Pubs of Manchester

All pubs within the city centre and beyond.
A history of Manchester's hundreds of lost pubs.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

World Cup Beer Sweepstake - From Manchester To Nigeria

If you're going to do something, you might as well do it properly, as someone probably once said. We drew Nigeria in the Pencil & Spoon World Cup Beer Sweepstake which meant we had to find some Nigerian beer to drink and report on. Naturally, we decided to visit a beer festival to loosen up for the challenge ahead. The festival of choice was a small, local affair held in a church - the 6th Chorlton Beer Festival on Friday 2nd July. This trendy, quirky, leafy, bohemian (etc.) south Manchester suburb is well-blessed with real ale establishments, mainly café bar type places, including the typically excellent Marble Beer House. So, as you'd expect, the beer festival also hosts a great number of local and national ales, plus a smaller but equally impressive selection of Belgian beers and ciders (including cider tasting classes). It's staffed by a nice mix of church volunteers and the local Trafford and Hulme branch of CAMRA, so that while a lovely old dear may struggle to pour you a pint one visit, your next choice may be served by a knowledgeable (or dare I say it, geeky) real ale enthusiast.

Chorlton Beer Festival volunteers. (c)

Four quid to get in, a refundable £2 for a branded glass, and most ales ranging from £2.20 to £2.70 a pint represents excellent value with £20 worth of vouchers going a long way. You always get a really mixed crowd at the Chorlton Beer Festival, what with it being an upmarket suburb these days. Plenty of ladies, couples and trendy manbag carrying types - it's great that beer can attract such a variety of visitors. However, Chorlton still rightly attracts its fair share of beardy real ale boffins (which we are slowly turning into with age!), scoopers and tickers, owing to the decent line up of beers.

Chorlton Beer Festival, 2010. (c)

We knew that whatever we did for the World Cup Beer Sweepstake it would likely involve lagers (and the odd stout), so at the festival most of us stocked up on pale, hoppy ales. Amongst those sampled (in full pints I'm afraid) were:

- Dunham Massey Honey Beer (4.3%) - with blossom honey, this was easy on the palate and extremely quaffable.

- Elland Beyond The Pale (4.2%) - deliciously strong hops taste confirmed as US Cascade.

- Falstaff 3 Faze (3.8%) - in our addled state we were interested to try this "electric beer" as advertised in the programme... Those wacky Chortonians, eh.

- Marble Summer Marble (3.9%) - undoubtedly Marble yet doesn't quite hit the heights of Pint or Bitter.

- Phoenix White Tornado (4.3%) - from the local Heywood brewery and so light its almost lager-ish in looks, but a fine hoppy taste (a wheat beer says Tyson and we bow to superior knowledge).

- Pictish Alchemist (4.3%) - similar to Beyond The Pale, lovely.

- Thornbridge Jaipur (5.9%) - an unadvertised treat, and a pint didn't touch the sides.

- Ulverston Lonesome Pine (3.9%) - one of my favourites of the evening, hoppy with a honey finish.

The 6th Chorlton Beer Festival appeared to have been another roaring success judging by the crowd on the first night. The food outlets (from Tampopo and Kro Bar, a Manchester mini chain) did good trade and the band was banging out classics all night, including some terrific Morrissey covers; fittingly, as he was dragged up only a mile away from here. A few cheeky post-festival pints in Dulcimer (Wainwright's) and The Bar (Marble Bitter), and it was a relatively early night in preparation for our trip to Nigeria.

The Plan

From Manchester to Nigeria with a few beers along the way - simple enough. We nipped back to Chorlton to the excellent Carrington's Wine Shop (322 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, M21 8AY - no website) to stock up for the day and predictably we were like kids in a sweetshop upon entering and seeing the huge variety of ales on offer. Hangovers soon cleared once we had to focus on how to get from Manchester to Nigeria. We decided to take a convoluted route to make the day more interesting, so beers from as far afield as New Zealand, South Korea and Argentina were procured. The only Nigerian beer on offer was the one any self-respecting ale buff will be well-acquiainted with. I was relieved as I feared we would have to go for a more obscure lager, of which there are many (more details below). A nice touch was the knowledgeable and enthusiastic shopkeeper in Carrington's giving us a 10% discount for buying in bulk. We'll be back, cheers.

