Coffee top shots

Last time I wrote a blog about my favourite places to grab coffee, there weren’t any of these newer independents on the scene.

My tastes in coffee have changed considerably since, with the quality of local coffee shops rising above the corporate coffee blandness.

Now I will not stand for bland lack lustre coffee. I expect my Americano to make a statement, expect pour overs to be on offer bringing the complexities of marshmallow through to grapefruit, whilst I still want to have the freedom of choice to dabble with syrups for that cheap sugary hit without being frowned upon.

The new crème de la crème in the coffee world offer this.

First up … North Tea Power. I mentioned these back in 2010, they originally opened as a tea specialist and now the cute Indie cafe serves up teas, coffees, food and beers. I recently went to a Has Bean: In My Mug Live event, where we tasted the El Salvador Finca from Argentina. It was a lovely contrast to kick start the event with a can of Brooklyn ale before sampling washed, natural and pulped varieties of the blend moving to the final hit of espresso. My favourite was the washed varietal and surprisingly we didn’t need much of the coffee to give us the kick ass caffeine hit.

Newish to Gatley is Coffee Fix who opened there doors last year, but lay unbeknown to me until two months ago. They are excellent for their pour overs with the Sidamo from Ethiopia being a particular favourite of mine, served both hot cold and on those extremely hung-over days lending itself to being sweetened with a sugar shot. Coffee Fix owners are good friends with the lovelies from North Tea and also with the next coffee mention Trove in Levenshulme.

Trove is a delightful little coffee plus homemade bread and cake spot, situated on the A6 opposite the Antique showroom.  It is run by husband and wife duo Marcus and Kate who specialise in goodness and creativity, making bread and jams and creating their own magazine http://www.trovefoods.co.uk/trovelife/. They often run stalls on local farmers markets, at Northenden earlier this month and Levenshulme on Saturday. They’ve got the style spot on with a lovely stampy stamp of the Trove van. A great place and nice to see good things happening in Levy.

The next two coffee shops are a bit further West of Manchester, in Liverpool… Bold St and sibling coffee bar Duke St. Again, these beauties rack up an impressive array of pour overs and underpriced espresso. The staff a friendly bunch who know what they are doing with coffee, style and presence.

The incestuous nature of these locals, show a real sense of growing community. Sampling the new and vibrant coffee culture goes hand in hand with the trendy real ale trail that’s made its mark on the British landscape over the past few years.

Next up on the radar to try will be Caffeine & Co, Manchester who the friendly chap at Duke St gave a shout out to.

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Alan Turing – The Creator

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On Saturday I went to the UK premiere of “The Creator”. An Abandon Normal Devices preview commissioned by the Cornerhouse and Creative England, coinciding with Alan Turing’s 100th anniversary and the Olympic Torch’s visit to Manchester.

“The Creator” explores the legendary myth behind Turing using CGI to take us into his mind and last days. We see him lay on a therapy couch playing out an imagined conversation with his Jungian psychiatrist just before his death. The film plays out the myth of Turing spinning on the tragic fairytale end, blurring together the tides of history and myth. Al and Al the creators of “The Creator” explore the extreme contrast between arriving from a point of rational mathematics, to the heightened sense of the world and otherness Turing experienced during his time lived in Manchester. Here the narrative shows the computers as sophisticated “thinking machines” who want to discover their originator, juxtaposed against their originator’s mind that has been warped with suicidal thoughts through his arrest and conviction for being gay. The film was fitting in helping me reflect on what I know about Turing, what a fascinating figure he was and the injustice of his end in life.

I didn’t know of Turing till I was healthily into double figures, in fact the first time I think I’d heard of him was when I walked through Sackville Gardens in Manchester and saw his statue sat on the bench. I learnt that Turing is often hailed as the father of modern computing and that he was chemically castrated for being gay. I became morbidly fascinated by the fact that he took his own life through eating an apple laced with cyanide, because of the obvious Snow White connotations and on a more personal note because I knew someone who was collecting the seeds from apples because of the cyanide they contain to try and kill cancer. The story of Alan Turing is such an intriguing mythologised tale that my quest to know more about him and his work will definitely continue and undoubtedly it will do for a much wider audience with the centenary and also the rumours that Leonardo Dicaprio is set to play him in a new biopic!

