Port St Beer House is one of these places that you find the trendy young things of Manchester. But the neatly trimmed beards - more or less de rigeur among twenty somethings - the buxom Laura Ashleyed lasses, elbowing their way to the bar and the general upward mobility of it all may not be Shrimpy's in Kings Cross - heck it may not even be BrewDog - but it does all provide a comfortable and safe, non shaven headed environment to drink in and unlike BrewDog, there is something decent for the discerning drinker to consume. There is very well kept cask beer.
I go there less often than I should do and it isn't just the fact that the toilet is up three flights of stairs like the North face of the Eiger. When I nipped up for a pee, well nipped isn't the word, there was a fellow imbiber gasping for breath. "There should be bloody resuscitation equipment up here" quoth he. "Thought I was going to have a ***king heart attack." Needless to say, he was one of the non hip crowd that leavens the place somewhat. I was here though not to listen to such gay repartee, but to check out Hardknott Dave's launch of draught (keg) Rhetoric Ed.I, a "Star Anise Infused Quasi-Bombastic Belgique Quad" and the English Experiment (keykeg), a collaboration with Fullers John Keeling using unusual English hops. It was good to meet the Hardknott crew again and after a general chat, I joined the throng as Dave leapt up on an upturned beer crate and gave us all the spiel. That done, the highlighted beers were unveiled on the bar and the supping, sniffing, swirling and general nattering about the beer began.
Now I have to say Rhetoric wasn't my cup of tea. It was maroon dark, intensely aromatic, with star anise dominant, but a liquorice taste was evident too, as well as many spices, no doubt thrown up by the yeasts. Each seemed to me to be getting on with each other less than harmoniously. To me it needed more time for the ingredients to gel and get along. It was a riotous assembly of a beer and certainly a talking point. The English Experiment, was a different kettle of hops entirely. As you might imagine with John Keeling on board, it is far more mainstream. Don't take that to mean boring. In this case, it most certainly wasn't. The hops used, Archer, Baron, Bishop and Landlady are all experimental and these seemed to get along with each other famously, to reveal a beer that was a splendid traditional, strong pale ale of some poise and elegance. Once you'd knocked some of the gas out of it and warmed it up in your hand that is. The hoppy finish was resinous and lasting, though in my view cask conditioning would have benefited it, as the subtleties of the beer would be better allowed to shine through - a point Dave agreed with.
These informal nights are a great way to launch a beer and PSBH do it all rather well. I'm a bit of a fan of the place actually. As for the beers, well they were so different, but none the worse for that. They got people talking and while I didn't care for Rhetoric, I'm sure plenty of others did. That's a good thing, as otherwise we'd all be drinking standard industrial lager.
And that would be a bad thing.
I also enjoyed cask beers from Thornbridge and others. Thornbridge need a special mention as they seem to get cask beers, no matter the style, just right. Except Jaipur of course, though my half was a slight improvement.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, 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 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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