So this is finally the 3rd part of a 3 part review of the Manchester Brew Expo
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…
£15 would get me into all the brewers & breweries over 2 days, a drink at each brewery, the glass and the bag – bargin.
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.
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 puctured 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 viceral 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 critisisms 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:
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.