by Ben McCormick
The busy little Cheshire town of Macclesfield is fairly unremarkable. Hovis bread, an upmarket Italian sounding furniture store and a disgracefully crude pub rock band apart, Macclesfield doesn’t have much to distinguish it from many other northern, slightly down-at-heel mill towns. Until July 2010, that is, when Toby and Caroline McKenzie decided to act on impulse and indulge their passion by opening a microbrewery in the town.
Since then, Redwillow brewery has been turning out a pleasingly broad range of beers that, in their own words, the owners would actively want to drink. It’s a refreshing philosophy. Each beer in the range ends with the suffix ‘less’, which makes for some interesting names that include Wreckless, Directionless and Feckless. There’s something strangely appealing about walking up to a bar and ordering a pint of Feckless and this nomenclature opens up a world of possibilities: surely it’s only a matter of time till they bring out an absurdly strong beer called Legless. Or perhaps they’re saving that one for something special.
Appropriately given my current intermittent bouts of insomnia, tonight I’m tackling Sleepless, an American Amber Ale.
The first thing to remark is that it’s about as amber as a northern redbrick terrace. But any disappointment ends there as it billows a satisfyingly pungent bouquet of hoppy goodness square in the nostrils. So often with many modern, heavily hopped ales, the flavour can feel like a let-down after you breathe in the aroma, but Sleepless delivers a taste that’s certainly worth staying up for, with its gloriously rounded sponge fingers opening, its soft malty middle and, finally, a sharp, orange, sherbet dip finish. Like the dry, bitter sting of weary eyes. When it ends, I want more, which is about as good an endorsement you can bestow upon a beer.
Whether it’ll cure my insomnia is anyone’s guess, but thanks to Sleepless, I’ll definitely be taking more notice of Macclesfield and its fledgling microbrewery in future.
Ben will be joining our very own Robin Turner, author/blogger Pete Brown and St. Austell Brewery’s Roger Ryman for a talk and a drink on the Caught by the River stage at Port Eliot festival, this Friday at 1pm.