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

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The end of Boddies?

Have we finally reached the end of the line for Boddingtons? The once iconic brand, hailed as the “cream of Manchester” seems to have suffered the beer equivalent of Dignitas. Hydes Brewery, preparing for their move to Salford, stooped production in March of this year. Brand owners AB Inbev were conspicuous in their silence about its future and now we have reports that pubs have sold their last lot.

Of course, if this is the end, there will not be many mourners at the funeral. The brand has been badly treated since its acquisition by AB Inbev in 2000 and has seen a near 75% slide in sales in that time. However, as recently as 2010 it was still the UK’s sixth best selling Bitter. Although, perhaps, there were signs in the runes in 2011 when, rather like a football manager getting a vote of confidence, AB’s UK president said that they “still believe in the brand”.

Purists might say the beer itself has been in decline for many years anyway. Certainly the rot had set in way back when Whitbread first had it and Ron Pattinson and his research might explain why. The truly-dire, bastardised 3.5% smooth version is still being churned out in Samlesbury and our American cousins can enjoy a 4.6% “Boddingtons Pub Ale”. Crucially they both eschew the once crucial Manchester connection.

Perhaps it’s best to finally put this wounded beast down. And, to look at the positive side, it could be an opportunity for former stockists to up their game and offer their customers something more demanding. Well, one can dream...

Friday, 27 July 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Black Rye

What better way to kick off Olympic Friday than with Kernel Black Rye? That’s my thinking, anyway. But hold on, don’t you consider rye the work of the devil and something that usually spoils a perfectly good beer? And what’s it doing in a Black IPA? All good points; answers on a postcard addressed to Kernel, please.

Actually if anyone should be able to harness the alleged positive properties of rye, it’s the Kernel gang. Unfortunately, it took some work to get to the beer. This bottle wasn’t just lively, it was a froth bomb. When it did settle down, the aroma was a mix of pine, coffee and grapefruit.

The mouthfeel was dry and the taste hid the 7.1% vol quite well. There’s roast malt, pepper and chocolate in there balanced by a slightly herbal hop undertone. The finish was medium dry with a roast twist. It’s not the best Kernel beer, nor the best Black IPA, but they’ve managed to rein the rye in enough to make it worth having a bottle or two.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Columbus Motueka Stella IPA

It’s Friday. Your jockstrap has seen better days and your palate is flagging. It’s time to pop open some Kernel and get ready for the weekend...

This is the standard 330ml Kernel bottle with the now almost iconic understated label. It’s 7.1% and caught my eye by throwing Stella in the mix. This is a new(ish) Australian hop that is well suited for use in lagers and pilsners. However, I’ve found it less impressive when showcased in single hop beers and was of the opinion it would be better as part of a blend. So here we are.

It poured hazy amber with a good off-white head and reasonable carbonation. The aroma was pungent, with the expected citrus and tropical fruit notes, but also some earthy, herbal flavours. I’m presuming that’s the Stella?

The taste was more of the same. A quite silky texture was packed with plenty of citrus and tropical hops. Pineapple, mango, grapefruit all came through but were held back by a definite floral undertone; Stella, I’m guessing again. There was also a slight anise tang at the back of the throat. This gave way to a medium dry aftertaste.

Another interesting Kernel beer. The tripartite combination works well; with Stella cutting through the citrus flavours to deliver a fuller, more rounded IPA than you might expect.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Roll Out The Barrel

The British Film institute has raided its national archive to compile a collection of films celebrating the British pub on film. And, as they’ve kindly sent me a copy, it seems only fair to review the series. An eclectic mix of short films spanning the 1940s to the 1980s, they cover promotional films from the likes of Guinness and Bass through to government wartime propaganda and light educational pieces.
The interesting thing about them all is that they summon up an image of a bygone age. Even the most recent-Local Life, produced by the Brewers Society in 1982, seems dated even for then. Sadly, its boast of “30 million pints served a day in over 70,000 pubs” merely reinforces the truth about the decline of the modern boozer.

Whilst all the films are of interest, I particularly enjoyed a couple of them. Down at the Local was made in 1945 by the Army Kinematograph Corporation as reassurance for soldiers serving abroad. They may be far away, but their local pub; whether it is in London, Preston or Somerset is still there waiting for their return. Of course, some things have changed: prices are up, there’s a shortage of glasses and there are no spirits, but it’s still the pub they remember.

Amongst the pubs featured in Local Life is the Punch Bowl in Mayfair. This is a London pub I know and it hit the headlines of late when Guy Ritchie took charge. Back in 1945 it was a Watney’s pub selling Bitter (IPA) at 1/3d, Burton (KKK) for 1/5d and Mild at 1/-.

