Manchester Brew Expo 2015 – Thoughts & Feelings

So this is finally the 3rd part of a 3 part review of the Manchester Brew Expo

Or #mcrbrewexpo

A review of Day 1 (Saturday) is here

A review of Day 2 (Sunday) is here

It was a back in March at a Squawk ‘Meet The Brewer’ when Oli mentioned that there was going to be a get together of the brewers along the ‘Manchester mile,’ what I didn’t know is just how quickly things would come together.

Having never been to the London (Bermondsey) one you do wonder just how hard is it to get local brewers to open their doors at the same time?  Probably not that hard, but if its a first time you want to make quite the impression so maybe the need for a little bit more presentation and thought is required other than just walking between different units under train arches.

So it was pure chance that I was sitting in Heaton Hops when something rolled through on my twitter account and the talk had become reality.

As soon as tickets went on sale I snapped up a couple of weekender tickets, not for the beer but for the Tote Bag…

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£15 would get me into all the brewers & breweries over 2 days, a drink at each brewery, the glass and the bag – bargain.

As the days ticked down there were events added, bottle tastings, talks and tours – bonus, just sign up when signing in at the start of each day I expect…

Then on the Thursday before the weekend of the expo it all got a bit frantic.  I’d expect that kind of thing to happen behind the scenes, but it kind of played out on social media too.

Having worked late, I got home and was eating when I thought I’d check twitter and I had some direct messages – 4 in fact.  Two kind souls had pointed out that apparently there had been a flood of emails about booking tickets for said extra events via EventBrite in advance.

Er, OK.

Flowing the links it quickly dawned that being that it was an hour after the emails were sent there were pretty slim pickings for what was left to attend.

It didn’t help that the invites were only for the first time of each tour and not for subsequent repeat ones throughout the day.

It was a perfect storm out clusterfuckness.

After some wrangling and kudos to the peeps behind it for getting the message out soon enough, the batch of tickets for the rest of the events would be released at 7.30am on the Friday.

Which was then put back to 8am due to EventBrite timings.  I was one my way to work, I’d miss out again.

Spin through to Friday at BlackJack Brew Tap and I got the chance to vent at all and sundry that would listen, some of it was reciprocated.

What was supposed to be a relaxing ball chaffing few days around the Manchester mile was fast becoming a regimented, far too orchestrated nonsense, filled with too many pieces of paper and worrying about timings and missing things and everything else that could go wrong.

But you know what?

That never actually happened.  The relaxing few days around Manchester is exactly what came to pass.  Beer, it turns out, isn’t that complicated.

With the perfect sunny weather on the Saturday it felt very much like a music festival, one that including crossing some fast moving roads, but that vibe, the buzz, is something you feel and everyone else who is around you feels it too.  It started after booking in, when you could see people looking for the check-in place by looking pensively for directions on their phones, cue much shouting and pointing across roads as to where it was and a grateful thumbs up in return.  The same played out when looking for each brewery.

The brewers themselves, with the exception of Cloudwater were as enjoyably, chaotically disorganised as each other and even in Cloudwater, where there was a sense of some control, it still felt relaxed.

The brewers gave their talks at the times, no booking forms were ever checked.  The talks just happened, they were free, if you were they you listened and discussed, if you weren’t you asked who were the brewers and got an impromptu talk instead.

There was an atmosphere, a sense of community that oddly I feel is lost in some of the places that actually sell the beers.

Sunday, though not as warm was, for lack of a writing education, the same as Saturday but different.

Even more casual, only punctured by the actual pay events being hosted.

With the BlackJack brew tap being the hub (as it also was for Saturday) if you go to enough of them learn how they work (enough being 1) you know that it is laid back to the point of horizontal.

You also play spot the brewer.

And also spot the home brewer.

And spot the blogger.

And you shouldn’t start a sentence with and.

Or probably end one either.

The oddest and most visceral moment of the weekend actually came with the Brewshack tasting when it was mentioned that highly regarded Thornbridge Brewery (Bakewell, Derbyshire) were actually Conservative party voters (and not shy ones).  A chill of unbelievablability filled the room.

