Manchester Brewery Expo 2017 (Manchester Beer Week)

So the last Manchester Brewery Expo was in 2015 and you can read my thoughts on it over these 3 parts.

Brewery Expo 2015 – Part 1

Brewery Expo 2015 – Part 2

Brewery Expo 2015 – Part 3

2015 was held over 2 days and whereas technically so was this year’s event, only the Saturday saw all the breweries open.

Also changed was that a Tote bag was not the prize on offer but a t-shirt, plus the fact that 2017 was the nice relaxed event that 2015 became (and actually ended up being) because this year was not controlled by a raging egomaniac.

Rather than regale you with what its like to drink in 11 different breweries this piece is just going to be about the differences between 2015 and 2017.

Irk Valley Breweries

Green Quarter, Red Bank, call this place what you like its the one where the arches the breweries are housed in are service by Victoria Station.

Blackjack Beers

The easiest place to start is that in the storied past of a whole 2 years ago there was only 1 brewery tap open and that was Blackjack.  They are still going strong, strong even; after the evolution of good, non-portable toilets at their tap they have also launched a token system which improves the experience two-fold; less queuing to get a beer and those staff who volunteer to work the bar don’t have to suffer that bloody temperamental cash till.  I think Six O’Clock Beer Co. still cuckoos here too.

It is also worth noting that Blackjack also took control of the Smithfield Hotel in central Manchester and Jack in the Box in Altrincham prior to that.  Bush outside brewery still progressing nicely.

 

Runaway Brewery

Runaway are about to launch a weekly tap themselves, this to complement the new mezzanine they’ve installed at the brewery which is a nice extension, even if it does mean queuing on stairs for beer.

Beatnikz Republic

The first of the new breweries in Manchester city centre (well on this list) and also with a regular Friday/Saturday brewery tap.  Nice toilet signs.

 

Marble Brewery

They don’t have a tap and they weren’t open this year as part of the expo but they don’t need to be.  They themselves have expanded since 2015, with a new outlet called 57 Thomas Street in the quickly becoming irrelevant Northern Quarter as well as an expansion into canning their beers and launching a whole host of new brews, which someone once suggested made Marble the premier lager producers of Manchester.

Piccadilly Breweries

This stretches from Piccadilly Station to Ardwick (seldom visited by trains, better shrubbery than Blackjack) and if you survive crossing the Mancunian Way, you’ll probably cop it from the nut jobs that speed down either side, despite the chalked pleas of the locals.

Track Brewing Co.

Semi-regular brew tap which is always very popular.  Everyone loves Sonoma.

Alphabet Brewing Co

Weekly brew tap, this brewery seemed to steal a march with regards canning their beers.  The regular occurrence of the tap also forced them to install extra toilets and the loudest but best hand drier.

Dan’s Brewery

A complete lack of social media presence doesn’t detract from the newest brewery on the block, with a pedigree shared between the aforementioned Marble and the heavily worshipped Huddersfield outfit that is Magic Rock.

Carbon Smith Brewing

Just starting in 2015, not open in 2017 but still around in some capacity, which may also see yet another brewery appear in central Manchester too.

Beer Nouveau

Replacing Privateer, this brewery lead the charge of a regular weekly brew tap, also expanded into the other half of the arch and is launching their own Heritage Beers Barrel funding thing, which in itself has exceed expectation has also expanded its funding limit.  Origami cuckoos from here too.

Chorlton Brewing Co.

Expanded capacity, now canning generally exclusively and still not confirmed if they are going with Tesco or not…well that is what everyone wanted to know.

Manchester Brewing Co

Another addition since 2015, with semi regular brew taps.  Has a ping-pong table.

Squawk Brewing Co.

Only opened again for the first time since 2015 (that is what I’m telling myself anyway), they work closely, almost symbiotically with Track to host brew taps throughout the year.  Did not serve Tagine on this day and toilet not as spectacular as it once was but these are minor quibbles.  Is looking to get a new fermenter.

Add to this that those breweries that did start out as one man outfits have now also expanded their staffing and it is showing to me at least, a human who did think that there were too many breweries and that some were bound to fold quickly, has not come to pass.

Yet.

In the centre of Manchester.

Breweries are dropping in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester but that is another story.

