In and around Amsterdam

There are a few things that automatically spring to people’s minds when you tell them you’re going to Amsterdam; Prostitutes and Weed. We’ve had to remind a number of people that Amsterdam has way more to offer than these stereotypes. It’s a beautiful part of the world that we’ve found ourselves visiting time and time again.The Dutch people are wonderful and their beer is delightful. Here we take you through a few of our favourite places to visit in and around the city.

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Breweries

There are now over 15 breweries in the region of Amsterdam. Here are two that we have been fortunate enough to visit.

Brouwreij ‘t ij

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The ij (pronounced ‘eye’) is a body of water in north Amsterdam and this is where the guys at Brouwerij ‘t ij have taken their name from. The brewery itself is situated in the north east of the city and is based in an old windmill. It is about a 30 minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station. The tap room is open from 2pm each day, we arrived just before 2.30pm on a Saturday and were lucky to get a seat! We had been here a few years ago before our most recent visit and noticed the tap room has since been refurbished. However, we must say that we did prefer the old ‘rough and ready’ look of the place – it looks a bit generic on the inside now. Still – it’s a wonderful place to visit.

The brewery’s logo features an ostrich with an egg, and a distant windmill.You may have seen their distinctive labels or enjoyed one of the collaboration beers they do for the Wetherspoons Real Ale festival. They have a really strong core range of beers including a pilsner, red dubbel, wit, IPA, tripel and amber. A tasting tray of 5 beers will set you back 9 Euros.facebook_1458920134746

My stand out beer from our most recent visit was the Dry Hopped IJ Wit. This is their core IJ Wit which has been dry hopped with simcoe, cascade and citra. The flavours were just wonderful and it went rather well with the home cured salami and some soft cheese.

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Brouwerij ‘t ij is the kind of place you can spend all afternoon enjoying a beer, snacking on cheese and watching the world go by. It’s a really welcoming place that has a good mix of tourists and locals. We happened to sit next to a lady who had lived in Holland for over 20 years but was originally from Keighley! As we sat on a large sharing table chatting about the beauty of Holland while she switched between speaking Dutch to her friends and comfortably falling back into her Yorkshire accent with us, Brouwerij ‘t ij felt the nicest place to be.

Brouwerij De Prael

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De Prael is situated in the centre of Amsterdam bang in the middle of the Red Light District, probably last place you would expect to find a brewery. We had booked ourselves on a tour and tasting (only 17.50 Euros per person) to finish our long weekend in Holland. The tour itself was fascinating, we were surprised at how small the operation was here. We had walked past the shop many times before but never knew there was a  brewery at the back. Making the most of every nook and cranny, we climbed high up the staircases of those typically tall, thin Dutch buildings. We were the only people on the tour and were shown around by a really eccentric Dutch guy that worked at the brewery. It was a great session where he not only talked about the beer they brew but the history of the building and why they set up De Prael in the centre of the Red Light District.

 

De Prael are only just beginning to experiment with barrel ageing their beers. Our guide had told us how he came up with the name for one of them; Quasimodo. When he first tried it he took a step back and arched his back like the famous Victor Hugo character. He personally wasn’t behind barrel ageing and was happy enough brewing a nice pale beer. Interesting however to hear him say that at the end of the day the brewery is a business and that they need to keep making money.

Once the tour was over we were taken outside, down a side street and followed our guide down the canal. He was taking us to their bar which turns out to be a few doors down from the brewery. What a wonderful place it was!

We had no idea this bar was tucked away, hidden down a cobbled side street. It was like walking in to Aladdin’s cave. We were handed over to a waitress for the afternoon, who had reserved us a table. As part of our tour and tasting ticket we were seated and brought a taster tray of four De Prael beers. Our table was right in front of a brilliant jazz trio who mesmerised us the entire afternoon. If we hadn’t had to fly home that day, we wouldn’t have ever wanted to leave. Sipping a quad and listening to funky jazz is something that I highly recommend!

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Something nice we found when over in Holland is that with each paddle/taster tray there is always an extra slot leaving space for a glass for water. Simple touch, but something that the UK don’t really do.

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There are of course other breweries and micro pubs that we haven’t had chance to visit yet but would love to. There is Oedipus just over on the other side of the River IJ. Butchers TearsTroostAmsterdam BrewBoysTwo Chef’s Brewing to name but a few. The latter two are probably the ones to watch.

