Marbles, Pies and Treacle – Twissupdate #MaccToBasics

treacle tap logo

News just in and confirmed from the “Treacle” of a Marble Brewery Tap takeover for Twissup. As you can see from the list below, they are bringing a mixture of classics and specials to kick off the day.

As per last years Runaway event, I expect it will be an informal Q & A session, with a few goodies to give away (T-Shirts, glassware etc) to the fortunate few and lots of supping.

Beer list as below:

450Cask:
Marble Pint
Marble La Petite Toulousaine
Marble Lagonda

Keg:
Marble Dobber
Marble Earl Grey IPA
Marble Bohéme (new Czech-style Lager)

Great North Pies, Supreme Champions of 2015 The British Pie Awardhave created the amazing (exclusive) breakfast pie again for the day, featuring such delights as bacon, black pudding, Hob Nob biscuits (yes, that’s right) served as usual with beans. For vegetarians there is a Cheese & Onion Pie option which is an absolute delight, coming from a dedicated carnivore that is fine praise indeed.

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It is all getting scarily close, hope to see some faces old and new at the Treacle Tap tucking in. Our starting venue, kicking off at 11am. See you there!

Cheers

 

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Macc To Basics

For the oh so many people that have been asking me about this, I can at last confirm that this years Macclesfield #Twissup is go!

P1020544As you can probably guess from the lack of updates, since we decided to kill the “Macc To The Future” idea through lack of interest (it seemed a great idea when we were drunk), things have been a little quiet..

I stand and solely take the blame for this, as for many reasons which are now thankfully all gone, I’d lost my drive to drive the event as much as I had in previous years. But thankfully due in truth to the support from you guys, and in particular I’d say Matt at the Treacle too for pushing me on, we going ahead as planned on Saturday 22nd August 2015.

What has made it trickier this time around is that there has been so much going on behind the scenes. Toby at RedWillow building a new brewery, Chris closing and reopening a new, larger and much improved Brewtique, and Bronwyn and Tim with their network of fine establishments. So we decided to take it back to basics (#MaccToBasics) and just go with a great social drinking theme. No big beer launches (unless of course anyone fancies it), just a great range of beer and food, a good crowd of friendly people having a beery bimble around the usual haunts.

IMG_6367So far we have the return of the amazing Great North (breakfast) Pie Co at The Treacle Tap as our starting point at 11AM. Where we will also have the pleasure of an informal Meet The Brewer session with Marble and I’m sure a fine selection of their beers tbc.

Toby is again opening up RedWillow brewery for us to try a few beers and take a look around the new brewery building so that you can see it as a work in progress.

Chris at The Wharf is escaping on holiday, but again is happy to welcome us and put on some “cellar specials” as well as the normal top range. He is also hoping that folk will take an excursion up to the new shop which now has beer on tap including a dedicated sour line. It’s probably not feasible for us all to go “en-masse”, but we should have plenty of time to visit as they are open all day till late.

Image 1Finishing off the day as last year in RedWillow Bar, which I am sure will have enough to keep you all happy on the cask, keg and gin front among other things. Molly and the team will I’m sure pull out the stops to make the days beer board as amazing as last year.

IMG_0273Full details to be confirmed for all venues as soon as I have them on the likely beer lists, venue timing itineraries, food etc. “So keep em peeled”. Hope to see you all soon.

Cheers

Bargain Beverages

Everyone loves to bag a cheap beer don’t they, or at least a decent beer that doesn’t break the bank, a BOGOF, three for a fiver or a cheeky little discount here and there. But how far can it go?

How often do we hear about the demise of the British high street, it’s all over the news, in the papers and on many a documentary.

It’s all too clear when you walk into town too, well it is around these parts at least. Even in Hanley which is known as the “shopping centre” of the Potteries, the place that is credited to have sucked the life out of all the other local towns, walk a few hundred yards from the “Intu” centre and there are more boarded up shop fronts than those open for business.

This is why headlines like this worry me a little:

Lidl embraces craft ale craze following success with upmarket wine sales

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/03/lidl-embraces-craft-ale-craze-following-success-with-upmarket-wine-sales

It’s not that I’m against supermarkets stocking decent beer as such, I’ve been moaning about the piss-poor selection in most for years. In fact even now I still always take a look down the beer aisle just to see if anything decent is in, often wearily trudging away, shaking my head at the assumed lack of thought that has gone into the stock choice.

