Jan 13 2018
Feb 3 2016
Isn’t it magnificent? Victoria Station on a cold late January morning, or anytime really. A classic monument of a kind no longer built, but refurbished and repurposed these days – witness the former Central Station, now hosting beer festivals as a Conference Centre. At least this place still sees trains within its confines.
You could almost think it was summer eh? They’ve done an impressive job with the cantilevered glass and steel roof over this old transport interchange. There’s even a Station Bar, but as my good friend Deeekos (very effectively indeed) says here, don’t bother yourself. Work up a thirst and walk to The Smithfield or The Angel if you arrive wanting a beer.
But I wasn’t arriving.
I was leaving…..for Castleford. “Where?” I hear you ask? And “Why?”
A pub. In a small West Yorkshire town. The significance of which, I shall try to explain in my faltering prose.
The origins of this trip lay at the end of a brew day nearly 4 weeks earlier, at Cheshire Brewhouse. We, the assembled, agreed something that day, well, Shane did. We brewed a 6.6% abv English-hopped IPA that day. And Shane wanted to sample it from a wooden cask. Which, in the North of England (possibly the whole country) means one pub.
Yup. That one above. The Junction, on Carlton Street.
Where they only serve beers that have been conditioned in wooden casks. Bit of a USP is that….
And, before I go much further, I owe a debt to Mr David Litten. And the book above, a labour of love if ever there was one.
What the book tells us is that Neil Midgley and Maureen Shaw reopened a run-down pub that had been shut for over two years. And, over time, worked bloody hard – with the help of friends – and brought it back to life. As you will see from pictures below.
Yes. A roaring real fire. Just one of many lovely touches.
So. Why did myself and Jaz catch that train again? Well, to drink beer, naturally and, having never knowingly drunk beer from wooden casks, my traditionalist core was childishly excited.
There was another reason though. To tie the bow on The Independent Salford Beer Festival and present the certificate and award for the winning beer. To Malcolm Bastow, of Five Towns Brewery.
Having presented the award to Malcolm, I found myself spoiled. With 2 Cheshire Beerhouse beers and 2 from Five Towns. So I sampled one or …..
With CBs Engine Vein, a best bitter in style, I thought that the beer had an additional richness and depth (and I like Engine Vein in all forms). With the Outside Edge from Five Towns, it dialled down the sharp hopping, softening it somewhat.
It was with the bigger beers that I thought that the wood made the biggest impact, the hoppier ones like the 6.6% abv TRYPA (the Cheshire Brewhouse/Howard Town/Tryanuary collab) and the Niamhs Nemesis from Five Towns at 5.7%.
Again, the wood took the sharper and angular hop edges from Niamhs – a beer that I adore – and gave it more depth, imparted a slight – maybe vanilla – sweet note, just a note mind. It seemed to enhance the fruitier aspects of this beer. If anything, it really improved it and helped to make it feel, well, sessionable. Which is dangerous in a 5.7% beer. Very dangerous indeed.
A lot of materials for this pub were sourced over a lond period of time. Piecemeal. I’m ashamed, actually, no I’m not actually ashamed as such, to say that I didn’t (nerdily) get a picture of the most unusual “swan necks” I’ve ever seen. The beer engines were sourced from a long gone brewery estate (Melbourne Brewery) and are lovely things indeed, nearly 80 years old!
(Roger Protz does like his wooden casks! Pic courtesy http://thejunctionpubcastleford.com/)
This pub feels warm. It feels loved. It feels, yes, special.
3 real fires. Lots of reclaimed wooden furniture and knick knacks. Old brewery paraphernalia, it all goes to the feel of this place. Feeling welcome. There were locals and people who had travelled many miles to be here. This is, simultaneously, both a local and a national destination pub.
I got to have a pint of the TRYPA. A big fruity beer, hoppy yet with a rounded richness, the softening effect of the wood lending a complexity to the beer with added spice and a little vanilla again. A beautiful beer, brewed at a brewery that many think is really going places. Garnering National newspaper attention recently with Govinda too. A really underrated brewery. But not by me.
