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

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Heading for Size Zero

Anyone who thought the government were already taking the proverbial with their fantasy targets for alcohol consumption woke up this morning to some late April Fools’ Day news. Researchers are suggesting that the guidelines that dictate the number of alcohol units that adults can safely swig be revised downwards.

Yes, you heard it correctly. And not by a little, either. Currently government advice is that women should drink no more than two or three units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units a week. Men should imbibe no more than three or four units a day and no more than 21 units in a week.

However, in an article for BMJ Open, Peter Scarborough and three co-authors, all researchers in the department of public health at Oxford University, suggest a limit of half a unit a day. Now one unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. Which is one 25ml single measure of whisky (40% ABV), or one third of a pint of beer (5-6% ABV) or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine (12% ABV).

So the new suggestion is for no more than about a sixth of a pint of beer. What? I know. It’s an idea so daft even Jeremy Clarkson would have thought twice before coming out with it. The “reasoning” behind it is that it could save 4,600 lives a year.

Now saving all those lives sounds great. But haven’t we been here before? Minimum pricing, anyone? And, as usual, looking at the details raises some doubts. They’re basing this figure on alcohol’s supposed link to 11 diseases. But it can only be a very minor factor in deaths from stroke, diabetes and epilepsy, for example.

And, once again, this sounding of alarm bells conveniently ignores the fact that alcohol consumption has been declining for a long time. As Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group pointed out: “Drastically cutting everyone's consumption to half a unit a day – that is, one large glass of wine a week – is not the way to reduce harms in the small group who misuse alcohol and need specific and targeted help.”

The only upside of this nonsense seems to be that it is a step too far even for fake charity Alcohol Concern. It’s not often they rush to the defence of the beleaguered drinker. But even they were forced to admit that “the focus of the guidelines must be to gain the maximum acceptance by the drinking public, and to offer a realistic way of reducing the risks associated with drinking."

Meanwhile, I have submitted my own proposed guidelines for a maximum pricing policy and a recommended minimum daily alcohol intake.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Buxton Tsar

Some people like to keep their bottled beers for months or even years before sampling their hidden delights. I, on the other hand, like to get it down my neck. Hence it will come as no surprise to find that this morning’s morsel is the recently acquired treat from Buxton Brewery.

It’s a 9.5% Imperial Russian Stout. Or so it claims. But is it really a Russian Imperial Stout? Beer geeks go confer. Either way, it’s bottle-conditioned. It poured black as night with a nice tan head. The aroma was powerful: lots of big roast flavours, chocolate and coffee.

The beer itself was lovely and thick. It was quite a smooth drinking experience which was surprising given the strength. Flavour wise; there’s plenty of roast, dark chocolate and liquorice in there. There’s also a good dose of hops that deliver a dry, bitter finish. I’m reminded of espresso as the full flavour hits the back of the throat.
This is a complex, rich, beer that belies its strength. Easy to drink, it delivers flavour in spades and is testament to Buxton’s great brewing skill

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Buxton@PSBH

On a warm, light evening a not so young man’s fancy turns to beer. So it was rather convenient to find myself at the Port Street Beer House for the latest in their meet the brewer adventures. Convenient as it was Buxton, who are known for being rather good at this brewing lark.

Each brewer has a unique presentation style and the guys from Buxton chose an informal approach. Which worked well and suited me as, let’s face it, I’m only there for the beer. We did learn about how they have progressed as brewers over the years and about their plans to join the keg brigade. But, ultimately, we were there to try some beer.

Moor Top
This is a favourite of mine. A 3.6% Pale Ale that uses Chinook hops to deliver a crisp citrus bite. Delicious.

Buxton Best
This is an interesting one. They didn’t want to produce just another “dull, brown Best”, so instead went down the experimental route. This amber ale is a blend of various malts and both English and American hops. And, crucially, rye.

It certainly polarised opinion. On our table, the demigod that is John Clarke gave it the thumbs up. However, the rest of us were less impressed feeling that the combination of Caramalt and rye spoilt what could have been a good beer.