Going back eighteen months or so, we had the “faux-craft” knee jerk reaction, as some of the big retailers realised how much money was at stake if only they could convince their existing bulk suppliers to rebrand or create something “crafty” at production line prices. Personally speaking I think only M&S managed to pull this of with any success, by selling existing products like Oakham Citra under their own banner whereas others like Tesco for example, chose to go the other way with the “Marstons Revisionist” range, which absolutely sucked among many more.

More recently of course, things have started to look better, with Waitrose, M&S, and even Tesco and Morrisons trying a little harder, with a small range of decent UK and International breweries finally getting shelf space, the two premium retailers taking the lead. Not forgetting Sainsbury’s of course who made strides with “the great British beer hunt”, but still seemed to favour current supermarket brands when choosing winners.

Looking at the picture which came from the Lidl headline though, my eyes were immediately drawn to the “Boulevard Tank 7, Single Wide IPA” and “La Chouffe” bottles. I’ve always been a fan of Chouffe beers especially (Houblon) and although only trying it recently for the first time, Tank 7 was absolutely lovely, Single Wide IPA too.

Maybe those beers had just been casually “prominently placed” in the shot, yes, it could be that…

It is worth noting that (unless I’m very much mistaken) all these brands are owned by Duvel Moortgat, having being acquired at various stages over the last 10-15 years. Amongst others not shown, including Bernard, De Koninck, Maredsous and Ommegang of whom I also think they held a founding stake.

Is that itself a good thing? I still like most of the brands listed above, but it’s not rocket science to see that a deal has clearly been struck here between multi-national beer giant and huge discounter, to supply to a bargain hungry beer guzzling public. But then who is next to be swallowed up, the “small micros” also mentioned, or even bigger “cult beer” fish?

Then of course there are the independent specialist beer retailers. Shops, micro-pubs and bars. Those places that folk either really want nearby on their high street, or has, and perhaps complains that they do, but can only rarely visit because the prices are just too high and so are “forced” into supermarket purchases. What of those, how long before the huge purchasing power of the shopping giants starts to close those one by one because they simply can’t compete on price?

Déjà vu, or pessimistic scaremongering?

It is fair to say that I have completed no real in-depth research to back any of this up and as such it is pretty much only my own thoughts/concerns. It is also worth pointing out that I’m not knocking any of the few breweries lucky/successful enough to secure a supermarket deal either. As an argument for, you could say for example, deals like this make good beer accessible to everyone and in doing so, gets more people interested in trying something new. Maybe the only way this ever expanding growth in beer can continue is that some do fall by the wayside, or the reverse, are bought out and go mainstream replacing existing big brands. Although, I definitely hope that this isn’t the future.

Personally speaking I’ve just taken a decision to try really hard to support local high street traders where possible, not just in beer purchases, but for as much as I possibly can on everything. Which speaking from the town officially listed as having the most empty shops in the UK this year isn’t easy, but seems the only way to encourage positive change or face the consequences..

What are your thoughts, is the discount store the way to go, your only route, or a potential disaster in the making?

Cheers

 

 

Talking to the dead…

logoA blast from the past this, as I wrote it almost a year ago as a follow on to a write-up on the Los Muertos tap-house. It’s been sat in my drafts box since July 2014, needs airing, so here goes nothin’. Please note though, that may things may have changed since then as the bar and beer range has no doubt grown, a year is a long time…

I met Conner Watts, owner and master brewer at Los Muertos briefly and perhaps not in the best of circumstances for which a chat, and of course an accurate recollection of said chat could be relayed here. Nevertheless, I’ll try to recap and capture the essence of the conversation, assisted by a few emailed notes from Conner himself.

It was a busy afternoon at the Los Muertos Brewpub, the football world cup in full swing, with the USA versus Belgium game being shown live that afternoon. The bar was full of American supporters, plus two others, us, shouting for Belgium in the cheap seats. By this stage we’d pretty much gone through the beer menu and it’s fair to say that I was a tad tipsy at this point. I’d seen someone who I assumed was the brewer dashing around the place doing this and that, chatting to customers and I’m glad to say, trying to get some of the folk still drinking local bottles to at least sample something from the range on tap. Finally I caught him standing still at the bar and wobbled across to introduce myself.

