Having a Platform

This morning, this arrived through my letterbox. Immediately after taking this picture, I carefully tore it to pieces. And got angry.

The arrogance of the bastard. The man in question being Tim Martin, head of the Wetherspoon “empire”.

I wasn’t the only one to receive them….

And equally unwelcome….

This is not a political blog. Or post. However, for clarity, my politics are of the left and I was formerly both an activist and Trade Union rep.

But that isn’t the point here.

For some time, I have offered simple advice. If you want to say something controversial – or potentially offensive – DON’T use your commercial platform, or your business accounts. If you do, prepare to harm your business.

In the current on trade, JDW loom large as the bargain bin of draught beer. Buy cheap, sell cheap. With the prices being demanded off brewers by the chain, it makes zero commercial sense for small Micros to sell to Wetherspoon.

And I’ve seen their range on the handpumps narrowing to a “usual suspects” list. At least in the ones I’ve been in. Maybe he really believes in the nickname given his pubs.

And – obviously to Mr Martin – he doesn’t think that such propaganda will harm his business. Maybe it won’t.

I’ve been fairly ambivalent about Spoons. Colleagues and friends do occasionally ask to meet there. And I’ve never said no.

Hell. We’ve even had breakfast in “The Brexit Arms” (predictive text remembered!) morning after East West.

But not any more.

I hate the Wetherspoon business model. I detest the use of Zero Hours contracts.

I also loathe the use of his company to spread his anti-EU propaganda.

I don’t care if my friends and colleagues call me a snob.

I’ll never darken the doors of a Wetherspoon again.

2019 : A Tryanuary Impulse – Pt 2 – Bolton

In this month of “Do something different”, I had to receive a jolt from a friend before I considered the obvious. The town I call home.

Bolton.

There has never seemed to be enough – in terms of outlets for excellent beer – to justify a wander. Yes, there were one or two excellent places to drink, but….. Manchester is just so EASY. Like a comfort blanket.

Time to change. And be a little more adventurous. So, with my dear old buddy Col – and after a fab & fortifying chip butty at Olympus (great chippy near the Bolton Interchange) it was back to the station for the 125 bus up to Chorley Road.

About 6 minutes on the bus……

Bunbury’s (393 Chorley Old Rd, Bolton BL1 6AH)

I’ve said it before. This bar has no right to be here, selling the beers it does. But here it is, 2 years on. And Daryl and Sarah have cultivated a loyal and devoted following of locals and not so.

Like me.

Did you notice that? That little yellow pump clip.

It’s not often I start at 4:30 on a 9% abv beer. But this was “Sweet Thing (Reprise)” from Five Towns x Rivington. One of my #ISBF5 collabs. I grab them where I can.

And it was bloody delicious. Fruity and creamy as a fruited Milkshake DIPA should be.

I had the Thirst Class too. And that Hoppy Go Lucky stood up well to the beast by its side. Nice and refreshing. Tasty. I expect nothing else from Thirst Class.

Bunbury’s. Small, but perfectly formed. Tables and standing area to the front and a small comfy room to the back.

It’s a local in the truest sense. Vibrant with conversation. Friendly. And with a simply astonishingly eclectic and excellent beer list.

Not to mention the small pack…. Nor the Cloudwater, Lervig & Rivington on the keg lines.

The regulars might not thank me for this, but – for me – this is one of Greater Manchester’s unmissable Micro Pubs.

I’ll be back. Frequently. But tonight, we were on a tight schedule..

So. Back on the (just about caught) 125 back into Bolton. Getting off at The Market Place and walking through up to All Saints Street.

Courtyard 36

A new one on me. And one that Colin in particular was keen to check out. Located just a few moments walk from the main shopping areas of the town, yet tucked away, it took a little finding.

But my is it pretty.

This is apparently an old Court House and having attended at Bolton Crown Court, this is much more decorous.

There are two or three separate drinking areas downstairs one of which has the appearance of a conservatory.

Keg only with 10 taps, 3 for Cider & Lager with the remaining choices being local and familiar featuring First Chop, Shindigger & Alphabet which – for the centre of Bolton – until recently would seem ambitious.

This bar is well laid out, very pretty and has an intimate feel. Hopefully, they’ll become a little more adventurous with the selection (given the number of ace breweries in Mcr making keg – and some even more local, as you’ll see later). But this was a fine start.

And a little history too…..

Note then, back across to The Market Place. And down the escalator….

Great Ale In The Vaults

A rare example in a retail environment of local involvement. And a welcome antidote to the chain mentality that normally pollutes such developments. Bravo to Anne & Steve Simms for kickstarting this bar.

It’s kind of a “cell” or vault surrounded by external seating. And it’s deservedly popular both with refreshing shoppers and people coming just for the bar, the friendly staff adding to it’s attractions.

And that Porter – Midtown by Beatnikz – was absolutely delicious. Rich without being cloying. Bitter and roasty. Everything a Porter should be.

There was an excellent Wishbone IPA on that bar too – and I think Wishbone are superb – but as good as that tasted, we only had time for one.

Again – having not been for a while – I forgot how good this place is. I’ll remember in future….

So. Onwards. Back out and left on Deansgate and right onto Bradshawgate then right onto Nelson Square – swerving the Spoons…

Northern Monkey Bar

Been here before. Wanted to see if I was still impressed.

I was. This is a belting place.

Northern Monkey have been brewing for a couple of years now and it was a brave, yet logical step, to have their own outlet and by locating on Nelson Square, they’ve placed themselves well.

Single roomed with a raised area away from the bar, the first thing that hits you on entry is all the shiny steel.

This is also the brewery.

There is a nice range on the bar with approx 50/50 split own beers and guests.

I saw Torrside. And was sold. Colin had their own Popcorn Stout. And was smitten. To be fair, it was bloody lovely on keg.

