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

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kona Big Wave

We’re staying in the land of grass skirts and Waikiki Beach for today’s little pick-me-up. No, not Oldham but Hawaii. Yep, get those canoes ready and picture yourself relaxing there instead of dark, wet Blighty.  This promises to be a “refreshing golden ale” and comes in a 12fl oz bottle that is a weak-by American standards-4.4%. For those who like to know these things, it scales 21 on the IBU scale and is made with Caramel malt and Citra and Galaxy hops.
It did indeed pour golden as advertised, always a good sign, with healthy carbonation and a small white head. It certainly looks the part. The aroma was more pungent than I was expecting; a pleasing blast of pineapple and sweet malt with a touch of herbal pine. The beer was slightly thin-again by American standards-but erred just on the right side of good mouthfeel.

Taste wise we had a prickly well-balanced juggling act. There’s an undercurrent of soft grains and breadiness that peeks just under the sizeable shot of pineapple and grapefruit that this delivers. Mix that in with a little pine to keep things even and the finish is a refreshing, if not overtly bitter, hop cleanser. You can see why this has gained a reputation for a very sessionable beer.

Tyson says: Another winner from Kona. Does what it sets out to and sets a high standard for this style at this strength.

Friday, 24 January 2014

On Yer Bike

In case you hadn’t heard, there is a small (not really) beer festival going on in Manchester at the moment. It’s either the first or the eighth, depending on who you ask. What’s not in dispute is that there are 300 craft (yes, they are calling them that) beers (that’s cask-conditioned, CAMRA approved real ale to me and you) and some 75 ciders and perries to choose from. It’s at the National Cycle Centre or the Velodrome as the ordinary folk call it. You can check all the details here.
                                                                             The Good
The venue: I like it. It’s light and airy and easy to get to. The central bar area makes it easy to get round all the beers and socialise. And the view of the cycling is awesome.
The beers: Plenty of choice and a good selection of ciders and perries.
 
 
                                                                              The Bad
The venue: The toilets are a Himalayan trek away. This combined with poor signage and communication led to several complaints about lack of disabled access. The lack of central seating didn’t help, either. The organisers have been working to address these issues, but it’s left a bitter taste for some.

The beers: Plenty of choice, but let’s be honest, plenty of fillers. And only CAMRA dogma would insist on putting gravity friendly strong ales on handpump at the expense of other beers.
                                                                           So should you go?
Of course, you’ll enjoy it. And you might even see me.

Top 3 newbies so far: Hand Drawn Monkey Smaller IPA, Weird Beard Decadence Stout, Ilkley Forbidden Fruit.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale

With these dark days (and nights) of wet and windy weather, thoughts may turn to more exotic and sunnier climates. Like Honolulu, for example. Yes, today’s little aperitif comes all the way from Five-0, the 50th state of the United States of America. Think Jack Lord and aloha. It’s 5.9% abv and has a bitterness level of 35 IBUs.
It poured a deep copper colour with good carbonation and an off-white head. The aroma was promising: lots of classic citrus notes, a little toasted malt and a touch of honey, perhaps. The flavour profile follows on from this with a good balance of sweet malts, strong citrus overtones and a slight perfumed, floral muskiness. Cascade & Mt Hood hops do their job to deliver a palate cleansing bitterness in the final swallow.

Tyson says: Good crisp, fresh-tasting, flavours make this very drinkable. Book ‘em, Danno.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Do liberals Drink More?

Is it possible that the answer to declining alcohol sales is for more people to become politically liberal? Yes, according to an interesting and fun study published in the USA. An article in the Journal of Wine Economics (hands up who’s heard of that) was based on analysing data from 50 American states between 1952 and 2010. This measured alcohol intake against “citizen ideology” inferred from the voting patterns of congressional representatives. “Our findings indicate that as the American states become more liberal over time, they tend to consume more alcohol-specifically beer and spirits-per capita,” said Dr Pavel Yakolev of Pittsburgh’s Duquesme University.

