My non-Usual Drinking History…So Far

As I make my way through yet another Bent & Bongs Beer Bash a wave of nostalgia hit me that I feel best to recount, perhaps to realign this blog briefly into a less political state.

I started drinking at around 13 on the fields near mine and my mates houses (parents houses obviously).  Back then it started on stupidly strong stuff like Kestrel Super and Ice Dragon cider, the former of which should never really be drank by anyone with functioning taste buds so as a starting point it could poison your idea of beer from the very start.

We were away from the public, actually quite quiet and respectable of our surroundings.  It took me a long summer of finding the right cans before I first got drunk; two cans of Strongbow did the trick back then, my mates were may ahead having spent each weekend seemingly trying to increase their tolerance a can at a time.

That I’m still mates with most of them, or rather they are still mates with me, highlights that the only evolution on that scale has been that we now go out drinking together in the pub, or around each others houses (our actually own houses because we’re all sensible and grown up and have responsibilities now).

We moved into drinking in pubs at around 16-17, after all there is only a certain amount of time your growing body can get used to drinking alcohol while playing football.

I’m tempted to suggest that my pub experience started in the 2nd wave of keg beer.  After Red Barrel and Double Diamond, I drank up in the Smooth Flow era.  A time of a seemingly Irish beer invasion, where it wasn’t just Guinness of off but Murphy’s, Beamish (red and black), Kilkenny and Caffrey’s, which back then started out at 4.8%.  This went along side Boddington’s launching a “Gold” version, while you could also get Thwaites Smooth, Tetley’s Smooth, John Smith’s Smooth and the personally missed Calder’s Cream Ale.

Can drinking was awash with cans with “widgets” in them; for an authentic creamy pub head in your own home, or in the case of Carling Premier, then need to mop the floor each time one was opened.

I honestly don’t recall much, if any cask at all, nothing of note anyway, that phase only entered my life when I went to university in Bradford.  A place of Flowers IPA for £1 a pint, or the premium offering of Directors (when it didn’t just taste of syrup).

Bradford had the Biko Bar, at the time it was sold as “the only student bar in the Good Beer Guide” – they regularly served cask Moorhouses’ Witches Brew (again before it tasted of syrup) and Younger’s No. 3.

Fun smoking fact about the Biko Bar; it had a no smoking section that was on a raised platform to the rest of the pub.  The pub was basically a rectangle, the platform near the windows and opposite the door, so naturally all the smoke from the rest of the pub went over the non-smoking area and out through the windows. Genius idea.

In fact back then they did a pub quiz on a Sunday, where once a team name was called “What kind of crap pub has a no smoking section” – how times change.

A pub near my halls called The Shearbridge (now a curry house I believe) had regular beer festivals and always sold Skull Splitter and Dogs Bollocks as part of them.

This brings us up to starting going to beer festivals (Bent & Bongs I’d been aware of since my dad started going from its inception) and the fact that I still didn’t really care what I drink, style wise.  Back then it was – oh what’s this 14% beer, Sam-something-or-other.

I write this piece because I’ve realised only necessity has made me “have” a preferred drink. Cans as a kid was lager or cider.  Pubs at the beginning was generally lager, sometimes Guinness.  Cost as a student meant it was Flowers or some random lager.

Going into pubs now, with the choice far more varied than it was, I still don’t have a drink, I’ve never got to hear the bar tender ask “the usual” and I’m wondering if anyone does any more.

Though I think I’m just happy that my usual is the places I go and the people I go with.

 

Thanks for reading.

Bent & Bongs Beer Bash 2014

This event, the 25th hosting of it took place between January 30th and February 1st 2014.

Bent – short for Chowbent is the nickname of Atherton.

Bongs – is the nickname of Tyldesley, no I don’t know the etymology of it either – anyone?

Entry is £5-£7 depending on the day (discount for CAMRA members and if you arrive after a certain time).

You get your glass and programme as part of the entry fee, so no glass refunds for those that are used to them.

Tokens are in papers booklets of £10 and the major quirk of this festival is having to rip off the amount you need, yep no help with marker pens here.  So what you end you with is second guessing yourself doing that self-deluding drunken maths where you think “if I take £1 and the 10p of this sheet I can take to 10p tokens off another and then I’ll have £X and X pennies left for the next drink.”

What you end up doing is dropping loads of paper ‘cash’ on the floor like confetti and generally not realising as you stagger away from the bar.

The men’s toilets also queue, but it goes down quick and you get some of the best banter in there because of it.

The coat room is through into the lady’s toilet area – yes, this was the first year I put my coat in (and umbrella) and I was taken aback – its run by St. John’s Ambulance who merely ask for a donation.

The festival raises money for local charities and has raised somewhere in the region of £400,000 in the 25 years its been going.