Bars & Pubs

Amsterdam is, like any other city, awash with bars and pubs. You can fully embrace the tourist areas if that’s what you like but there are a lot of hidden gems to explore if you’re prepared to walk around a bit and do your research in advance.

Beer Temple

Less traditional Dutch, this bar has an American feel with beer stickers and mats stuck on the wall and an impressive beer list chalked over the bar. Here you get a fairly even mix of tourists and locals. We went in twice on our latest trip and each time you just end up staring at the beer board wondering what to have next. Some of the delights that were on draft were Cantillon Kriek, Bourbon County Stout 2014 and Big Fat 5. The latter is a Beer Temple collaboration with Het Uiltje, a big-ass DIPA. We would highly recommend this beer if you can get your hands on it – it was absolutely delightful.

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Wanting to leave our mark we made sure that Leeds was fully represented on the beer sticker wall.

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Beer Temple is a great place to go and not too far from the central pubs in Amsterdam. It can get a bit busy and loud at peak times but it’s so worth it for the beer selection.

In De Wildeman

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What can we say about this place. Well, it is a must visit. In de Wildeman has the feel of your local pub with an amazing tap list. The building is an old Amsterdam distillery and it has to be one of the best places in the city to have a beer. There is no background music, just the pleasant chitter chatter of people from all over the world enjoying conversation over a beer. With about 18 taps the UK has a strong presence here, with the likes of Magic Rock, Buxton and Brew By Numbers on offer. After speaking to a local late one evening he said that they love the UK beers that get put on the bar. When we were in, Far Skyline was on and he couldn’t stop talking about it! That’s a real compliment to the great beers coming out of the UK right now. It’s not all about the UK though – the bottle list is something else – over 250 beers from all over the world to choose from.  If you’re are feeling a bit flash or celebrating something then ask for their ‘Big Black Book’ which has some treats hidden away in the cellar – the beer bible.

Cafe Gollem

Tucked down a side street just off from the main shopping area this is an old bar that is a classic place to visit. You will mainly find locals in here, it is not a place that you just stumble upon. It has a proper rough and ready feel about it. The walls are littered with beer bottles available to buy and there is a tap list of around 14 beers. If you are a bit claustrophobic then this place is not for you, not so much space in here so be prepared to get accustomed to your neighbour at the table. We think this really adds to the feel of it all though – especially when the weather is horrible outside. It’s cosy and warm and makes you never want to leave. Due to the size, Gollem is one of the few places in Amsterdam that is bar service rather than table service.

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Delirium Cafe

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You can’t get more north Amsterdam without crossing the River IJ than this. Situated right by the IJ, Delirium appears really out of the way and difficult to find but it’s only a 15 minute walk from Amsterdam Central. If you have been to Delirium in Brussels this one could not be more different in comparison. The bar is relaxed, has an amazing looking food menu, and more importantly – it’s clean inside! This is a relatively new bar on the Amsterdam beer scene,  opening at the back end of 2014. There are about 20 taps and the beer menu is more of a bible, you need two hands spare to lift it. We only had one drink in here but what we really liked here was how knowledgeable and friendly the waiter was. After deliberating for about 20 minutes on what beer to get, Leanne opted for a Amsterdam Brew Boys – White Label Coffee Red IPA. However, this was no longer on *sad face* but replaced with an Imperial Coffee Stout *happy face*.

Cafe de Gaeper

De Gaeper was one of the first bars we encountered on our early trips to Amsterdam many years ago and we always make sure we head back here. Don’t be expecting anything too fancy, the usual staples, but make sure you try the Texels – Skuumkoppe; a dark moreish wheat beer. The bar staff are more than happy to talk you through the beer selection.  The food is great here, a big hearty affair. Sat outside eating a Cafe de Gaeper burger with a beer is the perfect way to spend your afternoon.

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Cafe De Doelen

Just across from De Gaeper is De Doelen, another of our original favourites. We can’t visit Amsterdam without going here. The pub has an adorable white and ginger cat the walks about like it owns the place. In the four times we’ve been here we’re happy to see the cat still reigns! Expect to see a small amount of local beers on draught with a solid bottle list. The surrounding area is a bit quieter too so you will usually only find locals here.

Cafe Fonteyn

A bar situated on Nieuwmarket could appear to be quite commercial from the outside, but it has a lovely little cafe vibe on the inside.

