#ISBF6 Brewday 3 - Five Towns Brewery : Brewing With Friends

Some brewdays feel like coming home….


It has been said before. When the first tweet referencing ISBF was sent, the first brewer to respond was Malcolm Bastow (of Five Towns Brewery). With the acronym (or at least I THINK it was an acronym) BOGOF.

As a consequence, over the last five years, it has become tradition to brew in that little Wakefield “garage”. To do something a bit…. silly. And tasty. We’ve done a Peach & Mango IPA (Art Decade), a Cognac infused Raisin Coffee Stout (Secret Life of Arabica), a Rhubarb Belgian Tripel fermented with yeast from Brasserie Orval (Always Crashing In The Same Car) and a HUGE Breakfast Stout (Candidate). And if you know your music, you will spot the theme….We’re both huge fans of David Bowie.


I like getting people involved in brewdays. Getting people to see the process of turning dry grain into something so tasty. And special. Something to marvel at. Goggle eyed. “How did they do THAT?”

And I had a LOT of offers to come to Outwood. To brew in this garage. This little slice of heaven that has produced the Beer of the Festival FOUR times out of the five years we've been around.

Think about that.

So at 7am, both myself & Steve (aka the Karkli Sherpa) were in the rear garden of this Outwood residence. Drooling in anticipation.


His willingness to play and try something - at being open to suggestion - has meant that there has been a guarantee of something “impactful” at this event. And it's testament to his skills that - even with beers from many of the most revered breweries in the country - his beers have been the most popular, year after year. With one exception (more about THAT next month!)

He also likes BIG beers. Session beers aren't really his “thing”. So when I suggested the beer style for today, he was all ears….


My thinking was two fold. Bold abv (Malcolm's thing) married with my personal favourite beer style. An American Brown Ale. Big. Hoppy. Earthy and Biscuity. All the yum. In one glass.


If you've taken part in a brewday, you'll know what comes next. Mashing in. Transfer to copper. Hop additions. Transfer to fv. Etc…

Five Towns is small. 2.5bbl. Which means - ordinarily - 10 casks. Maximum. But this brew will only yield 6 (and one of those is ours). This size gives considerable flexibility. And - owing to his reputation for excellence - you can guarantee that these are pre-sold pretty much.


So. What's coming. From this little garage of delights?

Panic In Detroit”. A 7% (or thereabouts) American Brown. Late hopped with lots of lovely Mosaic, Cascade & Citra and dry hopped in the fermenter with more Mosaic, Citra and Cashmere.

If the smells in the brewery are anything to go by, it will be a rather special earthy, biscuity hoppy thing.

Just what this particular Doctor ordered.

If you need to ask where you'll get to try this first, they you haven't been to ISBF before! 😂

Here. Of course. On Halloween.

Come and join us. Tickets here. Trust me, there are more, simply exceptional brewdays coming up!

Back soon.

Be kind to one another.

Jim x

Orchard Bliss - A Day At & With Ross Cider & Perry

Some days are just….. special.


I have written (and spoken at length) of my respect for two people I met for the first time only last December - Dick Withecombe and Cath Potter. They opened my eyes to modern traditionally made cider. And more.

Some time ago, they invited me to a Mcr Cider Club event. Introducing Albert Johnson from Ross Cider. And an idea was born. For something - for ISBF - truly special.

I (Jim) an incredibly careful with words. I mean every word I say. I've been lucky enough, over the last few years, to help create some simply fabulous beers and meet some wonderful, generous people.

But I genuinely don't think that I've been more excited than when I was asked if I'd like to come down to Broome Farm. The home of Ross Cider.


Arriving early - following a surprisingly short journey - we walked from the family pub with Albert and the Canine superstar that is Norman. It didn't take long to reach a Cider lovers heaven on earth. Picturesque row after picturesque row of apples and pears.

Pic courtesy Jaz

Pic courtesy Jaz

Walking past some of the most beautiful scenery - including 2 Alpacas - and via some simply idyllic camping pitches, we arrived at the business end of the Cidery. And following the collection of a vast amount of windfall fruit, it was busy, busy, busy….


