01 August 2018

Mancunian way to go

On Monday's post we were leaving the Temperance Street Party at Beer Nouveau in Manchester and heading back towards the city centre. A slight detour took us by the Cloudwater Barrel Store, a satellite taproom situated a few streets away from the brewery itself. With England playing Sweden in the World Cup at the time, we had the place almost to ourselves.

An IPA to start with, because obviously: Cloudwater IPA Citra Ekuanot BBC. Like many of this sort, it's fun for the first couple of sips but a bit dull after that. There's an underlying sticky vanilla and a mild hop dankness that builds to some pleasant resins, but there's no individual character; nothing that marks it out as anything other than a middling version of what it is.

I had never had a dark Cloudwater beer before so was pleased when the wife chose Yandaro Imperial Brown Ale. This is a 7.5%-er brewed with added coffee and vanilla. The aroma is all creamy chocolate, like those luxury truffles you only eat one of a day. The flavour is equally rich and sweet, though not tasting all of its strength, balancing the coffee and chocolate sides deftly. A full and slightly gummy body gives it a filling and satisfying texture. Overall it makes for a decadent drinking experience and had me hankering for more dark fare from Cloudwater.

With none available, my next was Cloudwater BA Saison Brut. Well, it would be wrong to come all the way to the Barrel Store without tasting some of its wares. A whopping 8% ABV, this is a mostly-clear yellow colour, exuding a lovely funky and unctuous aroma of mango and peach. The flavour matches this promise closely, offering fruit and spice; zip and zing. I've now met a few of these clean and fruity barrel-aged blonde beers -- in Ireland we've had the likes of Otterbank, DOT and Urban Brewing turning them out -- and they're always a real pleasure to encounter. I'd love if this trend caught on as fiercely as hazy IPAs, but that's probably unlikely given the effort involved.

For a properly local theme, and completely inappropriate on a 28° scorcher: Welcome to Rainy City, one of those hazy IPAs. 7% ABV and looking like a glass of custard, it did little to impress me. Routine spring onion and yeast bite are the long and short of it. It's fine; there's plenty of flavour and nothing wrong with it, but I felt I'd drank this same beer many times in the last few years. Nobody will remember it when the haze craze has passed.

We left after that, aiming to squeeze in another brewery before hotel check-in. Track is in the neighbourhood, in another railway arch, and with the game over was beginning to attract some other punters.

For me, Unfair Funfair. This IPA was daringly clear and offers a clean dank and spicy package of flavours. After the initial fireworks it settles to something dry and sharp, with an almost noble-hopped mix of crisp raw cabbage and spinach. This is a no-nonsense, precise beer and offered a pleasing contrast with the previous Cloudwater one. All done at just 5.5% ABV too.

The even paler chap next to it there is Time Is Everything, a 4.9% ABV pale ale. This offered a lot of the same things and I wasn't complaining: punchingly bitter, with celery and white pepper to the fore and a long clean dry finish. It doesn't look as pretty as its companion but does most of the same things.

Only one other venue was on my must-do new experiences for Manchester: Bundobust, the Indian restaurant sensation that started in Leeds but seems to be sweeping across northern England now. The Manchester branch is easily missed, despite being right in the middle of Piccadilly. An inauspicious door from the street leads down stairs into an airy basement. We ordered lots of food and it was all great, but of particular interest to this blog was the long bar down the end, and the top-flight beer selection.

The house IPA, Juicy Bhangra, is from Denmark's Dry & Bitter and is 4.8% ABV. All the peaches seem to have gone into this hazy orange number, spilling out of the aroma and riding right up front in the flavour. A tiny hint of spring onion and caraway accompanies it, but more as balance than interference, and it all settles out to a gentle orange in the end. Great stuff, and juicy as advertised.

It's been a while since my last Kernel beer so I made myself order their Bière de Saison: Damson even though it wasn't really what I was in the mood for, and was heftily priced compared to the rest too. It turned out to be a good decision, however. It's just 4.4% ABV and light of texture with a spicy and jammy foretaste showing a lacing of ginger and raisins. The aroma is funky and there's a lambic-like rounded sourness. This is instead of the farmyard straw or heavy fruit flavours commonly found in saison but absent here. What I liked most was how well it used the damsons, extracting their taste without bags of syrupy extra sugar. The usual class act from The Kernel, then.

That's another house commission beside it: Dhānā from local outfit Squawk, a strawberry and coriander IPA. Intriguing. It's just 4.6% ABV and a murky orange colour. There's a strong strawberry aroma and a very sweet strawberry flavour. These leave no room for coriander, nor indeed IPA beyond a tiny bitter twang on the finish. It's all a bit one-dimensional but OK as these sorts of beers go. The strawberry beer fan who ordered it certainly didn't see a downside.

That's all the headlines from Manchester. In Friday's post I'll be looking at some of the peripheral pubbing as we moved around the city.

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