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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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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The Art of Beer – Rob Pointon at The Bulls Head

IMG_8740I don’t tend to do event plugs on here (as stand alone posts at least), but this one is a little different as it features something that has both happened and is yet to be. It features many people I know well, and sees a guest appearance of my own best doggie pal Maggie.

Sporadically over the last few weeks, my local pub The Bulls Head in Burslem, has paid host to artist Rob Pointon as he painted a scene perhaps typical to most people reading this, the inside of a pub, or maybe more importantly, warm daily pub life.

Rob set up his easel over several nights and it was absolutely fascinating to watch him build up the scene on canvas, a living picture you were part of. Starting with blocks of shaded colour, familiar faces and objects began to take shape gradually over time, before fine details were committed to history with an almost casual looking, but ultimately accurate flick of Robs brush, bringing them to life before our eyes.

The finished work is set to feature in an exhibition at the Bare Wall gallery in Burslem, showcasing art from the Potteries and North Wales. The event details are below, if you are in the area, make sure to call in.

Cheers

http://www.robpointon.co.uk/home 

Rob, signs the finished masterpiece.

Rob, signs the finished masterpiece.

POINTON

An exhibition of new work featuring The Potteries and North Wales.

Saturday 29th March 2014 until Saturday 5th April 2014

Barewall Studio, 2-4 Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 4AT.

You've been framed! (Thanks to Jim at the Bulls head for the pic)

You’ve been framed! (Thanks to Jim at the Bulls head for the pic)

 

 

 

#TheSession 61 – Down My Local

This months tenure of #TheSession sits with the Hoosier Beer Geek. He asks us to talk about local beer, why is local beer important, specifically what if anything makes it better?

Anything for me is better if it has a local connection so that’s a good start. In other areas of my life personally when considering purchases local means a great deal, I love locally produce and will pay over the odds to get it. It’s fresher and just feels better if you know the area or even the producer who made the product.

In complete contrast, living in The Potteries I recall trying to by a locally produced dinner service, nothing fancy you understand just day-to-day eating ware. The only pre requisite being that it had to have been manufactured in Staffordshire or at least England. You would not believe how difficult that was… So how do those ideals/examples translate in the beer world, well in my case at least unnervingly close as it happens.

Local people reading my blog of late could be forgiven for thinking that I’m pretty anti local. After all I’m always harping on about “craft this and fancy foreign import that”, “local pubs are boring, where’s the exciting new beer on keg” etc etc etc.. In truth some of that may be true, as I love trying new beers in what ever guise they present themselves, but that goes for local too.

Most folk I suspect have a local brewery be that large or small, that churns out a bog standard “easy drinking” range aimed at the mass market one beer session drinker and it’s all too easy to dismiss one of these beer brands based on a bad experience. I am a firm believer though that most of them if not all have at least one or more little gem, a beer that stands out from the rest and deserves a try.

At the other end of the spectrum there are some local breweries that have fantastically exciting sounding beers, beers that I hear great things about that never see the light of day in these parts, despite being “local”. We get beers from Wales, Scotland and the far reaches of England too but it seems Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire are a no-no. Having discussed this with a few local brewers I was quite startled to learn about how hard it is to get their beers in “local” pubs and shops. Some of the stories of rejection I heard were farcical to say the least, I just don’t understand it, whatever happened to food and drink miles?

Both of these examples spawned an idea which is quite aptly linked to this months topic and to The Session generally.

Why not start a monthly or quarterly blogging topic on local beers to raise the profile of both camps where ever they may be, open to all and published in the same sort of way. I know that this is perhaps most appropriate to UK based bloggers but not prohibitively so and could serve as a sort of reference point to the best beer an area or brewery has to offer where you live.

This could tie in well with some of the work being done by quite a few UK bloggers, who are leading by example and getting hands on in their local CAMRA branch meetings. These guys instead of criticising perceived CAMRA failings, are getting actively involved and putting new opinions across, assisting positive change from within if you like. After all sharing information about the best beers your area has to offer must play a massive part.

What do you think, worth doing as a Session style collective or more of a one man band show?

Big thanks to Matt for hosting this month.

Cheers

What makes a great beer city?

Following on from my post about the lack of availability of British keg beers other than the normal run of the mill bar toppers. Quite a few folks mentioned that they wouldn’t like to see the decline of cask ales in favour of keg. That is exactly how I feel, I don’t want to see one replacing the other, on the contrary they compliment each other, it’s great to see how one stacks up against the other and can be a welcome distraction when all across the bar is boring, bland or even too warm for the weather.

Take Magic Rock High Wire as an example. I was lucky enough to be at one of the first launch events last year, High Wire was there on cask and was an absolute stunner. However the next time I got to taste it other than in bottled form was at the meet the brewer event at Port Street Beer House, on keg, the environment was warm and humid the beer lightly chilled with that extra kick of carbonation and it just sang. I said then that I’d like to see that on bars across the country as a real alternative to mainstream continental beers.

It extends further than keg though as even the rising brewing stars of cask seem to be largely passing us by here in the Potteries. Take Buxton Brewery as a classic example, widely regarded as one of the UK’s most exciting newish breweries, SIBA award winners and only 20 miles away. To date Stoke beer festival aside I’ve seen their beer here once and heard about it again in the singular, why?

