The Regal Moon was buzzing with anticipation of a good day out when I got there a little late due to First Bus's continual inability to run a proper service. There was a photo call for Wetherspoon News first of all (Timbo has exacting requirements for this) and then a chance to sample a beer or two before the off. Bateman's Waynflete Hedgerow was delicate and appealing though it kind of dies off a bit towards the end. Morrell's Oxford Blue had the right mix of hops, but too toned down, resulting in a beer less than the sum of its parts. This was followed by the excellent Titanic Tomahawk which was bursting with hop flavour in a very good firm body. One to seek out again I'd say.
Then on to the bus to the Cotton Bail in Hyde where a throng at the bar was dealt with pleasantly and efficiently. Fremlins Bitter was quite thin as you'd expect from a 3.5% beer, but was a good example of a Boy's Bitter. Oakham Rollercoaster was much better than its programme description and a lot more hoppy too. A good beer. Sharp's Gentle Jane was a little too thin, but the Belgian yeast was noticeable and it made a good aperitif for the altogether more complex and authentic Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde which ticked all the right boxes and made the transition to cask effortlessly. I had a taste of Theakston's Grousebeater and was glad I didn't part with hard cash for it. The only dud so far.
A far more boisterous and cheery mob reboarded the coach for the short ride to Stalybridge and the Society Rooms. An immediate queue formed here. BrewDog Trashy Blonde was on and it certainly didn't disappoint in any way whatsoever. Superbly balanced, but tilted just enough in favour of resiny hop to make this a stunner. When BrewDog make beers as good as this, you can forgive them anything. Still man does not live by BrewDog alone and it was onwards and upwards with the fantastically good Herold Black Chalice. A tight, creamy head and dense black body was full of dark chocolate flavour, with a raisiny edge and a very pronounced Saaz finish. A sheer delight and another effortless transition to cask.
Next up was the Ash Tree in Ashton with Zululand Blonde the beer of choice for most. A bit more bitter than the tasting notes suggest, but a little too sweet for my tastes really. Things were slowing down a tad now as the volume kicked in, but there was no let up.
Back in my home area, the Upsteps in Oldham was busy and we made it a lot busier. Goose Island Honkers here and it was pretty damn good. It seemed to me to capture the flavours exactly, but I'll check that out in Chicago in a couple of weeks. A quick half of Budelse Capucijn was rewarded by a very decent and complex beer of considerable poise.
A short walk then took us to The Squire Knott for a bit of snap and more beer of course, with an added bonus of a Meet the Brewer session, with Allgates, Greenfield and Howard Town providing free samples and a chance to chat. I was fading then, so a couple of Val-Dieu and I was off, hoping to make my quiz, but didn't of course, due to First Bus and a bad decision bus wise from me. I'd been drinking.
So, a great day out, some damn good beer and company, a fine show from all the JDW's and from Chris Riley, manager of the Regal Moon who arranged it all. Well done.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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