Words Like Conviction Can Turn Into A Sentence

“I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it,

Open my mouth and out pops something spiteful.

Words are so cheap, but they can turn out expensive.

Words like conviction can turn into a sentence…”

Tenderness” – General Public

(Short lived. Forgotten. But oh how I love General Public.)

Friday afternoon was sunny. Yes, even Manchester sees some sunshine. So, instead of heading straight for my intended destination I stayed – for an all too short while – in the sunshine and chatted with two of my favourite people in this city.

Bailey and Vinny

Both people with a deep sense of what is right. These people matter to me.

We got to talking about integrity. And it got me thinking about why I do this blog. And how whilst it has changed a lot over the six years I’ve been doing it, it also really hasn’t.

That word. Integrity.

I don’t do this for money. Or “stuff”. And yet – in a sense – I do. Without this waffle, there wouldn’t have been an Independent Salford Beer Festival.

I don’t write for money. I do it to highlight good stuff. Be it beer, retailers (generally independent), pubs, bars, even other bloggers. You might never have heard of “it”. You might have let “it” drop off your radar. But that’s my thing.

I get invites to events. Stuff. Opening nights etc. But I have “rules”. And – before I accept an invite – I state those “rules”. And if the invite evaporates, that’s fine.

Those “rules”? Well, there’s really only one. “If it’s good, I’ll write about it. If it’s not, I won’t”. It’s simple really. And I like simplicity. I adhere to those KISS principles. (Keep It Simple. Stupid.)

I may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery set. But I say what I believe. I like to highlight the positive maybe, but positivity is what keeps me going.

I see cynics mock those who are relentlessly upbeat. I’ve got no time for that cynicism. I’ve always believed – in real life as well as “beer” – that if you haven’t got something positive (however small) to say, then piss off. You can say negative shit in a good way. And in “Mental Health Awareness Week”, that’s important.

You can be positive, whilst maintaining integrity.

I deal with my negative shit, my criticisms, privately. If something isn’t right, I speak directly and share my thoughts constructively. There’s simply little I detest more than the lazy statement (always on Social Media like Twitter, Untappd or similar echo chambers) that something is “shit”. One word. No explanation.

WHY is it shit?

Integrity.

I’ve heard a lot this week about “influencers”. I’ve seen them deployed this week. And not in a good way. I’ve seen them mobilised before for hype purposes.

If you have a platform (or “influence”), there’s responsibility that comes as a side dish. Remember that.

I don’t want to be an “influencer”. I like what I do.

Integrity. Get some.

(This post is dedicated to the memory of a man called Phil Wakerley. I miss him. The man with the most love and integrity I’ve ever known)

A Question of Perspective

“White riot – I want to riot
White riot – a riot of my own
White riot – I want to riot
White riot – a riot of my own

Black people gotta lotta problems
But they don’t mind throwing a brick
White people go to school
Where they teach you how to be thick

An’ everybody’s doing
Just what they’re told to
An’ nobody wants
To go to jail!

All the power’s in the hands
Of people rich enough to buy it
While we walk the street
Too chicken to even try it

Everybody’s doing
Just what they’re told to
An’ Nobody wants
To go to jail!

Are you taking over?
Or are you taking orders?
Are you going backwards?
Or are you going forwards?”

When most of their contemporaries were scrabbling on budget independent labels, The Clash were releasing THAT on CBS. A multi – continent behemoth.

ARE THE CLASH ANY LESS RELEVANT?

IDGAF if it’s on an independent label or a major. Or who sells to who. I truly don’t. Does the music sound good? Yes? Then listen to it.

If not, then don’t.

Apply that to Beer. And remember. It’s only beer. So get some fucking perspective. (Thanks A)

It isn’t life or death.

*drops mic*

Small is Beautiful : East West Fest 2018

It started with a tweet. The above tweet. The significance of which, well, let’s say it took a while for me to grasp.

Mark. Travelled from Bristol. To Wakefield. To drink in a shed. A little Red Shed.

Shit!

I had a little panic. “Have I oversold this?” This smallest and most intimate of beer events. “What if he’s disappointed” Genuinely, these thoughts flashed up. A crisis of confidence in my own judgement.

Pointless self-doubt. It’s East West. It’s The Red Shed. And the event delivers. Every single year.

Mark had the jump on me. He arrived a day earlier. And rejoiced in telling us.

Repeatedly.

For me, yes the beer range was excellent, from a spectacular Raspberry and Bergamot Imperial Blonde at 11.5% abv, a simply luscious Imperial Smoked Mild at 9%, a Citra Soup DIPA to a supremely refreshing Table Beer at 2.9%.

But no. It’s not about the beer. It’s the feeling. The people. Drinking with friends previous and new.

Talking. Not always about beer either. Repeatedly crying with laughter. And I MEAN repeatedly.

That’s what this does to me. It’s why it is – to me – unmissable.

And now to others. Barbara & Mowgli joined us for the whole weekend this year and – if not always intentionally – they made it so memorable. I will treasure forever the 1:30 am phone call to let them in to our apartment.

