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, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve Breakfast Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Saison

It’s Christmas Eve and so why not kick off this very traditional day with a very traditional drink? Well, traditional if you’re from Belgium or France, perhaps. But it is made by one of our own brewing upstarts, so it is as English as apple pie. It’s actually part of the Weird Beard single hop series which gives them a chance to play around with various styles using, you guessed it, a single hop. In this case; Nelson Sauvin.
It’s 500ml and bottle-conditioned. Now it’s styled as a Farmhouse Saison which I always think of as weaker, but in fact a lot of them are stronger: this one is 5.6%. It was very lively and poured golden with a large off-white head. The aroma was spiced yeast, honey and a little mango. Taste wise it delivered a good Saison kick of floral spice and some tart fruit flavours that led to a medium/fruity dry finish.

Tyson says: Does what it set out to. Recommended for the Saison fans.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Beavertown Smog Rocket


After last night’s party excesses; no more reindeer hats, please, it’s time to steady the ship. London’s Beavertown have made an impact on the micro-brewing scene and won over a new legion of fans with their meet the brewer night at PSBH. With their Gamma Ray being one of the beery highlights of the year, it’s time to shake off the cobwebs with Smog Rocket, their smoked Porter.
This is a 330ml bottle-conditioned little number and weighs in at 5.4%. It poured very dark brown with good carbonation and settled down to have a medium tan head. The aroma was very pungent: lots of dark chocolate, damsons, a strong burst of roast malt and most definitely a healthy dose of peatiness. The beer itself was quite heavy and felt nearer 7% than 5%.

Taste wise there was a little spice and some hops, but mainly all of the aroma but in spades. It felt like chain smoking had been encapsulated in a beer with the finish leaving an unpleasant half-lit cigarette tang in the back of the throat. Any balance had been lost along the way and subtlety, always best with these ventures, had gone out of the window. Which is a shame as it did make the beer hard to enjoy.

Tyson says: Whilst not in the same league as rauchbiers, this is heading that way and remains an acquired taste.  

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Golden Pints (Live)

Well it’s that time of year again when the great and not-so-good dish out the awards for the year’s best offerings. In something of a pilot experiment I’m doing mine whilst out drinking as (a) everything, except driving, is better that way and (b) it’s a good excuse for any memory lapses. So before I spill another drop of my Hawkshead, I proudly present...

Best UK Cask Beer: Oakham Citra. An easy choice as I’m using the simple criteria of what I’ve supped the most of and enjoyed the most.

Honourable mentions must go to Allgates, Arbor, Buxton, Hawkshead, Magic Rock and Summer Wine who continue to set the standard. Also as one-offs, the Wetherspoons American beers have produced some crackers: Stone Supremely Self Conscious Ale and Devils Backbone Eight Point IPA were outstanding.

Best UK Keg: Ooh, this is tough. Either Summer Wine and their Devil Loves series or Summer Wine Diablo. Or maybe Beavertown Gamma Ray. Or possibly the Harbour Pale Ale series. Christ, if I know.

Best UK Bottle/Can: Wild Beer Madness IPA. Honourable mention for the Arbor single hop series.

Best American Draught Beer: Lagunitas IPA. Honourable mentions for Rogue and Stone.

Best American Bottled/Canned: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale. For the same reasons as best UK beer.

Best European Draught: Toccalmatto Rehop. See reason above.

Best Collaboration Beer: Allgates Quaker House Stout. Possibly the greatest collaboration beer ever.

Best Overall Beer: Right, I’ve tried counting them all but I’m stalled at about 102 so I’m going for Oakham Citra.

Best Branding, Pump Clip or Label: Crikey, who pays attention to those? I like the new Allgates pumpclips and I like the Partizan bottle labels. Moving on...

Best UK Brewery: Cor another difficult category. All the above are in with a shout as are Mallinsons. Allgates come close for the name I look for on the pumps but for producing Curious, NZ Curious and Salty Kiss, I’m going for Magic Rock. If I sober up tomorrow and realise I’ve dropped an obvious clanger, i will change it. Or maybe not.

Best American Brewery: Left Hand? No. San Diego Brewing? No. A tie between Oskar Blues and Stone.

Best European Brewery: Toccalmatto.

