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, 30 March 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mooi & Meedogenloos

I thought I’d go a bit continental to begin the long weekend. So it’s a croissant and a foreign beer for breakfast this morning. And what better than De Molen Mooi & Meedogenloos: that’s beautiful and ruthless to those of us that don’t speak Dutch.
It’s a 33cl bottle and tips the scales at 10.2%. Interestingly, the bottle also tells me that the beer was brewed on 24th March 2011 and that it will keep for five years. Not in the Tyson house, it won’t. It also suggests a serving temperature of 15C. Now that might be ok in London, but I served it at 13C which is more than warm enough in my book.

It was extraordinarily lively, but finally settled down to a very dark, almost black, brown hue with a large, tan head. The aroma was a good mix of caramel, dark chocolate and dried fruits. Taste wise, it had lots of sweet malt, coffee and dried-figs?-fruit.

The high alcohol content was quite well hidden, with the hops content just high enough to offset the sweetness. There was a touch of spice that lingered in the aftertaste. Overall, quite a tasty little number, particularly given its strength.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dark Star@PSBH

Last night saw the latest instalment of meet the brewer at Port Street Beer House. Yesterday’s lucky recipient of Manchester hospitality was Mark from Dark Star brewery. DS are considered among the premier league of current brewers in the UK, so you really should know all about them already. However, you can check their website out here.

The evening followed the tried and tested path of Mark telling us a little about the brewery and then introducing a series of beers. There were five samples, plus a bonus glass of Hophead.

Rye & Juniper 5.2%
This is a seasonal special based on a Flemish beer style.
Malts: Low colour Malt, Munich, Cara Gold, Malted Rye
Hops: Perla, Mount Hood, Amarillo, Columbus
The freshly crushed Junipers were an interesting twist that were more evident in the aroma than the body. What you did get was a pleasingly dry beer with some bitterness in the aftertaste. My favourite DS beer of the evening.

Revelation 5.7%
Malt: Pale Ale malt
Hops: Warrior, Crystal, Cascade, Columbus, Chinook
This was what their APA beer was supposed to be like 10 years ago. Back then, a 5.7% beer was considered unsalable, but times have changed. Hence this new beer. Although I have to agree with those that thought it suffers from comparison with APA.

We were given the opportunity to try both the cask and keg version of this. Mark made clear his preference for the cask version and most people seemed to agree. Certainly the subtleties were lost in the keg version with tangerine flavours erased completely.

Black Coffee Pilsner 4.8%
Malt: Cara Bohemian, Bohemian Pilsner, Acidulated Malt, Roast Barley
Hops: Zatec Saaz
Despite a large infusion of Union Roast Coffee beans, this left many disappointed. Unfavourably comparisons with their Espresso were made and “thin”, “lacking complexity” and “just coffee” were some of the comments made.

Imperial Stout 10.5%
Malt: Maris Otter, Flaked Barley, Roast Barley, Crystal Malt
Hops: Target, East Kent Goldings
This one polarised opinion. Many lapped it up, but I was in the camp that thought too much Crystal Malt and too much alcohol.

That brought the formal-but very enjoyable-evening to a close. However, as the bar was still open and it was the start of PSBH’s Best of British, it seemed wrong to leave.

Some exceptional beers were then had. And all on keg. Would you Adam & Eve it? Camden’s USA Helles was a revelation and went down quicker than the Titanic. Quantum’s Pale Ale was beautifully crisp and dry. But the star of the bunch was Kernel’s Citra/Amarillo Pale Ale which had a tropical fruit aroma that you would sell your mother for and a drinkability off the scale.

An interesting evening with some excellent beers, some excellent cheese courtesy of High Weald Dairy and some excellent tunes, courtesy of the Boss and Mr Zimmerman. And respect to owner Jonny who obviously knows his music pedigree and has called his first-born, Leonard Isaac Hayes.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Blood on the Tracks

The fallout from yesterday’s bombshell continues with Tory backbenchers queuing up to condemn their leader’s decision to impose minimum pricing for alcohol.  Philip Davies summarised it nicely: ‘It’s gesture politics of the worst kind, it’s the Nanny State running riot. It’s a tax on poorer people – it won’t affect the price David Cameron pays for a bottle of wine.” And this comes from a loyal Tory MP.

