Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Sour Valentine

Valentine’s Day has always been a bit of a quandary for me. It is, of course, manufactured and tacky as hell; the sight of a pink plush heart confuses me no end. However, I’m of the school of thought that you should seize any and every excuse for a celebration, whether it be a monthly anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or just a Thursday evening. In light of this, in addition to buying us a new board game (Catopoly, anyone?!) and booking us on a Haunted Underground Manchester Experience with the rather marvellous Mr Flecky Bennett - which would I highly recommend, by the way -, I thought that I should take this opportunity to buy a few bottles of beautiful sours. Happy Valentine’s Day to my palate, I love ya baby!

Following an afternoon meeting in the Northern Quarter, I had half an hour to kill before my bar shift started, so I rushed into the Beermoth on Tib Street and began frantically scanning through the shelves. Luckily, one of the chaps who runs the place kindly took pity on my slightly flustered demeanour, and helped me find what I was looking for. It was a hard choice, but I finally settled on three bottles: one I knew far too well, and two I had never tried before.

First up was an old favourite: Cantillon Kriek (5%).We all know this one. It’s not my absolute top beer from the Cantillon brewery – that would be the Rosé de Gambrinus, one of my favourite beers of all time -, but it’s still pretty ruddy excellent. Big sour cherries, a good straightforward kriek. You should be drinking glasses of this in a beer garden on a summer’s day. Idyllic.

Kriek De Ranke and the board game Catopoly

The next bottle was from De Ranke, a brewery which is new to me. De Ranke Kriek (7%) was, if you’ll excuse my language, fucking glorious. A side note: if you have an issue with swearing, you’d better not bother spending any time with me; my speech patterns frequently elicit the comment “you swear a lot for a posh girl”. First off, I’m really not that posh, and second of all, bugger off. Anyway, this little beast was tart, dry, and funky as anything, with a big cherry hit. The Mr found it far too sour and mouth-puckering. A glorious recommendation from the Beermoth, thank you, chaps!

The last beer I tried from this particular haul was the Against The Grain Chris Framboise (7.5%), a bretty raspberry saison. I know that some people online haven’t particularly rated this beer, but I thought it was genuinely very good. It took a little while to grow on me, but once I’d got my head around it, I realised that the fact that this beer is so laid back and subtle is part of its joy. It’s really mellow, but there’s a lot going on: fruit and funk, intermingled in a way that’s like having the perfect lie-in on a Sunday morning. It soothes your soul. Don’t try and drink this in a pub, or after strongly flavoured beers or food. It deserves quiet, dedicated, attention.

Against The Grain All Funked Up Chris Framboise

So, we’ve had the familiar old standard which you know can do it for you, the new and exciting yet almost too extreme character, and the subtle individual who, once you commit, is highly rewarding… Sounds like a list of my past boyfriends! I can’t wait to get back to the Cantillon brewery at some point this year, and drink some Lou Pepe, or Fou’ Foune. Dear gods, I do just adore sour fruity beer. If it’s not something you’ve explored in great depth thus far, let this be your year. Your face deserves it.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

A little while ago, as part of a team building exercise, I had occasion to come up with a name, and write a bottle schpiel, for a pretend beer. Only the style and the extra ingredients – all randomly selected – were given. My style was porter, and the extra ingredients were rosemary, and Earl Grey tea. I rather enjoyed this little exercise, and thought I’d post my effort up here, unedited, for a laugh. Bear in mind, we didn’t have too long to work on these, and they were designed to be read aloud to the group. I named the beer ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘, and here is the label blurb:

“Porter: a working man’s beer. On the edge of the grounds of a stately home, concealed in the woods, one such working man – a grounds keeper – brewed his beer with the rosemary from his herb garden, and the Earl Grey tea favoured by his lover. How can this delicate, fragrant tea work with the dark, earthy, herbal beer? It’s a clash of cultures, the rough with the refined, a clandestine love affair which should never have been… But once sampled, this six percent romp is a secret you won’t be able to keep.”

Deliberately pretentious? Why, my dear chap, I haven’t the foggiest what you mean… ;)

Booths

As one of these Southern types from that London, I’d never encountered the Northern supermarket chain Booths before the start of this year, although various mutterings had made me aware of this magical realm of charcuterie and infused olive oil. When I heard that they had a decent beer selection, I put it on the To-Do list, and as luck would have it, it turned out that they had a branch in Media City. After a lunch date there one afternoon, I nipped into the shop to have a scout around, and was very impressed. Their range of beers is undoubtedly the best I’ve seen outside of a specialist off-licence.

Wainwrights bottles with a recommendation card

As well as a solid range of standard ales, they have a sizeable selection of bottles from local breweries, which is always wonderful to see. They also have a number of continental stalwarts, and even a few bottles from America, Mexico, and New Zealand. Dotted throughout the shelves are little note cards highlighting certain beers as picked out by a member of staff, with a handwritten description of why he likes the beer. This personal touch makes it feel less like a supermarket and more like a proper beer shop. That Booths care deeply about beer is quite obvious. Hawkshead brew their own-label beers, such as Booths 1847 Winter Ale (6%), a red ale with festive spices, and Festival Ale, brewed for their yearly beer festival.

Browsing the shelves, I picked out a few treats:
Duvel Tripel Hop 2013 (9.5%) – I’m not sure how well the Sorachi Ace worked in this one.
Celt Experience Bleddyn (5.6%) – an excellent beer full of fruit and bitterness.
Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime (5%) – dry and roasty, nicely understated.
Hawkshead/Booths 1847 Winter Ale (6%) – I’m not keen on one of the spices, but it’s solid.
Thornbridge Halcyon (7.4%) – huge tropical gloriousness.
Ilkley Pale (4.2%) – fresh, clean, easy drinking.
Cerveza Mexicali Red Pig Mexican Ale (5.6%) – just malty, really.
Monteith’s Original Ale (4%) – pretty uninspiring.
Steven’s Point Brewery Point IPA (5.6%) – The hops have basically disappeared in this one.

Steven's Point IPA, Red Pig Ale, Monteiths Original Ale, Booths/Hawkshead 1847, and Duvel 2013 Tripel Hop

Aside from the fact that the hops in the beers from further afield seem to have gone walkies, it’s a great range, and very reasonably priced. I do like Booths, and while, of course, I do prefer to support independent beer shops, I’ll certainly pop in and stock up if I’m in the area. As well as all of the beer, they also have an excellent cheese counter, where you can buy a wedge of something special to go with your beer. Kit Calvert Wensleydale with a fruity pale ale, anyone?