Macc To Basics

For the oh so many people that have been asking me about this, I can at last confirm that this years Macclesfield #Twissup is go!

P1020544As you can probably guess from the lack of updates, since we decided to kill the “Macc To The Future” idea through lack of interest (it seemed a great idea when we were drunk), things have been a little quiet..

I stand and solely take the blame for this, as for many reasons which are now thankfully all gone, I’d lost my drive to drive the event as much as I had in previous years. But thankfully due in truth to the support from you guys, and in particular I’d say Matt at the Treacle too for pushing me on, we going ahead as planned on Saturday 22nd August 2015.

What has made it trickier this time around is that there has been so much going on behind the scenes. Toby at RedWillow building a new brewery, Chris closing and reopening a new, larger and much improved Brewtique, and Bronwyn and Tim with their network of fine establishments. So we decided to take it back to basics (#MaccToBasics) and just go with a great social drinking theme. No big beer launches (unless of course anyone fancies it), just a great range of beer and food, a good crowd of friendly people having a beery bimble around the usual haunts.

IMG_6367So far we have the return of the amazing Great North (breakfast) Pie Co at The Treacle Tap as our starting point at 11AM. Where we will also have the pleasure of an informal Meet The Brewer session with Marble and I’m sure a fine selection of their beers tbc.

Toby is again opening up RedWillow brewery for us to try a few beers and take a look around the new brewery building so that you can see it as a work in progress.

Chris at The Wharf is escaping on holiday, but again is happy to welcome us and put on some “cellar specials” as well as the normal top range. He is also hoping that folk will take an excursion up to the new shop which now has beer on tap including a dedicated sour line. It’s probably not feasible for us all to go “en-masse”, but we should have plenty of time to visit as they are open all day till late.

Image 1Finishing off the day as last year in RedWillow Bar, which I am sure will have enough to keep you all happy on the cask, keg and gin front among other things. Molly and the team will I’m sure pull out the stops to make the days beer board as amazing as last year.

IMG_0273Full details to be confirmed for all venues as soon as I have them on the likely beer lists, venue timing itineraries, food etc. “So keep em peeled”. Hope to see you all soon.

Cheers

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Building blocks #bCubed

Think of your favourite beer festival, all that lovely beer just waiting to be poured, supped and savoured.

Think of the vast selection, the nibbles, even better, the pulled pork oozing from golden brioche buns. That ‘oh so” DIRTY burger, or that pizza, so screamingly hot but so irresistible you are unable to wait long enough to tuck in. Think of that bloody annoying cheese coated blister just behind your teeth as a result..

Then think again, think of it like this, an empty blank canvas.
IMG_3421 IMG_2721Or even like this, the lightbulb moment, “ooooh I now, lets create a mahoosive beer festival right in the heart of one of Britain’s biggest cities”..

I recently signed up to help out at Birmingham Beer Bash or #bCubed as it is known in the Twittersphere. Mixing serving days with drinking days was always going to be tricky (and expensive) for me as I was already committed to Thursday and Saturday afternoon sessions beer sampling.

So I decided to go and help set up on Tuesday, right at the beginning, but of course that wasn’t really the beginning was it? IMG_3422 The pictures above were taken at around 11am on Tuesday morning (the rest at various points throughout the day), the venue having being open from around 8:30.

There were a few folk milling about when I finally made an appearance mid-morning. Eager volunteers ticking the few beers that had already arrived off lists, some creating more lists, gathering pump-clips, trying to look busy. Others were out and about, gathering bar equipment, BARS, furniture, stuff! The bits and bobs that they just know is going to be required at some point.

A large van literally packed to the ceiling with “stuff” turns up, is quickly unloaded and contents shifted to the back of the still echoing hall ready for distribution when the time is right.

IMG_3424It is starting to get busier now, suddenly there are no folk “milling”, all are rushing about, lugging this, dragging that, pushing the other. The mornings relaxed start now starting to be a worryingly distant memory, are there enough of us, there is a lot to do..?
IMG_3425 Then the “Beaver-bar” ships up, it’s big, it’s complete, it is beautifully crafted but also very heavy. Fortunately it is on a pallet.

