The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2014 – Questions, Answers, Thoughts.

Capture ISBF

“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah!

Your head will collapse and there’s nothing in it and you’ll ask yourself…

Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind?

(“Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies)
(Clip courtesy Kanaal van CasaAzul65 on YouTube)

The Pixies’ greatest track. In MY opinion, of course…….

I suppose the question should be “Where WAS my mind?” I mean, what the **** was I thinking when I said that little word “Yes” to Gerry Stone nearly a year ago? But it was for Gerry, so I couldn’t (in all conscience) refuse.

In the words of Andy Partridge (XTC) at the start of their classic “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”…..Let’s begin!

Questions

Question – The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Why….Independent? (This question HAS been asked…on a number of occasions!)

Answer? – Gerry (whom many of you have now met) asked me for some advice on who to contact to help set up a Beer Festival at her Community Centre at St Sebastian’s to help raise money. On her behalf, I contacted the local CAMRA Branch (North Manchester Branch) and asked them to get in touch with her to see if they could help. The answer was, in short, No. I felt, at that time, that that would be the end of that! Until Gerry popped the fateful question….”Would you……?”

I knew that I could get beer. But I also knew that I knew NOTHING ELSE about staging a beer festival. Oh how I’ve learned!

Question – Why at St Sebastian’s Community Centre?

Answer – That one was easy. Gerry wanted to raise money to help the Centre function and (hopefully) thrive. The Centre was cost-free as a venue. Getting people IN the place, they could get an idea as to the work that the centre does. As for being “out of the way”? We sold out three sessions out of four. Need I say more?

Question – Why Ticket Only?

Answer – This was again, rather simple. The Centre has a fire safety limit of 250. That was….before the bar and stillage went in! That meant that we lowered access to only 150. That required some form of control. For piece of mind, that meant ticketing. I have heard advice about clicking people in & out, but for simplicity and, again, peace of mind, Eventbrite ticketing worked. For me, brilliantly. And the analytical information that Eventbrite provides helps HUGELY in any planning for possible future events. More on that ….later!

So. How was it for you? (Chuck your comments in below!)

For me? At times, this was really “seat of the pants” stuff. Far too often! But some key decisions were made well in advance that made our job far easier than it otherwise would have been.

They were….

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Design – From the moment that I was sent an e-mail from Andy Heggs (of “Hop On The Bike” blogging infamy) owner of Drumbeat Creative, I knew that the “look” of the Festival would be something special. If I’m being honest (which I hope that I am), initially, I got too caught up in minor detail to see the classy retro beauty of the logo design. The more I looked at the Glass & Bottle logo, I just fell in love. It is a thing of beauty that is 100% nothing to do with me and 100% to do with Andy’s talent for design (aren’t the Brewsmith website and pump clips lovely? He designed those too!). I/We owe him. Hugely. And as for the beautiful programmes!

Website – Take a bow Mr Darren Turpin, web designer and creator of the superb Manchester Ale News website. Darren took Andy’s logo and built a website of equal beauty and sheer useability that (for me, as an organiser) was simply a joy to work with and something that other beer festivals should look at. Not because it was FOR our Festival, but for the classyness of the design, the information about the festival and its beer that it displayed so clearly. The downloadable beer list sheets? The Ebook? All his handiwork. And they attracted the praise which they richly deserved. As did the artwork from Andy. I owe them both. Enormously.

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Cooling/Bar – That decision took a little time. I received lots of advice about how to cool the beers and keep them in the best possible condition. But the best advice that I received, was wordless. It was in the The Anvil in Wigan 2 0r 3 months back in a chat with David Mayhall of Allgates and Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery. I mentioned my thinking about using a cooling system. They nodded. That made my mind up. And all of the feedback that I/we received about the condition of the beers were worth every penny. All Flow Dispense set up the bar, the stillage, the lines, the python cooling system, everything. Then took it all away again to make the room feel that it was never there. A brilliant job which minimised my stress levels. Damn friendly guys too. Cheers Lee & Sam. A top job!

