A chance to meet up with good friends should never be passed on.
Festivals like MBCF bring together those from within the (what people forget is a rather tiny) beer bubble of enthusiasts – you say nerds, if you like – and those more usual drinkers that get occasion, once or twice a year, to try something a bit different.
And this Goliath of a beer event certainly brings choice. With more keg than before seemingly pointing in the direction that the ongoing CAMRA “revitalisation” might be headed. Towards a greater inclusivity on beer dispense.
It has almost become a personal tradition to have a look at the beer list – vast though it is – and try to figure out a route map, a plan, a way to navigate myself between the bars to access those beers that to me are unmissable.
To me, that means avoiding the family brewer bars. Going independent.
And – with the odd excellent exception – that means Northern.
So – without further (in alphabetical brewery order – but with the bar noted)…
Abbeydale (Funk Dungeon) – Imperial Brett Saison – 9% abv – The Font Bar
Jim and Laura Rangeley graciously agreed to host a presentation and tasting at #ISBF4 and the focus was on beers from their “Funk Dungeon” project. And with this Sheffield brewery being more noted for session Pale Ales, my eyes were opened.
A palate refresher for later in a session maybe, but I won’t miss this.
Bexar County Brewing – Texas Pecan Coffee Mild – 3.6% abv – Bar 1
Steve Saldana is a bit of a one-off. Ploughing his experimental beery furrow in Peterborough. And WOW does he make good beer.
I had an iteration of this a couple of years back on a Road To Wigan Beer Festival and – amongst some simply outstanding beers, this was just, delicious. Exceptional.
I mean Pecans & Coffee? In a Mild? But oh ohh ohhhh does it work! Utterly lush. I need another. One for early on.
Five Towns Brewery – Warzsawa – 9.1% abv – Bar 1
In three of the four years of The Independent Salford Beer Festival, beers brewed in Malcolm Bastow’s shed in Outwood have reigned supreme to be voted by the drinkers – think about that, the drinkers – as Beer of the Festival. My abiding memory of our bash last October, was of Steve and Andy walking towards me, early on the first session, with a beer in hand. Giggling. “This is going to be Beer of the Festival”
It was “Always Crashing In The Same Car”. A beer that Malcolm and I had brewed especially for #ISBF4. A one-off. That Malcolm decided to brew again having been overwhelmed by the feedback.
That was a Belgian style Tripel infused with rhubarb. Fermented with yeast from the legendary Brasserie Orval.
With a fresh batch of that legendary yeast available, Malcolm went again. But with cherries.
Hophurst Brewery – 2 Rounds of 6 Before Breakfast – 3.5% abv – Bar 2
I crave refreshing session beers. And am not one to be frequently swayed by the opinion of others. But someone had a word with me last year about Hophurst. Someone I trust.
This looks like an early session beer. Citra, Chinook & Cascade. In a low abv pale. My boxes are ticked.
Mallinsons – Stouted Caramel /Amarillo – 4.7% abv /4.2% abv – Mallinsons Bar
I’m torn. A rare excursion into The Dark Side from my Yorkshire friends or to pander to my Amarillo addiction.
I bow to none in my love of the Pale Ales brewed by Beer Jesus and the Cocktail Twins, but that Stout!
I may have to have both…..
Marble / Hawkshead / Burning Sky – 3 Threads Porter ‘Young’ – 6.5% abv – Bar 2
A beer that formed part of the Year long collab frenzy to celebrate 20 years of the mighty Marble Brewery. I had a version of this on keg at their 20th birthday celebrations.
I wouldn’t miss this on cask for all the tea at Betty’s!
I mean. A blend of Porters from Marble, Hawkshead & Burning Sky? SERIOUSLY?
I’m on it.
Neptune Brewery – Mosaic – 4.5% abv – Bar 2
Les O’Grady hit the ground running with Neptune. I started with his Stout Abyss and worked through the Pales. Simply lovely beers.
The best compliment I can pay is that when I see the Neptune clip on a bar, my decision is made. That good.
And it’s a session Pale. With Mosaic. 1+1=2.
North Riding/Beer Central – Fudge Brownie Stout (Ski Sundae Edition) – 7.4% abv – Bar 2
Take my “Beer of the Year” from 2017. Tweak it with Raspberries and Vanilla. And serve cool in a pint glass.
The original Fudge Brownie collab with Five Towns was immense, like a big Stouty cake in a glass. In bottle it won my heart, from a wooden cask on NYE it simply blew me away.
And then Stuart – along with Sean Clarke from Beer Central in Sheffield – twisted it. It sounds amazing.
Pictish Brewery – Brewers Gold – 3.8% abv – Bar 2
Sometimes – rarely for me – you just want the beer equivalent of comfort food. Something you can rely on for excellence. Consistency. Something like Pictish Brewers Gold.
Paul Wesley’s Single hopped Brewers Gold is a bit of a local legend. Rightly revered. And I want some. Simple.
Pig & Porter v Rivington Brewing – Lair of the Baubai – 9.1% abv – Pig & Porter Bar
A beer created and brewed especially for #ISBF4, I only got the slightest of tastes of this fruited Baltic Porter. And it was simply glorious.
But I want more. And the fact that both Sean Ayling & Ben Stubbs were both ecstatic about it just reinforces that need.
Pomona Island – Porter – 5.7% abv – Bar 2
My love of dark beers is well-known. So when a new Salford brewery hits the ground at a sprint with excellent Pale Ales, I want to be all over their dark output.
Like with this. If this is even in the same ballpark as their Pales, it will be lovely.
Redwillow – Faithless 76 – 4.3 % abv – Bar 2
Again, for breweries from this area, when I see Redwillow clips, I point.
Simply consistent excellence. So when I see a double dry-hopped Pale at that session strength, I’m on it.
Redwillow / Elusive – More or Less American Brown – 4.9% abv
The combination of two fabulous breweries. A beer style I go weak at the knees for.
I don’t see enough Elusive on cask.
What’s not to love. Unmissable.
Rivington Brewing / MBCF / Tryanuary – You Have To Call Me Nighthawk – 5.6% abv
From a rising star of a brewery fairly local to me that just gets better and better.
Described as a hopped Export Porter.
Torrside / GRUB – Grubby Bastard – 6% abv – Bar 3
I had this at the weekend at the GRUB Winter Beer Festival. I would feel guilty if I didn’t flag it up.
A simply luscious dark chocolatey beer with a nice hint of smoke. Rich yet delicate. From the local masters of smoked malts.
Wishbone / Neptune Brewery – Double Abyss – 6.8% abv – Bar 3
A merger of two dark beers that I love from two superb yet seemingly underrated breweries.
Promises to be dark, rich, luscious and chocolatey.
Well. I’ve got my work cut out over the next few days, but I intend to try all of these liquid works of art. Call them “recommendations” if you like. And enjoy the festival.
Drink responsibly for me – and come say Hi. I’ll be the one with a tub of Andrews to hand.
Be kind to one another. Jx