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Showing posts from 2014

A Visit To Brewsmith

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Brewsmith may have not been brewing for long but they have already established themselves in the top tier of local, if not national, brewers. Indeed it’s hard to recall any brewery in recent times that has started off at such a high standard of quality and consistency. James (along with Jennifer and Ted) Smith has really gone for broke with a state-of-the-art 10 barrel plant based on an industrial estate in Stubbins.
Of course, having the right equipment is only half the story and then there is the little matter of being able to brew good beer. Although James claims to have to spend 70% of his time cleaning rather than brewing. Despite this or possibly because of it, his 4-core beer range has gathered an enviable reputation already. You can see why, despite the brewery technically being in Lancashire, the good folk of Ramsbottom have claimed it for their own. Why not try some of it out for yourself and see what the fuss is all about?

Thanks to James for hosting us and keeping the beer …

The Abel Heywood

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The latest addition to Manchester’s N/4 has been open a full week now and so required an inspection by yours truly. Being the new kid on the block and it being Christmas (i.e. amateur drinkers hour) it was rammed to the rafters. The Abel Heywood, named after a famous former Manchester mayor, lies on the corner of Tuner and Red Lion St and was, until the mid-20th century, the Red Lion public house. Hydes brewery have spent a lot of money on it to transform it into a boutique hotel and pub. Downstairs is a large L-shaped room with a mix of booth seating and raised tables. Upstairs has a small drinking area to the left but is aimed squarely at formal dining. There are two handpumps upstairs and six downstairs. The pub opens at 7am for breakfast but drinkers have to wait until 11am before they can get a pint. It’s great to see a new pub open in the N/4 and given its location and if it delivers what it promises; it should do very well

Bamford Beer Festival

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Southwark Brewing Company

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Is there room for any more breweries on the famous Bermondsey Beer Mile? Well Peter Jackson thinks so. He and business partner Andy Nichol have set up the Soutwark Brewing Co on Druid St; that famous street that once hosted the then little-known Kernel and is now home to the likes of Anspach and Hobday. The operation is impressively large for a start-up; a 10 barrel kit and I was lucky enough to have a quick word with Peter on opening day. His background lies with Marstons but despite his links to that part of the world, he knew where exactly where the new brewery should be based. SBC have a slightly different approach to where they see their beer in the marketplace compared to their local rivals. Whilst admiring the craft beer movement, Peter explained that he feels that there is a gap in the market for locally brewed cask beers and, with Sean Franklin on board as consultant that is where they will be concentrating their efforts.

There was only one beer available on opening day: Bermo…

Hare & Hounds Reopens

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The Hare and Hounds at Holcombe Brook is one of the stalwarts of the local real ale scene and has been in the Good Beer Guide for many years. A large, open-plan pub with an excellent outdoor area, it recently changed hands again and has reopened after a £250,000 refurbishment. It’s been spruced up (“rustic contemporary” was whispered in my shell-like) and is looking much better for it. The toilets have had their long overdue overhaul and the pool table, which was wasting valuable corner space, has been replaced by seating. Overall it’s much fresher and brighter with a good mix of seating. And you need to have no fears on the beer front as it will be maintaining its complement of 10 pumps. In fact, to celebrate their reopening, there is a beer festival currently on.

The Independent Salford Beer Festival

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Build it and they will come was the mantra of Field of Dreams. And the Independent Salford Beer Festival, which started yesterday, adopted this positive message throughout its long and sometimes painful gestation period. Personally I would have gone for “Put beer on and they will sup it” but that’s probably why I’m not running a beer festival. Instead Jim, the blogging legend (he’ll be blushing) that is BeersManchester, ably assisted by some volunteers including his much better half and his arch-nemesis have put together a cracking festival to raise funds for St Sebastian’s Community Centre.
Think you can’t hold a beer festival in a community centre? Wrong. It’s a smart, very good venue. Think it’s hard to get to? Wrong. It’s just a bus ride away from central Manchester. Think the beer wouldn’t be any good? Wrong. It’s a very professional setup with and this is the pièce de résistance, some unusual and excellent beer. Talking of which, having tried 20 of the 35 on offer, these are my p…

A Night With The Manchester Brewers

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The question was; how to celebrate CAMRA’s Cask Ale Week? One man, Robin Bence, had the simple answer. Why not pay a visit to the nine breweries of Manchester? And to keep it even simpler, why not do it in a single evening? Thus a merry (soon to be much merrier) band of cask adventurers set off on an open top (it never rains in Manchester) bus in pursuit of life, liberty and a few bevvies. For those who can count, logistics meant that we actually started in the Boggart Hole Micro Bar in the Arndale and, sadly, we ran out of time for Blackjack. The rest, as they say, is history.

