Regular visitors to The Brewclub are probably aware that a while back I spent a couple of years working in Manchester. During that time I enjoyed some fine ales in some fine bars.
I confess that I tended to avoid the J.W.Lees bars (and there were plenty) as I’d been pre-warned by a drinking friend (and now you need to assume your best Manchester accent – think Noel or Liam Gallagher) “Aye, Lad. We used to drink J.W.Lees when we didn’t want ‘our lass’ to guess we’d been drinking.”
Despite that caution, I visited a couple of J.W.Lees pubs during my stays in Manchester and found their draught offerings to be unremarkable. I did, however, enjoy their ‘Moonraker’ at the 2015 GBBF.
They also have an ace up their sleeve with Manchester ‘Star Ale’.
‘Star Ale’ was first brewed in 2001 as a collaboration (there’s that word again) between, J.W. Lees head brewer – Giles Dennis – and Garret Oliver of New York’s Brooklyn Brewer, and much like Shepherd Neame’s recent IPA and Double Stout, it is based (allegedly) on a recipe from a hundred year old recipe book – the label says ‘First Brewed in 1884’.
Does that make it a three way, hundred year, collaboration?
It pours very, very dark with a foaming, mocha coloured head that fades slowly, lacing the glass as it goes.
The nose is bready, slightly sour, with hints of prunes and other dark stewed fruits.
The flavour is rich and warming, malt loaf, with hints of caramel. There are Styrian and Hallertau hops in there, but they’re largely blanketed by the warming quilt of maltiness.
That’s not to say it’s not complex, it is, each sip reveals a different fruity aspect of warm comfort.
At 7.3% this is very strong for an English ale, but the effect is more like a Biere de Garde, something to be savoured late in the evening, perhaps sitting by a crackling fire.