About Me

My photo
Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Official: Beer tastes good

Why do we drink beer? Because we like it seems to be the answer. Yes, in a study that will gladden the hearts of imbibers everywhere, researchers at Indiana University have come to the same conclusion that I reached a long time ago. Beer tastes good which makes me feel good, so I drink more of it.

This being a scientific study, some empirical evidence was required. So they scanned the brains of two groups. One group was given 15ml of a sports drink and the other was given 15ml of their favourite beer. They found that the group that drank the beer released far higher levels of Dopamine into the brain than those that drank the sports drink.

It seems that Dopamine, known as the reward hormone, brought feelings of pleasure and then cravings to the beer lovers, unlike the sports drink group. This is down to the beer’s taste, not its alcohol content. As Professor David Karaken, who led the study, explained: “The mere flavour of beer can provoke this Dopamine response.”


So next time you try a sip of a beer you like, don’t be too surprised if you’re later seen rolling home after consuming a gallon of it. It's only nature in action

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Forever Bury Beer Festival

Such is the way with beer festivals that although the 9th Forever Bury Beer Festival is still visible in the rear mirror, the 10th is already being planned. The 15-17th May 2014; in case you were curious. Anyway, back to the 9th which, as usual, was held in the social club of Bury FC. Not surprising when the purpose of the event is to raise money for the mighty Shakers. And, let’s face it; they currently need all the money they can lay their hands on.

The good news is that the 2013 event raised £14,340, a £2000 increase over last year. Not bad, particularly given the current economic woes. And pricing the beer at £2 a pint certainly doesn’t do anything to deter punters from dropping in. With a new layout and cooling equipment, quality and choice were better than ever. Two Manchester breweries: Ringway and Barlick delivered solid, old-fashioned Bitters while Loch Ness threw up a very passable, fruity WilderNess.

The Sportsman Alpha #3 put in a good shout for my beer of the festival, but with Caveman Citra on the books, there could only be one winner.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Blackjack@PSBH

Blackjack beers are now a familiar sight around Manchester and, increasingly, further afield. Last week gave the crowd at Port Street Beer House to chance to meet the man behind the brand: Rob Hamilton. Rob used to work for Marble (not a bad way to learn the biz) before setting up in Gould St with their redundant 4.5 barrel plant. He made no secret of his terror at public speaking; hold the presses, not all brewers are loudmouths! But everyone who spoke to him that evening came away with the same impression: he’s a nice guy who would rather let his beers do the talking. And there’s nowt wrong with that.

The Pokies
Named after a New Zealand slang term for slot machines. This light and refreshing 3.6% pale ale boasts Pacific Gem, Pacific Jade and Wakatu hops and went down very well indeed.

Lager
CAMRA members drinking kegged lager? Some mistake, Shirley? Even worse, CAMRA members drinking kegged lager and liking it. This 5.2% offering was another winner, pleasantly fruity and not overly gassed. I’d agree with Rob that it would be even better if a tad dryer, but it’s still excellent, nonetheless.

Aces High
The standard Blackjack IPA offers a triple-hop citrus kick and hides its 5.5% strength very well. Had this at the Marble Arch the next day and that merely consolidated my initial impression.

Pacific Jade
The new single-hop IPA at 5.2% was quite fruity with a more rounded finish than the Aces. As good as it was, there was some talk that this could be even better on cask.

King of Clubs Stout
This is the strongest beer that Rob can produce on his kit and comes with 6 different hops packed in and was left to mature for 6 months. Some lovely liquorice and chocolate in the nose, but perhaps a little too much alcohol in the finish for me. Another one I’d like to try on cask.


A very enjoyable evening was had by all: with the added bonus of some excellent cheese sandwiches. Cheese and beer, what's not to like?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge


Apart from actually drinking the stuff, the next best thing is reading about beer. Which brings me to this worthy little effort. My apologies for not getting round to reviewing it sooner, but I have been using it as a doorstop. Had I known its contents, I would have no doubt got round to it much quicker. But let’s cut to the chase; what’s it like?

This is a 208 page guide to the best that the craft beer world has to offer. Written by the annoyingly smart Mr Dredge, it’s along the lines of “beers to try before you die”. 350 of them to be precise. Beers are broken down, sensibly, into styles and each one then gets a picture and a little write up. This being a craft beer book, the beers circle the world from England to Japan.

Now, as I always say, half the fun of these books is seeing what beers people have chosen; as you can’t please all the people etc. Crate Brewery Lager makes into the Pilsner section even though it’s not a Pilsner. And Fullers Bengal Lancer as one of the best English Pale Ale/IPA examples? I mean, really? Perhaps he’d had a long lunch.

That being said, I think this book is squarely aimed at people starting out on their journey into the craft beer world. And Mark does say it’s about celebrating the new, rather than rehashing classic beers that have been featured many times before. So maybe there is a place for Bengal Lancer after all. Just not on my shelf.