Turing was only 41 years old when he died, born in 1912 he worked as a code breaker during World War II. It was in 1948 he came to Manchester to work in the Maths department at the University. Here he created what we know as the “Turing test”, a test for measuring how intelligent a machine is. Turing’s idea was that a computer could be said to “think” if a human could not tell it apart from another human being through conversation. It was in 1952 that Turing was investigated by the police for his relationship with another man, he was faced with the choice between a prison sentence or oestrogen injections that would cause him to become impotent and grow breasts. Turing was left unable to work and found dead in 1954 with a half eaten apple by his bedside table. The cause of Turing’s death was cyanide poisoning and the conclusion was that he had taken his own life through eating an apple laced with cyanide , though the apple was never tested.

Now 58 years on, Turing’s death has been called into question again by Turing expert Prof Jack Copeland. The myth of Turing’s life and death will continue to be surrounded in uncertainty and speculation, because of the fascinating mind that carried out extraordinary creations.


Lovely Jubil…eey Wanderings

My first chunk of time away from work for a while gave me distance from the daily same old and run away escapisms to get back to a bit of writing and a good slice of exploring music.

Here is a sum of my musical findings through last week, with the kickoff event on Bank Holiday Monday at Dot to Dot festival, Manchester.  Prenders and myself found ourselves there on a half baked whim after umming and ahhing about what we should do on the forced fun weekend.  We didn’t arrive until the bands of the day were in full swing and had missed Clock Opera, but the type of mood we were in was evident as neither of us cared and I’d been drinking fruli for old time’s sake.  We started at Sound Control with a band called Pure Love, an English-American rock act (who I’d never heard of before)  formed in 2011 by former Gallows front man Frank Carter.  They proved a fitting way to start the day with the stage scrapped in light of the dance floor, and the microphone cable contorted in a rock out.  Next up Cloud Nothings – simply awesome.  Only playing a short set, but included the 8 minute track Wasted Days as they filled out the sweat fest of Sound Control.  I proceeded to have an amusing accident walking on stage whilst Wavves were playing, as I tried to get back from the toilets via the wrong staircase.  Next stop the Ritz where I found an early game over, whilst The Drums were in full swing.  Baileys tipped me over the edge on the sticky sprung floored venue and after the amount I’d consumed since midday.

Friday last week saw the visit to festival début No Direction Home, set in the heart of Welbeck Abbey (near Sherwood Forest).  A twee fest that hosts along with tunes: a Post Office Service who’s workers cycle around delivering mail to your friends by description; The Long Lost Picture Show – a cinema with a giant bedded floor; bird making master classes and Artisan food and drink.  The festival fell a bit on the rainy side, but because of the small scale it was easy to navigate from tent to tent and stay relatively dry and extremely merry.

Band highlights on the Friday included Boat to Row who were the first group to kick off my shindig in The Electric Dustbowl.  Onto Django Django fun, where I had a good laugh and a dancaroo to their awesome debut album.  Dirty Three and The Low Anthem speak for themselves as being always splendid – highlighted as the rain subsided to the backdrop of Welbeck Abbey.  The real highlight of the evening was sexy Austra, the Canadian electro outfit.  I missed Austra at last year’s EOTR festival as they were playing when Bob Log III was on – a difficult predicament.  They were pure danceatronic.

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Woke up feeling relatively fresh after having a giant pile of friends dancing the night away to tunes in the Dustbowl after the live music had stopped.  The music of Saturday did not find me till later that day – I was entrapped making a bird which I’m yet to complete.  I successfully missed Liz Green once again, she sounded lovely from the birdy tent though.  The first act I properly saw that day was Beth Jeans Houghton who I didn’t like from Green Man all those years ago when she was supposedly cherry picked from the crowd to join Devendra Banhart on stage.  Moving swiftly from the 22 year old Geordie to David Thomas Broughton who always provides a good tune and comedy value.  Other Lives happened and were awesome, I could see the drink was taking its toll though as I kept shouting at every song “This is the one I like!”.  They were followed by Gryff Rhys and as far as I’m concerned this was expert scheduling.

“And though I look for inspiration . . . Lion… Still my favourite combinations”. 

Onto Andrew Bird who was lovely, but instead of mesmerising in the loops and percussion I found myself wandering the forest with Ames and going down to the boat stage to dance to cheesey pop.  We reliably sobered ourselves up for a second crack of the whip with The Pyramids.  All else remains a bit of a blur, but I know hot cider happened as the pictures say so.

