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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

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Camden Town Brewery@PSBH

Last night saw a Southern invader take the helm for the latest meet the brewer evening at Port St Beer House. Jasper, from Camden Town Brewery, had come a long way. Although Camden does seem like the other side of the world, Jasper origins actually lie in the land down under and this was his first visit to Manchester. Hopefully, having seen the good life, his return to Camden won’t be too depressing.

The proceedings went very well; just the right amount of information and not too much waffle. And when he praised the use of sparklers, it became clear that the lad knew what he was talking about.

Hells
This is their 4.6% signature dish. The idea is quite clever; match up two of their favourite beer styles. So you have the dry backbone of a Pilsner and the gentle hopping of a Helles. They consider it the perfect drink for London. I’m not sure what it says about London but-with one dissenter-we found it, dare I say, rather dull.

Wheat
This is a classic 5% Hefeweizen: made in an open fermenter with German yeast, it’s unfiltered and hazy. There’s bubblegum, banana and a little toffee. You’d be hard pressed to tell that this wasn’t German.

Gentleman’s Wit
Now this one had the room buzzing. It’s a 4.3% Belgian-style wit beer made with roasted lemons and bergamot. Hazy gold in colour, it’s very clean and refreshing with lots of lemon and floral notes and a good dry finish.

Even Stockport’s very own Belgium beer sage John Clarke-who usually prefers his beer to have been sieved through a Belgium cyclist’s underpants, twice- was impressed.

Pale Ale
This one proved very interesting. Before the tasting, some people were complaining that it was rather dull. My own experience of it had been more positive, but I didn’t consider it outstanding. And yet others were raving about it.

The mystery was soon resolved. By Jasper’s own admission, it was the one beer that the brewery had struggled with the longest. In attempting to recreate their own version of an American Pale Ale, they had begun with three hops and then tweaked the recipe several times. All credit to them for not resting until they had got it nailed.

And nailed it, they certainly have. Through utilising seven hops and a judicious use of crystal malt-yes, really-they have produced an excellent beer with both body and a bagful of hop flavour. Terrific. And all under 5%. The Brewdog crew who were present could only conge in admiration.

The best of the rest:

Hop: This is the impressive debut beer brewed by Richard; the owner of the GBG listed First Chop in Ramsbottom. A zesty, crisp, hop-led golden session beer. And I’m not just saying that as one of his regular customers...But if there is any free beer going...

Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA: This 9.5% monster came in a manly Mancunian size-660ml and was £12. It was described as “intense” and the bottle dutifully details all the hop processes that go into it. Forget about that and just let the citrus, pine and herbal flavours get up your nose and down your throat. Good stuff.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Red IPA

Another morning, another bottle of Kernel. I’ve tried various versions of IPA from single hopped to black and back again, but I’m not sure what Red is supposed to signify-apart from the colour, naturally.

It’s the usual 330ml bottle-conditioned and is 6%. It poured quite murky deep amber with a very large tan head. The hop aroma was not as pronounced as some of their other beers, but still had promising notes of citrus and marmalade.

Taste wise, it was medium bodied, but quite sticky on the palate. There’s some citrus with marmalade, tangerine and oily pine resin. However, there’s also a sour dough aftertaste that neuters the hop effect and leaves the finish short and unsatisfying.

By some other breweries standards, this would be considered solid, if unremarkable. By Kernel standards, it’s got to be seen as a decided disappointment as its cloying nature leaves the palate unfulfilled.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Old Amsterdam

Old Amsterdam is an interesting twist on the traditional Gouda cheese and is considered something of a Dutch classic. The basics we know: only weekday milk-weekend milk isn’t as good-from Frisian Holstein cows is used. The magic then takes place with a number of master cheese makers slowly ripening it using a culture unique to the Westland family who produce it.

The result is an aged cheese that is unlike the dry, salty standard Gouda. This is firm and ripe with butter and walnut tones. One of the secrets of its success must be its tiny ripening crystals that are formed when bacteria interacts with lactic acid. These are found in some of my favourite Italian cheeses and are a sign of a well-aged product.

