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 The toilets have had their long overdue overhaul and the pool table, which was wasting valuable corner space, has been replaced by seating.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.
Saturday, 25 October 2014
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 picks
Allgates Half Devil: This 3.3% Pale Ale is brewed with the Czech Kazbek hop for a soft, delicate mouth feel, refreshing pilsner-like taste that takes no account of strength. Possibly beer of the festival.
Five-Oh Sorachi Ace Stout. The only place to get this on cask. Get it while you can.
Five Towns Grounds for Divorce. Dangerous: that’s all I’m saying.
North Riding Brew Pub Fat Lad’s Mild. A 4.5% Mild? You know it makes sense.
Ringway Admiral Pale. This 3.5% wonder did what it said on the tin. Unfussy, clean and crisp; it really cleansed the palate. Possibly beer of the festival.
Seven Bro7hers IPA. Apparently too much for some people, this cemented its reputation as one of-if not THE best, local IPAs.
Well done to Jim and all his helpers and here’s to next year!
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
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.
|(Outside the famous Holts gates)|
|(Star Inn, Broughton)|
With all the money going to The Christie Hospital, it was drinking in a good cause. Thanks to everyone who came and, of course, to all the generous brewers.
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
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.
|(Oh let's try this bar)|
|(Yummy Iced Tea Saison)|
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 competition to edge it with a complex and vinous treat.
The bad: There were some disappointing saisons with Partizan Iced Tea being particularly unspectacular. But Camden wins this category for the mess that was their Spiced Pumpkin Lager.
The ugly: Ultimately there could only be one winner. Step forward Against the Grain Killewitte. Described by Mr IndyMan himself, John Clarke, as smelling like sick, this smoked wheat beer tasted like smoked compost.
Only 360 days to next year’s event…
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 particular faux pas does threaten to undermine CAMRA’s professional reputation in some quarters. Of course it shouldn’t have happened at all and there are many questions to be answered. Yes, the leaflet was a mistake in the first place but then things seemed to completely unravel. Why was the Young Members committee consulted and then ignored? Why did it take so long for CAMRA to respond to the concerns raised and then only in a half-hearted way? The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now and it will be interesting to see what sort of damage limitation exercise CAMRA runs. On the plus side, hopefully important lessons will be learnt from this whole debacle and the organisation can get back to what it should be doing: promoting real ale to one and all.
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
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
Monday, 6 October 2014
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 connection to Sweden that I could discern but was a Simcoe dry-hopped delight.
Friday, 3 October 2014
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.
For a contrast, I tried the Lagunitas. This was a lovely burnished gold with good carbonation and a fingerful of white foam. This is a complex IPA and on the nose I got orange peel, tangerine, and a hit of pine and citrus notes. The body is light for a 6.2% beer with only a slight malt sweetness underpinning it. The flavours prickle on the tongue; it’s not wave on wave of astringent hops but rather a melting pot. I got plenty of orange, melon, papaya, perhaps even a twist of summer berries before the juicy bitter-sweet aftertaste settles in. It’s a totally different beast from the other imported American IPA: Bengali Tiger, but equally as drinkable. At 5.2% the DB is a poor imitation; I can’t see any reason for cask fans to switch to it and it’s certainly not appealing enough for the dedicated craft beer fan.
So it’s California 1, Wolverhampton O.