As you might expect, the text is well-written and entertaining as well as being educational. There are sections on how beer is made, the world of hops, cooking with beer and the flavours and off-flavours of beer. Naturally with such a title, he has to have a go at defining “craft” and does well in emphasising it’s more of an idea than a dictionary definition.

I was also rather taken with his notion that behind every beer there is a story and this book is here to tell those stories. Something it does rather well, I think. 

Craft Beer World is published by Dog'n'Bone at £16.99

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Dutton



While we’re on a nostalgic kick, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the loss of the Dutton Hotel. News that this icon of the Manchester pub scene had closed reached me last month and it was sad, if not wholly unexpected, tidings. Situated on Park St, behind the MEN Arena, this small street-corner boozer was a step back in time and, along with the Jolly Angler, represented a link to Manchester’s industrial past.

But the heyday of places such as the Dutton was a long time ago and each increasing year brought even less trade. I was surprised to find it still open on my last visit there three years ago as I imagined that its small, but loyal, pool of hardcore regulars would have dried up. These were crucial to the survival of the pub as there was virtually no passing trade and little but curiosity to tempt the casual visitor.

I first came across it thanks to the Good Beer Guide which it used to feature in on and off for many years. It was a Hydes pub and was famous for its anvils (the symbol of Hydes) and its blowlamps collection. It was also famous for its lock-ins and sessions would run into the wee small hours. Tales of prison officers from the nearby Strangeways popping in were legion and it even had its 15 minutes of fame during the 1990 riot when the media used it as an unofficial base.

Hydes purchased the pub in 1920, so it’s fallen short of its centenary but it’s had a good innings and goes into the history books with fond memories.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Racecourse





The Racecourse Hotel on Littleton Road, Salford, is a piece of pub-going history that we look set to lose. It’s certainly a mammoth pub, of a scale that you simply don’t get these days. Built in 1930 by Salford brewers Grove & Whitnall to fund demand by the nearby racecourse (which closed in 1963) it features a myriad of rooms and an imposing central bar.

Recently CAMRA members were invited to tour the premises and see the areas usually off-limits to the public. These include the two large cellars that aren’t even connected and odd historical hangovers such as the jockey’s room complete with original shelving. It would need a lot of effort (and money) to bring it up to scratch, but the function room upstairs is one asset that could be exploited.

Owners Oakwell Brewery are set to call time at the end of the month and although there’s a chance of a new buyer stepping in, that would mean a major facelift. Anyone interested in pub history (and who isn’t) should try and get along to see this gem of a pub.

And unlike most pubs in the area, the Racecourse does offer real ale: with Bitter at a very reasonable £1.90 a pint. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Saturday & Sunday in London


Saturday dawned bright and sunny. Well, overcast and a little drizzly, but in our hearts it was sunny. A trip on the river, a trip on the cable car, a little culture amongst the beer, but, as Groucho Marx said:”You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.” So with some CAMRA members getting the shakes and needing a drink, we headed off for our first stop: Kernel brewery.

Nestled in the heart of Bermondsey, they have a smart setup which has had a small change since my last visit. Sensibly they have split the bar area into on-sales and off-sales to try and minimise queuing. Lovely portions of Table Beer, Sour and Pale Ale were consumed here. Luckily it wasn’t far to Partizan which is easily reached by following the contour of the railway arches. Here the sun peaked through and allowed al fresco tastings of both their Saison beers and their Citra offering.

The enticing environs of Craft Islington beckoned next before a diversion to the Union Tavern on Woodfield Road. This is a new convert to the craft beer scene and was met with mixed results. The cask choice was atypical London, i.e. unbalanced with nothing pale in sight. The reports from people who did try it weren’t favourable. The keg range (which I stuck to) was much better in terms of choice and, it appears, quality.

It was a parting of the ways for some here, but the official tour continued with a tour of the posh area around Belgravia. First stop was the Grenadier on Wilton Row. Built in 1720 as the Officers Mess for the First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, this beautiful little boozer was first licensed in 1818 as the Guardsman Public House. It’s had its fair share of celebrity clientele over the years: the Duke of Wellington, King George IV. And it’s where Madonna developed her liking for Taylor Landlord.

There’s a good crawl to be had amongst the mews as you admire the Bentleys and Jensen Interceptors along the way. The Nags Head on Kinnerton St is another well-known London landmark. Sprawled over three small floors, its eclectic nature perfectly mirrors its famously eccentric landlord. The use of mobile phones is strictly forbidden and should you forget to hang your coat up, you will be politely asked to do so. The lowest bar-with suitably cut down bar stools-you’ll ever see is worth the visit alone. 