The Torrside was that rarity. A light mild. And was delicious too.

7 keg lines and 4 cask is a good split too and whilst it was fairly quiet, it was still early on a Friday evening.

This place will do fine. And it’s exactly what Bolton needed.

Moving on. I’d heard tell of a Chocolate Orange Imperial Stout…..

Back right onto Bradshawgate then left onto Bradford Street. Walk about 300 yards then turn right onto Castle Street. Here lies Bolton’s hidden gem…

Bolton Ukrainian Club

No pics of the bar. It would have felt intrusive.

This is a Social Club. It regularly hosts groups and functions. It’s also the location of Bolton CAMRA’s ace beer festival (more later). But it has a bar. With 3 local cask beers.

And Ukrainian Craft on draught and in bottle. And THAT is bloody good too.

But I came for this

Chocolate Orange Imperial Stout. By Blackedge Brewery. And it was utterly lush.

At 8.3% abv.

And £2.70 a pint. Yes. You read that right.

The delights of Social Clubs eh?

This is – like I said – a hidden gem. A bit of a walk, but worth every yard. With beers regularly from the likes of Brewsmith, Squawk, Rivington, Blackedge.

It’s friendly. Full of chatter. Never rammed, but warm and welcoming. It’s a great bar. And – whenever me & Colin come to Bolton, we always end up here.

And rightly so.

And – BTW – I had another pint of that Stout. Well, you have to don’t you?

And – whilst I’m here – a small comment. Whilst I was out around Bolton on Friday, l learned that Bolton CAMRA have cancelled this year’s Beer Festival.

Whatever the Whys & Wherefores, this is seriously bad news.

I’m not a fan of big beer events, but I’ve always loved this event. I even helped to brew the beer of the Festival last year.

Whatever the reasons, I hope we see it back in 2020.

We’re halfway through Tryanuary. So get out there.

Do something different. Break your habits. Try a new bar, pub, beer. Go out there and support them. In January, of all months, they need it.

Next up, some old Manchester pubs. In a #Tryanuary twist.

Back soon.

2019 : A Tryanuary Impulse – Pt 1. Wigan

Some time ago, my dear & talented friend Andy (along with friends in the Independent industry – like Shane Swindells) came up with an idea. That idea being an attempt to counter the relentless anti-alcohol lobbying of “Dry January”, “Go Sober for October” etc. What amounts to the shaming of people into abstinence. In this month of all months.

January. That month when pubs and breweries struggle most.

The idea was to try something different. DO something different. Be it a beer, a pub, an activity. It is / was a great idea, which, from one guy running it is now a nationally and regionally organised “thing”. It has taken root.

This month, I want to highlight 2 “things”. The first being somewhere NOT the norm for this Manchester focused individual.

Wigan.

Something old, something new.

This idea came following my annual chase – post ISBF – trying to catch beer that I missed at the event that I organised. This year, that chase took me to a bar in Wigan. For a 9% abv Milkshake DIPA.

Which leads me to two new bars and two old favourites.

First. Something new. Catch the #5 or #113 bus from the new Wigan bus station to Swinley District and the junction of Kenyon Road / Walkden Ave….

Sherringtons

Opened less than a year ago by Wily Fox brewery, I’ve been wanting to pop here for a while – ever since I found out that the lovely Zoe (ISBF Volunteer par excellence) worked there. I kind of knew it wouldn’t disappoint.

Micro Pubs – when done well – work. And this is done well. Very well indeed.

Set up over 2 floors – maximising square footage – this can safely be described as a modern take (decoratively) on the Micro Pub idea.

The main bar (there is also one upstairs – which opens when busy) features 6 hand pulls and (I think) around 10 keg fonts, some of which will feature lagers etc.

The cask selection was half own (Wily Fox) and half guests. As a devotee of Allgates / Wigan Brewhouse, I went for their “Casino” Pale and wasn’t disappointed.

A little nip upstairs revealed a nice space with plenty of seating and that second bar…

It was quiet. I was the only customer, but it was early afternoon on a Saturday with Xmas sales on, so understandable. It didn’t affect my enjoyment.

Nor did the delicious Dragons Tears by Black Jack on keg! Amarillo & orange…..

Wily Fox have done a bloody good job with this. This wouldn’t have been possible as recently as 3 years ago in Wigan – as I’ll comment further later.

Good beer, nice location, friendly staff. I’ll be back soon. With others.

That bus stop directly outside proved useful…

Jumping on a 641 back into the town centre makes the next stop simple….

Just at the entrance to the Bus Station sits..

The Anvil

A different kettle of piscine delights. I’ve been a fan of the Anvil since first entering some years ago. It’s where I sought advice prior to #ISBF1. It’s the starting point for The Road To Wigan Beer.

Oh Yes. Many memories.

Appearances are deceptive. The Anvil is quite modern and almost open plan on entry with 3 distinct drinking areas partitioned.

If you’re looking for craft keg, then you’ll keep looking. The Anvil is very much a town centre local with a dedicated following. What you get here is an excellent selection of bloody well looked after cask.

And with that Wigan Brewhouse Casino being only £2.50 a pint, it reminds you ft there is a different world out there in price terms. And The Anvil turns over a lot of beer.

This is the reality of many non-Metro Town centre pubs re price and cask. And what the customer is happy to pay.

I’d happily pay more for a product as good as that that the Anvil provides. But then, I drink in Manchester.

No pictures I’m afraid. And a quick stop. But if you go to Wigan, don’t pass The Anvil by. Some seriously good beer.

Head back towards the Train stations onto Wallgate, then left onto Millgate to the next (surprising) stop.

The Hop House (in John Bull Chophouse)

Downstairs is a pretty – and fairly generic – town centre pub. Narrow and busy with town centre drinkers.

