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

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Mad Hatter@PSBH

Monday evening saw the usual suspects gathered for a meet the brewer with Mad Hatter’s Gareth Mathews. Gareth or Mad Gaz as his wife, Sue, affectionately knows him as, is the man behind Liverpool’s most experimental brewery. Technically it’s a Toxteth nanobrewery running off batches of 400 litres but, as Gaz explained, the small size makes it easier to produce a wide variety of new beers. As if to prove the point and a first for MTB@PSBH, all the beers on the night were new brews.
After an interesting introduction on how he came to be brewing: all to do with his brother having an illicit bar in his bedroom and getting bored with academia, it was onto the beer. The name of the brewery is pretty self-explanatory and yes, does tie in with Alice in Wonderland. Their distinctive artwork is done by Emily Warren who also produced the impressive papier mâché pumpclips for the bar. Another interesting aspect of the brewery is that Gaz doesn’t really believe in brewing anything under 6.5%. Now he tells us!
Raspberry and Basil Wit

Started sweet but then quickly dried out to a tart, quite refreshing finish. This didn’t taste 6.5% and made for an atypical continental summer drink. The only real complaint about this was the lack of Basil in the finished taste. Gaz agreed with this critique even though he revealed he had put a whole Basil plant into the brew. The unpredictability of brewing, eh?

Sour Saison
The aim here for this 7% was to create a more balanced Saison and in that respect it succeeded. It really wasn’t that sour and caramel malt came through which, together with the lack of spice, meant that it really couldn’t be called a Saison. Again Gaz agreed with this observation but, as befits a man who likes to play around with the style book, revealed that he had put 200g of Mosaic hops into just a five gallon batch of this.
Galaxy IPA

This was a single hop 7.2% IPA that I think it’s fair to say was the least popular of the night. Galaxy is a great hop but needs diligent use. Here its characteristics were swamped, leaving no backbone and one-dimensional astringency. An odd beer that was fermented with a Brown Ale yeast starter which probably explains the toasty caramel flavours. No wonder Gaz said he wouldn’t be trying that again.
Next came heaven for this beerhound. A cheese break. Some excellent samples from the Liverpool Cheese Company comprising Crumbly Lancashire, Manchego and Cheshire Blue. Yummy, yummy.

American Psycho
This 7% offering was an attempt to recreate an American Brown Ale. Of course, over here brown ales are considered rather dull and passé, whilst in the USA they are a highly regarded style. Gaz is a big fan of these beers as he considers that they have the perfect combination of flavours. This was a belter: a perfect brown colour with a tight white head and dark chocolate and pine in the nose. A beautifully balanced beer that started with rich chocolate and toasted nut flavours before the resinous hops washed it away to a grand bitter finish. He’d nailed this one spot on.

REDRUM on Port St
As in the racehorse, naturally. This 7% red ale was a collaboration with PSBH and was intended as a more hop-forward version of the original REDRUM. To that end, Chinook was added to the boil and in the dry-hop, with Amarillo thrown in to give it a powerful aroma. However, these seemed to cancel each other out somewhat in the glass with it having more of a dark fruit edge than you’d expect. An interesting and perhaps appropriate end to an evening of challenged perceptions.

So thanks to Gaz & Sue and all the PSBH gang. All the beers may not have been crowd pleasers but they were certainly interesting. So next time you see Mad Hatter, why not dive in and try them for yourself..

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Jolly Outing In Chester

Chester has always been one of the top spots for a day’s drinking. Plenty of pubs-from old to modern-and lots of the real stuff. Sorry, keggies, although it’s growing in availability, it’s still not the best place for that craft stuff. My last visit was in February last year as organiser of a CAMRA crawl. Last Saturday’s adventure was a bipartisan Jolly Boys Outing. Route agreed it was upwards (or downwards) until the bitter end.

A new one to me. This bar on City Road has been picking up some good reports with up to four cask beers on. But sadly not on our visit. Two Red Willow beers were showing on the bar, but getting hold of them proved somewhat elusive. Or illusory, even. Splutter, splutter, but no joy. The barmaid was very apologetic but they weren’t ready. I realise this will be more of a late night haunt, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that, if somewhere opens at lunchtime, that they will have beer available.

