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When people rave about breweries, it is often about those that brew beers that are, shall we say, at the more exotic end of the spectrum. There are rarely glowing reports on ordinary supping strength beers, even from me and that is almost all that I drink. I of course rarely write about individual beers, so that's my excuse, but with the exception of say, Dark Star, Marble or the odd London brewery, there isn't much. Some yes, but not much, despite those kind of beers being what nearly everyone drinks.

So I'll redress the balance just a little. On Monday night, in Oldham, I had two different beers (though not just two beers) from two exceptional breweries. Both are, gratifyingly in my CAMRA branch area, and it was a CAMRA meeting that caused me, rarely, to be drinking beer on a Monday night. Both were 4.5%, which is just a touch above my normal drinking strength, but when the beers are from these two, you know not only that you can drink them with confidence, but indeed you must.

Funnily enough, one of the breweries, despite a great reputation is fairly hard to come by, though being brewed only 5 or 6 miles from where I live. (The other is even nearer.) The brewery brews at capacity, has no plans to expand and when I looked at its web site for my blog post, I realised I hadn't ever had the vast majority of their beers, such is their comparative rarity. The other brewery also brews to capacity most of the time and is much bigger. I have tried the vast majority of those beers many a time and always with great pleasure.

So who are they? Pictish and Phoenix of course. The beers on the night were Pictish Little Gem, a wonderfully tasty and hoppy, pale golden beer loaded with hops, this time in the unusual combination of Bramling Cross and Pacific Gem, giving a beer that was just sublime. In our meeting venue, we had Phoenix White Monk. An old favourite this and different in many ways to the Pictish offering, but wonderfully balanced between malt and hop. Don't ask me what hops, as I don't know and I bet if I asked the brewer, he wouldn't tell me.

So there you are. Two top tips. Phoenix and Pictish. Seek them out and don't forget the sparkler.

Pictured is Tony Allen of Phoenix with (possibly) a pint of White Monk.