A Simple Greeting 

“How are you?” (This simple greeting has many variants)

I never thought that such a simple (and well-meaning) question could be filled with such divergent answers, in my case at least.

There are two main answers.

The first one – also known as “the abbreviated version” – leaves the questioner to carry on with their day / evening emotionally unmolested.

“Yeah. OK you know. We’re getting by…. ”

It’s the second – aka “The Full English…..” as A A Gill recently put it – which leaves the questioner fraught. Thinking that they have ruined your day / evening. And leaves you knowing that you’ve ruined theirs.

The second response contains an unspoken pre-thought, which is “Are you REALLY ready for this……?”

And then, when you give that response, when you’ve finished, you get a sense of shock. And you wish that you’d given the abbreviated version.

I used to always give the first one. And then one night, I said “No. I’m not really” and broke down.

You see, when you lose a child, especially when they’ve ended their own life, there is no route map to follow. In the first two weeks every minute contained a question. That question always started “What do we do…….?”

And nobody knew the answers.

There were good people. A lady named Gina at the Co-Op funeral parlour guided us through the majority of the formalities. A veritable angel of a woman, to whom we owe so many thanks.

And everybody meant well. And that is understood and truly appreciated.

People have been lovely.

And then you realise how broken this country is. The human cost of “austerity”.

We soon learned that the NHS in Bolton (I don’t know about other areas) has no (in-house) mental health counselling service. We are lucky in that we got quick access to a Doctor locally for a consultation, but the emphasis appeared to be on “self-help” groups. And we were offered that.

I said “No. I’ve been here before (depression). I know what we need.” So we were – after some forceful nudging – referred.

(Lesson? Be forceful yet polite.)

And then hit the wall. Resource Prioritisation.

There is so little money dedicated to mental health provision, that they can only guide services to those at high risk of self-harming. Or of harming others.

So you get an assessment consultation. And get told that you don’t fit the criteria. And still, you walk away with a list of self-help and charity groups. And here’s the thing…

Sometimes, just sometimes, you need to speak to a professional. Somebody who understands where you are at. Somebody who can treat you. Teach you how to cope. To avoid sliding into a pit from which you can’t ascend.

I’m lucky – if that can be said in our circumstances – I truly understand the need to talk. And when I need to, I’m unafraid to do so.

It’s people who don’t understand this that I worry about. And the lack of professional help concerns me hugely.

Grief is not uniform. It’s a cliche – but nonetheless, true – it IS different for each sufferer.

As I’ve said on many occasions, there are a lot of good people in this beer game. Following on from my previous (related) post, there were a lot of supportive comments. Many have backed those up by not standing back. By saying “Hello”. And by doing that, they make the heart beat a little bit stronger, help me breathe better. And yes, occasionally, cry a little – in a good way.

That’s all we can ask.

So, if you know me – and despite the pitfalls – say “Hello”. And, from now, I’ll give you the abbreviated response.

Thank you all. And greetings of the season.

N.B. This will be the final personal post. And I don’t know if he reads this blog (he’s a busy man), but “Thank You” to Paul Jones from Cloudwater. For taking time and tapping me on the shoulder at The Smithfield last week. I’ve been putting this post off. Unwittingly, he nudged me on and – in all probability – has prompted me to keep blogging.

And further, along the lines of “the immutable law of the gig” (where, no matter how tall you may be, there’s always someone taller, blocking your view), there is always someone worse off than yourself. As I learned recently.

See you soon.

J

#GoldenPints 2016 – Or…. My Best of….. 

I’m not sure if this kind of thing is frowned upon in this post-truth, post-craft world. Whatever, anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve never been a slave to fashion in any form you care to mention. 

To be honest, 2016 can’t end quick enough for me for fairly obvious reasons, but – in an effort to see if I still “feel” blogging to be worthwhile – where praise is due, it should be dispensed. So, using the category template recently photographed by the mighty Tim Rowe (aka @PolymathTim)….  Here we go…. 

Best UK Cask Beer – War Of The Raspberries (Thirst Class Ale v North Riding Brewery

The easy thing would have been to say Sonoma by Track – simply the best session Pale Ale around on cask. And I have enjoyed it all year. But – and you can call me biased if you like (I WAS involved in my other guise) – but from the moment Stuart Neilson stepped from his car with 18kg of fresh Yorkshire Raspberries, this was always going to be special. 

A “ramped up” take on Thirst Class’ own Stocky Oatmeal Stout, this was smooth, luscious, chocolatey and shot through with tart raspberry. 

It made an impact. 

(Honourable mentions to Sonoma by Track Brewing and Titch by Rammy Craft Brewery – which both show that you can pack flavour and body in a session strength beer

Best UK Keg Beer – Damage Plan (Marble Brewery

I’ve always been of the opinion that Marble makes great beer, but this year saw them change up with the recruitment of James Kemp as Head Brewer. 

