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With apologies to Will, (the Bard, that is, not the blogger !!)

In the first two weeks of January, generally a quiet month for the beer enthusiast, we have been privy to beers from at least 5 new breweries in The Star. And pretty good some have been too.

In these days it must be a brave man who sets out to make a living out of brewing beer, especially having the courage to open up a new brewery. We have mentioned several that have started recently in West Yorkshire, but at the moment they are proving elusive to track down. However, we have been treated to some recent additions from Cheshire, Lancashire and Derby and if their first offerings are a sign of things to come we should be in for a treat when they really get going.

The first up was Offbeat Brewery from Crewe with their 'Outlandish Pale'. Admittedly it did divide opinion a bit, but personally I was happy with their 3.9% offering. Light coloured and a decent session beer, it seemed a pretty fair first attempt. The Cheshire connection continued with Happy Valley brewery who gave us the 4.2% 'Lazy Days' (a fruity bitter) the 3.8% 'Sworn Secret' (another light coloured and very drinkable session bitter), and Redwillow who bucked the light trend with a darker beer. 'Feckless' was a 4.1% darker beer, the clip called it a winter ale, but it was not lacking in hop character, although more malty that the previous beers. Irwell Valley, from Ramsbottom, provided a mid range bitter, 'Steam Plate', which started with lots of promise which sadly started to fade towards the bottom of the glass. The real Star (if you will excuse the pun - been drinking with Denis for too long !), was Dancing Duck 'Ey Up'. Another light beer, at 3.9% but packed with flavour and far too drinkable. It lasted less than an evening, not bad for a new brewery.

On the subject of beers from over the border, there is also Phoenix 'Low VAT Bitter' on the bar. I have been a fan of the brewery for a long time and this does not disappoint. Only 3.5%, but packed with flavour. Who needs a strong beer when you can get taste like that in a weaker one ? (By the way, if you see their 'Lancashire Pale' give that a go, another classic)

A year that started with promises of gloom and doom from every angle has suddenly picked up. If these few beers are a snap shot of things to come then 2011 could be a classic year for beer drinkers. Lets hope so.