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Sunday fresh and early to watch The Iron Giant – a really cool animation with a bizarrely cast Vin Diesel as the Giant’s voice.  Perked up and ready for round ???.  Bloody Mary and a lovely bit of Trembling Bells.  Next up Cold Specks, but I got them confused with the band I really liked who were on later.  The Wave Pictures were in a perfect slot at 3pm in the now basking Summer Sun.  Tiredness and booze crept upon so I ventured wandering to drink water.  Slow Club at 6pm roused me and then we had mammoth presence at The Unthanks with Bighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, as over 30 of them were on stage.  A quick bit of Spectrals then the awesome Richard Hawley as the headline act for the evening.  With glitter on our faces and a hot cider in my gullet we ventured to The Electric Dustbowl for Mikal Cronin.  An excellent round-up of acts for the first No Direction Home.

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I will have seen more bands than I remember and have many more than just music highlights, including Jon Ronson’s talk and reading from The Psychopath Test, which is winging its way from Amazon to me as I write. The memories of sitting round the tents and talking merrily with the gaggle about our memories of life, pile-ons in the Dustbowl, drawings in sketchbooks, hugs, giggles and Hardcore IPA being drunk out of a Carling can.  Festivals don’t come much better than having a quality group of loveliness and a well thought through event.

After the weekend was rounded up and the tent was placed back in our mop bucket, we had what might seem like the end of the road . . . a gig to see Sunn O))).  This proved the perfect way to combat the fatigue and lack lustre feel a festival end.  I stood near the speaker with ear plugs in and fell into a trance, whilst the members of Sunn O))) proceeded to drone and drink four bottles of wine on stage.  By the end of the gig my feet were throbbing and I couldn’t hear, but it was an awesome way to end the week of tunage and reconnect with thoughts and feeling.


Stockport Silver Beer Festival

Round one. After three years of coming to Stockport beer festival, I was pleasantly surprised that this year I made it to the opening day, when the beer supplies were not in danger of running out. First 1/3 had to be Quantum, AAA 5 %, style: American Amber Ale, launched for its debut at the festival by good friend of mine and Port St; Mister Jay Krause. It was really good, deliciously hoppy with Bravo and Summit whilst staying true to its name with a rich Amber colour, it went down a treat and so I went back for another half. Ordinarily my rule is to move on, but this was extra special. Over to a nip on the dark side, which came highly recommended by the Port St crew Pied Bull, Black Bull Porter 5.2%, with an amazing sophisticated dry smokiness to it. I went from excellence to a mere ick with a nip of Off Beat, Way Out Wheat 4.5%, style: watered down coriander, so I plucked for 1/2 of the Outstanding, Silver Magnet 4%, brewed especially for the beer festival and The Magnet Freehouse, Stockport. This was a real good palate cleanser, on the nose a whiff of citrus, a really good example of a session ale that has something more complex going on. Next to a pass on by my sister, who was battling her way through. I had no problem with this amply malty Hardknott, Infra Red IPA 6.5% with Cascade and Centennial hops and Crystal malt leading to a rich ruby hue. Moving nicely onto the dark, Summer Wine, Barista Espresso Stout 4.8%. I’m a big fan of Dark Star, Espresso 4.2%, so this had some to live up to; I was not disappointed as this coffee stout had everything going for it. It was bitter as decent coffee brewed with ground Arabica, dark and not too creamy, there was nothing forced about the taste. Last one for the night Acorn, Simcoe IPA 5%, always a nice move, this is the 4th in their second series of American IPA’s, golden in colour and taste.

There were plenty more to try with 150 beers, ciders and perrys, they hadn’t put any Marble on yet and I like to try the Summer as it changes year by year. I never got round to some of the good old faithful brewery’s like Dark Star and Thornbridge, so I made up for this with a delightful Friday evening in Port St where they had on the exceptionally good Ramsgate, Common Conspiracy 4.8%: Amber American Ale. I tried a nip but alas it ran out, only to be replaced by Thornbridge, Sequoia 4.5%, which was excellent. I made up for Summer in bottle form, with Brooklyn, Summer Ale 5%, delightfully good on what felt like the hottest day of the year.

Large beer festivals are always a strange occasion, as they are most definitely about drinking the beer and the chances to talk about it are quashed by the masses. It was good to see a large selection of old and new beers on at Stockport that were more than your average. They had a wide variety of ciders and perrys, which although are not for me are great for those who prefer these to the ale. The next beer festival I will go to will be at The Albert Club in West Didsbury, as it was a real hidden gem last year and quiet enough to sit in the bowling green with time to ponder the flavours. There won’t be as many beers to try, but it’s free entry and definitely worth a couple of pints, 24th-26th June.