Wild Boar
No such problem with this 5.7% belter of an IPA. A good blast of Kiwi hops gives this a lovely mango and tropical fruit feel. Very tasty

Axe Edge
If we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were wrong. This 6.8% Double IPA notched things up to another level. Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops have been grafted to a solid malt backbone that produced waves of pineapple, grapefruit and assorted dry tropical fruit flavours. Superb.

Imperial Black IPA
Yet another excellent beer. This is an accomplished interpretation of what our noisy neighbours over the pond call “Cascadian Dark”. However, it’s a Black IPA, so stick that up your baseball jumper. Oh, and the beer itself is a smooth mix of dark fruits, sweet malt and citrus hops that leads to a dry, bitter finish.

We also got a leaving present of a bottle of their Imperial Stout: Tsar. So altogether it was a very enjoyable evening. Part of the credit for this must go to the cheese and extras supplied by The Old Cheese Shop in Hartington. They really were top draw and complemented the beer nicely.

Friday, 25 May 2012

It's Your Round

And talking of cheap beer; if a pint of industrial fizz is your thing, then you should book a holiday to Tajikstan. Sure it’s got a poor human rights record and is some 3300 miles away, but the lager is cheap. 29p a pint cheap, in fact. Which is ten times cheaper than the average pint in the UK.

If a trip to central Asia doesn’t float your boat-and the buses from Manchester are pretty infrequent-then try Panama. There you’ll only pay 2p more at 31p a pint. Then there’s Bhutan (south Asia) at 36p and Burundi (Africa) at 37p.

However, the research by pintprice.com also reveals the places to avoid. Top of the list is Greenland where you can expect to pay £7.35 for your favourite tipple. And Norway and Qatar will both fleece you to the tune of £6.

To aid you choice of this summer’s holiday:

The cheapest 10 places

Tajikistan £0.29 - Panama £0.31 - Bhutan £0.36 - Burundi £0.37 - North Korea £0.38 - Madagascar £0.38 - Myanmar £0.38 - Rwanda £0.38 - Philippines £0.42- Congo £0.44

The most expensive 10 places

Greenland £7.35 - Norway £6.07 - Qatar £6.00 - Djibouti £5.47 - Singapore £5.00 - Sweden £5.00 - United_Arab_Emirates £4.86- France £4.81 - Guadeloupe £4.80 - United Arab Emirates £4.77

Keen beer traveller Stewart Hoehnkem from Edinburgh summed it up: “Every time I return to the UK I end up crying into my beer as the price has rocketed again. Usually, I never pay more than £1 a pint when I’m abroad. I’ve never been to Tajikistan but now I’ve found out lager is just 29p a pint it is definitely next on my list.”

It's the Booze wot done it

Booze shock: Alcohol puts a child under FIVE in hospital every week

This alarming headline screamed out of the newspaper at me. WTF? I was shocked. Even Mr **** the dodgy local off-licence retailer would draw the line at serving five year olds. And how could they reach the stuff anyway? But no, it wasn’t as entertaining as that.
The silly season is upon us; phew what a scorcher etc. Although it never really went away as far as demonising alcohol in the media goes. When not trying to frighten people with ill-judged and downright false health statistics; it’s been blamed for everything from social disorder to the reason why the odds-on favourite in the 1530 at Chester races fell.

And of course, what better way to drum the anti-booze message home than through the plight of children. So we have this story. A child under five is taken to hospital every week after consuming alcohol, we are told. In six cases, they were actually under 12 months old.

These are worrying statistics, many would agree. And what is the cause? Well according to Prof Mark Bellis, of the Centre for Public Health: “Cheap supermarket deals had led to a massive increase in the amount of alcohol stored at homes.”  He said: “Not so many years ago, parents would know exactly how much alcohol they had at home. You didn’t have 40 cans of lager and a dozen bottles of wine stored in the garage.”

So there you have it; supermarket deals are to blame. What a relief. For a moment there I thought it might be the parents. But then again, presumably the sort of irresponsible parents who may be to blame for this, like me, don’t keep 12 bottle of wine in the garage. Well, I haven’t got a garage.