Unfortunately, it won’t fit through the doors as it is too high, but with a bit of twisting, turning, leaning and strained cajoling, she’s in…IMG_3428 More bars arrive, the room is staring to take shape, time to take stock, have a breather and a quick but well earned sandwich.IMG_3429 In no time we are back at work, as fridges, cask stillages, chiller units, more bars, glasses and even MORE beer arrives and everything is checked off.IMG_3431“Almost” everything that was due to arrive today, and a bit more, has done and now we have to make sense of it all. Bars are moved into place and made ready to go, spaces are left for those due back to help tomorrow. Stillages are set up and cooling fitted in readiness for casks. Time to organise beer!IMG_3433

Casks are sorted and rolled around the room, a few laps apiece. Kegs are examined and placed in sections, lager, sours, international and everything else, then sifted and dragged into some sort of alphabetical order in readiness for the Wednesday crew. Things are starting to get heavy, as are my aching feet.

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A pensive bar manager, what have I forgot?

IMG_3434 Before we leave though, those casks need racking. Did I mention the heavy things and my aching feet?IMG_3435 Suddenly it’s almost 7PM and time for another breather as we wait for that one last elusive delivery, stuck somewhere in Birmingham traffic. Time for a beer or two from the fridge, handily placed there earlier by Mr Shipman, who’s brainchild this all is. No doubt from previous experiences knowing this would be required.  IMG_3436

At last, at 7:30PM the day is done and we trundle wearily off to the Craven Arms for several glasses of well earned liquid refreshment.

Later, as I sat on the train home, completely knackered, I couldn’t stop thinking about the organised chaos I’d witnessed. I say chaos, but what I mean is, it was manic, it has to be, but everything had a place, each arrival was expected but also beyond control.

I also thought about me, I was tired yes, but I was a tiny cog in a massive wheel, I did one day. “ONE DAY”! Some of the volunteers were doing three to five, the Beer Bash crew will be doing it even longer as it all has to be taken down again and some of them have been working on this for a full year. All this doesn’t organise itself.

The festival of course was stunning as usual, the venue is great, the beer was great, the people are great, it was you guessed it GREAT! (Is this starting to grate?)

You can read a little more about how it all went here, via Simon at CAMRGB.

The next time you arrive at your favourite festival though, be that bCubed, Indy Man Beer Con, Craft Beer Rising, Leeds, Liverpool, GBBF, you name it, think about that beer lined room you rush eagerly into, beer list clutched excitedly in hand. Think about that room being completely empty, your footsteps echoing back at you as if in an empty church. Think about all the hard work that went into filling it up and the wonderful people like those behind Birmingham Beer Bash. Then rush to the bar and fill your boots!

A massive thanks to Dave and all the bCubed crew for all their hard work in making this wonderful beery extravaganza happen, you guys rock!

Macclesfield beer gathering III – #MaccToTheFuture

As you may or may not know, I have helped organise an event in Macclesfield over the last two years, a Twissup, beer gathering, meet up, call it what you will. Both seem to have been well received, many new beers produced and especially with the most recent, many brewers attending to chat and drink alongside customers.

This last year (2014) under the “Back In Macc” banner, we tried to focus on new breweries and brewers not yet quite there commercially, giving them a chance to showcase something to a decent sized audience. (the “we” by the way is myself and mainly Toby Mckenzie of RedWillow Brewery, ably assisted by local pub/bar owners Chris Stairmand and Bronwyn Riley of The Wharf and Treacle Tap respectively) plus friends/supporters. There are a few pics from previous events in progress below:


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10659166_10154603871210788_1359327912401101491_n10600646_10154603870660788_3115339361503113849_nAnyway, it seems folk want another in 2015 so I’m exploring an idea.

What I am trying to do is get an “Old School” or traditional brewer(y), perhaps family generational owned, or anyone with a bit of history of just being plain good at what they have always done with no great desire to change as such. Hopefully avoiding those who have already tried “reinventing themselves” with a “CRAFT arm” or branding.

