The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2014 – Questions, Answers, Thoughts.

Capture ISBF

“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah!

Your head will collapse and there’s nothing in it and you’ll ask yourself…

Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind?

(“Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies)
(Clip courtesy Kanaal van CasaAzul65 on YouTube)

The Pixies’ greatest track. In MY opinion, of course…….

I suppose the question should be “Where WAS my mind?” I mean, what the **** was I thinking when I said that little word “Yes” to Gerry Stone nearly a year ago? But it was for Gerry, so I couldn’t (in all conscience) refuse.

In the words of Andy Partridge (XTC) at the start of their classic “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”…..Let’s begin!

Questions

Question – The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Why….Independent? (This question HAS been asked…on a number of occasions!)

Answer? – Gerry (whom many of you have now met) asked me for some advice on who to contact to help set up a Beer Festival at her Community Centre at St Sebastian’s to help raise money. On her behalf, I contacted the local CAMRA Branch (North Manchester Branch) and asked them to get in touch with her to see if they could help. The answer was, in short, No. I felt, at that time, that that would be the end of that! Until Gerry popped the fateful question….”Would you……?”

I knew that I could get beer. But I also knew that I knew NOTHING ELSE about staging a beer festival. Oh how I’ve learned!

Question – Why at St Sebastian’s Community Centre?

Answer – That one was easy. Gerry wanted to raise money to help the Centre function and (hopefully) thrive. The Centre was cost-free as a venue. Getting people IN the place, they could get an idea as to the work that the centre does. As for being “out of the way”? We sold out three sessions out of four. Need I say more?

Question – Why Ticket Only?

Answer – This was again, rather simple. The Centre has a fire safety limit of 250. That was….before the bar and stillage went in! That meant that we lowered access to only 150. That required some form of control. For piece of mind, that meant ticketing. I have heard advice about clicking people in & out, but for simplicity and, again, peace of mind, Eventbrite ticketing worked. For me, brilliantly. And the analytical information that Eventbrite provides helps HUGELY in any planning for possible future events. More on that ….later!

So. How was it for you? (Chuck your comments in below!)

For me? At times, this was really “seat of the pants” stuff. Far too often! But some key decisions were made well in advance that made our job far easier than it otherwise would have been.

They were….

ISBF Poster v3

Design – From the moment that I was sent an e-mail from Andy Heggs (of “Hop On The Bike” blogging infamy) owner of Drumbeat Creative, I knew that the “look” of the Festival would be something special. If I’m being honest (which I hope that I am), initially, I got too caught up in minor detail to see the classy retro beauty of the logo design. The more I looked at the Glass & Bottle logo, I just fell in love. It is a thing of beauty that is 100% nothing to do with me and 100% to do with Andy’s talent for design (aren’t the Brewsmith website and pump clips lovely? He designed those too!). I/We owe him. Hugely. And as for the beautiful programmes!

Website – Take a bow Mr Darren Turpin, web designer and creator of the superb Manchester Ale News website. Darren took Andy’s logo and built a website of equal beauty and sheer useability that (for me, as an organiser) was simply a joy to work with and something that other beer festivals should look at. Not because it was FOR our Festival, but for the classyness of the design, the information about the festival and its beer that it displayed so clearly. The downloadable beer list sheets? The Ebook? All his handiwork. And they attracted the praise which they richly deserved. As did the artwork from Andy. I owe them both. Enormously.

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Cooling/Bar – That decision took a little time. I received lots of advice about how to cool the beers and keep them in the best possible condition. But the best advice that I received, was wordless. It was in the The Anvil in Wigan 2 0r 3 months back in a chat with David Mayhall of Allgates and Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery. I mentioned my thinking about using a cooling system. They nodded. That made my mind up. And all of the feedback that I/we received about the condition of the beers were worth every penny. All Flow Dispense set up the bar, the stillage, the lines, the python cooling system, everything. Then took it all away again to make the room feel that it was never there. A brilliant job which minimised my stress levels. Damn friendly guys too. Cheers Lee & Sam. A top job!