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Not too many options on draught here, only about six taps, but you get a good selection of local breweries here once again. Oedipus – Mama on tap was especially good.

Cafe Stevens

Not too far from Fonteyn is Cafe Stevens. Upon entering the big heavy door and through a velvet red curtain you will enter the bustling bar. Always a great atmosphere here, good music and good beers to get through.

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A trip to  Haarlem…..

For the first time we decided to venture out of Amsterdam for the day so we hopped on the train for 15 minutes and arrived in Haarlem. Immediately you know that you are away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, you feel at ease in the town and super relaxed. There are many things to do in Haarlem that don’t revolve around beer, you can read up on the top 10 here, however we were here for the beer (and the food).

Jopenkerke

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Jopen have a few bars in and around Amsterdam and Haarlem –  we went to visit the flagship bar Jopenkerke. The building is quite stunning, an old church with a brewery, a massive bar, a restaurant and space for bands to play too. After a really knowledgeable and super friendly waiter had sat us down it was time to order some beer. Not knowing where to start we asked if they did taster trays, his response; ‘how many do you want’? From a list of over 14 Jopen beers on tap we played it safe with just 8. We can’t recommend visiting here enough. As well as the large selection of Jopen beers they do also have a few guest beers on too. With this being quite a popular place to go we were very lucky to get a table in here, many people were coming in for drinks and food.

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Het Uiltje 

A short walk from Jopenkerke is Het Uiltje (don’t ask how to pronounce this, I have asked many people and get a different answer each time!) This bar was a real find.

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The 30 taps on offer have a great selection of beers from far and wide including Het Uiltje own brews. Taster trays were only 12 Euros for ANY beer. We were lucky enough to be in when the Mikkeller 1000 IBU was on. If you are feeling peckish, later in the evenings they do some cracking looking pizzas.

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Since we were there in March, Het Uiltje have opened up a tap room up at their brewery. This is a 10 minute walk north of the train station. After having a chat with Robert  (the owner) in the bar he told us of his love for cask beers, so expect to see some cask beers here.

Melgers

When we were exploring the town of Haarlem we stumbled across a wine and beer shop, that had one of the most extensive beer selections we have ever seen. There was a big selection of Dutch breweries, Belgian, Danish, USA and even a few from England. We still talk about how we should have picked up that bottle Mikkeller Simcoe Gin! The shop just seemed to go on and on and on….

I’d call in just for a browse, even if you don’t manage to take any home.

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Amsterdam has always been a favourite of ours and I’m sure we will visit again. However, Holland on the whole seems to have a lot to offer and we would love to explore it more. We’d really like to visit the Oedipus Brewery and we would probably look into spending a bit more time in Haarlem as it was a wonderful place to visit. If you ever find yourself in the wonderful city of Amsterdam be sure to explore beyond the tourist areas and see the charm that lies beneath.

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Wilde Child Brewing

Leeds has a new and exciting brewery in the region; Wilde Child. I met up with Keir, founder and head brewer, over a beer to chat about what’s in store for this new venture.

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Tell us a bit about Wilde Child?

‘I firstly wanted to name the brewery Loose Cannon, but after doing some research I discovered that there is already one Oxfordshire. After a few more ideas, I opted for Wilde Child as Wilde is my surname; Wilde by name, Wild by nature! I first started brewing about 6 years ago and I’ve been honing my recipes since then.’

Where was your first commercial job as a brewer?

Well I remember when I first met you & Leanne  –  it happened to be my leaving do from where I was working at the time (we have a mutual friend in Gareth). I was leaving my job to start at Elland Brewery as an assistant brewer. I think I may have been a bit naive in thinking it was going to be amazing, it was hard work and I wasn’t really sold the right job. I ended up doing a lot of deliveries and it wasn’t for me. After looking on SIBA I saw that Saltaire were looking for an assistant brewer to help with the recipes and try to improve them. I got an interview with Tony the following Tuesday and within an hour of finishing the interview they had offered me the job! After a few years there I wanted to take the plunge and go out on my own. Adrian Chapman (now of Wishbone) helped me out a lot and gave me lots of advice so that I would be ready when I finally made the move.’

What beers do you currently brew?