Then get them to pair up with a newer brewer(y), perhaps noted for being one of the new breed, progressive styled or trendier etc. The idea being that they create something together, not trying to change one or the other, or prove which is best. Maybe take an old recipe and recreate it, give an existing beer a new twist, or create something completely new. A no holds barred, free rein brief. Perhaps simplified as a meeting of minds. Clearly I’m talking about more than one collaborative brew here, it would be slightly limited in appeal otherwise, in fact the more the merrier..

The title of the event should it come to fruition is likely to be “Macc To The Future” but that’s not carved in stone if it doesn’t suit what works out. #Macctothefuture

To add to this and perhaps where some of you good people reading this come in. I’d like to also pair up a writer/blogger up with each collective (locally if possible), to work on the idea, join in with the brew day and promote it. The proposed timing is a Saturday around late Aug to mid Sept 2015 (tbc asap).

Unfortunately there is no money in this for anyone, it’s a labour of love, as it costs the venues a lot to buy the beers, and a lot of time and energy is given locally with the only beneficiaries being a local charity in past years. This from beer and food donated free by RedWillow at the Brewery.

This is the list of potential target breweries that came out of my first Twitter/Facebook poll as being perhaps unfairly overlooked as being “off trend”. Some may not suit and we probably wouldn’t be able to do them all, it does give us a wider scope though. It’s also worth noting that this list does not exclude anybody necessarily either, purely a starting point for reference.

Fullers
Robinsons
Harveys
Hook Norton
G W Wright
Burton Bridge
Holts
Bathams
J W Lees
Holdens
HopShackle
Black Sheep
Sam Smiths
Shepherd Neame
Banks
St Austel
Camerons
Titanic
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Note: Adnams and Thwaites were also suggested, but my thought process puts them a little too far down the “reinvented” path, with the Crafty Dan brewery and the newer Adnams ranges, but included for fairness and reference as they were suggested. This though to be clear does not exclude them either, if there is a perfect match out there.
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Ground rules.

In terms of what to brew, I suggest a no holds barred approach as I’ve said, anything goes, although clearly we’d need to try to make sure we didn’t end up with all big ABV’d bruisers

Each brew definitely needs at least someone there to represent each beer collective collaboration, it just adds to the occasion, giving folks a chance to talk about and be talked to about the project and promote it.

Cost is important of course to make sure the beer bill doesn’t spiral out of control and make this a burden for anyone. So please bare that in mind when deciding what to brew, or at least be prepared to ask a reasonable price of the guys hosting it in the town. It’s for fun not profit on this occasion.

If you are interested let me know, get in touch and register interest, especially if you have a collective in mind. We can then see if there is any mileage in pulling it together and set a firm date.

Contact me via twitter @filrd

Or via the MaccTwissup Facebook page here

Or comment on this post and we can arrange on how to get in touch, unfortunately listing email addresses on here leads to a massive spam-fest!!

Cheers

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Beyond The Velodrome

Leaving home for Manchester yesterday, I had to confess I did so with a hint of trepidation. Not beating around the bush, I’ve felt more than a little let down with some of the CAMRA led beer festivals I’ve attended recently, which is not a dig at CAMRA nor the fabulous volunteers that organise and run these events, it’s hard work and a thankless task at times I know. More a wish that the guys choosing the beers to serve would be a little more “adventurous”, rather than sticking with the same beverages once used to champion the fight against Watneys Red Barrel 😉

Anyway moving on, that uneasiness was not helped by a few comments I’d picked up about Wednesdays opening session which were less than complimentary for various reasons. But, I am very, very happy to say that those feelings proved most thoroughly unfounded on my experience, perhaps first night teething problems on Weds?

IMG_1467Getting to the venue was an absolute breeze, once we established the right Metro platform (which became obvious from those gathered there already), £3 return, ten minutes and bosh, direct link to the festival.

