Hello beeries! This blog has been awfully neglected lately; life has been mad. I always admire those dedicated bloggers who can sit down after a hectic day and write a fantastic post, it’s a skill that I am unlikely to ever acquire. We can but try, and so here’s a brief update on what’s been going on in the life of Molyneux…
Well, IndyMan was absolutely killer, and I did mean to blog about it, I swear, but so many talented folk comprehensively covered it that I felt less bad about not writing anything. That, and the fact that we had moved flat literally about five days beforehand, killed that potential post. Papa Mol and the superb Suzy came up for the Friday afternoon session and crashed in my living room, which added to the mayhem! On Saturday morning, Suzy disappeared bright and early to go and work at another beer festival (superwoman? I think so!), and Papa Mol and I whizzed around to a few breweries to pick up some beer for him to take back down to The Hope in Carshalton & The Trafalgar in South Wimbledon. Keykegs, casks, e-kegs and doliums from Runaway, Quantum, Indy Man Brew House, Shindigger, and Squawk all made their way down to London, and I returned to the comfort of my sofa to nurse an well-deserved hangover… Beer of the festival? Can’t pick just one. Arbor’s two year old Goo Goo G’joob impy stout was a thing of beauty, Against The Grain’s Citra Ass Down was exactly the juicy, sticky American IPA that I adore, and Wild Beer Co & Toccalmatto’s Indigo Child was a delightfully sippable sour of some substance!
IndyMan wasn’t the only Mancunian indie of October, with the Independent Salford Beer Festival following a couple of weeks later. Organised by Jim of Beers Manchester, this small but perfectly formed fest was put on to raise money for St Sebastian’s Community Centre in Salford, and I must say, I haven’t seen a cask list that impressive for a very long time. I was back behind the bar pulling cask beer for the first time in yonks (after a year of keg at BrewDog!) and I loved every minute of it. Beer, vibe, attendees and my fellow volunteers: all great. Beer of the festival? Hands down, it had to be Five Towns’ Raven King. Dark, full of coffee, and compulsive. Well done to Jim for putting together such an amazing festival for a good cause, and I’ll definitely be back behind the bar next year.
Another highlight of October was the chance to visit Marble, one of my favourite breweries, where I got to try Earl Grey IPA fresh from the tank! Blissful, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for a proper write-up of that one.
The thing that’s been keeping me so busy throughout November, though, is my new job! As Twitter folks may know, I’m now working at Chorlton Brewing Company, primarily looking after sales stuff, but also working on other projects and helping out with bits and bobs around the brewery… I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be doing rather a lot of bottling!! I even have my very own brewing wellies, which, having steel toe caps, are actually rather more robust than my DMs. Finding them in a size 4 was not as straightforward as it might have been.
So my dears, keep an eye on Chorlton Brewing Company. We are specialising in sour beer (happy Molyneux!) and our first, Amarillo Sour, will be out just before Christmas. Updates soon… x
I was too excited not to say a few quick words today: I simply cannot wait to be at the Independent Salford Beer Festival (24th-25th October) this evening! For one night only I’ll be back behind the bar, serving the good people of Manchester great cask beer from either side of the Pennines, and it’s all to raise money for St Sebastian’s Community Centre. Jim (of BeersManchester fame) has put together a rather exciting beer list, including the one and only cask of Five-Oh Brew Co’s Sorachi Ace Stout (6.5%)! Tonight and Saturday arvo are sold out(!), but there are still a few Saturday evening tickets left. See you there; it’ll be a blast. Don’t forget to say hi if you spot me on the bar!
I like to keep my ear to the ground, especially with regards to new local breweries, and a little while ago I discovered Chorlton Brewing Company via Twitter. They’re still in the process of starting up and going commercial, but I liked their vibe: “Fresh pale ale, roasty porter and wild fermented Lambic-style offerings”. Well, we all know I’m a sucker for a sour, so I decided to keep an eye on them.
Recently Mike, the brewer, decided to give us a sneak peak at some of the beers he’s been developing, and I was lucky enough to sample a couple of prototype brews. These beers are still a work in progress, but, with Mike’s permission, I thought I’d give you lot a little preview of what sort of malarkey you have to look forward to when Chorlton Brewing Co are up and running!