‘We have a Dopplebock called ‘Creature of Doom’ coming in at 8.2%, a super malty and sweet beer. A Bourbon Imperial Stout called ‘Instant Hobo’, a boozy 9% brew. I did play around with some vanilla in there but I thought it made it just a bit too sweet. This does not drink its abv, more like a 5.5%-6% so you have to be careful! Next we have a Triple IPA, ‘Hop Strosity’ a big 10.5% TIPA. Once again like the Instant Hobo this does not taste that strong and is more like a 6.5%-7% beer. I wasn’t aware of Un-Human Cannonball and I have been tweaking this recipe for about a year now so I didn’t want people to think that I was trying to copy Magic Rock. I have a new beer that is about to go out next week, a black IPA called ‘Hades Beckons’ coming in at 6.66%’.’

Any particular reason as to why the beers you brew are quite strong?

‘I like big flavours and big malty beers, this usually only tends to come with high percentage beers. I don’t try to copy or clone beers, an idea just pops in to my head and I play around with it and see what happens!.’

Have you any plans to do a collaboration with anyone?

‘With the upcoming Leeds Beer Week I am hoping to be able to sit down with Matt from Zapato to try and organise something for this.’

Where can we buy your beers?

‘I’ve been busy dropping off samples everywhere and am super happy with the feedback. I even managed to get some samples to Roger Protz who was raving about my beers on Twitter! Kirkstall Bridge have been really supportive and had a cask of Instant Hobo and the Hop Strosity that went down well. They are taking a cask of Hades Beckons too. Arcadia in Headingley want to get hold of my beers, along with The Fox in Shipley, Fanny’s Ale House and Cap and Collar in Saltaire. You can buy my bottles in Fuggle & Golding in Ilkley, Arcade Beers in Huddersfield, Bier Huis in Ossett, Raynville Superstore in Armley and I have 24 of each going out to Beer Ritz in the next few days’

Keir was kind enough to bring along some bottles for me to try. Here are my thoughts on them.

Creature of Doom

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I can’t say I’ve actually tried many Dopplebocks so I don’t have much to go on here. What gets you first on the nose is a big sweet smell. The initial taste straight away is of  bubblegum and lots of balanced sweetness. I think the keyword here is balanced, it’s not too sweet and the malt helps everything come together. Further down the glass it was nice to see the lacing follow right to the end. The strength does come through in the taste I think but not in an overpowering way. I really enjoyed this beer and it was nice to have something a bit different.

Hop Strosity

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There are so many UK brewers that are knocking out good DIPAs and TIPAs at the moment, it has become such a popular style. This is a big monster and you definitely know about it. Pouring with a light white fluffy head and a lovely hazy orange colour that makes it look really appealing. It has a fruity nose but actually tastes more bitter than the smell would lead you to believe. As Keir said previously, this doesn’t taste the 10.5% it is – more like a solid 7% IPA.

Instant Hobo

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This is a Bourbon Imperial Stout, need I say more! Lovely dark and rich colours with a strong red head. Straight away I can see why Keir has left out the vanilla, that would have made it far too sweet. The bourbon is so subtle, but you know it’s there. As with the other beers the key feature for me is how smooth and well balanced it is. The smoothness for me makes it a really good drinker without having one massive flavour that punches you right in the face. I think this contributed to how drinkable it was and the fact that it didn’t feel like I was drinking a 9% stout. Personally, this was my favourite out of the three.

These beers were given to me as a kind gesture and did not influence my opinion of them.

 

Manchester

Me and Leanne are not ones for making New Year’s Resolutions, but what we like to do is make a list of plans for the year. One of these was to simply explore the beer scene in Manchester more, so when Track announced they were having a joint brew tap with Squawk, we were straight on with booking the train tickets.

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We arrived in a lovely (wet) Manchester and decided that we would go and visit an old friend, Bryony, at 57 Thomas Street. The bar has recently been refurbished and we have to say, it was looking great. Downstairs is fairly minimal but nevertheless an inviting space. Here there are a number of keg lines, predominantly Marble, along with a few guests. There is also a good selection of games at the end of the bar – perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

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All of the core range of the Marble beers are under £4 a pint – really good value. Straight in with a Lagonda then please!