From Manchester to Nigeria. The route.

We had 16 beers of the world in total and, starting our tour in Manchester, our first was - unsurprisingly - our city's finest, Joseph Holt's. We've waxed lyrical enough about this Manchester institution on Pubs of Manchester already so no introduction required for Humdinger.

1. Holt's Humdinger (4.1%), Manchester, England

Holts Humdinger, Manchester, England. (c)

Our personal favourite from the small but excellent range of Holt's bottled ales, Humdinger is made with the traditional English malt and citrussy hops with the addition of Mexican honey, giving it a sweetness that makes it hugely drinkable. Humdinger is a great start to a session (it's our drink of choice for away match train journeys) and also to end the night (a palate cleansing Humdinger was sunk after we 'arrived' in Nigeria!). 9/10.

2. Brooklyn Lager (5.2%), USA

Brooklyn Lager, USA. (c)

We went the 'wrong way' around the world so first up was a straight hop across the pond. A great surprise, as we deliberately chose what we though might be decent American lager rather than an ale (which they tend to do quite well these days). However, Brooklyn Lager was full of floral hops, making it definitely more ale-like, and a cracking follow-up to Humdinger. 8/10.

3. Cusquena (4.6%), Peru

Cusquena, Peru. (c)

This was never going to stand up to the previous two and only a slightly nutty taste saved this gassy number. Seems to be finding its way into our supermarkets and restaurants as well. 3/10.

4. Quilmes (4.9%), Argentina

Quilmes, Argentina. (c)

Unfortunately we were unable to inspire a second half recovery for Argentina against the Germans with our selection of Quilmes. Argentina lacked the fizz of its national beer and produced a blander performance, because Quilmes gets a solid 6/10.

5. Speight's (4.0%), New Zealand

Speights, New Zealand. (c)

A change of continent yielded a definite star of the trip. 'The Pride of the South' is orangey coloured, almost Irn Bru-esque, but is a tremendous light ale. Clean, crisp with minimal fizz and a mellow sweetness, it's one we'll be searching out again. 8/10.

6. Tooheys (4.6%), Australia

Tooheys New, Australia. (c)

A rather unpleasant instant chemical and metallic taste hits you immediately, giving way to a bland but guzzleable lager that is still infinitely better than Foster's or Castlemaine. Aussies seem to specialise in this line of beer. 4/10.

7. Hite (4.5%), South Korea

Hite, South Korea. (c)

We didn't hold out much hope for this one and we were right not to. Bland, nondescript and unremarkable - and that's just New Malvern, Surrey, where Hite is imported to. The beer's the same. 4/10.

8. Keo (4.5%), Cyprus

Keo, Cyprus. (c)

Into the Mediterranean and this was my first disappointment of the day as personally, as I have such great memories of Keo from holidays as a youth. Supping pints of this by the pool all day in dimpled pint pots before doing the same in the night spots of Ayia Napa left me with the impression that this might just be the greatest cooking lager in the world. A decade or two later and either my taste buds have developed or I was naive. Or maybe it's just that draught Keo is that different to its bottled brother, which has a slightly burnt malt smell, touching on vinegar. Still tastes good though. 6/10.

9. Mythos (4.7%), Greece

Mythos, Greece. (c)

This will be familiar to those of you that have holidayed in Greece. It may taste good over there in the basking heat but in the back garden of our Sale venue it didn't deliver. That soapy after taste you tend to get from some Mediterranean beers was all too evident. Mythos is part of the Carlsberg stable these days. 3/10.