There’s also been criticism over the lack of notice beforehand; with parliament only receiving two hours advance warning. And on a Friday, which are traditionally reserved for measures of pressing national urgency. And of course no one has been fooled by bringing this forward from Monday that the real reason was to deflect attention away from the so called “granny tax”.
And while Labour can’t exactly claim to be fighting the good fight-except in Scotland, where they stand alone in opposition to minimum pricing-they have a better record on alcohol matters than this current lot. The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, bridled Theresa May as being a “human shield” for Cameron and Osborne.
And how did Ms May take this accusation? Not very well, apparently. She actually said-and I am not making this up-that Labour should apologise for the ‘disaster’ of the Licensing Act. A disaster? The single greatest achievement of the previous government? A piece of liberalising deregulation that any old school Tory would be proud of? I think not, madam.
Of course, there’s nothing like the scent of blood to bring the vampires out. Step forward Katherine Brown of the misleadingly named Institute of Alcohol Studies. Sounding more like a rabid dog than a scientific adviser, she spouts such nonsense as “a tsunami of alcohol harm at the moment, caused largely by the huge availability of very cheap alcohol on supermarket shelves”.
Luckily we have the liberal press to speak for reason and sense. Er...no we don’t. The Guardian, who are quite happy to pay Julie Burchill to lecture us on the use of the “chav” word, see it as justified intervention. And as for the Daily Mirror, that prohibitionist rag is only fit for wiping your arse on. They blather on about it being wrong “when cider is cheaper than water”.
So rather than all being in it together, it seems we are cast adrift alone is a leaky lifeboat. It’s enough to drive you to drink. Except that the government has announced they have strong-armed many in the industry into watering down their products. It seems we are destined to be pissed-off, piss-poor and drinking piss-water.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The End is Nigh Now

O, shut the door! And when thou hast done so, come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past help.
The worst fears of all reasonable minded people look set to have finally come true. In a giant pincer movement not seen since the Ardennes in 1944, the government is poised to deliver several knockout blows to the drinking classes.

It’s reported today that David Cameron has personally given the go-ahead to introduce a minimum alcohol price of 40p a unit in England. If that wasn’t enough, legislation will also be introduced to ban supermarket multi-buy offers. Both of these measures are staggering in their depth and stupidity.

Now, it’s no secret that I don’t expect David Cameron and his Eton chums to run the country very well. Rises in unemployment, poverty and social unrest are unwelcome, but predictable. However, presumably they have some sort of political philosophy guiding them. Or should have.

I’ve always been led to believe-and often been told so by those of a blue persuasion, that the basis of their beliefs is less state intervention and a commitment to the so-called free market. Today David Cameron stands stripped of any such political compass and is revealed not only to those outside of his own party, but to those within, as an empty vessel devoid of ideological integrity.

The effects of these planned draconian measures would be considerable. For example, Tesco and Sainsbury were offering a two-for-£20 deal on a 20-pack of Strongbow cider. This works out at 21p a unit. However, minimum pricing would raise this to £37.50. Likewise 20 cans of Stella-44 units of alcohol-would go from £10 to £17.60.

Of course, it’s not only beer. Asda’s 3-for-£10 wine offer would be now solely for those wines under 11%.  So how does one defend the indefensible? Well, expect to hear how it will lead to 50,000 fewer crimes this year and other outlandish, unsubstantial claims. And how many times will the catchphrase “beer is cheaper than water” be repeated?