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Our ‘guide’ for the day, Mark, soon ventured in from the pouring rain and we headed up to the newly opened first floor where the cask range is. I say cask, it’s gravity cask so straight from the barrel. Personally I prefer my cask on hand pull to give a bit more body. I tried the New IPA from Marble – the flavours were great but it was just lacking the body that comes from a great hand pull. After a quick game of giant ‘Jenga’, sorry, ‘Jeronimo’, with Bryony and her sister it was time to head over to Track. There was no way we were walking, so a taxi was essential.

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We arrived at the row of railway arches, with no sign of a party. All of the arches seemed to be closed, but luckily we had been to Track when the Manchester Beer Expo was on so I knew we were in the right place.

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Now, for us, Track produce some of the best cask pales that the UK have to offer right now so this was one of the main reasons to go over the Pennines and sample the delights straight from the source. There was a great range of keg beers from both Track and Squawk as well as cask from Track. I opted for the 5 Alive (Squawk) to kick things off. I was expecting this to be a juicy banger, however it was a little too bitter and not lot of juice. Leanne just told me to get her anything from Track (she loves them), so Mazama was my option for her. This is a great solid IPA, highly drinkable and fruity. I think it’s a sign of a good brewery when you ask for any of their beers, knowing whichever one you get will taste good.

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Tom soon joined us after stopping off on his way home from Liverpool. However, he was very disappointed by the lack of tagine -it seems that amongst all the joking he hadn’t realised that today was a tagine free day. What they did have was delicious Columbian street food from Arepa Arepa Arepa, the perfect accompaniment to a beer.

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It soon filled up at Track so it was time to head somewhere new. After Mark took us through a short cut that wouldn’t look out of place in Silent Witness, we made it to Picadilly Tap. This place always has a great beer list but for us, there just seems to be something missing. It’s an OK stop off if you want a nice beer while waiting for the train, but the decor is a tad cold and it just feels slightly unfinished. I went for Cloudwater – Winter Range – IPA on keg- what a winner!

We were on pre-booked trains so we had to strategically plan on our next watering hole allowing us to end up at Victoria Station in good time. We decided to go and re-visit Bryony at 57 Thomas Street and finish off there before heading home. The bar was much busier now it was later in the evening – the atmosphere was really good – not absolutely packed but nice enough to feel like a Saturday night. After a few more Lagondas (and a Dirty Girty for Mark) it was time to leave our ‘guide’ and dash for the train.

We have visited Track twice now and not been disappointed either time, so we will be over for another brewtap some time soon. As for 57 Thomas Street, well its a 10 minute walk from Manchester Victoria or Manchester Picadillily  – it’s definitely worth a visit.

Simon’s beer of the day – Cloudwater, Winter Range IPA, 8%

Leanne’s beer of the day – Track, Mazama, 5.5%

 

IndyMan – Travel Arrangements

As there are going to be quite a few of us getting the train from Leeds on Saturday 10th, why not get the same train and share a taxi at the other end?

Me and Leanne will be getting the 10.20am train from Leeds, getting in to Picadilly at 11.13am.

One thing to note, on Saturday 10th it is the Rugby League Grand Final at Old Trafford on this day. Leeds Rhinos will be playing. Kick off isnt till 6pm, so the trains back to Leeds might be busy from 9pm.

Anyone who wants to join us, we shall see you on the platform #trainbeers #traingrowlers

St Helier & St Malo

For our summer holiday this year me and Leanne went to visit my sister, and her soon to be husband, over in Jersey including a short trip to St Malo for a few days.

St Helier

We went over to Jersey a few years ago and you would be right in thinking that there isn’t much choice beer wise. There is a wide variety of pubs and bars to go to but looking a little closer you will see that over 50% of them are owned by the Liberation Group. There’s nothing wrong with their beers, just that they are, in our opinion, your run-of-the-mill cask ales. Back in February this year my sister had told us about a new craft bar opening in the centre of town. We were straight on Google and did some research.

The place in question is Apples and Pears, run by the Chairman of Jersey CAMRA. John is not your stereotypical CAMRA Chairman – he has a passion for both craft beer and real ale. When we arrived at Apples and Pears we were greeted by the likes of Dead Pony Club, Smog Rocket and Kozel. You would expect these to be quite pricey considering how difficult it must be to get beers across to the island but you would be wrong. We were pleasantly surprised; £4.40 a pint for DPC and only £4.90 for Smog Rocket. The cask selection wasn’t too bad either, a mixture of ales from the South of England and Yorkshire, although no sparkler which is essential for a nice Yorkshire pint!. In total there were 6 keg beers, 8 casks and 3 local ciders, along with a good selection of bottled beers. After a few beers we went for a curry at Tamarind, the food here was spectacular and the service was top notch. After a few bottles of of King Cobra and a few shorts, it was time to leave as we had an early start the next day.