10. Hofbrau Original (5.1%), Germany

Hofbrau Original, Germany. (c)

It would give me great pleasure to say "these Germans may know how to brew beer but they can't play football". However, I'll just say "these Germans know how to brew beer". This Muncher Bier is lightly wheaty and goes well with spicy food, as it accompanied our barbecued lamb kebabs beautifully. 7/10.

11. Stella Artois (5.1%), Belgium

A shadow of its former self and of course, most of the chemical-infused stuff we get here is brewed in Luton or somewhere equally as non-Belgian. Shame, as it used to be a great drink in its "reassuringly expensive" days. 4/10.

12. Desperados (5.9%), France

Desperados. France. (c)

Almost a comedy entry to provide some light relief from the slog, this tequila-infused strong lager was met with some trepidation. To our surprise Desperados turned out to be a beautifully drinkable palette-cleansing respite. Although the tequila could not be discerned, the lime could, and if I'm honest, I really enjoyed the "lager & lime" flashback (not sure if you could spend all day / night on them mind you)! This is another one that is working its way into the UK market and should do well. 8/10.

13. Mahou (5.5%), Spain

Mahou, Spain. (c)

A decent Spanish beer is hard to find in my experience but this one was a cracker. Strong tasting as its ABV suggests, the light carbonation gave this a gulpable feel and it's definitely one I'll seek out next time en España. 7/10.

14. Akosombo (5.5%), Ghana

Akosombo, Ghana. (c) mpieracci at flickr.

Onto the African continent for our final leg and this odd beer representing Ghana. Created in Berlin by the king of a Ghanan tribe, Akosombo now appears to be brewed by Brouwerij Stubbe in Ichegem, Belgium. As befitting of the bottle, this was a dark, fruity beer with a pleasant molasses finish. 7/10.

15. Eburni (4.8%), Ivory Coast

Eburni, Ivory Coast. (c)

As with the beer from Ghana, this is actually brewed in Belgium for the Ivorian market. Very pale and a bland, inoffensive sweetness results in average marks - 5/10.

16. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (7.5%), Nigeria

So finally onto the whole reason for this beer journey. As I said, thankfully the Nigerian lagers which we'd read about were nowhere to be seen. So, unfortunately the likes of:

- STAR (5.1%), Gulder (5.2%), Amstel Malta, Heineken, Legend Extra Stout [sounds good!] (all Nigerian Breweries);

- One Lager, Lion Stout (Mopa Breweries);

- Hi-Malt, '33' Export, Turbo King (Consolidated Breweries);

- Guinness Extra Smooth [what?], Harp, Gordon's Spark, Satzenbrau (Guinness Nigeria);

- Wilfort Dark Ale (6.9%), Williams Dark Ale (6.5%), Goldberg (5.2%) (Sona Breweries)

...we missed out on.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Nigeria (330 ml bottle; we had the 660 ml version). (c)

And so to the obvious candidate. Nigerian Guinness Foreign Extra Stout was a new one to us all, despite it popping up in some of our specialist beer shops and even on the odd supermarket shelf every so often. Its strength (7.5%), size (660 ml) and price (£3+) is enough to deter many casual drinkers. Foreign Extra Stout is one of Guinness's main sellers on the continent (Nigeria is the number two market for Guinness, ahead of Ireland and behind the UK) and thankfully some of it finds its way to our shores. Interestingly, it's not a truly Nigerian beer as the Guinness chaps in Dublin supply the Nigerians with a syrup of roasted malt and barley which they then mix with their own version of malt, called sorghum, then proceed with fermentation.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. (c)

Weighing in at nearly twice the strength of standard Guinness, it was an intimidating finish to our journey. To our delight this stuff proved to be a gorgeous drink, definitely one to sip and savour them flavours. We served it from the fridge but I reckon it got better as it warmed slightly. A whaft of treacle hits you (our 12-year old part-time beer fetcher also identified this smell!) as you savour the aroma before delving into the rich, sweet port-flavoured ale. This was the interpretation of our battered palettes anyway - read elsewhere and you'll find beer geeks going on about bitter chocolate, roasted coffee, dark fruit character, funky smells and long durations. 8/10, and one we'll definitely visit again for special occasions.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout with a tired traveller.

