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Neil Sowerby's March Beer Column

In pursuit of craft beers

Written by . Published on March 26th 2013.

Neil Sowerby's March Beer Column

I LOVE the increasingly surreal side of a quest for craft beer. Just look at these three logos (and a cute pet pic) that log my week’s ale adventures: representing Beermoth, The Beagle, wacky Jackalope Bar... and a Jack Russell/chihuahua cross called Tiny who boasts his own bottle shop in Chorlton. What they’ve all got in common is a commitment to the finest beers from across the globe and the magnificent new brewers operating much closer to home.



The Jackalope

The BeagleIt's Tiny!

First Beermoth, a very special specialist beer shop with its own T-shirts, created by Scott Davies, once of Knott Bar and Jeremy Stull – ex Port Street Beer House. The latter’s from Kansas City, Missouri (remember that, he gets miffed when you assume he’s from Kansas).

The guys kindly set up a tasting for us in their dark little premises on Tib Street in the Northern Quarter. It was lavishly enjoyable, revealing the rainbow palate and cross-fertilisation of beer making today. Here are the first six bottles we tried. After that it all went kind of hazy...

Nogne Roasted Pepper Saison (£6.95):

Norwegian craft brewer sprinkles the black pepper in this take on a Belgian Saison beer. The palate’s all orange peel and toffee and mild hoppiness with the pepper only asserting itself (but pleasantly) in the long aftertaste.

Oude Geuze from Oudbeersel.com (£5.71):

Geuze is a classic among the Belgian Ales. After spontaneous fermentation in wooden barrels (no yeast or sugar added), young and old Lambic are blended; which results in a dry, tart and fruity wine like taste and a tight sparkle. Oud Beersel is a 19th century brewery restored to life by enthusiasts a decade ago. 

Scott Shows Off His Hop Bomb BeermothScott Shows Off His Hop Bomb at Beermoth

Mikkeller Hop Bomb (£6.80):

Home brewers contest in the Hop Bomb Challenge, organised by Copenhagen’s “gypsy brewer”, the winner each year getting his hop-driven creation “published” in bottle form. This one deserves to be best seller, amber-coloured smoothy, citrussy with an insistent hoppiness that mellows down the glass.

Hell FireHell Fire

Durham Hellfire Chilli Beer (£6.30):

Warning do not eat with curries. This was a real surprise package, the chill hitting you in the back of the throat but such is the richness of the malty, warming Imperial Russian Stout base it doesn’t feel aggressive.

Palate WreckerPalate Wrecker

Green Flash Brewery Palate Wrecker (£6.55):

A different kettle hops from a San Diego brewery, 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.


Mikkeller Ovral (£5.60):

A play on Orval, the great Belgian Trappiste ale (even down to bottle shape and label font), this is playful Mikkeller’s ultimate 10.5 per cent Double IPA, wild yeast fermented, like an aged Orval dry hopped with loads of American hops. It is so intense at first it’s almost painful to taste then you acclimatise yourself to its mouth-filling flavours of oranges, grapefruit and resinous pine. Then you might keel over.

I wish these NQ pioneers well in consolidating a take home beer fan base in the wake of Port Street Beer House’s great success.

While Port Street can sometimes feel a little over-intense in its devotion to malt and hops, its Chorlton stablemate The Beagle on Barlow Moor Road is as relaxed as its jolly-titled website www.beaglesabout.com. It helps that it’s got a great all-day cafe bar feel with fine food devised by the Aumbry restaurant folk.

Branding In The BeagleThe Beagle

We were there for the beer. There are far fewer beer options, cask and craft keg. I tried three. Curious pale ale from Huddersfield’s Magic Rock because at 3.9 per cent it promised to be a floral, citrussy, thirst quencher, which it was in barrel loads.