But head upstairs – and there be gold. And some very surprising beers. As I’ve discovered twice now.

Pete is passionate about good beers from the best Micros. He knows that what enables this is the volume of Wainwrights and lager that’s sold downstairs. And Thwaites have let him play. Oh yes have they….

A couple of weeks ago, I’d got wind that he’d gotten the Five Towns / Rivington collab from #ISBF5, so high tailed after work on a Friday afternoon.

Even with that, the Little Earth was still a surprise.

The room upstairs is bijou. By which I mean small. Ish. But perfectly formed. And getting a devoted following. Rightly so. For being so bloody adventurous.

3 cask and 4 keg from near and far.

I perched myself. I wanted it all. But with only time for “some”.

The Mission Creep was a new brewery to me and I was smitten. Juicy and fresh. Exceptional cask. I’ll be looking out for more.

That Mojito Sour tho….. Little Earth don’t disappoint. Minty sour tartness. A real palate cleanser.

Followed by this…

I’m getting reet fond of Left Handed Giant. This Stout was just gorgeous. I do love a coconut Stout (boosted by Sorachi?)

If I lived near Wigan, I’d be a regular. It just feels right. And you can have all the great beer in the world, but if it doesn’t feel right…

This does.

And now to the place that made Sherringtons & Hop House possible…

Step back into Wallgate and walk past the stations, under the bridge and left onto Queen Street.

Wigan Central

There was a time (not that long ago) when – in Wigan – price was all.

Then came Wigan Central.

It kind of broke that mould.

It’s not that it was / is expensive. It isn’t. But from day 1, they got excellent beer. And charged appropriately for it. It proved that people will pay for quality. IF you get it right. Something that Wigan Central continues to do.

It must be doing things right, having expanded into the next arch.

Walking in and seeing Chocolate Orange Stout from Wilde Child. I was content.

The beer was delicious. The bar busy. And it was only 4:15. On a Saturday. Which meant, with the train strike, that I had too little time to catch up with this place.

With the little touches like the live train screens for both Wigan stations.

I had to dash. I was gutted. And cursing Northern Rail.

I needed this few hours out. A pleasant diversion.

As soon as the rail dispute is over, I’ll be back. Wigan is well worth it.

And not a pie passed my lips.

My “Golden Pints” 2018

Golden Pints

(Shamelessly nicked from Boak & Bailey)

In a year where divisions have been ever more stark – and I’ve found myself physically confronting hatred for the first time in my life – beer (generally) brings people together.

Yes. There are still all kinds of issues in this bubble we inhabit. Especially in respect for women in this industry. But, overall, beer is one of the few things that made me smile this year.

So I’ll start with a controversial move. By splitting Best UK Brewery into 3 categories.

1. Because it’s MY #GoldenPints, and

2. Because I couldn’t name just one.

So….

Best UK Brewery : Cask – North Riding Brewery.

Because.

Because I genuinely believe (and have spouted this REPEATEDLY to my amigos this year) that Stuart Neilson and his merry band are THE cask specialists.

I’ve had some simply EXCEPTIONAL beer this year from NRB. I can now get it more frequently over these hills and chase it wherever I can get it. My visits to Stalybridge Buffet Bar have increased substantially this year. Because Caz gets a regular delivery.

It’s not just the dark stuff (although they’ve developed a BIG rep for those), it’s the Pales too. As you may see below*

And the move to bigger premises at Snainton won’t hurt. A lovely new (and much larger) facility. And stunningly attractive views…..

Best UK Brewery : Keg – Runaway Brewery

Runaway are a puzzle to me. Not the brewery. Not the beers. But WHY they aren’t “up there”. Being talked about. Because – for me – they are the Alpha in consistency of excellence.

Core Range may be a dirty phrase amongst the Crafterati, but the attention to detail, the focus on getting a beer right, TIME AFTER TIME, it’s not easy. It takes graft. It also takes COJONES to swim against the tide. That incessant demand for something new.

But. I shit you not. When I see Runaway Pale, or American Brown (probably in my Top 3 ISBF beers of all), I’m on them like a Vampire on a blood bag.

And Mark Welsby is one of the nicest people in beer too.

Best UK Brewery : Overall – Marble

These awards have always been simple for me.

Whose beers do I drink the most. And that – across cask and keg and can and bottle – comes back to Marble.

You can’t BEGIN to understand how pleased I was to hear they would do a presentation of their funkier beers during Manchester Beer Week at the Rivington Tap Beneath The Trees. Nor how HORRIFIED I was to learn that I’d be on anti-biotics.

But I still went. Just for a sniff. Literally. Ask Carl.

I’ve been in The Arch a lot this year. I’ve drunk a LOT of Marble. In all formats. And everything I’ve had impresses me.

But that Radler at Seshfest though……. p

Oh. My.

This year though, it was closer. Because I’ve also drunk a lot of Torrside. And never failed to be impressed there either. And wherever I go in the North, I keep hearing “That Torrside are good”.

Yes. Yes they are. So an “Honourable Mention”

Best New Brewery – Pomona Island

I know that they launched in 2017. Late 2017. But my calendar runs from ISBF to ISBF. Call it the Salfordian Calendar if you will. And this year, I’ve drunk quite a bit of Pomona. And never failed to be impressed.

If you are from outside of Manchester, keep your eyes peeled. I have a feeling these guys will soon outgrow their current kit. They’ll need to. They’re damn good.

Honourable Mentions : I haven’t had much, but judging by their beers at #ISBF5, keep an eye out for the following : MillsWilderness, (they may not be new in 2018, but they’re new to me)

Because their beers were exceptional.