Another real fire….
This turned into a gathering of friends. People like Steve (from Sheffield), Bob, Scott, Malcolm himself, Andy (Captain Tryanuary himself!), Deeekos, Jaz. None of us living anywhere near around the corner. Some had travelled 60 miles or so to be there. ALL of them loved this place.
Neil & Maureen (and I don’t know them personally) haven’t done anything overly complicated here. They’ve worked bloody hard. For an extended period of time. To breathe life into a moribund hostelry. To turn it into a cherished local. To give it that intangible thing that I so cherish (missing in almost all newer bars).
It’s called Soul.
And this place has it by the (wooden) barrel load.
It was, sadly, an all too brief visit. 5 hours (or so) does this pub no justice. But nonetheless, we said our farewells. As we headed to the train. With a little character from a previous blog post.
Remember him? He’s quite soft when fed….
Then it was into Tapped Leeds – nice to bump into Martin from Bridestones/Hebden Brew Co – then (stupidly) Cafe Beermoth back in Mancunia. And those Sirens of Beer – Tara Mallinson & Elaine Yendall (among many other good beer people of the parish – I’m sure Mr Clarke remembers my request?) – unsurprisingly, I was late home. That’s what being around good people does to you.
And no hashtag.
Feb 1 2016
I had earned my “Brownie Points”. Chores, running around, you name it, I did it. I wanted Saturday left free. I wanted some fresh beers and to try something new. Just one more thing……
Fancy a Vegan Curry for tea? I played my Ace. Job done.
Heaton Hops – 7, School Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport.
My first visit to the City Life Pub of the Year 2015. Well, my first since it won that most deserved of accolades!
Those who pay any form of attention to my wibblings will know that I’ve been a big fan of Damian O’Shea’s businesses since his days on Castlefield Market as The Ale Man. He always did have an eye for great bottle beers. But when he and his partner Charlotte opened this little bar in Heaton Chapel, little did they know….
In this small space, there is a most excellent selection of bottled and canned beers from all over the UK. Of course, my predilections steer more to the North of the compass and I was here in particular, because Damian had held of bottle of Cheshire Brewhouse’s Govinda (Chevallier Edition) for me.
As I have said on this blog before, this is a small, but beautifully thought out space. With excellent beer. 2 on cask and 8 on keg, from the best of local and not so local breweries. The cask selection tends to be local, but today, he had on a cask of the luscious Milk Stout by Bristol Beer Factory. Atilla had one. I joined her. It was a creamy, slightly sweet and roasty delight. Atilla thought so too.
The bar seems to be doing brilliantly. No surprise given the location and what Damian & Charlotte offer. A cosy and comfortable bar with an excellent product for sale. Why was I here again?
Ah yes. THAT was why!
I could stay in this bar all day. But I had appointments elsewhere. I bade my farewells to Damian and we headed off, just as Charlotte and baby Harriet arrived…..
If you haven’t been before, it’s only 4 mins walk from Heaton Chapel train station and the 192 bus from Piccadilly drops you close too. So why not?
Browtons – 8 Fletcher Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne, OL6 6BY
Is that Simon himself, grinning, as I took my shot? That was a long drive. Good job that I know that this bottle shop is worth it!
Located in a semi-pedestrianised spot, opposite the famous Ashton Market, the first surprise was the cheap car parking just a couple of minutes walk away.
Simon Browton is a man of excellent taste and has a large, varied and wide ranging selection of bottled and canned beers from some of the best breweries around. Unlike the first time I turned up, he know has an “On” licence too, so you can buy a bottle (chilled or otherwise) and settle in a comfy chair and sip and chat to your hearts’ content.
Having has a BBF Milk Stout, we opted out of region again and had a nicely chilled bottle of Black Perle by Weird Beard and I just wallowed, puzzled by how full of flavour and full-bodied such a low alcohol beer could be! Beautifully smooth and creamy, with a nice nip of coffee. If there was a brewery that this Northern oik misses from the south, it’s Weird Beard. There! I said it.
