Zwanze Day 2018 at The Pilcrow, Manchester

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Zwanze Day at The Pilcrow Poster

Sticking with the Belgian theme for just one more blog post, I am going to write about Cantillon Zwanze Day which took place at my local Manchester pub, The Pilcrow, on Saturday 29 September. The Zwanze series from Cantillon Brewery (Brussels, Belgium) began in 2008 with the release of a special lambic beer with added rhubarb. Ever since then, Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy has used the series, and the celebration days organised around it, to bring lovers of lambic beers together around the world. Now ten years in to the series, this was my first ever Zwanze day and seeing as it was at our local and favourite Manchester pub, we couldn’t resist getting tickets.

 

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Garage, Silver Peel

The event began at 12.00pm on the Saturday, however as we had friends visiting that day we didn’t arrive at The Pilcrow until around 6.00pm. The Zwanze was not pouring until 8.00pm, so this gave us plenty of time to try out the rest of the lambic-inspired beers on offer that day. The Pilcrow still has it’s large yellow tent up outside the pub, which has been used for many events during the summer months, and the majority of the beers were being served from inside the tent. You needed to buy tokens from the bar if you wanted beers from outside (£2.50 per token), so we got a few each to begin with. Cantillon beers were two tokens each (I imagine because of the costs to bring the beer to the UK) but all the other beers were one token. I started off with the Cantillon Iris, a traditional lambic which is dry and tart, with a slight floral taste. It was delicious and I was pleased that I had the chance to try it as it had not been available when we visited the brewery itself back in July. I followed this with a Oude Kriek Boon, as I love the Kriek style so always take the opportunity to have one when I can.

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Wylam, Fruits of Perception

As well as a large selection of Cantillon brews, there were also lots of sour and lambic-inspired beers from a range of UK brewers. The Wild Beer Co had plenty on offer, many of which were very intriguing such as their Rosa Rouge Saison which was really well balanced and had a nice level of tartness to it. We also tried their Sourdough Berliner Weisse which we were pleasantly surprised by, as although we were keen to try it, we weren’t convinced it would work. It was actually quite light and refreshing. We were expecting it to have a stronger bread taste, but the fact it didn’t is probably a good thing. Personal favourites from the non-Cantillon beers we tried were Silver Peel, a sour Berliner Weisse from Garage Beer Co from Barcelona (really light, fragrant but very sour. Definitely packs a punch!) and Fruits of Perception by Wylam from Newcastle, UK which I found to be quite unique compared to other sours I’ve had (I also couldn’t quite place the fruit, but possibly apricot – very nice). I know that sour beers are not for everyone, but for sour lovers like me, this event was a brilliant opportunity to try lots of interesting and harder-to-come-by styles.

IMG_3075As it approached 8.00pm, we joined the queue to receive our Cantillon Zwanze 2018. While we waited we had a good chat with a few lambic-enthusiasts who had only just returned from visiting the brewery in Brussels. They also told us about how you can only purchase a certain amount of bottles of Cantillon beer from the brewery every year (something we didn’t know) and apparently they have a way of tracking past purchases on your card so they know if you’ve already reached your limit for that year. We also saw two men with two wristbands each (you had to exchange your tickets for a wristband when you arrived). They must have been very keen to try this years Zwanze!

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Zwanze 2018 lambic and glass

Once we received our Zwanze, it was worth the wait. This years version was a blend of two year old lambic matured in first use italian wine barrels. It was really tart and so flavourful. You could definitely taste the wine and the time it spent maturing in the barrels. We received a third measure and sadly we got through ours way too quickly – we definitely could have had more if we’d had the chance to. There is definitely a level of excitement to having a beer you know you will never have again though. As much as I value having my ‘go-to’ beers that I’ll come back to time and time again, it’s a special experience to have something that has taken so much time and effort and you will never have again. And I guess there’s always next year?

I had never heard of Zwanze day before this year and I’m glad that The Pilcrow got the chance to host it, as it’s a really fantastic little pub. Over the next few weeks/months I’ll be writing about loads more local events – the next one being Indyman Beer Con 2018, which I’ll be attending tonight. Perhaps see you there?

