Earlier this year, I took a trip to Chester for a weekend on the beers. On trips like this, I always kick off by searching for “breweries near [insert location about halfway to my destination]” so en-route I stopped off at First Chop Brewery in Eccles, Manchester. I must admit, as usualt I was aiming for a brewery with a tap room to have a swift couple of halves before moving on, but upon arrival discovered there was no bar attached to First Chop. Dissapointed much! Instead, I met owner, Rik Garner who walked me down to the brewery to pick out a crate of cans and left with 20 of Eccles’ finest beers to taste when I returned to York.
Established in 2012, Rik and the team at First Chop Brewing set out to create a range of beers for all palates and tastes, including catering for those that are gluten free and vegan. I came away from the brewery in Manchester with five of their core range, Jam, Red, PiP, Syl, and AVA providing a real array of styles to try.
AVA (Hoppy Blonde, 3.5% ABV) – a malty, hoppy concoction that tastes much more flavoursome than the description and ABV content would suggest. The beer poured with a clean, golden colour similar to that of the can it came out of and had a real herbal but fruity aroma. AVA was a solid start and as always with Maris Otter malt, the beer had a smooth, “proper ale” taste perfect for a full session, or a quiet drink in the pub.
Following AVA, a traditional ale, were two less traditional fruit infused beers Jam (Mango Pale, 4% ABV) and PiP (Grapefruit Saison, 6.3%). Jam, upon first taste, was an explosion of tropical flavours, with a subtle lime taste and aroma from the Citra hops packed into the brew. One of the most enjoyable beers of the year so far, Jam met all expectations and whilst I wouldn’t normally choose something like this (due to bad experiences with mango flavoured beer), it was a solid brew and one I’d have again. Thankfully Rik gave us six cans of this one so there was plenty to drink later on!
PiP was another exceptional, beer that was full-bodied and packed with juicy grapefruit flavour. The texture benefited from the gorgeous saison yeast used by the brewery, meaning whilst the beer was a saison, it had more of a smooth taste, and wasn’t tart in the slightest. A lively beer, it poured with a large white head which settled to a refreshing, summer beer that was bursting with fruit and spice flavours. Unlike some fruity saisons, this was a taste sensation, largely down to the use of pressed grapefruit oil rather than the fruit itself meaning it had a real kick on first taste.
One of the first things you notice about First Chop is their vibrant logo, and their key message “Modern British Ale”. One modern beer style that is taking over breweries nationwide currently, is the Black IPA, largely due to their dark malty flavour and versatile ABV features. Syl (Black IPA, 6.2% ABV) is First Chop’s effort and certainly holds it’s own against some of the best in class (Black Eagle, Brew York and Jet Black Heart, Brew Dog). At first I struggled to really taste any distinctive flavours as the malt and sugars were dominant; but after a while the taste of coffee and liquorice came through strong, with notes of caramel warming the throat.
Less modern, but just as flavourful, red beers are a beer style that are seemingly going out of fashion in bars and breweries across the country. It is refreshing then that First Chop have a core red beer that ticks all the right boxes. Red (Salford Red, 4.6% ABV) is a red ale rich in hops, spice and berry/nutty flavours. It’s bitter yet sweet and is well balanced on the palate. Not my favourite of the session, but would highly recommend if you are a fan of red or rye beers.
The Beers Ranked
1. Jam – Mango Pale – 4%
2. PiP – Grapefruit Saison – 6.3%
3. AVA – Hoppy Blonde – 3.5%
4. Syl – Black IPA – 6.2%
5. Red – Salford Red – 4.6%
Address: B2, Barton Hall Industrial Estate, Hardy St, Eccles, Manchester M30 7NB
Phone: 07970 241398
Opening Hours: Monday-Fiiday 8:00-16:00, Sat/Sun: Closed