I had the chance to compare three widely spoken about beers last week, though not all at the same time. First was Marble Dobber which I have already mentioned was voted Champion Beer of Greater Manchester last Friday. This is a terrific beer for the hophead. It is intensely, resinously, bitter, but by no means one dimensionally so. I guess it has a progressive and complex hopping regime. given that it grows in hoppiness throughout, to a lip smackingly resinous and lasting finish. It drinks all too easily for its 5.9% strength and deserves the often used, but easily understandable descriptor, "dangerously drinkable".
I was advised in advance the the Waterhouse had Jaipur IPA - also 5.9%, coming on, as one of my co-workers at MFDF had supplied a pumpclip for it. I took Eileen with me on Saturday and after fighting our way through good natured cider and lager drinking Rugby League fans from Leeds and St Helens, in town for the big match, a pint and a half was procured. As always this beer wasn't clear. I have come to the conclusion that this must be deliberate. I have never had a clear pint of it, not even at Thornbridge Hall. "You don't drink with your eyes" I hear some cry. Well, effectively you do. Appearance is most certainly part of a beer's appeal - ask anyone who has judged beer - and to me this just doesn't look the part. I have to say it didn't live up to its hype and again, with the exception of a few good pints, to me it rarely does. Sure it had bitterness, but this fought against the sheer underlying sweetness of the beer. There was some citrus from the C hops, but overall it underwhelmed. The finish was sweet too and faded almost immediately.
A new discovery for me is the M&B run Wellington, which along with its companion pub, Sam Smith's Sinclair's Oyster Bar, has peripatetically shuffled round Manchester City Centre. I say new, as I haven't been in it since its second move from Shambles Square. A tip from a fellow CAMRA member took me in there in Thursday. I was impressed by the beer quality, so took the discerning E for a visit. On the bar was the 4.9% Brew Dog 77 Lager. It had to be ordered, as I see cask Brew Dog all too rarely. Firstly it was a much darker beer than I expected. It was well conditioned, full bodied and rather malty with developing bitterness, through to a decent bitter finish. It didn't seem to me to have many lager characteristics at all and I wonder if there are slightly - or even completely - different versions brewed for cask and bottle?
So conclusions? Well none of this is scientific, but my feeling is that in their quiet understated way, Marble are producing spectacularly good beers and while keeping a low profile, are going from strength to strength. That's fine as it's local to me. The others? Well, on this showing, Jaipur didn't come out too well, but so many people rate it so highly, I keep trying it whenever I see it, in the hope of being converted. I'd like to try another somewhere else, as I would with Brew Dog, though I have to say the 77 was very drinkable. Let's see more of their cask in the North West please. In cask I have rarely been disappointed with their beers.
Disgracefully Sinclair's has had cask removed and I bet they sold more than an eighteen a day. Is Sam's becoming more or less a totally keg brewery? If so, a pity, as they have some really fine pubs.
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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