An ongoing series documenting our search for the best beers available in Manchester.
Reader, the break between #4 and #5 of this series was not because we were temporarily teetotal. Perish the thought! We found the time to get through the odd drink here and there at the start of September, most notably at Fuel Cafe Bar a while back. You see, they stock Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, which is an absolute treat. An enticing aroma is but a prelude to a rich, full-bodied beverage that is chocolatey enough to live up to its name without being overwhelmingly sweet. The definition of decadence, one bottle simply isn’t enough. Highly recommended.
A few days afterwards, we headed out to Berlin, our home away from home. That involved drinking a hell of a lot of Warsteiner (a standard lager, albeit a cut above more familiar brands) at the festival we attended, plenty of old favourite Augustiner Helles, and any number of weissbier variations. The latter option is definitely the route to take if you find yourself visiting Germany.
Which brings us up to last week. We’re lucky in that our local supermarket has a decent range of domestic beers, so ahead of the book club we host it was the perfect venue to quickly stop off at, pick up a couple of bottles of something-or-other, and then shoot off to prepare for hosting duties.
In the end, it was Marston’s committment to decent strenght Indian pale ales that won the day. Whilst the government is busy slapping an additional 25% tax on beers with an ABV of above 7.5%, connoisseurs have long known that many of the best brews are around that percentage. The two efforts we sampled – Old Empire and Strong Pale Ale – were both close to the 6% mark, which lent them an added punch that plays wonderfully on the palate.
As far as Old Empire is concerned, hops are to the fore in terms of both aroma and taste, with a slightly malty flavour and a hint of citrus. It’s crisp enough to satisfy the post-work need for something refreshing, but not distinctive enough to belong in the upper echelon of IPAs.
Strong Pale Ale, meanwhile, is a step up in quality. A more robust offering in every way, the flavours have a greater complexity, with hops and malts both competing for your attention, which is captured even before that first sip by its lovely earthy aroma.
The book club, alas, was not as successful as previous events, with a limited (albeit passionate) turnout. Which is a shame, considering that In Cold Blood is probably the finest example of literary journalism that has ever been committed to the page. Not one to ponder in an advanced state of inebriation (not least because it’s extremely sombre and sobering in tone), given the prominence of the Troy Davis story in the news it was a particularly timely and appropriate choice.