Beer of the Year : Cask – US Session v36 (Citra, Summit, Ekuanot)* (North Riding Brewery)

20180810_140452.jpg

One afternoon. After “helping” to brew a collab for the #ISBF5 Ticket Launch Bash, I sat in the North Riding Brewpub. I fancied something light. Sessionable and tasty. And this drew my eye.

I had six pints. It blew me away with the intensity of flavour, the body, packed into this little thing. It was utterly delicious. I’d have stayed all night if I could have. But I had a train to catch.

I hated that train.

Honourable Mention : Titch (Rammy Craft). In my opinion, the most talented young brewer in the area.

Andy Morrison originally created the recipe for this. Now he runs / owns the brewery. Keep an eye out, I expect big things from Andy in 2019. Mark Mywurdz.

Beer of the Year : Keg – Getting The Band Back Together (Bexar County)

I went to Bexar County to help make a beer with the lovely Steve Saldana. And came away buying two. This was the other one.

A Mini Porter. At 3.1% abv.

I grabbed a half during token duty at #ISBF5 and it completely stunned me. SO much flavour, richness, body, in SUCH a small thing.

It was fruity, almost hints of Xmas cake fruits, if was just OHHHHHH…..

It was MY Beer of the Festival. And there were some bloody good beers there

Best packaged beer (Can / Bottle) : Rhubarbara StreisandBrew York.

IMG_20180810_160453

I love Rhubarb pales. And this had my senses tingling from ripping the ring pull back. Just a stunningly good beer. Full of fruitiness, but delicate, lightly tart but juicy too.

Delicacy is an underrated beer virtue.

This is THAT GOOD, I chase them down if I hear of any of them about.

And THAT name…… 😂

I’m no expert on (or regular consumer of) beers from Outside the UK. So that removes a category or two….

(Here comes another category split)

Best Pub (Manchester) – The Brink

It’s just my place. My “local”. Only 60 yards on foot from my front door – following a 10 mile bus journey.

It’s the friendly staff. It’s the fun. It’s the hazy ISBF Ticket Launches.

It’s the package. It’s our “safe space”.

And – obviously – great beer. Well looked after.

Best Pub (elsewhere) – The North Riding Brewpub

Elsewhere, I’ve described coming to this place as a pilgrimage. As the coming together of “Destination pub” and local.

It has great beer. Much of it brewed downstairs. It has an almost permanent Kernel tap.

It has friendly regulars.

It’s got soul. That Elusive quality.

It has one of THE best cellar custodians around. Karen Neilson.

Shit. It’s even got a 2bbl brewkit in the cellar!

And rooms to stay upstairs…..

I adore it.

Brewery Tap – Rivington Tap Beneath The Trees.

The natural (and easy) call in this category is Black Jack. Because it’s fabulous. Relaxed. Great tunes, great beer, lovely people. And that’s all true. Almost to the point of cliche.

Because it’s THAT BLOODY GOOD.

However. This August Bank Holiday. Myself and some friends went to Rivington. And had a simply magical weekend.

Picture the scene……..

Add in some beautiful beer brewed on the farm opposite. Located in a forest clearing.

With a campsite on site.

On the side of Rivington reservoir.

Throw some lovely people into the mix.

Magical. This year, we’ll go to more than one.

Bravo Ben & Mick. Job well done.

Honourable Mentions : Black Jack Tap – The Daddy of Mancunian Brewtaps & Torrside Tap – Packs em in. Keeps the trains to New Mills busy. Brilliant.

Best Beer Festival : East West Fest (Wakefield)

There are so many reasons for this.

Myself and The Arch Nemesis have gone each of the 4 years. From the moment (walking up to the door) I heard the phrase “Ey Up! The Mancs Are Here!” “I knew this was it.

It has beer from the North. So it rings my bell.

It has the most ludicrous beer list.

It’s tiny. Friendly. Social. And packed with lovely people.

And now, people come from all over. They get it.

And we’ve already booked our accommodation. We did it 2 months ago.

I may organise a beer festival. But, for sheer fun, it doesn’t touch this.

4……4……4…….er…..4? (It’s a “private” joke. If a video posted on Twitter can be described as private!)

The most unmissable event on my calendar.

Honourable Mention – To the genius who conceived Seshfest.

An event CHOC FULL OF SESSION BEERS! Really, what’s not to love?

Best Branding – Five Towns Brewery / Paul Exley

20181215_211332.jpg

Stay with me on this. Because this isn’t core branding as such.

This came from a 3 conversations. The first was at #ISBF4. Between Jock, Me & Mike. It was borne of a mutual love of David Bowie and their mutual favourite track(s). A trilogy, from the Diamond Dogs album Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing (Reprise).

The second was earlier this year. Discussing Five Towns beers for #ISBF5. And the birth of the idea of the Diamond Dogs Trilogy. Followed the next evening by a 3 way between myself, Malcolm (Five Towns) & Paul. The idea of the inner sleeve of the album forming a backdrop for the clips / labels.

My heart melted when I saw the results. We had them in that sequence on the bar at #ISBF5. 2 of the beers won awards from the drinkers.

The design matched the product. Beautiful

Best Blog – Beer Compurgation

I read little in blog world. Focusing on “organising” a beer festival can do that to you. But I read Mark.

Eloquent, passionate. It works. And I hate him for it.

He’s easily fooled though. Because he wrote this……

http://www.beercompurgation.co.uk/2018/12/the-independent-salford-beer-festival.html?m=1

Best Beer Twitter – Pilot Brewing & The Brink (by @katebrinkmcr)

Because they make me laugh. And laughter matters.

Thats_all_folks

The Box

There is a box.

The box is locked.

The box is covered up. With clutter and debris and all manner of mess.

The box is organic. The box shrinks. The box grows. Depending on the time.

The box rarely gets opened. But when it does, chaos ensues.