Manchester Beer Week

 

 

 


Last Friday marked the beginning of Manchester Beer Week – Manchester’s only city-wide beer festival. The fortnight of festivities includes a variety of events from tap takeovers to brewery tours and educational talks and beer-based quizzes. There’s been so much going on that I wish I’d been able to take the whole two weeks off work and explore everything!

As soon as it was time to clock off work last Friday, my boyfriend and I headed out to Plant Noma for our first event of the festival – a discussion about how and if craft breweries should be giving back and working with people in the communities they are based. The discussion was facilitated by Manchester Beer Weeks’ organiser, Connor Murphy and included Jim Cullen, founder and organiser of The Independent Salford Beer Festival and Jenn Merrick, who used to be Head Brewer at Beavertown Brewery and is now setting up her own community brewery in East London called Earth Station.

It was a great start to the festival and a really interesting insight into some of the things that breweries are already doing to engage with their local communities. A particularly interesting part of the conversation was about taking on people from within local communities as brewing apprentices and the positive affects this can have, as well as the challenges. Many of the other attendees at the talk worked in the industry and were talking about how hard it is to retain brewers and that there is a real skills shortage. It was really interesting to hear from people actually working in the industry and the challenges they face. I really like the idea of breweries training up young people and supporting them through a career they may never have considered and also giving back to the communities they work in, as many already do. However I can also see how hard that must be for various reasons. Jenn Merrick’s Earth Station is a wonderful idea and I can’t wait to hear more about it and (hopefully) visit at some point.

For our next stop, we headed to Hatch on Oxford Road for a tap takeover at ÖL Nano Brewery & Bar on Oxford Road. The takeover was with Croatian brewery Nova Runda, who I hadn’t heard of before but did not disappoint. I had three great Nova Runda beers while I was there, however the one that stood out the most was their American style IPA, C4. Very hoppy and citrusy – perfect for the heatwave we’ve been having here in Manchester (and the UK as a whole). I’m looking forward to trying more beers from Nova Runda in future. There seems to be a lot of really interesting craft breweries coming out of Croatia at the moment…Garden Brewery, Nova Runda…perhaps a trip is on the cards.

IMG_2765We didn’t want to stay out too late because we were attending The Pilcrow‘s Summer Beer Thing the next day, however we made a quick stop on our way home at Sandbar on Grosvenor Street. Sandbar were holding a tap takeover as well with Boutilliers Microbrewery from Faversham, UK – another brewery newly on my radar that I was keen to try out. Boutilliers’ beer did not disappoint, especially their Anti-Trump Fruit Saison which had a political message I can definitely get on board with, as well as being incredibly delicious. Sandbar is a great spot for craft beer and somewhere I’ve only discovered fairly recently as it’s in the more studenty part of town, which we don’t go to so often. I really like the atmosphere in Sandbar and love all the little hidden rooms towards the back. One of my new found favourite spots in Manchester.

The next day we woke up raring to go for our second day of Manchester Beer Week activities. Before heading over to Summer Beer Thing, we popped in to our most local and favourite brewery, Runaway. We always like having a chat with Mark, Co-founder and Head Brewer at Runaway Brewery, as he is super friendly and welcoming. We were keen to try their new collaboration with local sushi restaurant Umezushi, Gari Gose brewed with seaweed, root ginger, wah plums and sushi rice. It was delicious and so unique. We only had a half each because we were keen not to drink too much before Summer Beer Thing but we could have drank a lot more. We will be back!

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After our brief stop at Runaway we headed over to the main event of the day – Summer Beer Thing at The Pilcrow. This was day two of the festival, showcasing some of the very best breweries in the North. There were a number of ‘beer stations’ offering different types of beers, from hoppy styles to sours and fruity beers and darker stouts and porters. Session ales were available inside at The Pilcrow bar and all the other stalls were set up outside under a giant yellow gazebo. It was such a sunny beautiful day and everyone was sitting outside, either on the benches inside the tent or on the walls around The Pilcrow.

