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

Monday, 30 June 2014

Would You Like Some Ice With That?

Is it reasonable for a pub to charge for a glass of water? We’re not talking craft water, drawn from the bowels of a private spring by toiling artisans, but the ordinary stuff. Corporation pop as we called it in my day. The question has risen after Nick Molyneux, a CAMRA member, complained about one of his friends being charged 50p for a glass at the John Thompson Inn in Ingleby. Despite his group buying eight pints of beer, five glasses of wine and eight bags of crisps, the designated driver was still charged for his water.

Mr Molyneux said: “We’d travelled from Nottingham and had spent around £50 on drinks and crisps. The driver was dehydrated and was very unhappy to be told to pay. “We asked for a receipt so we could make the complaint. I went back, offered him the chance to pay my friend the money back and that would be the end of it. But he didn’t. I do not think it’s right. They should bend over backwards to get people in the pub. They are also a country pub, so there are bound to be a lot of people driving.”

The pub’s co-owner, Nick Thompson, defended the charge by saying it was for extras of ice and a fruit garnish. He also said that he was originally unaware that Mr Molyneux’s friend was part of a larger group of visitors who arrived later. Of course pubs are businesses that are free to determine their own charges but perhaps with the current state of the trade, they should look at the bigger picture. A 50p charge won’t buy much goodwill and may well put off prospective customers. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Founders KBS

I was saving this baby-a takeaway gift from the wonderful Founders meet the brewer event at Port Street Beer House-for a special occasion. My World Cup sweepstakes team being knocked out is as good an excuse as any, so here goes. It’s an 11.2% imperial Stout shot full of coffee and chocolate and then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year. Yes, you heard right. It comes with a heavyweight reputation; it’s not cheap (by American standards) and people literally queue to get hold of it. What everyone is waiting for, of course, is will it pass the Tyson breakfast beer test?

It poured nearly black with a frothy khaki head. It certainly looked the part: rich, thick and creamy. The pungent aroma was a blast of freshly ground coffee, bittersweet chocolate and, yes, bourbon. This continued into the creamy, almost silky mouthfeel. In the first swig you get the coffee and chocolate and then the bourbon burn kicks in. As this warm-glow effect travels down, it neatly compliments rather than overpowers the other flavours.

Another swig and you can detect figs, plums and a dark berry sweetness. These fade into a bittersweet finish that really tests the taste buds. This is really good. I’m guessing that if I let this warm up more, there would be even more flavours to discover. As it is, it’s a real humdinger that packs a lot in but cleverly avoids the pitfalls of many barrel-aged beers.

Tyson says: Well-deserved of its reputation. A classic. 

Hopcraft@PSBH

The meet the brewers events at Port Street Beer House have been coming thick and fast lately. Most recent was the visit of super-scooper royalty Gazza Prescott from experimental brewery Hopcraft. GP has been a well-known face on the beer scene for some time now and, shall we say, holds some rather robust views that he is happy to share. Just don’t mention CAMRA or twig beer (think Shepherd Neame) though and you should be alright. It’s not unnatural for lovers of the hop to want to progress to using it themselves and Gazza managed that ambition when, along with Dave (unpronounceable) Szwejkowski, he formed Steel City Brewing.

However his partnership at Hopcraft with Tom Barlow, from Pixie Spring Brewery, is a totally different kettle of hops. Unlike other breweries, Hopcraft don’t believe in having a core range of beers and only have one regular-Tidy Bitter. This leaves them free to experiment and indulge their whims. Makes you realise you’re in the wrong job, doesn’t it? An enjoyable evening: the highlights being Simcoe+ and Sturgeon General that blended Simcoe seamlessly with Galaxy. Definitely not twig beer!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Craft Not Dead Shock

The news some time ago that Wetherspoons were to slash the price of their Sixpoint American craft cans was greeted in some quarters with knowing nods and “I told you so” homilies. Spoons shouldn’t be selling craft beer and certainly not craft canned beer. What were they thinking? No hipster would be seen dead in a Spoons, right? And craft is for the crafteratti and not for the plebs, after all. Sadly for the doomsayers, it seems the end is not nigh just yet. While sales in some regions have struggled to match London volumes, Wetherspoons have felt confident enough to reorder them. Learning their lessons, it’s not as many as last time and the starting price will be lower to encourage faster take up. So mainstream craft is officially not dead. Or not yet, anyway. Let’s see how this plays out in part two.


