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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, 15 December 2015

Cafe Beermoth

Well there has been only one question on the lips of Manchester beery folk of recent: when will Café Beermoth open? Yes, ever since it was announced that N/4 favourite Beermoth was getting a bigger sibling, anticipation and expectation has been quite the mood amongst the hipsters and shakers of Cottonopolis. Whilst the announcement took some by surprise, it was the natural step after Beermoth quickly outgrew its original remit. And co-owners Scott, Jeremy and Simon did well in securing an empty site in Spring Gardens. Whilst the area is not synonymous with beer, it was for many years the centre of banking in the north-west; it does remain an important thoroughfare.


It’s a good location as it links the likes of the Waterhouse and City Arms with the centre of the city whilst remaining a destination in its own right. Opening night was a real celeb fest. I haven’t seen so many of the crafteratti out and about since the (false) rumour about KFC giving away chicken wing buckets. As promised it’s quietly stylish with one long bar and lots and lots of wood with a small space upstairs. It’s comfortable and I immediately felt at home. Well it is a bar after all. A little tweaking is still taking place. Food in the form of sandwiches and, hooray, cheese platters is promised and it is open from 8am to serve the needs of the coffee hungry.


Oh and what about the beer? There are seven cask lines and ten keg offerings with details displayed above the bar. They also seem to have an inordinate amount of wild and saison bottles. Saturday, like my photos, is slightly hazy as I was ten pints in before arriving. However, I do recall enjoying the reassuringly bitter Mallinsons Hop Tzarina along with some London murky Kernel Nelson Sauvin IPA. And there may have been an Odell IPA in there as well. Prices seemed very reasonable for the Manchester scene; although let’s face it I was past caring by then. It seems almost pointless to wish them well as it seems rather self-evident that they will do so. Manchester has a great beer scene and Café Beermoth is a great addition to that scene.

Cafe Beermoth, 40 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 1EN

Saturday, 12 December 2015

A Prestwich Ramble

Prestwich village lies at the outer rim of the grand metropolis that is Bury and so it often gets overlooked in favour of its brighter, louder, neighbour Manchester. Although it harbours aspirations-some would say pretensions-to be a Didsbury clone, the reality has been somewhat different. Beer choice has traditionally been limited and was heavily dominated by Holts with only a very limited choice of other ales. However, things have been steadily improving and the burgeoning dining scene has started to have a knock on effect on the beer front. Eager to check out the latest disturbances in the Force, I set sail for pastures new.

New adventures in drinking, as everyone knows, can be thirsty work so the experienced traveller will always warm up with a pint or two. The logical place to start seemed to be the Coach & Horses, just over the border in Bury Old Road, Whitefield. This Victorian boozer is a traditional Holts pub divided into 3 rooms. I tend to find the Mild a little variable but the Bitter is always a safe bet. Prestwich Liberal Club also offers the lure of real ale but is harder than Fort Knox to get into. Even if you get past the swipe card protected front door, you may find yourself trapped in the foyer awaiting a friendly face to buzz you in. If you do get the hard-as-nails barmaid to serve you, the choice is Holts Mild & Bitter alongside Landlord.

Much more amenable is one of the new kids on the block: All the Shapes. This new café bar nestles on the site of a former tanning salon on Warwick St and is just the sort of place that Prestwich has sorely been lacking in. It’s cosy with a small downstairs bar area and more room upstairs. Obviously it offers the now de rigueur food options, which are very good I believe, but most importantly it has a decent beer offering. Two handpumps offer a changing selection of local ales: First Chop and the excellent Track Black IPA on my first visit. There’s also the likes of Cloudwater and Camden on tap and a decent bottled collection. This should do really well and you can see it expanding in the future.

(All the Shapes)
Already part of a growing empire is the other new kid on the block: Solita. Situated on Bury New Road, this will need no introduction to those who have visited the Didsbury or Manchester City centre branches. Known ostensibly for their food, particularly the burgers, they do also offer the opportunity to just go in and enjoy a few drinks. The Prestwich bar downstairs is comfortable and far larger than you might think. They seem a little shy about the fact that they serve real ale and the handpumps tend to go unbadged. Here the rather excellent Pale Ale house beer is brewed by Bury’s very own Brightside. They also brew the equally excellent house keg beer Solita Brau. Other options on draught include Kona Big Wave and Paulaner. Whilst not an obvious option as somewhere to pop in for a drink, the beer selection does offer something different for the area.
(Solita)
Whilst in the area it would be rude not to check out the Church Inn which is tucked away at the end of, appropriately enough, Church Lane. For many years the Church flew the flag for beer choice in Prestwich and was the first in the area to offer a no-smoking room. its Deuchars-when that was considered cutting edge-was also rated the best in the borough. Despite still being an Enterprise Inn pub, it makes the most of the available guest beers and offers four for your delectation. To get to the Church, you’ll have to pass Prestwich Conservative Club. It’s worth poking your head in here to marvel at the rather plush surroundings. They do have real ale on; it varies but was Robinsons Trooper when I called in. 