Personally I’m worried about aspirin. Its only 19p for a packet and is involved in far many more overdoses than booze. And now I know why: the bloody stuff’s too cheap. And then there’s bleach. Blimey, we need more taxes and we need them now. Sign my e-petition immediately.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Jai Alai IPA

The arrival of that rarest of English commodities; the sunshine, ties in nicely with this morning’s morsel as it’s from the sunshine state. Yes, Cigar City Brewing are from Florida, home of Jim Morrison, Debbie Harry and Disneyland.

Its 12fl oz and is 7.5%. It poured light copper with a thick creamy head. The aroma was more delicate than I was expecting: a nice blend of citrus including grapefruit and tangerine. There is some pine, but also a little sweet malt.

The taste was similarly unexpected and followed the pattern of the aroma. There was no sudden hop explosion as is often the case with a lot in this genre. Instead there was a multi-layered feel to it. Citrus and tropical fruit up front with a carefully proportioned malt backbone balancing it out. The dry finish builds leaving a pleasing floral/pine aftertaste.

This is a solidly good performer. From the aroma, through the mouthfeel and onto the finish all demonstrates an accomplished level of brewing. It never tastes like 7.5% and its balance of flavours makes for a very enjoyable drink.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Into the Valley

Beers to right of them,
Beers to left of them,
Beers in front of them

Sheffield: the valley of beers. So called for its abundance of choice of real ale. No fear of meeting the “usual suspects” in the hostelries of this part of South Yorkshire, but does choice equate to quality? There was only one way to find out.

The Sheffield Tap is well known to lovers of the beery stuff. Handily placed at Sheffield station, it offers a range of Thornbridge beers alongside a number of guest beers. A good start was made here with the choice of Thornbridge Kipling; lots of tropical hop flavours here to get the palate stimulated.

Then it was onto the Supertram. For those who care about such things, this is a proper tram and not the bastardised abomination that is the Metrolink. A conductor-yes an actual human being, will happily sell you a Dayrider (£3.90) which allows you unlimited travel on the tram and on Stagecoach buses.

The New Barrack Tavern is a classic, multi-roomed, old school-boozer. It still bears the long gone Gilmours livery, but is now part of the Castle Rock group. No surprise that Castle Rock Pale was the order of the day here.

Not far away is the Hillsborough Hotel. Another interesting pub with a very nice conservatory drinking area; this made its name for being home to the Crown Brewery which produced some good beers. This was the second visit under the current regime and yet again it was disappointing. Their own beers were distinctly amateurish and the guest beers were served too warm.

Much better was the Wellington on Henry St which is home to the Little Ale Cart range of beers. All the beers here were met with approval. Indeed, some people considered it the best beer of the day.

However, I reserve that privilege for the Gardeners Rest. This is a real hardcore tickers pub, even by Sheffield standards. You’re usually lucky if you’ve heard of any of the breweries on offer. On this occasion there was a beer festival on, so the choice was even greater. Through careful negotiation we ended up with Truefitt Erimus Pale. This was very aromatic with a good clean hop bite and all for only 3.9%.

You can’t go to Sheffield without visiting the Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Tavern. They are both great pubs. The trick is to avoid drinking any Kelham Island beers as the beer has never scaled its early heights.  In the KIT, you’re ok because they have Pictish Brewers Gold as a fixture, but it’s trickier in the Cat. I often seem to struggle to find a decent pint in here and this visit proved to be no different.

On the other hand, the Bath Hotel is truly worthy of a visit on its own merits. It’s on the CAMRA National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors and has some splendid original features. Recently acquired by Thornbridge, the beer range has been expanded and there is now a good range on the bar.

There I must draw a veil over our excursion into the valley of beers. The dark tale of dodgy curries and late night trains that follows is, like the story of the giant rat of Sumatra, one that the world is not yet prepared for.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Winner Takes All

It was a case of another night, yet another award for the multi-awarding winning Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook last night. This time it was the turn of the Rochdale Oldham and Bury Branch of CAMRA to honour landlord Andy Grant by presenting him with the Bury Area Pub of the Year award.