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Glassware

I’ve been to plenty of beer festivals over the last 30 years. I always take the logo’s glasses home too! But the one that stuck with me the most, was one that never made it home. The 2/3rd pint stemmed glass from Leeds International Beer Festival 2013. I adored it. But dropped it on Lever Street on my way back from Leeds.

That glass just felt so…..inclusive. It felt right. It also was just as classy as the Poster/leaflet, the website….keeping that classy look just felt like the right thing to do. We’d have made more money just going with traditional straight glasses (and we had 300 of those too!), But the moment they arrived at the Centre 3 days before opening and I opened the box, the whole thing felt more real and, for not the last time that week, I got a bit emotional. Again, I’m a soft old git.

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Come the day….Everything just seemed to work. And little of it was of my doing!

The beer was in good nick. Which was a relief! Some people travelled huge distances to be there (although I’m sure that Chris – who flew in from Abu Dhabi and came straight to the Centre – didn’t fly in just for this!) and their feedback was heartwarming. What was particularly pleasing to hear was the immensely positive feedback about the venue, the food and (in particular) the volunteers.

The most praise – from me – must go to the those people, the Volunteers. I’ve said on many occasions that “Beer People Are Good People”. But the people who volunteered to help behind the bar and selling tokens/glassware were simply…awesome! Now, being an old git, that isn’t a word I use too frequently. One of the things that made me most get all emotional, was the praise for the following good people (there was LOADS as well!) who did a fabulous job, made the punters feel welcome and made the weekend what it was. A success.

I tip my proverbial to the following….At any bar I may see you, there’ll always be a beer on me!

Bernard, Bevis, Celia, Charlotte, Chris D, Dan & Gina, David R, Declan, Graham, Jaz (The Arch-Nemesis), Jeff, Jez, Kelly, Linda, Nick C, Nick M, Paul, Pete, Robert, Rowan, Sarah & Will. Thank you from….well, you know. Especial thanks due to Dan, David & Chris for taking the responsibility of managing the bar.

Thank you to all of the brewers, both for the beer and your good humour when dealing with me. You were very patient and make some simply fabulous beer (as acclaimed by the customers!)

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Particular thanks to Emma from Beer Junkets, for wise words of advice! Bailey & Jules from Grub Mcr for their unfailing support! David Mayhall from Allgates for most excellent advice and logistical help, Rob Hamilton and the whole Black Jack / Glassworks team, without whom, I’d have had warm spoilt beer. Thank you to Malcolm Bastow from Five Towns Brewery for consolidating the Yorkshire beers and bringing them over. To James Stewart at Deeply Vale both for a brilliant brew day (Mmmm….Amarillo!) and for designing a simply beautiful pump clip for the festival. That, and giving me two of the clips, one for Jan. A classy touch that brought more than one tear to my eye. To Rik Garner and the gang at First Chop, for digging me out of a hole or two! Huge thanks too to Doug Macpherson from Cwrw Ial Brewery, both for the generous offer of an MTB (which was brilliant!) complete with bottle tasting and for his evening stint behind the bar! Most generous. Especial thanks too to Dan & Gina Buck. Dan kept me sane in my most panic stricken moments and Gina (the Laminator Queen!) for just putting up with my terrible organising! And Alex and the guys from Duke & The Darlings for a lovely set – and the impromptu jamming session afterwards around the table!

Thanks also to the cask sponsors for their most generous sponsorship : Salford Angels WI, Kersal Vale Apiary – Jack Hobbs, Harry Davis, SALIX Living,
Jess – Zumba Crazy, Salford CVS, Joan Fielding – Helping Hands, Simon & Sarah Gare, Drumbeat Creative, Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man Manchester), John Pinder – Vista, Ben & Holly Wakerley, Godwin’s Tree Consultants, “Paddy’s 50th Birthday Ale” and Envirovent Ltd.

Thank you also to Anne & Steve Simms of Great Ale Year Round in Bolton Market for their huge generosity in sponsoring the T-Shirts!

Thank you also to Graham Donning and Martin. Some very helpful constructive feedback from the first session! To all the local CAMRA branches too, for their help in publicising the event.