In fact one of the joys of watching these films is indulging in a spot of pub watching. Spotting pubs you know-several in my case and ones you wish you’d been to. Who wouldn’t want to visit the Redcliffe Hotel with “London’s only counter top cabaret bar” or Billy’s Boozer where a young Billy Walker was embarking on his business career?

And what about the swinging Birds Nest in the Green Man on Muswell Hill where DJ Stuart Henry was at home with the swinging dolly birds? Others just seem surreal; like the escape themed pub frequented by genuine wartime Stalag escapees. And despite the popularity of the German themed bierkeller; there were twelve of them in the West End alone in 1969, surely the only reason to visit the Schloss Keller would be if Jon Pertwee did get up for a singalong every night?

Of course, a lot of these pubs have gone, but several remain, if a shadow of their former self. Sadly, the dial House Club in Sheffield, which was the subject of a fascinating 1965 German documentary, closed its doors for the last time in 2005. But what all these films have in common is putting the pub at the heart of everyday life. And anyone with an interest not only in pubs, but social history will find them very rewarding.

One of the curios is Henry Cleans Up in which the Monty Python crew attempt to educate us in a humorous manner about the best way to keep Guinness. Although I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the “recommended” serving temperature of 12-15.5C.  Seems they really did like their beer warm in the 70s.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Do you mean Wetherspoons?

My local Wetherspoons is proudly displaying a large new Good Beer Guide poster in the window. And it’s not alone. Spoons up and down the land are proudly flaunting their entry in the GBG. Which is great...Except for the slight spelling mistake. Recriminations are flying round for this embarrassing blunder, but I think the buck must ultimately stop with Weatherspoons (sic) publicity dept. Doesn’t anyone check these things before they are sent out? They've promised to get back to me, but I bet someone will be getting a slap on the wrist from Tim.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Libertine Black Ale

Tuesday in July can only mean one thing: Brewdog. Their take on Black IPA to be exact. It’s described as a “hop whore for the 21st century” which, being a hop whore lover, I can dig.

It’s the standard 330ml bottle and at 7.2% it’s in the ballpark for this type of beer. Pouring black with a large tan head, its aroma consisted of moderate levels of citrus hops, roast and dark fruits. The beer itself was medium bodied and surprisingly smooth. There was a flash of bitterness that lingers, but overall the beer is well balanced. A little too well balanced?

Yes, it seems a funny criticism, but it’s not what you’d expect from a beer purporting to be a Black IPA. The grapefruit notes are complemented by dark berries and then washed away by the roast malt. You’re left waiting for the punch that never comes. It's certainly no hop whore.

There are a lot of good Black IPAs out there. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. If you look to the likes of Buxton as a benchmark, you’ll feel short changed by this. It lacks the power that a 7.2% should carry and is far too bland to be a serious contender.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Dead Pony Club

Are Brewdog over the hill? Have they even been up the hill? These were some of the questions being posed by the drinkers of Manchester last night. There definitely seems to be an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with some of their beers. Or at least some of their newer ones to be accurate. It was even suggested that the only reason to visit the Manchester bar was to sample the guest beers.

So in the interests of completely unscientific research, I decided to try a bottle of Dead Pony Club for today’s breakfast beer. I, along with several others, was less than thrilled with this on draught on the opening night of Brewdog Manchester. The consensus seemed to be that it was, well, rather dreary. Some of their beers are actually better in the bottle, so I was hopeful about this one.

It’s the standard Brewdog size and is only 3.8% by alcohol. It poured lively amber with a good white head. The aroma was quite restrained but promising. There was pine and herbal notes which indicated a decent hop level.

The first thing I noticed about the taste was that it was much crisper then the draught version and it didn’t have the unpleasant cloying aftertaste. There’s certainly a decent buzz with tart fruit hops on the tongue... But that’s it.

As usual with Brewdog’s weaker beers, they seem unable to provide a decent malt backbone to complement the hops. So you’re left with a one dimensional beer that feels a little weak and unbalanced. Hardly the greatest achievement for someone with so lofty ideals.

This will probably suit the uninitiated and the Brewdog fans who are used to their stronger stuff. However, although it’s not a bad beer, considering the competition out there in session beer land; this comes across as something of a missed opportunity. I could easily sup a bottle or two, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Wharf@Castlefield

It’s always exciting to welcome a new pub to the Manchester scene. Particularly as it’s a much rarer occurrence than it once was. We have to go back to the opening of the Port Street Beer House for the last pub debut. But hold on there partner, I hear you cry. Didn’t some fancy pants Scottish brewer open a new bar not too long ago? Yes indeed. But that’s a bar and doesn’t sell any real beer anyway, so I say raspberry brulee to that.

The Wharf, on the other hand, is a proper 100% diamond geezer pub. No surprise as it’s part of the Brunning and Price chain. They are the pub group that have a proven track record in running upmarket food centric premises that are attractive to customers who like to dine and drink in rather smart surroundings.