IndyMan

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Well it’s over for another year. Yes the dust has finally settled on the behemoth beer festival that is IndyMan. So many beers, so many thirds to sup. I was up and down to the bar more times than a bride’s nighty. If you were there then you’ll know how good it was. If you weren’t, then I won’t rub it in. In its third year now the festival, sorry convention, continues to expand and mature. Lessons were learnt from last year and everything that I saw seemed to run smoothly. There also seemed to be less broken glasses than last year: are people finally getting the hang of those dainty little measures? What was good…the beer, the company, the Brewdog bus (so I’m told) and of course the food from Honest Crust and Chaat Cart.
The good: Arbor NS Bomb, Alechemy Citra Burst, Northern Monk Monacus NZ and Brewfist all really hit the taste spot. But this year, despite its relatively low profile, the best beers were to be found on cask. Tiny Rebel The Full Nelson Chardonnay BA beat off some tough …

Hello St Albans We Have A Problem

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CAMRA is at something of a crossroads. Actually it has been for some time. Membership continues to climb but, like many long established organisations that rely on volunteers, there is concern for the future. The solution is, of course, to recruit more young members; not only to keep CAMRA growing but to hopefully put in place the future committee members and organisers. That is what the Young Members section is for and it has done a sterling job on the ground with its representatives achieving year on year results. However, all that good work risks being undone by the latest blunder by St Albans. Rowan Molyneux is to be thanked for really pushing this into the public domain. As she says this isn’t an attack on CAMRA per se but it is something that really needs sorting out. It’s often said that CAMRA is run by old men who drink in dusty time capsules of pubs and who are out of touch with reality. That is of course a broad brushstroke that doesn’t paint the whole picture but this partic…

The Independent Salford Beer Festival

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Talking of festivals, it’s just over two weeks to the big one. Yes, the most eagerly anticipated beer festival of 2014 is just around the corner. Haven’t got your ticket yet? Why not? You’ll only regret it afterwards. Possibly for the rest of your life. There’s food, entertainment and a kick-ass beer list. And it’s all for a good cause. Get your tickets now and tell them Tyson sent you

A Tale Of Two Festivals

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So first up was Ramsbottom beer festival. Held over three days, not unsurprisingly, in Ramsbottom Civic Hall, this was a charity fundraiser for Mountain Rescue. As in previous events, it was an all token affair and all 42 beers were served by handpump. This is a really good festival that was freshened up this time by the decision to include only breweries that hadn’t featured previously. Unfortunately this meant having to exclude Ramsbottom Craft but luckily meant that new kids on the block; Brewsmith, could feature. They have really got off to a flying start and their beers are already picking up a following. Their full range was available: Bitter, Pale, Oatmeal Stout and IPA. All were excellent with their IPA blowing many away with its intoxicating tropical bomb nature. There were a number of other very good beers as well, with Loch Ness Brewery delivering one of the best with their HoppyNess. I was also quite taken with the Stewart Edinburgh Festival. Stamps Swedish Blonde had no c…

Wetherspoons New Craft

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So Wetherspoons’ new menu is underway. Starting on the 1st October; it promised more choice of, ahem, craft beer and dining options. Good to see salmon making a comeback and full marks for offering it as a breakfast option. But, as I always like to say, back to the beer. What’s on offer and how much is it are the crucial questions. Well looking at the drinks menu in front of me, I see that the two new draught choices: Brewdog This Is Lager and Devils Backbone are both just under £3 a pint. The bottle and can selection now come under a section labelled ‘Craftwork’ (yes, really) with cans at £1.99 and bottles at £2.49. New to can are Vedett, Budvar, Sagres and the hipster favourite: Lagunitas IPA. The bottle range is shored up with Adnams Crystal Rye IPA and Rogue Amber Ale. Now a lot of attention has been focused on Devils Backbone; an American IPA brewed at Banks’s Brewery in Wolverhampton. Previously these American/British efforts have been served as guest cask ales. But, in for the …