As to the cost of all this; well, the government says the average drinker will 'only' have to pay £23 extra a year. As we know, the government’s idea of what an average drinker is doesn’t match reality. The real figure is likely to be much higher-well over a £100 in many cases. The government also says the supermarkets won’t pocket the extra cash, but use it to lower the cost of other goods. But, of course, they won’t be forcing them to do so.
It’s enough to drive you to drink. If you can afford it.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Hare & Hounds Beer Festival

This week sees the launch of the first of three beer festivals planned for this year at the Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook. As these are not only the biggest pub festivals held in the country, but some of the largest beer festivals per se, they naturally draw a lot of attention.

The beer list has now been made public and you can expect some 220 beers and around 15 ciders and perries. All the beer will be served via handpump in the pub-no beer tents here-and we are under starting orders on Thursday. The festival will run until Sunday April 1st or until I manage to drink it dry.

The Hare & Hounds is open all day and can easily be reached using the 472/474 bus from Bury interchange.

The Science of Cheese

At last: scientific validation for me stuffing my face with cheese every chance I get. According to the Journal of Food Science, cheese is a very rich source of phenylethylamine. This is a chemical related to amphetamines and triggers the brain into releasing mood-boosting hormones. So that explains the “cheese buzz”.

But wait there’s more. Apparently cheese also contains norepinephrine, which is a hormone that boosts the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain and muscles. So forget the treadmill and bring on the Quattro Formaggi.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Old Blue Bell

Time and tide wait for no man. Or pub. Work is now well under way to transform the Old Blue Bell on the corner of Wash Lane and Bell Lane, Bury. This was a solid, multi-roomed, Victorian boozer with an appealing taproom in which a friend of mine would happily sup Holts Mild whilst hiding from those at work.

The OBB appeared in the Good Beer Guide for many years and most contemporary drinkers only ever remember it as being a Joseph Holts pub. However, this photo from 1951 shows it in an earlier incarnation as a Wilsons house. There has been a Bluebell pub on the site since at least 1800 when Bell Lane was a toll road and it’s thought the name of the area derives from the bluebells that used to grow there.

The current building dates back to 1899 when it was built by Alfred Crowther & Co Ltd who had their brewery across the road. Formed in 1897, AC & Co were bought out by Wilsons in 1925 who acquired 24 of their houses along with the OBB. On the old Crowther site on Brook St there now stands a brothel.

Brothels and mosques now outnumber pubs in the area. So it seems that the OBB, like many in that area, has fallen victim to post-industrial decay, changing demographics and changing drinking habits. Time and tide wait for no man.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Let the Children Speak

Figures published today reveal that 10 and 11 year olds are more familiar with beer brands than cake and other snacks. A study of 400 children showed that 79% correctly identified Carlsberg as an alcoholic drink, compared to only 74% who knew Ben & Jerry’s was an ice cream brand. 
 
Even worse, only a measly 41% picked out Mr Kipling as makers of exceedingly fine cakes. This is in stark contrast with the 79% who recognised the Smirnoff logo and the 75% who recognised the characters from the Fosters adverts.

A spokesman for puritanical, fake-charity Alcohol Concern, who commissioned the research, wagged his finger and prophesised the end of all days. Or something very like that.

Frankly, though, I am shocked by this research. Where are the Mild and Bitters? Real ale doesn’t seem to figure at all. And what, no Brewdog?  At that age, I knew all the local brewers and the ABV of all their products. Where did it all start to go so wrong?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

London in a lather

Back from my enforced absence from the home of the black pudding; I have washed the dust and grime of the London streets from my mind and body and await the launch of today’s Wetherspoons beer festival.

London did offer some interesting beers to try and it’s encouraging absolutely everywhere visited had a good selection. And they’re learning with cooling-someone actually commented favourably on the temperature of the Jaipur in Craft compared to a certain establishment in Manchester.

But...when, oh when, will they stop dragging their knuckles in the gutter and let the sparkler help them serve the perfect pint? Craft, for example, had six Thornbridge beers on, but let its book be blotted by being a sparkler free zone.

I didn’t try the Jaipur, but the passionfruit and gooseberry that should be at the forefront of Kipling were pushed too far back. And the lemon bite of Wild Swan was lost in the mix. But never fear, I shall continue to seek out the perfect pint in the land of plenty.