The box is full of grief. Full of sadness. And it’s in my head. It’s archived. Never forgotten, just…… stored. Because it hurts to open the box.

I talked about the box with a dear friend last week, who posited that that “box”, or mental archive, is a “man thing”. That women don’t possess that. That men can file their emotions away. My friend is a dear lady. And I disagreed.

But what do I know?

The box has been opened just 3 times in the past 13 months.

On two of those occasions, by the same person. A GP. Someone I don’t know well, but a lovely man.

Once at #ISBF4. The other at #ISBF5. Last weekend. The third occasion was about 2 months ago. By a lovely lady. Someone who was looking out for me.

And (on that occasion) I came to – about 5 hours later – face down. On a footpath. Having collapsed. Drunkenly.

At #ISBF4, the GP approached me. It was near the end of the evening. He was tipsy. And talkative. And he wanted to talk with me about my writing. About grief.

Now. I do use self-depreciation as a shield. A device to protect myself. But I don’t when it comes to writing. I’m not a good writer. I can’t paint pictures with words. I’ll never claim to.

But what I am is open.

I’m that dog-eared paperback you’ve never slung in the charity pile.

I’m honest.

I say this to people when they doubt my word….

“Look into my eyes. I mean every single word I say. I’m very careful with what I say. I weigh those words carefully. And I mean each and every one”

That’s just one of the ways in which that moment at 16:39 on 27/09/2016 changed me. Just one.

That GP told me how my writing about my grief impacted on him. On his patients. How he recommended them to read what I wrote.

You can have no idea how much that fucked with my head.

It was beautiful. Such a sweet thing to say. The most amazing compliment anyone has ever given me.

But he’d opened the box.

And it made me crash.

I walked away from that conversation, JUST holding it together. I went to speak with TLO (who was in the kitchen at St Sebastian’s). And I broke into hacking sobs. I remember the lovely Mark Welsby being there. And the look on his face.

I ran away. And cried my heart out. Something I’m never ashamed to do.

This weekend, that same lovely young GP had that same conversation with me.

The difference being that the key only turned. The lid of the box didn’t lift. That happened 2 days later.

I’m learning.

The Box is locked again. It’s covered in shit and debris. Put to the back. Always there. A little tap on the lid, each and every day.

Never forget. Never stop loving. Never stop caring.

Talk. Please.

Back soon.

Jx

Away Days 2018 #2 – York

Amongst all of my assorted nerdery, I adore history.

I’ve been reading a series of historical novels by the author Candace Robb set – predominately in the beautiful city of York, the Owen Archer Mysteries. The street names, the narrow thoroughfares, the grand architecture (the novels are set at a time that The Minster is being constructed) are so evocative.

The last time I went drinking in York was an AWFUL long time ago – 20 years ago at least – and I viewed the development of a vibrant beer scene with a little envy. Wondering when I’d get the opportunity to get across….

Then I saw a tweet a few months back. That – in June – Bad Seed Brewery would be 5 years old.

Bad Seed are based in Malton and have been part of my “Beer Journey” almost from day one. I was drawn to the 330ml bottles with the hanging tags (at a time when most bottles were 500ml). They make excellent tasty beer. And have been fixtures at The Independent Salford Beer Festival from Year 1.

In short, that tweet from Chris Waplington was precisely the excuse I needed to put the proposal to the PPE collective.

I was amazed – when I checked – that Trans Pennine had day return tickets from Manchester at £17! Swiftly bought. (Standard return fare is approx £30)

To make the most of the day, arrival time was set for midday. We had 8 hours to dip our toes in the beery waters. Advice was sought (it HAD been two decades…..), was taken on board and a “crawl” route was constructed.

And I became genuinely excited.

The Maltings (Station Road)

We skipped the Tap on the station – being keen to head into the City – and had our first stop outside the historic boundary of the City Wall at the only pub I remember going into all those years ago.

Just outside the wall – almost on the banks of the Ouse – sits this rather lovely pub. A place I would always start at. Logical (there are two or three ways you could go from this point) and with excellent beer.

Myself and Jock met Steve & Kev at this point. I grabbed a pint of Roosters Birdman, which was absolutely what the “doctor ordered”. Deliciously light and refreshing, fruity and slightly piney, it was superb. And precisely what was required on this warm afternoon after the walk from the station.

The Maltings has an aged feel – lots of wood – in what is a single roomed venue. The beer range had something for all and was commensurately busy. The food smelled excellent, but it was too early for me.

The thing that stood out was the friendliness of the staff. The service was quick and I ended up chatting briefly with one of the bar staff who happened to Cameron’s (Turning Point) sister!

I could happily have stayed a while. But plans being what they are…… and one of our group was ESPECIALLY looking forward to the next venue on my schedule….

(come from the pub and turn right onto Station Road, crossing the Ouse turn right onto Lendal and left onto Stonegate. About 100 yards on the left is…..)

The House of the Trembling Madness (Stonegate)

A bar. Above a shop. But WHAT a shop. And WHAT a bar.

Then you wander upstairs

To the bar….. Helpfully signposted……

It’s been a while since I was so moved by a single roomed venue. Hell, by any venue. It is simply glorious.

And closing in October. (On the walk from The Maltings, you actually walk past the new venue, on Lendal)

The bar – as stated – is single roomed and appears to be in the eaves of this visibly historic building (the rear wall of which is – apparently – 12th century Norman in construction) and is simply beautiful.

Allegedly, it gets PACKED in the evenings, so you are warned.

You get the feeling – whilst drinking a predictably stunning Kernel Pale Ale – that you are breathing history. Something that, in 3 months, you will no longer be able to do. Not in Stonegate anyway.

The bar itself is small. But perfectly formed and well supplied, with cask from Brew York, Marble & Thornbridge and keg from the likes of Wylam, Northern Monk, The Kernel and Magic Rock. You get the idea….