Yup. You can even buy a change of clothing while you are here!
A nice chat with Simon revealed (I think?) possible plans to open a draught bar/bottle shop. If so, knowing Simon, this would be an enormous thing in Ashton. Just this shop is a classy place with friendly “regulars” who we had a chat with about Manchester pubs.
I also thank Simon enormously for his suggestion to drink the Torrside American Barleywine sooner rather than later! The man was SO right as you will see in the next bottle review! Why was I here again? Oh yes…..
Harvey Leonard’s – 22, Norfolk Street, Glossop, SK13 8BS
(Thanks to Steven for the pic!)
Then, another long drive. This time to Glossop, because the very nice folk at Harvey Leonard bar/shop had set aside an increrasingly difficult to find beer for me. A Cloudwater DIPA!
The bar was quite busy when we got there and, being unfamiliar with the feel of the place, photos were NOT an option, but this seemed like a nice friendly local bar with the accent on the wine at that moment. But, far from being shunted to one side, the beer selection was front and centre! And there was an excellent selection!
Thornbridge, Torrside, Buxton….The local Derbyshire breweries were well represented. Quite a bit of Cloudwater too. There was a wide selection from all over, with quite a lot of Northern stuff to tickle my fancy….But I was in a rush….I was hungry (as was Atilla)
The great news is that they’ve move since then to larger premises! 300 bottles (drink in or take-away), 4 key keg taps (rotating) I’m gonna have to come back I see! (And it’s JUST around the corner from Glossop Train Station too!)
Then, to The Globe. And the most ludicrously good value food you’re likely to get. Anywhere. We had a pint and a half of Porter (brewed on site), One Chickpea & Spinach Curry (with a Naan) and Vegan sausages, chips and onion gravy. Just. Over. £9.
Think about that when you go to Harvey Leonard’s!
It was Tryanuary. I had some new beery experiences doing this piece in both Browtons AND Harvey Leonard’s.
3 most excellent local independent beer businesses. Support them. They deserve it, because they’re good. And have soul. Unlike you local supermarket.
But, for all the hoopla last month, these places ALL deserve your custom 12 months of the year.
Because they are bloody good.
Jan 10 2016
Happy New Year everyone! And Happy #Tryanuary!
I, for one, have absolutely NO intention of giving in to the detox mania that is hauling thousands in to a month of misery.
Be Happy. Happiness is seriously underrated.
Anyway, in the spirit of Tryanuary, I’ve been a bit busy. You’ll start seeing (and in some instances, tasting) the results shortly. Furthermore, in the same spirit, here are six recommendations for (hopefully) something new for you to try this month. Some will be limited, so better be quick!
It’s Rather Hoppy Darling – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.2% abv – Session IPA – 330ml – Direct from the brewer.
As Pale as a spring morning, golden and bright with a light white head pushing out a huge citrus and tropical aroma like a fruit salad chewy sweet, pineapple, kiwi, mango. Just so juicy on the nose!
Oh dear, oh dear is this GOOD! This thing is wearing a grass skirt and dancing a hula! Mango, passion fruit, kiwi dancing all around the mouth with a light digestive biscuit base. Just. So. Fruity.
The swallow is followed by a bracing bitterness and leaving a big hoppy resinous aftertaste. This is the first Beergasm of 2016 and no mistake!
Very pale golden colour, lively from the bottle shop was decanted, but nice white lacy head nonetheless with a big aroma booming out full of apricot, grapefruit and a squeeze of lemon.
Got my saliva glands going…..
Oh baby…. This is one pithy little beast.
Medium bodied, this beer hits you with tart astringent fruit, grapefruit and lemon to the fore here. The carbonation having softened after the decant, this is really smooth, fruity, but ultra dry.
Really dry. A tongue curler!
That Belgian yeast aids that dryness with a little peppery spice and helps to accentuate the dry slightly resinous hoppy finish.
Another special beer from Stalyvegas.
And only 60. I’m lucky. Grab one if you can.
