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The Cream Of Manchester Part 1: Port Street Beer House, Northern Quarter

April 1, 2011 3 comments

The English are terribly competitive when it comes to their cities. Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham would all love to be considered England’s second city, but certainly in cultural terms Manchester swaggers to the front of the queue wearing a zipped up parka, nods at the bouncer and gets in before the rest of us.

A trip to Manchester has been a treat for the beer geek for a number of years. A wander up the Rochdale Road to The Angel and The Marble Arch is far from picturesque but more than made up for by the hoppy delights within. Now there’s another destination in the Northern Quarter, Port Street Beer House.

The pub itself has a spare sophisticated cafe vibe with uncluttered dark green walls and a strongly designed theme and logos, which carry through from the menus to the glassware to the art. Appropriate music at a reasonable volume adds to the atmosphere whilst you peruse the excellent beer menu and pump clips.

Following my trip to The Rake a couple of weeks ago and the recommendation of Mr Jonathan Queally and others, I was excited to see Kernel S.C.C.A.N.S. IPA in the bottle fridge. This was a fantastic beer: a brilliant, searingly crisp fresh tropical fruit smell carried through into a lovely fresh taste, a mouthfeel which felt far less than 6.8%, and a lovely bitter finish.  Kate had a bottle of Kernel Citra, which I had raved about previously, and I think the S.C.C.A.N.S. is even better.

We also tried three thirds of the cask beers. Leadmill Niagara had a bready, malty smell, a nice mouthfeel with a subtle toasted malt taste. There was then a slightly sour raspberry bitterness on the swallow. Prospect Hop Vine Bitter had no hop smell, a creamy bland sort of taste and a bitterness on the aftertaste that required some searching out.  Hardknott Interstellar Matter had a rich coffee roasted smell and a nice roasted, slightly musty taste that made for a very good dark mild.

I also tried a Caldera Pale Ale, a 5.5% canned US import. This wasn’t as huge as the Caldera IPA I’d previously had, but was a lovely beer to drink, with good citrus bitterness.

We only popped in for an hour or so on a Saturday afternoon, but for me the Port Street Beer House is definitely worth a special visit, especially given  the opportunity to combine it with The Angel and The Marble Arch.

However, I did note one glaring omission from Port Street’s comprehensive beer menu: Marble beers. It seemed odd to me that such a great menu would include beers from such gems of the UK craft beer scene as Kernel, Thornbridge, Hardknott and Brewdog yet ignore the jewel in Manchester’s brewing crown. I wonder whether this absence resulted from the competition between the two pubs.

For a better review of Port Street Beer House, please read this entry from Called To The Bar.

Canny Bevvies: BrewDog Punk IPA, Maui Big Swell IPA, Caldera IPA

February 21, 2011 4 comments

Although tinned craft beer has been something of a hot topic recently, it’s not been that easy to get hold of them. But it turned out that, after waiting ages, three turned up in my fridge at once: BrewDog new Punk IPA (from the website); Maui Brewing Big Swell IPA (also from the BrewDog website); and Caldera IPA (from Beer Ritz). 

BrewDog Punk IPA (5.6%)

This is the new Punk, more Green Day than The Clash.  I wasn’t that impressed the first time I opened these cans, but that may well have been because I did so in less than ideal tasting conditions: the cans were warmer than they should have been, having just lifted them out of the post, and I’d just tried not one but four 75 IBU beers, in BrewDog’s IPA Is Dead range.

However, cold from the fridge and enjoyed at home in a tulip glass, it was a different matter altogether.  Upon cracking open the brew(dog)ski, you immediately get a lovely sweet waft of mango.  I noticed this the first time I tried it but now I also found the old, mouthwatering, grapefruit bitterness mixed in with the new fruity sweetness, which added up to a really nice finish; perhaps not as long as it used to be, but still very good.  So yes, I take it back: new Punk in cans is definitely worth picking up.

Maui Big Swell IPA (6.2%)

A sweet, appley Cidona smell upon opening the can: again the aroma is fantastic and the can (or at least the way you open it) seems to help this.  A sweeping fresh tropical fruity taste with a light grapefruity bitterness.  Kate and I decided that there was pine and apple in the taste, and indeed some pineapple too.

Whilst still very light and refreshing overall, compared to the BrewDog the slightly higher ABV results in a heavier mouthfeel, but that’s only really noticeable after a few gulps.  Again a really nice beer and nothing to suggest the can has done anything other than keep the beer very fresh and hoppy.

Caldera IPA (6.1%)

Noticeably more amber than the fuzzy yellow-orange of the previous two, Caldera had a rich sweet piney aroma.  This carries through into a lovely instant piney bitterness and a long finish.  The mouthfeel is thicker and more viscous again than the Maui.  It’s everything you want from a strong American IPA.

All three of the beers were excellent and certainly worth buying again.  Canning did seem to suit – or at worst doesn’t seem to detract from – the freshness, bitterness and hoppiness, without any sort of “tinny” taste, that I associate with the usual tinned lager or bitter.

Whilst the Punk IPA is the junior of the three in terms of serious bitterness and ABV, it’s also likely to be more easily available and around half the price of the others to UK cansumers.  I’m looking forward to trying it against the keg and maybe the bottled version of the same new recipe Punk IPA.  I’m also anticipating having more use for my Aussie can-sleeve, from the Talwood Hotel, Queensland!

Find more reviews of canned BrewDog Punk IPA on The Beer Monkey; of the Maui Big Swell IPA on Hopzine and The Beer Monkey; and of Caldera IPA on The Ormskirk Baron.

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