Lancashire's Latest

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Rather on the QT, Lancashire seems to have gained another brewery. The Rostron Arms is on Market Street in Edenfield which lies between Bury and Rawtenstall. Inside lies Edenfield Brewery (Magic Village Ales) which is the pet project of landlord David Swarbrick. Already offering a good range of ales, when of the locals ventured that he should install a microbrewery, he basically thought “why not?” This led to the ubiquitous Dave Porter and co installing a 4bbl plant on site. Now Dave is the first to admit he knew nothing about brewing and is still on a learning curve. That is why he has started quietly with just one beer: Old Red Dog. This is a 3.9% traditional Bitter named in honour of a much-missed local character. The recipe is still being tweaked-although it seems popular enough-and then there are plans for perhaps another two regular beers. But what does it taste like, I hear you cry. To me it tastes similar to Barnsley Bitter, so if you like that or Joseph Holts, you’ve cracked …

Pass The Bag

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The anti-alcohol lobby struck again today with the somewhat, frankly, bizarre news that customers are to be breathalysed before they enter premises in Loughborough. The scheme, timed to coincide with freshers’ week, will run until November 3rd and will be trialled in five premises: Amber Rooms, Revolution, Mansion, Echoes and the Students Union. Leicestershire Police and the local council have supplied all the venues with breath test equipment and training. Now Loughborough is a small market town that is well known for being a student hotspot and, at first glance, this could be seen as a sensible measure to deal with all the ‘booze-fuelled violence’ we hear so much about. Indeed most of the media coverage seemed to feature the obligatory passed-out-drunk photo. As PC Mike Green, Beacon Officer for Loughborough Town Centre, who is the coordinator for the initiative put it: “We want to raise awareness of the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on health and well-being, as well as s…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kona Longboard

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We’re keeping with the lager theme this morning with an island lager from Kona brewing. With the climate of Hawaii, you can easily imagine local surfers quenching their thirsty with one of these on a sun struck beach. I suppose the clue is in the name, but how does it fare in a (slightly) less exotic environment?
It’s a 120z bottle and comes in at 4.6% on the strength scale. It poured clear golden with plenty of carbonation and a medium off-white head. The aroma was very subtle with hints of sweet malt and honey. Taste wise; it was very light, almost watery, on the palate with some biscuit malt and a slight honeyed bitter-sweet finish. Personally I would have preferred a crisper, dryer finish.

Tyson says: Probably better suited to a beach in Hawaii than a backyard in Bury.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog This Is Lager

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There could only be one choice for today’s breakfast tasting. Yes we’re going all topical, well it had to happen one day, with a taste of the beer that’s on everyone’s lips. Or will be from October if you’re a Spoons punter. I had so many people asking me what Brewdog’s new lager was like; it seemed only fair to actually try it. So here we go.
It's a 330ml bottle and is 4.7% which I would say is in the right ballpark, strength wise. Interestingly it's given the Brewdog spin by describing it as a "21st Century Pilsner". It poured a nice looking golden colour with plenty of carbonation and a large white fluffy head. The aroma was pleasant enough: a little bready with some sweet malt. The first thing that strikes you with the flavour is how smooth it is. There’s nothing here to make the horses bolt; perhaps somewhat surprising given the ‘10x hops’ tag. There’s the obvious Pilsner malt backbone with a little honey and a slight grassy dryness that leads to a bitter-sweet f…

Brewdog Draught Available In Spoons: Finally

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So the Dog has landed. Craft has finally gone mainstream. They’ve jumped the shark. Or something like that. Yes, Brewdog have finally landed the big one: a tap on the Wetherspoons bar. It’s been the worst kept secret in the beer universe that the boys from Aberdeenshire-and their shareholders-have long had their eyes set on joining Tim Martin’s empire of the ales. First it was going to be Punk IPA and its seemingly inevitable arrival was (constantly) being hailed as proof that craft beer had broken out of its bubble. Except it didn’t arrive. Instead the Americans got in first and Brewdog had to settle for a place alongside the cans and bottles in the fridge. But now, at last, their time has seemingly come. From the 1st October, Brewdog’s new lager ‘This Is Lager’ will be available on draught in 200 Spoons. By March of the following year, it will be available in all of their pubs. Quite a, if somewhat inevitable, feat. And clever, too; they’re not fighting for the affection of the rathe…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

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This morning we are trying of the fine brews from one of the big boys of American craft brewing: Sierra Nevada. The USP of this particular offering is that it is brewed in open fermenters thereby lending a certain unpredictability and uncertainty to the finished beer. This isn’t meant to be your usual run-of-the-mill American Hefeweizen but an authentic Bavarian one. But can the mighty SN pull it off? It’s a 350ml bottle and is 4.8%. It poured hazy amber with a small white head. The aroma is fairly subtle, as to be expected with this style, but there’s unmistakable banana and clove. Yes, it’s definitely clovey. Taste wise, it’s smooth on the palate with traces of wheat, lemon and of course, more banana and clove. No bubblegum kick, though. It’s a little tart rather than sour and there’s a balanced, slightly sweetened finish.

