Manchester Lockdown Beers

So, we’re halfway through 2020 and who would have thought the year would have panned out like this? Enjoying pints in pubs and brewery taprooms feels like something from the distant past and social catch ups with friends in your favourite local feels like an alien concept, replaced by Zoom hang outs which although enjoyable, are not quite the same. I for one have been taking it as my own personal responsibility to ensure that all my favourite pubs and breweries are able to survive through this difficult time, which has meant that I have not quite been making the ‘lockdown savings’ I could have been! N.B. I am in the very fortunate position of my job not being affected by the pandemic.

The last Manchester beer tour I guided for UK Brewery Tours was on Saturday 14 March – shortly before the lockdown was announced – and we’ve not been able to run any tours since. I have really missed talking to strangers about the Manchester beer scene so thankfully, my friend and fellow tour guide Sarah asked me to take part in the first of her new ‘quick pint and a catch up’ events on Facebook Live. As we’ve been having so many beer deliveries during lockdown, we decided to have this as our theme so I thought it would be worth collating my notes into a short blog post about some of the great beer deliveries services from breweries in Manchester that I’ve been making the most out of during lockdown. (if you would like to catch up on the live event you can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/sarahannhyde/videos/2584860398421882/)

Alphabet Hook Lime and Sinker, Lime and Chilli Gose

Alphabethttps://alphabetbrewing.co.uk/collections/all
Alphabet have been running an amazing delivery service during lockdown, where if you order before 2pm you get your beers delivered the same day. They’ve had a scattering of great new releases during the period too from an excellent pilsner, to the latest beer trend – Sabro pale ales. I’ve found during lockdown that my boyfriend and I have been buying a lot of more “out there” stuff, like imperial stouts, imperial goses and various mad sours, but sometimes (and more often than not) all I really want is a really well made sessionable beer and I think Alphabet always does them very well. I miss going to Alphabet as they are a great bunch of guys making great beers. I’m looking forward to having some draft straight from the source once things go back to normal but until then, I’m happy with getting cans delivered from Alphabet which always taste fresh.

Beatnikz Republic – http://www.beatnikzrepublic.com/shop
Beatnikz have mainly been doing 3L and 5L cask boxes and crowler cans for delivery and there’s been a pretty wide variety of beers available (although you have to get in there quickly as the cask boxes in particular tend to sell out). You also have to time your delivery well because the cask boxes and the crowlers need to be consumed within 3-5 days from delivery. Having had a look more recently though, it does seem like they’ve started to stock a lot more regular cans as well which will last longer. You need to spend over £20 for free delivery and they deliver on Tuesday’s and Friday’s every week (cut off for Tuesday delivery is midnight on Sunday and deadline for Friday delivery is midnight on Wednesdays). Local delivery only though I’m afraid, so if you are outside Manchester they aren’t delivering to you right now. I particularly likes Beatnikz’s Raspberry IPA collab with Vault City as it’s quite different.


Blackjack session IPA

Blackjackhttps://www.blackjack-beers.com/shopbeer
Blackjack are also doing direct local delivery and have also been selling a lot of cask beers, mainly their own, but also some from other breweries too. They’ve recently started adding kegs and cans too. You have to order by 6pm on the day before they are due to deliver to your area (you can check the areas they cover and the days on their website). I’ve only very recently made an order from Blackjack – not through lack of trying but I’ve found I’ve just been too slow to act before most stuff sells out. It seems to have calmed down a bit now so I managed to put in an order of four IPAs and their new ‘pub ale’. The delivery was very quick. 


Runaway Summer Saison

Cloudwaterhttps://shop.cloudwaterbrew.co/
Cloudwater already had a webshop set up before the coronavirus pandemic hit and we have ordered from them before, but what’s been so great about their online offering during lockdown is that they’ve been stocking loads of beers from other Manchester breweries and beyond that can be ordered for delivery too. They have mainly been doing this to help out other breweries who were unable to sell their own beer directly to customers via their own online store – Manchester breweries included on their webshop include Squawk and Runaway. They’ve also been stocking beer from Boundary Brewing Cooperative from Belfast, who due to Northern Ireland’s alcohol licensing laws were unable to sell their beer to customers direct (I believe this has been changed now and Boundary have been able to set up their own webshop. It’s been great that Cloudwater have been able to use their popularity and influence to help out other breweries in this time of need. Cloudwater have also been running various events to help keep things interesting (e.g. Manchester curry club supporting a local street food trader and a collaboration live event with the Craft Beer Channel). They’ve also been communicating really well with their customers during this time, via regular newsletters about events they are running, new releases and updating on the welfare of their staff and general check ins about how people are doing. The delivery service itself is excellent too – they’ve been running a Manchester local delivery service where they deliver to different postcodes on certain days of the week, as well as their standard UPS delivery which is very quick.
 