Now of course Prestwich wouldn’t be Prestwich without a drop of Holts. You’re spoilt for choice really, what with the Red Lion and the White Horse but on this sortie it was the Foresters that took the prize. This is a 1960’s two-roomed boozer where the Bitter is usually on form. You’re very close to the Metrolink stop now, but it’s worth calling in the Railway & Naturalist. Built in 1850, the ‘Nats’ was originally named after the members of the Botanical Society that used to meet there but the coming of thirsty railway labourers changed the name to its current status. When the pub was knocked through, along with the loss of the famous ‘Rat Pit’ room, it lost much of its character. However, in recent times it has returned to the real ale fold and now offers a changing guest beer.

Prestwich definitely looks to be on the up beer wise and is only a bus or tram ride away from Bury or Manchester centre. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: CREW Republic Detox

Today we step off this great sceptred isle and head for sunny Munich. Yes, Germany. Now I will let you into a little secret. The Germans brew beer. Quite a lot of it, actually. I know; get out of here, right? No they honestly do. And some of it ain’t bad. Ok it will never replace quality stuff like John Smiths Smooth in the hearts of the British bulldogs. But if you’re ever over there, put down that pint of Guinness, get out of that Oirish pub and try some of the local brew in some of their splendid beer palaces.

To be fair, you’re probably not very likely to come across CREW Republic in too many places. The traditional nature of the German beer scene-the very thing that makes it so appealing-has somewhat stifled the microbrewing scene. Or rather it had. Recent years have seen an expansion, albeit it not on the scale of some other European countries. Mario Hanel and Timm Schnigula formed CREW Republic to be part of this new wave. And certainly their beers and general business approach has more in common with the American model rather than traditional German practices.
But is the beer any good? Well it’s a 330ml bottle and is 3.4%. It’s described thus: “Is it time to Detox? Detox is a Session India Pale Ale and boasts a big hop aroma that satisfies ones need for a hop fix!!! Our idea of a session beer means that it’s a lower alcohol version of one of our favorite beer styles without having to compromise on flavor. This unfiltered light gold colored elixir has a much lighter body and less bitterness than its big brother counterpart, however delivers the entire hop experience one expects from an IPA.The two main hops in this beer are Comet from the Hallertau and Galaxy from Australia. The fruity aromas in these two hops compliment one another very well and we even used a new hopping technique for the first time in Detox.The CREW enjoys drinking this one a lot all day and it’s our favorite beer as soon as someone fires up the grill”.

It poured a hazy light-orange with a large, creamy, white head. The aroma was very appealing. Very little malt but plenty of sweet citrus notes. I think the Chinook is probably responsible for the slight floral aspect whilst I’m guessing the Galaxy is more impacting the tropical side. Good use of the Pilsner malt means it’s very clean on the palate and tastes very fresh. Lots of tangerine and grapefruit along with a little sherbet lemon. The finish is a medium level mix of tart orange and lemon dryness.

Tyson says: Punches well above its weight. This is a bit of a wunderkind. Prost!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Vote Sepp


Today’s little aperitif is a special little number from those pesky little Brewdog fellas. Actually I’m feeling rather pleased with myself as a guy in the pub last night wanted to sell me a crate of these at a knock down rate. But I insisted on paying full price. You can’t catch me out like that, no sir. Anyway, apparently, this was Brewdog’s attempt to bribe Sepp Blatter into giving Scotland the 2022 World Cup. But the joke’s on them, isn’t it? As Sepp himself will tell you, his international reputation for integrity and honesty is second to none. You’re no more likely to find his hand in the till than you are to find a Russian athlete who’s a drug cheat.
The bottle is the usual 330ml and is 3.4%. On the back it states: “Vote Sepp, an incorruptible hibiscus wit beer in honour of our tireless football führer, Mr Blatter.  Best served from brown paper envelopes to aid drinking with greased palms, one sip of this beer and Sepp will be putty in our hands”. It was very lively and poured fairly (for Brewdog) clear amber with a pink tint and a large off-white head. Given the hibiscus, it’s not a surprise that the aroma is big on floral notes. There’s also some bread and red berries there as well but it doesn’t really hit you as a traditional Wit.

It’s easy on the palate, but once again you’re struck by the lack of Wit characteristics. There’s no bready-dough yeastiness and you have to really delve quite far down to get the wheat hit. Saying that, it’s not unpleasant and once you get over the fact that Brewdog have produced a mild beer, there is little to find offence with. With no real backbone to underpin it, the lasting impression is of a slightly fruity-cranberry, perhaps, beer with an ever so slight tart finish.

Tyson says: “Like the great man himself, this is an easy-going, well-balanced beer that no one could find much wrong with”. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Rudy's Pizza

Rudy’s hasn’t been open for long but has already carved out a name for itself for knocking out some of (for my money, the best) pizzas in Manchester city centre. For anyone who has followed the pop-up street food trend that has swept the city in recent years or perhaps attended some indie beer event, the name will be familiar. Started by Jim Morgan and Kate Wilson: the name refers to their young dog, in case you were wondering, with the aim of bringing the Neapolitan pizza experience to Manc land. Of course to do that, you need more than just Italian ingredients and a wood-fired oven. It all comes down to the dough; in this case it’s a 48-hour dough-making process in which it is double-proved and hand kneaded to retain air bubbles. The result is an exquisitely light pizza that makes you feel as if you could immediately eat another. And some people do exactly that. Although, obviously,  I don’t know anyone like that.
Ancoats is an up and coming spot on the Manchester hipster map and Rudy’s have landed at a prime location on Cotton St. The Fairbairn Building which hosts them overlooks Cutting Room Square and is positioned directly opposite Halle St Peters. The regeneration of the former mills in this part of town has really gathered pace and apartment developments are all the rage. Some of the signs of a hipster neighbourhood-artisan coffee and bread hangouts-are already in place and more are due to open. Sadly the much vaunted re-opening of the former Edinburgh Castle pub has fallen through meaning that there is still a gap in essential services. However, with the Seven Bro7hers brewery planning to move in and Port Street Beer House only five minutes away, it’s not a real hardship.