Tyson says: Does what it says. An enjoyable palate cleanser.

Things Really Are BIgger In Texas

You know those days when that 6 pack of Stella just isn’t enough. Sure you could get a 12 pack but please, what are you, a wimp? Well luckily a brewery in America has come up with the mother ship of takeouts. They’re offering 99 cans for $99. And it’s craft beer, no less. Brewdog, eat your heart out. But before you jump on a plane to buy one of these 8 foot beauties, be warned that the brewery, Austin Beerworks, has made it clear that this will be a limited release. It’s almost like it’s a marketing gimmick…

Are You A Brewhead?

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Well are you? Is this you?
One who truly enjoys, supports, and loves BEER (craft beer, and homebrew). This may include (but not limited to) hopheads, beer geeks, beer connoisseurs, beer snobs, brewers, homebrewers, etc..A brewhead takes pride in what they drink and/or brew. Quality plays a large part in the beers they purchase or brew.They have appreciation for the work that goes into the beer they are drinking. They know there is more to beer than just alcohol. There’s a story, a person (or team), a craft…an experience under every bottle cap. One who is involved in the craft beer industry and/or community.Collecting coasters, caps, bottles, and beers is a common hobby. Trying new beers, touring breweries, attending beer events, etc are also common."
If so, rejoice in being celebrated in song

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Fourpure Session IPA

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Today we are back in our nation’s beloved capital; London and that most excellent of Bermondsey’s brewers: Fourpure. One only has to look at the popularity of Founders to see how lower strength IPAs are really catching on. This one is inspired by New York and comes in that most discerning of craft containers, the can. It’s 330ml and is 4.2%, so bang in the Best Bitter strength range but, at 40 IBUs, there’s far more bitterness. Hence the style, I guess.
It poured clear amber with lots of carbonation (well it is in a can) and a large off-white head. The aroma was intoxicating-that cliché of citrus: lemon, pineapple and grapefruit with peach and a hint of caramel. Very nice. Initially it seemed quite prickly on the tongue and, given the lack of alcohol, a little weak but then the flavour hits you in wave after wave. Unmistakable Cascade hop n nature with plenty of the other ‘C’ hops as well. There is a firm malt backbone underpinning it that balances it all out rather smartly, but you ar…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brixton Effra Ale

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We’re staying with London breweries with this morning’s effort from Brixton Brewery. It’s named after the Effra River that flows under Brixton and is their take on an American Amber Ale. An ambitious brew that pairs five malts with Northdown, Pilgrim, Aurora, Ahtanum and Summit hops. The end result should be lime, pine and grassy hops. It’s 4.5% and comes in a 330ml bottle. It poured, not unexpectedly, amber with reasonable carbonation and a medium tan head. The aroma was a little bready with some woody notes and a touch of sweet red fruits. Taste wise, it was quite soft on the palate with an earthy dryness that was balanced against a jam-like sweetness of red fruit and a little toasted caramel. The finish was semi-dry but rather spoilt by a twang of malt sweetness.

Tyson says: Too many types of malt? The wrong pairings? I don’t know but I’m not convinced that this works at all. Instead of a complex, balanced beer, they’ve ended up with a so-so one that really doesn’t know what it is.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Beavertown Quelle Saison

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This morning’s breakfast pick-me-up comes courtesy of a dry-hopped saison from Beavertown. A canned dry-hopped saison, no less. I know what you’re thinking: “has the world stopped turning and nobody told us or has he been on the herbal cigarettes again?” But I kid you not; I told you canning was the future. And saisons are so retro; they’re still the future as well. The first thing to say is that I do like the Beavertown can designs. They’re very colourful and striking but, of course, I’m here for the beer.
It’s 4.1%. It poured a hazy, pale yellow with good carbonation and a large off-white head. The aroma was slightly subdued but a pleasant mix of pineapple, lemon, spiced wheat and a little pepper. The beer is light on the palate with the hops heavily dominating. Now the history of this is that it started out as a pale ale, had a French yeast infusion and then was dry-hopped with American hops. So perhaps that’s not surprising. It’s very dry with lots of tropical fruit tones and only …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Stevens Point Belgian White