We chatted a little about the beers and what I thought of them and about the bar, food etc and I duly sang their collective praises, whilst giving him my thoughts on what I had enjoyed the most, plus those that I’d found lacking a little. Conner explained that they were all pretty much works in progress, with some being closer to being exactly how he wanted than others. The problem being that he was trying to be slightly conservative in some aspects, wanting to get more interest locally with Mexican nationals rather than only appealing to the tourist trade. The range of beers that locals have been exposed to are pretty “safe” lager/beers and ambers, mass-produced offerings you might say, so there would be little point brewing only beers to the massive “hop-head” market.

I mentioned that I’d spotted him chatting away to folks at tables drinking bottles, and he confirmed that basically he was aiming to educate them slowly as to what he was about, in the hope that gradually folk would start to try other things and spread the word. A slow battle, but one that was reaping some reward.

Lastly my biggest gripe, an odd one for most, but something I have just gotten used to over recent years, that being serving measures. Pints or 16oz glasses of beer are great for slipping down the session pales, lagers and the like, ideal in fact for the hot and humid temperatures of Puerto Vallarta, but if you want to try a few different beers, can be hard work.

It was explained that smaller glasses and even flights were on order (and should by now be in place), always being part of the plan but slipping down the pecking order of all the things that were critical in getting the place into shape.

In an earlier life, Conner had been a restaurateur in a ski resort in Park City back in USA before moving to Puerto Vallarta. Why Mexico? Well, simply because his wife was sick and tired of the cold! What they missed most after a few months was the variety of beer, so they said to each-other “we can do something about this” and set to work.

“I’d been home-brewing beer myself ever since I was at school in Colorado, so I went back and spent a summer there brewing commercially, trying to refine my knowledge and expanding it to cope with the economies of scale before jumping in with both feet. Once back in Mexico we set about making the brewery happen, the rest is history”

IMG_9605On asking about the challenges he’d faced along the way? “Our biggest challenge getting started was temperature. The original brew house had a really poor cooling capacity, so we had issues from knocking out to maintaining appropriate fermentation temperatures to crashing our tanks and dispensing beer.

The result was mediocre beer at best. We were able to get that fixed and now I’m extremely proud to serve ALL our beers.”

As a footnote to this post, you may, especially in the UK and US, have heard about another beers with a very similar look and branding to Los Muertos, “Cerveza de los Muertos” being one as written about by Philip Montoro of “Chicago Reader” here.

These beers are not from the same stable and I am reliably informed that “los muertos” can’t, or at least would be tricky to copyright. However, as with most things, although established first, Los Muertos do not have the financial backing to be able to fight the might of the likes of Coors who are said to own the other “Mexican Craft” brand, so just have to suck it up and carry on. An all too familiar story..

Cheers

Beyond The Velodrome

Leaving home for Manchester yesterday, I had to confess I did so with a hint of trepidation. Not beating around the bush, I’ve felt more than a little let down with some of the CAMRA led beer festivals I’ve attended recently, which is not a dig at CAMRA nor the fabulous volunteers that organise and run these events, it’s hard work and a thankless task at times I know. More a wish that the guys choosing the beers to serve would be a little more “adventurous”, rather than sticking with the same beverages once used to champion the fight against Watneys Red Barrel 😉

Anyway moving on, that uneasiness was not helped by a few comments I’d picked up about Wednesdays opening session which were less than complimentary for various reasons. But, I am very, very happy to say that those feelings proved most thoroughly unfounded on my experience, perhaps first night teething problems on Weds?

IMG_1467Getting to the venue was an absolute breeze, once we established the right Metro platform (which became obvious from those gathered there already), £3 return, ten minutes and bosh, direct link to the festival.

Wisely opting for a quiet afternoon session, there were no queues and with minimal fuss we are in and looking our first brewery bar. Jointly hosted by OffBeat, Blackjack, Ilkley, Bridestones and already I am spoiled for choice, but wasting little time I picked the tongue in cheekly named “Copyright Ingingement” from Blackjack to christen my stemmed half/third glass which gets another tick from me.