Positioned in the Castlefield basin, the building itself was a new build in 1998 when it opened as Jacksons Wharf. The intention was obvious: build a new pub to service the growing number of local residents and visitors to the area. However, it wasn’t well executed and it served mediocre beer-Boddingtons, I seem to recall, and food before it limped to a close in 2005.

There then erupted a war over the site as Peel Holdings, the visionaries who gave us the Trafford Centre, wanted to build a monstrous complex there. Thankfully, with the help of local campaigners and the odd celebrity, eventually Goliath was beaten by David, and Brunning and Price began the three year process to open it as a pub again.

The result is a very welcome addition to not only the Manchester pub scene, but Manchester’s real ale portfolio as well. They serve six cask beers, with Dave the bar manager keen to hear feedback on what beers the customers would like to see on the bar. This being Manchester and this being Brunning & Price, the beer isn’t cheap. Be prepared to pay £3.40 a pint for your preferred tipple.

The pub itself is typical of their group. Lots of bare wood and comfortable furnishings. Being a proper pub, it’s multi-roomed and there are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to hide in when you see the likes of me walk in. I particularly liked the library room behind the main bar.

Sensibly downstairs is given over to casual diners and drinkers, while upstairs is reserved for more formal dining. Above that is the crows nest gallery which I’m sure will prove popular for its intimacy and great views over the hoi polloi below. Food is obviously a major draw and examples include a starter of home smoked duck breast with date purée and orange salad (£6.50) and a main of fish & chips for £12.25.

There is plenty of outdoor seating for you to get wet enjoy the scorching Mancunian summer and there is full disabled access for wheelchair users. It’s interesting to see such a bold development open in a time of such austerity and changing consumer habits. Of course, only time will tell if B&P have done their homework, but the initial signs are good.

The Wharf, 6 Slate Wharf, Castlefield, Manchester M15 4ST
Open Mon-Thurs 11-11, Fri-Sat 11-Midnight, Sun 11-10.30
Food served Mon-Sat 12-10, Sun 12-9.30

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

American Rarities Tasting Session@PSBH

Monday evening saw Andreas Fält host an American rarities tasting session at the Port Street Beer House. Alongside an informative talk on the general American craft beer scene, there was background information on each of the selected breweries and their beers. Some of the beers were indeed rare enough to put a beer geek into orbit, so without further ado...

Jester King: Petit Prince
This is an interesting hazy-gold beer from the brewery based in Austin, Texas. At 2.9%, it’s their take on the traditional low alcohol farmhouse beer brewed in the Wallonian region of Belgium. They use three types of organic malt-Pilsner, Two Row, Caramunich and some organic wheat as well. Hops are Czech Saaz and East Kent Goldings.

Although this certainly captured the Belgium wheat beer feel and was potentially very refreshing, I think the general consensus was that it was just a tad too weak. Perhaps fine for a sunny day sat by the banks of the Meuse, but not for a rainy evening in Manchester.

Green Flash: Saison Diego
This 4.2% San Diego brewed beer is an unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, brewed with Seville orange peels and Chinese ginger. It went down very easy with a bread dough aroma and a lightly spiced citrus body that had lemon and cloves in it. Tasty.

Southern Tier: Phin and Matts
Now this brewery from Lakewood, New York I have come across before and have been impressed with their beers. And I wasn’t disappointed by this. It’s a classic American Pale Ale with a good solid malt body to anchor it, but clean and crisp with a good hop bite. Very tasty.

Alesmith: IPA
Alesmith were another San Diego brewery I hadn’t tried; so I was looking forward to trying this 7.5% bottle-conditioned West Coast IPA. It certainly didn’t disappoint and was potentially the beer of the night.

Hazy amber in colour, it was packed full of grapefruit and pine resin on the nose. The flavour was a powerful mix of citrus-pineapple and grapefruit-and plenty of fruity hop bitterness on the tongue. These continued through to the strong, dry aftertaste. A very impressive interpretation of the style.

Uncommon Brewers: Baltic Porter
From Santa Cruz and weighing in at 7.8%, this was a dark beer with liquorice, malt and roast in the aroma. These were present in the body, but there was more sweetness than I’d expect or really want. Quite easy on the palate but ultimately let down by that sweetness.

Hoppin Frog: BORIS The Crusher
From a small brewery in Ohio, this 9.4% beer gets its name from Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout. Yes, really. Luckily the beer was much better than its corny name suggested.

The aroma was a pungent mix of dark chocolate, espresso and roast flavours. The flavour was even more powerful: lots of roast coffee, dark chocolate, dark fruits and even Christmas pudding. Dry and rich, this was a beer to savour and an excellent finish to the tasting session.

These beers were part of the PSBH American Beer Festival. It's still on and any fan of the USA and its beers should try and catch it.