Best New Brewery Opening: Blimey Crikey. Another tough call. I’m going for Burning Sky with an honourable mention for Five Points.

Pub/Bar of the Year: An easy one this. The Grove in Huddersfield. Upped its game again this year and now boasts a brilliant selection of keg and cask beers at affordable prices in a cracking pub environment. A special mention has to go to my Manchester local: the Port Street Beer House where most of my money is piddled away.

Best New Pub/Bar: Locally, it’s a tie between Pie & Ale and the Font in Chorlton.

Beer Festival of the Year: IMBC or the St Georges Hall Beer Festival in Liverpool.

Supermarket of the Year: Booths

Independent Retailer of the Year: The Liquor Shop in Whitefield

Online Retailer of the Year: Ales By Mail/Beermerchants

Best Beer Book or Magazine: For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus

Best Beer Blog or Website: Well I hate to disagree with Boak & Bailey, but blogging isn’t what it was. That’s nothing unusual and true of many fields in life. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of good stuff out there; because there is, but an infusion of new blood can’t disguise the trend as I see it. Having said that, I really rate Total Ales and Beer Battered. Of course, B&B themselves continue to turn out exquisite posts and locally BeersManchester is the man with his finger on the pulse. But, ultimately, Jeff Alworth at Beervana is the one I look to for benchmarks.

Right that’s as much as I can be bothered writing. It’s slowed my drinking down so much that people have been coming over and asking me if I’m alright. So, Merry Christmas and in the words of the late, great, Dave Allen, may your God go with you.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Thwaites Big Ben


Hot on the heels of local brewery Ramsbottom Craft yesterday, today we see us move just up the road to Lancashire proper. Daniel Thwaites should need no introduction-well I’m not going to give them one-as they’ve been a presence on the brewing scene since before even Big Brother started. They’ve stepped up to the plate in recent times to meet the challenge of the emerging craft beer scene and have produced some excellent specials on their in-house micro-brewery. This beer is part of their Crafty Dan range and aims to carve a place for them in the lucrative take home market.
It’s a craft sized 330ml and is a 5.8% Brown Ale. The packaging is excellent and the label tells you all you need to know: the hops (Fuggles, Goldings, Challenger, Citra, Chinook, Summit), the malt (Pale Ale & Crystal), the brewer (John Williams) and even the recipe (LBA14, in case you were wondering). It poured lighter, more ruby, than a true Brown Ale: to be expected with the malts involved. There was good carbonation which settled to give a small beige head. On the nose there were toffee and Demerara sugar notes and a tang of vinous fruit.

The body is quite light given its strength and delivers plenty of flavour. There’s plum and raisins (or is it just because it’s Christmas?) but no roast to speak of. This is a traditional, if souped-up, Brown Ale and not a New World interpretation of one. The English hops come to the fore here with caramel and a slight earthiness but the American hops work their magic in the background to give a satisfying, fruit-led, dry finish. A masterclass in how not to let Crystal malt ruin the party.

Tyson says: Complex and satisfying. This is easy drinking for its strength and delivers on its promise.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Lanky Stout

Dark nights. Dark days, in fact. No, I’m not talking about the state of the country but, as usual, beer. Yes, with winter nights drawing in, the taste buds have had been trying a few more than usual from the dark side.  And so to this morning’s little offering. No help from Santa required It’s a 500ml, bottle-conditioned, ‘White Label’ pressing and promises to be a “Lancashire Stout with New Zealand hops.” Sounds fun.
It poured nice and dark with only a little light passing through. That’s always a good sign as too many so-called Stouts are transparent. This had good carbonation and settled to having a small tan head. The aroma was a balance of roast, dark chocolate and some dried fruit. It was medium bodied and had a smooth, almost silky texture. Roast flavours came through but were matched by presumably the NZ hops to give a dry, slight fruity finish. Tasty and easy to drink.

Tyson says: A well-balanced and accomplished Stout with a twist.