Old Harkers
Luckily, after that false start, it was only across the road to the next stop. Harkers is an old friend, long-established now on the good pub crawl of Chester. This Brunning & Price canal side pub is very much atypical of their upmarket offerings and offers a decent selection on the drinks front. Spitting Feathers was the starting tipple here.

Marlborough Arms
This was very disappointing as last time it had been good but this time was a waste of space. The first drink offered was hot. And I mean hot, not warm. Like it had been poured from the hot water tank. Never mind, let’s try another. Yuk. Pure hot vinegar. The advance party voted with their feet and radioed our change of plans to those in the rear.

This pub, just off the Roman wall, is famous/infamous for its eccentric landlord who has ran it as his own personal fiefdom for nearly forty years. A sign outside: dogs yes, children no etc, gives a clue as to why it is nicknamed the ‘no fun pub’. But it does host some interesting WW1 memorabilia and who can’t but love a pub that advertises the guest lager as “I can’t believe it’s not piss.” The advance party did well by supping all the Harvest Pale (in good nick, to be fair) leaving only Tribute for the rest
 Cross Keys
This Joules pub is a belter. It was good last time and didn’t disappoint again with a mix of Joules beers (Pale Ale and Blonde) and guests such as Thornbridge Kipling. A comfy, proper pubby atmosphere really makes this place worth a visit.

Bear & Billet
Back to al fresco at this Okells pub. Their MPA was so good that we had no hesitation in immediately getting another.

Spitting Feather Brewery Tap
A fantastic Georgian building this, but they were a little awry with their beer selection. Too many strong beers. On a scorcher of a day, you really don’t want to see 6%+ beers on the bar. That 6.3% was ok but really, get a grip.

This is another new one. On Newgate this, as the name implies, is a conversion of a church. Done on a grand scale with an impressive al fresco area, this is all about the building. Reasonable, if rather dull, local-as in Welsh, beer available.

This is a new, very impressive Brunning & Price pub that overlooks the racecourse at Roodee. Named in honour of Thomas Harrison, the main behind Chester Castle amongst others, this Georgian building is filled with light and mixes the old with the new seamlessly. The beer choice was a little pedestrian, though, with local beers dominating once again.
Pied Bull
Reputed to be the oldest licensed premises in Chester, this pub is on Northgate St and is now home to a brewery in the cellar. This is a good pub to relax in but unfortunately there was only one of their own beers on when we called in. So we had to settle for one of the guest beers. Which were well kept and not of the dull variety.
This bar, conveniently located near the train station on the site of a former Italian restaurant, is the tap for Blueball brewery which is based in Runcorn. Their philosophy is that it doesn’t matter if it’s cask, keg or bottle, as long as it tastes good and there is a good selection of all three here. A nice finisher.

A quick dash enabled us-well some of us-to make the designated train back to Manchester. A very good day out but with some mixed results beer wise. Too many bog standard local beers taking room up on the bar and if I see another beer labelled as “Golden” when it’s brown, I’ll scream.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Swings and Roundabouts

Or losses and gains in the Bury area. First up is the sad sight of the Derby Arms on Bolton Road being reduced to rubble in preparation for its conversion to a car delearship forecourt. The ex-Thwaites pub, despite being described as an “eyesore” in the local paper, was actually in perfect physical condition but has now had the ultimate humiliation of being wiped completely off the map. It was the last in what was once a heavily pubbed area: think Arthur, Blue Bell, Jolly Carter and Eagle & Child.