Stockport’s Quantum brewers provides the 3.8 per cent Beagle Best. It’s a hoppy Best Bitter, packed with English hops for flavour, but the cask version was a mite underpowered. Not so the kegged 4.1 per cent Beagle Pale (£3.70) from Summer Wine Brewery in Holmfirth. American hops provide a big nose, which is followed up by a gentle bitterness. Just wish it had been less chilled.

Jackalope,The Jackalope

Jackalope is at the bus station end of Barlow Moor Road (click here). If all those stuffed animals in the  motel office in Psycho freak you out stay away from Lee Gorton and Rob Loader’s narrow little bar. The gleaming suit of armour by the door came from Lee alone, but both men have nicknames for the rampant taxidermy throughout (the fox is called Trevor).

I’d gone on the promise of road testing their pie range from Stockport’s Lord Of Pies (click here), which I can recommend, but I stayed to sample the cask offering – Lee’s pride and joy. My favourite was again from Magic Rock, their Dark Arts Surreal (sic) Stout (£3.50). It’s a 6 per cent marriage of four different malts and heaps of hops. There are flavours there of chocolate, liquorice and  blackberry with a lingering roasted bitter finish.

A Jackalope, by the way, is a mythical animal of North American folklore, described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. In contrast, Tiny is a Jack Russell with the ears of a chihuahua, who belongs to Ed Gillibrand, ex-manager of Chorlton Oddbins. He and former colleague Alexx Moorhouse have just set up Tiny’s Tipple on Wilbraham Road, close to the Chorlton Bookshop. Well, Moorhouse and Gillibrand wold have sounded like a firm of solicitors.

Wheat Beer Range In Tiny's TippleWheat Beer Range In Tiny's Tipple

The wine offering is excellent, but the real surprise comes with the quality of the beers on the shelves of the back room with several variants of Schneiderweisse, the Bavarian wheat beer, a large variety of American craft beers and a selection from Mikkeller at prices considerably less than you’d pay at Port Street or Brew Dog in town.

Mikkeller's Burtger And Bun %28Stocked By Tiny's Tipple%29Mikkeller's Burger And Bun

Mikkeller’s Burger & Bun LA Lager (£3.10) is an odd take on the lager style (more a copper-coloured pale) ale that belies its all-Yankee packaging, but it’s a beauty. It smells very hoppy, has lots of citrus flavours, especially grapefruit but with caramel malt notes and after initial sweetness a hoppy bitter finish.


Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale (£2.90) is from a California brewery and advertises as a Scottish Red Ale style but a rush of strident hops dominates nose and palate. Best to sip. Not one for the eponymous Tiny, who  remains as mythical as the Jackalope. He was out on walkies when we dropped in.

Tiny’s is obviously tapping into the new craft beer culture that has been gestating in the Chorlton bars, rather than traditional pubs, culminating in the arrival of The Beagle. When promised I’ll encounter “an aggressive hop character” I don’t flinch these days.

Obviously the demand is there. Take a deli like Ludo on Beech Road. I popped into to talk to a couple who were demonstrating the treats you’d find if you joined one of the foraging holidays to Sweden they organise. Once inside, I found, too, the complete range of bottled beers from Red Willow, Toby and Caroline Mackenzie’s wonderful, hyperactive brewery in Macclesfield.

At Toby’s public tasting at  the Northern Restaurant and Bar Show I was well up for Beetroot Stout – No XVII in their Faithless experimental range (yes it did have an earthy tang but the purple tinge didn’t extend beyond the ale itself).

Indeed, the Faithless ferment rarely falters. Faithless XXI (£3.50 a pint) awaited me on handpump in The Parlour just along from Ludo. A Seville orange tinctured IPA at 5.5 per cent, it was quite the most gorgeous beer on our Chorlton. It was its smooth, almost unctuous mouthfeel and the balance of malt against the expected abundance of hops.

Let's Go Wild In Charrington'sGo Wild In Carrington's

One Chorlton institution has been flying the flag for beer alongside its fine wines for years. and Carrington’s, on Barlow Moor Road can still surprise. This time with offerings from The Wild Beer Company. My favourite beer writer, Pete Brown, has predicted this maverick operation from a farm near Shepton Mallett, Somerset will become the big thing in 2013.