In the meantime, look out for the remainder that expire around September to be reduced to 99p. Why not put a tiger in your tank? 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Bus To The Pub

Manchester and the outlying suburbs contain a myriad of interesting pubs. Pubs for all ages and tastes. The only problem is getting to them all. If only there was a bus that took you from door to door of these fine imbibing establishments. Well last year North Manchester CAMRA had the bright idea of organising just such a community service. This year, with the involvement of other CAMRA branches, the event was bigger and better but with still the same basic idea. An hourly bus service would run throughout the day connecting all the stops. Just hop on the double decker, buy your day ticket from the driver and wait for the beer to start flowing.

Obviously you could spend as long as you wanted in each pub. But, with 20 potential pubs to choose from, the best idea seemed to be sample as many as possible. We started by banging on the door of the Jolly Angler on Ducie Street near Piccadilly Station. This small, street-corner Hydes pub was built in 1814 and has been a stalwart of the Manchester drinking scene for many a year. Today it’s still knocking out a good pint of Hydes for £2.60. From here it was straight onto the bus and onwards to Gorton.

The Vale Cottage is tucked away in the Gore Brook conservation area. It describes itself as “the country pub in the city” and with low-beamed ceilings and a cosy interior, it certainly is a pleasant stop. Several choices of beer here but I think I went for Copper Dragon at £3.10 a pint. Not far away is the Robinsons owned Plough. This is a Grade 11 listed building that is in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The landlord was kind enough to give us a bit of a guided tour and it really is rather splendid. There is a large vault, a lobby and three traditional rooms to choose from. Some of the building dates from 1702 although most of the interior is in its 1893 form. Hoptimum Prime (£2.60) was the preference here.

Chorlton-the next stop-has many fine drinking options, but as the selection in the Bar was so good, we stayed there for the duration. The next place was a new on me. The Steamhouse in Urmston is based in the former railway station building and boasts a choice of eight beers. One to revisit, I think. From the relatively new to the positively old. The Lamb in Eccles is a multi-roomed marvel. Dating from 1906, it is another deserved Grade 11 listed entry in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The now rare Holts Mild was on good form at only £2.16 a pint.

There was more Holts to be had in the Union Tavern in the shape of Holts Bitter at £2.30. This Victorian street-corner boozer is the sort that has sadly all but disappeared from Salford. With a landlord who has been in situ since 1976, this is a pub that reminds you of what locals used to be like. And talking of locals; the next stop, the Star Inn is owned by its regulars. It became the first urban community owned pub in 2009 after Robinsons put it up for sale. There was a bit of a beer festival going on during our visit which may explain us missing the bus. Or it may simply be that with drinking now in double figures, timekeeping was getting a little laissez-faire.

Undeterred we bravely staggered on to the Duke of York. This was a real gem and worth the walk. A grand Victorian multi-roomed Holts pub, it somehow survived the council clearance projects of the last 50 years that decimated every other nearby building. The layout inside is a real testament to the ambition of Victorian brewers and it was a fitting end to the day’s activities. Well not quite the end, as naturally we had to have a nightcap in where it had all begun: the Jolly Angler. Much to the amusement of the landlord who had encountered us some 10 hours previously.


A grand day out. Here’s to next year

Port Street Beer House POTY Presentation

For those of you who have been living on Mars, earlier this year North Manchester CAMRA named Port Street Beer House as their Pub of the Year. Here is NM chairman Stephen Davis presenting the POTY award to keeper of the holy keys Rosie Setterfield-Price. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Liverpool Craft Beer Expo 2014

Is it really a year ago that the inaugural Liverpool Craft Beer Expo took place? Apparently so, for quicker than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, it was time for the second instalment. The first had been very enjoyable; with a few minor reservations on my part. You can read my review of last year’s event here. So what about LCBE 2014? Well we were promised bigger and better. More beer. More food. Everything BIGGER and BETTER, basically. Well these things do tend to evolve and so unsurprisingly Saturday’s tickets sold out even quicker than last year. Sadly there was no glamorous blonde accompaniment this year, but Steady Eddie, that quasi-Liverpudlian legal eagle, was on hand to offer moral support.

