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.

 

Today in “What? Craft Beer is a Business?”

For the 1st of March 2017…

Brewer offers lots of money for Sales Rep

– probably getting paid more than most brewers out there

Distribution Company that once tried to sue craft brewer buys controlling interest in craft brewery

Halewood extends into beer with Hawkshead Brewery deal

 

Punk Brewing Gods issue Cease and Desist to Pub

Heineken Trolls Craft Beer with their own words

– while also buying loads of UK pubs to annoy everyone else in the beer world.

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Day 5 – #12BeersofXmas

Day 5 – #12BeersofXmas 2016

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Brewery – Weird Beard Brew Co.

Location – Trumpers Way, that there London.

The Drink: Dead By Dawn

ABV: 5.6% – 330mL

Style: Cherry Breakfast Stout

Additional info:

Batch: 0370, Bottled: 10/10/2016.  Brewed in Partnership with HasBean Coffee, label art by Nicolo Maioli.

Take one of the brewers that one of my Golden Pints for this year’s best overseas brewers, mix in a bit of cherry, a bit of coffee and reference one of my favourite films of all time and what am I not going to like about this beer.

It opens with a psssttt and pours a silky brown leaving an off-cream, well retained head.  Smelling and tasting of coffee, cherry and a good hint of malts and hops this is exactly how adjuncts should work with a beer – to complement and enhance the style and Dead by Dawn does it in spades.

Its one of those beers when a 500mL bottle would be more welcome, exceedingly sessionable despite the strengh, at its core is a damn fine stout, with the additional flavourings sending it even higher in my estimations.

Now I’m repeating myself but the beer is well worth repeating.

This is also a day late so apologies.

 

This post was brought to you by Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Smmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaashed Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaacccccccccccccceeeeeeeeeeeeeeee by Cannibal Corpse…

Thanks for reading.

When Underdogs become Overlords…

The piece below is the opening of what I’m lovingly calling the “Shitting on my Doorstep” trilogy.

 

Following the announcement by CAMRA of their revitalisation project much debate has opened up about what the campaign is for and where it is headed.

I find this situation to be quite comparable to the craft beer movement and, more presciently, those who have or are trying to define what it actually is.

On the face of it both had similar, if perhaps romanticised origins.  Group of people gets together, bemoan how corporatism is spoiling something they like and resolving to do something about it.

Of course their future’s have panned out a bit differently but they nonetheless each wield a fair amount of power, either by lobbying or by being an actual business movement.

In the case of CAMRA, it is now reaping what it sowed when it came out with its rather rigid definitions and core aims.

Seemingly shunned by the “craft” generation; in fact used a marketing tool to push against their old, establishment ways and make way for the new, brave, young beery scene, it is also lambasted by its core base for trying to move too far from its original principles but also by doing this, steps on the toes of others with similar aims. (Blogs & views about this collected here, by Boak & Bailey).

On the other hand you have craft breweries; which some who drink, or worse still worship and sploodge all over themselves about, forget that they are all businesses.  Businesses that are in direct competition with those of a similar vein fighting over the very, very small dregs of an ever decreasing pint.  Businesses whose aim is surely to grow as big and successful as possible?

There are those that buy into breweries in good faith, as a friend would, lending another money to get a venture off the ground.  There are small business loans taken out left, right and centre to fund.  There is crowd-funding and of course there are “share” sales, which can lead to attending AGM’s which always remind me of scenes John Carpenter’s They Live.

Support can also come from merely regularly drinking their beers and raving about them on social media, or merely just drinking their beers.  In essence the better beers and by rationale the better breweries should always succeed.  But in recent times we have seen new breweries sprouting up with big cash outlays and, more importantly a marketing budget.

Conversely and perfectly acceptable in all other forms of business, there have been numerous buy-outs of well know microbreweries by international brands.  Of course the main and valid worry with these kinds of buy-outs is that the product invariably changes and whereas it may be available more widely it is the quality of the product that suffers.