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People tend to focus on the beer at these events. And, whilst it was pleasing to get lots of nice comments about the selection, I was always confident in the choice of beers. These are excellent Northern breweries all and selected for that reason. The number of breweries to offer me brand new beers for their first appearance was a surprise and a joy too. The beer selection  however – for me – was merely the means to the end. Raising money for the Centre.

Speaking of which. Whilst we have one or two bills still to pay, a rough calculation indicates that you/we raised in the region of £5000. I thank you, the drinkers, all hugely for coming along and helping us to that figure, which will help Gerry & the Centre massively.

The generosity of your spare token donations also raised over £130 for St Ann’s Hospice. Thank you all. A cheque will be with them shortly. A particular thank you for the kind punter who adapted the token sheet in a valiant effort to raise more money for St Ann’s!

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Beer of The Festival – That was a close run thing! A number of beers were voted for, via Twitter & Facebook using the #ISBF2014. Whilst many beers received votes, two beers rose above. The winner being Raven King by Five Towns, closely followed by Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle of Malton. Two Yorkshire breweries! Let’s see more of their beer over here eh?

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Finally. Will we do it again?

I think we will. The feedback was so positive as to be – on occasion – personally overwhelming. Some really kind words indeed, which frequently overworked my tear ducts! What I found particularly heartwarming (that word again!) was the praise for the venue, the volunteers and the food. Comments like “friendly”, “warm”, “intimate” all made an impression on me in particular. Once we sold out the 3 sessions, I started to think ….bigger. Street Food providers, big space…. But no. Same place. Maybe a few more tickets, one or two more beers, but nothing too excessive. I wouldn’t want to lose the feel of the event.

There are many lessons to be learned. And we’ll take a couple of months to think those through.

But next time, planned over a longer period. With some people who know what the hell they’re doing. Less stress. Oh yes…less stress!

If this doesn’t make sense, forgive me. It’s been emotional!

Thank you all again. See you next year?

Jim

The Levenshulme Beer Festival 22-24 August 2014

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“Baby, I’ve been breaking glass in your room again. Listen.

Don’t look at the carpet. I drew something awful on it. See.

You’re such a wonderful person, but you’ve got problems”

Breaking Glass” – David Bowie

(Clip courtesy of TheBabyUniversal on YouTube)

Low. The Album. Side One. The Greatest Side Of Vinyl. Period. (I need say no more)

I have a confession to make. I like Black Jack. I liked Rob Hamilton’s beers WAY before I saw him nearly cacking himself just before his first “Meet The Brewer” event at Port Street Beer House last year. He and (now) his team just make superbly drinkable tasty beers, no show or fuss. Just damn fine beer.

Since then, the brewery joined forces and effectively merged with the burgeoning distribution concern that is/was Glassworks. This meant that alongside all that Mancunian goodness that is the card bedecked beers of Black Jack, you now have distribution for many of the luminaries of the British Craft Beer movement all around the area.

Sometimes, these things come together for the good of all. Like this weekend!

Black Jack Beers are curating the Levenshulme Beer Festival for its second year and with the list of brewers involved, it promises to be a blast! With the likes of Kernel, Weird Beard, Siren Craft, Wild Beer Co, Arbor, Hopcraft, Burning Sky……The list stretches into the sunset. Cask heads and Keg heads, even the craftiest of drinkers can sate their liquid lusts at The Klondyke Club on Burnage Range!

What I can say without fear or favour, is that if this comes even close to the chilled out vibe that I’ve felt, each time the Black Jack have opened their doors for one of their – now semi-legendary – Brewery Taps, you’re in for a treat! Great chilled out tuneage from the superb DJs and some of the best Street Food in Manchester (I’ve had grub from The Moocher & Arepa Arepa Arepa at the Taps. They know their food!)

So. Who’s coming? I’ll be there on Saturday for certain – I’ll be the old bloke palming off flyers for The Independent Salford Beer Festival!

Come on down. You won’t regret it!