I’ve been going to this festival a fair few years now.  Usually on the Friday, with opening times of 5-11pm and you’d think it was 9.30pm when really it was 6.30pm and you realised just how hammered you were.

It now opens at 4pm, I think mainly because Fridays prior to this (this only being the 2nd year of 4pm opening) were rammed – one in, one out, if you weren’t in the queue by 5pm you probably wouldn’t get in till everyone else was hammered at 6.30pm, so popular was it.

Now, whereas I will queue with about 45 minutes till opening, all my cohorts can turn up at 4pm on the dot and be in within 10 minutes and the hall remains a breathable and fairly fresh place – because sometimes it was almost a heaving primordial soup of drunkards – the best kind.

Drinks are served by the half or pint and the food is how I judge all other festival food.

You’ve got Bury Black Pudding, Roast Beef Barms, Cheese & Pickle Barms (for veggies apparently), a wide variety of sausages and the piece de resistance…HOT POT.

Hot pot, with peas, red cabbage and suet crust – again you could tell how busy the festival used to get when the crust used to sell out.

Great, proper stodge, home-made and nothing more than £4.50 currently.

It was this event that taught me the vital need to eat something every 4-5 drinks if I wanted to last – and I do, long enough to go on to the Pendle Witch (Moorhouse’s) or the Jolly Nailor (Allgates Brewery), which always have beer festivals running alongside (to mop up the pre/post-drinkers or the unlucky souls) and be equally busy and where I always end up, if I’m not ‘tired’.

You always get good live music on too from a variety of acts over the 3 nights (and 1 afternoon session).

On to the beer – and this year’s was an absolute stormer, especially for the dark beers, so in saying that, I can’t even pick a favourite this time. I also forgot a pen, but improvised with other stranger’s pens and some lipstick.

Sadly I didn’t get hold of anything that 4Ts Brewery had to offer, so hopefully next time.

I ended the night on a Broadoak Moonshine Cider (7.5%) – my mates swear by it, they also swear a lot more when on it. If you like rather sweet, easy drink, bastard strength cider than I can recommend this.

The festival also carries quite a large range of foreign beers (bottle and keg) from around the world, sadly I didn’t get to go for a second session otherwise I would have tried some of these – I’ve got my eye on you Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout.

Anyway, the beers. In alphabetical order we have…

The aforementioned Allgates Brewery who provided their new 3.9% Crombouke Day-Eye TnT, which was a complete bugger to order but was a great, light pale ale; which was almost as enjoyable as their 4.2% Blue Sky Tea another light pale with the aroma and subtle flavourings of tea.

Ascot Ales were one of the brewers of one of the numerous great dark ales with their 4.5% Penguin Porter. Good malty flavours with the lovely coffee taste I want to have in my dark alcoholic beverages, something I’d happily have by a fire on a cold day – or even a badly-needs-bleeding radiator on a wet Friday night.

Binghams Brewery provided the truthfully named Space Hoppy (5%), a vanilla IPA that worked with the light vanilla taste round off the hops nicely, deceptively strong.

Next were some Southerners in the form of East London Brewing, of which I sampled to of their beers; the Jamboree a lovely golden ale, something that revives the memories that summer might come soon, but not a session ale at 4.8%, but very drinkable. The other was the 5.2% East India Spice a winter ale with a wonderful aroma which if it tasted like it smelt could have gone wrong (too many spices) but happily the actual spicy taste was no overpowering at all, I liked it, though I suspect some might not.

Ludlow Brewing Company were the next to tickle my taste buds with their dark offering with a Black Knight, more coffee and roasted tastes and smells from this 4.5% stout which was that good I’m willing to forgive them using the word Artisan on their website.

Next up are Naylor’s Brewery, continuing a fine dark drinks drinking experience with their 4.1% Porticus Stout, which I insisted on calling Portcullis (a ‘later that night’ drink). A lovely, smooth and velvety stout. I think I may have got almost overcome by all this wonder dark booze.

The amusingly named The Devils Deadly Weapon at a satanic 6.66% and an even more evilly labelled bespoke beer from North Star Brewery was a bit like a red-ale/barley wine hybrid to me and again something good enough to make me forgive the use of one of the horrible marketing descriptors.

Penpont Brewery brought along their quite lovely winter dark brew that was Silent Night. You new it was strong, it was at 7.2%, but it reached the cockles with a welcome warmth and an ensuing beer flushed face will follow.

Red Willow Brewery brought along their 6.5% Soulless which is what I would expect from a brewery who have yet to make a beer I didn’t like. Black IPA with a citrus twang.

