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News Round-Up

proxyI don’t often do this, but there’s been a spate of noteworthy events in our region of late, so here goes:

  • Leeds’s Friends of Ham has won the 2013 Yorkshire Life Pub of The Year – well done, guys. Neighbourhood Restaurant Winner – Eric’s  – also serves Magic Rock’s beer, and The Reliance has won the Dining Pub of the Year, so it’s win-win for beer all round, there. The full list of winners is here. Congrats to all.
  • Staying with Friends of Ham, Summer Wine Brewery are hosting a Beer & Food matching night with Bundobust, the new Indian Food/Beer collaboration between Prashad and The Sparrow. It’s on the 21st of October and there’s a few tickets left. Jump over to the FOH website for more. Bundobust will open their flagship restaurant in Leeds shortly, and needless to say you’ll be able to read about it here.
  • Long-time TGS favourites Revolutions Brewing Co are taking over The Brewery Tap on Halloween. They’ve also collaborated with Five Towns Brewery on a ‘Double A-Side’ beer – an IPA called Super Creep and a black version called Scary Monsters which are kicking around Yorkshire now, so keep an eye out.
  • Kirkstall Brewery have finally opened the doors to their new brewery tap, The Bridge Inn (just on the bridge opposite the brewery, Kirkstall). I’ve yet to drop in (the shame), but you can read Simon Jenkin’s review here.
  • Black Sheep have joined the ranks of Thwaites, Brains and Greene King and installed a new, smaller brewery to experiment upon and brew specials and one-off beers. I’m sure they won’t be the last in our region, either…anyway, you can read more  – and get details of the initial brews – here.
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Five Towns: Mango Junction & Schneider V2

IMG_0358I first interviewed Malcolm Bastow (who is, ostensibly, Five Towns Brewery) back in 2010; his amazing work rate – and hit rate – being the main factor to me contacting him. As it’s often mentioned in conversation about one of Yorkshire’s most cult breweries, he doesn’t actually do this full-time. But make no mistake, we’re not talking home – or cuckoo – brewing here. Five Towns is a fully-fledged brewery, with casks of delicious, delicious beer rolling down his drive and into our pubs and bars. 

If you can find it, of course. Five Towns’ beers are culty, in so much as that you need to really go to certain pubs to get them often, but when you do, you make sure you have one. There’s no gimmick, no marketing, just beer. I’ve yet to come across a drinker (or brewer, to that end) who doesn’t talk in reverent tones of Malcolm’s work. Why? The beer is packed with flavour. It may be odd to hear me make such a simple statement, but, in much the same way Oakham and Bristol Beer Factory manage to do, Five Towns beers may appear simple on both the clip and description, but that only serves to lull you into a false sense of security. The beer in your glass, swirling with intent just after being poured, will give your  tastebuds a workout. 

Like many, I’ve been imploring him to bottle for a while, so was over the moon when not only did bottles appear recently, but my favourite (of all things, a Dunkel) was included in that range. Mango Junction (6% abv) pours a rich, burnished gold and the nose is full of sweet, dense fruit sugar – like sticking your nose into a jar of Apricot Jam (or should that be Mango Chutney?). The beer starts off smooth, then sweet with the same fruit-led profile as the nose, before drying…and drying…and drying to a big, bitter finish. It’s like a Fruit IPA, I guess – brewed with a complete lack of fanfare. And it works. It’s delicious, and I immediately wanted another one. 

V2 Schneider (6% abv) blew my socks off at a beer festival a couple of years ago and it hasn’t changed one bit. Yorkshire’s only regularly produced Dunkel (and please, correct me if I’m wrong) is a complete bullseye; deep mahogany in hue, thick, luscious tan head, and plenty of obligatory banana and clove notes in the nose. Sipping reveals further complexity; some sour cherry, a little cola. It’s big, brown, boozy and complicated. Seriously good stuff. Gimme more

So, I’m off to go buy some more. What more can you say? Sometimes the underdog, the guy who works hard cranking out beers with no bells and whistles, wins. Sure, the beer may stay local, but that just means you have to go to it, rather than let it come to you. Do the legwork, and you’ll be rewarded. I’ll say the same thing I said in 2010; Malcolm, please ditch the day job and scale up. Please! 

 

You can read my 2010 interview here if you like. Here’sa nice article from the Wakefield Express, too. And yes, Malcolm is still working full-time! If you’re out and about, I can also heartily recommend both Niamh’s Nemesis and Peculiar Blue in particular. 