To watch the joyful “all hands to the pump” activity was a total bonus and privilege. Witnessing the making of the raw juice from collection through washing and milling to pressing the milled fruit to juice was a little piece of heaven.

We even got to taste some freshly pressed juice…


Talking with Mike (Albert's dad) and John, it was clear to see that this isn't a job. It's a passion. As was evidenced by Mike later.

Cider making was going on apace, so we made arrangements - with a very busy Albert - to scoot for a visit to Hereford and come back later for the “onerous” task of tasting. And Blending. This being serious #ISBF6 business after all!

We took two of Albert's recommendations on board. Visiting the Cider Museum and the rather special Hereford Beer House.

Pretty Green….

Pretty Green….





Juice press…

Juice press…

Hereford Beer House

Hereford Beer House

The Cider Museum was fascinating. And - and I almost choke saying this - credit to Heineken (owners of Bulmers) for keeping this going. But, on finishing the tour, it kind of made me think of a time long lost to industrial production.

But not totally.

Didn't take photos at Hereford Beer House, but if you are even close to Hereford, it's an essential visit. Seriously good beer (including a superb Pale made by themselves (as “After The Harvest”) and a total commitment to quality, to the extent of building their own “direct draw” cold room.

I'll be back.

Grafting trees

Grafting trees

Returning to the farm - via a swift half at The Yew Tree - and with Albert busy with a group tour, Mike showed us around the Orchards and introduced us to grafting new trees to enable (eventual) greater supply of certain apple varieties.

The trees were heavy with fruit and it was explained that with the way Ross Cider maintain their orchards with minimum intervention (think zero pesticides and letting the trees and nature do their thing) that there are “On” years (plentiful harvest) and “Off” years (where the trees take a breather and produce less fruit)

Pic courtesy Jaz

Pic courtesy Jaz

A successful graft (check the trunk bulge about half way up)

A successful graft (check the trunk bulge about half way up)

The passion that Mike has for what Ross do was evident. I could have cheerfully listened for hours about how they work with - rather than against - nature. Remember, no chemical intervention.

However, we had tasting to do. And more fun to have. As I discovered…

THAT particular Cider may be the most delicious thing I'll taste all year. I was smitten.

THAT particular Cider may be the most delicious thing I'll taste all year. I was smitten.

As you would expect, the tasting was “hard work”. And I worked hard. Along with the rest of the team. Dedicated to getting something just right. We sampled, sampled and sampled again. It was “torture”. Pomona was smiling down at us at our heroic efforts.

But eventually, finally, after a Herculean effort, we came to a decision that all were happy with.

And a blend that we are proud to launch at Hemsley House. For which we can't thank Mike, Albert and the rest of the team at Ross Cider enough. I mean that. Both myself and Jaz were a bit overwhelmed and felt privileged to be involved in this creative process.


Retiring to The Yew Tree, after a pin sharp pint of Jarl, we set about more “research”. Delicious, tasty research.

That Raison D'etre is, quite simply, stunning. And I say that without fear or favour.

We drank. The Ciders were delicious. I had to give in to the “psychological torture”. I'm a convert. I adore Cider. It's all Dick & Cath's fault. And Albert Johnson's.

Seriously, this has been my favourite thing that I've been involved with during the whole six years of ISBF. It was simply wonderful. To watch a family company, with passion, turn untouched fruit into such lovely liquid just blew me away.

Albert, Mike, Martin, John, Bob (and all those whose name escapes this terrible memory) depthless gratitude. I simply don't know what else to say.

Dick & Cath - thank you so much for the introduction. And for making this possible.

Albert and Rebecca, thank you so much for putting up with us!


Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Jaz and I departed The Yew Tree with bounteous bottles of Ciders and Perries and one shared thought.

“Can't wait to try that Blend!”

If you haven't already got yours, tickets (Thursday evening, Friday & Saturday evening only) still available. But not for long. Click here

Back soon - Brewing tomorrow. With 4x Beer of the Festival winner Five Towns…..