Thirst Class Alehttps://thirstclassale.co.uk/collections/all
We’ve had two boxes delivered from Thirst Class (based in Reddish, Stockport) during lockdown as they are the closet brewery to where we live and make some really nice session beers. One of my faves is the Reddish Rye and I also really like the Sorachi Ace ale they make. They’ve had loads of great ales available to purchase from their webshop during lockdown, including the conveniently named “Don’t Panic” which felt very relatable, especially towards the beginning of lockdown. They offer free local delivery if you spend over £25 and have more recently been adding lots of other local and not-so-local breweries to their webshop. We ordered quite a few Torrside beers from them which was great – like Cloudwater, Thirst Class have also been helping out other breweries who don’t have a webshop or the means to deliver.

Trackhttps://trackbrewing.co/collections/beer
Another Manchester favourite, Track, have been offering a great delivery service and beer selection via their webshop which included exciting new releases (which sell out really quick by the way so I recommend signing up to their newsletter and then acting fast!) as well as classics such as sonoma, which during lockdown has been offered as a cask box, keg and can subscription service. I have ordered a couple of the cask boxes during lockdown and these have not only been great value for money at £12.50 each but also satisfied my craving for cask which I have really missed since pubs have been closed. I have also now ordered a sonoma keg, which is yet to be consumed, but I’m sure it will be equally satisfying. Track also included a postcard in the last order we received with them, with a great design from one of their beers and a thank you message, which I felt was a nice touch. Breweries have really had to adapt quickly to the new state of play during lockdown and I think they are very grateful for how customers have continued to support them (and we too are grateful to still be able to access high quality beer delivered to our doors!).

Huddersfield Part Two – Seshfest 2018

Following an excellent Friday night at The Sportsman and Magic Rock Brewing, the next day (Saturday 9th June) we headed back to Magic Rock for Seshfest 2018 – a beer festival dedicated to session brews 4.5% and under.

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Seshfest beer tokens

We arrived bang on 12.00pm for the start of the festival and were given a special Seshfest pint glass, a beer list and four beer tokens at the registration desk. The festival worked on a token-based system and I felt like this actually added to the experience. My boyfriend and I bought an extra £20’s worth of tokens, as we were planning to sample as many different beers as we could. Each token was worth £1.50 and you could choose when ordering your beer whether you wanted a half for one token or a pint for two tokens.

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Dark Woods Coffee to begin

Before starting on the beers we had a coffee from Dark Woods Coffee, who were serving at the festival until 3.00pm. I think this was probably a sensible way to begin and the coffee was excellent. It’s the same coffee that Magic Rock uses in their Common Grounds Triple Coffee Porter, so we already knew it would be good.

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Oni Kawaii Kettle Sour by Gigantic Brewing, Portland

Sufficiently caffeinated, we moved on to our first beer of the day. We were both excited to get our first beers from Gigantic Brewing, a brewery based in Portland, Oregon. We visited Portland last summer and had the most amazing time visiting fantastic breweries, so we were keen to relive that experience with some beers from Gigantic. I opted for the Oni Kawaii Kettle Sour, which the friendly brewer serving me said is made using Marionberries which can be found in Oregon. Bright pink in colour and wonderfully sour and flavourful, this beer was a great way to start and hard to beat.

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The very juicy Proto 5 from Brewski

We decided to sample beers from the breweries we knew least about or would find harder to try in future. There were some really unusual but interesting styles available at Seshfest. My boyfriend had a Green Coffee Lager with Ginger and Citrus called the Anaconda Verde from Against the Grain Brewery (Louisville, Kentucky), which was a lot more tasty and well balanced than I had anticipated. One beer that stood out for me was the Proto 5 from Swedish brewery Brewski – a Milkshake Berliner Weisse with Mango which was so juicy it felt like you were drinking pure mango, but with the sharpness of a great sour.

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Important beer admin

I had so many great beers at Seshfest that it wouldn’t be possible to go into great detail about all of them, but there are just a few more I’d like to highlight and then I’ll post the rest at the bottom of this blog with a short, one line description. I hadn’t heard of Deya Brewing Company from Cheltenham before Seshfest, so I was keen to try them out. The Chulahoma Rye Table Beer from Deya was one of the best I had during the festival. Dry hopped with Amarillio, Chinook and Mosaic, this citrusy beer with tropical notes was so delicious. If I hadn’t been set on trying as many different beers as possible, I would have definitely gone back for a pint.