Wisely opting for a quiet afternoon session, there were no queues and with minimal fuss we are in and looking our first brewery bar. Jointly hosted by OffBeat, Blackjack, Ilkley, Bridestones and already I am spoiled for choice, but wasting little time I picked the tongue in cheekly named “Copyright Ingingement” from Blackjack to christen my stemmed half/third glass which gets another tick from me.

We wandered then down the stairs that lead under the track to the main beer hall. As you emerge, although you are in what is basically a bloody big sports hall, it is still an awesome sight as the velodrome opens out before you. The gracious sweeping curve of continuous pine is just stunning, a real first for me and worth the trip for that alone.

IMG_1471Watching Team GB training too was an absolute privilege, where else can you sample wonderful beers with such a spectacular backdrop. The speed at which these athletes storm around the track is at times dizzying, but never stops drawing the eye throughout the day, which could be very dangerous after too many samples..

IMG_1474As I explored the venue further the more I liked it, the main hall is well spread out, with lots of tables, although as usual folks set up camp and close ranks on those for the duration, however it doesn’t feel cramped and the bars are well manned making choice and purchase a breeze. To add to this there are bars spread all around the periphery of the trackside, adding to that feeling of space and with the added bonus of seating opportunities aplenty for those weary or wobbly beer legs. Great views from up there too.

IMG_1476Throwing a negative in here at this point, as you’d expect from a moaning old bugger like me, the food… I’m sorry but very poor, perhaps apart from the ploughman’s stall which at least looked appetising. The Mexican buffet, a row of six or seven tins on warming platters that looked like they had been there all day. A curry and pie area which reminded me of a school dinner hall,  and the Teppanyaki sushi and noodle bar. The latter being our selection of choice for both meal and late afternoon snack, and perhaps where the poor description is slightly unfair. The food itself here was actually very nice, it just wasn’t hot which for a style of food preparation based on show cooking was really disappointing. As a tip for the organisers next time, assuming you have choice and are not forced by venue contracts, look at what IndyMan Beer Con do, surely in Manchester there are plenty of top quality food retailers who would do you proud and be glad of the opportunity to showcase their talents.

IMG_1478In true “kiss, slap, kiss” style, back to the beer, and where this event excelled, going some way to restore my faith and hope for future CAMRA beer festivals. What a really wide ranging interesting selection, it just seemed to cater for everyone. There is hope beyond the velodrome!

Yes there were the old faithful standards, some safer bets so to speak, but clearly a lot of folks enjoy them so fair do’s. But there were also a good proportion of newer breweries and some more adventurous brews too.

IMG_1472We were also treated to not one but TWO foreign beer bars ,with a huge, top quality range on draught and in bottle. Highly unlikely I know, but wouldn’t it be great to have another bar, selling the best of British keg at next years bash, to let folks make up their own minds on this most controversial of subjects? (hides behind the sofa)

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IMG_1468I can honestly say, with hand firmly on heart, that I did not have a beer that I didn’t enjoy all day and came away with many more that I would loved to have tried if time had allowed. From memory, these were my choices….

Blackjack – Copyright Ingingement
Tiny Rebel – Dirty Stop Out 12 month BA Brett
Hawkshead – NZPA
Marble/Hawkshead – Beer Matts
Marble – 125 Barley Wine
Tapped Brew – Mojo
De 3 Horne – Kerselaere
NMBC – New World IPA Dry Hopped
NMBC – Monacus
Opat Kvasnicak – Coriander
Andechs – Dunkelweisse
Wild – Yankee Sandwich
Oersop/Oedipus – Flavoured Saison
Ramses – Den Dorstige Tijger

Well done to all involved in that selection process and to those who set up served them to the multitudes. There were also some top folks errr, ‘supervising” too..

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A quality day out, a serious big thanks and well done to all involved. See you next year and I promise I won’t wear lycra..

“We all need another beer-oh
We don’t ever want to goooo home
All we want is to be back, at the Velodrome..”