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Glassware

I’ve been to plenty of beer festivals over the last 30 years. I always take the logo’s glasses home too! But the one that stuck with me the most, was one that never made it home. The 2/3rd pint stemmed glass from Leeds International Beer Festival 2013. I adored it. But dropped it on Lever Street on my way back from Leeds.

That glass just felt so…..inclusive. It felt right. It also was just as classy as the Poster/leaflet, the website….keeping that classy look just felt like the right thing to do. We’d have made more money just going with traditional straight glasses (and we had 300 of those too!), But the moment they arrived at the Centre 3 days before opening and I opened the box, the whole thing felt more real and, for not the last time that week, I got a bit emotional. Again, I’m a soft old git.

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Come the day….Everything just seemed to work. And little of it was of my doing!

The beer was in good nick. Which was a relief! Some people travelled huge distances to be there (although I’m sure that Chris – who flew in from Abu Dhabi and came straight to the Centre – didn’t fly in just for this!) and their feedback was heartwarming. What was particularly pleasing to hear was the immensely positive feedback about the venue, the food and (in particular) the volunteers.

The most praise – from me – must go to the those people, the Volunteers. I’ve said on many occasions that “Beer People Are Good People”. But the people who volunteered to help behind the bar and selling tokens/glassware were simply…awesome! Now, being an old git, that isn’t a word I use too frequently. One of the things that made me most get all emotional, was the praise for the following good people (there was LOADS as well!) who did a fabulous job, made the punters feel welcome and made the weekend what it was. A success.

I tip my proverbial to the following….At any bar I may see you, there’ll always be a beer on me!

Bernard, Bevis, Celia, Charlotte, Chris D, Dan & Gina, David R, Declan, Graham, Jaz (The Arch-Nemesis), Jeff, Jez, Kelly, Linda, Nick C, Nick M, Paul, Pete, Robert, Rowan, Sarah & Will. Thank you from….well, you know. Especial thanks due to Dan, David & Chris for taking the responsibility of managing the bar.

Thank you to all of the brewers, both for the beer and your good humour when dealing with me. You were very patient and make some simply fabulous beer (as acclaimed by the customers!)

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Particular thanks to Emma from Beer Junkets, for wise words of advice! Bailey & Jules from Grub Mcr for their unfailing support! David Mayhall from Allgates for most excellent advice and logistical help, Rob Hamilton and the whole Black Jack / Glassworks team, without whom, I’d have had warm spoilt beer. Thank you to Malcolm Bastow from Five Towns Brewery for consolidating the Yorkshire beers and bringing them over. To James Stewart at Deeply Vale both for a brilliant brew day (Mmmm….Amarillo!) and for designing a simply beautiful pump clip for the festival. That, and giving me two of the clips, one for Jan. A classy touch that brought more than one tear to my eye. To Rik Garner and the gang at First Chop, for digging me out of a hole or two! Huge thanks too to Doug Macpherson from Cwrw Ial Brewery, both for the generous offer of an MTB (which was brilliant!) complete with bottle tasting and for his evening stint behind the bar! Most generous. Especial thanks too to Dan & Gina Buck. Dan kept me sane in my most panic stricken moments and Gina (the Laminator Queen!) for just putting up with my terrible organising! And Alex and the guys from Duke & The Darlings for a lovely set – and the impromptu jamming session afterwards around the table!

Thanks also to the cask sponsors for their most generous sponsorship : Salford Angels WI, Kersal Vale Apiary – Jack Hobbs, Harry Davis, SALIX Living,
Jess – Zumba Crazy, Salford CVS, Joan Fielding – Helping Hands, Simon & Sarah Gare, Drumbeat Creative, Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man Manchester), John Pinder – Vista, Ben & Holly Wakerley, Godwin’s Tree Consultants, “Paddy’s 50th Birthday Ale” and Envirovent Ltd.