Sunbeam Ales

Last month’s post about Homebrewing certainly drew a response, both on WordPress and on Twitter. There’s a genuinely good feeling about homebrewing (or Amateur Brewing, if you like) at the moment, whether you are simply enjoying doing it yourself and getting close to the process, or whether you simply think that knowledge is power – and that’s all good.

The likes of Nigel Poustie’s Sunbeam Ales should serve as another success story in that case. Walking on a path previously tread by Rodham’s and Five Towns Brewery, he’s managed to get his beers on the shelves of Beer-Ritz from his house in Leeds. I can imagine that sharing shelf – space with Leeds Brewery, SummerWine (another brewery borne of avid Homebrewing) and Ilkey feels pretty sweet. Under the Sunbeam moniker, his beers have a rustic, simple charm and – most importantly – are pretty damn tasty.

Picking up an armful, I went with a wild card in Honey & Lavender (4.9%abv), purely to set a benchmark. Although popular, I’ve never really been that enamoured with Honey in beer; it misfires so often – brewers failing to get any of that essence of Honey’s flavour into the beer without making an over-dry or sickly mess. Add Lavender and …well, it could end in tears.

I close my eyes. I gulp.

It’s delicious. Really, it is. Not only does this straw-coloured Pale Ale carry genuine Lavender notes in the nose, there’s definate sweet Honey in there; lifting the whole beer with a floral, wildflower note that’s pretty arresting. There’s a hint of root ginger in there too, with a fresh, lemon-rind tinged finish. Refreshing and packed with flavour, the whole package leaps out of the glass like a Yorkshire Saison or Biere De Garde; but one unlike any I’ve tasted. It’s been a while since a beer surprised me like this.

Next up, Extra Special Ale (5.2%abv) ; a style that I always like to see and appreciate a solid version of; and that’s what I get. A deliciously tawny colour, with a tan head and a slight echo of chocolate in the nose and body, the beer is nutty and moreish; my tasting notes say ‘Malt Loaf’, and as an overall picture, that’s not far off. Drinking this made me wish I had a cheese board to hand.

Sunseeker IPA (5.7%abv)  was my least favourite of the trio; a good-looking beer with burnished gold notes and a really intriguing nose of Pear Drops and Citrus; but those notes didn’t really translate to the taste of the beer. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a really drinkable IPA, but a bit of a let-down after the promise of the nose.

One theme that all of Nigel’s beers had was body; a rich, robust body that is often missed in Homebrew, such is the focus these days  on a beer’s aroma (if you ask me, obviously). Sunbeam’s Ales are a real treat, and I wish Nigel luck in the future. I, for one, will be buying more of his wares.

Check out Sunbeam’s Website for more info, and you can read other reviews of Nigel’s beers from Ghostie and Simon O’Hare here.

Relaxing with Black Isle Porter and Local Dunkel

A chance to spend the day catching up with an old friend and drinking some good beer coincided with Wakefield Beer Festival; and my usual hopes of digging just one gem from the plethora of beer on offer were realised with the first beer we tried.

Despite the setting doing nothing to enhance the experience (a leisure centre sports-hall), as soon as we sat down with our half-pints and started catching up, all was well with the world. A rare chance to try Fuller’s Bengal Lancer on cask proved to be one worth taking; all orange-marmalade and faint citrus fruit in both the body and nose, it proved that good English IPA is truly a thing of beauty – even when served in a sports-hall on a Saturday morning in Wakefield.

Despite this master-stroke from an old London master, the true surprise of the day was Five Town’s Schneider V2. I interviewed Malcolm Bastow a while back, and he’s a true inspiration to brewers everywhere if you ask me. A homebrewer who made the leap into (albeit very small) commercial brewing without giving up the day job, Five Towns remain one of the breweries who consistently hit the mark. As it happens, Schneider V2 (6%abv) did more than hit the mark; a pitch-perfect Dunkel (of all things), laden with clove and banana on the nose, and a full, sweet body with the perfect amount of bitterness to lift all that wonderful, estery flavour off your tongue and up your nose. I drank my half, Chris drank his, and we ordered again. Stunning Dunkel from Outwood; who’d have thought it? Keep an eye out.

Black Isle’s Porter (4.6%abv) kicked the beer we put it up against – TO OL’s Blackball Porter – into touch. Not that the Blackball was bad; it was pitch-black, heavy, vinous and woody – a real winter warmer. But the Black Isle was just so much more; weaker in every sense and yet so much more balanced.

Mahogany -ruby when held to the light – and in turn sweet, woody, chocolatey and finishing with whispers of smoke across the palate. Everything in moderation; and yet the total of its parts, it gained the ultimate beer-praise; silence whilst drinking the first and second sip.

Now that’s the sound of a contented drinker in good company.

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