Anyway, we made it! We celebrated the completion of our journey with a Meantime London Porter (6.9%) brewed to a 1750 recipe, and a hoppy Meantime IPA (7.5%), which were in wine-sized bottles, corked and wired. Both were delightful but we had to finish on a Humdinger, which still tasted as good as the first of the day and cemented its position as our beer of the day. Honourable mentions to our Nigerian host, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, and the surprises from New Zealand and Ghana.

From Manchester to Nigeria. The end.

Scores on the Doors

Holt's Humdinger (Manchester, England) (9/10)

= 2nd:
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Nigeria) (8)
Brooklyn Lager (USA) (8)
Desperados (France) (8)
Speight's (New Zealand) (8)

= 3rd:
Akosombo (Ghana) (7)
Hofbrau Original (Germany) (7)
Mahou (Spain) (7)

= 4th:
Quilmes (Argentina) (6)
Keo (Cyprus) (6)

Eburni (Ivory Coast) (5)

= 6th:
Tooneys New (Australia) (4)
Stella Artois (Belgium) (4)
Hite (South Korea) (4)

= 7th:
Mythos (Greece) (3)
Cusquena (Peru) (3)

Manchester to Nigeria. Results in bottle top formation.

A great performance, then, from Nigeria with Guinness Foreign Extra Stout finishing joint second with the US (Brooklyn Lager), France (Desperados) and New Zealand (Speight's), beaten off the top only by the redoubtable Holt's Humdinger. Sadly for Nigeria, their No.1 beer performed much better in the Beer World Cup than its football team did in the real World Cup. An opening 1-0 defeat to Argentina suggested they might be able to deal with Greece and South Korea in the group stages. However, a woeful showing against a Greek side "led" by the ridiculous Georgios Samaras eliminated them before they played out a meaningless 2-2 draw with the Koreans. The brilliantly-named Nigierian President, Goodluck Jonathan, sacked the President and VP of the Nigerian Football Federation and called for a two-year ban for the football team to "put its house in order." Well, Goodluck Jonathan, we hereby call upon Nigeria to export more of your delicious Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.

Post Script: this World Cup Beer Sweepstake has inspired a Pubs of Manchester co-founder to begin another blog. The aim of this one is to sample a beer from every country on the planet! A tough ask, even though there's only 200 countries - not sure about the state of brewing on Tuvalu (9 sq miles) or Nauru (pop. 13,000).

Post-Post Script: the "Foreign Extra" from Sainsbury's is brewed in Dublin and is horrible in comparison.


  1. Great take on the Beer Sweepstake! Great journey too. You did well with Ghana and Ivory Coast. But Mythos coming last... I'm a Mythos lover and I'm going to Greece this week and will drink nothing but that golden nectar! (granted it tastes much better there than here!)

  2. Thanks Mark, we had fun doing it. I reckon Mythos is like Efes... tastes great for the first few days of your holiday then you get a bit sick of it! It certainly was one of the poorest of our session yesterday. (We are also slightly biased in voting Holt's No.1 - you ever tried any JH?)

  3. I agree that Mythos is indeed like Efes and tastes fine in the hot, foreign, sun. Bring it over here and it tastes rather...shit.

    For the record (puts beer geek head on) Phoenix White Tornado is actually a wheat beer. Quite a rarity, it's one of my favourite Phoenix beers.

  4. I take it you didn't drink a bottle each?

  5. Good luck with the World Beer Blog. But you can cross Christmas Island off the list. That's not a sovreign country-it's a territory of Australia.

  6. Thanks for nice post i enjoyed reading this post .After reading i am planing to create a blog and share my
    Beach holidays .

  7. Beer is always my favourite drink to choose.