“Mmm, I’m telling you now, the greatest thing you ever can do now, is trade a smile with someone who’s blue now, it’s very easy just..”
I’d been looking forward this weekend so much. Thanks to Mrs H I had a rare Saturday off and I was heading for my first ever visit to the Independent Salford Beer Festival (ISBF), an event organised and frequented by really good friends.
It started with train delays, pretty much par for the course these days. Quickly topped off with a typical Phil dropping myself in the shit moment. After cows on the line, several train cancellations and the added bonus of Manchester Christmas Market travellers, the already overcrowded cattle wagon pulled into Stockport. As hordes more passengers crammed on and forced their way deep into the carriage, I looked right towards the building carnage and exclaimed “Jesus F@*king Christ”. At that exact moment emerging from my left I found myself face to face with a 6ft plus Krishna monk. Shaved head, tiny platted pony tail, painted face, fully robed up in glowing orange, the complete works. As I finished my three word rant, he stopped, turned, looked me straight in the eye and said quite loudly “Hare Krishna” and walked away without a glance back. I was like, no, sorry, not you, I didn’t mean it like….oh bugger!
Anyway, after fighting through Piccadilly and a short ride with a seemingly deaf taxi driver we made it.
I was met inside by organiser and good friend Jim Cullen, Jim doing his customary Wayne’s World style bow of adoration at my approach, as he often quotes my old blogging & and events as being at least part of his inspiration to do the same. If I have in any way shape or form had any part of what this bloke has achieved over the last five or six years I am very humbled, and it is I who’s not worthy my friend. Anyway, enough of that, it was around 11:50 the place was already buzzing, I was gagging for a beer and there was quite a bit of it about.
I headed straight for the cask area, absolutely over the moon to find that oh so rare cask of De Ranke XX Bitter hadn’t gone yet. It was my first choice and didn’t disappoint, richer and fuller than I’d tasted before with a more intensely bitter finish, delicious! I’m not sure if cask XX is a first, it’s definitely something I’ve never seen before and it’s a beer I love so go figure..
That in itself should give you an idea of the sort of beer list Jim pulls together for this festival. An eclectic mix of gems, from progressively traditional and new wave brewers, one-off collaborations and old favourites, I think it’s called putting the miles in. Cask being served alongside “evil keg filth” and being enjoyed in equal measure for what it is, bloody good beer and nobody dying because a rule had been broken, the way festivals should be.
At this point I should witter on about what beers I drank and what they tasted like but in truth everything was so good I lost track. The “Staggeringly Good” Ekuanodon was staggeringly good and a new brewery for me. “Five Towns & Rivington” Sweet Thing Imperial Fruited Ale was gorgeous, Toms Tap, Bexar County, North Riding all fab, in fact everything I had was excellent, apart from that one that everyone seemed to love except me and which shall remain nameless lol.
One thing that struck me about ISBF was the feel good vibes. From the moment I walked through the door to the second I wobbled out I felt happy, IT felt happy. Perhaps that’s because I was among so many friends, perhaps it was much more of an intimate venue than some of the more well-known festivals, my gut feeling though is that it is by design. The whole thing felt inclusive, there was something for everyone from your Grandad to the new breed Untappd “craft beer” ticker. It had warmth and not just from the non-pretentious hot-pot and chips, no doughnut burgers or deep-fried chaffinch livers in sight here. Simple but tasty honest beer and food served with a smile.
In all seriousness isn’t that what beer should be about?
At this point I’m going to put something out there, not only is this my favourite UK-based beer festival this year (I specify UK only because Borefts in the Netherlands is almost untouchable in my eyes), but if it happens in 2019, #ISBF6 will be first on my hit list for next year. Put it on yours too!
Before I close this out it’s worth saying that I almost never blog these days, since opening Otter’s Tears I generally feel gagged. I write something, think twice about it and don’t post it for fear of my views affecting the business. It’s hard enough without my gob making things tougher.. But here I felt compelled to do so albeit in completely different circumstances. I needed to say something to Jim and to all the folk who support him in making this wonderful thing happen and my rambling away on here seemed the most fitting tribute to folk who have done so much more. So thank you all, I had an absolute blast with old friends and new, who could ask for more.
“So anytime, somebody needs you, don’t let them down although it grieves you, some day you’ll need someone like they do, looking for what you new” Friends – Led Zeppelin