Rudy's is open Tues 17.00-22.00, Wed-Sat 12.00-22.00 and Sun 12.00-18.00. Kitchen closed 3pm-5pm everyday except Sunday. They also sell some excellent bottled beer by the likes of Runaway and Cloudwater. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Room For One More?

There has been barely contained excitement and a few raised eyebrows at the news that Bury town centre is to get a new pub. An empty shop on Haymarket St, last occupied by Betfred, has been acquired by Amber Taverns who have been granted a licence for the premises. Those with long memories will remember that it was once the Rayners Vaults. Dating from the latter part of the 19th century, the Rayners was once part of the Raven Hotel before becoming a destination in its own right. I recall it as having the ambience of a Wild West saloon and certainly some of the characters who frequented it would have felt right at home in Dodge City. It was the kind of place that if you went in and they saw you still possessed all your teeth, the locals knew you weren’t a regular.
But times change and despite, or perhaps because of, its small size, Bury has done well in recent times in terms of its pub stock. Unlike many other town centres, people do still come into the centre to enjoy a drink. There are two Wetherspoons, a well-known freehouse, a Holts pub and representation from the usual regional brewers and pubcos. The last opening; the Clarence, brought a brewpub and fine dining into the equation. So what will the new venture offer? A craft harem of whisky barrelled-aged, Brett infused Dandelion & Burdock Stout, perhaps? One of those new-fangled micrpubs? Somehow I doubt it.
If you look at Amber Taverns portfolio, it’s rather less than impressive. A lot of bottom-end pubs that they’ve bought up cheaply. Locally they do own Hogarths in Bolton which does offer real ale but generally it’s either not available or an afterthought in most of their estate. They’re not big on dining and seem unlikely to be able to compete on price with the likes of Wetherspoons. They do seem to be keen on sports but it’s hard to see where their target audience is coming from. With the shift in Bury’s shopping geography, the pubs in the centre are technically on the wrong side of town and tend to rely on a set pattern of clientele. It maybe that they have their hopes pinned solely on weekend trade but it seems most likely that it will end up like the ‘Oirish’ bar round the corner: full of tumbleweeds for most of their trading hours. However, I’d be happy to be proved wrong. 

Friday, 30 October 2015

Albert's Schloss

Albert’s Schloss is the latest big name addition to Manchester’s drinking/dining scene. Situated on Peter St, it occupies the slot once dominated by the late, unlamented, sticky-floored, Brannigans. Remember them? Anyway it’s had a major overhaul and some serious money spent on it by the folk who own the Trof empire to transform it into Manchester’s own version of a Bavarian beer hall. Well alpine retreat, more accurately, as this is no cheap German bier Keller pastiche. The clue’s in the name: Schloss, which translates as chateau. The Albert of the title is self-explanatory, being Queen Vic’s little German love machine and, of course, it is based on the ground floor of the Albert Hall.
So after two years of planning and six months of build, what do you get for your Deutschmark? Well a lot of wood, for a start. The place is dominated by a huge wraparound bar that must be one of the largest in the area. It’s claimed that 80% of the build materials are from reclaimed sources including doors from the former BBC premises on Oxford Road. There are alpinesque tables and chairs and traditional German drinking benches designed by Manchester designer Pete Masters. There are comfortable booths at the back and a “Gentleman’s snug” at the side complete with faux-wood fire.
With a nod to its location, there is a DJ gallery and a live music stage. With a nod to its inspiration, there is a large kitchen and on-site bakery to deliver fresh pretzels and other Germanic goodies to the hungry hordes. Examples of this are Schweinshaxe (crispy pork knuckle with apple, horseradish sauce, pickled red cabbage and gravy) for £13.50 and for the non-Neolithic carnivores, the German version of pizza: Flammkuchen.
Finally we come to the most important part, the drink selection
Did you spot the odd one out? No, not the cask beer. In a slight geographical diversion from the Fatherland, their USP is actually Czech. Pilsner Urquell Tank Beer or Tankova is unpasteurised and is delivered ASAP from the brewery to ensure the customer gets the freshest pint. Schloss has four of these 900 pint tanks and once opened they have to be emptied in seven days. A board counting down the days adds to the sense of occasion and if you have ever tried it, you will appreciate just how buttery and refreshing a Pilsner can be. There is also a range of bottled beer including, for some reason unfathomable to mortal men, non-alcoholic Jever.