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Ok it’s over the pond we go for this morning’s breakfast accompaniment. Stevens Point are in Wisconsin-rather them than me-and I’m quite a fan of their IPA, so was looking forward to this. It’s 5.4% and is a miserly 15 on the IBU scale; about what you’d expect from this style of beer. Ingredients wise, it has Hallertau and Saaz hops, a Belgian yeast strain and is flavoured with Curacao orange peel and coriander.
It poured hazy yellow with reasonable carbonation and a medium sized fluffy white head that didn’t hang around. The aroma was a little bready with some orange and herb in the background. Body wise it was light on the palate, hiding the alcohol well, with a gentle mix of bread, orange and a faint spiciness. Typical of the style, if understated. The finish was more of the same with a gentle fade out.

Tyson says: Acceptable but unremarkable.

Down Memory Lane: A Visit To The Clarence

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The Clarence situated on the corner of Silver Street in Bury is the last surviving pub of that once proud street. Nowadays it boasts a rather less than stellar collection of part-time bars and wannabe pubs. But back in the day, the pubs were bold statements of intent from ambitious breweries. The Clarence, juxtaposed with the busy thoroughfare of Bolton Street, was an impressive multi-floored public house with guest rooms that gave panoramic views right up to Holcombe Hill. By the time I got to frequent it in the late 1970s, its glory days-like all the old-timers-were over but it still remained impressive. There were less travelling salesmen than there used to be but it still offered cheap B&B and still boasted a modified version of its original multi-roomed layout. This made it popular with under-age drinkers who could purchase their drinks and scuttle into an unobserved corner. I remember being fascinated as it had by then a rarity: an upstairs room with bar. I think this was th…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Barney's Good Ordinary Pale Ale

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Today we are off to Scotland for our breakfast trick or treat. We try to escape their imperial yoke but the Scots continue to taunt us by sending their beer over here. Haven’t we suffered enough with Deuchars? Anyway Barney’s promises to be different and is brewed on the original Summerhall brewery site in Edinburgh. It’s a 330ml bottle-conditioned 3.8%.
It poured a hazy dark gold/amber with reasonable carbonation and a large white head. The aroma is sweet malt, a tang of orange and a little yeasty. It’s light-perhaps a little too thin-on the palate with a little lemon and caramel malt coming to the fore. The finish is medium dry with a little grainy residue.

Tyson says: Ambitious title but not quite hitting the mark.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Fourpure Pils

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A potentially interesting breakfast treat this morning with this can, yes can, of Fourpure Pils. Fourpure are one of the leading exponents of the now famous Bermondsey Mile and their beers, rightly in my view, are considered some of the best in London. As an up and coming brewery of note, it’s not surprising that they have decided to enter the canned market as its clearly the future for their kind of product. But is it any good?
It’s a 330ml can and is 4.7%. It’s brewed with Hallertauer and Saaz hops and is fermented, unsurprisingly, with a Bavarain yeast. It tips the scales at 35 International Bitterness Units, so not that far off Holts Bitter level. It poured a lovely clear golden colour with excellent soft carbonation and a large long-lasting head. The aroma was light breaded malt and a little hay.
It has a recommended serving temperature of 6’C and at that, it really has a clean and crisp refreshing bite. Let it warm up and you get even more of the mellow malt and slightly grassy h…

To London Once More We Rode

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Another day, another tour round London. This time craft was definitely off the agenda. Why? Well because we were escorting Uncle Albert round. Now as he reaches for the defibrillator when prices reach £2 a pint and the only craft he thinks is in arts & craft, it was always going to be a more traditional crawl. First stop was the Royal Oak on Tabard St. This classic Victorian street corner boozer is of course Harvey’s only outlet in London and worth a visit on that basis alone. Next up was a visit to see how the other half live in Belgravia. The Grenadier should need no introduction: once the local of the Duke of Wellington, it has hosted celebrities such as Madonna and now Uncle Albert. Although smelling salts were needed when he saw the price of a pint of Landlord.

Blackfriars station has had some £600M spent on it and very nice it looks too. Just as impressive is the Blackfriars pub which boasts some interesting Art Noveua designs. It’s amazing to think that such a splendid pub w…