 

General Election 2017 – The Nihilism Of It All

Back on the 18th of April 2017, when Theresa May called for a General Election to be held in the UK on the 8th of June it made perfect sense in her dull, little brain.

Theresa May is absolutely fucking useless.  For me; being an ardent supporter of privacy and the rights to free speech, free thought and an unregulated internet, her time as Home Secretary we dark, dark days and her assent to Prime Minister just as alarming.  She is the ultimate Orwellian nightmare, a person who true to form will use the current terrorist atrocities of London, Manchester and London again to further curtail civil liberties.

This trait is not the sole preserve of May and the Tories though, they are merely continuing policy brought in and extended by that arch-cunt called Tony Blair, who as an aside, despite announcing a grand return to politics has been so terribly quiet recently; mainly because terrorism can partly be laid at his feet but mainly because of the seemingly Lazarus-like rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

Jezza has risen though, not the Labour party.  And this is in spite of every single media organisation in the UK from the “left-wing” BBC to the “right-wing” Daily Mail running nothing but negativity about the man.  Hmm, it’s almost as if the media has some kind of vested interest in maintaining some kind of normalcy in party politics.

The Labour party are a shambolic bunch; racist Abbott is front and centre next to elitist Thornberry.  The Blairites that remain in the party are now having to hold their tongue as the polls suggest the election might actually be close.

Ha, the chance would be a fine thing.

Blairites are spineless creatures, they are indeed Tory-lite but oh how Labour voters both old and new wished for a return for the “glory days” of 1997-onwards, which say this whole debasement of political debate begin.

We are the political class; we will talk at you, not to you. We know what it best, we are your nannies, you are sick and we command you to be well.  It is a terrible joke that some still think the Tories are “small state” for what they may withdraw from on a social

The only good things to come out of this entire campaign is that this will hopefully be one final nail in the (il)Liberal (un)Democrats ethically sourced coffin.  A party of a wets farts, who  wish us to forget they enabled Cameron to become PM while dwelling on this myth that they somehow controlled or watered down the worst excess of the Tories.

Greens & UKIP –  all the acknowledgement they are worth, much like that little tyrannical harridan north of the border.

There is something wonderful about watching this election unfold on Twitter.

You’d think that the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the US would temper hope.  Indeed I suppose a win for Macron in France and a loss for Wilders in the Netherlands gave this impression that “good and the decent” people still existed in the real world.

 

All the while talking heads on Twitter will sing with glee about the millions more people who have registered to vote, many of the them young.  They forget that; they might have already been registered, they’ve just re-registered, they won’t all vote against the Conservatives and more importantly because of the first past the post system in the UK, unless they are in key areas in will make fuck all difference.

The next line of attack is to get the young to convince “the old” to vote for Labour, for these youngster’s futures.  You know, because months of blaming old people for the Brexit vote and hoping that because they are old, they’ll die sooner and then a second referendum will mean we’ll stay in the EU.  But history isn’t cool, hypocrisy is where it’s at.

Theresa May could have kept this election about Brexit and she would have walked it, but she doesn’t care about that and has fucked it royally, just like she will with the negotiations with the decrepit and monolithic EU, even though it should be the easiest thing to do.

Truth is, people what something different, something that isn’t mainstream and this is why there is a Corbyn surge.

Trump won because he wasn’t Hillary and wasn’t a politician.  Brexit won because it wasn’t mainstream, it was a chance of something different.  Macron in France, to some extent, was at least offering an end to the status quo (despite being mainstream).

May becoming PM with an increased majority would be a disaster but there is just something about drinking the salty tears of those on twitter that is so appealing in seeing this happen

People want real change and this will not happen and there is something glorious in watching every, regular person (myself included) get fucked over by what will occur on June 8th.

Dance to the tension of a world on edge and then get some cans in to watch the end of the world.

 

Thanks for reading.

A Look Back In Anger. And Every Other Fucking Direction

The Terrorists will not change us…

Except when it comes to delaying our election process, delaying democracy.

Except when it comes to the state wanting even greater powers to actually hack into its citizens private communications.

Except when it comes to freedom of speech because apparently 80,000 people want The Sun banned in Manchester because they are brain-dead twats living in an irony-free zone.

Except I don’t full know how to express myself in words, so here are some emojis.

Except I want people to lose their jobs if they make a joke or say something possibly defamatory.