We wandered then down the stairs that lead under the track to the main beer hall. As you emerge, although you are in what is basically a bloody big sports hall, it is still an awesome sight as the velodrome opens out before you. The gracious sweeping curve of continuous pine is just stunning, a real first for me and worth the trip for that alone.

IMG_1471Watching Team GB training too was an absolute privilege, where else can you sample wonderful beers with such a spectacular backdrop. The speed at which these athletes storm around the track is at times dizzying, but never stops drawing the eye throughout the day, which could be very dangerous after too many samples..

IMG_1474As I explored the venue further the more I liked it, the main hall is well spread out, with lots of tables, although as usual folks set up camp and close ranks on those for the duration, however it doesn’t feel cramped and the bars are well manned making choice and purchase a breeze. To add to this there are bars spread all around the periphery of the trackside, adding to that feeling of space and with the added bonus of seating opportunities aplenty for those weary or wobbly beer legs. Great views from up there too.

IMG_1476Throwing a negative in here at this point, as you’d expect from a moaning old bugger like me, the food… I’m sorry but very poor, perhaps apart from the ploughman’s stall which at least looked appetising. The Mexican buffet, a row of six or seven tins on warming platters that looked like they had been there all day. A curry and pie area which reminded me of a school dinner hall,  and the Teppanyaki sushi and noodle bar. The latter being our selection of choice for both meal and late afternoon snack, and perhaps where the poor description is slightly unfair. The food itself here was actually very nice, it just wasn’t hot which for a style of food preparation based on show cooking was really disappointing. As a tip for the organisers next time, assuming you have choice and are not forced by venue contracts, look at what IndyMan Beer Con do, surely in Manchester there are plenty of top quality food retailers who would do you proud and be glad of the opportunity to showcase their talents.

IMG_1478In true “kiss, slap, kiss” style, back to the beer, and where this event excelled, going some way to restore my faith and hope for future CAMRA beer festivals. What a really wide ranging interesting selection, it just seemed to cater for everyone. There is hope beyond the velodrome!

Yes there were the old faithful standards, some safer bets so to speak, but clearly a lot of folks enjoy them so fair do’s. But there were also a good proportion of newer breweries and some more adventurous brews too.

IMG_1472We were also treated to not one but TWO foreign beer bars ,with a huge, top quality range on draught and in bottle. Highly unlikely I know, but wouldn’t it be great to have another bar, selling the best of British keg at next years bash, to let folks make up their own minds on this most controversial of subjects? (hides behind the sofa)

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IMG_1468I can honestly say, with hand firmly on heart, that I did not have a beer that I didn’t enjoy all day and came away with many more that I would loved to have tried if time had allowed. From memory, these were my choices….

Blackjack – Copyright Ingingement
Tiny Rebel – Dirty Stop Out 12 month BA Brett
Hawkshead – NZPA
Marble/Hawkshead – Beer Matts
Marble – 125 Barley Wine
Tapped Brew – Mojo
De 3 Horne – Kerselaere
NMBC – New World IPA Dry Hopped
NMBC – Monacus
Opat Kvasnicak – Coriander
Andechs – Dunkelweisse
Wild – Yankee Sandwich
Oersop/Oedipus – Flavoured Saison
Ramses – Den Dorstige Tijger

Well done to all involved in that selection process and to those who set up served them to the multitudes. There were also some top folks errr, ‘supervising” too..

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A quality day out, a serious big thanks and well done to all involved. See you next year and I promise I won’t wear lycra..

“We all need another beer-oh
We don’t ever want to goooo home
All we want is to be back, at the Velodrome..”

Sorry…I’ll get me coat…

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BackInMacc visit to RedWillow Brewery

No beer tour worth its salt doesn’t involve a brewery tour and as one of driving forces behind the event, Toby and Caroline agreed to host us again for a repeat of what was an excellent few hours last year.