However, there have been exciting developments in the town centre. Well, developments anyway. There are two real ale gains to report, although how long they’ll last in anyone’s guess. First up is Malloys on Silver St. This ‘Oirish’ pub has joined the real ale craze and installed Hobgoblin and Bombardier on the bar. Frankly, it’s not a selection likely to draw too many away from the other watering holes of Bury, but they are hoping that the lure of Sky Sports and Hobgoblin at £2.09 a pint will draw punters in. Perhaps but, on my last visit, the customers consisted of two Polish girls, neither of whom were necking Hobgoblin. Which was warm, by the way.
The other Johnny-come-lately to the cask party is Yates on Market Street. They actually had cask on in the long distant past (Boddingsons) but have been more famous in recent years for having the most police call-outs in the Bury area. Basically it was the place you went if you were barred from Wetherspoons. However, we were promised a £100,000 makeover that would “wow” us. Having been in for ths soft launch, I can reveal that they have fixed the cracked windows and toilets and given it a deep-clean. Not the massive overhaul some were expecting, but then £100,000 doesn't go far these days. And some cynics might argue what is the point when it seems they are still aiming at the same clinetele.

The only other big change with Yates is the appearance of handpulls on the bar. And while you wouldn’t expect a row of craft beers, they could have done a lot better than plump for Greene King. With a Greene King pub round the corner and two Wetherspoons knocking it out cheap as chips, you can see nobody is paying local attention. How long before we experience the old catch-22 of quality suffering/declining sales and then the inevitable “There’s no demand for it” as it disappears from the bar?  What could have been two important and interesting cask gains have, in the hands of uninterested large pubcos, been already dismissed as short-term phenomena.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Muggy Day In London

Some of the highs and lows of a day out in London.

Kernel Brewery
Another London trip, another visit to Kernel. Can you visit London without going via Bermondsey? It may be possible, but not in my experience. A lot of choice. Actually a lot of strong choice. Apart from Table Beer, there was Pale Ale Summit at 5.2%, and then the only way was up, as they say. Nothing much of supping strength. But what about London Sour, I hear you ask? Well yes, they did have that. Indeed two new varieties of this 2.3% oddity. One that had been aged in a white wine barrel and one-wait for it-that had been aged in a red wine barrel. Call me boring, because I know barrel-ageing is all the rage in craft land, but I much prefer the original. The wood and acetic nature of these have transformed a pleasurable puckerish beer to some sort of (yawn) Belgian Lambic hybrid. Luckily there was Motueka, Centennial, Nelson Sauvin, Zeus to finish on.

Old Brewery, Greenwich
Ah, the Old Brewery. Probably the best outdoor spot in London. A place where you can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle whilst enjoying some of Meantime’s finest. And pay for the privilege. Which brings me on to the strange incident of the cockney sparrow barmaid. Now she may have been a learner (she was young) but then it’s down to training. Perhaps she’s somebody’s girlfriend. Or maybe it was just my gruff Northern accent that threw her, but things didn’t go well. Having firstly served someone else out of order, I finally got her attention.

"Have you got any Helles on at the moment?
Eh? Hell-ass? What’s that?
Er, it’s one of your beers.
No, we ain’t got none of that.
Ok. What about some Kellerbier?
Eh? Cans? Nah, we don’t do cans."

The barman stood next to her then intervened and explained to her what Kellerbier is and what beers they had on. Skip forward to her furnishing me with a taster of Pacific Pale. No sooner had I put the glass down after taking a sip-and I’ve never encountered this before-than it was swiped from my grasp, tipped into a pint glass and duly topped up from the font. I was somewhat bemused, I must say and not really the service I would expect at £5 a pint. Their own beer wasn’t particularly good and I soon swapped to Darkstar Hophead.

Draft House, Seething Lane
As described by Tandleman here. It is an impressive place and in a good location. No problem with background noise on my visit but it was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon. A good selection of 6 casks and numerous fonts and bottles; all at top dollar, though, it has to be said. Oh and a gigantic HD projector screen. Given the pricing and modernity, it was a shame that the cask: Red Squirrel Red Tail Citra was warm and flabby. I shall be visiting again shortly and will be very interested to see if conditions are the same.
Holborn Whippet
This outpost of the Euston Tap is handily located on Sicilian Avenue and offers the good selection of cask and keg that you would expect. And, just like the beer, the pizza is reasonably priced as well. I must commend the excellent barstaff in here as well. We’d come in the expectation of finding Summer Wine Diablo on and we weren’t disappointed. Pints were soon being sunk al fresco.