For a full listing of the beers that were on at this year’s festival go to http://www.stockportfestival.org.uk/BeerList.pdf

And for the flyer that advertises the West Didsbury beer festival http://www.thealbertclub.co.uk/home/noticeboard

 A blog post for http://portstreetbeerhouse.co.uk/blog/

Twitter Follow @babamonchichi @portstreetbeer


Private Lives

Noel Coward’s 1930’s play hits Oldham Coliseum.  The divorced couple Elyot and Amanda are honeymooners with their new respective spouses when they meet again cocktail swilling on the balcony.  It takes all of five minutes for them to realise their erred ways and to escape the hotel in Deaville, leaving behind a bewildered foppish Victor and tartan clad Sybil to wonder what have become of their newlywed partners.

Coward is said to have written the play in four days whilst stricken with influenza in Shanghai, first off playing Elyot himself, and Laurence Olivier in the role of Victor.  The play premiered on 18 August 1930 at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh. Five weeks later, when it reached the Phoenix Theatre in London the reviews became mixed.  I like the fact that it was said to be,

“amusing, no doubt, yet hardly moving farther below the surface than a paper boat in a bathtub and, like the paper boat, ever in imminent danger of becoming a shapeless, sodden mass.”

Agreeably or disagreeably, not much happens in terms of action, apart from a fair few raised fisticuffs between all the characters.

The beauty is in the change and turn of conversation, love which turns to sour, sour which turns to passion, and then the unflattering portrayal of what it is to be in a relationship and to be a person, hammed up for comic and dramatic effect.

Apparently the play has been made into a BBC Radio 4 broadcast with Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy. In Toronto’s 2011-2012 Season, Kim Catrall is to play Amanda after already playing the London show.  The cast we were greeted with last night in Oldham were wonderfully convincing as the lavish characters, and the script stood the test of time to shock, giggle, and confuse.

Thanks to the youngsters of the Pathways scheme and their officerAmy Guest (he he),  for making it an extra special evening, I especially liked the suitably fitting middle class school uniform.

 


Things to do this February with Beer and Art

The People You’re Not: www.cornerhouse.org/people

Good friend and top notch artist Bren O Callaghan’s exhibition at The Cornerhouse, until Sunday 27th February is well worth a visit into the world of unfulfilled ideas presented through beautifully constructed mini theatres and stages around Gallery 1.  I think I’m right in saying Bren worked with youngsters through a series of workshops  to produce the unrealised until now proposals of Edward Barton, the eccentric Manchester poet and musician, Norman Clayture, wooden pant clad balladeer and comedian Harry Hill.  The exhibition is a sensation through seeing many depictions of memorable people in settings unusual for some (and probably not so unusual for others) and pinpointing the bits of ourselves we both are and are not.

There’s a free evening with Edward Barton Sat 12th Feb 6pm, book though.  There’s also a gallery discussion on Wed 23rd February 4-5pm, book.  Other than go for your own perusal at the drunks and delirious ramblings that The People You’re Not creates, it’s a great place to excuse the next recommended on my to do . . .

Portstreet Beer House: http://portstreetbeerhouse.co.uk/

Wohoho, not a good week to be on antibiotics with this new exceptionally good ale joint.  I could not believe the selection, true to their word craft beers are a plenty and with the amount of new comings and goings it’s going to be enough to keep the most well rounded craft beer drinker on their toes.  Brought to us by the delightful Common bunch, we have this new baby in the Northern Quarter.  On Friday when I had my first outing, I had 5am saint on draft and a bottle of one of my old time favourites Dark Star Espresso beer, though it failed to keep me from being too goosey come the amount I’d consumed in total that evening.  I will definitely be enjoying a few delights here on Saturday evening and my hope is to try the much raved about Caldera IPA, craft beer in a can, so don’t buy it all with their new card machine.

Back to Art with tonight’s sampling

Rotar at Whitworth: www.manchester.ac.uk/whitworth

Great 40 minute live piece in response to Siobhan Davies’ new dance work The Score.  Four dance artists sing, walk, move, harmonica play and shout their way through the performance.  I really enjoyed the fact that there was the continuity of four performers in translation of different artists work in quickish succession.  I really responded to the last section Songbook by Matteo Fargion, but that is to do with my own love of word play and sound manipulation.  All the pieces brought something unique and played with my concentration levels, commenting on the minds wanderings and bodies.  I only got chance for a quick squizz around the exhibitions, but I will go back as they are there till 13Th March, I was struck by The Babel Flower and would like to spend more time with the pieces.  Great performance, the live show is only till Sunday and if you go smile when you make out the word plums in Songbook, I did as I had them in my bag.