Our last official stop was the Grade 11-listed Star Tavern. Built in 1848, this Fullers single-room pub has featured in the Good Beer Guide since the first edition and was sensitively refurbished in 2008. It now offers guest beers, JHB in this case. It was pleasingly busy in the way most pubs were on a Saturday night, once upon a time. Not wishing to miss the last tube, it was time for a last hurrah in the Queens where Portobello American Pale proved a tasty nightcap.

Sunday dawned and there were a few jaded palates waiting to be refreshed. Luckily, although London doesn’t excel at late drinking, pre-noon drinking (sans Wetherspoon) can be had courtesy of the market pub. Hence we found ourselves in the Exmouth Arms or rather sat outside for a taste of Outlaw Low Life. This 2.8% golden (not really) ale was theoretically a good pick-me-up, but the dry-hopping didn’t really come through and it was a no-contest in voting the powerfully hopped Rogue Yellow Snow the winner.

It’s a tradition to finish Sunday drinking in Craft in Leather Lane and so with Mr & Mrs T joining us once more, we started work on demolishing the like of Crouch Vale Citra and Magic Rock High Wire. A dash to St Pancras brought us to Sourced Kitchen. This high quality deli specialises in all things local, including the London beers we supped on the way home.

Pressure Drop is a brand spanking new nanobrewery based in the flourishing outreaches of Hackney. I tried their Amarillo & Topaz which at 3.8% was light and refreshing and didn’t suffer from the common problems with low-strength bottle-conditioned beers. One to watch.


So ended another foray into the strange land that is called London. No doubt we will be back soon. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Friday in London


A wise man once said that trying to herd CAMRA members was like trying to herd cats. However, that was the mission as we attempted to navigate the sometimes-sunny streets of London. First stop had to be the Euston Tap where Mallinsons (sparkler by request) was enjoyed al fresco. A quick romp took us up to the Parcel Yard at Kings Cross station. This modern behemoth is a warren of drinking spaces and offers the full range of Fullers beers. Although, on this occasion, it was Oakham JHB that tickled the fancy.

Just round the corner from our hotel was our base of operation for the weekend: the Queens Head on Acton Street. This late Georgian side-street boozer has a single bar with benches outside. It’s a cracking London boozer with a relaxed vibe. And the beer isn’t bad, either. Usually local (ish), there is also real cider and a good bottled beer range. Further good news lies in the presence of a bus stop just across the street. The bus from here quickly took us to our next destination: Craft.

Now Craft doesn’t, or shouldn’t, need any introduction. This Leather Lane hostelry has been at the forefront of the craft beer movement since its conversion from its pedestrian predecessor, the Clock House. And with 16 handpumps, the real ale certainly isn’t neglected and it is one of the few places in London that you can always guarantee finding something for all palates.

The only black mark against them is their continued hostility to the sparkler. This is presumably based on the back to basics approach to craft beer. However, there is some irony in the ├╝ber cool craft hipsters sharing a viewpoint held by CAMRA dinosaurs who, for eons, have been fighting to preserve the tradition of warm, flat beer.

But, back to the beer. Being no numpty and obeying rule 51 (when you see it, have it) I dived straight for Magic Rock Curious. Some less curious (geddit) minded amateurs were dazzled by the allure of Crouch Vale Apollo and were rewarded with a diacetyl bomb of a dumper. Obviously one beer here is never enough, so there was plenty of time to make amends. Although, strangely, no one was tempted by the kegged Pizza Port Skid Mark Brown; and they say real ale has silly names.

The Gunmakers is another must stop on the Clerkenwell circuit and with the addition of two extra pumps, now has seven cask beers on offer. And whilst the place itself is great, it’s commitment to LocAle (always a risky move) meant that, on this occasion, the bar was lacking in variety and heavily leaning towards the plain brown side. The Portobello Star was found particularly guilty of this offence.

No such problem at the Fox & Anchor. This is a beautifully restored Smithfield pub that oozes quality. The only problem here is that the bar staff struggle to pour a pint. And they have the increasingly common dimpled mug as the default option. However, when the Caveman Citra arrived, it was worth the wait. It’s only a short walk to the Old Red Cow round the corner which was that busy we had to stand outside for most of the time.

This is another great market pub and there were several comings and goings here. Stopwatch Sid called time on himself and Tandleman was joined by his infinitely better, but don’t make her cross, other half, Mrs T. Despite being fresh and surrounded by drunks-I hate that-she gamely accompanied us to the Lamb at Leadenhall before whisking Mr T home for his slippers and hot chocolate. The Lamb is a fantastic historical boozer, but the beer, it has to be said, is somewhat lacklustre.

With only the likes of the Don, Eddie the, eager, legal beagle, the Manx Minx and their entourage and, of course, Jack & Jill still left, we made a beeline for the curry house. Chettinad came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint. Forget your dumbed down Masala dishes etc. This is the real deal: authentic south Indian cuisine and was a fitting end to our first day in London.