Except now I’ve got a tattoo – solidarity brothers and sisters.

Except when it comes to being able to actual discuss just what the fuck is going on in the world.

Standard Response

Following the events at the Manchester Arena on the 22nd of Many 2017 there followed the usual, typically predictable response to a terrorist attack.

The #PrayFor and #NotAll hashtags fly like winged monkeys, the avatars changed to accommodate the latest geographical victim, well one that is in the West at least, you’d never have a static avatar if you had to commemorate everyone blown to bits in the Middle East.

The UK press wait a day or so and then dwell upon the attacker(s) because for some reason it feels that the public need to know their name(s), their background, their history because that doesn’t detract from the victims at all.

We also have to preach the mantra that terrorists don’t represent Islam but merely a warped view of it and it has nothing to do with religion.

That last point is bollocks, always has been, always will be…

Give it a week and then the police will release a report about an increase in “hate crime” – quite what being blown up, run over, shot or stabbed is if it isn’t hate is beside the point in this most Orwellian-like crime, but if you’ve been called a nasty name that too is a crime apparently on a par with loss of life and needs as much media focus.*

Above all it is pushed by all and sundry that we should “carry on” and that was should not let “hate beat love.”

Hate

Hate is OK.  Hate is a valid human emotion.

This past fortnight has all been about love, or people’s versions of what love is, not even Foreigner knew what it was and needed it showing to them but either way its was all about love.

One big, homogeneous, nondescript, identity-less Love.

The avatar changes, the bee tattoos, the candle-lit vigils do nothing but focus on the individual and their suffering, which is nothing, it is absolutely fuck-all to those that were actually killed, their next of kin and those who actually could have been victims.

What, so you didn’t “love Manchester” before you changed your avatar and you will stop loving it when you change it?

Your bee tattoo and graffiti, possibly a nice symbol of solidarity is really just look-at-me narcissism, less about love and more a constant reminder of carnage.

You only have love? You have no hate, because hate is all terrorists have and you are better than terrorists?

Not killing people makes you better than a terrorist, not having any other emotions makes you an unthinking drone.

And this is the problem.  I don’t hate you for changing your avatar or getting a tattoo or painting a picture, or singing a song or lighting a candle.   Grief, if that honestly what it is as opposed to relief, is something personal that we all deal with in our own way.

What I do hate, apart from delusional, murdering fucksticks is the rest of the response; that we carry on as normal and yet we still modify our behaviour, our language, our ability to ask questions or offer up answers and even opinions.

In the Kübler-Ross model there are five stages to dealing with grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

There seems to be a collective brain-fart at work that we avoided the 2nd stage and just focus on the 3rd and 5th.  The world of social media seems to turn into Rimmer after he has had his first meeting with the Polymorph in Red Dwarf.

You neither have to bargain with terrorists, because you can’t and you certainly don’t have to accept it, regardless of what Mayors of London say.

I have love and it doesn’t need mood slime to help flourish, but I certainly have hate too.  The hate won’t keep me any more safe that those apparently without it but it is my response to events, along with continuing to question and to use the same language.

Hate is OK.  Hate is a valid human emotion. It is all about how you channel it.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

*Hyperbole but it does seems as much gravitas is placed on “hate crime” statistics than any other crime.  Crime is hate, all crime is a hate crime.

Beer Flies and The Sopranos

If you’ve not seen The Sopranos this post may contain spoilers…

Beer Flies

I’ve worked in 3 main environments in my employed life; in bars, in breweries and mainly in laboratories and in all three flies were a problem.

You’d think in fairly modern lab environments that creepy crawlies wouldn’t be a factor but they always find a way in.  Through doors, through windows left open in the hotter summer months, through fume cupboards and extractor vents.  With all the nasties I’ve inhaled over the years you think that those chemicals would be a big enough deterrent for these critters but no, there they are, what was a pristine working surface when you left for the day is returned to in the morning to be met with a fly somehow doing backstroke in your mobile phase.

For me, most of the bars (or cellars) were relatively flying pest free, the biggest problem is always at the brewery.  A lack of storage space in most pubs will see used casks thrown outside, most of the time not sealed and lord what a grand job cleaning fly eggs out of cask is. Bar flies are not included in this piece, loveable rogues that they usually are.