Be kind to one another.

Jim x

#ISBF6 Brewday No 2 - The Arch Nemesis and Beer Nouveau

The prologue is mine (Jim) The brewday is not. That is written by a dear friend.

Read on.

It is a little known* historical fact that this event is in its 6th year.

*I witter about it constantly

But what is less known is that without one particular person, this event would never have happened. His name? Christopher Jazwinski. The man who inspired me to write about beer, without which I'd never have been approached to do a beer festival to raise money.

In short, without him, you don't have ISBF.

So it's his fault.

I've known Jaz (as everyone knows him) for almost 40 years and he knows his beer. And he has some personal favourites - mostly unsung. That's his nature. And he's a big fan of Beer Nouveau. And the culture being cultivated and nurtured at that small brewery and taproom by the owners, Steve and Lesley.

Steve has a playful streak with flavours, but has his beer sensibility rooted in historical beer styles with a dedicated and growing fanbase for his efforts. And he is a big supporter of this event. For which we are hugely grateful.

At the start of all preparations, I (Jim) invite friends of the event to choose a must have brewery. Jaz's response was no surprise.

So, over to the Arch-Nemesis himself….

The day started with a sharpish downpour. But nothing was stopping me from getting to the brewery for a 10am start.

Properly attired.

Oh. My. Days. An original ISBF1 t-shirt! A rarity!!!

Oh. My. Days. An original ISBF1 t-shirt! A rarity!!!

Steve was already working on the recipe for today's beer and today we were being joined by the beers sponsor Paul Boardman (Twitter @paboardman).

Paul is also into homebrew so was looking forward to the day & picking up a few tips.

The day started by weighing out the malt.

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Paul doing most of the labouring. (Because Jaz is a lazy git! Ed) Next as the water was up to temperature the malt was added to the mash tun

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Now as the wort was getting to work a few light libations were taken. And a good chat.

(And some STRONG retro glassware game! Ed…)

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Hops were weighed out and added to the boil. While this brewed a few more beers tasted. And a good laugh. Talks of Oktoberfest in Manchester were discussed.

Prior the transfer to the kettle, a taste of the sweet liquor was tried by all of us, and tasted great.

(That colour tho……. MmmmMmmmmMmmmm…… Ed)

(That colour tho……. MmmmMmmmmMmmmm…… Ed)

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(Hardly the most strenuous dig out there Paul - Ed 😁)

(Hardly the most strenuous dig out there Paul - Ed 😁)

Again Paul got to do the majority of the labouring. (“Labouring”? Ed 😂😂😂)

Finally the beer was transferred to the conditioning tank and it was time to go.

Leaving the brewery at 7pm straight into another downpour. So a trip to Beatniks for a few beers before going home after a great day out.

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So what did we brew? Well, the original idea was a pale mild with thyme. But this was probably rightly abandoned. it's a tradition dark mild with a possible abv of 5 to 6%.

Will be on cask at ISBF6. Tickets on sale now (and only 3 sessions still available + tickets here. Thanks to Steve for agreeing to do this brew and Paul for assisting and more importantly sponsoring this beer.

(Milds are a rarity in winter. And we haven't had one for 3 years. I couldn't be happier! Ed)

Cheers Jaz and huge thanks to Steve and to Paul for sponsoring this beer.

This marks the start of the #ISBF6 “Collab Season”. Next brewday in a little over a week - with a super special update on something even more exciting (to me at any rate) coming soon.

Think apples…..

Back soon.

Be kind to one another. Jim x

A MTB Out of Left Field

Sometimes, in beer, you meet someone who is a bit….. different.


Some years ago, whilst on one of my favourite event (The Road To Wigan Beer), I was at the first pub. And I had a pint of Mild. Not just any Mild. It was a Coffee and Pecan Mild. It was utterly delicious. It challenged me to rethink what a Mild could be. It was my favourite beer of the day.

