Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Monkey Makes Sense

They say if you give a monkey a typewriter and leave it to it, sooner or later a coherent sentence will be produced. Whether the monkey would be aware of this is quite another matter. Thus it was today at JDW in Middleton. This has to be around the bottom of any qualitative list of JDWs, at least as far as cask ale is concerned, but today, on the first day of JDW's Autumn Beer Festival there occurred a moment of simian lucidity. The list was good, even if they didn't know it.

I had thought it might take me some time to pick up the most desirable beers on the list, but here, in the Harbord Harbord*, all but one of my chosen few, was there for my delectation. This was unprecedented, of proportions so unlikely that I had never thought it possible. One would have been a bonus, but four, yes four, all at once? Never. But it was so. I was in a daze as I ordered.

First up was a trio of Mikkel's Viking's Return, brewed by a Dane in Jennings Brewery in Cumbria, then, Firestone Walker California Pale Ale brewed at Marstons and lastly Yo-Ho Yona Yona brewed at Bank's in Wolverhampton. All promised an American style approach to hopping so how did it turn out? Well, good and not so good really. The first one I tried was the Viking's Return. The nose was a blast of resinous cascade hops, though there was a bit of chocolatey malt there too. Beer was dark, sumptiously bodied, with a full on cascade bitterness which got deeper the further into it you got. It finished bitter and hoppy. It is a very good beer indeed. Next was the Yona Yona. This was a bit different. Thinner bodied, no discernable nose with a subdued floral bitterness, a crystal malt edge and a bitter resinous finish. It was clean and reminiscent to me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, though lacking that beer's complexity and panache. I had been realy looking forward to the Firestone, but it was thin, weedy, slightly sulphurous with a short, bitter finish. Hmm. Not what I was hoping for, but it is early days. I'll try it again if I can find it.

My second trio of thirds included Spinning Dog Autumn Gold which was not a golden ale despite what they say. It was bitter, slightly alcoholic and malty, but not too sweet. Just OK to my palate, but no more. My other "tick" was CAMRALE, brewed by Wadworth and chosen it seems by 12 CAMRA types in a tasting of five beers all brewed by Wadworth. Well yes. If it was the stand out best as alleged, goodness knows what the rest were like. It was OK in a typical Wadworth way, but again dominated by sulphur and the typical house Waddies taste. I'm guessing here, that the panel of CAMRA peeps were not from the North West. In fact I'll bet my bottom dollar on that!

My last third was a repeat of the Viking. Of course! So that's it. Just the Baron's Black Wattle Original left that I'd really like to try. I'm betting it will prove elusive!

* Sir Harbord Harbord was born on 26 January 1734. He was created 1st Baron Suffield in 1786 and gave the land on which the present pub stands. I'd have called it the Lord Suffield myself.


Tyson said...

You just love to rub it in, don't you? Knowing full well that Bury isn't off the starting blocks yet. I can see what Stonch means about you!

Tandleman said...

I could be disingenuous here and ask what you mean, but I reckon I know!

YCC - Dubbel said...

Having had all of them at the press launch, (:-P) I agree almost entirely with your findings - although I did really enjoy the Yona Yona too.

The Black Wattle is just bizarre. It pours very murky but settles down after a few minutes. Those aboriginal spices used give it a real odd flavour, almost like contaminated soil. Certainly an experience but not one I'm dying to repeat.

Tim said...

I think you would get a better feel for the Baron's beer of you managed to source a bottle from Australia rather than JDW. The 'spoons version is being brewed under licence by Marstons so it is no doubt worse for the effort. I think Baron's PAle Ale is teh best in their offering. Lovely and fruity: loaded with NZ Nelson Sauvin hops.

The Woolpack Inn said...

A pint bought in JDW is another nail in the coffin of the small pub.

Tandleman said...

Small pubs get almost all of my business. I'm doing my bit - and more!

haddonsman said...

Here in Derby the Babington Arms had Mikkeller, Yo Ho and Firestone on as well. A few texts to other bods round the country brought the overwhelming response that the Firestone was underpowered.

I tried it but it took a good twenty minutes for it to warm up to a point where any flavours developed. Is it a case of a cold dispense strangling a delicate flavour?

The Woolpack Inn said...

And I believe you Tandleman - but I had to say it anyway!!

Tandleman said...

Haddonsman - I doubt it. Mine was at the correct temperature. And the flavour should not in this case be delicate.

MicMac said...

Tandy :~) did you pick up on the significance of the Firestone beer brewed at Marston's? - FW are thought to be the only other brewery in the world to use a Burton Union system(*).

Funly nuff, I think the Union System was said to have been patented by a certain Peter Walker (another wise Scot).

Shame the beer sounds underwhelming. I'll have to check them all out soon for myself, though.

(*) There was recently a micro in Derbyshire that bizarrely set up a new brewery with a modified Burton Union microbrew plant, but they seem to have stopped trading, possibly having mothballed the plant -

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

"cold dispense strangling a delicate flavour"

That's good! Mind if I use it?

Although I'd have to change the spelling to "flavor".

This Boss IPA I'm sipping from Laurelwood up in Portland is very good, but it is indeed strangled.

Tandleman said...

Mike - I didn't know that and my first reaction is "they ought to have made a better fist of it then!"

Peter Walker I do know about of course with my Liverpool connections.