Now how much will it cost you to sup at the lap of Teutonic goodness? Well, for example, for £5 you could have either Bitburger Pils (4.8%) or Hacker Pshorr Dunkel (5.5%). That’s for a pint or large glass as they seem to call them. I was told they don’t do halves, only schooners. Anything less would be very un-German, I guess. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Gypsy Inc Gyp Wit

Following the success of the last Gypsy Inc beer, it seemed only natural to try another of their delightful creations. They describe this one thus: “Gyp Wit is a bright and floral Witbier brewed with Flaked Wheat, Curaçao Orange Peel and Coriander. This array of fresh ingredients catalyze the citrus and fruity flavors from the American and European hops. A true thirst-quenching summer Wit. It’s perfectly refreshing after a long day of hard work”.
It’s the standard 33cl bottle and is-I’m seeing a pattern here-once again 4.7%. It poured a light golden yellow with a small, perfectly formed, white creamy head. The aroma was traditional wheat and spice with a heavy dose of orange citrus tones. It’s easy on the palate with a surprisingly light coriander presence. The immediate impression is of juicy sweet oranges with just enough of the wheat coming through to underline it. Any fruit sweetness quickly disappears to leave a dry and satisfying orange zest palate cleansing finish.

Tyson says: The lads done good again. Yet another winner. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Gypsy Inc Soft Focus

Bloody foreign beers. They come over here taking up our shelf space and stop honest-to-goodness beers brewed in the shadow of the Union Jack being sunk by British bulldog types. In the words of that legendary band Half A Shilling, we should: “send the buggers back, send the buggers back”. But you know, now that they’re here, we might as well drink them. I mean think of the environmental cost in shipping them all back home. The polar bears have nowhere to sit as it is.
Ok so this is a cheeky little number from Danish brewers Gypsy Inc. What do you mean; you’ve never heard of them? The clue is in their name and in fact this was brewed at De Proefbrouwerij. It’s a 33cl bottle, comes in at 4.7% and is described thus: “Soft Focus is a Wheat Ale crazed up with Amarillo and Tettnanger hops. Flowerful notes from the wheat create a harmonious blend with the hops and add aromas of freshly pressed citrus fruits and elderflowers. It is bright, beautiful and the perfect choice for a day at the beach.”

It poured a cloudy burnt orange with a large white head. The aroma was a little grassy, definite notes of wheat and malt with some orange citrus and a little spice in there as well. The body was light and from the start, refreshing on the palate. A light underbody of wheat and subtle floral note is matched by a lemon sorbet and orange peel zestiness that leads to a satisfyingly dry, citrus fruit driven finish.

Tyson says: Excellent. Don’t say: “Send the bugger back”. Do say: “Send it over here, old boy, it’s rather tasty”. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Magic Rock Stone Dog

Well, well, well. This one certainly comes with some pedigree and being Brewdog it isn’t backward in coming forward. Yes, it arrives with hyperbole not seen since, erm, probably the last Brewdog beer.
They say: “A hoppy ménage a trios of epic proportions, Magic Stone Dog is a rustic farmhouse pale ale mash up. Brewed in collaboration with Greg Koch (Stone) and Rich and Stu (Magic Rock) just before our AGM, Magic Stone Dog has the best qualities of a saison and a pale ale, combined. The nose has a citrus punch straight from the US West Coast, boasting zest, pineapple and orange notes, offset against a big spicy clove warmth courtesy of the saison yeast.
This continues into the flavour, where the best of both worlds combine - orange, spice, a touch of lemony tartness - and sit alongside a thirst- quenching dryness and refreshing effervescence. This bright, zesty, subtly tart, Belgian-inspired brew is the perfect beer to enjoy during the Indian summer we all know is definitely coming. Definitely. For sure.
Malts: Extra Pale Amber Wheat Rye Oats
Hops: Amarillo Simcoe
Twist: Mash up style with both saison and pale ale character.”

But is it more of a dog’s dinner than a magic dog? Or is there still life in the old pups yet? I say enough with the canine puns and onto the business at hand.

It’s a 330ml bottle and is 5%. It poured a very light hazy golden-orange with plenty of carbonation and a one-finger white head. The aroma gives the game away immediately. It’s got saison written all over it. Definitely funky with powerful notes of herbs and spiced yeast. Taste wise; it was very refreshing. It’s light on the palate with more of the initial funkiness kicking in with the expected bread and malt characteristics. However, the hops are cleverly deployed not to overwhelm and transform it into a hop bomb, but rather to add another layer to it. It has underlying citrus notes that build to a pleasingly dry, lemon-zest finish.

Tyson says: Was there any doubt, taking into account the brewers involved with this collaboration? Not from me, there wasn’t. And they have certainly delivered a top-drawer beer that is indeed perfect for these Indian summer days. 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Donnington Double Donn

Due to a special request, yes really, this morning’s foray into the bottled wonders of the beer world is another Donnington Brewery effort. This one presents itself as more traditional than its Gold stablemate and is made with Styrian Goldings and Fuggles. It’s dedicated to Claude Arkell, the owner of Donnington, who died in 2007.
It’s a 500ml bottle and comes in at 4.4%. It poured a traditional copper-hued with good carbonation and a weak tan head that quickly dissolved. The aroma is nutty with sweet malt and, surprisingly, a touch of orange rind. It’s medium-bodied with plenty of caramel and toffee notes and a slight earthiness. The cereal malt undertone is balanced by a bitter-sweet, slightly citrus fruit finish.