A collaboration next from Great Heck Brewery and Steel City Brewing in the form of another wintry, festive brew called Yule Twig (5.2%). Brown ale with hops and Xmas pudding – something to enjoy sat next to a blazing Sheffield steel furnace (well, not too close).

Thwaites. What the fuck is going on with Thwaites? While they decide what the fuck they are doing, so long as they keep producing great beers like the 6.5% Old Dan (a good fruity old-ale like brew) and Smoke Stack a very smoky 5.8% dark beer that had good body a flavour even if the smoke was a bit too much like bacon they should at least maintain some sort of drinking base (if not a work force).

TrueFitt Brewing had brought along their Ironopolis Stout (4.7%) which all I can say was I enjoyed so much when I previously had it, about a year ago, that I went and had it again despite all the other choice.

Sarah Hughes Brewery. I will state now that the name Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild is one of my beery muses. The pinnacle of what I call ‘dangerously drinkable’ (6%). Along with queuing & eating the other ritual I have for this festival is this drink. I had never seen it anywhere else, yet it is always here. I wait 365 for this thing. I’m like an out of shape, shorter version of Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi in Point Break, but I won’t be waiting 10 years for this wonderful beer storm.

Yes I love it. But I will say that all the other drinks more than held their own against it, so I was a very happy (and massively pissed) boy.

So thanks again to all the organisers and volunteers (even if they didn’t respond to my requests to offer a hand).

Same time next year for more queues, beers and Hot Pot.

Manchester Beer Festival – Velodrome 2014 – Part 1 – The Punter’s Tale

Bit of a eyeful that title.

I volunteered at this festival and my thoughts on that will be in Part 2, which may also include more rants about people ranting about the festival.

So, as people have recounted, this would appear to be the replacement for the Winter Ales Festival which moved to Derby. Previous years had seen that event in the Co-Op Building (when they were putting their money into worthwhile things and not being completely foolish trying to be a bank that they never were going to be and thereby losing the ‘moral banking’ selling point in one fell swoop) and in the Sheridan Suite in The Venue on Oldham Road.

Reading the twitter feed (by person or persons clearly getting more narked and sadly less professional with each non-constructive criticism the festival received) this was 4 years in the planning and it was a huge and impressive undertaking.

So lets us get what would seem the well documented negatives our of the way first.

Steps.

64 Steps.

25 more than Richard Hannay had to deal with.

That was the distance down and then up from top-tier (near the food and importantly the toilets) to beers. That doesn’t include the walk round the place from the Metrolink (if that is how you arrived) and the distance from getting your glass to the top of the stairs.

I walk everywhere (when I’m not wasting my time waiting for delayed trains and trams) so this was never a problem for me, but I can see how the infirm and disabled would see this as a massive hurdle to overcome. I offer no solutions other than a temporary bridge – good luck getting that one passed by Team GB Cycling.

The temperature – this was apparently a problem for some, I’d raised it on twitter (science nerd alert), but I went on the Thursday and it seemed no warmed than how hot the Sheridan Suite used to get at its busiest. The beer was unaffected as far as I was concerned.

The running out of beer – I’ll talk about this in Part 2 – but sarcastic “some of us work” comments are no excuse for only getting there on a Saturday afternoon. Plan ahead you self-indulgent arses.

The lack of seating on the beer floor – this was resolved as best as could possibly be done after the first session on Wednesday. Though I think some would happily see a lot more seating by removing the shops (or placing them round the sides), but standing seldom bothers me either.

The amount of people – well, that is the price of success. 10,000+ people went to this thing over the 4 days.

10,000+ people.

Oddly, in spite of my misanthropic nature I was surprisingly relaxed about all this, once I had a beer in my hand

Writing of which…to the beer…300+ beers (and ciders), in a 52-page guide.

2014 Velodrome Itinerary
2014 Velodrome Itinerary

Entry prices varied throughout the festival depending on the session (£1-£3 roughly), discounts available and how late you could turn up thinking there would be a full selection of beer on a Saturday afternoon while Citeh were playing at home after a previous 3 full days.

Glasses were £2.50 (returnable deposit) dropped to £2 on the Saturday for ease of change more than anything.

The programme was £1, which appeared to go to Henshaws – a charity for the blind.

The beers were available in 1/2s and pints (and also 1/3s which I entirely forgot about until my 4th half, I blame stress) and were priced, depending on volume ordered of course, anything up to £3 a pint for super strong beers – I didn’t make it over to the foreign beers or the bottles sections.

In alphabetical order…

Allgates Brewery was actually my first start drink too as it was the Sloe Stout at 7.1%. Now I’ve said that there other strong stout (Mad Monk, 7.2%) made me fall asleep and when you drink it you know you’re tasting something that is stronger than a regular drink, so you are warned. Sloe stout on the other hand is a more subtle affair. More soft and smooth than its bastard sibling, which it probably due to the Sloe berries themselves.