I haven’t laughed so much in 2 years. And not an Andy Burnham or squirrel picture in sight (you had to be there..)

It’s a small event in every sense. A tight knit group of volunteers that coalesces around Malcolm every year. The same friendly faces. It’s almost like an extended family.

The venue is tiny. It almost forces you to converse. Frequently with people you’ve never met, but will again.

People – not beers – make events.

The beer list for this East West was exceptional for a tiny event. But the beer is the lubricant for conversation. And that’s how this works so well.

On Saturday evening, the beers started running out. But unlike some events where it would be a subject to moan about, here it was merely the starting point for gentle mockery, fun. When certain beers run out, the fan boys find a way to extract the last drop…

I’m not a fan of bigger events. I get overwhelmed by the numbers, the crowding, the sheer faff.

But this is different. This is small, intimate, cosy without being forced. Friendships are made here. Friendships are reinforced here. It’s my favourite beer event.

Personally, I need that certain something, that feeling to get me through a door. To get me to appreciate an event. Whatever it is, this little event in a Red Shed has it. I call it soul.

And soul is so important.

With a disintegrating left knee, I was in pain all weekend, but even that turned into humour (as if I had a choice), with the theft of an electric buggy being actively considered….

I hope Malcolm and the team made a bucket load of cash for the chosen charities (Candlelighters & Newton Hill Cricket Club) – never forget that all profits get donated. They deserve to do so. A lot of effort (freely given) goes into this exceptional event.

It’s not the biggest beer list. That said, it’s certainly – for its size – the most bonkers.

19 beers. And in there there was an 11.5% Imperial Blonde, 2 x 9% (a Smoked Mild & a Belgian style Tripel), an 8% Citra DIPA, a clutch of 7% Stouts.

Heavy. Big. Bloody tasty.

That said (and I didn’t go through the list), my favourite beer was a tiddler at 3.5%, a beautiful Hazelnut & Coffee Baby Stout collab from Abbeydale / North Riding. But that was closely followed by the big guns. That Torrside “No More Tuesdays”, the Rat Imperial Smoked Mild, the repeated Rivington Citra ra ra ra DIPA.

But again, it’s about the people. The talk. The laughter. The new friends and deepened friendships.

And the indelible memories. And images.

And ET turning up in Wakefield.

Speaking of which. HUGE respect to Mark for coming all the way from Bristol. To John & Mark for coming over the Pennines. To Steve for “commuting” from Sheffield. Diana & Andy, Andrew and Dawn (Dawn & Diana had me roaring. And I’d only met them minutes earlier)

Damned if I know how we missed Gavin though.

I hope they got even a fraction of what I get out of this. If they did, they’ll have enjoyed it.

It’s my favourite beer event.

For me, it’s the big unmissable. So long as I have my health – and Malcolm continues to do it – I’ll be here.

Talking. Laughing. And drinking. But mostly laughing.

Laughter is seriously underrated.

Beer And Social Media – “Every Little Helps”

(Pilot – one of THE wittiest Twitter accounts. But they back it up with great beer)

We keep hearing about pubs failing. The statistic of over 20 per week gets trotted out almost er…. weekly. Among those will be some pubs that have a great product, but just don’t “sell” it.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve walked into a pub – in particular, free houses – and enjoyed a great venue, with excellent beer (but hardly rammed) and asked “You got a Twitter account?” To be told either “No” or “I think so. But we rarely use it…..”

An active social media profile can make a difference.

Just something as simple as telling people what you’ve got? Is that difficult? You don’t always have to do it with wit (like Kate), just say what you’ve got!

Rocket science? No. But it can make a difference.

An example as to how this can work……

About 5 months ago, The Smithfield put a cask on of Five Towns‘ “Always Crashing In The Same Car” the winner of “Beer of the Festival” at #ISBF4. An 8.4% Rhubarb infused Belgian Tripel.

I knew it was going on the bar on the Saturday lunchtime, so I tweeted it out, The Smithfield tweeted.

At about 6pm, I turned up at the Smithfield to see faces I hadn’t seen for some time and asked

“Hello! What you doing here?”

Reply? “You told me THIS was on!”

I went to the bar and got chatting to someone I didn’t know….

“What you got there?”

Reply? “That. (Pointing to “Always Crashing” clip) Someone tweeted about it earlier….. “

This shit works. But not all do it.

Sometimes it’s not enough to have a great product. Sometimes – with a new venue / bar – it isn’t enough to rely on “word of mouth”, some places don’t have the time to let that build.

You’ve got to sell it. Attract customers.

Rocket science?

All it takes is a few seconds. A photo. Press “send” ask people to “tell your friends” or “RT” it.

You lose a few seconds of your life.

But what might you gain?

And – just a thought – if you (as a customer), like where you are, what you are enjoying, tell them to publicise it. You tweet/post it too. Give them a hand up. Show them.

I’m not naive enough to believe it’s the answer to pub closures. But – as Tesco say -…

“Every Little Helps”