Dirty Porter – Prototype 1 (6.2%)
The ‘dirtiness’ in this porter comes from peat-smoked malt. It’s got a prominent coffee and chocolate profile, accompanied by a sweetness which, if I hadn’t been aware of the style beforehand, might have led me to guess that this was a milk stout. The mouth feel is smooth, if a little lacking in body. The peated character becomes a tad more noticeable as the beer warms, and it lingers a little at the end, but, as Mike noted in the newsletter he circulated with the bottles, it could do with having a bit more ‘oomph’. For a first prototype, this is an enjoyable drop, and with a few tweaks (carbonation issues, more peat and a tad more body), this will be a very good and interesting beer. I’m looking forward to trying the next version.
Sandalwood IPA – Prototype 2 (7.4%)
Straight away, this beer has a huge, aromatic, fresh nose, with notes of mango and pineapple. There is another, almost spiced, sweet scent present, which I assume is the sandalwood. In the mouth it’s juicy and effervescent, with a little resin. The main juicy hit dissipates quickly, leaving a subtle sandalwood which continues into the after taste along with a pleasant bitterness. The mouth feel is slightly oily, but in a good way. The sandalwood is understated, but it works well with the tropical fruit character, really amping up the pineapple notes. Once again, there are carbonation issues due to current equipment limitations, but those are in the process of being sorted. I personally would prefer a little bit more body – otherwise it’s just too easy to throw back like fruit juice, and that’s a dangerous game at 7.4%! Over all, it’s a bloody nice beer, and one I’ll happily recommend to hop-fiend friends once the brewery is up and running.
Thanks to Mike for letting me sample the prototypes, and I hope we’ll be able to get our grubby paws on Chorlton Brewing Company beer in pubs and shops soon. Cheers!
Edit 08/12/14 – At the start of November I began working for Chorlton Brewing Company. When I tried these beers I had no idea that this would happen, but I’m delighted that it did!
Cheers, chaps! You can get your mucky paws on a pint of ShinDigger at the Love Beer Fest at Dulcimer Bar in Chorlton over the Easter weekend (17th-21st April), or send the guys a tweet over at @ShinDiggerCraft. They also have a Facebook page, you know, if you still use that sort of thing, and a website where you can keep up with their blog.
Damn right. I found it dangerously quaffable, though like Steph I prefer my big IPAs to be slightly more bitter. We’re jaded IBU fiends, though. My decidedly non-beer geek partner also liked it, describing the taste as ‘undiluted orange squash’..! I’d like to try this in a bottle, but I think most of them have been snapped up by now. Never mind – there’ll be some more next year! All in all, a very tasty beer, and a great sense of camaraderie surrounding it.
You can check out more photos from the night over at Steph’s blog. Of course, while we were savouring our first sips of this year’s Un-Human Cannonball, those London types had already been drinking it for three hours. Steve from The Beer O’ Clock Show tells all here…
Once upon a time, I lived above a pub. Then I moved to Brixton, where the Craft Beer Co was five minutes from my front door. When I moved to Manchester last year, one of my main criteria for flat-hunting was the close proximity of good beer; luckily, I discovered Burton Road, and on it, Mary and Archie. The availability of craft beer on the Road soon became even better with the opening of Volta, from the people behind Chorlton’s Electrik, who always have a good little range of ales and lagers. Then, to my joy, The Epicurean landed.
I must say, I love a good beer shop. There’s just something about being surrounded by all of those varied bottles of delicious beer that makes me happy. Burton Roadites had previously been able to buy a few select bottles of decent ale from the wonderful Reserve Wines, but the Road had really been crying out for a craft beer shop. Enter Simon and Rob!
These two beer lovers have gone with an elegant, minimalist aesthetic for their shop front, embracing the scene’s move away from old-school design and towards something far more stylish. But don’t worry, lovers of rustic chic – they’ve got comforting wooden shelves and crates of German beer stacked around the place, striking a nice balance between tradition and sleek modernity. This balance is reflected in the beers they stock – you can pick up all of your old favourites, from Timothy Taylor’s Landlord to Paulaner, while also choosing from a range which would get the hearts of hop-fiend beer nerds racing. Founders Centennial in cans, limited bottles of Burning Sky‘s Saison a la Provision, or a Pacific Pale from new kids on the block ShinDigger, anyone? Brilliant British beer, local ale, hop forward Americana, German lager, Belgian beer, Welsh cider, sweet fruit-flavoured beer, homemade pies, salted caramel, cordials… There’s something here for every palate.