Tyson says: It’s hard to get too excited about this beer and it's not one I’d choose to slug all night down the Dog & Duck. However, it’s a solid effort from the days of pre-craft and if the aim was to produce a beer that a traditionalist such as Claude Arkell would like; then in that respect they’ve succeeded. 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Donnington Gold

Donnington Brewery is a very traditional family run brewery based in rather idyllic surroundings in Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham. Brewing started in 1865 and they still use the same spring for water and even the original waterwheel is still in use. For many years only two beers were brewed regularly but, like many traditional outfits, in recent times they have gradually expanded their portfolio. Donnington Gold is now part of their core range.

Traditional brewing means traditional bottling, so no namby-pamby 330ml bottles here. It’s a solid 500ml and comes in at 4%. It’s a golden ale and, unlike some so-called golden ales, it actually did pour golden. Carbonation was good but the off-white head quickly dissolved to leave just a small covering film

The aroma was quite subtle with some biscuit malt and a slight sweet orange note. At first the beer seemed a little on the thin side but the flavour did come through on the second gulp. There’s a definite digestive buzz to it but some citrus there as well: a little orange and lemon that gently refreshes the palate. The finish is pleasantly dry but not too bitter as to alarm the unwary drinker.

Tyson says: Let’s be clear; this beer is unlikely to see the inside of a Hoxton hipster’s jam jar. However, it’s actually better than it first might appear. Well balanced in this case does not translate as ‘dull’. Rather it’s a quite pleasant, easy-drinking Best Bitter with just enough of an edge to justify itself. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Electric India

It’s definitely away from the basics today with a little number from the people that are now referred to as “the Scottish brewery”. A bit like Hamlet, you’re not supposed to say their name now. No, I don’t know why, either. Those crazy craft kids, eh?

Official description: “One day. One brewery. Seven thousand co-creators. Two hundred brewers. The result? Electric India. This beer is the bastard love child of the craft beer revolution. An unholy union between a Belgian Saison and an India Pale Ale; democratically brewed by our very own Equity for Punks shareholders. Electric India is a hoppy saison brewed with fresh orange peel, lashings of heather honey, crushed black pepper corns and enthusiastically hopped with mountains of amarillo and nelson sauvin. A beer for the people, by the people direct from the craft beer republic of BrewDog.”

It’s the usual 330ml bottle and comes in at 6.5%. It poured a bright golden-orange with good carbonation and a one-finger off-white head. Looks good, it has to be said. It also smells good. The pungent aroma is definitely funky. It screams Belgian Saison at you but you get those citrus hop notes and, yes, a little black pepper.
The taste is more of the same. It’s easy on the palate and does a belting job of hiding its strength. It’s a bold, complex beer with the Saison element most definitely to the fore. Before that dies off, the wave of orange, gooseberry and lemon hops comes washing over you; building to a citrus fruit, medium-bitter finish.

Tyson says: For once, this does live up to the hype. It delivers just what it promises; a classic Saison with a great hop kick. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Church Farm Harry's Heifer

It’s back to basics today with a good old-fashioned English Bitter. Or is it? It’s called Heifer which would imply that’s it’s a Hefeweizen style of beer…But it’s actually described as a “Quaffable session ale with a hoppy aroma. Brewed with a blend of Marris Otter, Vienna and Crystal malts, with Centennial and Cascade hops”. So a hoppy take on Best Bitter, perhaps?
It’s a 500ml bottle and poured pale amber with good carbonation but the merest of heads. I wouldn’t describe the aroma as hoppy. Malty, yes, with a little cereal grain and a slight floral undertone. The taste was smooth enough: definitely floral with a slight citrus edge but mainly dominated by a malt sweetness that builds on the palate and lasts into the aftertaste.

Tyson says: Pleasant enough, if too a little on the sweet side for my palate. The puzzlement is where did all those hops go? 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Sierra Nevada Narwhal

It’s across the pond once more, dear readers, as we take a trip to the dark side. The dark, heavy side to be precise. Yes it’s those heavyweights of brewing, Sierra Nevada with a heavyweight of a Stout.

“Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.”

Sounds good, but how will it fare in the ring?

Round 1: It’s a 12oz bottle and comes in at a not-to-be trifled with 10.2%. It was very lively and poured jet black with a large tan head. Pungent on the nose, it had cocoa, brown sugar, roasted barley; all in all a lot of malt. Also in there was ripe cherries and a slight smokiness.

Round 2: Quite sweet and thick on the palate. There’s plenty of roast malt but also a heavy dose of dark chocolate. The hops do come through on the second gulp to lend some balancing bitterness but the treacle-like; almost honeyed dark fruit sweetness comes through strongest. Slight tobacco and leather undertones as well.

Round 3: The finish is syrupy sweet with a little creamy coffee underlay.

Tyson says: Although initially promising, it proved too sweet overall for my palate. That and the alcohol that comes through about half way down means that it wouldn’t be my first choice off the beer shelf. 

