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.
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.
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. It’s got a huge 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.