A jolly time was had by one and all and well done to Andy and his better half Lynn. Their next beer festival starts on the 21st June: catch it if you can as it promises to be the best one yet. In the meantime, don't forget you now get 20p off a pint on production of your CAMRA card. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Evil Twin Cats Piss

Can you imagine something more repulsive than the smell of cats piss? Not really - go on, open up and inhale the sharp nose of cats piss extracted from the heavenly dry hopped Nelson Sauvin.

So reads the blurb for this morning’s little treat. Controversy has raged over the name; some people have condemned it as being in the Top Totty puerile name league, while others have jumped to its defence.

Can Johnny Foreigner “craft” get away with it and not the British bulldog? I don’t know, but hell I like it. Simply because it affords me the opportunity to tell everyone I meet today that I have had cats piss for breakfast.

This is a dry-hopped IPA from Denmark’s Evil Twin brewery. I believe that the guy behind it is the twin brother of the brewer at Mikkeller, hence the name. It’s a 33cl bottle and is 6.5%. It poured a very cloudy deep amber and was very lively; the head was nothing short of massive. Aroma was unmistakeably Nelson, with plenty of tropical fruit on the nose.

The taste was more of the same. Pineapple and melon with perhaps some mango coming through in a refreshing hop bite. There was some hop resin that led to medium bitterness and the dry finish you’d expect with this kind of beer.

You really can’t (or shouldn’t be able to) go wrong with the Nelson Sauvin hop. It’s a classic thirst-quencher. Therefore, although I have come across better uses of it in other beers, you could do a lot worse than finding this on your breakfast table.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Green Flash Double Stout

It’s time to go to the dark side this morning with this black ale from San Diego’s Green Flash brewery. It’s a 355ml bottle and is 8.8% and rates a score of 45 on the IBU scale. It certainly poured well, with plenty of carbonation and a thick tan head. Black Stout by style and certainly black in colour; the aroma was more restrained than I was expecting. There’s some molasses/chocolate and some roast malt.
The mouthfeel was smooth. It’s definitely got a creamy edge and the initial taste was of sweet malt and chocolate. This gave way to more noticeable coffee flavours, but still quite balanced in nature. The alcohol, which you might expect to be more prominent, was kept well in check by the roast flavours. It finished with noticeable, but not overpowering, roast bitterness.

Overall this was a solid performer. Perhaps not the greatest ever example of an Imperial Stout, but if you’re a fan of this style; once it’s warmed up, there’s lot of enjoyment to be had sipping this one.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Macc Lads

Saturday dawned bright and early and saw a large group of thirsty imbibers launch a full scale raid over the border into Cheshire. Macclesfield and Bollington and all lands in-between, to be precise.

First stop was the Egerton Arms in Chelford. This was originally built as a 16th century coaching inn and formed part of Lord Egerton’s estate. The family sold it and it eventually became part of the Chef & Brewer chain before returning to private ownership in 2009. It’s the local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year and stocks a number of local ales alongside Bombardier and Golden Pippin.

Egerton Arms
Next up we had three hours to try and do justice to Macclesfield. Macc has long had a reputation for its density of pubs. However, in recent times, as elsewhere, both pub companies and family brewers alike have streamlined their estates. But here, unlike most places elsewhere, this has led to the vacant pubs being snapped up and transformed into free houses by keen individuals. This has totally changed the town’s drinking dynamics from just a few years ago.

 With nearly 20 pubs to potentially drink in, hard choices had to be made. The Waters Green is an old favourite and long established Good Beer Guide entry. Fitting, therefore, that an old and long established CAMRA narrow boat enthusiast should already be propping up the bar when I arrived. Buxton Moor Top was the pick in here. Some later arrivals made the mistake of trying the Happy Valley beer, despite bad experiences with it in the previous pub. Once bitten, twice shy etc
Wharf Inn
Waters Green

After the Waters Green, there is a good stretch of pubs along Sunderland Street. The Treacle Tap, a small bar converted from a saddlery, is particularly impressive with an ever changing list of local beers and a friendly welcome. In fact, all the new pubs visited were good and offered some excellent beers.