Bottled Ales – July 2014 – Pt 1

“And I’ll be good
Like I should
Waitin’ is such
Misery, I need
Your touch”

(“Your Touch” – The Black Keys)

(Video courtesy Suchnone on YouTube)

If  The White Stripes made being a two piece (guitar/drums) seem cool, The Black Keys took that template and stripped away the artsy pretensions and just let rip! This track is from the 2006 album “Magic Potion” and was the first of their albums that I bought, via E-Music.

This music is simple, but visceral. It gets me in the gut. Stripped down blues rock. Raw & dirty. All dirty denim and ripped check shirts. Rock & Roll. You’ve got to love it. Especially when it’s this good.

Recommended albums : Magic Potion (2006); Thickfreakness (2003); El Camino (2013)

Beer! Where would I be without it? (Bed probably!)

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Liverpool Dark – Liverpool One Brewery (Er…Liverpool) – 5% abv – Porter – £3 (ish) (500ml) – 0 – Londis Supermarket, Penny Lane (Liverpool)

You might notice by the end of this piece…a bit of a locational theme! All down to the fact, that after a meeting in Liverpool this week, I tracked down a legendary shop in Liverpool. A shop now firmly fixed in my memory!

Black. Always a good start in my book! A light mocha coloured head giving up a chocolate aroma with just a hint of something smoky!

Oh this is lovely! Just enough sweetness in this full-bodied mouthful (ie: not TOO much). Really smooth and full of chocolate with a hint of rum sweetness and molasses.

With each mouthful, the chocolate gets more pronounced and deepens. Yes, there’s sweetness, but also a building bitterness. A very satisfying porter. This is the first I’ve had from this brewery in any format. If everything else is as good as this, I’ll be back to Londis on Penny Lane!

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2. IPARunaway Brewery (Dantzic St, Manchester) – 5.5% abv – IPA – Swap (with the brewer) (330ml) – 0 – Direct

Ever get the feeling that you were in the right place, at exactly the right time? That’s how it felt when I walked into Mark Welsby’s brewery on Tuesday. It felt like I was witnessing the start of a great journey. I was there for a chat about The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage!) and bottling was in full effect. A beautiful looking brewery in a superb central location making forward thinking beers with room for expansion. Which is good, because if the bottles I walked out with are half as good as the stuff I had at Black Jack on keg, he’ll be expanding! So how was the first one I cracked?

Isn’t this a pretty thing? Beautiful burnished gold with a clinging white head and a glass bursting with citrus smells! Grief! Mango, Apricot, Grapefruit and a bit of lime perhaps? Nasally intense to say the least!

This is just SOOOO smooth! This is schizoid. It goes from the hops which are like a Ramones style nasal hop thrash, all “1,2,3,4”, to Barry White, the Walrus of love just oh so smooth and seductive. There’s a deep voice in my head, saying “Hey baby, you know you want another mouthful!” (Ooh err…)

So very fruity, with Mango and maybe Pineapple in the mouth with no small amount of pine needle in the finish. But, perversely, such an easy drinking beer! The resins build with each sip, drying the mouth leaving you wanting more. This is every bit as good as the two beers I had on keg at Black jack. A Triumph. Nice one Mark!

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3. Pale Ale – Atom Beers (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.95 (330ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

2nd bottle from this new innovative brewery from Hull – also supplying to The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage!)

Bright gold in colour, with a light white head and an aroma with hints of peach and orange marmalade.

Oh yes……Fresh, clean and a good bitter hit. First flavour is that marmalade, so good that Paddington Bear could spread it on his sandwiches!

Medium-bodied this is sliding down ever so well. Nice and fruity with lots of citrus in here, slightly sticky, balanced by a good assertive bitter finish. Really refreshing too with a nice sharpness to it.

The bitter finish leads to a lovely assertive hoppy grassy aftertaste, not overpowering, just right in a beer of this strength. Impressive. Glad they’re on board for The Festival!