You can even go back downstairs and grab some superb train beers from the immaculately curated selection……

We’ll be back. Oh yes, we’ll be back…… (see below)

Now. The point of the day was to get to The Rook and Gaskill on Lawrence Street (outside the City Wall to the South East), so the next stop was planned accordingly….

So, heading left along Stonegate, turn right onto Low Petersgate and continue along Colliersgate turning right onto Pavement, until you see opposite…..

Pavement Vaults (Jct Pavement / Piccadilly)

The visual antithesis of “Trembling Madness”? Certainly much more modern in feel – in Mancunian terms, a bit more NQ – yet it was here I got my favourite beer of an excellent day (I didn’t have anything less than good).

A larger venue than the previous two, open plan, with (quite literally) a central bar and lots of exposed brickwork. And – unviewed – a basement bar. An accent on food, but still with excellent beer. Plenty of seating meant that – as busy as it was – we could sit and enjoy the beer.

That beer? Thornbridge Strawberry Lucaria. A strawberry ice cream Porter. Chocolate. Strawberry. Creamy. Rich, yet not cloying.

It did exactly what it said in the tin. And was utterly delicious.

In not sure I’ve done this place justice, but it is more than worth a visit. Relaxed, friendly and excellent beer? What’s not to like!

Turning right from the bar, walk along Piccadilly – crossing the Foss – then turn left onto Merchantsgate. At the end turn right then, on the left, you’ll see the signs for the next stop……

Brew York Tap Room (off Walmgate)

There were a couple of groups of people in front of us. Unlike us, they didn’t need to follow signs. They led us in. A sign of popularity. And justly so.

With the surprisingly large brewkit on the left upon entry, the bar is just beyond with a plethora of keg taps augmented by 2 or 3 cask lines. Lots of space as the area just past the bar opens up with plenty of tables for seating.

Sticking (mostly) with low abv beers, seeing their own Jarsa (session IPA) on cask was a pleasant surprise – having only had it on keg before. Delicious, fruity, gently bitter and hugely refreshing. On a warm day, the job was done.

A very pleasant surprise was the outside space facing onto the River Foss, in a warm day, the riverside breeze was most welcome and the tables there were justly popular.

From the first beer I tried, I’ve been hugely impressed with Brew York on cask, in keg and can too (it was a pleasant surprise to see them in my local Asda). They were an obvious invite to #ISBF4 last year.

For #ISBF5, they’re a no brainer.

This is an impressive set up, both as a brewery and as a Brewtap. And if it wasn’t for the fact that we had an appointment, we might have stayed……. I had a feeling we’d be back.

Getting back onto Walmgate, turn left and walk along Walmgate for about 400 yards and – across Barbican – you’ll see……

The Rook and Gaskill (Lawrence Street)

Our “furthest out” port of call. The inspiration for this trip. Bad Seed Brewery‘s 5th birthday bash. All the taps at the pub were dedicated to their beers.

I’ve like their beers from the start. They have a place fixed on my personal beer journey. They are unsung. They do the basic job of making tasty beer without fanfare or fuss.

My kind of brewery.

The Rook was a medium sized and open plan pub wrapped around a central bar with 7 or 8 cask lines and more than double that on keg.

The beers were predictably excellent, with Session IPA doing the required job of refreshing on this increasingly warm afternoon, Juice Freak (NEIPA) was a hazy fruity treat and Rule The Roost (Espresso Stout) had all the coffee flavour I wanted and livened me up enough to watch some of the Korea v Mexico match…..

Another welcome bit of outside space here too.

Nice pub this. A proper pub too and well worth the walk. (and let’s be straight here, nowhere is far too walk to in York) There may even have been upstairs space, but we didn’t explore….

Having received a tip from Chris for somewhere to stop on the way back to the Station, we decided to break that walk in two by popping back to the impressive Brew York Tap Room

Leaving the Tap Room, we headed up Walmgate, continued onto Colliergate then Fossgate. Turning left onto Church Street then left onto Patrick Pool, takes you to……

Pivni (Patrick Pool)

Getting more historic here. Stunning old interior. Low ceilings, lots of wood with a long main room.

Again, an emphasis on keg, but with interesting cask from Wild Weather and Northern Whisper.

By this time, I was feeling it a little. But Magic Rock Grapefruit High Wire always comes to my rescue….

This is another lovely bar and serves to emphasise what York has to offer, it is one of the longest standing “craft” bars and deserves its reputation.

I’ll be back to do it more justice… See below.

A swift half back in The Trembling Madness led us back towards the train station at the end of our day. A visual treat.

As is York.

There was so much more to see. To do. Bars /pubs we didn’t get to try, it seemed such a shame to leave.

I think it was in that last visit to The House of the Trembling Madness that the three of us from “up here” (Keg being on a visit from t’Sarf) made our decision to come back. To give York the time it deserves.

So we’re already booked to go back for the weekend. We’ve booked accommodation and trains for the weekend of 17th August.

That makes August a busy month. Brewing a special for the #ISBF5 ticket launch the weekend before, the weekend after being (for me & TLO) Camping at Rivington (Tap Beneath the Trees).

But, do you know what? York is one stunning place to go drinking.

If you haven’t already, then try it yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

The Northern Type – An Eccles Bar To Cling To

I kind of grew up in Eccles – in a drinking sense. The town is embedded in my psyche, it holds some precious memories. The night I met TLO (New Year’s Eve 1987), I left to go to The Duke of York. You don’t forget some stuff, even with a memory like mine.

Eccles was where I learned to love beer. To go from lager to ale. From Carlsberg to Taylors. In those days, Golden Best, Landlord and Ram Tam were exotica compared to Holts, Wilsons & Boddingtons.