There is also an aspect of this movement that would rather brand a buy-out as a sell-out.  What this highlights is that, duh, some people are jumping on the beer bandwagon to make quick money (though there are far quicker ways to do this) and that those that have the initial investment to succeed are more likely to thrive that those that have to build up more slowly and the worry is that if this is just a trend then the bubble will burst and a lot of microbreweries, no matter how good their beers are, will go to the wall.

People have idealised what craft beer and real ale are.  You can only call your product craft, real, artisan, boutique, etc for so long before the bigger guys with the bigger marketing budgets utilise and exploit it.

You have two movements, both born of grass-roots and local principles, that have spread nationally and even internationally and both of which have seemingly convinced their members that they are something they are not and are about as far removed from the “little guy” that they portray themselves as you can get, though a case for this being more accidental rather than design can be made.

Of course all of this just over complicates what beer actually is and instead turns drinking it into some kind of morality play.  In the end we are all still underdogs and what we should really rally against is anything that is trying to change our enjoyment of a very short life but dictating what you drink, what you eat, what you say, and it is ultimately these moralists, these overlords, that should be opposed.

 

Hmmm, this piece got away from me and I don’t know where…

Thanks for reading.

 

Its Meet the Brewer not Reinventing the Wheel

A while back I saw a tweet from a Guardian lifestyle journalist which went along the lines of “What *is* a meet the brewer?”

Of course Guardian, lifestyle and journalist are also mutually exclusive terms that bear no relevance, as individual terms or as a collective, to sensible people and their enjoyment of life.  But I suppose they have a function if someone is willing to pay for that nonsense.

The thing is what *is* a meet the brewer (MTB)?  It seems I’ve been very lucky in all the ones I have attended.  On each occasion I’ve always actually met the brewer, listened to them talk about their beers, their brewery, their history and their future plans.  This is usually accompanied by food of some kind and a fair amount of beery samples to kick-start the discussions.  They are also always attended by home & commercial brewers alike.

Over the years it would seem that MTB events have either been misrepresented by the establishment hosting them (really they are a tap-takeover, a beer launch or such like) or the brewery has sent along a marketeer who knows lots about “brand brewery” but not much about anything else.

I suppose these in and of themselves would be quite irritating and a let down to those who were expecting something far more involved.

Of course what you don’t need is an over-priced event.

Forced food pairing with morsels probably made from ambergris and Zuzu’s petals to further justify an inflated ticket price.

 

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And who honestly gives a fuck about any specially selected music either?

There is a certain pretension that doesn’t so much creep in as is at an event’s core and for me too many events can only exacerbate the pretext that “craft” beer is elitist.

It is obvious the MTB’s are less about the brewer and more about the attendees and an over emphasis and curation of a whole session of what is and isn’t consumed creates a claustrophobic scenario that is as unhelpful as any poorly constructed meet.

 

Thanks for reading.

Manchester Brewery Taps – 2015 and Beyond…

…infinity not included.

So as a farewell to 2015 which saw many things happen within and because of the Manchester city centre brewers (Green Quarter, Piccadilly Mile, etc.) and with event licenses being a highly prized commodity for the future, I thought I take a look back at the last few brewery taps of 2015 and see what might be happening in 2016…

…this way I can delete about 3 draft pieces I’ve had on these subjects and maybe look like some guru; you know one who is actually local and not some Londoner taking a punt.

So initially looking to the last brewery tap of the year Beer Nouveau is hosting one final chance to avoid the weekend nonsense that is the Christmas Markets…

Looking back now to the events of the 11/12th of December 2015, which saw a last hurrah of the Black Jack Brewery’s usual month end brew tap being hosted at and with Runaway Brewery

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Yes shit pictures, but if you weren’t there you did miss out.  It is like taking photos of a pub, you can capture fixtures and fittings but you can’t capture atmosphere.  Sure I could take photos of leery people looking like goldfish into the camera appearing to be “having it large” but then it would still come across as some 19-year-old’s Instagram account and you’d still have missed out.

Speaking of Instagram, there are far better pictures of these event on the brewers accounts – if you need visual stimulation when tawdry prose just doesn’t cut it any more.