I’ve picked up a fair few beers from here in the last week, my favourites so far being Siren, Omnipollo and Lindqvist Nacken (6.4%) – read the story behind this beer here - and ShinDigger Pacific Pale Ale (4.5%), who I interviewed recently.
The day dawned bright and fair – well, it wasn’t raining, so it pretty much counted as a balmy summer’s day in Manchester – but the weather was of little concern to the cyclists, whizzing round like mad things inside the Velodrome. Now, I don’t know about the mentality of these super fit athletes, but when I’ve been exercising (the readers roar with laughter at the thought of me actually doing any exercise), my thoughts turn towards a nice, refreshing pale ale. If these poor cyclists are already fighting the urge for a pint after their training, it’s going to be a hell of a lot harder for them this week, as they are cycling round and round a beer festival. Which sadistic bastards thought that one up, eh?
Some rather efficient and dedicated sadistic bastards, that’s who. The National Winter Ales Festival has moved from the Sheridan Suite to, um, Derby, leaving a gap in our beery calendar. But no worries, cask-lovers of Manchester, our local CAMRA folk had already got it sorted, with a new festival featuring over 300 cask beers and 75 ciders and perries. When this came to my attention last year, I popped it in my diary straight away. I don’t generally get to drink as much cask beer as I’d like, so a CAMRA festival is always a pleasant change.
On Wednesday afternoon, I met my partner in crime for the day, BrewDog Mancs’ Becky, and we got the tram out to the Velodrome. This venue had already won points over the Sheridan Suite in my book – it had its own dedicated tram stop, which made everything so much easier than the long trek up Oldham Road/the wait for the inevitably packed out bus/shelling out for the cab ride of doom on the way home. Glasses were either pints with the MBCF design on, or half tankards with the National Winter Ales logo (why?). I generally prefer a tankard to a pint glass, especially in a beer festival environment, but, nerdy collector that I am, I do like to get this year’s glass – so the pint it was. Following the well signposted route, we made the trek through the tunnel to the beer floor. Down, down, into the mines of Moria, and up again into a veritable Lothlorien of beer. Don’t worry, that’s the last Tolkien reference you’ll read in this post, I promise* (*I promise nothing).
Wary of being flustered by the choice, I’d browsed the beer list online beforehand, and made a little list of what sounded appealing, bar by bar. Aren’t I organised? We started at the responsible end of the scale, with a third of Beartown Peach Melbear (4.4%), which was very perfumed, but pleasant. It was Becky’s first beer festival, and, being her aged and esteemed guide, I had sent her a text reminding her to get cash out beforehand – a trek to the cash machine at the nearby Asda was not something that particularly appealed – but in my preoccupation with beer money, I had forgotten one of the most important factors in beer fest preparedness: layers, layers, layers. Most beer festivals seem to have their own tropical microclimates once you’re in there, and the Velodrome was no exception. It was sweltering at the bars, and we found ourselves retreating regularly into the middle of the beer floor, where the temperature dropped to something resembling comfortable. The seating areas around the outside of the track were, of course, far cooler, but we couldn’t particularly be arsed wombling through the tunnels to get over there, especially while we were ploughing through low ABV thirds and frequently needed a top up. The next beer was Brightside Our Town (4%), a pale ale. I think I slightly prefer their Odin (3.8%), also pale, which I tried on cask the other day in Mary and Archie, but everything I’ve tried from them so far has been pretty good. They also have excellent branding – clean, modern and eye-catching, whilst somehow still seeming ‘classic’ in a way that I can’t quite define.