And the brewing of their Metal Series beers – foremost for me being the big, clean, juicy and so hoppy Damage Plan. 

It had everything that I want in an IPA. Including repeatable drinkability. One was never enough. 

Best UK Bottled Beer – American Barleywine (Torrside Brewing

I used to detest the sickly sweet beer style that was Barley Wine. Cloying, sticky and sickly. Gold Label. I rest my case. 

And then I popped into Browtons beer shop and bar in Ashton and chatted with Simon Browton, the owner. And bought three of Torrside’s “Monsters” strong beer range, including this. Simon advised me to drink this beer soon. 

So I followed his advice. And drank a beer that challenged and changed my perception of what a Barley Wine could be. Rich, slightly sweet but with immense hoppy peppery spice. 

It rocked my world. And – to date – is the best bottled beer that I’ve ever drunk. 

Can’t wait to try the 2016 version! 

Best Overseas Draught – Not my bag. Moving on…. 

Best Overseas Bottled / Can – Keep moving…… 

Best Collaboration – Thin Line Between Genius & Insanity (Bexar County v Offbeat Brewery

One of the joys of #ISBF2016 was the putting together my favourite breweries to collaborate on a beer especially brewed for the keg bar. I only asked for one thing. That the beer should be big, or daft. 

A Kombucha Soured Milk Neapolitan Ale anyone? 

It was brewed to taste like the elements of a Neapolitan ice cream. And it worked so bloody well. 

Raspberry, vanilla, chocolate and just the perfect level of sourness. Inspirational. 

I was supposed to be there too help brew it. Heartbreakingly, events dictated otherwise. 

Thank you Steve and Michelle for pulling this off. 

Best Branding – Magic Rock

The Brewery Tap looks stunning  but those cans attract comments every time I crack one open with friends. 

Incredibly distinctive and impactive. As good design should be. 

Best UK Brewery – Squawk Brewing 

As in every other year, this comes down to whose beer have I drunk the most. 

Whose beer do I go to first amongst all the other clips on the bar. 

And this wasn’t easy – even just in Manchester. Track, Marble, Cloudwater all putting out simply stunning beers. 

But everytime I see a Squawk clip, my mind is made. Oliver Turton is one of the nicest people in beer. And this year has hit consistent heights.

Best Foreign Brewery – Weird Beard 

Because they make fabulous beer. And London IS another country to me. 

Best New Brewery – Elusive Brewing 

An exception to my Northern rule. Because Andy Parker is an exceptionally good brewer. 

And I have drunk some exceptional beers made by him this year, both in collaboration and solo. 

And it didn’t pain me when Love Action (brewed for #ISBF2016) won Beer of the Festival. Because it was a stunning beer. 

The next Brewing superstar. (Just a shame he’s in Finchampstead!) 

Pub/Bar of the Year – The Brink (Bridge Street, Manchester) 

Anyone who has been bored enough to actually READ my tweetage won’t be surprised in this “award”. 

What Gareth & Elena Williams achieved this year, in taking over this basement space and turning it into a cosy “local in the City” is nothing short of remarkable. But it isn’t about that. 

It’s that there is a little pub, in Manchester, that only sells beer, Cider and snacks produced within 25 miles. Localism. Right there. 

And the beer is really well looked after. Supporting local Micros in both cask and keg. 

And it always puts a smile on my face watching people staring at the huge wall filling Manchester panoramic photograph and trying to figure out where they’ve come from. 

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2016 – The Brink 

Stupid question. 

Beer Festival of the Year – East/West Fest (Wakefield) 

Because it’s local. 

Because it’s friendly. 

Because it’s small and intimate. 

Because the beer is simply fabulous. 

Because Malcolm left me & Jaz alone in the venue at midnight and said “help yourselves, I’m off” (We didnt) 

(Honourable mention – The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Because it kept my mind off “things”. And reminded me that there are some truly lovely people in this game.)

Supermarket of the Year – E H Booth (Booths) 

For all that Marks and Spencer have upped their game, there is still no contest. 

Booths just had the best beer selection of any supermarket. 

Run along now. Don’t argue. 

Independent Retailer of the Year – Heaton Hops 

The place just has it all. I envy those who live closer than me. 

Online Retailer of the Year – I don’t. Move on….. 

Best Beer Blog or Website – Boozy Procrastinator 

There are many excellent and readable blogs out there. And this wasn’t easy. From Mark Johnson’s searing openness and honesty, Tandleman’s authoritative commentary, Glenn Johnson’s writing about pubs I may never get to try (no matter how much I want to). 

But Deeekos made me laugh. He wrote some excellent stuff – not always about beer – and was unafraid to have a pop. 

Best Beer Twitterer – Craft Beer Hour 

Tom does a top job bringing beer people together every Tuesday. 

A beer institution. 

And that – for me anyway – is that. 

Seasons Greetings and all that. 

J