I’m not a fan of chemical weapons; watching something slowly twitch its last as its mitochondrion cease respiring is never pleasant so the short, swift splat against whatever surface they are resting on is preferable, or the Mr Miyagi school of snatching it out of the air is also employed, usually without chopsticks.

Though I find that every time I do this I consider what the fly is thinking; one minute buzzing around, bumping into things, smelling the sweet wort of the final beer and looking for a way into the fermenter, the very next moment – nothing.  Obviously at point of death they aren’t thinking anything at all but in some ways this then gets me thinking about…

The Sopranos

I was bought the box set of The Sopranos many years ago and finally, over the course of the first few months of 2017, got round to binge watching it all.

When it comes to TV series it started with the original run of Oz, which despite being bumped around the late night schedules of Channel 4 (UK), I was still able to catch most of it.  I never watched 24, save the very last episode of Season 1.  I can chalk off Breaking Bad, Games of Thrones is still ongoing for now and The Wire still remains my personal favourite but a lack of The Sopranos always seemed to hang over my head, so I settled in to watch it.

The series was originally shown on Channel Four and when this happened I caught precisely, one opening credits sequence, one scene of Lorraine Bracco, a Rottweiler and a vending machine (which obviously made little sense at the time) and the last few minutes of the final episode, which everyone had banged on about but again made little sense in any context.

The scene is famous for a long and protracted diner scene in which Tony Soprano (the sadly deceased James Gandolfini) waits and meets the arrival of his wife, his son and maybe eventually his daughter, all to the sound of Don’t Stop Believing  by Journey.  As they discuss mundane family matters, the bell in the diner rings to announce the arrival of each new customer and each time Tony looks up to see if its his daughter, then over the course of some onion rings the bell rings, Tony looks up and then the screen cuts to black.  There is a wait of some 30 seconds before the credits roll.  The ending baffled most, mainly because of its ambiguity let alone the suddenness of it all.

Personally I never saw Tony as anything more than the gangster he was, on my scale he didn’t even measure up as an anti-hero but the ending still have a hard impact despite not being wholly loving of the main protagonist.

There are many videos out there discussing what the ending means and a very good one that picks out “clues” from the preceding few episodes to point to the fact that Tony died.

Swift, short, sudden and the victim was totally anonymous to their own death, in essence just like squishing beer flies.

Who wants a protracted death, body flooded with chemicals that are only palliative, far better just to have the lights turned off.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

One thing I can agree with Tony Soprano on is this…

 

Samuel Smiths – What a Fucking Rotter

I was late to getting the news that Samuel Smith’s brewery has issued a decree across its entire estate of pubs that anyone found to be swearing should be turned out of the premises, whether they will be barred seems to be up for debate but seeing as ever news piece I’ve read on this links to another article, which links to another and another and another, it is pretty hard to guess what the exact truth of the matter is.

I’ve read precisely one blog on this, saw a few comments on the #hopinions thread that Beer O’Clock run every Sunday

 

 

and I saw CAMRA’s response to the news

 

On this matter I don’t particularly care in one instance; if a private business wishes to enact its own policies about what is “good behaviour” then by all means go ahead.  People cheer when the private companies that are Facebook and Twitter remove members that are abusive (within their own definition of what abuse actually is) but heaven forbid a private company should refuse to, for example, make a cake saying something they disagree with, oh no.

It is rather odd that Sam Smiths has chosen to focus purely on swearing, I can only assume that they are OK with someone in their establishments saying nigger or faggot so long as there isn’t a four-letter word in amongst said possible drunken diatribe but what constitutes a private conversation in a public place?

Then again the current state of the world is pitted against itself in what exactly is and isn’t a “bad idea” what is and isn’t “hate speech” and more pertinently, what is or isn’t “offensive.”

Within the beer bubble itself there are points of view on certain subjects (for example pump clips) that go against the new orthodoxy and while all these little games and battle of wills are being played out, governments world wide are monitoring and recording their citizens communications under the pretence of security and protection.

 

The last thing anyone needs to be protected from is words, rude or not.

 

Thanks for reading

 

On a separate note, here is why some people actively boycott drinking Sam Smiths beers and so for some a swearing ban is neither here nor there…

 

VineHop – Poynton, Cheshire

…and then from Stockport...