Everything else was top drawer, the doubts felt on Thursday/Friday were dispelled and replaced with joy and alcohol.  So much so that you may have realised that I’ve never may much mention of the beer I had and how it was.

No notes were taken, a lot was drunk and to be fair as odd as it sounds, beer was secondary that weekend.  It was more about the brewers, the people and a sense of community.  Or perhaps that is just pretentious bollocks.

It was simply relaxing with a beer surrounded by good people.*

My only other small criticisms are with the maps.  Victoria station wasn’t on it, the address for each brewery should have been on to make locating them slightly easier, though it did lead to a nice chat with the MOT guy near Squawk and most importantly the orange on the maps kept rubbing off, I’m short enough as it is, I don’t need turning into an Oompa-Loompa to highlight this.

But these are minor points, meant in jest, short of having a monorail between the breweries.

So the thanks go to everyone involved with this; who in no small part are:

Squawk

Privateer

Alphabet

Track

Cloudwater

BlackJack

Marble

Runaway

First Chop

ShinDigger

Five-Oh

Quantum

BrewShack

Six O’Clock

Beermoth

John Clarke

There are obviously many, many more to thank, but I suppose this can happen over what hopefully will be a regular event.

Manchester is fucking ace.

*there was a rant here, this is not the place for it.

Manchester Brew Expo 2015 – Day 2

This is the second of what I’m still hoping to be a 3-parter of my thoughts on the Manchester Brew Expo

Or #mcrbrewexpo

This is to cover Day 2 – Sunday 24th May 2015 – featuring the “Green Quarter” brewers.

Part 1 (Day 1) can be found here.

Having brushed the crumbs final few crumbs of toast out of my beard and comb through the last few bit of congealed butter I went to bed.

I didn’t go to sleep, a mixture of happiness of the day, excitement of what Day 2 would hold and too many coffee brewed stouts put paid to any more meaningful snooze time.

Ah, Sunday travel into and out of the centre of Manchester, what a nonsense.  A bus ride that took me one and a half hours and still I had to walk a further 20 minutes to get to my starting point…

BlackJack Brewery

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I’d forgotten my original glass, but had remember my badge and my tickets for Day two’s events at least, even if I didn’t have time for breakfast.  Just signed in and got right back on Blackjack’s 3.8% The Pokies.

At 12.00pm it was time to go and visit what I would regard as, Manchester’s Marquee brewer…

Marble Brewery

Located at Unit 41 on Williamson Street, across the way from BlackJack…

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Yes, it is a brewery and the tour was conducted with enthusiasm and knowledge by some guy whose name I have forgotten.

At this point it is also worth pointing out that bedded down at BlackJack is also yet another brewery Six O’Clock Beer Co. and while not ‘part’ of the proceedings, they [he, Ian(?)] is an ever-present fixture at the brew tap as are his excellent beers.

Free pint of Marble beer was redeemable at The Marble Arch but more on that later…

Back across the road and over to the Glassworks part of the Blackjack operation for…

Brewshack Brewers

Here a small army of home brewers; namely Jon, Ollie and Gideon aided those parting with £5 to try 8 bottles of beer of their own concoctions…

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Bar one that didn’t sit well with me, they were all very good beers, the standouts for me were the 7.1% Earl Grey American IPA and especially the 4.5% Dark Ruby Mild, mild is still not dead as a brew style and hopefully can get a new lease of life with all the up-and-coming younger brew-set.

Suffice to say the 8 part-shared bottles still on an empty stomach was really beginning to take its toll and it was only 3pm and I then had to go down and across the road into Unit 4 on Millgate, off Dantzic Street to visit…

The Runaway Brewery

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After weeks of different Grub and Shebeen events being held at the brewery the exterior seemed a little, well, sparse and serious, a place where mature brewing took place, you’ve had your fun kids, now let the adults work…

Inside was the chilled atmosphere previously experience at Cloudwater, as head brewer Mark conducted his tour with the usual panache and charm that makes him the thoroughly nice chap he is (and it was his birthday too)…

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Take your pick from Runaway’s beers, they are all very good.  But I managed to wrangle a taste of the collaboration with Joseph Holt’s (is that the correct use of the apostrophe?) that was the 5.5% Green Quarter IPA and bloody hell it was a hop bomb.