The Wharf on Brook St offered us al fresco drinking and some heavy hitters: Marble, Fyne and Magic Rock. Not too shabby at all. Our Goostrey correspondent has apparently drunk the Macc dry of Marble, but they still had a very good selection on (Moor Top for me) and some of that new fangled keg stuff. Some Nogne Citra was procured but sadly this was plainly the bottom of the barrel. Or keg in this case.

The Baths Hotel on Green Street isn’t a new kid on the block but it is under new management. A nice little corner-terrace boozer, it’s now a free house offering various guest beers and a sunny beer backyard. After exhaustive (or is that exhausting) research on the Macclesfield pub scene, it was time to push on to our last two destinations.

Vale Inn
Sutton Hall in Sutton is simply stunning. It’s a 400 year old manor house set in its own grounds and is close to the Macclesfield canal. It was refurbished by the Brunning & Price pubco and won the 2010 CAMRA National Pub Design Refurbishment award. The sight of candle-free lighting and hot running water left many Oldham members agog.

The final stop was the Bollington brewery tap: the Vale Inn. This is a single-roomed, family-run free house dating from the 1860s. It boasts a plethora of Bollington beers alongside a couple of guest beers. The White Nancy and Long Hop seemed to go down particularly well here. A nice finale to a very enjoyable day.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

It’s a long day ahead and what better way to prepare than with a quickie to wash away the Friday night blues. Or should that be the Friday night booze? Anyway, the beer randomiser has thrown up this little doozie by Great Divide brewery of Colorado.

It’s a 355ml bottle and tips the scales at an impressive 10%. Well, I suppose it is a double IPA. It poured a deep amber with little carbonation and a tiny tan head. The aroma was surprisingly subdued. Or more accurately, well balanced. There is plenty of pine hops here, but also caramel and toasted malt.

Taste wise, there’s the expected punch of pine and herbal hop: it registers 85 on the IBU scale, after all. But there’s also a complex, powerful malt backbone that complements the hops. The high alcohol content is masked incredibly well.

In a beer of half its strength, the smooth finish and balanced hop bite would be unremarkable. In a beer of 10%, it points to some serious brewing skill. This is a surprisingly easy to drink beer. And while lacking some of the characteristics I look for in my perfect beer; it remains an excellent tipple and a shining example of good brewing practice. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Here Kitty Kitty

How long before the exception becomes the norm? I recently found myself pondering (not for the first time, it has to be said) this sociological conundrum after observing some unusual drinking patterns. Unusual, that is, in the context of my drinking world.

The Tyson drinking model is of a traditional nature. Rounds are entered into and everyone involved knows the unwritten rules that underpin this fine English institution. This unspoken knowledge also prevents the round getting too large (law of diminishing returns) or individual abuse (fear of social exclusion) for example.

Now kittys are not an unknown phenomenon in drinking circles. They have their place in certain circumstances and are used for the Jolly Boys outings. There is, of course, always the one who doesn’t want to be part of the group and prefers to be on their own. See Tommy in Early Doors for illustration.

However, in my experience, kittys are the exception to the rule. Certainly I don’t tend to encounter them on ordinary drinking sessions. But is change afoot, I wonder? The reason for my rumination is that upon meeting up with some drinking acquaintances, I was surprised to see them establishing a kitty system.

It puzzled me at first as to why a group of four would require such a thing. The answer, apparently, was all down to me. After introducing them to the delights of the Port St Beer House and (indirectly) the bar of that award-winning Scottish lot; they felt it was necessary.

They felt that the range and price of beer in these places made the round system redundant. So instead everyone makes an initial £15 donation. Under the normal scheme of things-i.e. drinking cask ale, £15 even at Manchester prices, would cover everyone’s drink.