Friday, 31 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog U-Boat

TGIF, eh? And that means only one thing. Yes, it’s transatlantic Porter day. Well it is now as that’s what’s on the tasting menu for today. What is a transatlantic Porter, you may ask. It’s a collaboration between Brewdog and the US brewer Victory and naturally they’ve come up with something wacky, erm, I mean contemporary and funky. Brewed with a number of specialty malts, the twist comes in the form of fermentation with lager yeast. Right now I’ve got your attention, let’s begin.
It’s a 330ml bottle and is a heavyweight 8.4%. It poured jet-black with good carbonation and a one-finger tan head. The aroma was powerful: medium smokiness with caramel, cocoa, dark berries and just a hint, if I’m not imagining it, of lager. Taste wise, this was a rich beer. Viscous and creamy with a chewy edge that reminds you of its strength but in a good way. There is a peat smokiness but also caramel, coffee, raisins and some dark fruit: maybe plums? Certainly a well concocted beer that retains its complex balancing act through to the bitter-sweet red fruit and currant finish.

Tyson says: A bastard son of a Milk Chocolate Stout and a lager; despite my initial scepticism, it works really well. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Tesco Single Hopped Kentish Ale

After yesterday’s diversion into exotic beer country, today we crash land on terra firma with what can only be described as an old-school brew. The success of New World hops, which have come to dominate the new wave of craft beers, has been something of a double-edged sword for UK hop growers. Whilst focusing drinker’s attention on the merits of hops, it has left traditional varieties struggling to compete. Now there are many fine varieties of British hops and the British Hop Association has a strategy to try and publicise the merits of each regional variety. Step forward Tesco.
This beer is brewed by Shepherd Neame who are, if that’s the correct term, the champions of East Kent Goldings. Some people say they’re the champions of producing twig beer, but I’d never repeat that here. The beer is 4.5% and comes in a 500ml bottle which, rather surprisingly, is clear. That’s really a no-no, so points deducted for that. It poured light copper with little carbonation and a thin off-white head that quickly died off. Aroma was soft caramel and toffee with a slight spicy undertone. Taste was a little bit earthy: slight floral and gently spiced malt. Typical Shepherd Neame, really.

Tyson says: Although there are many fine varieties of British hops, East Kent Goldings aren’t one of them. Not on this showing anyway. A rather insipid beer that might be a good present for your Uncle George, but is unlikely to win over many people who are looking to explore and understand just what hops do for a beer. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller Chill Pils (Orange Juice)

What have we got this morning for Wednesday’s little treat?  You know how in summer, a man’s fancy turns to just one thing? Yes, that’s right: Pilsner. Well today we celebrate summer by trying a Pilsner. But as it’s those crazy Danish guys at Mikkeller, it’s no ordinary Pilsner. No, this is a Pilsner made with genuine orange juice. Yeah you heard me correctly, this is an orange Pilsner. I’m pretty sure that’s not in the style book, but before we all book flights to Prague to cleanse our thoughts, let’s give it a try.
It’s a 330ml bottle and is spot on for strength, coming in at 4.7%. It poured, perhaps with zero surprise, a pale, hazy orange colour with a 2-finger white head. Carbonation was reasonable, if not particularly strong. The aroma is heavily dominated by orange with just a subtle hint of light malt. It’s smooth on the palate with the taste coming across as a very fresh glass of orange juice. You wouldn’t think it was a Pilsner at all. But wait for it…The bitter hop-led citrus finish is complemented by an underlying dry, slight mineral edge.

Tyson says: Mikkeller have pulled it off again. Just. It may only really reveal its Pilsner roots at the very end but it’s still a very refreshing summer beer nonetheless. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel Citra Centennial IPA

It’s breakfast time but before we can tuck into all that healthy muesli, we need to refresh the palate for the day. It may be happenchance or destiny that Kernel was picked out of the cupboard, but there’s been a lot of chatter about Kernel recently amongst the chattering beer classes. They’re withdrawing from the Bermondsey Beer Mile circus as they’re becoming swamped with amateur pissheads. Think Blackpool but picture wannabe hipsters and johhny-come-latelies. So what better way to remind ourselves of what all the fuss is about?
It’s the standard Kernel minimal design bottle and comes in at 6.9%. Now Kernel more or less patented London Murky-another thing guaranteed to get the chattering beer classes chattering-so no surprise to find it poured a murky golden orange with a thin off-white head. But it wasn’t actually that murky; I was expecting a real stodge of a beer, but I’ve seen worse. Aroma was a straightforward blast of citrus: grapefruit, orange and a little tinned pineapple. Mouthfeel was good with lots of rich notes of orange, lemon, grapefruit and a touch of grassiness. Drinks well for the strength and builds to a clean, bitter citric fruit aftertaste.