Bradfied Brewery had got a 4.9% Farmers Belgian Blue which was indeed bluey-purple in colour which came through in the head of the pint. Very fruity and with a lasting sweetness.

Brentwood Brewing provided a Chocwork Orange (6.5%) which tasted of neither orange nor chocolate, but this wasn’t a bad thing, you knew you were drinking an Old Ale and I like the taste of those, just I’d like to see how they would offset the other alleged flavours.

Green Jack Brewery
was next with an Orange Wheat Beer (4.2%), which was orangey, but not in the least bit like I’d expect a wheat beer to taste like. Fine for me, but another one that doesn’t do what it says on the pump clip.

Hopback Brewery had a 4.2% golden ale called Taiphoon in which you could really get the lemongrass flavourings – a nice session ale.

At about ten minutes to 1800 hours it was announced over a very poor PA system that there was going to be a Meet the Brewer session with the head of Hawkshead Brewery so ambling over to the brewery bar, I was stopped on numerous occasions by a lot of worried looking grey-haired men enquiring if “I want to meet a brewer?”, “did I have an interest in beer?” and “was I hear to meet the brewer?”

A small crowd of about 20 then watched as Alex Brodie took us through the finer points of hops (and a not so subtle dig at big brewing behemoths not realising the ground swell of young brewers and new micro breweries). Now I’ve sniffed many a bag of pungent smelling dried plant products in my time, but never surround by 1000 people. And so it came to pass that I ended up with very yellow hands as I crushed Goldings, Bramling Cross, Fuggles, Amarillo and Citra hops between my palms, dropping the husks in a bucket and inhaling the aromas.

I would post a picture of my yellow, 20-cigs-a-day-look-a-like hands but I don’t wish for the NSA and GCHQ to get my fingerprints. Suffice to say it was good fun and there were lots of these other sessions on around the festival, which was new to me at this event so this is a big positive.

Offbeat Brewery and Otherton Ales (blog page) had done a collaboration on the Zany Smoky Winter Wit (4.0%) and very nice it was too with fruity overtones and the smoke very subtle in the after taste.

Okells Ales had two beers I sampled; Jiarg (4.7%), which I’m sure I’ve had before but was a very good red ale and Aile which was an excellent smoked porter, which to me had a Stilton like taste. I love Stilton, so does one of my cats. I’m leaning to this being my favourite of the festival.

Red Willow Brewery had provided the Faithless XXX. A 5.0% stout with beetroot. Now sometime last March or so I tried the Faithless 26 or 27 (I can’t remember) which I think may have been the first attempt with beetroot. That was purple and earthy and full and I proclaimed (and still do) that it was in my Top Stouts of all time. Faithless XXX, while being a very good stout, was neither purpley nor earthy and hence a bit of a disappointment. But that shouldn’t be a negative, just how much I loved the original (?) version – add more beets next time please.

To break up my long prose, allow me to put in this rather topical picture, which in no way reflects my feeling towards the next brewery, but apparently, as of writing this, some of their (former) employees clearly don’t agree and I suppose you can understand – I just think its funny and also my favourite swear word…

Thwaites?
Thwaites?

365 days I’d waited for the next drink. Thwaites had won awards for this beer in 2013 and I was hopeful of getting it at last years do. It had sold out. Yet my twitter feed kept cropping up full of people who’d tried it. I searched. I searched in vain. I had to wait. I then had to worry because it wasn’t in the exact place I thought it would be on Bar 3 this year, but there it was Fallen Nun all 7.4% of it and boy was it a good. Strong, full-bodied and complex drink. The guide called it a Barley Wine, and a Black IPA. Either way I enjoyed it.

Tiny Rebel Brewing Company has been tempting me with their beers for a good 8 months now and I got hold of a Dirty Stop Out (5.0%) which as another excellent porter with smoky tastes and smells, easily in my Top 3 of this year.

I’ll treat you to another photo now, and this is from the Saturday, during a small break (because it was fucking mayhem) I managed to get hold of the Gold Award Winner which was the 5.0% Cumbrian Five Hop by the aforementioned Hawkshead Brewery.

Cumbrian Five Hop
Cumbrian Five Hop

Even got it for free, what a lovely and unexpected treat. Now if you read my thoughts often enough (you’re a masochist) you may be aware that I’m not a fan of massively hoppy beers, but my fears were allayed upon my first smell and taste. A most excellent golden ale, which belies its strength in what would be a quality session ale.

Ilkley Brewery had their own bar, from which I got their Fireside Porter. A lovely, fruity and spicy 4.2% winter warmer if ever there was one.

Wilson Potter Brewery had produced Rock It Fuel (4.1%) which was a great amber ale with a very light ginger twang.

