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Neil Sowerby's January Beer Column

The Winter Ales Festival and other froth

Published on January 21st 2013.

Neil Sowerby's January Beer Column

THE Last Chance Saloon. That’s the Sheridan Suite this week (Jan 23-26). After which the annual National Winter Ales Festival ups sticks and shifts its sparklers and spiles to Derby. If you thought the subsidised bus ride up Oldham Road to Miles Platting was a trek, consider hopping across the Pennines next winter to the Pearl of the East Midlands. Culminating in the town’s new ring road, (I kid you not) the Lara Croft Way. 

The modern classic 'this end of Salford' cask ale crawl – Mark Addy, New Oxford, Kings Arms, Black Lion and Eagle – now has a sixth essential stop-off, the re-opened Salford Arms. 

So, Ale Raiders, make the most of our valedictory event. The 1,800-capacity Sheridan Suite has proved such a perfect fit for CAMRA’s big winter gathering. I had my doubts when it was forced to quit its old billet, the New Century Hall, where for a couple of years I was on the final panel judging the Champion Winter Beer from assorted individual champion stouts, old ales and porters.
Freed from that awesome responsibility, I’ve rarely resisted  the temptation to sneak mobile grabs of vast bearded cask ale aficionados, their bellies straining un-PC T-shirts. My editor Jonathan Schofield refuses to let me use them on compassionate grounds. (Actually on grounds of decency and taste. Ed)
CAMRA are keen to dispel the male obsessive stereotype I’ve just reinforced. An interesting twist this year is Project Venus (see main picture above) No not E L James’s latest – just a loose collective of female brewers who get together to share ideas. Three of their collaborations are expected to be on tap – Venus Gold, Venus Seren and Venus Ella. To discover more visit here.
Quote from a recent newspaper article on the phenomenon: “Four years ago, only 16 per cent of women had tried cask ale. Now that number has doubled. There are 1.3 million British women routinely drinking ale, compared to just 600,000 two years ago. There are even three female beer sommeliers in Britain.” 
Let me know if the Sheridan Suite’s demographic expresses its feminine side this time around. And how many lasses are prepared to travel to Derby?

A more typical cross profile of real ale typesA more typical profile of real ale types 

Among other new beers to be launched at the festival is Frederic’s 175, a toffeeish premium red ale packed with Cascade and Target hops, brewed to mark the 175th anniversary of our own Robinson’s Brewery.
The four-day event, which kicks off for the general public at 5pm on Wednesday, features over 300 British and foreign beers, real ale by the bottle, ciders and perries, with the Saturday features a fancy dress option called 'Beer Angels.
Wed 23-Sat 26 Jan, Sheridan Suite, Oldham Road, M40 8EA, Tel: 0161 203 5444, 12pm- 10.30pm daily (5pm-10.30pm Wed), £2-£5 per session, nwaf.org.uk, @WinterAlesFest
I’m waiting to see what the weather holds before venturing up Oldham Road. May hunker down at a more modest fest inside the Arndale Market Food Hall The Micro Bar, run by Boggart Brewery, is holding its first beer festival  from Thursday, Jan 24 - Saturday Jan 26 from 11am to 7.30pm each day. They promise 30 plus cask and key keg beers from around Britain alongside six ciders.


I love this little bar and recommend it, even if only as a pit-stop on the way to the Winter Ales bash. I notice you can now buy any of the 100-plus micro-brewery or international bottled beers on the Micro Bar’s shelves online here
The modern classic 'this end of Salford' cask ale crawl – Mark Addy, New Oxford, Kings Arms, Black Lion and Eagle – now has a sixth essential stop-off. The re-opened Salford Arms, on the corner of Chapel Street and Bloom Street, now has its own Salford Arms Ale brewed for them by Rob Hamilton’s terrific Blackjack Brewery (click here) as well as a range other beautifully kept beers.
I’ve been walking up and down Tib Street in the Northern Quarter vainly searching for a new speciality beer shop I was alerted to by CAMRA’s Opening Times mag. Beermoth is expected to open by the end of January. It’s the brainchild apparently of former Knott Bar manager Scott Davies and Jeremy Strull of Port Street Beer House. A valuable refuelling station on the way between Marble Bar, Thomas Street and Port Street, methinks. Watch this space.
Finally, from the potentially sublime to the ridiculous. John Smith’s Extra Smooth is reportedly being reduced from 3.8 per cent alcohol to 3.6 per cent – and the price per pint is set to rise. This is in response to high tax rates, the rising costs of production and reduced beer consumption and will save Dutch brewers Heineken, who own the brand, millions in duty.
Beers with lower alcohol content pay a lower rate of duty as part of the government’s attempt to tackle problem drinking. The brewers say it will “not affect the flavour”. That’s funny, I’ve never detected much flavour in John Smith's Extra Smooth. Maybe that's what they mean.

Real ale appeals to a large audience of footwear fashionistasReal ale appeals to a large audience of footwear fashionistas as shown in this shapely calf at a recent beer festival. The sock tastes exactly like John Smith's Extra Smooth. 

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AnonymousFebruary 4th 2013.

Beermoth has opened.

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