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4. Kitty Wilkinson– Liverpool Organic Brewery (Liverpool) – 4.6% abv – Chocolate & Vanilla Stout – £3.20 (ish, my memory is shocking!) – 0 – Londis Supermarket, Penny Lane (Liverpool)

Kitty Wilkinson. The Saint of the Slums. In 1832, during a cholera epidemic, Kitty had the only boiler in her neighbourhood, so she invited those with infected clothes or linens to use it, thus saving many lives. This was the first public washhouse in Liverpool. Ten years later with public funds her efforts resulted in the opening of a combined washhouse and public baths, the first in the United Kingdom. (Source Wikipedia)

This bottle is labelled with the phrase (one of a series perhaps?) “Liverpool Heroes” I now know why. Some of my ancestors were from Toxteth St Mary at the time of this epidemic. Makes you think eh?

The beer is as black as you would want it (well, me anyway) with head like cafe creme yielding an aroma reminiscent of chocolate ice cream. Topped with a 99 for extra chocolate!

Nice and smooth rich beer this. Unctuously chocolately, decadent, like laying your taste buds in a tub of Ben & Jerrys.

Yes, slightly sweet, with all of that chocolate and the vanilla twist, it’s going to be slightly sweet. But there is a twist of hops that hits you at the back of the tongue, reminding you that this is a beer, not a dessert! I’ve always had this beer when I’ve seen it on draught. It was the first beer I had in Joshua Brooks. Now a favourite in bottle too. Lovely.

Just to round off the story : Kitty Wilkinson’s epitaph apparently read

“CATHERINE WILKINSON. Died 11 November 1860, aged 73. Indefatigable and self-denying She was the Widow’s friend. The support of the Orphan. The fearless and unwearied nurse of the sick. The originator of Baths and Wash-houses for the poor. ‘For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.’ St. Mark, 12th Chapter, 44th Verse.” A true heroine.

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5. Londinium – Roosters Brewing Co (Knaresborough, N Yorkshire) – 5.5% abv – Coffee Porter – £2.29 (ish) (500ml) – 0 – Booths Supermarket (Media City, Salford)

I’ve got David Bishop to thank for my trying this beer. Persuaded me one evening to actually try Roosters beers when sober! So glad he did!

A black beer with a ruby tinge when held to the light. Mocha coloured head just OOZES espresso menace but also has a spicy note.

As smooth as silk, but with all the eye-opening potency of a fresh Americano. This is assuredly NOT a midnight beer!

Quite full-bodied, the coffee is upfront, with a little sweetness, but there is a deeper roasted malt backbone at play here lending a substantial bitterness to this beer. This is just so smooth, I’m thinking of Isaac Hayes singing “Walk On By” (random musical thought!).

There’s a subtle deep fruitiness to this beer too. The finish is quite bitter with a hoppy kick in the aftertaste. Immediate but complex. A fine beer.

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6. White Fox – Liverpool Craft Beer Co (Liverpool) – 6.3% abv – IPA/Wit hybrid – £3 (ish, that crap memory again!) (330ml) – 10% for 12 or more Btls – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, Gtr Manchester)

A twist in the (Fox’s) tail! When I bought this, I took it for a straight IPA. That’ll teach me to read bottles properly won’t it?

A hazy golden beer. A white head. A confounding aroma. Yeasty and fruity sweet in equal measure, maybe even a yeasty hint of rhubarb (always a winner with me!) Reminds me a tad of Ilkley Siberia, a fine reference point.

Oh this is lovely….once the lively beast had settled! Creamy smooth, yet arid dry. Fruity with rhubarb and maybe a hint of gooseberry tartness, grapefruit too, but subtle.

That yeast provides a spicy backdrop. A fabulous melding of styles that to me, that shouldn’t work, but just does. The finish to this is just oh. so. dry. There’s a sticky pine in the aftertaste too. A fine way to finish an (late!) evening! Another excellent beer (and a surprise) from Liverpool Craft.

2 (maybe 3) of these breweries will be featuring at The Independent Salford Beer Festival (Gratuitous linkage again!) Follow on Twitter HERE (Go ON! You know you want to!)

That’s it for this week I think! Off to Great Ale Year Round later to sample the delights of the beer I assisted on from Allgates & Five Towns – Station To Station IPA. I am SO looking forward to tasting this! (A bottle review to come soon!)

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!