It was brewed by a little brewery in Peterborough. Called Bexar County. And that beer stayed with me.

Then, in Year 3 (or #ISBF3), we had a keg bar. That meant that I could obtain beer from outside my self-imposed boundary. Outside the North. And I contacted Steve Saldana the owner/brewer at Bexar County. He sent a beer. It was called “The Thin Line Between Genius & Insanity”. It was a “Soured Milk Neapolitan Ale” and described by Steve as tasting like layers of Neapolitan Ice Cream, sour.

It was a work of genius. Bonkers. But genius.

I was a fan. A huge fan.

And since then, we've always had a Bexar County beer. Last year, we actually had 2. One of which was my personal Beer of the Festival


Steve is a maverick genius. He plays with flavours. He does things not many Brewers would DARE to think about, let alone try.

Last year's beer for ISBF was no different.

I went to help. And not long after mashing in, found myself in a nearby wholesalers. Shopping for Sriracha Sauce.


Pale malt. Sparged with a brew of Green Tea, with mango. And that Sriracha sauce…..It sounded ridiculous. But tasted of each of those elements. Precisely as he said it would. He’s either that maverick genius, or a hypnotist.


In short, I’m a bit of a fan.

So. We had a bit of a real chat the other evening. Like on a phone. With voices and stuff. I’m a bit old fashioned like that.

This year, Steve is going to launch 3 beers at ISBF. 2 Imperial Stouts (one of them Belgian) and one of more “regular strength”. I have absolutely no doubt that there will be further twists. Mr Saldana seems to have an allergy regarding “normal” beers.

He has also agreed to do an MTB style event. On the Friday lunch session. Steve is one of the nicest beer people I know. Passionate, bloody clever and did I say slightly bonkers with his beers?

There'll be tastings, there'll be chat. There'll be fun. To be honest, I’m not altogether certain of what to expect. But I know one thing.

It certainly won’t be boring!

You might want to grab a ticket. Here’s the link.

Back soon,

Be kind to one another. Jx

Solving a Problem

Hello again!

I didn’t think I’d be back so soon, but there’s been a little something that I forgot to address in the launch post that needed dealing with.

To give it a name, let’s call it FOMO. Something that I don’t suffer, personally.

I *may* have mentioned previously that this event is now in its 6th year. And for the first 4 of those years the beer volume walked a tight line. I made statements in the lead up to each of those events to the effect that I’d try to ensure that ALL beers would be available until the Saturday opening at least.

With a single exception (in year 4), we did that. My more experienced friends and I are fairly good judges of what may be popular. And we rationed accordingly. Successfully. Until last year.

Last year (#ISBF5) was our first at Hemsley House. There were increased numbers of guests. I uprated the volume of beer accordingly. But not by enough.

Last year, Northern Rail were in dispute. It is beyond any doubt that that hurt the night time economy. Especially at weekends. People simply stayed either in their home areas, or stayed at home full stop. For #ISBF5 though, that Northern Rail strike was a “godsend”. We’d have run out of beer by 7pm if the trains had been active.

At 2pm, I started to get text messages from my dear friend Chris (#EvilKegFilth Master). Kegs were kicking. Those messages increased in number as the afternoon went on. By 6pm, I was in panic mode.

Then, the effects of that dispute became obvious. We got by. More than half of the kegs had kicked. And those left had dribbles in. It wasn’t good judgement. It was – as with many things at this event – dumb luck! 😁

This year, I’m going to try to address that. To try to ensure that “most” beers are still available on the Saturday evening session. By increasing the volumes of some of the beers.

With some beers, that’s simply not possible. Some breweries package for home consumption. To get those on draught at all was…… interesting. And a challenge. But I like a challenge. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do this event.

With one of the beers, I’ve secured the only 30L keg in the country. (And there’s only 400L of THAT beer in existence. It’s a beauty). With another, it is simply a very rare outing on draught. And another may be a unique outing on draught full stop. With a few, I’ll simply double up. And take the consequences.