For more about this brewing collaboration check out the Beer Battered blog, by Connor Murphy for a far more professional and detailed write-up.

A Manchester Bee Pole?
A Manchester Bee Pole?

Food is desperately needed…last nights toast exploits were just not up to fending off all the beer…

Friday had also been spent at Blackjack now monthly brew tap, they have music and they have a different, generally local food vendor for each of the 3 days the tap is open. The food is curated arranged by @GrubMCR and Friday’s selection was pies from Pie Eyed of which I had the suitably filling beef brisket pie, with peas and mash. (3 times I said pie in that sentence, do not mistake me for a Wiganer).

Saturday, Day 1 of #mcrbrewexpo, Sirocco Tapas take over, from them I had a chorizo sandwich (complete with 5% Blackjack Stout)

Sunday saw my breakfast/brunch/lunch consist of a wonderful jerk pulled pork wrap from Flavours Found which was gone before I got my camera out.

Whilst eating the wrap I did note that all the BrewShack people were now ensconced at the BlackJack entrance, on deck chairs, with the previously mentioned C. Murphy, studiously reading and also chuckling over the notes made at the previous tasting.

5pm rolled around and after I had earlier, triumphantly managed to secure tickets to the next £5 tasting sessions it was time to meet, not in his brewery/garage, but back at the Glassworks…

Five Oh Brew Co

Brewer Jamie likes Godflesh, Jamie was once featured in a piece about beer in the Guardian (which I shouldn’t link to to spare his blushes) and the resultant exposure gave rise to the names of a few of Jamie’s beers one of which was brewed for when Godflesh toured the newest (at the time) album.  That beer was New Dark Ages and was one of five bottle we got to sample, the others being; Curious Orange, Chocolate Rye, Stout Szechuan and Stout Bretted Saison.

All over 5%, all very good despite the brewer’s very honest opinions of what there was apparently too much and too little of.  It mattered not, it was a great hour spent in the company of good people and a very genial and laconic host.

After all of this there was still a final drink to of Marble to be redeemed

And so it was that much like on Friday the 23rd of May, some 48 hours later I headed up the very steep hill, passed the world’s largest ‘No Parking’ sign and into the Marble Arch pub to be confronted by this:

WP_20150524_015 WP_20150524_016 WP_20150524_017Mr Wilson’s Second Liners had taken over the front room – you really had to be there, not to take away from the Marble 5.9% Dobber I’d got, but this was an atmosphere I’d not know in any pub for sometime.

Granted it isn’t everyday you get 90/00/10’s dance music played by a New Orleans style street band but the buzz about the place was so infectious that even Rob of BlackJack was caught with a mysterious look on his face…

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To be fair to him, the absolute joy was in his eyes…and his killer dance moves.  In fact everyone was busting a move, singing, pogoing and getting mucky footprints on the seating…

Then the band made their way out of the pub, suddenly a conga line made its way out of the pub.  It didn’t go back to BlackJack, but I did.

Whiling away a few more hours, picking out just how many more of the other Greater Manchester Brewers were in attendance and had been throughout the weekend.

Manchester really is full of great brewers.

Thanks for reading.

Manchester Brew Expo 2015 – Day 1

This is the first of hopefully 3 parts of my thoughts on the Manchester Brew Expo

Or #mcrbrewexpo

This is to cover Day 1 – Saturday 23rd May 2015 – featuring the, erm Ardwick/Piccadilly area of brewers.

The area probably has some other name, probably Brewery Quarter, but if Douglas Adams can get away with a trilogy in 5 parts then I’m pretty sure Manchester can also pushes the boundaries of maths.