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St Malo

We are sticklers for research so we tried our hardest to try to find out what the beer scene was like in St Malo. We found lots of bars, but not much information on them. Luckily, my sister and her other half have visited many times before so we relaxed a little and let them guide us around.

We did manage to find out that there was a little micro-brewery so we were eager to go there. At Les Brassins de St Malo you can actually see the fermenting vessels in the very tiny bar/brewery. I believe they brew three beers in total but they only had two on when we visited. La Saint Malo is a strong fruity 7% blond ale and La Port Malo is also a blonde ale at 5%. The La Port Malo has a slight sour taste to it leading to a fruity citrus finish. An unusual taste but quite refreshing.

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We visited Les Brassins de St Malo twice. It was a great place to go for bar food – we had sardine pate with toast and a selection of delicious meats and cheeses – a great accompaniment to the beer. On the first visit there was an intimate gig taking place, with a solo guitarist and singer sat up on the brewery kit. We’re not sure how he fit up there but he did and the sound was great.

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The bars in St Malo are mainly bottled based with each bar only having 2-4 pumps on at a time and around 10 bottles to choose from. What was great to see was that most of the beers were actually French, rather than imports, so we got to try a number of beers we hadn’t tried before. Most of them were average, but there were two for us that really stood out.

Le Chat Malo by Brasserie de Bretagne. This is a take on an American Red Ale. Its not going to change the world but it was a really enjoyable drink. You have the malty notes that you would expect from the style but also a freshness you would usually get from a Belgian Blonde.

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Duchess Anne Triple Hop from Brasserie Lancelot, a brewery in Le Roc-Saint-André. I had a bottle of the standard Triple the night before which was a good nod to the Belgian style. The Triple Hop version is more of a take on an IPA. It pours light, bright and yellow with a fruity and bitter taste. Plenty of hops! It reminded me of Duvel 2014 tripel hop and was by far the best beer of the trip.

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Like all great places, we just happened to stumble across our favourite bar in St Malo. We were bar hopping and the rain started to come down quite heavy so we dived in the nearest place; L’excalibur.

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L’excalibur is only a small place with only two taps but a good bottle selection. Quite like a small old English pub, complete with the local cat strolling in and out of the rain for shelter, this place was so welcoming and cosy. Like all pubs should have, there were plenty of games to keep you entertained. We grabbed a pack of cards and taught my sister’s partner a family favourite while enjoying the beer and waiting for the rain to pass.

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It wasn’t just all about beer – we had some cracking food whilst we were there. We made a small trip across the bay to a little market town called Dinard. There was a great local market with all the food you could possibly imagine; fresh fish, french cheese, delicious meats and wines. We did a ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and split up to gather some delights for a picnic by the beach. This was the end result:

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The ice creams weren’t half bad either…

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Although at first thought, maybe not the most exciting places to visit for great beer, St Helier and St Malo turned out to be quite surprising. We had some great beers, some amazing food and most importantly, great company. We had such fun catching up with family, for the first time in a while, we didn’t even really care what we were drinking……it was just a bonus that the local offerings turned out to be quite delicious!

Simon’s beer of the trip – Brasserie Lancelot – Duchess Anne Triple Hop, 7.5%

Leanne’s beer of the trip – Brasserie Lancelot – Duchess Anne Triple Hop, 7.5%

1 Day, 5 Breweries: Manchester Brewery Expo.

On Saturday 23rd May me and Leanne made our way across the Pennines to Manchester Brewery Expo.

The premise was quite simple; over the 23rd and 24th May, eight breweries in the centre of Manchester would all open up for the public allowing them to come in, look around, go on tours and taste their beers. On the Saturday we went it was the five breweries nearest to Piccadilly Station; Track, Cloudwater, Alphabet, Privateer and Squawk.

We arrived at Cloudwater’s Barrel Store at 12pm to check in. Included in our £10 ticket price was a special MCR Brewery Expo pint glass, a leaflet with a map and most importantly, the drinks tokens for each brewery. We had planned ahead and first on our itinerary, just a few doors down the railway arches from the Barrel Store, was Track Brewing Co.