To Beer of the home variety

The Bottle Stop, Bramhall Acre Lane:

Should have blogged about this place way sooner, and I will do in more detail at some point when I don’t want to listen to Front row  where Bren and Harry Hill discuss the realisation of the idea bought for £50. The Bottle Stops exceptional both in being well priced and well stocked, especially in Continental, Marble, Bollington beers and loads of amazing wines.  I had a lovely Shiraz for less than £8, so probably £7.99 called Dignite, which we had at Christmas number 2 bought on Christmas day, which they were open for!  Also they do changing cask ale to take home, we bought 3 pints of Dinner Ale by Bollington Brewery, which we had with Christmas dinner 1.  It is well worth a visit even if you live 50 miles away. Taras Boulba.

Quantum Brewing Company: twitter.com/quantumbc

Last but not in any means least the exceptional Burnt Amber IPA by the newly formed Quantum Brewing Co, absolutely amazing.  It tasted chocolaty with no use of chocolate malt, it is a new formed favourite, thanks Mister JK can’t wait for the next release.

 


BrewDog and Beer Evolution 2011

Having bought Nanny State BrewDog’s 0.5% (I think a Swedish import) and sampling it for the first time last night, it seems in fitting to blog about BrewDog’s plans for 2011. 

With BrewDog’s Turnover up from £1.7m in 2009 to £3.6m+ in 2010, 2011 sees the launch of limited edition beers in the first 5 months of this year.

Alpha Dog

Launched on 1st January (yet to find and try)

A cask only 3.8% beer. A spin on the ESB style combining Scottish malts and bucket loads of US hops.

I Hardcore You

Launches 25th January

A 9.5% Imperial India Pale Ale, a blend of BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA and Mikkeller’s I Beat You. After the blending, the beer was then dryhopped a further twice. Available in 330ml bottles and kegs.

 29th January – launches a 4 pack of single hop IPAs. Using the same base 7.5% beer, IPA is Dead showcases BrewDogs 4 favourite hops from 4 corners of the planet. Available in 4 packs and kegs.

Alice Porter

Launches 1st February

Alice Porter is a 6.2% sacred union of one 300-year old recipe and two cross continental hop varieties. Described as a delicate mirage of chocolate, red fruit and burnt sugar. Available in bottle, keg and cask.

AB:05

Launches 16th February

The latest instalment in BrewDog’s conceptual beer series. Details yet to be released.

Dog A

Launches 27th March

A new 15.1% Imperial Stout with a BrewDog twist!

Launches in April

Bitch Please

A  Rock ‘n Roll collaboration with Three Floyds. The beer is a 10% barley wine with New Zealand Hops, Shortbread, Scottish Highland Toffee and  some peated malt from Islay. Available in bottle and keg.

Paradox Jura

A new edition to the Paradox series. A 13% Imperial Stout aged in Jura single malt whiskycasks. Available in bottle and keg.

Launches in May

Dark Tokyo Horizon

A beer brewed with from Mikkeller and Nogne O. The beer is a fusion of the 3 brewery’s respective big stouts, Black, Dark Horizon and Tokyo*. Available in bottle.

AB:06

The 6th instalment in BrewDog’s conceptual beer series. Details yet to be released.

So BrewDog are set to keep the marker in craft beer evolutionary.  The market for ale that does something different, that is an experience as opposed to a dull level of numb taste buds, is something that is in continual growth. Though there still continues to not be enough of beer that does that extra bit of work, especially at gig venues and theatres, and there are still a lack of pubs that are prepared to take a chance and maybe make the beer drinker think twice before he/she orders a Stella or Bud. 

For changing the beer you drink is a reflection on your philosophy of life, a commentary suggestive that you are open to experience and taking a chance.  With this in mind it will be interesting to see how 2011 pans out in the brewing industry.  I have a special interest on BrewDog and a personal interest on Quantum Brewing Company that is being set up by Jay Krause a great friend and awesomely refined craft beer drinker and master brewer.  2011 looks set to be good for the changing.

PS Nanny State was good, but it lacked that certain, which is an easy guess reflected in the ABV.


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