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Neil Sowerby’s March Beer Moments

Our man on the hop chews over designer pork scratchings, while saluting the Salutation and the Brewing Dutchman

Published on March 5th 2012.


Neil Sowerby’s March Beer Moments

TOM Parker Bowles wrote in his book, The Full English: “If there is any better partner to good ale than salted, deep-fried pigskin, I’d like to meet it.” 

Pineapple, coconut and a building peppery note danced in a long finish, with a minerally, chewy quality and some spicy, seedy notes

He had been troughing pork scratchings in The Bull and Bladder in Brierley Hill, West Midlands, brewery tap of Bathams. I was there once yonks ago (as TPB might say) and remember sipping mild in a long corridor bar nose to tail with bull terriers.

Pigging OutPigging Out

Nose to tail eating is what posh foodies are offaly keen on. So no surprise that Camilla’s lad and Matthew 'Great British Menu' Fort, Old Etonians both,  have launched their own superior brand of pork scratchings called Mr Trotter’s Great British Pork Crackling (note the more palatable name). 

It’s made in Staffordshire from well-reared British pork, with no monosodium glutamate and a honeycomb texture. And no stray scorched hog bristles. I recall gagging on one of these when losing my pork scratching virginity in Ironbridge Gorge back in the Seventies at the insistence of a fellow hack, now the Independent’s RL correspondent.

This is a far cry from £1.89 a packet at Booths Media City, where Tom and Matthew were busily promoting their delicious if slightly daunting snack - see main picture at the top of the page. And, of course, there was beer to wash it down, from Booths’ excellent bottled 450 plus beer list. Best on offer were from Ilkley Brewery. My only caveat was they were all filtered, not bottle-conditioned.

Brewery director Stewart Ross is rightly proud of his Mary Jane, a crispy citrussy pale ale. The name references that Baht ‘at ditty (“Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane”), which also gives its name to the town’s Good Beer Guide rated Bar T’at (sic). Ilkley also do an oatmeal stout called Stout Mary, but she didn’t make it, so I settled for Black, their mellow, liquorice-laden dark mild, which matched the scratchings beautifully.

Personally pies are my favourite accompaniment to beer – after cheese, of course. I encountered a pub-baked pie of rare distinction the other night in an unexpectedly lovely, old-fashioned boozer.

The Salutation in Higher Chatham Street, close to Oxford Road, is the rapidly evolving pub project of the Trof folk (their Deaf Institute is only a quick stagger away across Europe’s busiest bus route).

The Salutation, classic street corner local engulfed by halls of residence, is the epicentre of Trof’s pie-making operation. Hence the sumptuous belly pork, chorizo and butter bean pie that accompanied some splendidly chosen cask ales on our first visit.

Dull Deuchars occupied one handpump but the other two featured Huddersfield brewery Magic Rock’s Rapture (£3.20) and Endless from Macclesfield’s Redwillow at £2.70.

Both these rookie breweries have made a big impact in a short time. Rapture is described as a Red Hop Ale, featuring a smorgasbord of six different different types of hop and five of malt. At 4.6 per cent, it was uncompromisingly rich. A good 'food beer' if there is such a thing. It reeked of pine and grapefuit, and was citrussy yet malty on the palate with a dry, crisp hoppiness apparent in the aftertaste. Delicious.

Redwillow’s complex ales all have names ending in -ess – Feckless, Wreckless, Headless, Smokeless etc. Mostly hover around 4 per cent ABV. My pint of Endless (3.8) lacked some of that punch but still packed a grapefruity, hoppy glancing blow.