The researchers have calculated that this means, for example, that if the Midwest state of Michigan, where 9 of the 14 congressmen and women are Republican, became as liberal as Vermont, where two-thirds voted for Obama, people would be expected to drink an extra two gallons of beer a year. This follows a study in Russia that concluded that Socialists were more likely to imbibe frequently than those on the right. Explanations offered for these findings range from liberals seeing alcohol as part of an openness that also includes drugs and sex (yeah, baby) to the simple concept of them having more faith in the state to care for them when the fun stops.

On a serious note; Dr Yakolev was keen to stress that these findings do not indicate that liberals drink more than conservatives in absolute terms. Nor does it transpose directly onto UK politics as, apart from famous drunks such as Winston Churchill, the statistics tell a slightly different story. According to Public Health England, it’s Labour strongholds such as Tyneside, Liverpool and South Yorkshire that have the fewest people engaging in increasingly risky drinking. While Conservative heartlands such as North Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and the Surrey commuter belt towns boast the highest concentration. Of course, this may simply be down to economics: certainly the capitalist wage-slave system holds me back. Or tries to.

Anyway, whatever your political persuasion, let’s raise a glass (and two fingers) to Dryanuary.
Written at Brewdog Manchester and fueled by Gigantic IPA

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Local Politics And Licensing


When licensing powers were transferred from the courts to local councils, there were fears that politics and point scoring would replace the neutral legal process. A case in point would seem to be the trouble that a local petrol station is having in getting a 24 hour alcohol licence. The Longsight Service Station in Longsight Road, Greenmount, currently sells alcohol from 6am to 11pm, but has asked Bury Council for permission to sell it 24 hours a day. This would normally be a formality but with two councillors objecting, the decision will now be taken by the licensing committee at a town hall meeting on Monday.

Cllr Dorothy Gunther and Cllr James Daly-well known puritans-have played the politics card and formally opposed the application. This despite the police dropping their objection after the owners agreed to the shop being closed between midnight and 0600 with all transactions taking place through the night-pay window. Cllr Daly said: “There could be some people who decide to get into their car late on and buy alcohol before driving home and causing anti-social behaviour and there is also the possibility that it will lead to drink-driving. There is also the chance that it will lead to people gathering outside the premises.”

Now this would be understandable if this was some sort of precedent but the fact is that other petrol stations in the borough do sell alcohol 24hrs a day. So where’s the problem?

Written at Art Picture House
Drink: Conwy Infusion

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

German Brewers Not So Pure?


The German brewers’ union may be trying to get the Reinheinsgebot recognised as an UNESCO world treasure, but it seems that some of their members’ business ethics are less than pure. Germany’s federal cartel office has fined four of the country’s largest brewers €106.5M for price fixing. The fines relate to the period 2006-2008 when managers of Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins, Warstenier & AB InBev conspired to rig the price of their products. It’s said that this price-fixing resulted in a country-wide rise of €5-€7 per hundred litres for barrelled beer and €1 per crate of bottled beer.
AB Inbev have had their fine suspended after turning stool pigeon and agreeing to bear witness against the other conspirators. In turn, they have also been co-operating with the investigation in hopes of having their share of the fine reduced. Enquiries into two other, unnamed, large breweries and four regional brewers are ongoing. This all comes at a difficult time for German brewing with the rising prices of raw ingredients, energy costs and the gradual decline in overall consumption: down almost a third in the last 40 years.

Of course there is growing innovation, like elsewhere, in smaller German breweries and the fines were welcomed by the Union for Private Breweries which represents their interests. Its director, Roland Demleitner, said that large brewery conglomerates were increasingly aggressive in their attempts to push smaller producers out of the shrinking market. He welcomed the fine as “an important consequence” and urged beer drinkers and bar owners to choose local beer over one from the largest producers.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Meantime Chocolate Porter


Another dark winter morning. Time to sit in front of an open fire and gently roast your chestnuts. Or, in my case, sit huddled round an old candle for warmth and pray someone has a farthing for the meter. Either way, it’s dark, winter beer time. Or perhaps not as chocoholics like to get their fix anytime they can and I believe this is available all year round.
It’s a 330ml bottle and a hefty 6.5% in alcohol. So I was expecting quite a heavy, roast little number. It poured a dark-chestnut brown with reasonable carbonation and a light-tan head. The aroma was rich in cocoa: much less roast than I was expecting and a definite waft of dark dried fruit. Overall more balanced and fuller than a lot of this style.

