First off I have to give a massive thanks to Connor Murphy for putting on such a fantastic event. When I first heard about Manchester Beer Week I thought it would be great to have a little Manchester-centric event in the summer celebrating our love of beer. What we actually got was a monstrous festival of beer filled with Talks, Tap Takeovers, Meet The Brewers, Beer Pairings, Collaborations, Pub Quizzes and finishing off with the Homebrew Expo put together by Manchester Homebrew and Beer Nouveau. Connor worked hard to get the support and backing of local breweries and venues. His tenacity and drive to make Manchester Beer Week such a success will never been exceeded in my opinion.
I started planning as the events were being announced and as it drew closer I realised I didn’t have much time to get to many of the events. Both weekends were already filled with plans and I couldn’t be in two places at once. I attended my first event on the Tuesday and all of a sudden it was Sunday; apart from working and sleeping I’d been drinking all week. A feeling that would culminate in what I will forever refer to as Copenhagen Beer Syndrome; when your body says “you need a break…” and your mind says “There’s no way you’re missing out!”
On the Tuesday I attended the Chorlton Brewers Association meeting at The Font, Chorlton where Dom and James from Thornbridge were over to judge our homebrew competition. On the Monday, the Thornbridge team had been tasting our beers, scoring them and noting down constructive feedback. Whilst my Sorachi Ace Black IPA fell short, the Chocolate Rye Porter aged on Dark Rum soaked cacao nibs I’d produced made it to the final round, narrowly missing out on the top spot.
The Power of Yeast event at Brewdog Manchester on the Wednesday saw four local breweries; Torrside, Thirst Class, Tickety Brew and Runaway, brewing almost identical beers but each using a different yeast strain for fermentation. Whilst it was obvious that we’d have four very different beers in the end, Rob Percival of Lallemand and the brewers presenting their beers gave fantastic, informative talks that kept the attention of all; from the novices to the other expert brewers in the audience. As someone who brews at home I felt this would be interesting and useful to me personally in honing my craft. It didn’t disappoint.
EDIT: this was the first of 3 days I spent with beer blogger Mark Johnson. He was a delight to be around and his attempts to get me into Taylor Swift were endearing.
Cloudwater are currently the brewery on everyone’s lips and have been since their launch in early 2015. Like with every new venture they’ve had their hurdles to overcome and they’ve had the cynics picking fault with the beers and the Cloudwater ethos. In my opinion, it’s not only the quality of the beer that speaks volumes for the brewery but also the excitement they invoke with their ranges and the passion in which they talk about their past, their present and their future plans. If you have ever had the pleasure of listening to Paul Jones talk about Cloudwater you will feel it too.
Thursday involved me leaving work early to get down to Cloudwater’s Barrel Store on Sheffield Street, under Piccadilly Train Station. Ever since their inception there has been talk of the barrel store and this was one of the first opportunities to step inside and picture the extent of the project. The arch was full of barrels, side by side on the floor, all labelled up with the beer that’s in them now and evidence of their previous contents. There were red wine and white wine barrels, bourbon whiskey, islay whisky, rum, sherry and more.
A Red Wine BA version of their Burning Sky collaboration was the first beer we tried and it tasted superb; a rich vinous flavour with a touch of bretty funk in the background. A selection of Imperial stouts in various barrels followed plus a Rum BA version of their Custard Porter produced with Brouwerij Kees. The sweet rum making it taste even more custard-like. The final beer was a Bourbon BA Tripel; a style that’s never been one to draw me in as such, but this tasted fantastic. Sweetness from the bourbon oak barrel interwoven with hints of herb and spice culminated in a superb dry finish.
The event was a joy and it was a privilege to be part of the small groups of people getting to try these beers first. I look forward to trying them from the bottle.
On to the Friday night and it was time for the Post Craft/Post Punk event; could I possibly keep drinking after 3 nights on the bounce? Of course I could! I love Post Punk music. I grew up being forced to listen to punk music and then when I joined my first band, a heavily post punk influenced band from Blackpool, it became my favourite music genre; heading to Jenx in Blackpool every Friday to listen to Joy Division, The Cure and more. I’d read about Matt Curtis’ music nights and always wanted to go but getting down to London for it would never have been quite feasible. When I found out the event was happening at The Beermoth in Manchester I must have been at the front of the queue. I thought the idea was great; the beer would be excellent; the music would be perfect; and Matt is always a joy to listen to.
The basement was a perfect setting for listening to tracks from The Chameleons, The Sound, Echo and the Bunnymen whilst enjoying beers selected from The Beermoth’s extensive collection. As we enjoyed the beers a track would be played of which Matt would compare the band to a brewery in terms of their rise to fame, their consistency and through his own personal opinion. Cloudwater and Magic Rock’s Three’s Company collaboration stole the show with its big, juicy hop profile and peachy yeast . My wife, usually a hardened gin drinker, even went and treated herself to few bottles of this from the shop upstairs; possibly the first time she has spent more on beer than I have! But I was extremely impressed by Northern Monk’s XXXXX. I had it during the release at Indy Man Beer Con and it fell flat with me but from the bottle this evening all that blending had formed a silky smooth imperial stout with well-balanced chocolate, roast, sweetness and peaty smoke.
Sandwiched in between Friday and Sunday was a wedding reception back in Blackpool. Would the drinking ever cease!? Pre-drinks at No.10 Ale House meant I didn’t have to breakaway from “beer” week though…
On a personal level the last Sunday of Manchester Beer Week was my favourite day. I was attending the Homebrew Expo organised by Manchester Homebrew and Beer Nouveau, taking a few of my own creations down. The expo involved local homebrewers serving their beer to the public (free of charge…) in order to dispel the myth that homebrew is cheap, boring and does bad things to your insides. It got busy rather quickly and many of the attendees spent time talking to the homebrewers asking about their motivation, their ideas and complimenting the beers on offer. Feedback cards were handed out so the beers could be scored by the drinker and put in a ballot for counting out at the end of the day in order to announce a winner for “Best in Show”.
My latest brew, a Double IPA filled with handfuls of juicy American hops, came in 2nd place and I couldn’t have been more surprised… And then, as the shock of coming second settled in, Steve from Beer Nouveau announced that not only did my DIPA come in 2nd place but my Bretted Sorachi Ace Black IPA took 1st prize. Originally a Sorachi Ace Black IPA that was fermented further with brettanomyces strains from two Crooked Stave beers adding funk and sweetness to this hoppy IPA.
After 2 years of hard work developing my skills and experimenting with my brewing I’d finally achieved recognition not only from my friends and family but members of the public. Members of the public who enjoyed my beers, took interest in my projects and listened to my ideas for the present and the future. This victory was made even sweeter by being part of what we all hope will be the start of an annual Manchester Beer Week event.
Thank you again to Connor and all the people involved in such a fantastic event. I can’t wait until next year!