I grated it over pasta, but I’ve found it’s also excellent on its own with a good quality cheese biscuit.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sniff & Drink

Readers of a blog as cutting edge as this will be used to me breaking the big stories. Yes, it might be vanity, but I like to think that my mother and her senile pal can handle the shocking truth that I sometimes have to reveal. Today’s announcement is quite significant: alcohol is history. Well I’ve been saying it’s passé for some time now-it’s so Noughties, isn’t it? But now it looks like others are finally embracing the future as well.

American scientist and French designer Phillippe Starck have come up with the WA/HH spray. This is a small aerosol which will deliver the effects of alcohol without the boring bit; drinking. Edwards is based in Le Laboratoire in Paris where he and his staff work on their own vision of the future. That’s one where food and drink are delivered direct to the senses. Hence his use of terms such as “breathable food” and “aerosol cuisine”

The idea behind WA/HH is simple. There are times, according to Edwards, when people need the “light-headed distraction” that alcohol can provide, but without the side-effects and social stigma that over consumption can bring. The £16 lipstick-sized spray will deliver 20 shots of 0.0075ml of alcohol straight up your nose. This will, allegedly, give you the buzz but without the trouble. Certainly at around £1000 per unit of alcohol, you won’t be getting drunk on it.

So the future is out there. But it's not cheap.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Double Black IPA

Monday rolls around with the same inevitability as morning following night and the Pope shitting in his hat. To take the edge off, you need something that will kick you where it hurts and set you up for the day. Step forward Kernel Double Black IPA.

It’s a 330ml bottle and is bottle-conditioned. Its claim to be a double Black IPA is given weight by its 9.8% strength. It poured with plenty of condition and with a moderate tan head. The first thing you notice from the aroma is the hops; there are plenty of them. Grapefruit, pine, chocolate and earthy herbal tones dominate.

The taste, as you’d expect, is bold and takes no prisoners. Medium bodied, there’s no mistaking its power, but it slips down pretty easily. The strong citrus and pine resin bitterness puckers the mouth and is followed by some coffee and dark fruits. There’s also some chocolate, but that is soon swept away by the long, dry bitter finish.

Kernel have produced yet another fine beer. Whilst obviously intended to be sipped slowly with the flavours washing over you, it’s surprisingly easy on the palate. One quickly supped bottle gets you out of the Monday feeling. Two would probably make you forget that it is actually Monday.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Odells@PSBH

Another night, another meet the brewer at the Port Street Beer House. This one was rather special as the brewer concerned was Doug Odell, as in Odells the rather fine American brewery. Doug proved to be a personable guest and we learnt a little more with each beer sample. Founded in 1989 in Fort Collins, Colorado; from small acorns a mighty brewery has grown that now encompasses some 45,000 square feet and produced 58,000 barrels in 2011.

90 Shilling
The first beer they produced in 1989 and still is-although IPA is catching up-their best seller. An American twist on the Scottish style, it undoubtedly was an accomplished brew. Unfortunately, it’s simply not a particularly well liked style round these parts. My reason for dislike lies with the use of crystal malt, but even John Clarke (he’ll sup nearly anything) wasn’t that keen

IPA
This is a classic. No crystal malt. Just bags of aromatic and flavoursome hops precisely grafted onto a malt backbone to give a beautifully balanced drink.

Cutthroat Porter
This is another winner. A 5.1% smooth operator with appealing hints of dark chocolate and a dry coffee bite.

Crimson Stout
One of their experimental brews. Doug explained that if they were to brew it again, they would use more raspberries this time. However I, along with many others, felt that the more subtle flavour worked really well.

Aquitaine
This is a collaboration brew with the Kirkstall brewery in Leeds and is an 8% old ale style beer that has been aged in Bordeaux casks. I think it’s fair to say that this divided opinion.

It was vinous and had vanilla, wood and diacetyl flavours: all the things I dislike in beer. And I wasn’t the only one who struggled with it. However, John Clarke (he’ll sup nearly anything) and his band of Lambic-loving-lushes were more than happy to take any unwanted beer from the more discerning drinkers.

An interesting night was brought to a close with some of Thornbridge’s excellent American style pale ale Jaywick. Frankly, I could have done without the late night anti-CAMRA tirade, but ho-hum.

Monday, 11 June 2012

ROB CAMRA@AllGates Brewery

Saturday saw the good, simple folk of ROB CAMRA adventure into the wastelands of Wigan. Now Wigan is nominally part of Lancashire, but it exists in a time zone of its own-about 30 years behind everywhere else-and the good, simple folk there have their own ways and customs. One thing that should be cleared up immediately, though, is that their nickname of “pie eaters” is historic and nothing to do with their fondness for Greggs.