Monday, 16 December 2013

York

York is one of the top destinations for real ale in the country and has a fantastic array of old and new boozers to keep you entertained. Just when you think they couldn’t fit anymore in, they do. As it doesn’t take much to get me drinking there, the opening of 2 new outlets was reason enough. Throw in a Jolly Boys outing and the day was set for merriment and profligate consumption.
The obvious place to start and finish a crawl is the Station Tap. Handily located at the, erm, station, this former tearoom is now a real ale Mecca with no less than 18 handpumps. Frankly it’s tempting to stay there all day, but then that wouldn’t be a crawl would it? We had to show some of the old geezers the Minster Inn with its multi-roomed layout to remind them of their youth. This is a classic pub where it’s all about the ambience rather than the beer; which is sadly just Marstons.
Another classic is the Blue Bell which no trip to York is complete without a visit to. Don’t bother looking in the GBG, though, as CAMRA have had a falling out with the landlord over his admission policies. Ignore all that and get yourself a seat in the splendid Edwardian interior. The beer range, which was quite pedestrian, has actually improved since my last visit and the pub really is a must see. You can safely ignore (spoiler alert) the ‘private party’ sign on the door unless you are the boozed up racegoers or hen parties that the pub is trying to keep out.
Fans of the olde-worlde will also appreciate the Snickleway Inn which is a 15th century building that once served as the Royalists powder magazine store. From that we come bang up to date with two newcomers. The Duke of York is a former estate agents that has been converted to a two-storey pub by the Leeds Brewery. Even more impressive is The Hop, Ossett’s new venture. Not only does it serve some excellent beer, it offers excellent wood-fired pizzas as well. My favourite of the day.
Out on the edges, but handily close together are the Waggon & Horses and the Rook & Gaskill. The Waggon offers a more traditional, wood-lined interior whilst the Rook takes a more modern approach but both have something to offer the discerning drinker. Of course there are plenty more to choose from and on another day we could have easily chosen another handful. York, it seems, is still hard to beat for a good day out.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Fuggly Do

It’s Christmas. Or so the continuous cacophony of Yuletide tunes that have assaulted my eardrums in Tesco for months, tells me. Time to check Santa’s sack and drink some mediocre Christmas themed brown beers?  Bah humbug. I think not. Let’s carry on as usual seeking justice, liberty and fine ale. And as I’m off today, I thought I’d start by a dip in the beer randomiser. That’s the big box under the stairs, in case you were wondering.
And that brings us to Fuggly Do. A “white label” beer. What’s that, I hear you echo. Well a white label record is a test pressing and something of a rarity that is prized by collectors. Matt at Ramsbottom Craft seems to have brought this philosophy to beer and describes this series as when a “batch is so small that printing labels is too costly to consider.” So, a bit of a collector’s item. Perhaps it is Christmas. But will it be Christmas cheer or Christmas fail?

It’s a 500ml bottle-conditioned 4.2% beer. It poured very lively and settled down to an appealing hazy gold with a large white head. The aroma was surprising: more Belgian yeast than I was expecting. But the flavour makes it clear what this beer is all about. It’s a classic Fuggles infused English Pale Ale. There are strong notes of earthy toffee and a bit of a digestive biscuit bite. The finish is mildly dry and overall it’s a pleasantly satisfying drink.

Tyson says: Not a bad way to start the day.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Local News

It’s nice to have a bit of positive local news to report. And while both the town centre Wetherspoons continue to dip in form; there’s a new kid, or should that be monkey, in town. The Monkey House Brewery Inc is situated on Silver St and brings a welcome cask outlet not only to the Silver St crawl but to the town centre generally. This one-roomed bar has something of the Belgian brown bar about it and while it is a work in progress, the early signs are promising. Three handpumps adorn the bar and all three, including the house beer, are from the Marstons stable. However, it is free of tie and this may well change in the future. The manager is very keen and so is the pricing. £2 a pint during the week had even Uncle Albert singing its praises. One to watch.
Meanwhile the refurbishment of the Greene King estate continues its roll-out. The Wellington on Bolton Road has been done and the good news is that part of the makeovers seems to be an expansion of the guest beer policy. Black Sheep Golden Sheep has been spotted on in there. Now perhaps not the most exciting beer, but it has been greeted with open arms by desperate locals who are tired of Greene King mediocrity. In the town centre, the Knowsley has become the “Knowsley”. This apparently fits in with modern parlance as in “Are we going Knowsley tonight?” but I find it rather silly, it has to be said.
However, the pub interior has had a nice clean and paint job and the toilets have been seen to. Most importantly the beer range has seen a boost with no less than the full Greene King range accompanied by guest beers. Somewhat surprisingly, so far this has been Hornbeam and their White Swan and Top Hop have been a welcome alternative to the dreaded GK offerings. Not that GK are giving up without a fight. They have set up a pilot ‘craft’ brewery and the Knowsley recently had the first of these beers on sale. When the laughter had died down, the tasting began. What a horrible mess. Just as if someone had blended all the other GK beers. I think I’ll stick to the guests.