We traded in our tickets in exchange for a programme with all the beers listed and a glass. Like most beer festivals, it was based on a token system so we bought 9 tokens between us for £20 to start off with. The beer was served in thirds, which I appreciated because it meant that I was able to try more different styles than I would have done if the servings had been larger. I’m not going to go into detail about all the beers I had because there were so many, but what I will say is there was an amazing selection, showing off the very best the North has to offer. They also featured breweries from further afield and there were ‘meet the brewer’ sessions throughout the day where you could try free samples – I particularly enjoyed meeting some of the team from Lost and Grounded and trying their Keller Pils!

I loved the relaxed and friendly atmosphere at Summer Beer Thing – it was just full of people having a brilliant time and enjoying great beer. In fact all the activities we’ve done so far as part of Manchester Beer Week has just reaffirmed to me how much I love this city and the expansive brewery scene we have here.

Thankfully the festivities continue until Sunday 8th July, so there’s plenty more Manchester Beer Week events to enjoy!

Huddersfield Part One – The Sportsman

Last weekend was one my boyfriend and I had been eagerly anticipating for a long time – Seshfest 2018 at Magic Rock Brewing in Huddersfield. To make the trip feel even more like a mini-holiday, we decided to head over on the Friday night as we’d heard about a Tap Takeover taking place at a pub called The Sportsman. Huddersfield is very easy to reach from Manchester – only 30 minutes away on the train. When we arrived we headed over to our hotel to check-in and leave our stuff and then went straight back out again to begin the weekend festivities at The Sportsman.

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Drop by Electric Bear Brewing Company
The Tap Takeover at The Sportsman was a range of breweries from Bristol and Bath, many of which we had sampled before or had heard great things about. The first beer I had was an American style red ale from Electric Bear Brewing Company. I am a fan of a red ale but don’t tend to have them very often and at 4.3% this was a great sessionable option. Drop is a really lovely malty beer with caramel notes and a very subtle taste of orange.

 

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Raw by Moor Beer Company
The next beer I had was the Raw English Bitter by Moor Beer Company. I decided I wanted stay on the session ales to keep in line with Seshfest the next day, which would only be serving beers 4.5% and below. Raw is also 4.3% and has a rich malt base and is full of flavour. I don’t tend to drink bitter, but this one is really enjoyable. Dry-hopped with a light fruit flavour, Raw is great for those who like clean, easy drinking bitters.

 

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The Sportsman, Huddersfield

The Sportsman itself has a relaxed vibe and feels like a classic English pub with a slight modern edge. It’s very welcoming, from its friendly staff to its comfortable soft seats. The bar is the central point, with small rooms to the left and right with more spaces to sit and enjoy the excellent selection of ales. The food was fantastic too and excellent value for money. We both had a pie with mushy peas, chips and gravy – a steal at just £7.95. Considering the main focus of the menu is pies, there were also some good veggie and vegan options available. I am pescatarian, so eat fish but no other meat and I opted for the fish pie but I was really pleased that I was able to choose to have veggie gravy with it. I think it’s great that even pubs that are serving traditional style British food are embracing the need to offer good veggie and vegan alternatives.

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Magic Rock taproom the night before Seshfest
We didn’t want to drink too much before Seshfest, so we decided to head back via the Magic Rock taproom. It was quite exciting to visit the brewery knowing that the next day it would be transformed for the festival, and also seeing the areas where each brewery would be the next day. The taproom had the same feeling you get the Thursday night before a music festival begins, there was an exciting atmosphere and the happy buzz of conversation in anticipation of the next day’s festivities. It seemed as though the taproom was mainly full of the brewers who would be serving at Seshfest and my boyfriend and I couldn’t help but look around at all the different t-shirts and hoodies embossed with the branding of breweries from the UK and around the world.

 

After sampling Magic Rocks’ Micromachine and Timequake session IPAs, we headed back to our hotel to get an early night before Seshfest 2018.

Thanks for reading! If you want to hear more about Seshfest 2018 itself, then please come back to the blog later this week where I’ll be posting a full account of the event and the beers on offer.