As is usually with me, I have minimal photos and seldom are they much cop, if it is visual aids you’re after, trek along to this blog Mark Johnson’s – Beer Compurgation

Upon arrival at Sheffield Street, Unit 13, barrel store for Cloud Water Brew you were given a glass, a badge, 5 colour-coded tickets (for the free drinks at each brewery) and a map…

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The map had labelled all the brewers taking part and all of Manchester’s train stations.  Well except for Victoria, which I felt compelled to add on.

Having got there bright and early to register and hopefully but eventually futilely getting tickets for events that I missed (opinions to follow in part 3) I was left as at loose end for an hour, so toddle off for a big breakfast and a Vimto (cold).

First stop at 11.32 was located at Unit 99, North Western Street

Alphabet Brewery

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A most spacious of breweries compared to the rest on the tour, they were still setting up, but were kind enough to hand out free tasters of their A to the K Oatmeal Pale (5.6%) and the Crate Digger coffee stout (8.3%).

The first tour began, not too ‘late’ and having witnessed a tweet from the aforementioned M. Johnson about soon to be visited Privateer Brewery being equally chilled out it was reassuring to see that what I thought would be a strictly regimented event was already breaking down into the relaxed day I’d hoped for.  A relaxed day during which I probably got all the brewers names confused, so apologies in advance.

Alphabet head brewer Tom (?) took us on a tour of his works, the opening gambit being “you’ll probably hear 5 stories about the same brewing gear today…”  Partly true, but it is all in the delivery.  A tank tasting was imbibed, I forget which one.

Next it was time to go along Fairfield Street and drop off at Unit 5, Sheffield Street for a 12.30 meet the brewer with…

Track Brewing Co.

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look at all those hoses

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Here they took our blue lottery ticket in exchange for a choice of 1 of 6 of their beers (3 cask or 3 keg – the first time their beers were on keg).  I asked for their cask 5% stout called Toba.  I got a pint – this was unexpected…not that I was complaining, though being the first ‘proper’ drink it was fool hardy to think this day wouldn’t end quicker if these were going to be the constant measures poured for free.

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Track head brewer Sam (?) showed us around his small outfit but spent more time giving the back story to his brewery, its name and why the beers are named as such – I won’t spoil it, it is more than worth hearing for the brewer’s mouth.

2 breweries down and things are starting to click, next up was the newbie behemoths (no pun needed, you’ll read later on…)

Cloudwater Brew Co.

Located a toddle from their barrel store at Units 7-8 on Piccadilly Trading Estate – opposite Parcelforce, it was finally time to see ground hype zero.

It’s a bit like a Tardis actually, an unassuming front door paves the way through a little carpeted corridor to a beer version of Willy Wonka’s factory.

Tickets out and just as I wanted their Hopfenweisse it went off, so I was stuck between two of their beers I’d tried before or a collaboration they’d done with Camden Brewery (I don’t boycott them like some) which was a Märzen style beer.

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It was nice to bask in the environment of large-scale investment; to relax on a chair under bright natural light and to gander round their rather special looking brewery, the epiphany came the next day, but at the current time it was just good to take a load off, a bit like a chill out room at a party.

2pm came round soon enough and it was time to see if I could get on a tour that I hadn’t got tickets too…

Privateer Beers

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Now Unit 75 on Temperance Street was a lot farther than was factored in, including a frogger type escapade across Mancunian Way, but it was well worth the trip.

Getting their head brewer Matt was serving behind the bar a looking more than a little, well relaxed with everything.  Another pint was served I went for the ever reliable (all Privateer beers are reliably good) 4.8% Red Duke.

To borrow a description from Jimbo Hendrix over at Beers Manchester Matt is very much like Tigger, full of boundless enthusiasm while also, as described by many others, was merely a train engineer masquerading as a brewer (along with building his own brewing equipment).

This came out in his tour (ticketing be damned) as he waxed lyrically about absolutely anything and everything that it was much like Jackanory.