Wandering over to the Ilkley bar, a quick chat with one of the chaps there led to my first half of the day, Ilkley Forbidden Fruit (5%), a grapefruit pale ale using a new hop which is currently exclusive to Ilkley (#1391, for those who are interested). Forbidden Fruit was brewed with Melissa Cole, who has worked with the brewery before to create such beers as Siberia, a rhubarb saison, and Green Goddess, a green hop IPA. The first word that sprung to mind when I tasted this beer was ‘refreshing’. What with all of the big, sour beers that are so prominent at the moment, we were surprised at how restrained the grapefruit aspect was. But you know what? In that moment, parched by the heat of the Velodrome, Forbidden Fruit was the absolute perfect beer to throw back. I really don’t understand why people drink crap lager ‘because it’s refreshing and easy to drink’ when you could drink something like this, which fulfils those criteria but tastes nice as well..! We all know I love my sour beers, but sometimes you just need a good pale ale.
Next up was Waen Chilli Plum Porter (6.1%), which didn’t do it for me, as the chilli was pretty rough. I’m a bit of a chilli fiend – the Mr always rolls his eyes at me for adding hot sauce/jalapenos to my meals – but this particular chilli beer unfortunately didn’t quite work. Luckily, the rest of the afternoon featured, among others, such excellent beers as Marble Earl Grey IPA (6%) and Weird Beard Fade to Black (7.3%), both of which I’d somehow never tried before but had come highly recommended, and the glorious Hawkshead NZPA (6%). An old favourite, I love this beer in cask, and I must admit, once I got on it I was loathe to drink anything else! A number of these were sipped while hanging out with various beery human beings, honourable mentions going to the chaps from the other side of the hills (including Sam, Scott, David of Bier Huis, etc), the inimitable Max from Dulcimer (that scamp!), and of course, Jim of BeersManchester, (who has already been back to the festival and written TWO POSTS about it in the time it’s taken me to get round to writing one! Pro!) and the excellent @CJJazwinski who recommended us Coniston No 9 Barley Wine, which I didn’t get round to trying because I got distracted by the Coniston Infinity IPA (6%), which, the general consensus was, tasted about 4%. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Now, I haven’t been to a CAMRA festival for a while, but I really enjoyed it. Fancy, trendy festivals are great, but sometimes you just want cask beer, a plate of pie and mushy peas, and a vendor selling pub memorabilia. Becky and I both come from a cask background, our careers starting off in little, community pubs serving real ale, so it was a nice, nostalgic diversion from our city centre trendy ‘craft keg’ bar jobs. Not that there’s anything wrong with drinking cool beer in the city centre, but to me, there’s something a bit special about cask. The volunteers were absolutely lovely, as has generally been my experience, and almost everyone I dealt with was very personable, especially one of the chaps on Bar 1, who served us a few times but whose name I didn’t catch. The only slight issue I had with any of the volunteers was with a young woman who we found to be a little brash and unhelpful – but perhaps everyone else was being so nice that her way of interacting with people was a bit jarring. They were all working very hard, at any rate, and I hope they had fun doing it! I must volunteer at a beer festival some time soon; it’s on the to-do list. Sadly, there were the inevitable uncomfortable moments caused by random attendees. Nothing malicious, just cringy “we’ll have to put that tshirt on you, ooh, we’ll have to lube you up to do it” Kegbuster-esque bollocks, which were met with the standard look of disapproval and subsequent manoeuvres to avoid the offending party. To be fair, everyone around this particular offender looked embarrassed for him. There were a few little things along those lines, and, of course, that bloody awful t-shirt stand which shows up at every CAMRA festival. I like the Exorcist parody tshirt ‘the Excessist’. An ex bought that for me at a CAMRA festival when I was eighteen or nineteen, and I’ve only just thrown it away. What I’m not so keen on are the t-shirts ‘for women’. You know the ones – strappy/low-cut tops with terrible slogans written over the tit area. Other than the initial vague amusement at a bit of wordplay when they first hear the pun, I know very few women – or men – or anybody who doesn’t subscribe to a certain gender – who find them funny. Most, if not all, of the people I know would find them sad, and a bit offensive. We’re trying to move forward, kids, and get more people using our pubs – we don’t want to be alienating our audience, now, do we?
