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

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Birmingham Beer Bash, the absolute Shnoodlepip!

Shnoodlepip – Urban Dictionary
British slang replacing every word for something good.
Can be an adjective or noun or title depending on use.
1. Goodbye my lil’ shnoodlepip (My awesome kickass friend)
2. That’s THE shnoodlepip (That’s the bomb/shit)
3. Fuck that was shnoodlepippin epic! (So god damn overly amazingly awesomely epic)

Well, that was a shnoodlepippin weekend and a half to quote description three, apart from anything else I learned something, a new word that may or may not ever make it to the Oxford English dictionary (I suspect not)..

After a whole load of hullabaloo those crazy Brummies (and temporary honorary Brummies) only went and pulled it off and in some style too!

I have to confess after trudging for what seemed hours but in fact was minutes through the blazing summer heat of sub-tropical Digbeth, I was a little concerned. There didn’t I thought, look much on the beer front (EEEK!)… Would there be enough to last, more importantly would there be enough variety to keep the beer hungry geekdom happy? YES, how wrong was I, words I am incredibly happy to write here now.

IMG_6649IMG_6638The Bond venue worked really well, several rooms spread around a central courtyard which, for the majority of the two days was basking in the hot summer sunshine. Although it was fantastic to have the weather on our side it did have it’s downside, none of which any organiser could have planned for, in that the indoors areas did get a little warm. Better that than too cold any day in my book and more importantly had no effects on the beer, even the cask beer remaining really cool and in fantastic nick throughout which is testament to the hard work of the festival bar management staff.

IMG_6651 IMG_6653IMG_6658The food stalls that dominated the courtyard were excellent and had minimal queuing which was nice. I tried the Italian sausages from Squisito Deli including one which was made with beer especially for the day, I can’t tell you much more about that other than it was delicious. Then there was the incredible bread and cakes from Stirchley’s “Loaf”, the bread being made with Kernel porter if memory serves, whatever it was it bloody well worked and I loved it. Pop Up Dosa finished Friday’s line up with Southern Indian street cuisine, which I didn’t try, but heard lots of praise from folks who did.

On Saturday we had an additional food outlet arrive, Original Patty Men, serving the most incredible (filthiest) burgers I have ever seen with immaculate attention to detail.

IMG_6639The bars were well spread and skilfully manned by volunteer brewers and beer lovers alike all giving up valuable time and I never waited more than a minute or so to be served, in fact half the time it was the opposite and I hadn’t made up my mind in time and was offered “assistance.” Hats off to all the brewers, guest speakers and brewery staff that attended and helped out, milled, chatted etc as everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there and keen to engage in conversation, share beers, blend and generally go daft.

Then there were the punters, you guys, me, that other bloke you remember speaking to, the lady with the hat, etc etc, what a great crowd.

9rlfhvIt was almost impossible to cross the room without having three or four conversations however brief or convoluted. I met so many friends old and new over the IMG_6663weekend, some who I’ve known for years via social media, but until the weekend our paths had never crossed.

This included among many others Nate Southwood, who greeted me with an instantaneous “outpouring” of happy joy with an enthusiastic hug, with such gusto that he also had an outpouring of a rather expensive/rare imperial stout.. 😉

Beer, that’s the important bit right? It was goooood.. Despite my initial reservations the beer list was wide, varied and bloody amazing. I spent five an a half hours there on the Friday alone and still came away thinking “damn, I didn’t get to try that” which is how it should be at such an event, although clearly there’s nothing wrong with going back over old ground either in returning to something incredibly enjoyable.

IMG_6655Although too many to mention I’d give an honourable shout out to Buxton for Jacobs Ladder at 2.7% and still tasting great, Durham for the extra fiery Hellfire, Liverpool Craft for White Fox, a beer I’d tried and not liked that much before but changed my mind completely and the always crazy OffBeat Dotty, which by Michelle’s beaming glow she was very happy with.

IMG_6637On the new brewery front I am ecstatic to say that Northern Monk Brew “New World IPA” was right up there with the best in my estimation and very quickly sold out, even more tasty on keg than I remember from the last bottle I tried. Two more new boys for me were Compass Brewery with “Berry” (sour) which was a real beauty and Hopcraft “Statement Of Intent” an English IPA that I could drink lots and lots of…

My top three, in third place Arbor/Moor collaboration “Double Dark Alliance” a luxurious imperial stout that literally coated your innards with cockle-warming chococoffee loveliness, perfect for a hot summers afternoon…. Who cares I still had another

In joint second place, was Weird Beard “Amarillo Belgian IPA” AND strangely, the Weird Beard/Northern Monk Brew collaboration “Bad Habit”. This after a long hard deliberation with Gregg Irwin (one half of the beardies) and a side by side taste off where we both tried to convince each other that our own personal favourite was tops. In the end, the only fair result is a draw.

IMG_6656Finally “the absolute bomb”, “the shit” “my awesome kickass friends” in first place on my list was Shnoodlepip.

20130724-095219After sampling two or three glasses of this over two days I still have no idea what this beer is, in which style pocket it should sit, and even today after reading up on it from the Wild Beer Co website I still don’t, and nor do I care. What I do care about is how outstandingly good it is/was and it’s of no surprise to me that it sold out, TWICE!

It smelled incredible with a sort of Rhubarb Crumble meets Gooseberry sour mash-up going on although neither actually feature in reality. The fruit-fest continued in the mouth which was full of refreshing tangy juiciness, followed by a spicy slightly acidic kick at the finish. As you can read here, this was another collaboration beer brewed with the help of Good George and Burning Sky, but for me demonstrates how exceptionally well Wild Beer have done in the last year, with the superb Ninkasi being another fine example at the beer bash.

In my pre-fest post I talked about the crew that had put this wonderful event together, their worries and fears, my hopes for their success. I was right on both counts in that my confidence in them to pull it off was well founded and that clearly it had been a bit of a ride. Emotions were running incredibly high all weekend, thinking back to two tried and failed attempts to speak to Dave “OthertonAleMan” Shipman, who on both occasions had to walk away for fear of bursting into floods of happy/relieved tears. I’m very glad he did as it happens, as I’d most likely have joined him….

IMG_6661Thank you all my lil’ shnoodlepips, you are all ass kickingly amazeballs!

Check out my good friend and consummate beer professional’s version of events right HERE