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Neil Sowerby’s July Beer Column

Our hop hound meets a Man of Marble and toasts Stockport

Written by . Published on July 29th 2014.

Neil Sowerby’s July Beer Column

PRIMUS I’ve always associated with stoves.

It’s an odd name to dub a beer, especially one as gorgeous as Primus East India Porter. The style was created in the 19th century to give a standard London porter 'the legs' to survive the long route to India to fuel the troops, just like the original India Pale Ale. This one, created by new Marble head brewer Matthew Howgate, is akin to but much richer than the current Black IPAs you see around.

'Milk Stout, a style that is decidedly unsexy, associated for those of us who grew up with Corrie as Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell’s tipple in the Rovers snug'

It was commissioned to celebrate Cask Pub and Kitchen in Pimlico, London. I caught the last barrel up here at the brewery’s flagship Marble Arch.

Primus East India PorterPrimus East India Porter with neigbouring Marble Ginger at The Arch

It’s utterly gorgeous, with rich hints of treacle and raisin from a base of chocolate and crystal malt, but also displaying a firm bitterness from Willamette, Styrian Goldings and Columbus hops.

It offers a hint of what may be to come from Holgate, whose arrival from the giant Inbev operation at Salmesbury (proud to have brewed in excess of 20 billion pints of British Stella and Budweiser) made the craft brewery fraternity quiver at what might happen to Marble, a benchmark small brewer

I’m not going to worry on the evidence of the porter and a New Zealand IPA I tasted from cask that he has made in collaboration with ex-Thornbridge brewer James Kemp. The Kiwi green hop hit was overwhelming – the brew was still in its early stages – but it promises to be really special and shows the downsizing has unleashed an innovative streak in Holgate.

Matthew Holgate In The Marble BreweryMatthew Holgate in The Marble Brewery he is currently revolutionising

The 28-year-old Yorkshireman has beer in his blood. He was brought up in Tadcaster, homes of Samuel Smiths, where his dad was a drayman, and he started his career doing menial stuff at the excellent Leeds Brewery.

He is proud to big up the good habits accrued working for an industry giant. His mission is to use every modern technique to concentrate the freshness and hoppy vividness of these beers, while extracting the maximum impact (and value) from the top quality hops, malts and yeast used.

Dobber On The New Bottling LineDobber on the new bottling line (picture for the real ale geek, this)

Symptomatic of the new broom approach is the revamp of the bottles, moving from paper labels to having the design printed onto the glass bottles. This will allow them to streamline the bottling operation and ensure bottle conditioned ales are consistently available

What impressed me as much as the new beers was the rigour with which he approaches the brewing process. He has inherited a wonderful portfolio of beers – Lagonda, Dobber, Pint, Manchester Bitter, Ginger Marble et al. “The previous brewer, James Campbell, created some fantastic recipes for beers that are well-loved, so there is a lot to work with... despite the reputation, it didn’t really feel daunting to take over, just exciting,” he told me.

BeermothThere’s a lot of excitement about next month’s latest Marble collaboration. Marble are joining forces with Northern Quarter bottle shop Beermoth for the weekend of the August 15-17 with a series of special events. Beermoth will be curating the selection at the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road, with a host of guest beers, including a Beermoth and Marble collaboration.

On the Friday evening they will host a five course set menu with matching beers at £50 a head. For booking details visit this link.

Beermoth will also be providing a guided tasting on sour beers on the Sunday, covering everything from lambic and gueuze through to the science of spontaneous fermentation and brettanomyces. The tickets for this will be £18 and further details will be released shortly.

Scott and Jeremy, who run Beermoth on Tib Street, have long been fans of San Diego craft brewers Green Flash. I remember doing a random tasting with them soon after they opened (before they won Manchester Food And Drink Awards Retailer of the Year 2013) and commented on their Green Flash Brewery Palate Wrecker (£6.55): “It vies to be the ultimate West Coast hop monster – hence the name. Six pounds of Columbus and Centennial hops a barrel. Result: a 9.5 light amber IPA with a huge citrus reek and tingling hop flavours. Lovely, but just the one then.”

Chuck Silva Of Green Flash Brewery Talks Hops With The Faithful T BeermothChuck Silva talks hops with the faithful at Beermoth

Green Flash's West Coast Double Ipa I went back to Beermoth last week to see Green Flash brewer Chuck Silva launching a Dutch-bottled version (for freshness) of his West Coast Double IPA (£4 a bottle on the night). The  bottle says 'extravagantly hopped' and it is. The hop cocktail includes Simcoe for tropical and grapefruit zest, Columbus for hop pungency, Centennial for pine notes, Citra for citrus zest and Cascade for floral aroma, according to Green Flash’s tatsing notes. It is beautifully balanced and less overwhelming.

Blackjack, just around the corner from Marble and run by one of its alumni, Rob Hamilton, is launching a brewery tap operation at Altrincham Market House from early September. It’s alongside a 250-cover refectory-style eaterie, all part of the renewal of the historic site.

Blackjack will be the exclusive beer supplier, offering a range of cask and bottles from independent suppliers and acting as beer sommeliers, recommending appropriate brews for dishes of the day from food operations such as Honest Crust and The Ginger Kid. Watch this space for further details of a terrific project.

The brewery already run their own regular monthly Brewtap on the terrace of their premises in Irk Street, offering beers, their own and guests, plus food and music. The July event has been switched to the weekend of August 1-3.

The Crown, Heaton Lane, StockportThe Crown, Heaton Lane, Stockport – one of the great pubs

Stockport lured me over recently thanks to the prospect of two new breweries and a classic born-again pub. I’ve long been a admirer (an I’m not alone – it has scooped a raft of awards) of The Crown in Heaton Lane, under the Viaduct. It’s hard to find a row of pumps offerring guest ales in such remarkable condition.