Sorry…I’ll get me coat…

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BackInMacc visit to RedWillow Brewery

No beer tour worth its salt doesn’t involve a brewery tour and as one of driving forces behind the event, Toby and Caroline agreed to host us again for a repeat of what was an excellent few hours last year.

None of the amazing pulled pork this time though I’m afraid, far too much to do in the brewery at the moment to allow time for a few hours of gentle pork massage.. 😉

ba937758522e76d4353df95ecb07e606_400x400But fear not, your need to soak up the beverages with some scrumptious nosh will be sated in most excellent fashion. We (well they actually), are firing up the barby. On that fiery cremater of all fine meats will be burgers from none other than @frostybutcher, aka Lee Horsley Frost of W H Frost and Sons, Chorlton. To house these delicious hunks of meaty goodness, we also have brioche rolls from Macclesfield’s own wonderful bakers Flour Water Salt, good enough to eat on their own. All topped, provided Toby has time to deconstruct his carrot and cabbage, delicious home made slaw. Deee-lish!!

fws_logoTo wash this down, of course we need some fine and tasty beer, something interesting to intrigue those taste buds and bring out their delightfully flavoursome secrets. In a weird stroke of luck, we have just that..

79f86de366a048bdab23bd882975c5bcFor a special one-off, never to sampled again treat, we have Andy Parker’s “Elusive Brewing”, who bring us their “Aged Pomegranate Lambic”, not to be missed.

Also getting its first ever outing is RedWillow’s own, “Rioja Barrel Aged Rhubarb Sour”, which has been maturing nicely, making it really smooth and fruity.

Don’t worry, there will be something a little less challenging for non-sour lovers too, this is to be decided yet, so fret not, you are catered for.

Basic CMYKIf the rain keeps off, this looks to be another really good session, informal brewery tours will be available for those who want them but generally its more of a welcome, come in wander around and have a beer approach, which was great fun last year.

All we need now is you, so a reminder to please like the Facebook page and if possible show you are coming along. If not for Twitter users you can tweet myself @filrd, @redwillowmacc, @thetreacletap, @thewharfmacc, or @tobymckenzie, or why not all of us at once. If none of that is your thing, like the post or comment below. But most of all, please share with your friends and come along for the day, all are welcome to join, itinerary again below with a little slack for walking etc.

*Saturday 13th September 2014*

Treacle Tap – 11am- 12:45

RedWillow Brewery – 12:50-14:45

Wharf 15 -17:15

RedWillow Bar 17-30 – 20:00

20:01 Feel free to circulate and do it all again..

Cheers

Birmingham Beer Bash 2 – Smiley, Happy, People

IMG_9807This weekend saw the second Birmingham Beer Bash come and go at The Bond Co in Digbeth, “Buuurminum”. The sun shone, it was bloody hot (generally) and as per last year, everyone seemed to be having a damn good time.

In another repeat of last year, I looked at the beer list and was muchos excited by what I saw. I made mental “I MUST have that” notes and pretty much ignored them, shambling randomly this way and that, going wherever whim took me next and choosing off the cuff. Hence, I missed out on some of those “must sample” items, but made up for it by trying stuff that perhaps if I’d have been fickle, I may well have ignored or mistakenly avoided.

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The beers themselves were well-kept and set up in a logical way, making it easy to navigate your way around the lists if that was your preference. However, I think its fair to say that the blistering heat played a part in causing issues with both cask and keg, some were tricky to pour with foaming white ice cream cone heads aplenty, you also had to sup them pretty quickly on all counts as if not, they warmed to soup like levels in the glass rapidly. All out of anyones control of course and at the mercy of the Great British weather. Had the fest been indoor and air-conditioned, you’d bet your life it would have poured down all day and been blowing a gale..

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I’m glad to say I didn’t have a bad beer all day, some were better than others of course, but the standard was high throughout. I sampled old favourites from established breweries alongside newer creations, what pleased me most though were some of the beers from the new kids on the block, more rising stars meaning even more choice in the months/years to come.