The Lyric
This Victorian street-corner boozer, sat in the shadow of the famous Windmill theatre, is the latest unexpected convert to the craft beer cause. I’ve been keen to visit since hearing good reports about it and I have to say that on this, albeit brief, visit, it lived up to expectations. Smartly done-up, it has retained its traditional layout. It’s small and, given its location, would probably be busy anyway. But the additional bonus of being Soho’s go-to craft beer pub means that it’s going to be pretty full at peak times. Still, the staff were very helpful and the beer was on good form. Six handpulls graced the bar -I went for Triple fff Citra Sonic-along with a good selection of craft keg and bottles such as Kernel. Another one to visit next time.

The journey back was punctuated by copious measures of the rather excellent Marks & Spencer Oakham Citra IPA. Well going to London always makes me thirsty

Monday, 22 July 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Stout In Chocolate

Monday morning: the perfect time to kick back and enjoy a pint of chocolate Stout. Or perhaps a stout chocolate? You don’t have to be a fully paid-up beer geek to get the gist of this beer. I think the title says all you need to know about it. But what did it taste like?

Well, it’s the standard 500ml format and is a bottle-conditioned 6%. It was quite lively and poured a good looking very dark-dare we say chocolate-colour with a medium tan head. The aroma was pleasant enough, a good mix of caramel and toffee notes. Taste wise, it was velvet smooth with lots of chocolate, a little caramel and some treacle. The finish is reminiscent of milk chocolate but avoids any cloying sweetness.

Tyson says: Not usually a flavour I seek out in beer, but this easy-drinker lives up to its name and will please lovers of all things chocolatey

Thursday, 18 July 2013

No Thanks

It’s nice to be invited to places but I think I won’t be accepting the invitation that has just arrived in my inbox. Some PR outfit, acting on behalf of AB Inbev, want me to help celebrate production of their client’s 20 billionth pint.  The invited throng would first have to endure a tour of their Samlesbury brewery-a place which the very mention of sends shivers down real ale and craft brewing aficionados alike. Then, and I like this bit, a Stella Artois ‘expert’ will talk about matching the beer with food: very craft beer like, before the grand finale of a competition to judge the perfect pour of Stella. Fun for all the family, I grant you, but sadly I am busy watching paint dry that day, so will have to politely decline. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Spangled IPA

When it’s a Tuesday morning such as this, your thoughts will naturally turn to beer. And the temperature and mood is just calling out for an IPA. Which is handy as that is what is on offer today. Yes, it’s Ramsbottom IPA day. As usual it’s a 500ml, bottle-conditioned offering and, being an American affair, is a weighty 6.7%.

It poured amber in hue with excellent carbonation and a medium off-white head. Definite classic citrus notes-grapefruit mainly, in the aroma but also a strong presence of crystal malt in there as well. It started a little sluggish on the palate with crystal malt coming to the fore but then the grapefruit and lemon come through to add a little balance. It then dries out to an excellent, very bitter finish.

Tyson says: Loved the bitter finish, but maybe needs tweaking a little to redress the crystal malt issue. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Get On The Bus To Magic Rock

Saturday finally saw a coach full of excited CAMRA types make the journey over to Huddersfield in order to visit Magic Rock Brewery. Having been unexpectedly cancelled due to snow last time, there were fingers crossed that this time things would go more smoothly. We needn’t have worried as the sun shone down over Yorkshire and all was right with the world. Magic Rock are in the premier league of British brewing and regularly knock out classics such as Curious and High Wire. Not to mention an ever growing number of speciality beers. Richard Burhouse and head brewer Stu Ross-who some may recall from his time at the Crown Brewery in Sheffield-were both on hand to take us on separate tours.

Please don't make us drink this 
It’s amazing just how far Magic Rock have come since they started in 2011. Well known for their hop-forward beers, they use a lot of the American ‘C’ hops and a smattering of New World hops; when they can get them. Oh the name, in case you were wondering, was inspired by the hippy crystal place next door and led them to develop their distinctive circus-esque branding. They’re now reaching the limits of what they want to brew; with export playing an increasing role in their success. A large part of that must be down to the innovative keykeg which is basically a one-way, disposable keg that allows brewers to keg for a fraction of traditional costs. And with Stuart saying that there are about 100 casks of theirs overdue for return, the disposable keykeg is incredibly cost effective.