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View from inside the festival

I also had a wonderful Sour Red Ale from Bristol brewery, Left Handed Giant. This collaboration with Unity Brewery Company is really unique. I’d never had a sour red ale before and as a huge fan of sours and red ales I was really intrigued. This light, fruity sour is also very malty and I don’t know quite how they’ve done it. At 3.5% it’s extremely sessionable but also so much more flavoursome than what I used to expect of such low ABV beers (although so many beers I’ve tried recently are altering my opinions on this). I would highly recommend.

Still Life, a collaboration between Beavertown and Mikkeller Brewing San Diego also deserves an honourable mention. This Dry Hopped Sour, fermented with wine yeast was so light and refreshing and not that easy to come by, so I felt lucky to be able to try it at Seshfest.

thumb_IMG_2705_1024Seshfest was a great beer festival which was small enough to maintain a friendly and relaxed vibe, while being big enough to create a buzzing atmosphere. Despite the small amount of space at Magic Rock Brewing in Huddersfield, it never felt too crowded or overbearing. There was an abundance of fantastic beers available from the world’s best breweries and it was well organised, with beers only running out towards the evening, with plenty still available. It was also amazing value for money. Our £13 ticket provided us with a pint glass and enough tokens for four half pints and then we only spent around an extra £20 on tokens between us – a lot less than you would spend at most beer festivals.

Seshfest 2018 was an amazing experience and all I have left to say is bring on next year!

thumb_IMG_2710_1024Full list of the beers we had at Seshfest 2018

  • Gigantic Brewing, Oni Kawaii, 4.1%, Keg – Kettle Sour beer made with black rice and marionberries
  • Gigantic Brewing, Kolshtastic, 4.5%, Keg – German style pilsner with noble hops and kolsh yeast
  • Slim Pickens and Marble Beers, Agua De Jamaica, 3.5%, Keg- Hibiscus Berliner Weisse with ginger and lime
  • Roosters and Ska Brewing, Anything Gose, 4.2%, Keg – Rhubarb Gose with sea salt
  • Beavertown and Mikkeller, Still Life, 3%, Keg – Dry hopped sour fermented with white wine yeast
  • Against the Grain, Anaconda Verde, 4.5%, Keg – Green coffee lager with ginger and citrus
  • Brewski, Proto 5, 3.5%, Keg – Milkshake berliner weisse with mango
  • Buxton Brewery, Myrcia, 4%, Keg – Oatmeal Hopburst Session IPA brewed with 15% oats and 10% wheat for a really full body and creamy mouthfeel
  • Deya, Chulahoma, 4%, Keg – Rye table beer
  • CR/AK, Mundaka, 4.5%, Keg – Fragrant and easy drinking session IPA
  • Fyne Ales, Sour Friends: Passionfruit, 4.5%, Keg – Super-fruity kettle sour with tropical passion fruit and a citrus finish
  • Brouweriji Kees, Pinapple Coriander Smoothy, 4.4%, Keg – A beer smoothy, brewed with Pineapple, Coriander and Szuchuan pepper
  • Odell Brewing Company, Duck Tickler, 4.4%, Keg – Easy drinking Belgian Golden Ale
  • North Brewing Company, Pinata, 4.4%, Keg – A softly tropical pale ale with stone fruit aromas of guava and mango and a strong hoppy finish
  • Thornbridge, Green Mountain, 4.3%, Keg – Juicy New England session pale
  • Verdant, Quiet Charge, 4%, Keg – American style pale ale with citra and amarillo hops
  • Roosters, Jubilee, 4%, Keg – Refreshing cucumber ale
  • Ossett Brewery, Inception, 4%, Cask – A heavy hopped American IPA
  • Wild Beer Company, Sleeping Lemons, 4.6% (breaking the rules slightly!), Keg – A salty lemon gose
  • Basqueland Brewing, Fruit Boot JR, 4.3%, Keg – Milkshake IPA with passion fruit and mango
  • Kirkstall Brewery, Three Swords, 4.5%, Cask – Thirst quenching English pale ale
  • Left Handed Giant, Distinct Phases, 3.5%, Keg – Sour red ale
  • North Riding Brewery, Mosaic Pale, 4.3%, Cask – American Mosaic pale ale with blueberry and citrus flavours
  • Northern Monk, Patrons Project 5.01// Striding Edge, 3%, Keg – A light IPA with big flavours

 

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…