None of the amazing pulled pork this time though I’m afraid, far too much to do in the brewery at the moment to allow time for a few hours of gentle pork massage.. 😉

ba937758522e76d4353df95ecb07e606_400x400But fear not, your need to soak up the beverages with some scrumptious nosh will be sated in most excellent fashion. We (well they actually), are firing up the barby. On that fiery cremater of all fine meats will be burgers from none other than @frostybutcher, aka Lee Horsley Frost of W H Frost and Sons, Chorlton. To house these delicious hunks of meaty goodness, we also have brioche rolls from Macclesfield’s own wonderful bakers Flour Water Salt, good enough to eat on their own. All topped, provided Toby has time to deconstruct his carrot and cabbage, delicious home made slaw. Deee-lish!!

fws_logoTo wash this down, of course we need some fine and tasty beer, something interesting to intrigue those taste buds and bring out their delightfully flavoursome secrets. In a weird stroke of luck, we have just that..

79f86de366a048bdab23bd882975c5bcFor a special one-off, never to sampled again treat, we have Andy Parker’s “Elusive Brewing”, who bring us their “Aged Pomegranate Lambic”, not to be missed.

Also getting its first ever outing is RedWillow’s own, “Rioja Barrel Aged Rhubarb Sour”, which has been maturing nicely, making it really smooth and fruity.

Don’t worry, there will be something a little less challenging for non-sour lovers too, this is to be decided yet, so fret not, you are catered for.

Basic CMYKIf the rain keeps off, this looks to be another really good session, informal brewery tours will be available for those who want them but generally its more of a welcome, come in wander around and have a beer approach, which was great fun last year.

All we need now is you, so a reminder to please like the Facebook page and if possible show you are coming along. If not for Twitter users you can tweet myself @filrd, @redwillowmacc, @thetreacletap, @thewharfmacc, or @tobymckenzie, or why not all of us at once. If none of that is your thing, like the post or comment below. But most of all, please share with your friends and come along for the day, all are welcome to join, itinerary again below with a little slack for walking etc.

*Saturday 13th September 2014*

Treacle Tap – 11am- 12:45

RedWillow Brewery – 12:50-14:45

Wharf 15 -17:15

RedWillow Bar 17-30 – 20:00

20:01 Feel free to circulate and do it all again..

Cheers

Los Muertos Brewing Co (Part One)

logoAs an Englishman/Brit, holidays abroad usually means one of two things dependant on destination. Either an amazing selection of beer in certain parts of Europe or a sea of relatively bland yellow fizz in others, with a similar story further afield for long-haul destinations. As a seasoned beer traveller, very early on in the planning stages for our “non-beer” holiday, I always try and do a bit of digging as to what is in the area, or at least a short travelling distance in the hope we can escape for a little “exploration”. This time around we dropped on a really good deal for Mexico, a little place called Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. All very last-minute, so with little expectation I tapped the destination into Google, fearing the worst but getting a most welcome surprise when staring back at me was “Los Muertos Brewing, Puerto Vallarta’s first Brewpub”. Digging deeper all the signs looked good, leaving getting there as being the only hurdle as it showed as being quite a distance away from our resort, some daft sod had plonked an airport right in the way dammit..

Once on the ground we found that there was a regular bus service into town which was really cheap, but as our journey required a couple of changes and speaking little of the lingo we took the cowards way out and grabbed a cab. Despite being close on a 40 minute journey though, the cost was a reasonable 270 Pesos or roughly £12.50 which is well worth it, especially as we had no real clue as to where we were going.

IMG_9610Arriving at lunchtime we grabbed a table by one of the large open arches of the cantina style bar, still relatively quiet apart from a few folks eating and watching the early football world cup game on one of the many TV screens dotted around, sitting awhile to take in our surroundings before making a beer choice.

IMG_9613First impressions, it sort of reminded me a little of a Brewdog style bar, not identical, but with that gritty modern-metallic feel, although clearly with a Mexican tint and a much more almost alfresco-esque twist. The impressively shiny but nonetheless imposing brew-plant drawing the eye, a stark reminder that this is a place of work as well as pleasure. I like it, it’s the sort of place I’d like to own, functional, fun, a happy place to enjoy a beverage or two.

IMG_9608The menu too is a welcome sight, 7 beers*, all brewed on-site, ranging from blonde though hefenweisse styles, into IPA’s and Ambers, with tantalising chilli beers and stouts for the more adventurous in the Mexican heat. Food to match, pizza, fantastic sounding sandwiches, chicken and more, with prices being exceptionally reasonable. All beers were 45 Pesos for around a pint (probably 500ml or the US/Mexican equivalent measure 16oz?) regardless of strength and style, this equating to around £2 at current exchange rates. Or maybe try the most enormous slice of pizza, salad and side, with a pint for an amazing value 60 Pesos.