 The first thing to note was that they had moved it. It’s still in the Camp & Furness but in a different area. This was quite disorienting at first for those of us who attended last year but a look at last year’s setting soon got the bearings back on track. Although I kind of missed the glass roof, it did help in keeping the area cooler. And it did mean more room for more beer-200 beers this year-more seating and a bigger food selection. There was even a little outdoor area. Payment was by token and imbibing was done via a dinky half pint measure. The beer was split between one cask bar (all on handpump) and several keg bars: including a foreign beer bar.

Now everyone had their own way of tackling the beery offerings. Mr Stockport, being the professional he is, alternated between cask and keg. Some of us took a more linear approach and went across one bar before moving onto the next. Either way there was some very good beer to try. The organisers had listened to feedback and produced a programme that listed the beers (hooray) and there seemed to be a better mix of strengths this year. Even the music was complimentary this time, instead of invasive so full marks all round.

Winners
Brewfist Terminal Pale Ale: it’s all about the Citra
All In Brewing Sofa King Lager: Carling it isn’t
Arbor Yakima Valley: an IPA to aspire to
Bristol Beer Factory Nova: zesty and them some

Losers
Liverpool Craft Citra Double IPA: pure diacetyl in a glass
Late Knights Old Red Eyes: agriculturally earthy

It has to be said that this year, in the keg v cask war, keg was the easy winner. Apparently the food was good as well, although as Eddie doesn’t believe in mixing solid food and alcohol, we didn’t try it. So a great afternoon that was topped off by bumping into the lovely John and, dare I say it, even lovelier Claire once again. Same time, same place next year, kids? Oh and it was great to meet Dimpled Mug whose photography is amazing.

Of course LBCE was only the start of a drunken descent. Rambling through the streets of Liverpool we bumped into the lads of Shindigger before settling into the Grapes. Then it was a very short journey (thank you, Transpenine) back into Manchester. Now Eddie and I would have gone home but Mr Stockport insisted on going to Common. And then to Port Street Beer House for a nightcap. Or three. He can be very persuasive.


The unassuming bottle above was THE nightcap. Mikkeller Big Worst Barrel Aged Barley Wine Cognac Edition tipped the scales at 18.7% and was the grand finale to a grand day. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Bit Of A Challenge

Happy birthday to Challenge 25. The age-verification scheme, operated by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, is eight this year. And to coincide with that anniversary, a report has been published analysing the last eight years and crunching some numbers. Now we’re all familiar with this scheme that was introduced as a means of combatting a rise-or perceived rise-in underage alcohol consumption. The idea is that anyone who appears under 25 will be asked to produce proof of age. The scheme has hit the headlines several times, usually when an overzealous employee has demanded proof from an OAP or suchlike. However, the report is, perhaps unsurprisingly, celebratory about its success but does highlight one or two concerns for the future.

A growing problem is apparently the number of shop staff verbally and sometimes physically abused by people refused an alcohol purchase. The report recommends that the government introduces an aggregated offence of “assaulting shop workers” to deal with this. Whilst such behaviour is of course completely unacceptable; you would imagine that better enforcement of current legislation would be a more logical first step. Also on the rise is so-called “proxy purchasing” where friends or even parents buy alcohol for the underage. The report acknowledges that this is a difficult problem to solve and outlines a number of strategies, including better education, to help tackle it.

The raw data makes for interesting, if not palatable, reading for the anti-alcohol lobby. In the eight years of the scheme, the number of young people drinking in the past week has dropped 18%. Even more dramatic is the fall in total alcohol consumption of 16-24 year olds which has plummeted 24%. Not surprising to those of us who actually concern themselves with facts and not hyperbole but how would our old friend Alcohol Concern react? Organise street parties in unrestrained jubilation? Whilst acknowledging that “it was encouraging to see the number of young people drinking falling”, they warned that “worrying trends still remain and need tackling”. Oh well, if there is a cloud to be found in a silver lining, then AC will find it.