Tyson says: May look murky but tastes a lot better than it looks. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mikkeller The American Dream

Ah, hot summer days that just cry out for a cold lager. What do you mean, it’s Manchester and it’s wet and cold? Everyone knows it’s always sunny inside a Mancunian heart. Anyway, it’s lager time whatever the weather. But this is no ordinary lager-you won’t find me reviewing Stella here: drinking it at the bus shelter, yes but reviewing it, no-this is craft lager. Specifically a lager from those kings of craft, Mikkeller.  
It’s a 330ml bottle and tips the scales at 4.6%. It poured golden-brown with a thin off-white head that quickly dissipated. The aroma was summery and pleasant. There were hints of apricots, breaded malt, lemon and grapefruit. The body was what you would expect, light/medium mouthfeel with the malt just lying comfortably in the background. And it was crisp like a good lager should be. So far, so normal. However, the grassy hop tones and lemon and citrus bite give the game away. These build to a clean, citru-led bitter aftertaste that refreshes the parts normal lagers can’t.

Tyson says: Excellent. Do say: “A well-crafted lager”. Don’t say: “Wassup”.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Cloudwater IPA

This morning’s aperitif comes from that new(ish) kid on the Manchester craft beer block: Cloudwater. Since their official launch in March they’ve been taking not only the local scene by storm, but causing a few national ripples as well. Now there’s a lot you could talk about with Cloudwater; their seasonal approach to beer or their label design, for example. But what has struck me is the quality of their product. I’ve tried more or less all of their output, through various styles that I’m more or less keen on, but the quality has been top-notch throughout. Something which I wish I could say about some other so-called ‘craft’ brewers.
This is a 330ml bottle and comes in at 7.2%. Handily there’s lot of info on the back:

Yeast: US05
Malt: Best Ale, Clear Choice, Wheat Malt, Caramalt, Dark Crystal
Hops: Green Bullet, Perle, Citra, Summit, Galaxy, Centennial

It poured a solid orange-some might say proper IPA colour-with about half a finger’s worth of off-white foam. It’s slightly hazy but there’s no London Murky funny business here. The aroma was pungent and, to my schnozzle at least, very pleasant. There’s lot of fresh pine, melon, grapefruit and pineapple balanced out by a sweet fruit/sherbet underlay.

Unsurprisingly after that introduction, the taste didn’t disappoint. Basically it’s more of the same but with a little twist or two.  Quite firm bodied, the malt backbone does an outstanding job of underpinning the bold flavours without dominating the profile. This does not drink like a 7.2% at all. Plenty of bold pine and citrus notes with mango and mandarin orange/marmalade there in the mix as well. It’s all about the hops shining through rather than being an out and out bitter fest, but the sticky grapefruit bitter finish really does reset the taste buds and demands another gulp.

Tyson says: A superbly crafted IPA that could well prove to be the benchmark for the British take on this style. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A sad loss to the fabric of Bury’s drinking culture was the recent closure and sale of the Dusty Miller on Crostons Road. On the face of it, this is just another out of town boozer that has become a victim of changing times and tides. However, the Dusty’s contribution to local beer history is far greater than at first it might appear. Even though it dates from 1834 it was not historically significant, although its 3-room layout was somewhat unusual and the split room serving bar is becoming a rarity. No, the importance of the Dusty lies in the history woven through its brickwork: of its customers and its one time role as an important destination pub for real ale seekers.


An impressive list of Bury’s most well-known characters have propped up and, in some case, fallen over its bar stools over the years. Indeed Eddie, the once eager legal beagle, and his faithful sidekick Trumpet Dave were weaned on the pumps there. And Eddie’s own esteemed father, the Oberst, has put in many years’ faithful service in there as well. Not to mention CAMRA legend, Stuart the Glass. At a time when beer choice was very limited, its acquisition by Moorhouses offered a unique alternative to other offerings in the town. Its progress was steady, as was the norm in the old school of pub management.

(1951)

There was no real mystery as to its eventual success. Through hard work and effort the long-serving landlord built up local support through a series of quiz and sports teams. It got into the Good Beer Guide and remained in for many years. I recall several CAMRA meetings being held there and it was a popular stop on the (in)famous Independents Day coach trips. It held beer festivals-unusual in Bury pubs at that time and also offered another rarity of the time: guest beers. Such was the buzz in pre-digital times that, when word did get round of a particularly good one on offer, drinking plans were altered and there was no need to guess where Bury’s finest imbibers were to be found. Another thing it will be fondly remembered for is its legendary lock-ins. A prerequisite for any good pub back in the day.

However, the Dusty was always balanced on something of a cliff edge. The surrounding area was never gentrified and in its heyday relied on light industry to supply its customers. When that declined, the pubs remained something of an anachronism, full of strip acts and hardy drunks. The Dusty was tame compared to the likes of the Blue Bell that had to have reinforced glass to cope with all the damage wrought but, having been banned from his chosen local, you would come across the odd headcase in there. When it was run as a tight ship, it was never a real problem and you got used to hearing some interesting conversations about the merits of Moroccan Black.

