Saturday, 26 November 2011

Port Street Beer House, 23/11/11

In the run up to Christmas, dark is the thing. Dark nights, dark beers, this match is as easy as it gets. This led to a happy coincidence. Port street beer house, a young - but already iconic - beer haven in Manchester is running an 'Old and Dark' Festival. Hardknott, the steadily growing craft brewery from South Cumbria is looking for somewhere to launch its maddest brew to date; Vitesse Noir.
Farrer's Coffee, locally roasted beans sourced from Latin America, Chocolate from expert French choclatiers Valrhona, vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea. Stimulant upon stimulant upon stimulant. When combined with 11% ABV, this beer is both pep- and sleeping pill combined.

We arrived in Manchester at around 5:30 that evening and, after a quick meal in Chinatown, it was on to Port Street.

From here on, I describe the evening through my own eyes.

In my 'manor' of Cumbria, craft kegged beer is as rare as hen's teeth. Therefore, if I'm in such a place as Port Street, or Mr Foley's, or Bacchus, or Craft Beer Co, I instinctively gravitate toward it. That's not a denouncement of casked beer, I love cask conditioned beer, but it is all too readily available where I live. No variety.

I began with De Molen's Vuur & Vlam, a delicious 6.2% pale ale with plenty of hop character and a nice quaffable body.

I followed this up with Summer Wine Brewery's Cohort, a double black Belgian rye PA, an amazing genre-buster, full bodied and thick with a nice over-riding bitterness and fruity top-notes.

Other beers enjoyed on the night include Lovibonds Henley Dark, SK1 barley wine (of unknown origin), Great Divide Yeti and Source Deli/Prospect Brewery collaboration 'On The Source', a delicious IPA flavoured with Basil.

Which brings me on to another couple of beers I happened to try. On keg was Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale. I still have a few bottles of Odell's Cutthroat Porter in my beer shed, which is an amazing beer. It's a shame I can't say the same for what I tried that night. While I'm sure it was competently brewed and it's fair to say it could've been washed out by all the amazing full-flavoured beers I'd tried before, it still tasted of sugary tea.

In complete contrast, this evening represented my first taste of Duchesse de Bourgogne. Now here was a beer that felt too good to drink. I wanted to lather it over a prime cut of Venison, with a few lingonberries for good measure. Sweet and tangy and full of rich juiciness, what an incredibly complex array of flavours.

While I was sampling my way through the entire bar and ogling the enormous range of bottles neatly stacked behind it, Hardknott Dave was doing his thing.

He'd earlier spoken for 10 minutes or so, introducing the beer we were gathered to launch as it were. He managed to do this without yelling either, a significant breakthrough in his 'meet the brewer' presentations....!

The beer officially went on sale as soon as Dave had finished speaking and a large queue formed at the bar.

Of course, Hardknott officionados and twissupers alike will know that Vitesse Noir has previously been sold in keg at the marvellous Free Trade Inn, but universal beer geek opinion was that while the carbonation certainly lifted the flavours, it was a tad too cold to be brutally honest. The cask version suffered no such problem. Cask conditioning is a great format for this beer, pitched at the perfect temperature to enhance and show off the flavours, but still carrying enough condition to enliven the palate with those flavours.

We were heading back to Cumbria on the last train, and it was soon time to make a move. I couldn't leave without a carry-out though, not when you consider the range that Port Street boasts.

I'd had my eye on Schneider's new limited edition Tap X: Mein Nelson Sauvin since I'd first perused the online beer list a few days ago. Seeing it there in the fridge, in all it's splendour, I couldn't resist! So coupled with a Birra del Borgo My Antonia and a Victory Hop Wallop, my Port Street adventure was drawing to a close.

Thanks to Jonny and Will from Port Street and to everyone who turned up on the night.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Session #57: Guilty Pleasures

I have a pretty filthy habit.

It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but I love it just the same.

My guilty pleasure?


Its RateBeer score is a venerable 1. My favourite review on that particular site gave it 0.7, stating: "Completely undrinkable, I'd rather stay sober for the rest of my life." The same review does go on to say "good carbonation" though, so hey-ho.

I first drank this beer in a Mexican restaurant called Salsa in the Bournemouth suburb of Charminster. Whenever I would visit a good buddy in that area, we would invariably end up in Salsa until midnight at the very least. We once got drinking with the staff and stumbled out at 5 in the morning, having consumed a bottle of tequila and 4 cases of Desperados just on our table of 6, plus hangers on.... possibly. It's a bit hazy.

In terms of its taste, it would be fair to say its pretty rank. Its sweet and perfumed and in no way does it taste of tequila, which is the one thing it's supposed to taste of. But it's light, the sweetness makes it easy to drink - especially when served with the obligatory lime wedge - and its "good carbonation" is beautifully refreshing. Ok, so its in a clear bottle and as such it is a tad skunked, but in goes the lime wedge and it's happy days!

When I tweeted out what I was drinking, I attracted much derision from Zak Avery and el Capitan himself, HardknottDave. But drinking this beer will always take me back to being 20 years old, without much of a care, long hot weekends in Bournemouth and friends all round the table.