*seven beers on at the time of our visit, this seems typical but I believe some of the range rotates

We started the beer selection in suitable fashion with a couple of thirst quenchers after our journey, the wife choosing Mexicana Rubia Blonde and myself opting for El Jefeweizen, a summer wheat beer. Both did their job and were pleasant enough, although I was slightly disappointed with the wheat, it being almost clear and lacking in the expected flavours or claimed coriander and orange, not bad, but lacking something.

IMG_9604Next up was Agave Maria Amber and Anillo de Fuego Chilli beer, the former being a typical American amber in style and very well executed, a welcome change to have a beer at last with some depth of flavour after the hotel offerings. Not massively hoppy, but enough to be pleasantly drinkable.

The chilli beer was also pretty good with quite a bit of chilli heat, although a pint was quite a challenge. It would probably make an excellent base for “Cielo Rojo” (Red Sky) as suggested in the commercial description. This is a local sort of beer cocktail as I believe, a variation of which I saw lots of people order back at our hotel. Made up of cerveza/beer, tomato juice, Worcester and Tabasco sauce and lime juice, served in a salt edged glass. I didn’t try one personally but Mrs H sampled one and quite enjoyed it (although not ordering another).

IMG_9616Revenge Pale Ale came next, the moment I’d craved long before walking in the door, hopped with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade, it did not disappoint and supplied the first “hop-burp” experience since leaving the UK. Hiding its 6.1 ABV extremely well it went down far too quickly which was a massive shame as I could really have sunk a few more. Sadly though I had to move on to get through the menu, the large measures not helping matters here.

The intriguing sounding Hop On was our next offering, billed as an American Strong Ale and arriving at the table much darker than I at least expected. In my mind I pictured something akin to a double IPA when in fact it was a really dark ruby glassful with a coffee crema-brown head foaming on top. Rich and malty with a decent hop hit and again something I’d quite happily order again should the chance arise.

IMG_9618Last beer of a really enjoyable afternoon was the McSanchez Stout. Listed as being the Los Muertos version of Guinness Irish Stout which I personally think does it a real disservice as for me, it knocks “the black stuff” into a cocked hat. I was a little wary of drinking an Irish stout on a day where the outside temperatures were in the mid thirties, but this was a real treat, chilled just enough so as not to be soupy, but still letting the delicious roasty flavours shine. Surprisingly my second favourite beer of the day.

More on Los Muertos in a day or two, with a short interview with brewer/owner Conner Watts, but for now, thanks for reading.

Cheers

IMG_9605MORE INFORMATION:

The Los Muertos beer menu can be found here, but I’ve listed those we tried below for ease of reference.

Beers

Mexicana Rubia Blonde: A light bodied ale that combines the smooth drinkability of traditional Mexican lagers with the bite of a Czech pilsner

El Jefeweizen: A crispy smooth summer wheat beer with just the right amount of cloudiness from a German inspired weisen. Great session beer highlighted with coriander and orange zest.

Agave Maria: A Medium bodied ale, lightly hopped, but full on the palate. Expect nutty flavours coming through in this highly drinkable American style amber.

Anillo de Fuego: Wheat based ale fermented on a bed of diced serrano peppers. This picante twist will definitely put a little pep in your step. Try this with tomato juice or as the base of a Cielo Rojo for a uniquely Vallartan beverage.

Revenge: A knock-you-down pale ale nearly hoppy enough to be considered an IPA by most beer enthusiasts – high gravity and high hops. Starkly distinct from anything you’ve had in Mexico and made for the hop-heavy, IPA crowd.

Hop On: We’re calling it an American Strong Ale which leaves us quite a bit of wiggle room in our interpretation of the style. This malty, hoppy, dark ale will really get your attention. Overall bitterness and coffee like flavours will entertain your senses.

McSanchez: Fancy Guinness with your bangers and mash? This is our version of a fresh pint of the creamy Irish classic.

Location and Contacts:

Lazaro Cardenas 302
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco 48380

Hours: Mon – Sun, 12pm – 12am

Phone: 01 322 222 0308

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