(1978)

The reinvigoration of Bury town centre, the general decline of corner street pubs and changes in personal further weakened the Dusty’s position. I reported back in 2012 how it had been given an unexpected lift with Britain’s self-proclaimed most controversial landlord, Nick Hogan, taking the helm. I said I was expecting fireworks, but sadly his reign proved more of a damp squib. It’s fair to say than from his disastrous so-called celebrity opening night (more people were interested in chatting to the Oberst than the alleged celebrity) to his ill-judged remodel along the lines of an American diner, it was pretty much a plunge to the bottom. As the last man standing, it had a window of opportunity to cash in on that status but, with the locals leaving in droves, the clock was ticking down.
In many ways the fate of the Dusty is symbolic of a familiar picture: a victim of changing times and bad management. But for its ex-regulars its closing is far more significant and marks the end of an era. For it wasn’t just another local, it was THEIR local

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Recap: York

Well there is really only one place to start AND finish a crawl in York. And luckily that place is at the train station. The Tap has quickly established itself as one of the best outlets in the country. Is it the impressive conversion of a Victorian tearoom? Possibly, but the fact that it has 18 pumps dispensing the water of life doesn’t hurt, either. Also boasting a large range of ales-10-is Brigantes on Micklegate. This Market Tavern pub was refurbished in 2013 and looks either (a) clean and contemporary or (b) sterile, depending on your perspective. The chief talking point here, however, was the autovac: a device unknown in the civilised land of Lancashire. I’m not keen on these cost-saving devices as they return the drip tray contents back into the beer line; although they do tend to deliver an aesthetically pleasing pint in the process.
(York Tap)
(Brigantes)
(Golden Ball)
(Golden Ball)
The Blue Bell on Fossgate is, of course, known for its nationally historic interior. That and for always being rammed. Uncomfortably warm in there, an escape across the street to the Ossett owned Hop proved of little relief as, understandably on a Saturday, that was also packed to the gills. Much more pleasant was the Golden Ball on Cromwell Road. This Grade 11 listed Victorian corner boozer, extensively refurbished by John Smiths in 1929, has a glazed brick exterior and its nationally historic interior boasts four rooms: bar, back room, lounge and snug. This became the area’s first co-operative local in 2013 and shows that the best people to run a pub are people who know and care about it.
(Phoenix)

(Blue Bell)
(Swan)
Yet another pub with a nationally historic interior-York is full of them, apparently-is the Swan on Bishopgate Street. This has a traditional West Riding layout that consists of a bar in a wide passageway and two rooms at either end of the bar. Another pub with a cracking interior-if only of regional historic importance-is the Phoenix on George Street. With a real log fire in the front room and bar billiards in the back, it has a warm, relaxing atmosphere that invites you to sit down and stay awhile. The Maltings at Tanners Moat is handily close to the station and boasts reclaimed doors on the ceiling and a reclaimed toilet acting as a seat in the corner as well as some fine beers. And then there’s the York Tap. Again…

Monday, 20 April 2015

Recap: London Brewpubs

London has many beer wonders to keep the travelling imbiber amused. From the crème de la crème of craft beer bars to the olde worlde charm of Sam Smiths pubs. From shiny brewery taprooms to shiny sparkling brewpubs. And it was the latter of these that was the focus of our last excursion into London Murky land.
(White Hart)
(White Hart)
First stop was the White Hart at Mile End Road in the heart of the East End. Forget about the fictionalised Eastenders view of the area with cockney barrow boys peddling their traditional wares. This is the real East End with a dazzling cosmopolitan array of sights and sounds. Coming out of Whitechapel station, you do pass a genuine slice of East End history before you reach the brewpub. The Blind Beggar pub is notorious for being the venue where Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell in 1966. More prosaically, it’s also outside of where William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, held his first open air sermon. Of beery note, it also used to be the brewery tap of Manns, of Brown Ale fame.
(Temple Brew House)
(Temple Brew House)
The White Hart itself was something of a disappointment. Pleasant enough inside, it had that contemporary rustic look that is unlikely to offend many people. The main selling point is their 3.5 BBL in-house brewery. Sadly the cask option for their beer on the day was limited to Hospital Porter. This was ok but quite dull really. As was the keg options. The Snakecharmer IPA did at least have a faint hop presence to it but the Pilsner was heavy with a malt infusion that was completely out of keeping for the style. More work needed here, I think, if it’s to be taken seriously for its own beers. If in doubt, raid the beer fridge which does offer some reasonable alternatives.
)Brewhouse and Kitchen)
(Brewhouse and Kitchen) 
No such problems with our next stop. Tucked away in a cellar on Essex St, the Temple Brew House is home to the Essex Street Brewing Company. The pub is cosy enough with brewing motifs along the wall and the bar at one end of the room dispensing 20+ beers from tap and pump. Their own beers were a distinct improvement over the White Hart with the Gavel American Pale being adjudged the favourite. Also enjoyed was Sandbrooke’s, unfiltered and unpasteurised, Pale Ale and the seemingly ubiquitous Gamma Ray. Definitely worth a visit again as the mix of house and guest beers seem like a winning combination.

We were brought back to ruminate over the limitations of brewpubs and their output at the Brewhouse and Kitchen in Islington. Located just around the corner from Angel station on Torrens St, this could be used as the poster boy for brewpubs throughout the land. Part of a successful chain, there has obviously been a lot of money spent here. The place itself is spacy, modern, airy and light. Clean edges and a mixture of seating make for a very pleasant venue. But oh dear: the beer was given a universal thumbs down. Myddleton, described as a “Blonde Ale”, was in fact a malt laden effort that was decidedly unappealing. And although a variety of others was tried between us, none hit any great heights. Perhaps a case of style over substance?

So rather a mixed bag on this visit but it’s all about trying these places out and luckily there were other refreshments along the way.