This balanced approach followed through into the beer. It was medium-bodied and hid the alcohol well. It starts off smooth and instead of building into a roast bitter flavour; the main impression is of milk chocolate. There is also a little vanilla and more dried fruits at the back of the throat. This is quite a surprise package as the temptation must be to go overboard and a beer like this can easily become sickly.

Tyson says: Pleasant and easy drinking: particularly given the strength. This should please both
the choc fans and the casual drinker.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Blubber In Your Beer


A row worthy of our very own Brewdog has erupted over in Iceland with the news that brewer Brugghús Steðja (no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either) plan to market a beer containing whale meal. The 5.3% beer, brewed in conjunction with whaling company Hvalur, is being launched to coincide with the Icelandic mid-winter festival of Torrablst (Thorrablot) which is held in honour of everyone’s favourite Norse superhero, Thor.
The problem lies with using meat from the endangered fin whale for what opponents dismiss as a novelty item. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation group leader, Vanessa Williams-Grey said: ‘Demand for this meat is in decline, with fewer and fewer people eating it. ‘Even so, reducing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get. The brewery may claim that this is just a novelty product with a short shelf life, but what price the life of an endangered whale which might have lived to be 90 years?’

The brewery, however, seems unperturbed by the furore surrounding the launch. Its owner, Dabjartur Arilmusson, stated: ‘This is a unique beer, brewed in collaboration with Hvalur. Whale beer will include, among other things, whale meal.’ Somewhat bizarrely he also claimed that it was a very healthy drink as whale fat is high in protein and very low in fat and the beer will contain no added sugar.  A little bit like normal beer, then?

So an ecological unfriendly beer or one that “people will be true Vikings drinking it”?

Written at Port Street Beer House
Drink: Magic Rock Ringmaster

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Should We Go Dutch?


There has been much talk across the media about the concept of abstaining from alcohol in January and whether Britain really does have a ‘drink problem’. Some commentators have pointed out that all this Daily Mail type hysteria is directing attention away from the minority who do have a serious drink problem. They are the ones who really need support and their problem, like many problems society tends to ignore; needs fresh ideas on how best to deal with it. So it was interesting to read about a new approach being pioneered in the Netherlands.

The Rainbow Group is a private foundation that seeks to help those that are struggling due to homelessness, drug abuse or alcoholism. Most of their funding comes from the Dutch government. This makes their latest initiative controversial; in some quarters at least. What they are doing is paying a small group of alcoholics-about 20 so far-to clean the streets of Amsterdam. Naturally they pay them in the currency they seek: cans of beer. The litter duty starts at 0900 and finishes at 1500 with breaks in between for beer and cigarettes. A hot lunch is also provided.
Not unsurprising the organisation is coy about revealing just how much funding they receive, but argue that it is a cost-effective way to deal with an “unchangeable reality”. Janet van de Noord, who runs the Rainbow Group's litter project explained: "It's quite difficult to get these people off the alcohol completely. We have tried everything else. Now this is the only thing that works. We might not make them better, but we are giving them a better quality of life and it's better for the neighbourhood, they're giving something back to society."