On the evidence of their attempt at a Belgian saison ale, ‘Bliss’ – Secret Spices Roasted Apricot Wild Yeast, (£3.22) he may not be far out. I’ll let the wild bunch themselves explain: “We love nothing better than Belgian-style saison but with this blissful version we’ve added our own Wild interpretation of the style by adding a dash of funky Brettanomyces yeast plus roasted apricots and a hush-hush blend of spices. All of this makes for an extraordinary beer with an array of aromas that leap out of the glass followed by a spicy, fruity, tart and peppery palate and a long lingering finish.”

After puzzling over its slightly odd yeasty nose, I found its spicy length beguiling. It was matched by the same brewery’s Madness  IPA (£3.59). 6.8 to Bliss’s 6 per cent, it unleashed a whopping citrus spiciness that similarly lingered. Again the immense hops were somehow in balance with the maltier elements.

Back to pies then. I caught up too late with British Pie Week – a genuinely worthwhile seven-day celebration compared with some out there in the food world. And decidedly beer-friendly, too. That’s the core reasoning behind the Bakerie’s latest expansion, Pie & Ale and Pie due to open for Easter in spare space behind the Bakerie Tasting Room, in The Hove on Lever Street.

The devotion to beer in modern bar environments is is spreading beyond Chorlton, the Northern Quarter and that odd couple Oast House/Gaslamp axis around Spinningfields to, of all venues, Manchester Airport Terminal One.

A new bar/eaterie, Grain Loft, offers travellers the chance to listen to their own iPod playlist from “sound pods“ while pouring themselves a pint of locally brewed ale from self-serve beer taps.

The local beer theme extends to the food. he menu includes dishes such as Krakauer sausage marinated in Weetwood’s Cheshire Cat ale and and steak and ale pie made with British beef and roasted root vegetables in a Dunham Massey Big Tree bitter gravy. Each food option comes with a beer recommendation, paired specifically for each dish. Report to follow.

Robbo Speciality BeersRobinsons Rimmer Beers

Similarly on a new venture from Robinsons of Stockport. Not content with expanding their substantial range of cask ales they have now collaborated with telegenic chef Simon Rimmer to create three “food-friendly” bottled beers with giveaway titles such as Simon Rimmer Presents A Beer To Go With Chicken.

Simon, who runs Greens in West Didsbury and Earle in Hale, sampled a range of Robinsons’ ales to shortlist his preferred style of beer, taste and colour, before deciding on three distinctive styles to go perfectly with steak, chicken and curry.  On the back of each bottle there will be a recipe to complement each beer.

It smacks of that populist but patronising supermarket that produced a Great With Chicken, Great With Fish range, but the proof will be, as always in the tasting.

Indy Man Beer Con 2012Indy Man Beer Con 2012

It won’t appeal to the beard-stroking beer geeks (I’m just reinforcing a popular misconception! who flooded the Victoria Baths – not literally – last autumn to celebrate new wave craft beer at the Independent Manchester Beer Convention.

The good news is they are going to do it all again in the same venue this year, October 10-13 with added entertainment, too. Along thee lines of “Last year Former Bullies played a live set during a pop-up Ping Pong Club so who knows what lies in store this time round?” Mine’s a Red Willow. To book visit here or ring the ticket hotline: 07967 257504.

It’s a long way off, but if you need a taster, organisers based at Port Street Beer House, are celebrating two weeks of the Best Of British from Monday, March 25. Expect favourites from the likes of Thornbridge, Darkstar, Red Willow and Roosters. For more information visit here or ring 0161 237 9949

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AnonymousMarch 26th 2013.

Wild beer co will be on draught at guerrilla eats Saturday 30th march

Rich DaleMarch 27th 2013.

This has made me thirsty for beer at 7am

Mark.March 27th 2013.


AnonymousApril 12th 2013.


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