First stop was the Good Beer Guide listed Anvil which is one of six pubs owned by the nearby AllGates brewery. This kept us entertained until the main event: the AllGates brewery visit. Since they started brewing in 2006, they have steadily built up a reputation for producing some innovative and classy beers. Quality remains very high and you usually know what you are getting with an Allgates beer.

The brewery itself is in a lovely restored Grade 11 pre-Victorian building. Lovely but, as was explained to us, not very practical. Looking at the narrow steep steps with rope banisters and a ginnel too narrow for delivery trucks, you could see why. Originally a brewery for the long defunct Dog & Partridge (now the Last Orders) pub next door, the beer used to be rolled into the adjoining cellars via a connecting tunnel.
Inside the cosy brewery bar we were offered a choice of Pretoria (named after the coal mining disaster of 1910) or Caskablanca. Both were excellent, but the Caskablanca, originally brewed with all American hops and now retweaked with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, just shaved it for many. The invitation to “help yourself” always has CAMRA members charging like wildebeests to the bar, but it certainly helps when the beer is this good. Indeed Jack, of Jack & Jill fane, was like a greyhound on steroids as he raced to the bar.

The brewery tour and bar action was overseen by Cheryl. Now when you have been on more brewery tours than George Osborne has brain cells-obviously, loads more, actually, then you can become a little jaded. The last thing you want is just the dry bones of how beer is brewed. What is interesting is bringing that particular brewery alive with the fine details. Cheryl gave a very apposite tour and was good value all afternoon.

We also got a chance to talk with-bore?-the gaffer, David Mayhall about their future plans and all things beery; as is their wont when CAMRA members get the opportunity. So our thanks must go to Dave and Cheryl for a great afternoon.

Boulevard
Sadly, the centre of Wigan is a bit of beer desert. Upon asking a local in the Anvil where the nearest decent pint was, they replied “Manchester”. Not quite true as the Boulevard, located opposite the brewery, is certainly worth a visit. A cellar bar/nightclub, it has an impressive range of beers and the Saltaire Blonde and Hawkshead Windermere Pale went down appreciatively.

It was then back to Manchester for the kind of drunken debauchery you expect when in the company of Jack & Jill. A poor innocent like me stood no chance. A warm up of Red Willow Macclesfield Bitter was called for in Common before the last survivors staggered to the Port Street Beer House. This proved a successful visit. Well, these days I consider any visit where we’re not thrown out a success.
Hop bomb

The early rounds are a blur, but the two nightcaps do standout. First up was Schneider Weisse Hopfen-Weisse. This is the classic wheat beer given a massive hop twist; superb. And finally we tried the Mikkeller 1000 IBU beer. The clue really is in the name and was a step too far for some who compared it to snorting hops up your nose. It’s certainly not subtle, but for hop fiends who want something under 5%, I’d recommend it. It certainly cuts through a jaded palate.

Then it was back to the bright lights of Bury where I begged to be released from the shackles of alcohol, but Eddie, the eager legal beagle, insisted we all had to carry on. He’s a bugger like that.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Citra IPA

Don’t you just love the smell of napalm in the morning? Hell, who doesn’t? But you know there may be something to top even that: Citra. Yes, we’re talking tropical fruit hoptastic here. And precede Citra with the word Kernel and Friday is looking promising.

It’s 6.5% and is a bottle-conditioned 330ml. It poured hazy amber with good carbonation and a thin white head. The aroma was-as you’d expect-very pungent. Lots of tropical fruit: lychee, peach, and mango in that order with some paprika thrown in for good measure.

The beer itself was medium-bodied and very smooth. There are even more tropical fruit flavours in the taste and you get tangerine and pithy orange in there as well. It’s all very refreshing even without the presence of grapefruit which you often associate with hoppy IPAs. The slightly herbal bitterness reaches a crescendo to leave a dry finish that demands you try some more.