Thank you also to Anne & Steve Simms of Great Ale Year Round in Bolton Market for their huge generosity in sponsoring the T-Shirts!

Thank you also to Graham Donning and Martin. Some very helpful constructive feedback from the first session! To all the local CAMRA branches too, for their help in publicising the event.

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People tend to focus on the beer at these events. And, whilst it was pleasing to get lots of nice comments about the selection, I was always confident in the choice of beers. These are excellent Northern breweries all and selected for that reason. The number of breweries to offer me brand new beers for their first appearance was a surprise and a joy too. The beer selection  however – for me – was merely the means to the end. Raising money for the Centre.

Speaking of which. Whilst we have one or two bills still to pay, a rough calculation indicates that you/we raised in the region of £5000. I thank you, the drinkers, all hugely for coming along and helping us to that figure, which will help Gerry & the Centre massively.

The generosity of your spare token donations also raised over £130 for St Ann’s Hospice. Thank you all. A cheque will be with them shortly. A particular thank you for the kind punter who adapted the token sheet in a valiant effort to raise more money for St Ann’s!

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Beer of The Festival – That was a close run thing! A number of beers were voted for, via Twitter & Facebook using the #ISBF2014. Whilst many beers received votes, two beers rose above. The winner being Raven King by Five Towns, closely followed by Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle of Malton. Two Yorkshire breweries! Let’s see more of their beer over here eh?

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Finally. Will we do it again?

I think we will. The feedback was so positive as to be – on occasion – personally overwhelming. Some really kind words indeed, which frequently overworked my tear ducts! What I found particularly heartwarming (that word again!) was the praise for the venue, the volunteers and the food. Comments like “friendly”, “warm”, “intimate” all made an impression on me in particular. Once we sold out the 3 sessions, I started to think ….bigger. Street Food providers, big space…. But no. Same place. Maybe a few more tickets, one or two more beers, but nothing too excessive. I wouldn’t want to lose the feel of the event.

There are many lessons to be learned. And we’ll take a couple of months to think those through.

But next time, planned over a longer period. With some people who know what the hell they’re doing. Less stress. Oh yes…less stress!

If this doesn’t make sense, forgive me. It’s been emotional!

Thank you all again. See you next year?

Jim

12 comments on “The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2014 – Questions, Answers, Thoughts.

  1. Can I just again say Jim you laid on a fantastic event. I was there on Friday and Saturday afternoon and had a blast. Already looking forward to next time.

  2. I had tremendous fun helping out & think things went incredibly well

    absolutely right about “friendly”, “warm”, “intimate”
    & I think it what set it apart and made it unique & pretty (IMHO)
    Earth shatteringly good,
    I’ve been to a couple of festivals recently
    & was left feeling cold.
    With the Tokens & glass reuse we were able to provide amazing service,
    no one was left waiting
    but also whenever I spotted someone who wanted a chat or some beer talk
    I was able to do so with feeling like shirking.

    Not to forget the beers, a real fantastic line up of the best nanos & micros
    up & coming stars and all out beer magicians>

    I was recently chatting (online admittedly) with Cheshire Brewhouse’s Shane
    & he talked of ‘keeping up outstanding quality by keeping small’
    & I think it might apply here too.

    Once again congratulations & thanks to an amazing couple of days
    and the best damn beer festival I’ve been to.

  3. You’re extremely welcome, Mr Jim Sir. Happy to do the website honours again next year, as I may have mentioned (I’d been at the festival supping your excellent selection of ales for a good while by that point, so I could have promised all sorts of things…)

  4. So glad it went well, but completely forgot it was on. I haven’t had a blog entry notified from you for ages and ages, and was wondering about when this was.

    Too late now. Next year, hopefully.

  5. Actually it does seem that the last entry on this blog was 28 August so I didn’t miss anything. I’m sure that all the effort and work overtook you, but if I’d seen a reminder I’d have been there in a flash.

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