Kegging now accounts (sorry, I was drinking but I think) for 45% of production, so naturally we were asked to sample some. This of course led to a CAMRA stampede. Not to the exit, as some might think, but for the taps offering such delights as Salty Kiss. This is a ‘Gose’ beer, basically a style of sour German wheat beer. It’s a collaboration with Danish master brewer Anders Kissmeyer and has been given the Anglo-Danish treatment with the infusion of of sea buckthorn, rosehips and gooseberries. Nothing like a Lambic it had a refreshing tartness to it. Sadly, that was supped before I could have more and I had to stick to Curious. Untill that ran out. Thirsty buggers these CAMRA lot. A great visit and thanks to Richard and Stuart.

But, as it says in the Bible, man does not live by Magic Rock alone and so we got to spend an afternoon sampling the delights of Huddersfield. In a game of follow the leader, our first stop was the Star out at Lockwood. This should have been a safe bet, but sadly it wasn’t. Temperature is the traditional foe of cask beer and here was proof in a glass. The Mallinsons Aramis was warm and flabby. There were mutterings in the ranks. Stopwatch Sid wasn’t happy. More beer was procured but it was all too warm. Doctor Tyson quickly diagnosed a beer malaise and suggested a remedy. And so, without further delay, a hired chariot was swiftly winging us towards the comforting arms of the Grove.

Now the Grove is considered one of the, if not the, best pub in Britain and never disappoints. Indeed sometimes it seems as if the only reason God chose to base it in Yorkshire was to keep temptation away from me. Our group soon settled in for a serious drinking spree. As one of only 10 outlets for the great Toccalmatto, some of that had to be sampled. Then there was one of my favoutites-Durham, with their White Gold. It seemed rude not to try a Marble and although the Wallsend Wonder turned her nose up at Tiny Rebel Billabong, I found it very refreshing. Not so the dry-hopped Jaipur which everyone thought slightly unpleasant.

Still that was considerably better than the Buxton/To Øl collaboration Carnage. This was 7.4% and smelt promising, but the taste was crystal malt overload and felt very heavy going. However even worse was to come. Jack & Jill can always be counted on to get that extra beer and save you the time and expense. So it was with Mikkeller Willamette. This had no trace of Willamette discernible to the human palate but instead was heavily phenolic and gratingly unpleasant. Unlike both the Okells and Sly Fox IPA which went down well. All the draught beers were cool and in good condition and prices are a good bit cheaper than Manchester. So it was with a heavy heart that we moved on.

There was just time for a Mallinsons in the Hand Drawn Monkey Beer Shop before getting back on the coach. There was to be a one more stop before Bury and one that, as it turned out, we could have done without. The Sair Inn at Linthwaite is rightly famous for its interior and is great to visit in winter when the real fires are burning bright. However, I’ve always found quality an issue here and so, once again, that proved to be the case. There are simply too many of their own beers on the bar. Autumn Gold was pure vinegar-poor on a busy Saturday-and although this was changed, all the golden beers tasted like they had Fairy Lemon washing up liquid as the main ingredient. I couldn't get on the coach quick enough. 

A great trip bookended by two disappointments.

Quaker House Rocks The Trackside

It’s been hailed by some (ok, me) as the greatest beer ever brewed. And finally the unwashed masses have had their chance to try it. Yes, Allgates Quaker House Stout, as brewed by moi, Tandleman and BeersManchester arrived at the Trackside yesterday. Of course having already tried it, I knew it was good but the feedback from other drinkers has been very positive. How to describe it? A little piece of dark heaven here on earth? It’s jet black (as a proper Stout should be) with a lovely creamy head. The oats make for a very smooth drinking experience and people tell me it does not taste its 4.9% strength. Try it, if you can, on your travels. The best bit is that, thanks to the generous folks at Allgates, this firkin was donated in lieu of a donation to a charity of my choosing. And so, having decided I ought to match their generous offer, I’m happy to report a suitable donation has been made towards the terrific work that Sands does. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Mango Beach

Yes it’s Saturday. And we all know what that means, right? All together now...it’s a Ramsbottom Craft Brewery day. What do you mean you’ve heard that before? I’ve got a day’s arduous drinking in Huddersfield ahead of me; so I need something to wash away last night’s cold pizza and set me up for the day. This Ramsbottom brewed American IPA style beer promises to do that just that.