The last beer I got to consume was on the Saturday and it was the 5.0% Oat Mill Stout from Bollington Brewing and it was a stout that went straight into my Top 3 for the festival. Rich and full, sweet and bitter. Wonderful.

Oh, I forgot about the food. It filled a hole – there were pies (big canteen ones, not individual) and burgers, a Mexican Buffet and a Cheese bar oddly. Nothing ground breaking or homely but filled a hole, but my one gripe is that the layout of the food area was confusing, and too close to the stairs where the major foot fall was.

So that is my review of the beers at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2014.

Part 2 to follow shortly.

In the meantime, I’m off to sniff some more plastic bags full of dried plant products.

Think Bike?
Drink Bike.

Beer Festivals 2013 – A Debrief

I started this blog at the back end of May this year (2013) and consequently I missed out on reviewing quite a few beer festivals.

I’m not going to do that now, I’m just going to look back fondly on them.

Beer Festivals 2013

The joys of attending beer festivals is you are never going to be short of etched glasses, or for that matter beer programmes (or t-shirts if you are that way inclined).

A quick roll call for the above photo, much like a sports team’s yearly squad photo is:

Front Row (l-r): Wigan CAMRA Festival, Salford Summer Beer Festival, Manchester Winter Ales (sharp eyes may spot the glass is from 2012 but I went in 2013, no idea where the glasses went)

Back Row (l-r): IndyMan Beer Con, Bolton Beer Festival, Marble 125th Birthday Festival, Boothstown British Legion Festival, Love Beer in Chorlton, MOSI Beer Festival, Bolton CAMRA Festival, Bent & Bongs and the Leeds Beer Festival.

This doesn’t include the ones that either didn’t do their own glasses or had run out, such as Allgates Festival/Pub crawl and the Scrumdown Festival.

The Wigan CAMRA was new to me but has been going years, Salford Summer was an inaugural event and the Winter Ales festival I’ve been to a few times, but I believe the ‘winter ales’ side has located to Derby for a while and so the new incarnation for the upcoming Manchester festival will be the one at the velodrome.

I don’t suppose the Marble Arch will have another one for at least another 25 years.

IndyMany is in its 2nd year (as is the Leeds one, though it was my first time attending that), Bolton CAMRA has been going a while as has the other Bolton one and they are nicely spaced at different times of the year and different ends of the town.

MOSI is in its third year, with a maybe permanent change of late summer from its original early summer dates.

Allgates did its first two Festivals/Pub Crawls this year (as far as I’m aware) and I can see that being quite the regular event, for which I will get their provided transport for.

Love Beer was also an inaugural event (I always seem to miss the other Chorlton Beer Festival), Boothstown is in its 2nd year, Scrumdown is in its 6th and Bent and Bongs will celebrate its 25th birthday in 2014.

These all take place in a myriad of different locations, some very (too?) well attended some not so much, some easy to get too, some worthy of a trek.

But there are now quite a few new ones popping up everywhere and this blog will endeavour to travel even further afield to sample beers and the atmospheres.

This kind of begins with my trip to Sydney (Australia) in February, so if anyone reading this can recommend so good brew pubs or beers to try when I’m over there please comment.

Here is to 2014, long may we be kept in beer.

Love Beer Festival 2013 (Chorlton, Manchester)

A review for the Love Beer Festival in Chorlton which is still on as I type.

Event takes place between 29 November – 1st December 2013.

Its clearly sign-posted from the Metrolink tram stop and should take you 5 minutes of your walking time, if you can resist going into Oddest before hand.

Love Beer Festival Itinerary
Love Beer Festival Itinerary

So you’ve got your glass, booklet and entry for £5, seems the glass was for a beer festival the Cricket Club held but I don’t know, nor do I really care.

Tokens are £5 a sheet, crossed off by the lovely people serving you; measure are pints and halves and also bottles (which I never got to).

This is Chorlton:

Chorlton
Chorlton

Chorlton is a happiness Dragon, he brought happiness to Wheelie World.

This is a review for the Love Beer Festival, which brought happiness to my cold, dead heart and freezing cold hands.

There was entertainment in the form of a male singing artist whose name I didn’t get and Adorah Johnson, both in fine voice with a good selection of own and cover material.

Food was provided by Streatza Pizza (wood baked pizza), VW Lullabelles (cakes by the camper van full) and Fire and Salt BBQ, who I procured a Pulled Pork sandwich with some BBQ beans. I was warned that on top of the chipolte they had added some Scotch Bonnets to the beans. I have Naga chillies in my house (and toilet paper in the freezer) so was not phased by any heat, but it was all very good for £7.