Take a look at the Tweet below from serial beer traveller @6TownsMart, he’s talking to @kempicus, head brewer from Buxton Brewery:

It’s bonkers, Axe Edge one of if not the best beer from Buxton gracing the walls of one of London’s finest beer pubs as their beer of the year, yet I’ve never seen it personally in Staffordshire (although rumour has it that it once graced the pumps of The Congress, CAMRA Staffs pub of the year 2011).

I mentioned in my last post “forward thinking beer centric cities”, what I meant by that was a city or town that really seems to embrace new and exciting beer. Places like Craft, Mr Foleys, Port Street and The Grove exist and brewers are queuing up to showcase their new beer launches there.

Stoke does not seem to want to fall into that category and in my opinion we are as far from it as supping space beer in capsulated form at the far side of Cygnus X1.

It seems though we are not alone, even in the UK’s much debated second city things are seemingly similar as detailed in this post from Otherton Ales, “Where is the Birmingham Tap“. I’d sort of decided not to post this until I read about the similar plight in Brum. What is most annoying about that, is we are a city of beer drinkers, we have some great breweries and fantastic pubs in and around the Stoke area, with Buxton, Macclesfield, Burton, Shropshire, Stone, Cheshire etc all no more than about 30 miles away.

So I ask again why, is it the publicans, the breweries or the general supply chain, there are a few exceptions to the rule who manage to get the odd gem, so clearly it is possible?

Surely it’s not because the drinkers of Stoke are not interested in trying anything new, perhaps the local CAMRA guys can shed some light on that?

Why does one area thrive, whilst another seems happy to plod along ordering what they have always ordered because it sells, how long can that last??

I look at places like Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle Upon Tyne and am at times green with envy, meet the brewer events, home brew and bottle share meets and Leeds even bagged the European Beer Bloggers conference.. I can hear the crescendo of local voices saying “sod bloody off and live there then“, (don’t be like that). Yes it’s a whinge but I only want those things here because I’ve experienced them first hand and believe me, they are good.

The Saggar Maker Public House, Burslem by Steven Birks

Sadly, locally in the Mother Town we have seen the sad demise of many good pubs in recent years (although I hasten to add we still have some excellent ones) many have closed their doors forever and we now have perhaps only a handful of places where you are guaranteed a decent pint of cask beer in pleasant surroundings.

Sadder still is the fact that by far the busiest pub in town is The Saggar Makers, owned by the Last Orders chain and there’s not a pint of real ale to be seen.

Is that how you want your local drinking town to turn out?

I know I certainly don’t and I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to highlight anything and everything new and exciting to my local publicans. After all I want them to thrive, to grow and maybe be the catalyst to drive more folks away from supermarkets and back into the pubs of The Potteries and a city near you.

Vive la Révolution, sadly it’s not reached us yet?

I was going to use “Brewdog Stoke” as the title of this post, in fact I may still list it as a tag to see how much the search term is used out of interest. This was to try and gauge how many people particularly from the Stoke and surrounding areas would sit up and take notice if that started popping up on twitter, Facebook and Google search results. Craft keg, in Stoke, surely not?

Instead I used a quote or a slightly amended Twitter quote from James at Summer Wine Brewery:

This was my tongue in cheek response:

People who know me may be puzzled by my reply as they know that I love Belgian beer, in fact it was my love of their fine brews that ultimately led me to start blogging. The thing is though I am not against Belgian beer on keg, I embrace it with open arms as it deserves a place on British bars, I love to drink it and I’m sure James does too. What riles me though is the general reluctance in all but the most fashionable bars in beer centric drinking cities to put British beer on a keg line which I’m sure forms the basis of James’s point.

Can I just say here that this is not an intent to start the craft keg v cask debate again, far from it. CAMRA seem to be now at least openly considering the possibility of change in response to its increasing popularity (as written here by Tandleman). As a CAMRA member myself I obviously love cask real ale, I’d just like the opportunity to choose now and then but not have to travel 50 miles in order to make that choice.

Locally to me almost every decent pub has keg lines, I mean proper premium keg lines not those spewing out “beverages” at £1.50 a pint. We get Leffe, Staropramen, Timmermans, Blanche De Bruxelles, Babar, Budvar, St Feuillien, Gouden Carolus etc etc, I could go on and some would say we do pretty well, I’d have to agree but “why no British craft keg“!

Some of the best beer I’ve had this year was kegged, Magic Rock “High Wire”, Summer Wine’s Cohort and Saison series, Brewdog 5AM Saint and Kernel IPA all stand out as exceptional easy drinking and full flavoured beers that would shake some pubs to their very core, maybe even convert the odd lager lout along the way.

Of course I’m generalising here and speaking as it feels personally from my own back yard. We have several pubs in these parts that could bite the bullet and give it a try but seemingly won’t or can’t. I have asked the question on several occasions with varying responses, “it’s too expensive”, “people wouldn’t drink it”, “it’s not available to us”. Well it should be, make it your business to get it and stand out from a crowd as being the first, how do you know people won’t drink  it if they’ve never had the opportunity?? “Stock it, people will come…”

What’s it like where you live, do you have a choice? Is it always imports or are you one of the lucky ones who gets worldwide keg including those from our own shores?   

If you are one of the latter I’d love to hear how it all started for you and how it went down initially, it may come in useful in converting more folks in the area.

We need a craft beer truck, touring the UK bring new and exciting beers in keg bottles and of course cask to cities and towns across the country. It would be like that famous Coca Cola commercial that everyone comments on in early December. You’d first see it coming around the corner “Craft on Tour” in flashing neon and instantly get that warm feeling inside, Christmas has come early…

Vive la Révolution 😉