But with draught averaging in the £5-£6 bracket and bottles even more, a new radical approach was called for. Incidentally, the £15 figure was reached after an initial £10 limit was deemed insufficient in the wake of a £48 round. And so a new era dawns in the drinking life of a group of middle-aged Mancunians.

Now I was all set to dismiss this as a one-off. But then, blow me, if another group doesn’t pop-up and admit to the same practice. And I know some of the kiddies do it, although I believe they share the bottles. So exceptions or the start of a trend? Either way, I’m sure the answer lies in the bottom of an empty glass.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Brewdog v Diageo

Brewdog: they just won’t go away, will they? The latest press coverage concerns their attendance at the 2012 BII Scotland Annual Awards and their subsequent non-award. Allegedly. And, shock horror, this may actually be PR that they haven’t engineered. Whatever next? Or then again...well it is Brewdog. You can decide for yourself after reading about BD’s allegations here.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog HBC

And so to the last in the IPA is Dead range. Surprisingly this is not named after HSBC’s stock symbol on the New York Stock Exchange, but a new type of hop. So new that it hasn’t got a proper name yet, but is called Hope Breeding Company after the guys who brought us Simcoe. 

It poured light amber with good carbonation and a very small off-white head. The aroma was very pleasant: plenty of tropical fruit-passion fruit and pineapple in particular. The body seemed quite light and the mouthfeel was tangy. I got plenty of passion fruit, mandarin and mango in the taste with a medium bitterness level and a good, dry resinous finish.

I liked this. It was full of juicy flavours and delivered a clean tasting, interesting IPA. More fruity and tangy than bitter, the fruit sugar element does very well in disguising the alcohol level. I can see this working in combination with other hops, but here it stands proudly on its own.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Challenger

Keeping up the Brewdog theme, I decided to kick off the working week with the third in their series of IPA is Dead single hop beers. Once again the basics are the same as the first beer, so the faces stay the same, but the focus changes to Challenger.

Challenger is very much the quintessential English hop and is a favourite dual-purpose hop for many brewers of traditional Bitters. The beer poured amber with little carbonation and a small off-white head. The aroma was pungent: an earthy hop smell with some pepper and toffee.

The body was light-medium and unmistakably Challenger in taste. There’s a lot of earthy hop bitterness, pepper and tea flavours here. You do get a good blast of bitter aftertaste, but it’s all a bit one-dimensional. It may be a good bittering hop, but let loose like this reveals Challenger’s limitations.

So, they’ve obviously packed a hell of a lot of Challenger into this, but is bigger necessarily better? Not on this evidence; it may handle its isolated exposure better than Galaxy, but it’s no Motueka. And its one-dimensional nature seems overkill at the prescribed strength and would be better suited to something weaker.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

@Brewdog Manchester

Yes, you heard right. It’s here. The phenomenon that is Brewdog has finally arrived in the nation’s capital; well you can’t take Borisland seriously, can you? Having been knocked back on their original plans to open in the Northern Quarter, they have ended up more somewhat more central in Peter Street.

Thursday evening saw the press invited to have a look around and taste some of their wares. With all the beautiful people there, naturally I felt right at home. Actually there was a high level of non-CAMRA beardies there-I blame the Port Street boys for trying to make beards look cool. Which they aren’t, obviously.

The place was certainly very busy. I suppose that’s to be expected when word got round that I would be there. It’s quite compact and very much in the now customary utilitarian Brewdog style. The small mezzanine level adds a nice touch and offers a good viewing platform, but I prefer the layout of their Camden bar. Smokers and al fresco drinkers are catered for by a drinking area out front.

Now to the important bit: the beer. There are an impressive 10 Brewdog beers on draught and two guest beers. The fridges groan with bottled beery delights that will keep beer geeks more than happy for some time.