I made no notes on any of them and to be honest I don’t regret that at all, focussing all my attention on enjoying them taking priority. Thumbing back through the programme, these, in no particular order seem memorable now a few days on. Harbour – Belgian Pale, Hopcraft – Oceanic, Quantum – Stockport Sour, Elusive/Weird Beard – Lord Nelson, Weird Beard – Sadako, OffBeat/Blackjack – Jumping Juniper Rye, Brewfist/De Molen – Beautiful and Strange, Beerd – Razor IPA, Cheshire Brewhouse – Sorachi Ace, Axiom – New Dawn and of course the return of Wild Beer & Co’s Schnoodlepip. All great beers for different reasons and for different times during my two days. No doubt I have forgotten some that were later additions or perhaps your favourites, if so no offence meant, and no matter as on the whole all were enjoyed, so a cheery hats-off to all involved.

IMG_9786The food on offer was top-notch, and seemed to work well. Queues were minimal apart from the wood-fired pizzas on offer from Peel & Stone, which by nature wasn’t an immediate serve option, but managed really well with an “order and come back in ten” approach. For me at least, the pizzas stole the foodie show, and I could have ordered over and over.

IMG_9789So why, “Smiley, Happy, People”?

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Not sure why John is so smiley, his glass is empty!

It may just be the current Commonwealth Games “friendly games” slogan creeping unconsciously into my psyche, it could be the weather and the venue’s outside space using this to advantage, I also know pretty much all of the organising team quite well, which may be making me slightly biased. The reason really isn’t important and most definitely is not a slant on any other festivals either. It seemed though that I was constantly flitting from one friendly conversation to the next, I had some fun, informative, helpful, interesting, hilarious and no doubt bloody daft chats, met old friends and new and I just come away from ‘the bash” feeling really happy. A feeling that sort of radiated around the whole event from start to finish.

Can we do it all again next weekend….please?

Cheers

P.S Some dates for your diary

OffBeat Firsty Friday Festival – 1st – 3rd Aug 2014

Leeds International Beer Fest – 4th – 7th September 2014

Back in Macc – Sept 13th 2014

IndyMan 3 – 9th -12th October 2014

Twissup Macclesfield II – #BackInMacc

twissupA date for your beer diary, at last, after much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth, we finally have a date that fits the bill.

After last years event I had no idea that we’d be “Back In Macc” (hashtag alert). #Twissups don’t tend to be annual, they are usually wild sporadic beasts that pop up, create a fuss and are gone before you know it, at least for a year or two. However, the feedback from last year was ace, people have asked if I can pull another together and the venues seem game, so hey, let’s do this thing!

The aim will be to try and improve a little on last year, but keep the format similar. A group of great venues within a short walking distance of the train station each with some hand-picked beers for your delight. A brewery visit to Red Willow and all the joys that such visitations bring, plus, if all goes to plan, at least one completely new beer at each place we visit, hopefully with brewer/s in tow, and of course a selection of quality munchies to mop up some of the many beverages consumed.

That is the plan at least, it’s tough, but there’s only one way to find out if I manage it, turn up.

September 13th is so far away though, why wait so long I hear you ask?

Well it’s a number of things really, the first is time. Ask anyone who’s pulled together anything like the above and they will tell you it doesn’t happen over night. Then there are dates that clash all over the place. Last years date for example was scuppered by both an extended Barnaby Festival (a local Macclesfield event) and the European Beer Bloggers Conference, excluding lots of potential attendees. Of the other three potential dates, two clashed with large “craft” beer festivals in Leeds and Liverpool, the other was just too short notice to make it viable. On top of all that, August was pretty much wiped out by some of our protagonists taking three week well earned holiday.

In short, the next five months are just a bit mental, it also gives you all plenty of time to plan ahead..

As usual, more info will be posted up here as and when things develop, please share this post register your interest in comments or via Twitter.

(Read more about last years event here and here, there are lots more too, just follow the links on the pages)

Join the Facebook Page too, there you can get easy access to last years updates and chat to each other and social-mediarise or sammink!

Cheers all

Memories 

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