If you’ve not been to their taps it is quite simple; local and national beers are available on cask and on evil keg filth and once the novices have got over the £2 returnable glass deposit shock when buying their first drinks, they can sit (or stand) and relax with some nice music and some street food.  Use it to start, end or be your night.

The only small inconvenience to some are the conveniences.  Usually portaloos but over the summer BlackJack did install some permanent bogs with stunning craftsmanship…

 

 

Augmenting this festive tap, the bods from Squawk Brewing Co and Track Brew Co had converged on the latter’s railway arch with a host of other crafts people to bring another brewery tap to life…CV9tLf9WsAA7Uxt

Same again, with the addition of more wares to buy; cards, cushions, candles, honey, soap, you know, girls stuff.*

But, apart from the lovely beer (Track and Squawk only; cask and keg) you get vats of good stodge…

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Chicken Tagine, Lamb Curry, Spinach & Mushroom Dahl, spicy cous-cous (the last two being vegan) – the stuff of brewtap legend.

Basically with a brew tap what you have is a pub/bar but with less of a wazzock factor.

2016 and Beyond

Immigration is quite a good thing, case & point are the Manchester city centre** (head) brewers:

Squawk – Yorkshire.

Track – Chester.

BlackJack – Wales.

Marble Beers – ever changing.

Cloudwater Brew Co – some ropey non-Manc accents amongst this mob.

Chorlton Brew Co – Southerner

Runaway – Southerner

Beer Nouveau – Southerner

Alphabet Brew Co – Yorkshire

This list will be swelled by new breweries:

Carbon Smith – Scotland

Manchester Brewing Co – Stoke (though to be fair via Oldham)

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And there is talk of yet another 3 to 4 additional breweries opening in the first 6 months of 2016 too; some new, others spreading their wings.

It remains to be seen if the Piccadilly Beer Mile can finally become “a thing” and assuming some inter-brewing bullshit can be set aside I personally see no reason why it can’t – if there was just some way to get across the roads quicker.

Manchester Beer Week will also take place between 10th-19th June, assuming the organiser has fulfilled sufficient husband duties in lieu.

The brew taps will remain a feature and there are always a seemingly endless slew of new bars opening up; Cafe Beermoth being the very newest addition and The Pilcrow Pub being built as I type.  So this obviously means more outlets for the slew of brewers in and around Manchester.

There are also many, many fine pubs still in Manchester which can be visited for a wide range of “real ale” or “craft beers” or just to marvel at them.

Not much of a gaze into the future but Manchester is purring away nicely on the beer front and provided some establishments don’t get too complacent like those in London already have then with its symbiotic relationship of good quality venues and the wide variety of brewers there is no reason why Manchester won’t dominate the UK beer scene in the very near future.

 

Thanks for reading, bollocks to Leeds.

Merry Xmas and all that guff.

 

 

*So Neanderthals like me who have no emotional concept of birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas can at least seem to make a heartfelt gesture to loved ones with some simple gifts.

**Not including Holts, for no reason other than to cause rankles amongst the sniffy set that inhabit CAMRA, in a loud though fortunately declining minority.

2015 #12BeersofXmas – Preamble

So a brief introduction to what beers I am planning on drinking for the #12beersofXmas

Info on this concept can be found here, care of Beer O’Clock Show

 

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So a selection, of mainly British and mainly Northern brewers.

Jaipur X gets in because quite a few seem to be doing it and I’ll crowbar in my experience compared to what it was like when imbibed on (fresh) keg and is the only one I have had before with the exception of Marble’s Little Meiko, which I entertain I’ve had in the Marble Arch but could be wrong (days are long and beers are many in that fine establishment).

Spaghetti Western (Grappa Barrel) by BrewFist of Italy is a token international beer.

Five Towns Brewery from Wakefield way is in with their Summerisle – a tribute to the loss this year of acting institution and horror film icon Christopher Lee.

Of course most are “big” – the lowest ABV is 4.5% and many are of the dark side.

The order of drinking hasn’t been decided on yet but if the 1st one is to be drunk (and written about) on the 20th of December, the day after the 3rd Annual Crimbo Crawl taking in Leeds, then I somehow doubt my own ability to even start well.

One week to go…