Pubs like The Crown & Volunteer were special places. Free Houses like The Duke of York were few and far between. And Sam Smiths at The Albert Edward was…… tolerated – I’ve never liked Old Brewery Bitter. I don’t care how cheap it is. Especially now.

Many of the pubs on the (locally) legendary “Patricroft Crawl” are long gone. The Crown & Volunteer, White Lion, Golden Cross. All gone. Hopefully The Stanley is still around – I really must check, retrace part of my youth.

But life is about looking ahead.

Last year – was it really? – myself & TLO paid a visit to what was a property in development. A shell, with more exposed brickwork than a Lake District bothy.

But it was exciting. To be in before the birth of a new bar. A Craft bar, In Eccles? We chatted with Dave. He was full of plans, ideas. It was BONKERS to do this in Eccles I thought. But he had a plan. A bit of a dream.

And – as I was told before the first ISBF in 2014 – if you build it, they will come.

This was Dave’s “Field of Dreams”. In Eccles.

If you haven’t been, trust me, Dave & Jennie have done good. Oh have they!

I’ve been a few times. And that quote from “Field of Dreams” was spot on.

This is a belting bar. And it’s attracted a devoted following. Justly so.

Dave & Jennie set the tone. Warm, welcoming and friendly. There’s always a smile on entry and the sound of chat. It feels like a little community of friends building here.

Yes. The beer is a draw. It must be great to have a bar on your doorstep (relatively speaking) that means you don’t have to get the train, bus or Metrolink into Manchester.

That to get the good stuff, you just have to walk up Church Street. That you get the best of Craft to take away from the amply stocked fridges. That you don’t have to drive miles to get the best.

And – do you know the best thing? It’s about 45 seconds from Eccles train station. Which is a mere 7 minutes from Victoria Station…..

We’re going for a Saturday morning excursion soon. You ought to join us!

Below is a small selection of beers I’ve had from this excellent bar recently. Some I bought a few weeks ago. Some more recently. But they give you a idea of what is likely to be available in terms of the range of breweries.

And it gets me back into writing about packaged beers…… With a little twist afterwards…


Wrapped In SimcoeTwisted Barrel Ale – NE IPA – 6% abv – 440ml

Total Murk Bomb. But stick your nose on this hazy beast and the fruit aromas do a smash and grab on the nostrils punching with apricot, orange and a little hint of passion fruit.

All. The. Yum.

That fabulous aroma does its job as I’m salivating like a rabid dog.

Oh Yes. It’s all in here. Stone fruit, citrus, tropical nonsense. That rabid dog is a happy puppy! Just lovely stuff. A fruity hoppy treat.

Low on bitterness, this is fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit. And is bloody delicious.

Dry and resinous in a sticky finish, this is just a pretty thing. SUCH a pretty thing.

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Sorachi NoirMallinsons Brewery – Session Black Ale – 4.1% abv – 500ml

A black beer from Mallinsons? Every one I’ve had – and they are rare beasts – has been a joy. I expected no difference.

But Sorachi? That awkward bastard of a hop? In a low abv beer?

I feared for nought. This is delicious.

An initial earthy aroma with hints of Bounty Bar lingering beneath a creamy tan head is followed by a relatively full bodied and quite rich mouthful. Initial flavour being a light slightly roast flavour with a creamy coconut and then a moderate bitterness.

The beer finishes dry with that pleasant lingering bitterness and a little slightly herbal thing going on. Very nice indeed.

I’m not overly keen on low abv Sorachi beers, but Mallinsons pull it off. Unsurprisingly.

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Deep WaterTime & Tide Brewing– Whisky BA Imperial Stout – 10.5% abv – 375ml

Oh my. I’ve been impressed by Time & Tide before, but this….. Oh yes.

An incredibly dense and rich aroma, deep dark chocolate, roast notes, a gentle waft of a slight peatiness…..
Then BOOM. Get in that mouth!

Rich, decadent chocolate, malted milk biscuit, a touch of licorice and that lingering slightly smoky whisky. This is gorgeous.
So full bodied and smooth, perfect gentle carbonation, silky smooth, just such a lovely luscious thing. Warming as it slides down. Like a deep chocolate Ovaltine with a little tiny whisky bomb chucked in.
Aftertaste is slightly smoky chocolate with a little alcohol nudge on the back of the tongue.
Simply lovely stuff.

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Peanut Butter & Jelly BrownNorthern Monk / Against The Grain

Brown Ale – 7% abv – 330ml

I have a confession. I’m a bit of a fanboy for Brown Ales. The words American & Brown in sequence have me reaching for my wallet. This beer however, I took some persuading about. Then I had a sniff in the bar…… And grabbed a can.

The words American & Brown in sequence have me reaching for my wallet. This beer however, I took some persuading about. Then I had a sniff in the bar…… And grabbed a can.

Alchemy.

Looking at the pour, it’s the colour of the 70s Irwell. Utter murky depth and darkness. Dark. Forbidding. Trust me, I fell in the 70s Irwell! You didn’t do it twice.

But this. Hell yes.
Closing my eyes, I could be smelling a tub of peanut butter ice cream mashed up with a dash of Raspberry ripple. Its aroma pulls the glass to the mouth.
Alchemy.
Oh wow. I have no idea how you’d do this. But it’s bloody delicious. Nuttiness, both peanutty and earthy from the slightly darker malts and a fruity jammy sweetness – but so far from sickly – slightly tart too, making me think of raspberries.
Alchemy.
The finish is simultaneously sweet and earthy dry. And so moreish. I just wish I’d bought two.
This kind of beer can be a dividing line. Marmite. Love or hate.
Me? I think it’s a work of twisted genius.
If they repeat this. Grab a case. It’s a Beergasm.