Sadly time is always against us on these things and it was time to move on too…

Squawk Brewing Co

I’d been to a MTB with head brewer Oli some time before and was informed on arrival that it would just be more of the same.  But it was good fun first time around and so it was second time around, though he had gone the route of taking questions from the audience and from online rather than just do much of a prepared speech.

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I’ve raved about his 6.5% Espresso Stout and I will rave about it to anyone that listens, Bean Brothers were also there, co-conspirator in this wonderful brew.

What was also at Squawk was food, precious food…£4 worth of some glorious lamb tangine and couscous (plus free bread and olives…double bonus).

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It was a shame to leave both Privateer and Squawk, but I was informed they were going to be quietly open on the Sunday, I would most definitely pop back.*

All that was left to do was head back to reclaim my final drink back at Alphabet.

On the way back down Northwestern Street we passed by Unit 69, this is…

Chorlton Brewing Company

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Although not part of that day’s proceedings I had enjoyed a previous visit there before and head brewer Mike and his very able assistant @StereoSurrealis were ever present on both days of the expo.

Back at Alphabet the beer black board was up…

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Barrel-aged Crate Digger at ~10%, that was the one for me.

Also present were the ever youthful boys of Shingdigger Brewing Co. who aided me in my quest to try all their bottles by loaning me a fine tasting bottle of their 4.1% Pils

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All the brewers ticked off it was time to go back to the Black Jack Brew Tap (more of that in Day 2 review) for some more food, but not before stopping off at The Beer Moth to quickly dive into their cellar tasting room and have a bottle of something I hate to say was not even from Manchester, USA.

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Still if gave me a chance to meet Jamie of Five-Oh Brew Co (more of them in Day 2 review too) and discuss the forth-coming Sunday events.

After that things got a little hazy but this did happen…

Which segues into the Day 2 review…which should hopefully be up tomorrow…

Till then – Drink Well.

 

 

 

*I most definitely should have popped back, but distance, other beers and chaffed balls really it was the distance kept me from a return.

The Hypocrisy of the Dancing Man

Yesterday (25th Many 2015), the ‘Dancing Man’ Sean O’Brien did a great many things, borne out of a ‘positive’ reaction to ‘trolls’ on the internet.

Basically a fat man was body-shamed on the internet (4-chan, the absolute ultimate in free speech sites) and the reaction was so sympathetic that a great deal of people and celebrities needing extra kudos jumped on the story with nothing but praise for Mr. O’Brien and hatred for said ‘trolls’.

Fast-forward to today (26th May 2015) and we again have numerous health stories linked to the subject of weight

The talking-head panels that review papers and news ‘stories’ of the day moved from ease to the uplifting story of an clinically obese man and his holiday in the USA to the you’ll-be-dead-by-50 health scare stories the continue to be trotted out by ‘experts’ on a daily basis.

But there is no over-reaction of the Twitterati and celeb-heads over this.

Granted one man’s plight and public embarrassment is not really comparable to a story the generalises about being obese but all these stories published about public health are designed to create divisions.

But the under reaction is that the public tolerate being ‘trolled’ by the state.

In fact in the UK, where health care is ‘free’ – it is all ready on the slippery slope that those who are fat, or smoke, or drink alcohol, or eat salt, or eat sugar are not worthy of said ‘free’ treatment.

Those that don’t do 30 minutes of exercise a day, or eat 5 portions of fruit and veg, or those that sit for too long or drive everywhere, they are the next group in the sights of our health moralists.

Mr O’Brien is a man who clearly loves life, food, dancing and anything else that makes him happy.  He achieved his notoriety by being in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ and yet when he comes back to the UK he will sit in front of his TV, open up a newspaper or even go to his doctor and be continually told that he is too fat.

Maybe he is too fat.  Maybe his weight will have negative impact on his life and its future quality and while we get hypocritically riled up about some people pointing and laughing at those who don’t fit into a standard we happily let certain others do exactly the same thing.

Know the consequences of what you do, take personal responsibility for them and learn to tell everyone to fuck off.

Till next time.

Eat, drink and be merry.