Upon entry I was told I was due a free (being an early attendee) half pint of Shindigger Pacific Pale Ale (4.5%) brewed by two fresh faced chaps who told me this was only the second batch they’d produced and a jolly good ale it was too, so ones to look out for.

Also new on the scene to me is Geipel Brewing. The beers are brewed in Gellioedd, North Wales care of mountain water direct from a bore-hole, head office is in Didsbury and the bloke behind it is from Ohio. I tried both the Zoigl (5.4%) a strong, malty amber ale and the Hefeweizen (5.6%) which was a damn fine wheat beer.

Before all this and while getting my first drink I was reliably informed by the staff that there were a couple of drinks not available, due to explosions, but there were still a vast array of beers to choose from, laid out in alphabetical order, showing the price per 1/2 and pint.  The staff had wrapped up warm in the main tent – a gazebo with the casks/kegs in a plethora of straw on the floor and hay bales to sit on (with the performers on one side).  Roomy it was, and quite cold, there was a bottle bars (Belgian and American brews) and and little bar selling First Chop Brewing Arm on keg that were inside and naturally these were fuller.

I had tweeted that this event had put the festival in beer festival; with its multiple tents and straw and wellie-wearing, triple layered, hoodie-adorned staff and punters, that was just my first impression.  A feeling of love and warmth (not from the weather) that you get when everyone is there all for the same thing (only with decent toilet facilities).  Sometimes you just can’t bank on the weather.  Right festival, wrong time of year?  That isn’t a negative, this was a very well organised festival and a glorious way to while away a few hours on a wet, dank and dark November evening.

The beers, in no order:

Black Jack Brewery have been a constant presence in my pub/festival life this year and Love Beer was no exception, there were two in the booklet of theirs that I had not tried.  Sadly the Pumpkin Saison was not there (this might have been one of the exploded ones).  But there was the Cluster (5.2%) – a good, robust IPA.

I tried the Engine Vein (4.2%) from the Cheshire Brew House and it was a satisfying best bitter.

I’ll now admit that every beer I’ve had from First Chop Brewing Arm (granted, yes, all in bottles; AVA, DOC, TEA) have never been to my tastes, too much hop for me, but I’m not one to write-off brewers based on bottled beers as there was a chance to try them from the barrel and there was a Black IPA in the form of SYL (6.2%) I jumped at the chance to try some.  It appears First Chop beers have a signature hoppiness to them, but I very much enjoyed this, and as there is the DUB and the JAC doing the rounds locally in Chorlton at the moment I figure if I get chance I’ll give them a go to.

Hornbeam had brought along the White Swan (4.6%) a lavender white beer which was excellent and I’d had previously before, somewhat ironically in Oddest, so I went for their Ginger Domination (5.5%) which was darker in coloured than I expected and I for one couldn’t taste the ginger (but this was after the chilli beans), but I’m not going to split hairs over what subtle tastes I can and can’t perceive, my palate isn’t that sensitive, but this was a good, dark ale either way.

Rapture (4.6%) by Magic Rock was very good.  A red beer that was very much in agreement with me.

All (most) of the Privateer beers were there as they were one of the official partners.  I’ve had them all and I’ve enjoyed them all, so I just thought I’d mentioned them in passing.

From Quantum Brewery I had the Elephant Hawk (6.2%) IPA, which certainly was a beast when it came to the hops (triple hopped) and it tasted somewhat thick, make of that what you will, not for me, but more to my tastes was the Lapsang Souchong Saison (6.4%) which was a beautifully crafted drink with the hint of the added tea. Great stuff.

Tatton Brewery had provided the Tatton Yeti (4.5%) a lovely winter ale, reminding me that as much as I dislike Xmas, tis the season for great beers, of which this was one.

Red Willow and BrewFirst (the Italians) had a collaboration on, no name, despite me pestering Red Willow’s Toby McKenzine on twitter about it (apologises for that) I think it was in the ball park of 6% and it was a very good lager-esque brew that I felt quite privileged to be drinking considering it wasn’t released yet.  Jump on it if you go.

Allgates, ah Allgates and their Mad Monk (7.1%) – I’ve actually had this in fudge form too which I got from the White Lion in Leigh sometime at the start of 2013.  This is a beast of an imperial stout, against my better judgement when I first had it, I got a pint and consequently fell asleep in the pub.  You know the kind of drunken snoozes where pub life continues to happen all around you and you realise you were asleep so try and listen in to a nearby conversation and chip in to make it seem like you were just ‘resting your eyes’.  Apparently chipping in with, or rather shouting “Dimitar Berbatov” only confirms everyone’s suspicions that you were asleep.  Find this and drink wisely.