Track

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We were surprised walking into Track as it was bigger than expected – a full railway arch with a bar down the side, brewing kit at the front and seating a plenty. At the bar we cashed in our first token of the day (we were really surprised to receive a full PINT! – great value for the original ticket price). I chose Zaka (keg), this was a 4.8% European pale ale, almost like a lager. It was super clean, lemony and piney. Leanne opted for Ozark (cask) a more traditional pale at 4.4% very session-able but with a really great flavour – orange notes with a slight bitterness. These two beers were great and at this point we knew the day was going to be a good one….

Zaka Track

On the Thursday before the Expo we had booked ourselves on a couple of the talks & tours via Eventbrite. Track was our first talk of the day with head brewer/owner; Sam. Plenty of people had turned up but with it being early in the day, anyone could join and we didn’t really need to book ahead. Sam talked us through how he came to set up the brewery inspired by his travels across South America by bike where he found amazing little micro breweries and pubs in almost every town. After coming back to the UK and working in various breweries he wanted to set one up in the centre of Manchester. We’re glad he did.

Cloudwater

Cloudwater pan

Cloudwater are doing something that no other brewery are doing. They don’t have a core range, but instead brew their beers in relation to the season and what fresh ingredients are available. Having tried a couple of their bottles before (Bergamot Hopfen Weisse & Spring 2015 IPA) we were excited to see what they had to offer and again had pre-booked on the talk & tank tasting.

The brewery itself was much bigger than Track and was the only one of the day not located under a railway arch. Instead, Cloudwater was hidden away in an industrial estate and could have easily been mistaken for a very dull office building. It was far from dull on the inside. The place seemed really big and it was obvious that they were set-up to do this kind of thing on a regular basis (and they do – check out their website).

Cloudwater glasses

Before the tank tasting we made sure we got ourselves a drink. Leanne picked the Camden Versus Cloudwater Marzen 6.6%, a collaboration beer between the two breweries. It was copper in colour and had a slight caramel taste. Leanne liked this but it wasn’t to my taste. I wanted something light and refreshing so picked the Farmhouse Radler at 4.1% – a nice light lemony beer.

Cloudwater bottles

After our drinks we checked in for the tour. The pre-booked tickets were needed here and there were no walk in spaces available. Co-founder Paul talked us through the kit and the way the brewery runs before inviting us to join a tank tasting. Here we got to try 10 different unfinished beers from the tank (including a glass of wort – yak). Paul explained that the guys run through the process every single day so they can asses the progress of each beer. We were sampling some of the Summer 2015 range and in our opinion the Farmhouse IPA is the one to watch. When a beer isn’t fully ready but tastes that good  – you know it’s going to turn out great. We also tried a Rhubarb beer which was headed for some extra time in large wooden barrels. Paul and the team didn’t think it tasted as rhubarb as it should – its nice to see how they changed the plan when it didn’t meet expectations. You don’t often appreciate the work behind a beer when you’re drinking in the pub.

Cloudwater tasting A

The tank tasting was soon over and everyone slowly moved on, however me, Leanne and Mark ending up staying behind to talk Paul for quite some time. Having spoken to him briefly at a meet the brewer event at Tallboys, it is clear to see that he has a great passion for brewing great beer, and doing it in a unique way.

Cloudwater tasting B

Next stop…….

Alphabet

Just round the corner from Cloudwater, underneath a railway arch is Alphabet. Like most start up breweries they only have a small kit but what is clear to see here is that they have a great space they can grow into.

Alphabet barrel

They had some great beers on tap here, I went for the Space Invader. This was a crazy 6% pink grapefruit farmhouse saison with tarragon –  it was fruity and light as you can imagine! Leanne went for their oatmeal American pale ale; A to the K (5.6%) –  a hazy beer that went down a treat. Alphabet were one of the few breweries that served food. They had a Malay food stall serving authentic Malay street dishes – the smell was mouthwatering.

Alphabet Food B

The atmosphere was great – plenty of people but not too busy. A DJ was set up at the back and most people sat outside thanks to the unusually sunny Manchester weather. We wish could have spent more time here, but keeping to our itinerary, it was time to move on.