Redwillow - In Bottle FormRedwillow - In Bottle Form

 

Ageless, at a drink-it-in-halves 7 per cent, is at the other end of the scale. I drank it (in pint-form) at The Grove in Huddersfield, one of the world’s great pubs and found this 'double IPA' sensationally complex. Beer blogger Des de Moor does it florid justice:

“The beer poured amber, with a very big puffy yellowish head. Grapefruit and tropical fruit notes quickly seized control of a toffeeish malt aroma. More tropical fruit exploded on a resinous palate with notes of spice, burnt toast, lavender, sesame oil and a slight washing up liquid hint – an impressive intensity of flavour but nowhere near as overbearing as some beers in this style. Pineapple, coconut and a building peppery note danced in a long finish, with a minerally, chewy quality and some spicy, seedy notes.”

The Salutation is part of an ongoing revolution. Trof’s enterprise follows the cask ale conversion of Tim Bacon (Oast House and the upcoming Botanist in Alderley Edge) and Johnny Heyes (Common and Port Street Beer House).

Cannily, the Salutation’s Deuchars is in the process of being replaced as regular ale by Rossendale Brewery’s Floral Dance – my idea of a perfect session beer, pale, fruity and just 3.6 per cent. And when I couldn’t resist popping in again I found Withens Pale Ale (£2.90) from Little Valley Brewery’.

The brewer here in this purpose-built operation on the moors above Hebden Bridge is a Dutchman called Wim van der Spek, whose name loosely translates as Billy Bacon, making him an honorary pork scratchings man.

The beers in draught and bottled form are 100 per cent organic. You’ll find a great range of their bottle conditoned stuff on the shelves of the Unicorn co-op grocery in Chorlton from £1.89 for a 500cl bottle of Cragg Vale Bitter to £2.15 for personal favourite Python, a straw-coloured, double-hopped true IPA. It’s dangerous stuff at 6 per cent. 

One per cent lighter, the 2011 Organic Food Awards beer champion Tod’s Blonde (2.10) might be safer. Their Moor Ale (£2.15) features heather among its ingredients, Hebden’s Wheat (£1.89) coriander seeds and lemon peel.

Wim_Van Der Spek With Prince Charles At The Organic Food AwardsWim Van Der Spek With Prince Charles At The Organic Food Awards

To celebrate their third birthday, Chorlton’s Electrik, current Manchester Food and Drink Festival Bar of the Year, have commissioned an exclusive ale called Bright Spark from a Cheshire brewery. Naturally for these times it’s a pale ale with “citrus, hop and floral notes”. It’s appearing on handpump as the refurbished bar reopens and is the first of a number of collaborations planned under the umbrella “the Electrik Ale Experiment”.

• One for the diary – 2nd Manchester MOSI Real Ale & Cider Fest at the Power Hall, Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Road. March 22-24. It’s a Trafford and Hulme CAMRA event showcasing 56 ales, over two-thirds from Greater Manchester’s own breweries. More details from here. 

MANCHESTER is rich in many things. Particularly its pub and bar culture, which is second to none. For once, though, London has upstaged us with the 'first self-service hostelry'... apparently. 

Basically this bar near Waterloo just takes our own Taps format one stage further. The punter gets a swipe card and each table has beer pumps and an iPad allowing you to surf the web, stick tunes on the jukebox, order a Reuben slider or even attract a (human) waitress’s attention. They are even planning messaging between tables, which cuts out the human voice, not always mellifluent when in its cups.

It’s no substitute for the frisson of confronting a heavy-set, sardonic landlord to complain about a pint that’s past its best or point out an earwig in your balti pie... but it’s obviously the future. The boozer’s called The Thirsty Bear. Gordo or Sleuthlike, I may adopt this as a nom de plume. (We already call you that behind your back. Ed)

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Staff
Neil SowerbyMarch 5th 2012.

Thought it was something much worse, Jonathan

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Anonymous

Agreed, a right dump

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Anonymous

Who remembers The King? Now that was a pub, before the NQ was the NQ. No hipsters in there.

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Anonymous

Yet people pay 20 pounds plus for terrible American burgers at other places in the northern quarter…

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Anonymous

Particularly Canal street, I believe that someone saw a gay man and a lesbian down there last week.…

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