Why? Because I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day people of all creeds and colours will be able to sit together and enjoy a pint of perfect sparklered beer together in perfect harmony.

I have a dream today.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Abstrakt 08

This is a deconstructed blonde imperial Stout. It’s also very difficult to open. Or so it was for me this morning. A bloody stupid wire cage cork release failed to work; you can stick that where the monkeys keep their nuts. But perseverance with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers finally paid dividends.

It’s bottle-conditioned and is no 2516 out of 7902. It’s also a hefty 11.8%, so I took two slices of toast with it. It poured amber-yes, amber-not blonde or golden as perhaps you might expect. Or is deconstructed blonde simply another name for amber? Answers on a carrier pigeon to Brewdog.
There was medium carbonation and a small off-white head. Not much in the aroma, but slight traces of roast malt and sourdough. Mouthfeel was quite viscous and definitely warming. You could feel a spicy heat on the inside of your cheeks. Otherwise, there was a sweetness-honey, perhaps, and plenty of caramel and dried fruits.
The finish was a little syrupy and unsatisfying. Sad to say, I didn’t ‘get’ this beer at all. Seems a bit of a mess, frankly, and has all the hallmarks of another failed Brewdog experiment.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Beer of the Week: Brewdog Jura

This is-I am led to believe-an American Imperial Double Stout. Whatever it is, it’s quite intense. The aroma doesn’t give much away, but the taste is as big as you might expect. There is a definite alcohol buzz to it, but plenty of roast malt, dark chocolate and peaty liquorice to offset it. I’m presuming the whisky element makes it presence felt with the slight vanilla tone that adds some balance and subtlety. Heavy but satisfying.

On draught at Port Street Beer House
15%
£5 a half

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Gruyère Special Reserve

This enticing little morsel proved an entertaining climax to last night’s drinking. Gruyère is a blue blood of the cheese hierarchy and is derived from the mainly French speaking region of Gruyère in the Canton of Fribourg.
It has been known as Gruyère since 1602, although written references go back to 1115 when tax was introduced on cheese making. Its true origins are much older: the emperor Antonin-le-Pieux is said to have died, in 161 AD, of indigestion after eating too much of the cheese.
The process involved in creating such a thing of beauty is very precise. The cows can only be fed grass or hay; no silage.  The milk must be delivered to the fromagerie, from within a 20 km radius, twice a day by the dairy farmers.  The mixing vat must be made of copper and can only be used once every 24 hours. 
Furthermore, only the curd can be heated, not the whey.  It is then aged in caves with humidity above 92 degrees and the temperature set between 12 and 18 degrees C on shelves made of rough, unplanned spruce.  The cheese matures to become spicier the longer it is aged. 
Interestingly, it is the washing of the crust that helps to distinguish the taste from Emmenthal.  As it is all natural, no anti-microbe or rind colouring substances can be used.  The rounds of Gruyère can only be rubbed with water and salt. 
It is aged for a minimum of five months, although this specimen is a sixteen months veteran. There is indeed spiciness to it, but the real flavour of note is the nutty (pine?) mouthfeel that really stimulates the palate. Some claim it is best with a Rosé or fruity red, but I paired it with half a bottle of Pinot Grigio and didn’t hear any complaints.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Will Zest beat the rest?

I’ll tell you what I want. What I really, really want. Yes, it’s here. The wait is over. Curtail your excessive squeals of bliss. Whoa, hold on, old-timer, what are you on about? I’m talking about the event of the year; bigger than the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics combined. Molson Coors have finally unveiled their female friendly, post-modern, version of Carling.

Sadly, despite much speculation back in January, they have opted not to use any of this blog’s excellent suggestions for naming the new beer. Instead they have gone for Carling Zest. This will be a limited edition version of Carling that will be available for sale between March and September.