Who Made WhoLeft Handed Giant / Odyssey – 6.5% abv – IPA – 440ml

THAT AROMA!!! Gooseberry, mango, pineapple. Stunning. Drool inducing. And isn’t that the point of aroma?

This golden slightly hazy thing is just pumping out all the fruit! Like the freshest ripest fruit stand, just gorgeously tropical and sharp.
That’s the hors d’ourvres….. The mouth is where it’s at. And Mmmmmmmm…….. Oh yes.
Full mouthfeel. Smooth carbonation. And that fruit! Just luscious. It’s a beautiful hop marriage of some personal favourites. Tart Nelson, tropical mango with that Citra.

There’s a little passion fruit too with a little earthiness and gentle bitterness from that Simcoe…. Just a little mind. This is all about the fruit.
The finish is dry and fruity with a little resinous stickiness clinging to the tongue.

Yum. Just yum.
Wish I bought more…..

________________

To change things a little bit, these posts will feature the owners. Let them tell their story, their journey a little bit.

So…….
Jennie, Dave….. Introduce yourselves!

Hi all, we are Jennie and Dave from The Northern Type in Eccles, located on Church Street (a minutes walk from the Metrolink and 45 seconds from Eccles train station) we are a bottle shop and tap room stocking as much of the finest UK Craft beers we can get our hands on with the odd few foreign beers thrown in for good measure.

Although our focus is good beer we also stock locally produced cider, gin, vodka and soft drinks.
How did you get into beer?

This has been a dream of ours since we met 6 years ago, having both worked in pubs our whole lives but never really having the funds to go it alone.

After having several experiences of running pubs for other people (some good, some not so good) we always felt we could achieve more on our own.

After a nasty car accident, we came into a small amount of money and decided to go for our dream.
Why this location? And what inspired you to set up an independent beer business?

The Northern Type was born from a sunny day in Eccles (where we live) after going to a Makers Market and seeing the potential in the area, then noticing the transport links.

Also, on a personal level, we needed somewhere to drink!! It was becoming more and more difficult to find somewhere local that had a good selection, was family friendly and easy to get to.

We started pestering local businesses about empty units and luckily enough the old newsagents on Church Street (where the last tenant had just upped and left 6 months prior) was available……boy was it a mess, but God DAMN it had potential! And BIG fridges!!!

Luckily enough we have good friends, family, grit and determination.
We started small, modest, very modest.

We were already down to our last £200 in the bank when we opened…..it needed to work.

What if all the people who told us ‘it wouldn’t work in Eccles’ were right?

Are we really bonkers enough to think people would pay over £5 for a pint of beer around here??

Well the people were wrong!

We now feel we are a welcome addition to the street and everybody knows what we are about….It’s a great pleasure when we introduce a new person to the world of craft beers and ciders that are produced on their doorstep or where they are originally from (or something they can relate to at least).

Since we’ve opened, a local coffee house has introduced craft beer, a Bangladesh restaurant is due to open and a new planning application for artisan coffee and real ale house over the road has been put in……..we feel like our gamble has paid off.
What was your first Beery Love?

First beery love? Dave’s was a fresh cask of Thornbridge Jaipur in The Magnet Stockport, which Jai Koria made him wait over an hour for to come on the pump. But as soon as he tasted it he knew why!!

Jens…. Northern Monk Neapolitan Ice Cream…..no explanation needed!!
Who are your “Beer Heroes/Heroines”?

Dave : Christine Windebank, my mum, at the age of 16, I knew how to tap, vent and look after a firkin of Robinsons’ Unicorn cask ale.

She was an old school landlady who knew how to look after her beer as well as her regulars.

Further along the line standout heroes would include Madhatter Angus, Joe Murphy, Les and Julie O’Grady for all their support whilst we were in Liverpool and beyond. But Jai Koria has been an absolute legend…..

Jai has always been there for us, whether it be an opinion or sound advice, he is always just a phone call away no matter what time it is. His knowledge has been worth its weight in gold.

Jen : I’ve worked/ran pubs from the age of 18. I’ve always loved the cellar work and getting good beer in but craft beer wasn’t always the main focus in these places. I didn’t realise the scale of the craft beer movement until I met Dave… so he’s my beer hero.
Awwwwwwww………… (Jim)
Which Breweries are “doing it” for you at the moment?

We’re constantly impressed every week by the standards of brewing at the minute….

All we’d say is we are always pestering Cloudwater, Track, Northern Monk, Verdant, Deya and Wylam, Rivington, Neptune, Mad Hatter, Wander Beyond and Marble to name but a few.

You’ve obviously done really well to establish fresh modern beer in Eccles – previously a bit…. of a desert – but how do you see The Northern Type building. Moving forward?

We’d like to do growler fills and further improvements within the shop.

A lot of work has been done with our own hands and could probably use a freshen up, get more fridge space to further expand the range.

Also more events within the local community i.e. street food, tap takeovers, meet the brewers etc. And just making sure we keep on top of our game.

Oh and of course, with Manchester Beer Week and The Independent Salford Beer Festival fast approaching, I am sure you will all have plenty to keep an eye out for!

Last Orders At The Bar Please! (Anything you’d like to add?)
We would also like to take this time to mention the amazing support from all of our customers, local and further afield. It’s been absolutely fantastic and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for them.
So, thank you all! x
The Northern Type is located at 20 Church Street, Eccles.
Personally, I think it was one hell of a brave move to set up a bar in the modern beer Kalahari that is Eccles. But Dave & Jennie did it. And they’ve built something they can be (and are) rightly proud of.
It’s small. But not too small. It’s comfy, friendly, welcoming. Needless to say, it’s got great beer.
And do you know what the really best thing is? It’s a single bus ride from me. And only 7 minutes on that train from Victoria Station.
Treat yourselves. You won’t be disappointed.

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.