It’s always sad to lose a good brewery. One that makes excellent beer, without ingredient compromise, with passion, no little style and a smile. But a few months ago, I had one of those “Shoeless Joe Jackson” moments.
A moment in beer that I’d been dreading.
Michelle Shipman was to close Offbeat Brewery.
The brewery might not really feature in your personal beer story. But in mine, Michelle gets a chapter of her own.
I’ve been drinking for an awful long time, but I’ve only grown to really LOVE beer for about 6 years. And one of the earliest breweries that I grew to love was this little crew of ladies headed up by Michelle.
Ladies that beer (Julie will appreciate the affectionate pilfering).
We disagree about some things in beer (my heart is Dark, Michelle’s is Pale) but there has been a sensibility about the output from Thomas Street that has always appealed. From “Outlandish Pale” through “Kooky Gold” and “Out of Step IPA”, hops have been front and centre.
Full flavoured and incredibly drinkable beer. Fully recognising the restrictions of the local market (Cheshire & North Staffordshire), but nudging drinkers to fuller flavours.
Brewing, promoting, selling, distributing, debt collecting, repeat to fade…….
These things can take their toll on the most phlegmatic. As I said earlier this week being and running a Micro Brewery can need a “Sisyphean effort just to keep heads above water“. And whilst I’m sad that we’re losing “one of the good guys”, I’m actually pleased that Michelle is taking a step back from running a brewing business. (If you can be “pleased” with a tear in your eye).
Health and happiness matter.
As you may know, I have a peripheral involvement with my favourite beer festival East West Fest (Red Shed, Wakefield 10th to 12th May….). That “involvement” extends to the sourcing of breweries from the “West” side of The Pennines.
And with the imminent demise of Offbeat, Michelle had to feature.
The main man (Malcolm) came over on a promise of hops. So we focused on hops. Lots. Of. Hops.
As I write (on the 06:46 Piccadilly to Manchester Airport – seeing as you’re asking), I realised that we Smashed this beer. It’s Single MAlt Single Hopped, with best ale malt and the Mighty Nelson Sauvin.
Lots. Of. Nelson. Sauvin.
I won’t bore you with the details of a brewday. I’ve taken part in so many now that I get bored with writing about them. But Michelle downsized to a 2bbl brew kit last year.
In such a small kit, 3.5kg of Nelson Sauvin is a lot. A REAL lot.
We’ve made a mid abv hop monster.
Which anyone who knows Malcolm will know, that put a smile on his face!
The longer the day went on, it became increasingly apparent that this may have actually been Michelle’s last brew. Fuck. It took a while for that to sink in.
I hope it isn’t. But if it is, then I’m incredibly proud to have been involved in it. (I don’t mind saying that I had a little weep on leaving.)
This beer will be sub 5% abv. It will be first in my list at East West Fest. Of that there is no doubt.
Come and join us at The Red Shed in May. And realise just why it’s called “The Red Shed”.
Michelle and Offbeat have been a big part of my Beer Journey. She’s been a bit of a heroine, in the beer that she made (I’m struggling with that past tense) and what she had to go through to make it. I have no doubt that if she had testicles she’d have had more respect. That’s the sexist world we live in.
And one which – one word at a time – some of us are trying to change.
I have some incredible Offbeat memories. I’ve been incredibly flattered to have been part of some of those. I’ll never forget the 40th birthday party that me and “Little Chris” went to that turned into Michelle & David’s Wedding bash.
I’ll never forget the kindness Michelle has shown – repeatedly – to The Independent Salford Beer Festival.
I’m going to miss Offbeat. There’s a Closing / Leaving bash at the Brewery on 1st/2nd June.
I’ve cleared my calendar. I’m going to cry like a bastard.
Don’t be a stranger Mrs.