Finally there were two beers from Brightside Brewing Co in the form of Spice (5.2%), a proper winter ale that warms the cockles and if I may be so crude, colours the burps so you can enjoy the many flavours a second time.  The Inn Crowd (3.8%) an excellent mild and possibly my favourite of the Love Beer Festival.

The festival is still on, so get down and pack the place out as the people involved in it are clearly in love with what they are trying to do.

Thanks to all the staff, food suppliers, venue people, artists and organisers.  Hopefully this can be a regular occurrence.

Peace and Love.

Indy Man Beer Con IMBC 2013

This event took place over the 10th – 13th October 2013.

I attended the ‘late’ session on the Friday.

Entry was £11 – bought some 7 months in advance.

The Indy Man Beer Con or IMBC or Independent Manchester Beer Convention (beer the only word not abbreviated) is now 2 years old. Held at Victoria Baths, this was my second time attending – only do one session per year, cost being most prevailing.

This is from last year, this became Room 1 in 2013 as I’m pretty sure their were only the 3 rooms last year, as I don’t recall a ‘Room 3’ (room with live music) being there last year.

IMCB 2012
IMCB 2012

Maybe it was – but the fact is when you get to Victoria Baths you can’t help but walk around and then sit down and admire the place.

Not just the building and the renovation, but the actual effort gone into hosting the event itself.

IMBC 2012 Later On
IMBC 2012 Later On

Why am I posting 2012 pictures with no comparison to this years event?

Because my pictures are crap and can not do this place justice.

To be honest, the place seemed quieter this year – I base this on two rather big things :

1) Very little waiting time to use the loo.

2) Very little waiting time to get some food.

Whether this was a facet of more rooms or more days, or less people per session I don’t know. It isn’t really important.

Ah yes, the food – as much a part of IMBC as the alcohol itself.  Street food if wish to call it by its current trendy incarnation, overly expensive certainly, but nothing can be faulted in this place as regards being a most welcome change to burgers and chips.

Even if the pretentiousness of the occasion is always in your face, I suppose it is trying to find a niche in amongst a plethora of self-conscious, self-regarding dandies that currently pass for youth these days. But the clientele that make up the current ‘craft’ beer ‘revolution’ is a massive subject I’m currently lazing over.

This review is about the food, the beer, the event.

I had the Great Northern Pie Co. Ox cheek pie (with a lot more ingredients inside) with potato gravy (blitzed mash) and pea vinegar.  You have to taste it because I can’t explain it, it just worked.

The Moocher also busted out some kind of chilli rabbit wrap. The cold salad off setting the wonderful and nicely spiced meat.

So much on offer, so little time, so little room in the digestive tract – this counts double for the beer.

To digress a while more – what really does set the festival apart from the rest is the chance to go to one of the events, tasting with brewers themselves, meeting them, debating with others. I went to the Sour Seminar hosted by the Lovibonds one man army that is Jeff Rosenmeier.

My review of that event and Sour Beers (Henley Gold (not sour), Sour Grapes, Magic Rock Dark Arts) in general can be found here

IMBC 2013 - The Pencil
IMBC 2013 – The Pencil

Look, you get a pencil on entry – a writing implement is always very important.

The glass is for 1/3 only – the beer to be honest is expensive for some on the things considering you only get 1/3, but square it with how often you are likely to get to drink it anywhere else.

Thornbridge Brewery had brought along a very, very good Barrel Aged Beadeca’s Well (5.3%). Rich and smoky.

I too also fell foul of the Quantum Brewery Imperial Treacle Stout (8.6%). There appears to be a lot of treacle stout around at the moment. Its a flavour that works well any dark brew and this was no exception. The taste and feel belies the strength of the drink.

Marble Brewery had brought along their 125 Barley Wine (10.7%). Sweet and delicious, this was a nice birthday treat for the Marble Arch’s 125th birthday this year.

Northern Monk Brewery Co. had collaborated with Allgates to produce the 8.2% (though curiously advertised as 9.7%) Northern Gates.  This tasted every bit as strong as it was, but in that good way that makes you drink it slower and appreciate the depths of its flavours more.

Italian beers were represented in my tasting by Birra Del Borgo and their Genziana (6.2%) and ReAle (6.4%) – both were sweet, with the former tasting of apples but the later had the more rounded flavours for my palate.

Also from Italy was Ambrosia (4.5%) by Toccalmatto – Italians must like their beers sweet, this was very nice, very similar to a white beer.

Arbour Ales seemed to have created a bit of a fuss with their Breakfast Stout (7.4%), even the bar staff kept raving on about it.  Oats, coffee, full and wholesome.  Someone remarked it was a meal in a glass, and even at a 1/3 it was most filling and satisfying.

Liverpool Craft Beer Co. treated my to a taste of their Black Fox (6.5%). This was a very good beer, but sadly this feel foul of the keg cold syndrome that I feel can negate a dark beer’s characteristics more than it does for the lighter ones. Something to find on cask to enjoy fully I feel.

