras

Some surprise news today with the announcement that JD Wetherspoons has opened its first shopping centre based venue. And it’s local. They have spent £995,000 in transforming the former Dexter’s Bar & Grill into The Mardi Gras.

And where is it? The Trafford Centre. Yes, that monstrosity that no sane person willingly sets foot in. Over inflated shop prices and not one decent drinking establishment hardly motivates one to do. However, this could all change with the arrival of the Mardi Gras. It will also be interesting to see how this affects the business of their Castle in the Air which is next door to the Trafford Centre.

Full review to follow.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Suke Quto Coffee IPA

This is an unusual beer from the Kernel Brewery that I first tried at the Port St Beer House, Manchester, some weeks ago. That was after a few scoops, so I was looking forward to trying it fresh.

The basics: Kernel are a small brewery based in Druid St, London. This is a 6.5% IPA and is bottle conditioned. It poured a cloudy burnt orange/gold colour with little carbonation and only a slight head. A little like my last sample to the doctor. Thankfully the aroma was much better with definite marmalade, fruit and just a hint of coffee.

Taste: Full bodied and rich. This is not an easy drinking session beer for the uninitiated. Starts with a classic IPA taste of oranges and powerful hops before the coffee kicks in which gives it a fair smack of bitterness.

Finish: You really get the coffee effect in this. A sharp, lingering bitterness that sticks to the back of the throat.

Conclusion: A good attempt at something different. Not for everyone, but I enjoyed the level of bitterness. One to give to a coffee loving friend.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Centennial IPA

This is a cheeky little (655ml) IPA from the Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders have been brewing since 1997 and have gradually expanded and are now highly successful and highly rated. In 2010, Ratebeer.com ranked them as the 4th best brewery in the world.

Since it’s a well known fact that Ratebeer rankings are only good for wiping your arse on, I was looking forward to this breakfast beer.

The basics: This is a 7.2% IPA. It’s a regular Founders brew and weighs in at 65 IBUs. It poured a hazy amber hue with a reasonable carbonation and a tight frothy head. Aroma was orange, and citrus on the nose

Taste: A classic IPA. You could taste the dry hopping but the mouthfeel was full bodied and yet smooth. The tingle of the hops is cleverly offset by the malt undertone that stops it going overboard.

Finish: Short. Initially hoppy and then balances out. Very satisfying.

Conclusion: An incredibly well balanced IPA that doesn’t drink its ABV. You could certainly sink a few of these. One to offer the girlfriend on her birthday.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Luck Of The Oirish

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in beautiful Bury. Oh no. There’s a new and exciting kid on the block. The former O’Neill’s on Silver St has been purchased by the Stonegate Pub Company and, along with eight other former O’Neill’s; it has had a complete makeover.

Now we all know what the problem is with O’Neill’s. They are a tired and embarrassingly dated “Plastic Paddy” concept. And many of them are struggling to keep pace in areas where competition is tight. Former owners Mitchells & Butlers aren’t (completely) daft and that’s why they have sold their worst performers off.

Given all that, it was interesting to see what Ian Payne, chairman of Stonegate Pub Company had to say about their plans: “We’re bringing the next generation of Irish bars to the high street by taking the best of O’Neill’s and adding our own magic.”

So welcome to Molloys, which we are told will offer a "truly authentic Irish offering on the high street.” Now that’s clever. Rebranding an Oirish bar as an Oirish bar. These guys should really be working for the government.

Some churlish people have claimed that this new Oirish bar bears an uncanny resemblance to the old Oirish bar. But let’s put the record straight. This one is called Molloys. And it’s been painted. Any other resemblance is purely coincidental.

Going, Going, Gone?

After a period of relative calm, there have been a few ripples of late in the murky waters of Bury’s pub scene. A number look to be going, are definitely going and indeed, in some cases, have already gone. Some are being mourned; others are disappearing with barely a whimper.

The long empty and much neglected, ex Burtonwood, Grapes on Bell Lane looks headed for the nadir of its fortunes. The dreaded skip has arrived and there looks to be no future for this once bustling local. In fact, Bell Lane and its adjacent areas have become something of a pub graveyard in recent times.

Along the same stretch, but on Rochdale Old Road lies the Brown Cow. Or rather did. It’s still standing but has had a slight change of use. It was never that busy and was often described as “dead”, so perhaps there is some symmetry in it becoming the “Fairfield House Funeral Home”.

Also still standing, for the moment, anyway, is the Pack Horse on Manchester Road. This had a surprise reprieve from plans to convert it into shops and flats when local residents rallied round and successfully objected to the changes. One does have to ask, though, where these same residents where when the pub was struggling for custom.

Mind you, despite, or perhaps because of, its prime spot on the main road between Manchester-Bury, it’s never been the most inviting of boozers. It tended to attract a rather “mixed” clientele as some ne’re-do-wells found out one evening. Unfortunately for them, the pool team were having a late one and our would-be robbers were forced to flee in fear of their lives.

Another less than glamorous recent casualty is the Crown on Rochdale Road. However, in its heyday, the Crown was once the brewery tap for, and is one of the last links left to, Bury’s Crown Brewery. This was sold to Duttons in 1959 along with its 127 pubs and marked the end of large scale brewing in Bury. Because of this and being the only “Crown” in Bury, the pub sign has had a few prospective, er, owners eyeing it up.

One pub that has already gone to the great pub crawl in the sky is the Oddfellows on Tottington Road. Despite sticking with its (sadly, often dodgy) offering of Holts Bitter through thick and thin, this has been a one man and his dog place for some time. Still, there’s no chance now for an upswing in its fortunes as it was recently flattened.

One common thread amongst these closures is that all the pubs were performing at the bottom end of the spectrum. So perhaps more evidence for the belief that pub consolidation is taking out the lowest common denominators?

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Barelegs Brew

This 4.5% Bitter is another one from the Strangford Lough stable. The unusual name originates with King Magnus Barelegs (and yes, he did apparently like to show his legs off) who was King of Norway from 1093-1103. He came a cropper when he was ambushed and killed by the Ulaid Men of Ulster in Downpatrick.

The basics: This “golden ale” poured more on the amber side with reasonable carbonation and a small head that soon evaporated. There was a faint aroma of caramel and very little else.

Taste: Mainly caramel with some biscuit malt. It did have more going for it than St Patrick’s, as there was some hop dryness there, but not very much.

Finish: Short; any dryness disappears almost immediately.

Conclusion: An improvement on St Patrick’s, but once again failing to scale the heights. One for the neighbour who sometimes takes your parcels in.

Monday, 7 March 2011

It Pays To Advertise


In these tough times, pubs have, more than ever, got to get themselves noticed. They say it pays to advertise, but then again, they also say presentation is everything. So perhaps the Good Samaritan in Ramsbottom is sending out mixed messages by advertising the virtues of its cask ale on a sign bolted to an outside bench?