Marble have been around for a few years, and although they haven't appeared in my local supermarkets all the way down south, they're well represented in the various online shops that are starting to make tracking down interesting small brews so much easier. I think the bottles I have cover all their regular brews, although as their website isn't yet up and running it's a little hard to know just what they have available.
All of their beers are bottle conditioned (hooray!) and a number of them are organic as well.
On to the beers, then. I've attempted to go from light to dark, in the interest of being up to at least some sort of sense by the time I reach bottle number 5.
We open, then, with Manchester Bitter, at 4.2%. A surprisingly light, almost straw coloured beer, far lighter than I was expecting. The initial head is a little concerning with large, fizzy-drink style bubbles but left to sit for a few minutes, these form a pleasingly foamy, lingering head. Big, strong hoppy aromas, almost fruity. Those hops are just as big hitting when it comes to the flavour as well, a delicious floral bitterness that lingers but doesn't overstay it's welcome. The beer has a smooth, almost velvety texture and it all comes together to form a delicious, very quaffable ale. Over time as it sits in the glass, more citrusy notes become apparent, although it requires considerable self control to leave it long enough for that! If this is in any way representative of their range, I'm going to have a very pleasant afternoon.
In fact my only real criticism is the name; it's very pale for what I'd expect from something labelled as a Manchester bitter. It should have said "Spring Ale". In fact, I might have to order myself a box in the spring!
Next up is Ginger 6%, which is (obviously) 6%. A slightly darker, Golden Syrup colour, less fizzy out of the bottle and only a light film of foam lingering. Lots and lots of ginger aroma initially - pretty much to the exclusion of any other hints. This fades pretty quickly to a more general hint of gingeriness, which leads through to a subtle ginger taste. There's a clear 'beery' base with just a slight tang of ginger on the tongue. There's a certain sweetness to it, but not so much that it overwhelms the beer flavours. There's a bitterness to it as well, but not the good, hoppy kind, and the mouthfeel is a little odd - almost soapy - which makes me wonder if perhaps the bottle is a little long in the tooth.
An exciting smelling beer when first poured, this one doesn't really deliver for me.
And so, on to the Lagonda IPA, 5%. Pale gold (just a little darker than the Manchester Bitter) with a more open head. Buckets of malt and hops on the nose, but with less of the floral, fruity overtones of the Bitter. The taste reflects those, with a decent malt punch nicely balanced by buckets of hoppy bitterness and a slightly more pronounced citrus edge. Not as velvety at the bitter, with a light but not watery body. There is a darker fruitiness to the taste and an almost honey-like (or maybe a light caramel) sweetness.
Another excellent beer; less seasonal tasting than the Bitter and after the wobble with the Ginger, I'm starting to see why Marble have such a passionate following.
Next up is Dobber at 5.9%. Another pale golden beer, this time with virtually no head on it. A wonderful collection of smells; fruity, floral, hoppy. All of these come through in spades when tasting; a flavoursome, medium bodied beer dripping with maltiness, heavy hitting hops, nice fruit notes and a lingering bitterness. You can taste the higher strength through it all, and everything comes together to give a very well constructed beer.
Another big winner - probably my favourite of the lot.
Finally, the Chocolate Marble, 5.5%. A black stout, with a thin but lingering fine head. The sweet, chocolate maltiness is very apparent on the nose - when it comes to tasting it, those flavours remain, with burnt sugar present as well. Those burnt notes lead into a nice bitter touch. A good, rich flavour but retaining a relatively light body; not as sickly and sludgy as stouts can sometimes become, although some might find it almost too light. My tasting notes have "very drinkable" and "yummy" scrawled all over them.
Once again, a delicious beer; Marble wisely allowing the chocolate malt to do the talking and resisting the urge to get clever.
So, the final score is four excellent beers, and one miss. Looking around, my experience with the Ginger 6 is atypical, which makes me even more suspicious that I had a bad one - I shall have to keep my eye out for another bottle and give it a second chance.
It's an interesting collection of well crafted, tasty beers and even bottles even look stylish.
These were bought for £3.25 each from behind the bar at the Marble Arch pub (73 Rochdale Rd, Manchester, M4 4HY). They can also be bought from the Marble Beer House (57 Manchester Road, Chorlton, M21 0UE) or the 57 Thomas Street pub (57 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1NA).
Alternatively, they can be purchased online by the case from where 12 bottles cost £27 + £6 postage. That's £2.75 a bottle.