I know that some people had complaints about the distance between the beer floor and the seating area/food/loos, and, later in the week, queues and closing times. I think it’s important to remember that it’s a new festival, in a new venue, and there were always going to be teething issues. Overall, I’d say it was a great success. I am aware that I was experiencing the festival as a 23 year old able-bodied person, with less creaky knees than some of the other attendees, so, Mines of Moria jokes aside, the walk to the loos and the lack of seating on the beer floor didn’t really bother me. They put out seating on the beer floor the next day, in response to criticism, and anyone who seriously complains about queues for the men’s loos at a beer festival… Well, they clearly haven’t attended too many. I didn’t get to go to the Friday or Saturday sessions, as I was working, but I hear that they had far more attendees than expected. When 2500 unanticipated people turn up to drink your beer, you can’t be blamed for running out earlier than you thought you would! And, well, as someone who was working in a beer bar Saturday night, we got a lot of custom from the overspill, so it’s good for the community, right? It’s wonderful that Manchester has so many people wanting to drink beer, and it bodes well for next year’s festival. I was very happy with the choice of venue – watching athletes cycle as you drink adds an extra surreal magic to the proceedings – and I hope everyone involved has enjoyed a few well deserved pints. Cheers, kids, and see you next year!
On walking into the Marble Beerhouse a few weeks ago, my first impression was that it reminded me of Arcadia in Leeds. Actually, to be completely accurate, that was the second thought that crossed my mind; the very first thing I focused on when I walked through the door, before I had a chance to take in the surroundings, was an old boy sat at the end of the bar, pint in hand, talking to a member of bar staff. The way they were interacting just screamed ‘regular’, and that’s one of the things I loved most about this pub… But, more on that later. Taking in the warm, earthy colours, bare floorboards, and brickwork, it brought back memories of my second year at university, sitting in Arcadia, enjoying a pint of local beer and some chilli olives. Of course, both of those places feel very much like some of the bars I spent time in while I was in Brussels and Antwerp, but having whiled away so many hours in Arcadia, it’s my immediate point of recall for pubs that feel a bit continental. Despite the Kwak coaster holders, the Beerhouse still manages to be very British; there were a number of tall pub stools, the type with wooden legs and a padded seat, and tables with fancy metalwork underneath them… I may just be homesick for traditional, ‘proper’ pubs after working in a city centre bar for so long, but it felt very warm and comforting.
At half three on a Wednesday afternoon, it was subdued, but not by any means dead. Regulars supped pints and chatted to the bartender (rather an American way to put it, but the ‘barmaid’ thing feels like an archaism, and ‘member of staff’ seems a little cold), a couple enjoyed a quiet beer in the corner, and a pub cat napped on one of the benches. Plumping for a half of Marble Pint (3.9%), a lovely sessionable beer which I don’t get the opportunity to drink nearly as often as I’d like, I settled down in the corner with my book, and took in the important details. Five Marble pumps, plus two guests (a Hand Drawn Monkey IPA and a Halloween beer by Abbeydale). Widely available keg such as Krombacher, Carlsberg, and Erdinger was present, alongside Addlestones cider, a cheeky keg of Red Willow Wreckless, and Mort Subite Kriek. There was also a range of bottles: a good selection of Marble stuff, of course, but also things like Chimay, Duvel, Saison Dupont, Paulaner, and Dom Kolsch, and, as per, a selection of wines, spirits, and all that jazz. The TV on the wall was not on, and there was no music playing, which was absolutely fine by me!
Of course, it didn’t take me long to finish my half of Pint, and on my next trip up to the bar to give a half of the Hand Drawn Monkey IPA a go (I’m afraid I don’t remember the name or strength, but it was nice), I ended up in conversation with one of the regulars. Although I had an hour or so to wait for my friend who decided to join me there, I spent that time chatting away over a couple of pints of – well – Pint, and didn’t feel awkward or out of place at all. In my short time there, I got a real feel for the sense of community that exists in that pub, which is always lovely, and as more and more people filtered in from five o’clock onwards, almost everyone was greeted as someone who was obviously familiar. That’s something that you don’t seem to get nearly as much in city centre bars – although of course we do have a few wonderful regulars over at BrewDog Mancs – and it made me miss being back home out in the suburbs, where the pub really is the centre of our little community, and where I can’t walk through the door without the majority of the customers saying hello.
It goes without saying that I’ll be visiting this charming little pub again. Good, local (very reasonably priced, too!) beer, and a lovely atmosphere. I’ve seen on their Twitter that they’ve had Buxton and Magic Rock on keg relatively recently, and Saltaire and Blackjack in cask… Bloody lovely.