Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Manchester Field Trip, part 2

After our extended visit to The Font the night before, a decent brunch was called for before resuming the beer exploration. I had done my research and knew there was a burrito place (in the style of Benito's Hat or Chilango in London) in Piccadilly Gardens, so dandered up there and had a parcel of pork goodness from Barburrito. I wish somewhere like this would open in Birmingham, but in a way I guess it's nice to have something different to seek out when I visit a city with a larger disposable-income demographic.

Next it was time to hunt down somewhere I'd been meaning to visit since I drew up my Resolutions - the Micro Bar in the Arndale Centre. This took a bit of a hunt to find - it's squirrelled away in the fresh produce Market area (a hive of little stalls and shops selling lots of interesting groceries and ready to eat foods, tea, herbs, coffee, etc. Probably worth a good poke round in itself).

The bar itself is a tiny place but it supports 4 or 5 cask ales and various foreign keg such as Kuppers Kolsch. As it is owned by Boggart Hole Clough brewery & beer distributors, it seemed only fair to try their two draught ales - the pale and refreshing Joffin, and the rich Rum Porter. They also had a Brodies on draught, making me even more jealous of Manchester drinkers as Brodies rarely make it to Midlands pubs.

Although small, the Micro Bar has a great bottle selection, highlights being a large Odell range, Goose Island larger bottles, lots of selection from local-ish micros (Yorkshire Dales, BrewStar, Acorn, Derventio etc.), Belgian beers and a cider selection, plus some mead and fruit wines. My purchases to take home were the Dark Star Six Hop, and the Odell Myrcenary I'd been craving the previous night.

After this brief visit we headed on to Port Street Beer House - it was too hot and time too limited unfortunately for a schlep around any other bars I'd meant to visit - but an afternoon of lounging in PSBH before the train back would do me just fine. Though I did find it freaky to discover afterwards it was exactly a year to the day of my one previous visit there in 2011!

Cask selection
PSBH, like the Font, is somewhere you just couldn't be stuck for choice, unless it's because you're dazzled by the crazy selection of cask, keg and bottle on offer - including on the pumps 2 Dark Star, 2 Kernel, 3 Hardknott, 2 Thornbridge, Summer Wine Brewery, Harbour, and others. We started with a Dark Star Revelation (tagline: "For the love of hops") on keg, and a Carafa Jade red ale on cask - again, a beer I've wanted to try for ages but just not found in Brum. This is the kind of beer I find myself craving at the start of a Friday evening - hoppy, flavourful, ready to pep up your tastebuds and herald the weekend.

It was while sipping these and popping up and down to ask the bar staff about various beers on their list, that I realised they sold everything in thirds - thank goodness! - now I could get on with some serious sampling, starting with Tipopils from Birrificio Italiano. I know everyone rates this highly but being a pils it just doesn't appeal to me, but I thought I should try it anyway - it was light, floral and pleasant but once gain confirmed pils/lager styles just aren't my thing unless it's the unfiltered Kellerbier or Zwickl served at the Paulaner Brauhauses in Munich. Still, I will keep trying craft lager & pils, just in case...

The barman was good enough to give me a taste of Hardknott Rhetoric - my, what a big beer! I would have loved a proper glass of this, but at 10% I was too wary of jeapordising the train journey home. But if it had been later in the evening and I didn't have to go far to bed, I'd have come back to this one for sure.

So I sampled my way through various thirds:
Kernel Citra - this tasted different to the bottled version I'd had before; a big big floral nose with hints of floral-flavoured sweeties from childhood like Parma Violet or Cherry Lips. The taste was more subdued than expected - if you could cross this aroma with the flavour of a fresh Oakham Citra, it would marry up well.
Kernel Summit - had a surprising marmaladey aroma, and a slightly more bitter finish than the Citra.
Liverpool Craft Brewery IPA - I wasn't keen on this, it had a strange 'burnt' flavour and aroma that I associate with some Northern Irish beer (what is the cause of that in a pale or amber beer? I've found it in beers from more than one N.I. brewery). It wasn't horrid, but it wasn't one I wanted more of.
Summer Wine Brewery Half Wit - this was lovely and refreshing and absolutely perfect for summer quaffing, with a very hoppy nose for a wit beer.
Hardknott Code Black - roasty notes and a hint of coffee, but also sweet with vanilla ice cream coming through. Didn't taste as IPA-ish as when I'd had it from a bottle but it was still full-flavoured and a great end to the beer oddessy.

There was just time to have a proper glassfull of the SWB Halfwit and a little more summer afternoon relaxing before it was time to travel on. The Manchester beer scene is a real eye-opener when you travel up from the Midlands - not just an abundance of pubs with cask ale around the city centre (there are so many recommended places I haven't visited in Manc yet), but also bars that realise great cask, keg and bottle selections can all sit side by side and that make a point of enthusiastically showcasing world class and exciting beers to an eager drinking audience.

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