It’s 500ml and a bottle-conditioned 5.7%. It was very lively and poured hazy gold with a large white head. The aroma was good: clean grapefruit and tropical fruit notes. The taste was crisp, light on the tongue-no hint of being 5.7%-and full of grapefruit, lemon and papaya. And is that a hint of mango as well or is my imagination just running away with me? Either way, it’s very refreshing and leads to a citrus blended dry finish. I’d love to see this being pulled through a sparkler, hint, hint.

Tyson says: Excellent. May be RCB’s best to date. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft 4 Ball Break

I know what you are thinking. If it’s Thursday, it must be Ramsbottom Craft Brewery day, right? Absolutely. Something slightly unusual, though. Unusual in the sense that it’s not too experimental, but more of a traditional Bitter. Which is good as RCB can usually be relied on to knock out a winner in that particular field. Spot the sporting metaphor. Anyway, this is brewed with Pioneer hops which some, misguidedly, may dismiss as a little dull. In the right hands, Pioneer can really bring something to a beer of this style.

Now the important bit. It’s 500ml, bottle-conditioned and tips the scales at a healthy 4%. It poured copper in colour with a good carbonation and a medium off-white head. The aroma was a bit of surprise: more toffee and caramel than I was expecting. The taste is smooth with a well-balanced mix of pleasant toasted malt notes and a nutty, dryish aftertaste. Pioneer certainly seems to work in this beer. I’d like to try this on cask as you could easily imagine swigging a pint or two. 

Tyson says: A solid strike with no dropped balls

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: RCB Gamblers Paradise 11

If it’s Wednesday, then it must be Ramsbottom Craft Brewery day. Well it is today, anyway. Today sees Gamblers Paradise 11, a tweak of the original Gamblers Paradise and a beer that has already proved popular in its own right. As usual for RCB beers, it is bottle-conditioned and comes in 500ml form with a Best Bitter strength of 4.2%.

It poured copper with light carbonation and a small beige head. The aroma was subtle and consisted mainly of sweet malt and a little berried fruit. The body was light and there is a biscuit malt crispness backed with some tart fruitiness before a slightly sweet malt finish.

Tyson says: Crisper on cask, but another easy-drinker from RCB.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Pink Pepper Bock

Monday is as good a day as any for trying something different. And this Pink Pepper Bock should fit the bill nicely. What on earth is a Pink Pepper Bock, oh font of all knowledge, I hear you ask. Well clearly it’s a, er, Pink Pepper Bock thingy type of beer. No surprises to learn that it’s an experimental brew from Mr Holmes up there in Ramsbottom. It’s made with a 100% barley grain bill, and is fermented with weizen yeast before the spicy hops are added. Oh and there are pink peppercorns in there as well.

It's bottle-conditioned, 500ml, and 4.1%. It poured light amber with good carbonation and a thin off-white head. The aroma was a pungent mix of bubblegum and spiced yeast. The body was light and quite smooth. The aroma flavours come through in the taste but in a more subtle balance. So it’s spicy and slightly perfumery with a underlying malt sweetness. The finish is a short burst of pepper at the back of the throat. An easy drinking, somewhat dunkeleque beer.

Tyson says: A beer that refuses to be pigeonholed 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

1000 Not Out

So, here it is. The 1000th post of this little old blog. It really should have been at least 6 months ago, but old age and real life wait for no beerhound. I make that five and a half years of eating cheese and drinking beer for this blog and a couple of months on the previous blog. That’s nearly six years of undertaking diligent research for the good of the public. I like to comfort myself with the knowledge that several of today’s quality blogs started around then but, of course, there is always the exception.