Privateer

Privateer A

The smallest brewery of the day was Privateer, a cask beer focussed operation. Leanne accidentally left her Expo glass at Alphabet so had to move on to the plastic ones. The day was open to non-ticket holders too so luckily there were plenty of spare glasses for anyone wanting to purchase a drink. I had the Dainty Blond which was a solid 4.2% blond beer. It was a good quality cask ale but unfortunately didn’t leave a lasting impression. Leanne had the Red Duke 4.8% – it was bitter and red so a winner in her eyes.

Mark Privateer A 

Squawk

Squawk was our final destination of the day, right under Ardwick train station. We were booked on a 5.30pm talk, so had time for a quick beer beforehand. We used the last of our beer tokens on a fruity IPA at 6.7% and a low abv quaffable American Pale, Small Pale at 2.8%. After a day of drinking, hunger soon struck and it was time for some grub. Thankfully Squawk had also catered for hungry beer lovers and was serving up chicken or lamb tagine with cous cous for a bargain £4. We had the chicken and it was absolutely delicious.

Food

Time for the talk with Oli. What we really got from this talk was the size of the operation and what a small scale he was working on. Going into beer shops and seeing all of these bottles of beer you assume that there is a big team and high tech machinery behind it all. For most of the breweries we visited it was just a few people or one brewer. At Squawk it’s just Oli – brewing the beer, filling casks, bottling and capping (“one hand for filling one hand for bottling!”). This made it all the more impressive.

We just had time for a final drink with Tom who we had seen at a few of the breweries earlier in the day. You can check out some of his pictures here. We were recommended to try the Bean Brothers Espresso Stout. This wasn’t available when we ordered but later on one of the bar guys brought us a glass to try – on the house. This pretty much summed up the hospitality from all the breweries throughout the day. Generous, welcoming and friendly. The beer was great too.

We thought the day was a complete success. It was great to go visit some new breweries that we hadn’t heard of and that were just starting up. What was really enjoyable was the relaxed vibe and great atmosphere. We drank great beer, learnt many things and talked to beer lovers and brewers alike. It was also clear to see that none of these breweries are working in competition they are just wanting to put Manchester breweries on the map. After the long days of brewing and evenings organising the Expo they have become closer and are interested in sharing their own practices and experiences. We can’t wait for the next event to head back over the Pennines for another great day.

Simon’s beer of the day – Track  – Zaka 4.8%

Leanne’s beer of the day – Track – Ozark 4.4%

Breweries

Leeds Twissup Itinerary – November 29th

I have set timings for each place so people will know where we are at different points in the day.

Itinerary for the day then:

12.30pm – Northern Monk Refectory 
Only opened on 24th October. Over 15 taps to choose from. If you are feeling peckish food on site from Grub and Grog Shop. This is a small walk out of town from the station. I thought it would be good for people who don’t live in Leeds to see this great new place. Leave here around 1.45pm.

Directions

We will have a space reserved for us in here.

2pm – Bundobust
A great selection of keg beers and bottles. Also, the Indian Snack food is bloody good.

Marko has informed me that the guys here are ready for us!

3.15pm – Tapped
Probably the bar with the largest keg / cask / bottle selection in Leeds. Beers from all over the UK and the rest of the world. Pizza anyone?

I have informed Richard of our arrival

4.15pm – Friends of Ham
The refurb has made space for over 50 bums on seat and a much bigger bar giving a wider choice of beers. Lots of beers in the fridge too.

Friends of Ham are unable to reserve us a space, so we may struggle to get in. If this is the case, we will go next door to Brewery Tap or we can just stay in Tapped. We shall see what the vibe is on the day.

5.30pm – Whitelocks
If the weather is OK I thought it would be good to take a trip to Leeds oldest pub. I say weather depending as we will most likely end up standing outside. It’s a bit cramped inside for a large group of people. Cask only, but you may get a bottle of blue moon if you are lucky.

6.15pm – Belgrave Music Hall
Thought we would go here to re-charge and re-fuel before we go to North Bar. Resident pizza guys, Dough Boys, will give you a slice to keep you going that bit longer or there will be a guest street food vendor on site. e.g Patty Smiths

7.30pm – North Bar
No description required

North Bar are unable to reserve us a space, but I knew this already, they are going to have something very special on keg for us all, this has been waiting in the cellar for us!

Please feel free to invite any friends and/or partners!

Let me know if you are planning on coming, just so I have an idea of numbers.