So far the results have been very promising with the police reporting less crime in the areas that the project works and local residents have also been complimentary about the scheme. With the savings in the drop in arrests and incarceration, Ms van de Noord is hopeful that other countries will abandon “old fashioned political correctness” and follow the same approach. Although it seems a fiendishly simple way to incorporate alcoholics back into society instead of ostracising them, given the current climate here, I can’t see Cameron & co green-lighting it here anytime soon.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils


This morning I’m in need of a pick me up. So we voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the land of the free in search of inspiration. And who better than Oskar Blues to refresh the palate. The Colorado brewery is one of the stars of the American brewing scene and has a reputation for delivering well-rounded tasty brews. This Pils has been produced on their in-house experimental brew plant.
It’s a 12oz can and comes in at 5.3%. It poured a clean golden yellow with good carbonation and a large white head. The aroma was subtle but inviting.There’s a good mix of malt, lemon and floral grass in there. The beer itself was light-medium bodied with no hint of its strength. A very balanced combination of lemon, biscuit malt and just enough Saaz hop to give it a slightly dry edge.

Tyson says: Excellent. Shows that smooth doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Clean, crisp and satisfying.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Build The Craft Bars And They Will Come


The post Christmas period can feel a little flat. Pubs are quiet; punters have little money to spend and there’s an air of resignation as the new year kicks in. So when my friend at the BBC said: “Hey, Tyson, Media City is the place you ought to be. Swimming pools and movie stars”, I jumped at the chance to see how the other half lives. After all, there aren’t many cement ponds in Bury.
The main attraction is the Dockyard. This is a large, open-plan, structure with high ceilings and plenty of glass, wood and shiny chrome. Inside there is a good mix of tables and comfortable sofas. Quality food is served-not surprising considering that the owner also has the renowned Damson restaurants in his portfolio-and breakfast is served from 0730, presumably to cater for the media types.
It’s obviously serious about its beer and craft beer at that. How do I know? Well the cellar is on show, for a start. And the very friendly staff person told me so and she used the ‘C’ word. Now ordinarily if a member of staff approaches me unbidden it’s to ask me to leave as I’m spoiling the decor. But no, she was merely enquiring if everything was ok. For someone accustomed to being ignored stood at the bar in Spoons this was quite the culture-shock. I suppose I am a media type. Well I do cobble together a blog. Occasionally.
In fact, all the bar staff were friendly and professional. How the other half lives, eh? But onto the important stuff. There are six handpumps including their house beer, a dark Mild from Brightside and Old Rosie cider. The emphasis here is on local beer both in cask and in keg: the very local First Chop was prominent on the fonts. However, these will be rotated and initial sales are apparently very promising. All in all, a very welcome addition to the beer scene in Manchester generally and to Salford in particular. Oh and the pies looked good, but went untried. Next time, definitely.
On a much smaller scale but no less welcome is Craft Brew. Situated across the road, next to the Lowry Outlet, this is a one-roomed cafe bar that has a small but select choice of beer. Craft beer, as the name suggests. The choice is mainly bottled but there are a couple of fonts and two handpumps. The handpumps are reserved for rotating guest beers, but on my visit yielded well-kept pints of Windermere Pale and Brightside Amarillo. Put Booths in the equation and Media City is looking like the place to go to for craft beer.

Written at: Hare & Hounds

Drink: George Wright Pipe Dream

Monday, 6 January 2014

Mark Addy Closes


Yet more bad news for the Manchester pub scene with the announcement that the Mark Addy is to close with immediate effect. The famous Salford riverside pub was expected to reopen after the Christmas break but, citing the cost of upgrading the kitchen and restaurant, the owners have decided to keep the doors closed. Obviously this is a great blow for all the staff concerned and for its well-know chef, Robert Owen Brown.
Opening in 1981 (I think) the Addy soon developed a following for its Boddingtons and, more importantly, its cheese platter. Since then, like many a Manc institution, it has ridden the tides of fortune from featuring in the Good Beer Guide to being one to avoid. However, since it reinvented itself as a destination food stop in 2009 it seemed to have prospered. This was perhaps masking a bigger problem: the state of the building itself. The damp carpets and general state of decay was becoming all too evident. A little TLC wouldn't go amiss.