APA – Brewsmith Beers (Ramsbottom) – 5.0% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Direct from the brewer.
Brewsmith are in the early days of their bottled beers being in the wild. But, so far, so excellent. Everything top notch so far. But how will this stack against the Bitter, Oatmeal Stout & Gyle 50?
Mid golden in colour, a light thin white head emitting a lovely fragrance of tropical fruits, with peach, passion fruit and a hint of mango hitting the nose.
In the mouth? Light carbonation and a medium body. Really smooth on the tongue with lashings of mango and peach assailing the tongue, swiftly followed by a resinous hit of hop bitterness.
The second mouthful confirms the impressions of the first, but the hopping tastes and feels even more resinous and grassy following that tropical dance.
This is another superb beer from a brewery that have produced a range of bottles that just get more impressive as they go on.
Moderate strength Pale Ales and Stout? I wouldn’t look an awful lot further.
A deep and dark brown, almost black, beer, with a warm ruby glow, a light mocha coloured head giving an aroma reminiscent of vanilla toffee ice cream, with a little molasses or rum note. Appetising.
Oh yes. Really smooth, medium to full bodied beer this is. Really beautifully chocolatey in the mouth with a sweet cocoa malt allied to a slightly more bitter chocolate. A little sweet vanilla intrudes as you run it around the mouth. Such an easy drinking beer this.
The second and subsequent mouthfuls reveal a little rum hint following the sweet chocolate taking you towards a dry chocolate and herbal hop finish.
Another lovely beer bought from an excellent shop/bar, Drink in Hebden Bridge which fell victim to the recent devastating floods that hit that beautiful old town.
Hope they’re cleaned up and sorted soon. Am sure to visit Hebden Bridge for a few beers shortly. This’ll be my first stop.
Nowt – Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 6.7% abv – Stout – 750ml – Direct from the brewer.
This beer pours as black as Hades cellar, had a lacy coffee coloured head and gave off am aroma full of dark bitter chocolate, licorice and the merest hint of smokiness. In short, seductive.
Yes. Yes. YES! I feel like Meg Ryan in the cafe table scene! Oh shit but this is bloody stunning!!!
Full bodied and unctuous, this is creamy smooth. Hitting the bullseye with an initial bitter chocolate hit, this is quickly embraced by some seriously spicy licorice, just oozing out.
That licorice is augmented by that light smoky touch. What shocks slightly (although it REALLY shouldn’t!) is such a hoppy bitterness that follows it. And stays. Then the smokiness returns lingering through to a slightly sweet, yet dry smoky and bitter hoppy finish.
I yield to none in my love of Malcolm Bastow’s Pale Ales, but this is right up there with his best pales.
And THAT is (as The Velvelettes sang) really saying something.
XS Imperial Stout – Saltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) – 8.9% abv –Imperial Stout – 330ml – Bought from the brewery shop
I’ve held onto this for over 9 months since I bought this Hell black beer, with the slightest of fiery red tinge at the edges with a thin beige head and an aroma oozing out with vine fruits, old leather and a little sweet licorice. Mmmmmm…..
Now then. It’s no surprise that I’m find of Imperial Stouts, but this is sooooo good! Rich, smooth, loaded with vine fruit that tastes like it’s soused with dark rum. Bitter espresso in here, with chocolate and a languorous smoky trace. This is just love…..ly!
Ooohhhhh, but this is so good. Those dark fruit flavours laden with sweet raisin just tingle, or maybe that’s the late hopping with Bramling Cross, but I’m just sinking in this here chair and luxuriating….
Yeah. Nice beer…… #Understatement
By • Uncategorized • 2 • Tags: APA, Brewsmith Beer, Cheshire Brewhouse, Citra Pale, Five Towns Brewery, Great Heck Brewery, Heaton Hops, Imperial Stout, It's Rather Hoppy Darling, Madagascar, Nowt, Pale Ale, Saltaire Brewery, Session IPA, Stout, Tickety Brew, Tryanuary, Vanilla Wheat Stout, XS Imperial Stout