However, hope springs eternal in the human breast, as they say, so from time to time I give it another try. At the Stockport Beer Festival, you are allowed to use staff beer tokens for British bottle-conditioned beers to take out and so, at last week’s event, alongside one or two reliable stalwarts from Fuller’s and Young’s, I picked up a bottle of Marble Manchester Bitter, which is a very good beer on cask.
I stored it upright in a dark place for six days and made sure it had fully cleared, and then gave it a go. Just to be on the safe side, I’d put a reserve bottle of something else in the fridge in case it turned out to be a “sinker”. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It opened with a reassuring hiss and there was a little cloud of gas in the neck, but no sign of fobbing. So far, so good.
I poured it carefully, making sure I left the yeast in the bottom of the bottle, and it came out clear, with a dense, uneven head and visible spires of carbonation rising through the liquid, just as you would hope for from a good bottle-conditioned beer. Indeed it was so lively that I couldn’t quite get all the clear beer in the glass. It’s a very distinctive beer, intended to recreate some of the character of the Boddington’s and Holt’s bitters of old, with a uncompromising dry English flinty bitterness rather than a New World citrus character. If I could rely on it being this good, I might well buy rather more of it, but I’m still not at all sure I can.
The minimalism of Marble’s labels is commendable, but I do wish they wouldn’t use ones that wrap completely around the bottle, which make it more difficult both to check whether the beer has cleared and to monitor the progress of the yeast when pouring it.
(Picture courtesy of the Ormskirk Baron)