have been out sampling and in some cases enduring the delights of a Christmas works night out along with a few other festive get-togethers of late, and have also purchased my supplies of essential liquids for the wearisome Christmas period. All is not lost though, and to celebrate the winter solstice, I am providing a Saturnalian rundown of recent beers tasted and venues visited.
Shakespeares Gibraltar Street Shalesmoor
I was in today for a very brief couple of drinks and to catch up with my friend, alas he was on the fizz, but I tried a refreshing and hoppy Hornbeam Top Hop bitter at £2.40 a pint and a half of the more expensive Raw Black Ghost dark IPA which was fantastic, if a little top heavy on frol for a lunchtime. And, at the risk of falling foul of my rubbish eyesight, i am sure there was a sign outside advertising a beer festival starting today,and running until the 23rd December - alas no details on their website or Facebook page so please accept my apologies if this turns out to have been a hallucination.....
Archer Road Beer Stop
I have been up to Britain's premier beer selling emporium tonight to purchase a polypin of Abbeydale Moonshine at mates rate, which modesty forbids me from disclosing, as well as a selection of their finest bottled ales. As well as the incredibly generous Davefromtshop giving me a bottle of Brampton Winter Bock, I selected, amongst other things, a Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen, a Durham Temptation imperial Russian stout,(as depicted in picture below, owing to a lack of ARBS images!) a limited edition Thornbridge coalition (NOTE - no longer in stock, sorry!), a Blue Monkey Ape Ale, a Durham Evensong, a Summer Wine Brewery 10 malts porter and their NZ IPA, Tucher Kristkindlemarkt, and some Timmermans Framboise, Mythos and Vedette for our lass.
There are of course many many more ales available but even availing myself of a generous discount my intended bottle expenditure could not run to many on top of the Polypin. So my suggestion would be to get yourself up there to sample the amazing range and see for yourself - now selling Dunham Massey Winter Warmer (subject to availability).
Which brings me nicely on to Wee Fatha's kind errand to the Dunham Massey brewery shop to purchase some of their realiably excellent bottle conditioned ales. My absolute favourite is the porter, alas there were only 2 bottles left so me and WF had one each, along wth a new Strong beer called Gold, and their Dunham Dark to name but a few.
Aside from the pertinent fact that I love the taste of their beer, especially the dark ones, I am happy, in Dunham Massey Brewery, to have found a reputable beer bottler who knows their stuff. In an age of reckless amateurish bottle conditioning techniques that has seen breweries seemingly willing to sell sub standard yeast bombs, its refreshing to see that Dunham, who know they are good at it, have continued bottling and selling their ales with yeast in the bottle to an appreciative public. The fact that its safe to drink their beers just past the best before date and that the yeast can be poured into the beer without adding a horrid astringent edge is proof that the beers are a fine example of the bottle conditioning craft.
On Friday the team works night out started at the Hop so ensuring a decent, if very long waited for, pint of real ale to start things off.
The Hop also had fantastic Fernandes offerings and on Monday night the excellent Rat Brewery Dirty Rat mild and their hoppy King Rat IPA. A member of staff told me that they were concentrating on having a Fullers pump and one for each of their (Ossett's) other brewery offerings, i.e the Rat and Ratchett, Riverhead, and, to my surprise, Fernandes at Wakefield (although I should have known really since the founder am certain moved to Filey or similar to set up a Brewery there.). This still doesn't really help to clear up the price disparity but does unfortunately offer little indication of an upcoming none Fullers or Ossett beer, but I will no doubt be back in soon to find out.
Real ale after midnight
One of the never ending disappointments of late night city centre drinking has always been the dearth of places where you can find a decent pint after the witching hour. Recently a few bars have added real ale and the trend is slowly being reversed, to the point where you can now almost rely on a decent drink no matter how late it is you are strutting your stuff.
A case in point would be Friday, when (albeit only at just gone 23.00 ) we were in the Cavendish (groan), which had one real ale on offer, a palatable pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale Ale. Harrisons 1854 round the corner serves after midnight Friday and Saturday and has 3 real ales, Deception, Moonshine and Bradfield Blonde. The Wick at Both Ends may be open a smidgen later and they seem to have settled on a range of Sheffield Brewing Co Tramlines and Thornbridge Sequoia.
Bungalows and Bears opens late as does the Old House and Great Gatsby. The bears range is usually a York beer with a guest although quality can be patchy, Gatsby offers a pleasant Blue Bee rebadge, and the Old House continues to impress with Bradfield Stout, Abbeydale Moonshine and Kelham Island Sheffield best bitter as regulars plus two guests - recently Abbeydale Thaw and a reindeer themed beer that looked like it was brewed by Far North (but they are now defunct), and, having forgotten its name, appears not to exist despite 30 minutes of internet searching.
Final suggestions would be the Red Deer (obviously ) proudly selling Rudgate Ruby Mild on Friday along with 7 other real ales and open til about 2 AM or later, plus West Street Live offering Hobgoblin till an unspeakable hour, and the dear old venerable Washington, still offering Tetleys and Moonshine and sometimes great tunes until somewhere near 03.00AM. So, you need no longer despair if you require a sophisticated yippled after 00.00.
Christmas Beer Review #001
Brewery Hacker Pschorr, Munich
Name : Oktoberfest Marzen
Strength : 5.8%
BCA/none BCA? : None.
Purchased : Archer Road Beer Stop Sheffield
This yummy marzen comes from my favourite Munich brewery, the often unfindable Hacker Pschorr. It has a white foamy head (although served a little warmer than would be ideal ) and the aroma is of malt, predominantly, and a sweetness that reminds me of light English Ale.
The colour is a pleasing light chestnut (as hopefully demonstrated above) and there's just enough carbonation to create a pleasing pop on opening the swing-top bottle and a slow restful recline in the glass, with no unnecessary assault of bubbles charging up through the whole of the drink.
The taste is mellow and pleasing - there is a burst of lager malt, alas my knowledge of the different types is sketchy so thats all I can say - which develops into a more noticable sweeter flavour, more like an orange preserve, and then as the flavours mingle you can detect something not unlike a low gravity bottled sweet stout. The finish is a bit short somehow, but enjoyable, reinforcing the malt and some subtle bitterness, and lingering briefly with a reminder of the sweeter malts in the beginning of the mouthful.
WBrating : 7.5/10
More bottled beer reviews as and when sobriety and availability permits over Christmas.