You can get the train (very rarely but it does happen) to Poynton and visit…

Vine Hop

 

The annoying thing about train travel to Poynton is that it happens to be the first stop outside the Greater Manchester travel boundary, so anyone with a season ticket will need to pay extra…

…or just sit in the carriage furtherest from the conductor and hope they don’t reach you until you disembark.

A swift 10 minute walk into the town centre from the station, this is the latest addition to the growing beer/bottle bar sector but with the emphasis less on beer (only slightly) and more for wine, because Cheshire is properly middle-class and hasn’t fully dumped wine for craft beer just yet.

As you may be able to tell, this new venture’s previous building identity was a butchers, inside the only things hanging are the 6 keg lines…

 

And the 8 (4 white, 4 red) wine lines that you buy a special card for (and top-up I expect)…

 

Its like looking into the future with this set-up, I was more struck by this than the very large range of bottle/cans of beer that were available, very reasonably priced, though to drink in you did have the additional £1.20 charge…

 

Spirits, heavy emphasis on gins, are also available…oh and a box of cider (along with a choice of bottles too)…when you aren’t lost between all the wine…

 

Look…coat hangers…

It is a nice place for a few quiet drinks but then again Poynton has a drinking establishment for everybody’s tastes and maybe a full on blog is required.

Warning: You may well get to meet Stanley at this venue…

 

Which would be fantastic…if he wasn’t accompanied by his entourage of hangers-on owner.

 

Thanks for reading.

Burnage to The Heatons – A Crawl of MicroBar Bottle Shops

Burnage (Pronounced: Bur-ni-d-g; or Bur-n-arrr-ge if you want to sound posh) always registered in my young mind as one of those places you don’t want to get caught out being in after dark.  Not quite as ominous of Longsight, Broughton or the infamous Moss Side but still just an “avoid” place.

All titles are links.

So you get the train out of Piccadilly for 2 stops, about 10 minutes, get off at Burnage Station and walk 1 minute to…

Reasons To Be Cheerful (@R2BCBeerCafe)

 

Of course I never had any reason to go to Burnage until the news was announced that this place was opening (it opened in January 2017) and I needed to do a recce to gauge roughly where it would be located and what this crawl would be like.

There is cider, 6 keg fonts and 3 casks (cellared) and most importantly…coat hooks on the bar…

 

Lovely little venue with a guy serving the beer, at the time of calling, called Dave who was very friendly and talkative.

The only odd thing about the place is its frontage is kind of subdued next to the ramp way of the take-away next door.

 

You then walk back passed the train station and continue over Kingsways in a straight line for about a quarter of an hour, passed the sign the lets you know you’re entering Stockport, you can tell this too because they’ve still got Co-Op stores, and you’ll end up at…

The Beer Shop

Which was closed on this occasion…but I had been before…

 

Beer Shop opened in 2011, and the place acts more like an off-license with a great range of beer bottle AND that happens to have a couple of casks (jacket chillers) that an actual micro boozery.  With its TV usually showing sports and its location in the middle of a housing estate it also feels more like someone’s front room, so overall it is a bit of a unique experience in the realms of drinking in Greater Manchester.

It is a bit of a windy 15 minute walk (that’s wind as in the movement that isn’t of the bowels) to Shaw Road which it the venue of the next place, which is…

Bottle Stockport

 

Opened in 2015, recently extended opening hours make this place more likely to be open when visiting these days, it is all keg and bottles and the seating and tables are those high, posing ones but its a nice little place with a good and varied range of beers.

 

Beers Manchester wrote a more detailed blog about Bottle here.

Then all you have to do is get up and take a left on to Heaton Moor Road which merges into School Lane when it crosses the A6 and you have reached…

Heaton Hops

There isn’t much more to be said about this place seeing as since its opening in 2015 it won award after award and the only time I’ve been able to get a seat is if I get there just as the shutters open.

2 cask, 8 keg, loads of bottles, a downstairs I’ve still never visited and the 70% chance you’ll get ranted at (and can join in with) by Jimmy from Malay Street Food  which is always good fun, though not as much fun as his food.

Once again, Beers Manchester writes more on this place, here.

After you’ve sampled the delights of Heaton Hops you can then walk back on yourself to Heaton Chapel train station and take the train back the Manchester (passé) or go via Stockport way and onward to where the drinking delights of Cheshire await.

Of course, other beer outlets are available

 

Thanks for reading.