Brewdog

Dead Pony Club PA 3.8% £3.60 pint

Zeitgeist 4.9% £3.95 pint

5am Saint 5.0% £4.25 pint

Punk IPA 5.4% £4.25 pint

IPA ID Galaxy 6.7% £3.75 half

BA77 Lager 7.7% £3.60 half

Riptide 8.0% £3.50 half

Hardcore IPA 9.2% £3.50 half

Chris from Stone 10.3% £2.50 third

Anarchist/Alchemist 14.0% £5.95 third

If you like your beer in shots, you could also try:

Tactical Nuclear Penguin 32% £6 25ml

Sink the Bismarck 41% £6 25ml

Guests

Nogne Tiger Triple 9.0% £4.50 third

Mikkeller 19 IPA 6.8% £3.95 half

Brewdog seem to struggle with weaker beers and I found Dead Pony to be a little one-dimensional and thin for my taste. At the other end of the spectrum we were treated to Dog A. This 15.1% whopper was originally brewed as AB: 04 and became the most sought after Brewdog beer ever. It’s an Imperial Stout brewed with dark malts, pure cacao and coffee and, just for fun, naga chillies.

Back on planet Earth, the Punk was good and both of the guest beers were tasty; with the Mikkeller being surprisingly well balanced for a beer with 19 hops in it. The staff were attentive and well-drilled under pressure, Wetherspoons take note. And there was fun to be had with their “crap beer amnesty” where they encouraged people to swap the likes of Carling for some “proper” beer.

So, plus points for having a well run bar that is focused solely on beer. However, minus points for the elephant in the room. Any pub or bar truly serious about showcasing the best “craft” beer really needs to have cask on. If Brewdog don’t want to brew cask, that’s ok.  But to deny their customers the option is to subscribe to the kind of monotheistic thinking that they accuse others of. And without the likes of the excellent Trashy Blonde to fall back on, they need to work on producing a stand-out sub 5% beer.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Fullers Mighty Atom

This is the latest venture in my ongoing quest to find that elusive “thirst-quenching” game-changing sub 3% beer. This one promises no less than five hops that should give us floral grapefruit and plum notes, but with a spicy overtone. It sounds good, but can it walk the walk?

It’s a half litre bottle and is the now de rigueur 2.8%. It’s copper coloured and had medium carbonation with a small off-white head. The aroma was pleasant enough; dough and sweet malt. Mouthfeel was, I suppose not unexpectedly, light. The beer is thin and it’s hard to disguise that.

There is definitely some bitterness there that raises hopes, but it never really gets going. That initial tingle dies off and ultimately you’re left with the impression of a watery beer. The slightly dry aftertaste is a false dawn. So, promising initially and far from being the worst of its type but, like them all so far, it fails at the last hurdle.

The search goes on.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

In My Liverpool Home Pt 2: It's Not the Leaving of Liverpool

In Liverpool all police stations with cells were known as bridewells. Hence the Liverpool One Bridewell in Campbell Square where Charles Dickens was made a special constable for a day in 1860 whilst researching a novel. It’s an interesting concept that failed under its original guise as Colin’s Bridewell. It’s vastly improved now under the ownership of the Liverpool One Brewery and stocks a good range of their beers.

The Grapes on Roscoe St in the Georgian Quarter mixes the old and the modern very well in a very small space. The bar is literally crowded with nine handpulls, but quality didn’t seem to be an issue. Nor was it in the Blackburne Arms or the Caledonian. Even better was to be had in one of my favourites; the Grade 11 listed Belvedere.

We were on the home stretch now, but felt obliged to call in at the historic Philharmonic. Everyone always goes on about the toilets here, but it’s the beer I’m interested in. Luckily since the Nicholsons group took it over, quality has improved and they have also given the place a good spring clean. One pint led to several as we were waylaid by a group of newly arrived German visitors.

Time really was pressing now and there were signs that some people may have had the odd drink or three. Still, what better way to refresh yourself than with some Windermere Pale in the Dispensary?

That really should have been it, but I have been reminded that we somehow found ourselves in the Ropewalks Beer Emporium drinking Jever. Apparently it is an ancient Liverpudlian law that if you see it on draught, you must drink it. And then somehow, with the blessing of the gods, we managed to get a train out of Dodge.

Another successful trawl of Liverpool boozers. Here’s to the next one.