But it appears that all may yet not be lost. Word is that it will reopen again as a real ale outlet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  

Friday, 3 January 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Thwaites Triple C

Today’s, hopefully, zesty delight is another in Thwaites Craft Dan range that is aimed squarely at the craft connoisseur. The aficionado. The beer geek. Do they mean us? I think they surely do. Anyway, this is an interesting one as it’s a new take on a very successful cask beer. Triple C has been a smash hit on the pumps  and at only 4.2% quickly established itself as one of the best session beers around. Now that only uses Cascade while this version uses Citra, Chinook and Centennial.
It’s a 330ml bottle and is 5.3%. It is definitely a Pale Ale with no other type of malt used. It poured steady with good carbonation and a bubbly white head. And hooray, it is golden as advertised. The aroma is very promising: pithy lemon, grapefruit and gooseberry. It’s fairly light on the palate with good, clean grapefruit and lemon flavours dominating over the slight malt backbone. The tart citrus fruit lingers on into the finish.

Tyson says: Very drinkable. Crisp and fresh from start to finish.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Trouble At The Lass


Today’s M.E.N carries a story on well-known Manchester boozer, the Lass O’Gowrie. From its inception as a brewpub (not very good, if truth be told) it has remained a famous landmark on the local drinking scene. We’ve had the heady days of Whitbread guest beers-Castle Eden, anyone-through to the freedom of pubco restrictions to a falling in standards and back again. And then Greene King took over. Perhaps the writing was already on the wall, I don't know. But it’s certainly struggled in recent times. Student dynamics have changed since I held court in there and it hasn’t been helped by the growth of real ale/craft beer-whatever-in other areas. And the BBC move seems like the last straw. On the face of it, it seems like another case of an unhelpful and unrealistic pub operator pissing on their chips. However, there remains a glimmer of hope for the Lass and I agree it needs to build itself as a destination pub. I will watch developments with interest.

You can read the article here

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Five O'Clock Shadow


We’re still in London for the second of the year’s breakfast beers, but we’re moving to the other end of the spectrum with this American IPA. Weird Beard know a thing or two about hops and, on paper, this looks good: 3 different malts+Apollo, Citra, Columbus and Summit hops. But as ever, the proof is in the back of the throat as it goes down.
It’s 330ml bottle-conditioned and is 7.3%. It was extremely lively and poured a murky amber with a large white head. Darker than you might expect although given the ingredients, perhaps the name is also a bit of a clue. The aroma was very appealing: big and bold with plenty of sweet fruit, malt, grapefruit, pineapple, hay and a dollop of pine.

There was plenty of carbonation and the beer fizzed and prickled over the tongue. A solid biscuit malt backbone underpins this and the overall effect is less bitterness than fruit hoppiness to the fore. Packed full of flavour, you get all the tropical fruits: pineapple, grapefruit and mango with a slight floral and pine resin. The alcohol only peeks through in the finish but is mostly masked by the strong fruity/dry aftertaste.

Tyson says: A solid, no-nonsense IPA. My personal preference is for more bitterness in this style, but with Citra leading the way, this is a refreshing, easy-drinking take on it.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Partizan 7 Grain Porter


So welcome to 2014. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear. Most likely, it will just be like 2013 but we will be older and poorer. But enough of my future. What better way to see in the new year than with a 7 grain Porter? Ok, the light has gone in the beer cupboard (last 20 years, my arse) and this is what emerged. It’s a 330ml bottle and is 5.6%. The label is very smart, very clever and is indicative of Partizan’s approach to labelling.

It poured pretty lively and settled down to being a very dark, almost black, brown with a large tan head. The aroma was quite pungent: leather, molasses, maybe a bit of caramel and a hint of smokiness. The body was a bit thinner than you’d expect but the flavours do eventually all kick in. You’ve got ground coffee, dark chocolate, treacle, prunes and a definite twang of residual sugar that unfortunately lasts into the bitter-sweet finish.

Tyson says; More miss than hit, this really didn’t do anything for me.