Cardiff Craft Crawl

This weekend I went to Cardiff to visit my Dad and his wife. They moved there about three years ago and I always love going to stay, as there is loads going on for a city that is so walkable. There are plenty of great pubs in Cardiff, so I’m sure I’ll write about my visits again at some point, however I’m just going to focus on a handful of places in this post.

thumb_IMG_2559_1024It was a lovely day on Saturday, so we decided to begin our afternoon crawl in The Pen and Wig on Park Grove, which has an excellent beer garden. I’ve been there a few times before and they always have a wide selection of cask beers available, as well as a few keg options too. I chose a beer I hadn’t had before which was recommended to me by one of the lovely bar staff – Mr Mojo Pale Ale from local brewery Crafty Devil. I always try to sample local breweries when I can and this American style pale did not disappoint. Mr Mojo is intensely hoppy and full of tropical flavours and left my Dad and boyfriend jealous – I would highly recommend.

Next on our mini crawl was Zero Degrees Microbrewery and Restaurant, which as well as having a large venue in Cardiff, has bases in Bristol, Reading and Blackheath, London. We had not been here before so I was keen to check it out. I chose a Belgian Witbier which was very much up my street. I would say it has quite a subtle taste but if you like a wheat beer, as I do, then you will like this. I would like to visit Zerodegrees again at some point to try the food, as there were amazing aromas coming from the kitchen during our visit.

Our last pub stop is one of my favourites in Cardiff – Tiny Rebel Brewery. The brewery itself is based in Newport and I’ve not had the chance to visit yet, however the bar in Cardiff is somewhere I try to go to every time I’m there. They always have an extensive selection of beers on tap, mostly their own but a few others too, and I’ve visited before when they’ve had tap takeovers as well. I had the Dutty Vermont Session IPA – a cloudy and golden beer with lovely notes of grapefruit and citrus. I’ve heard some say that they find this a bit hazy, but I like hazy beers personally. My Dad had two pints of Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft Nitro – a marshmallow porter and probably one of his favourite beers ever. He first discovered this far too easy to drink porter on our last visit to Tiny Rebel and he has been raving about it ever since. My boyfriend also opted for the Stay Puft Nitro and gave it an equally glowing review – commenting on how easily it goes down. I’ve never been much of a porter drinker – I do like it but I always find I can’t drink too much of it – however this one could change my mind.

To finish this blog I want to mention two great bottle shops in Cardiff, which we visited on Sunday to stock up before our trip back up to Manchester. The first is one that my Dad has taken me to before and is a bit of a hidden secret (well, that’s what my Dad says anyway). It’s called Discount Supermarket and it’s on Whitchurch Road. You would never know it without going inside, but this place has one of the most incredible beer selections I’ve seen. It has a huge amount of Belgian beers, as well as lots and lots of beers from UK craft breweries and American breweries. I picked up loads from there, including an old fashioned lemonade IPA from Evil Twin Brewing (Brooklyn, New York), a ‘Wanna go to the Sun’ citra and mosaic pale from Lost and Grounded (Bristol, UK) and a brewery I’d never heard of before called Whiplash who brewed this particular beer at Larkin’s Brewing Company (Wicklow, Ireland).

While on our way to visit Discount Supermarket, we also discovered another gem on Whitchurch Road – Pop’n’Hops. We’d never seen this little place before, which sells both records and craft beer, despite it being there for over a year. It has a great selection of beers from the UK and from across the world and the staff are super friendly and helpful. My boyfriend had a quick peruse of the records, but I was a bit too over excited by the beer selection. We chose a Guerrilla IPA from CR/AK Brewery (Padova, Italy) that I had been keen to try for a while, as well as a few from Welsh breweries West by Three (Swansea) and Rival Brewing Company (Cardiff).

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If you live in Cardiff, or are just visiting or passing through, these bottle shops are not to be missed. If you do find yourself there at some point, please do get in touch and let me know what you picked up!

I haven’t tried most of the beers that I bought in my haul yet so look out for a feature on those in an upcoming blog…

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Coming soon…