Some of the beers will be unique on draught. And one keg (or cask – in a few cases). That’s unavoidable. That’s kind of in the nature of what we do here. If FOMO is something you suffer from, grab a Thursday or Friday ticket to be “certain”. I offer no guarantees any more.

To recognise this, I’ve reduced the ticket price slightly on the Saturday evening. Let me be clear, MOST (the vast majority) of beers WILL be available on the Saturday evening. But not all.

My initials may be JC, but, unfortunately, walking on water is a little beyond me I’m afraid. 😂

Remember. ALL of the beers will be “first pour” in the Manchester area. Many will be “first pour” in the UK. Some, will be unique to the UK on draught.

Tickets here. (Limited availability Friday evening and Saturday lunch)

Be kind to one another.


The Power of Suggestion


This event (as you MAY have noticed) is now in its 6th year. In all those years, with a bit of fumbling incompetence on my part and no small helping of goodwill from a huge number of people, we’ve got through somehow. To the point where people came last year – many for the first time – and loved it. That is hugely flattering and a huge vindication of what we (myself, friends and our lovely beer heroes – aka Volunteers) do.

This is the epitome of a DIY beer festival. Me & some talented and generous friends. Albeit, one that started small and has now wormed its little way into hearts. Something that blows us away to be fair.


Since 2016 ALL of the beer at this event has been “first pour”, many for the UK as a whole, but certainly for Manchester. From myself and the rest of the team, that’s truly appreciated. The lengths breweries go to to ensure this is truly heartwarming. And in no small way contributes to the success of this event. We thank you all from the heart.

I (Jim) have met some lovely people in those 6 years. Both Brewers and drinkers. And last year – on the Saturday I think – I was approached, separately, by two such people. The second one shall remain unnamed until my little project is 100% in the can. But I can certainly name the first.

The First Collab for #ISBF6

The First Collab for #ISBF6

Some of you may know Mark Smith-Magee. You may know his blog. You may have been on a UK Brewery Tour that he has hosted around Leeds. You may know him socially. You may also know that he REALLY knows his beer.

I first met Mark via his friend Michael at a (I think) Beer & Cheese thing at Great Ale in Bolton Market. It was a lovely event. And we got chatting did the three of us. We went to Barristers bar on Bradshawgate for a beer afterwards. We parted with farewells and – for my part – no idea we’d meet again.


On that fateful Saturday he’d been at the cask De Ranke again. Smile on his face, he quietly mentioned something that might have been possible for Year 6. I smiled. And asked him to assess the possibility. So he did.

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About 3 months ago, we started messaging via DM (how very appropriate!). That progressed to email. And then things took spark. This might just happen. The brewery concerned were definitely interested. And there was a brewery from Mark’s area going to Collab with them. And they could help bring this beer to reality!

A lot of to-ing and fro-ing went on. But the goodwill was palpable. All wanted this to happen. I needed a wooden cask. That was easy. My good friend Malcolm at Five Towns sorted that out for me. We needed to decide the beer suitable for that “Woodie”, there were a few available, some very special beers that would work with a Wooden Cask.

Between Mark & I we made a decision we were both happy with. VERY happy with.

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Before I say what it is, I need to thank some people.

Primarily, Mark. He’s been absolutely brilliant, his enthusiasm, his contacts! It’s been a joy with all these emails!

Cameron from Turning Point has been a star. And I didn’t even need to remind him that he’s buddies with my nephew Fran! Cheers matey.

Malcolm, for being so accommodating with that cask. And so patient with my mithering!

Ed Read from Distant Lands for facilitating this importation. For being so helpful.

Last. And by no means least, Jaco, Marko & Kris for making this happen. HUGE THANK YOUS to all of you. It’s bloody humbling.

So. What have we got. What IS this labour of love?

You may have had it before. But I’ll wager NEVER from a wooden cask. “Bommen & Granaten”. From the lovely fellas at De Molen. A 9 gallon Wooden Cask.


I can’t thank everyone enough.

Hope you enjoy it.

Be kind to one another. Jim x