The Knowsley refit cost a reputed £160,000. On the other end of the scale, could a £1000 makeover see an upturn in the fortunes of the Elizabethan? The landlord, Wayne Welch, of this Ribble Drive pub certainly hopes so. It’s fair to say that in the past the Lizzie has had something of a reputation. As one review put it: “Horrible pub, avoid unless you are a chav, slag, drug dealer/addict. If your one of those then its right up your shit infested alley. Everyone else try somewhere else.” But since taking over in August, Mr Welch has redecorated, refurbished the car park, installed CCTV cameras as well as building a smoking shelter. As he says: “Don’t judge us on the past, judge us on what’s happening now.” Why not take a look for yourself?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Turn That TV Off Now

Do not watch this advert. It will warp your mind. You will lose all grounding in reality and enter some alternative reality.

So say the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) anyway. The advert, part of the Let There Be Beer campaign, funded by the Coalition of UK Brewers, was found guilty on four counts of breaching the ASA's code.. That the ad implied alcohol could contribute to an individual’s popularity, that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success, for portraying alcohol as indispensable and that drinking could overcome problems. Not convinced? Watch it again. You can clearly see that that alcohol accounts for the lad’s confidence when meeting his girlfriend’s father. And alcohol is blatantly behind the office worker’s relaxed attitude to a mountain of work. Imagine the damage that could be done if office workers throughout the land aped this approach.
Now the Coalition of UK Brewers, which represents the ad’s creators AB InBev, Carlsberg UK, Heineken UK, Miller Brands and Molson Coors, claimed that the advert was meant to be an “exaggerated interpretation of the real world”. It also claimed that the scenes attempted to identify situations where beer might be a “credible alternative’ to other drinks. But thanks to the complaint by the snappily-titled Alcohol Concern Youth Alcohol Advertising Council, the ASA saw through this smokescreen and banned this evil, mind-bending, propaganda. And while some might accuse the ASA themselves of living in some alternative reality, I bet that the thousands of people who didn’t complain are secretly pleased.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Is The Reinheitsgebot A World Treasure?


A few eyebrows were raised on the news that the German Brewers Union have submitted a bid to have the Bavarian purity law designated a UNESCO world cultural treasure. Probably because when one thinks of UNESCO and heritage, images such as Stonehenge tend to come to mind. However, UNESCO expanded its remit in 2008 to include things such as customs and traditions. And this is where the purity law, the so-called Reinheitsgebot, comes in.

According to the statue, first enacted in 1516, only water, barley and hops are to be used in brewing. The president of the Brewers Union, Hans-Georg Eils, said: “It is thanks to the beer purity law that Germany, up until today, is unchallenged as a beer nation. It guarantees purity, quality and salubriousness.” Of course this is nonsense as the purity law actually allows for (perhaps understandably) yeast as well as things such as wheat malt, cane sugar and no longer allows the use of unmalted barley.

The measure probably had more to do with controlling what the peasants did with their malted grains than with any concerns about beer quality. And it certainly doesn’t work as a modern quality control. But this hasn’t of course stopped the Reinheitsgebot being marketed for all its worth; and the Brewers Union bid has backing from experts at the University of Bayreuth and the Technical University in Munich.

With each bid taking up to two years, the hope is that the award will be in place in time for the 500th anniversary of the law’s creation. This not might be plain sailing, though; as a bid in 2011 was rejected and other German states are also bidding. North Rhine-Westphalia’s applications, for example, were Beethoven, who was born in Bonn, and traditional shooting clubs (Schutzverein).

If the bid is accepted, then the Reinheitsgebot will join an exclusive club containing such luminaries as the Argentine tango, the French gastronomic meal and, erm, Turkey’s Kirkpinar oil-wrestling festival.