It was a busy old day on Saturday. The Manchester Beer and Cider Festival Organising Meeting in the Angel was (unusually) businesslike and brisk. It was gratifying to see that not only do we have a great team running things, but excellent progress is being made. Lessons learned from last year are being applied and that's as it should be. It'll be bigger and better, with more seats, beer on two floors, a greater selection and more. If it isn't in your diary, put it in now. The link is below. Also gratifying to this reader at least, was ideal organising meeting beer in the shape of an old friend and favourite, Hawkshead Windermere Pale. At 3.5%, you can sup a few without your concentration and ability to contribute being adversely affected. It was in tremendous form too, though another bar person wouldn't have gone amiss in what was a very busy pub, especially when you have to wait behind someone paying for a couple of beers with a credit card. That's a pain in the whatsit to put it mildly.
Afterwards a few of us nipped into the recently renovated Smithfield, which has been opened out a bit, cleaned up tremendously and dragged into the 21st Century. It had sorely needed it. Sadly there was only two cask beers on, Lytham Gold and a variation thereof with added
berries and fruit. I didn't try that, but my "ordinary" Lytham Gold was
fine, if unexciting. I noted too that Heineken had clearly put money
into the place, the viewing lager cellar somewhat giving the game away
and the adverts, brewery signs, John Smith's Smooth and Fosters point of
sale visible everywhere, providing ample confirmation. At least we were
spared Deuchars IPA, though. This is a venture on which the jury is still out I think. Round the corner, the Crown and Kettle was busy and had a good choice to go at.
I settled for my first ever Brewsmith beer, their 6% IPA, cashing in my
previous weak beer credit all at once. I enjoyed it and it certainly
seemed appropriate, having met brewer James and his wife Jennifer at
IndyManBeerCon only the week before. I'll be taking up their kind invitation to visit, even though their premises are, sadly, just a mere 200 yards of so outside my CAMRA Bailiwick.
No trip to Manchester is complete with popping in to the Marble Arch. I've not been in for while and had hoped for great things following the appointment of a new head brewer. Marble Best was brown, full of crystal malt and pretty much a standard, English Bitter. One for the malt fans I think. A half of Chocolate Marble wasn't as good as I've had it before on this showing and neither retained their heads, indicating that perhaps there is some way to go. Pint too, drunk by a colleague, lost its head immediately. On the plus side, service was noticeably friendly and quick. The visit was saved though by a recommendation. Blackjack Stout, dispensed by nitrogen mix, was smooth, bitter, strong (ish) and quite delicious. But then, I'm a bit of a sucker for unpasteurised nitro stout, as it gives lovely mouthfeel and a gorgeous thick white head. Stouts simply look and taste better through a tight white head.*
Your mileage may of course vary on that one. Probably does in fact.
Manchester Beer and Cider Festival details are here. Open from 21st- 24th January 2015 at the Manchester Velodrome. *Cask conditioned stout through a tight sparkler is also delicious, if not more so.
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. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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