Centaurus From The New Stockport Brewing CompanyNow licensee Steve Alexander has joined forces with Andy Pass to create Stockport Brewing Company with Andy as head brewer and the Crown serving as an unofficial brewery tap. Their first commercial brew was launched at the Stockport Beer Festival. I caught up with another at The Crown. Centaurus is described on the clip as a 'pale ale with hints of tropical fruits'. It’s a beautifully balanced thirst quencher and serves notice on other local breweries, Quantum being the pick, that there’s a serious new contender in town.

The Magnet Really Is That For Beer LoversA second is on the way very soon, based in The Magnet on Wellington Road North, which made the Manchester Food And Drink Awards Pub of the Year shortlist last year. Sarah Bergin, who once plied her trade at The Crown under the Cellar Rats name, has set up the What’s Brewing brewhouse there. I was hoping to try the beer but the operation has been delayed by red tape. Expect an August launch now. A good reason to return.

There was consolation at The Bakers Vaults in Stockport Market Place, re-opened and given a stylish makeover by Robinsons Brewery. They have put management in the hands of Jonny Booth and Rupert Hill (and business partner Jamie Langrish of Chorlton’s Parlour), who helped them revive The Castle in the Northern Quarter.

Bakers Vaults Basks In Mediterranean SunshineBakers Vaults basks in Mediterranean sunshine; below its guest beers

Guest Beers In The Bakers Vaults

There's a range of guest beers alongside the Robinsons range, which so dominates Stockport. Amarillo Gold from Saltaire was a perfect accompaniment to another Mediterranean day downtown. The kitchen’s small and limited in its scope, but the hot dogs are supplied by the excellent Frost’s butchers of Chorlton. Expect regular jazz sessions.

The hectic whirl of Chorlton bars continues. I enjoyed Jackalope on Barlow Moor Road. Ale and cakes on the bar was a winner. Now co-owner Rob Loader has moved on to run The Epicurean bottle shop on Burton Road and a new regime have rechristened it as Strange Brew. Not been yet but it looks to have an even stronger commitment to cask beer. Similarly, the Nook and Cranny in  Wilbraham Road has now turned into Mono.

Back on the subject of beer and food matches, I’ve been working my way through Mark Dredge’s fascinating new book, Beer And Food (Dog n Bone, £16.99), which I mentioned in this column in May. This award-winning blogger even contributes his own recipes, boasting that his Imperial Chilli is the best in the world. I cooked it, following his advice to incorporate a large bottle of Imperial Stout (I used Thornbridge’s St Petersburg Russian, £4.10 from Beermoth) and, yes it is a world (and bowel) beater.

Barearts Milk StoutBarearts Milk Stout against a backdrop of nasturtiums

He recommends serving it with a glass of Milk Stout, a style that is decidedly unsexy, associated for those of us who grew up with Corrie as Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell’s tipple in the Rovers snug. The presence of milk sugar/lactose gives it a creaminess that is suited to calming spice in a dish (definitely the case here as I overloaded the Scotch Bonnets).

Barearts %26#8211%3B You Can't Miss ItThe Milk Stout I used to test the theory came from Todmorden’s Barearts Brewery, which is a specialist in bottle-conditioned beers from hop-driven IPAs to heavy stouts and barley wines, some left to mature for months in bottle before being released. The recent death of Barearts driving force and host, the larger-than-life Trevor Cook, sparked fears for its future, but his widow Kath is carrying it on. I’d suggest you checkout their unique tasting room – it’s the dazzling pink place opposite Morrisons on the way in from Littleborough.

The Milk Stout, by the way, worked a treat. I loved the gentle but assertive combo of East Kent Goldings, British Maris Otter Dark Crystals and Chocolate barley malts. Over-hoppy beers don’t cope with chilli heat.

What dish, though, to match with Thornbridge’s Peanut Butter Brown Ale ('Allergy Warning – Contains Nuts', naturally)?  It’s currently on sale in the brewery’s Sheffield heartland, but if it crosses over here do let me know. I’m intrigued. What next, a Marmite Saison?

Thornbride Peanut Butter Brown Ale

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Beast is backJuly 29th 2014.

It was commissioned to celebrate five years of Cask bar on Liverpool Road, just off Deansgate. You might still be able to taste it there. Cask opened in 2003 - do you mean celebrate 10 years?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 29th 2014.

Isn't that seven years, no wait eleven, or maybe....we'll change. Thanks. Numbers aren't strong point.

Neil SowerbyJuly 29th 2014.

Good spot, Beast (understand why you don't post a picture). Amended. It was indeed, such is the global reach of Marble, to celebrate the fifth birthday of Cask Pub and Kitchen in Pimlico, London.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Beast is backJuly 29th 2014.

Ha ha - Cask in Pimlico makes more sense. Good boozer too, great choice in there for ales and food

AnonymousJuly 29th 2014.

Sorry Neil, but if you knew the Primus was from the last barrel - and thereby wouldn't be available ever again by the time this appeared - why did you bother telling us mere mortals about it? Elitist, you? Surely not...

AnonymousJuly 29th 2014.

Hi Neil. Great article. The head brewers name is Matthew Howgate. Not 'Holgate'.

Bob the BritJuly 30th 2014.

Thornbridge Peanut Butter Brown Ale was on sale at The Port Street Beer House on July 23rd, you should have wandered down to try the Green Flash on draught after its bottle launch in Beermoth. As for the Thornbridge, it did exactly as the name suggested, you can decide for yourself whether the idea of a peanut butter beer is good or bad. For me it was way too sweet and cloying.

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