Kernel have tweaked their legendary IPA up from its previous 6.2% and it’s a smash success. This is a tremendous beer. The aroma is incredible and the taste washes over you like the waves in Hawaii. It went down quicker than George Osborne on a line of cocaine; so get it while you can.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

Today’s little morning perk-me-up beer is from Brooklyn Brewery. They are, of course, from New York and are one of the best known American brands on these shores. This is Garrett Oliver’s take on a classic British style.

It’s a 355ml bottle and is 6.9%. It poured light amber with good carbonation and a fluffy white head. The aroma was what you might expect: mainly earthy hops, malt and a little bit of pine. Mouthfeel was quite smooth and the flavours hit you straight away. The main hit is a surge of tingling bitterness. You certainly get the herbal characteristics of the English hops and whilst there is some biscuit malt and citrus tones, they are in the background.

The flavour surge gives way to a nice dry finish and leaves the impression of a quite pleasant English IPA. It’s not the best I’ve had-not enough balance and, if anything, tasting a little too weak despite being nearly 7%, but it’s certainly worth trying a bottle or two.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Nøgne Ø God Jul

With the summer (hopefully) soon upon us, what better way than to start the day with a Porter. This is a Porter from the very well-renowned Norwegian brewer Nøgne. It’s 8.5% by alcohol and has 30 IBU. It poured very dark with a good tan head. The aroma was cocoa and dark malts. There was also a hint of the fruit tang that goes along with the big C hops.

The taste was rich with a smooth-medium mouthfeel. You soon forget it’s 8.5%. There’s lots of caramel and dark chocolate malt. There’s also some of the sweetness you might expect, but it’s very well balanced by a clever combination of those infamous C hops. You’re getting some Christmas spice and then a nice tart finish.
Perhaps not the best summer session beer, but this really is excellent. Complex, with lots of flavour and a good finish mark this out as a class act.

Monday, 4 June 2012

And there's More

You wait ages for a binge drinking related story to come along and then three come at once. Coincidence that this all happens during the Jubilee celebrations? A conspiracy theorist might think otherwise.

Anyhow, the latest one to catch my eye is the report of a study that seems to suggest that it’s not what you drink, but how you drink it that matters. So whilst having two drinks a day for seven days is good for your heart; consuming the same amount over a weekend isn’t.

Commenting on the report, published in the American journal Atherosclerosis, research team leader Dr John Cullen said: “We still don’t understand why moderate alcohol consumption benefits cardiovascular health or how heavy drinking episodes hurt it.”

For those of you interested in the detail, the study worked like this. Mice were put on a typical high fat Western diet that can lead to blocked arteries, heart attacks and strokes. They were then split into moderate and binge drinking groups. The moderate drinkers saw a fall of 40% in “bad” cholesterol, but the binge drinking mice saw a rise of 20%.

Now before you ask, no, I don’t know what constitutes binge drinking amongst mice, either. Perhaps they took them to the pub and fed them double whisky? Obviously it makes sense; otherwise the papers wouldn’t print it. But I do have a crazy suggestion for next time: why not try a comparative study of human drinkers?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Au Contraire

What are we going to do about the booze epidemic sweeping Britain? People are consuming more than ever and ignoring the recommended limits. And what about the kids who are binge drinking themselves to an early grave. It’s terrible, isn’t it?
It is. Except...


What?
A newly published study confirms that people are actually drinking less.

I don’t believe it. Sheer heresy. What idiot is making these claims?
The NHS

The same NHS who are always being quoted as saying alcohol consumption levels are at epidemic levels and we’ll all be dead soon?
Yes. A longitudinal study has shown that alcohol consumption has fallen over the last decade. In 2001, 25% of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15 drank at least once a week. But in 2010 the figure had nearly halved to 13%.

Amazing.
Yes. And of the youngsters quizzed, the number who thought it was acceptable to get drunk was almost halved as well.

Ah, but what about the rest of us? I bet we’re still knocking it back like Flynn?
Not really. In 1998 75% of men and 50% of women reported that they drank once a week. But, by 2010, that number had dropped for men to 68%, and only rose slightly for women to 54%.

So it’s all good news then?
Oh no. The report also says that the number of binge drinkers ending up in hospital has risen from 142,000 ten years ago to almost 200,000 last year.


But isn’t that just down to how they define a binge drinker and changes in hospital admission procedures?
You could say that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

So can we expect the government to drop its anti-alcohol agenda and start sponsoring beer festivals?
Now you’re just being silly.