(courtesy – Danny Whitehead on You Tube)
Recently, well, in the last few bottle posts, I have tried to quote lyrics from songs that I adore and which link to the blog post in some way. With this post, given the location within which the subject matter took place, I’ve tried something different. Click on the link above and (hopefully!) it will take you to a performance by the German “Musik Arbeiters” – and possibly my favourite band of all time – Kraftwerk in Manchester in 2009. At about 3:41 in, you’ll get the point!
2013 was the last year of the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester before it moved to Derby for this years event. The good people behind the Fest (the Regional CAMRA crew) had obviously already started to formulate a plan for a replacement fest because they had already booked the venue The National Cycling Centre Velodrome in the Sports City complex. To be honest, I was no fan of the rather grim utilitarian Sheridan Suite as I may have said here, so when I was told by John Clarke that next years fest was to be at the Velodrome, I was quite excited. A Beer Festival for Manchester in an iconic venue. With over 300 Cask Conditioned ales to be served, it was one of those “no brainers” that I would be going, that I could pitch up at the opening “Trade Session” was just the cherry!
The afternoon started with a bit of error by the Arch-Nemesis who thought that the Micro Bar Beer Fest started on yesterday instead of today. Doh! No matter, a nice half of Scoundrel by Problem Child Brewery from Parbold was dealt with swiftly. A golden beer with honey and spice on the nose, medium bodied with some honeyed sweetness and a nice grassy bitter finish. A brewery that a buddy of mine from work had been telling me about, wanted to try one of theirs for a while. Really nice refreshing start at 4.6% abv. As I said, their festival started today (Thursday) and runs through to Saturday. I’ve seen the beer list and there are some rare beers to Manchester on there!
(pic : webbaviation.co.uk)
Jumping on the Metro towards Ashton, it only takes about 15 minutes from Piccadilly Gardens to the Velopark tram stop. From there, it was a simple matter of following the signs to the Velodrome. We quickly entered, and with glasses and programmes in hand we were soon following the mazy up and down route into the central area within the track.
This is a HUGE space. Far bigger than the Sheridan Suite footprint. Absolutely acres of space to roam around in a beery daze. I was here to try to chat with a few people about – funnily enough – setting up a beer festival! But first, a beer. The Arch-Nemesis jumped on a Jarl from Fyne Ales and, ordinarily, I would have done the same, but I fancied an even lighter start, so I went for a pint of Smaller by Hand Drawn Monkey of Huddersfield. A cracking shout! Ultra pale with masses of lemony and grapefruit citrus, this was such a refreshing pint, I haven’t had a bad one yet from this brewery.
Then I went for some of the Festival Beer which was Rock It Fuel by the ever excellent Wilson Potter (in conjunction with Real XS Radio). However….DISASTER….No wallet! (And yes…….I’ve heard all of the puns so don’t even bother!) Utter Panic. Then, one of the genial bar volunteers said, “Is your name Englebert ? Your wallet is at reception!” (“The names have been changed to protect the innocent”…or the numpty…you decide!) With relief, I set off on a thirst inducing trek worthy of mighty Odysseus. Homer would have thought me a hero (no, not Simpson……Whatever happened to teaching the Greek classics eh?). After a lap of the outside of the building, I finally located it at the glass stand. The blokes there must have taken one look at my frazzled vizog and took pity. They were brilliant! Thanks fellas!
Back to that Wilson Potter! Slightly hazy amber coloured beer (not quite settled enough) but a lovely fruity aroma with a hint of spice. In the mouth, really fruity with a gentle ginger kick, nice and warming but not overwhelming.Nicely judged. Then, on my search for the Yin to my Yang, I bumped into him chatting with Amanda & Kathryn (Wilson Potter) alongside two opinionated (in a good way) beery Giants going at it….Tandleman and Dave Bailey from Hardknott Brewery. Lovely to chat with these lovely brewers (I DETEST the term Brewsters as I told Amanda!) and I congratulated them on this superb beer! I did manage 5 minutes with the mightily busy Tandleman to pick his brains about beer festival set ups. (he’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know!)
Wandering round, we had a quick chat with the lovely Jay Krause and his partner Dominique from Quantum, a man who is not only very tolerant of my wittering, but who also brews the most fabulous beer! Started to hatch a plan with Jay….who knows? Had a great chinwag with Rob Hamilton from BlackJack who has been really supportive of my Festival ambition! Also met Carley from Brightside who I’ve wanted to meet for ages! Being my nearest brewery and all! Had a lovely wee chin wag prior to availing myself of a pint of their Amarillo (having never had it on draught) A burnished gold coloured beer with a light marmalade aroma giving way to a mandarin orange fruitiness with a crackling piney hop finish. A lovely zingy beer at 5% abv – A deserved award winner at this years SIBA bash up at Hawkshead!
Got to admit, one of the BIG selling points of the location was to watch members of Team GB training whilst we drank. It was fabulous to watch and quite hypnotic at times!
I rather unwisely stepped up the strength to try a beer that I managed to miss at the last festival Fallen Nun by Thwaites at 7.4% abv! Black as the ace of spades with a creamy tan head, the smell was all grapefruit, peach and mango. As full-bodied as any stout, really fruity but with some excellent roasted notes in there too with a hint of licorice. Bloody gorgeous!
Next up, I snaffled a Weird Beard beer that I hadn’t yet tried – Camden BearD which (being co brewed by the guys at Brew Dog Camden, is as near as we will get now to BrewDog in cask form! A Wheat Pale Ale, this was golden, and really fruity with bags of hoppy bitterness, a cracking beer which (and I will be generous here!) seemed to get mostly consumed by Ben Sweeney from Bank Top Brewery who we were yakking with at the time, well, we tried when we could get a word in! A really enthusiastic young man and a passionate advocate of his brewery’s products (which I really like at their Tap in Bolton) Both he and Craig (also one of the brewers at BT) liked the Weird Beard and I guided Craig toward their Decadence Stout which he REALLY enjoyed! Top lads!
At this point, I stumbled into James from Deeply Vale Brewery and Paul from Ringway (I’m still shamed that I haven’t had any Ringway beers!!!) who was to be our Geordie comedy meister for the rest of the evening! To be honest, I had SUCH a good time just chatting and listening that other that a beautifully fruity and dry Billabong from Tiny Rebel (oranges and peach with a nice hoppy finish), I lost track of what I drank!
Managed to grab a quick chat with David from the excellent beer shop in Ossett, Bierhuis too. Top bloke who knows his beers (and stocks some corkers!)
Great fun. Chatted with the effervescent Rowan Molyneaux and her friend (both from Brew Dog on Peter Street) who were really good fun to natter with and just whiled away the rest of the evening with James, Paul and had a great chat with the ever friendly (and damned knowledgable) John Clarke who also imparted some wise advice about festivals (and guided me towards Prague for my upcoming 50th birthday revelries. Cheers John!)
Chatted for so long with James, Paul & Rowan that before I knew it, it was damned late, so off to the Metro laughing all the way…such great company. Tried to get the Arch-Nemesis to go for a nightcap of something ludicrous, but he just left me standing at the bus stop. Shame on him!
On that note…til next time…(tomorrow at the Friday lunch session of the Beer Fest – I punish myself for your pleasure!)