And although it’s meant to be female friendly, Coors are keen to stress that the 2.8% brew will also tickle the male palate. Described as having a “clear, fresh taste and a twist of citrus,” they believe that “Carling Zest is a perfect beer to enjoy with friends in the sun.”

Initially Zest will only be available in bottles, but the big push will come in May when it arrives on draught. To coincide with that, Coors will support the brand with a £1.9M advertising campaign. It seems they are aiming to tap into the summer drinks market of cider and rosé drinkers.

Of course, we have been in these waters before. Animee seems to be on permanent discount in Morrisons and Carlsberg’s offerings seem to sink faster than the Titanic. However, Coors see this is a much bigger venture and do become the first big brewer to launch a new 2.8% beer under an existing major brand name. Whether this will be of great commercial advantage, we will have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

ROB POTY

Congratulations to the Baum in Rochdale, which last night was awarded the Pub of the Year award for the Rochdale, Oldham and Bury branch of CAMRA

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Champagne Charlie Alex

I love a good story of a mega-boozy, mega-expensive blowout. I also love a story that illustrates how we are all in it together. Politics and alcohol-what’s not to like? So step forward Alex Hope and join the illustrious ranks of your fellow bar tab heroes.

Now Alex, in keeping with the modern era, isn’t your old type of garden variety celebrity. These days you wouldn’t find the likes of Katie Price splashing the cash on very expensive rounds of drinks. Whether they are just too tight or simply do it behind closed doors, I know not. No, the most modern of celebrities, is of course, the “City whizzkid”.

Now I had never heard of Alex before, and I’m still not sure exactly what he does, but fair play to the lad. At only 23, he’s enjoying a cushy number in the bullshit capital of the world-the City of London-and getting paid a shedload for it. And he’s not afraid to spend it. Hence his big night out at the Playboy Club in Liverpool.

The Playboy Club is in the Hilton Hotel and seems to be the kind of swanky place that footballers, bankers and the elite of the bloggerati like to hang out in. Even so, the bar bill of Mr Hope raised a few eyebrows. In a three hour binge, he racked up a tab of £203,948,80. This included the world largest bottle (Midas) of Ace of Spades champagne. Coming in a neat 30 litre bottle, it seems a bargain at £125,000.

His guests also seem to have liked the bubbly stuff as well. He forked out £24,000 for a Met bottle of Ace of Spades, £9000 for two Bruts and for 40 standard bottles at £500 a pop. If you’re going to have a night on the champers, have it large, as my old granny used to say. All I can hope is that the staff got their fair share of the service charge. For, at £18,540, it should mean a good tip.

And, if Alex is reading this, I appreciate my invite must have got lost in the post, but, hey, don’t forget we're both on Twitter.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Blackpool Breaks Ranks

Minimum pricing is a hot topic and one that the pub and drinks industry must stand together in opposition to. Therefore there have been a few eyebrows raised by the comments of Dave Daly, landlord of the Castle Hotel and chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch. Whilst admitting minimum pricing did have a “dark side”, he claims it can help to create a safer drinking environment by “slowing down drinkers”.

Furthermore in a move that surprised many other members of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), he openly disclosed the fact that Blackpool licensees have been operating such a voluntary scheme for 12 years. Apparently this means that pubs will not sell drinks for less than £2 in the week and £3 at weekends.

Now most members of the BBPA are of the opinion-as am I-that such measures are a last resort and should only be implemented when forced to by parliament. Lee Le Clercq, the BBPA regional secretary for northern England, summed it up neatly by warning that “such practices can only end in tears”.

Some commentators have cautioned Mr Daly that he also may be leaving himself open for legal action as it could be considered that he is operating an illegal cartel. However, he seems unfazed by this possibility and responded by saying: “Who is going to take us to court when we are doing society a favour?”

I’m no legal beagle, but is that a legitimate legal defence to operating a cartel? Either way, it seems remarkably foolish to try and play the government at its own game and pander to their prejudices. Such self-destructive behaviour can indeed only lead to tears before bedtime.