This brings me to my two favourite beers of the night.

Black Jack Brewery and their Blackberry King of Clubs (7.2%) – and if ever I could lovingly punch someone for making such a nice beer so strong it would be this one. Indeed a King of brews.

Wild Beer Co. and their offering of Ninkasi (9%) my also await the same fate as the brewers of Black Jack. This was too smooth, too drinkable, too fucking dangerous.

I leave IMBC always with a sense of never having tried enough.  Not enough food, not enough beer, not enough of the venue, not enough of the chatter.

This place really does beg you to go for more than one session.

And that was IMBC – a place that is trying to be a different beer festival, and in many, many obvious ways it is.  But in many, many ways it is also the same and this is to do with how people are when they get together with like-minded people and share a massive common bond. Generations may separate the drinking cultures of Britain, but the goal is roughly the same.

Like Kirk and Picard.

Thanks to all involve in the set-up, bar service, food service, talks, etc.

Same time next year, for more than one session.

Bolton Beer Festival 2013

This event took place between 9th – 12th October 2013.

I went on the Thursday (10th) – the first of my ‘3 different beer festivals over 3 days’ quest. The Preamble can be found here.

It takes place on Bolton Rugby Club and raises funds for Bolton Lads & Girls Club.

Tokens were in sheets of £6 or £12, getting you 10 or 20 tokens respectively.  Individual tokens could also be purchased for those irritating little left overs.

It was £5 entry, which got you a nice glass and a very plush booklet, even featuring a description of difference beer types and a ‘How to taste beer section’.

The was a huge range of cask beers, along with draught and bottle beers from around the world.

The beers were organised in alphabetical order and also numbered, which helps both customer and server from any confusion over beer and brewery names.

The tokens are crossed out with markers, the measures were 1/2 and pint – though there was no actual 1/2 marker, which leads to so very generous servings, especially if some of the staff look like they are actual punters who’ve leapt over the bar to lend a hand.

The food is virtually non existent, the toilets are porta-cabins, the place itself is a massive tent, heated by things that look like they’ve fallen off something Tom Cruise would fly in a massively gay 80’s movie.

Beers in alphabetical order, of which many were local and a great many were Scottish:

Bank Top Brewery brought along a Sweeney’s (3.8%) which had the smell of brackish water but tasted perfectly fine for a standard bitter.

Blackedge Brewing Company had provided a new one of theirs to me, the Dark Rum (4.6%) a heavy stout, full of malts and liquorice flavour, but I didn’t detect any rum. Good stout either way.

This was in contrast to the Darkside Stout (4.6%) by Brightside Brewing which was your light kind of stout, almost like flat pop, with coffee and chocolate tastes. My kind of dark drink really.

Brewed Awakening (4.7%) by Cromarty Brewery was a massively coffee stout and I mean massive coffee.  The most coffeeiest stout I’ve ever had. Rather nice.

Harviestoun Brewery had brought a ‘craft beer’ called Schiehallion (4.8%) which had good, light hop flavour and was almost lager like.

Orkney Blast (6.0%) from Highland Brewing Co was a big drink, hopey and fruity, you knew what you were drinking was above average abv.

Slainte (4.3%) by Houston Brewery was my last drink of the night, and a nice simple ale to end the night.

Isle of Skye Brewery had brought along their ‘Supreme champion beer of Scotland’ in Cuillin Beast (4.7%) and a very good, smooth drink it was too.

When the number system pays off was with a Caer Edin Dark Ale (4.2%) the type font of the booklet made it even harder to read, by Kinneil Brew House which my notes say was ‘typcially celtic’. This is a positive term, even if it did smell odd.

A fine bit of strategy and the power of twitter came into its marketing own next. As I’d tweeted that I was at the Bolton Beer Bash, I picked up a follower Matt Holmes from Ramsbottom Craft Brewery, which basically made my mind up to chose, out of a list of 209 cask beers for the Chocolate Porter (4.4%). To be fair I would have gotten to it eventually solely based on the name, but this spurred me on more so and boy was it a good brew. Sweet, chocolatey – everything you’d want if you were a porter fan, even if you aren’t too keen on the chocolate flavour.

Spey Stout (5.4%) from Spey Valley was a toffee smelling but nicely bitter, lighter stout.

From Windswept Brewing Co was The Boy Who Cried Wolf (4.6%) a nice, fairly strong bitter.

And finally from XT Brewing Company came the XT13 Pacific Red (4.5%) which was actually my first beer of the night, but the closest barrel to the ticket stand. A red ale that my notes simply describe as “Good”.

Thanks to all the servers and organisers.