Now if you’re expecting some nostalgic look back through the years, you’ve mistaken me for someone far less lazy. Would I put down this Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, just to go inside to wade through the archives? I don’t think so. Still it is a fair amount of time in blogging terms. And although there are far too many blogs to keep up with these days, a lot of come and gone in that time as well. Some have gone on to bigger and better things, some of us are still sleeping in ditches and some have just gone. And sadly some have gone to that beer palace in the sky. But I tell you who I miss: the Southport Drinker. His tales of drinking on the breadline were an earthy delight.

The beer scene has changed immensely in the last six years. The smoking ban, not long in situ, was a heated topic back then. It still is on one blog. The only time you heard the term ‘craft’ was when it was alongside ‘art’. And Brewdog were a very young pup who saw a bright future for cask ale. Of course some things don’t change. You’ll always have sparkler denialists and debates about dispense, taxation and the price of a pint.

One very pleasing change has been the growth of the specialist (maybe in another six years we’ll have a definition of) craft beer pub/bar. Places such as the Port Street Beer House in Manchester and Craft in London have really taken beer to a new customer base. Their growth, of course, goes hand in hand with the boom in microbreweries, many of whom brew both cask and (sometimes only) keg. London has been a massive beneficiary of this boom and has really come on leaps and bounds in the last few years as far as beer is concerned.

What do the next six years hold? Brewdog to go bust? CAMRA to embrace ‘craft’ brewing? I could tell you but my pint is warming up...

Monday, 1 July 2013

Sunny London

Saturday saw a small band of desperados make a day of it in London. Ostensibly it was to show the people who hadn't been before what the delights of Kernel and Partizan were. The rest of us who had been could look forward to reacquainting ourselves with some quality beverages. As if by magic, we were soon sitting down under the arches in Bermondsey for a lunchtime refresher. Table Beer, Citra Galaxy (the best), Simcoe, and Export Porter were among some of the beers that forced their way down our gullets. But man cannot live by Kernel alone-although it might be fun to try-and so we made the short trek to Partizan’s home under the arches.

This was my third trip there and each time has presented different beers to try. This time it was Saison that was the most prevalent style with both Styrian Goldings and Citra tried. Not bad beers, but perhaps the famous Citra punch was lacking a little in the finish. A Pale Ale got us back on track and we were soon navigating through Bank station to reach a brand new craft destination: the Pelt Trader. Just by Cannon St station; this basement bar is the latest outlet from the Euston Tap guys and is tasked with bringing craft beer to the square mile.  A canny idea, I’d wager. It’s still a work in progress-this was its first Saturday opening and although we enjoyed the Moor Nor’ Hop, the lack of food prompted a move to the Earl of Essex.

The EOE is one of a number of smart craft beer pubs to be found in the delightful borough of Islington. It comes complete with a smart beer garden (sadly full) and a good selection of cask and keg beers that are handily displayed on boards on the wall. The food was good but I was a bit unlucky with my first beer choice. Having never tried their own beers (yes, they brew) I felt obliged to do so. But I have to say I was underwhelmed with their Earl Pale Ale. Much better was the New Zealand Moa Pale which had a strong caramel base overlaid with Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops. Being in Islington, we also felt it our duty to visit the White Lion Street outpost of Craft. 

There was some confusion over buses next (was the beer taking effect?) but we somehow found ourselves at the Queens Head on Acton St. Along with the excellent Five Points Pale Ale, pork pie was the order of the day in some quarters. Realising that time had slipped us by and needing to fulfill Jill’s lifelong wish, we made a dash towards Euston. What was Jill’s lifelong wish, I hear you ask. Why to have a drink in the Euston Cider Tap, of course. It’s something she’s craved since the age of nine. Well since it opened, anyway. Her dream accomplished, we managed a nightcap of Moor Hoppiness and Harbour Light across the road.

As it’s rude not to drink on the way home, naturally we stocked up with some take-outs for the train*. Kernel, some Partizan and a very fine (but pricey) Hopping Frog soon had everyone relaxed. Oh and we tried the new Tilting Ale-available from the onboard shop-from Macclesfield’s very own Red Willow. And, as they say, that’s all she wrote.

*Jack Whitehall was sat one seat down. He played it cool and pretended not to recognise me. I hate autograph hunters anyway.