Keeping secrets is very, very hard. Especially when those secrets are beer related. But I can keep secrets AND tease. I'm quite good at that (or so I'm told - by those wanting to know what I'm up to). But it's all good. I promise. And as anybody who has been here before knows, I keep my promises.
Leaving St Sebastian's is (I now realise) a game changer. Because, at St Sebastian's, a lot of the essential (yet unseen) stuff was done for me by Gerry Stone, the heart, the soul, the reason why this event exists. The Jiminy Cricket to my Pinocchio. H&S Assessments, Insurance, all the "boring" stuff. ALL dealt with. By Gerry. But we're no longer at St Sebastian's, so all of that boring "hidden" stuff takes time. But we're getting there.
But like I said, that's the boring stuff. You don't want to know about that! What you want to know is BEER. And what you can see and all the things that directly impact on YOU. And rightly so.
So. Here we go with some information leakage. This year, in an effort to handle as little cash as possible (don't fret, you could still use cash at the venue if you like!) we've decided to do a little bundling of stuff, which means that the upfront cost of the ticket will increase. so, the ticket price for each session will be the same. £19.80 per ticket. We will also - for the first time - be able to take card payments for tokens/T-Shirts etc. Again, in an effort to minimise cash handling. For that £19.80, you get your entry, your glass (refundable should you wish), your programme & your first £10 of beer tokens.
It is a change. And I hope it doesn't put some off. We've kept it simple for four years, but we've kind of been forced to change things as we no longer control/possess the venue and have therefore lost certain facilities that we had.
That's one important bit done. The next? Beer
I've been quite overcome (and a little emotional) about the responses from the breweries that I've approached. ALL those that have responded have been positive, which kind of surprised me. There are a multitude of changes on the beer front, there had to be. Especially when it came to cask.
Cask conditioned beer is where my heart lies. Northern cask conditioned beer. With a single notable exception this year (no, I'm NOT revealing that!), the cask line up will remain Northern in focus. However, we disposed (poured away) of 25% of the cask line up last year, whereas the keg virtually sold out. Which leads to the obvious conclusion.
That being? Less cask, more #EvilKegFilth. I mean, I COULD run a beer festival just for ME. THAT would be cask. And dark. But who wants that? Judging by the amount of dark cask that gets poured away, not that many of you.
Last year, there were 40 cask lines and 34 keg. This year (subject to a potential slight variation) there will be 34 cask lines and approximately 55 keg. From 74 to almost 90 lines. We've certainly grown from 36 in Year 1!
Some breweries have dropped off the list, many more have joined it. That is no judgement on the beer. But decisions have to be made. And they are mine to make. Aim those brickbats in my direction.
My aim with this is to raise money for a worthwhile charity, this ISN'T for profit. I, Jim, make ZERO out of this. ALL profits have always gone to a good cause.
On the subject of the Charity, I think that we have decided one, but I'll leave that until 2nd September to announce. I've got meetings on that yet. But, it IS local. And a bloody good cause. I loved the fact that we helped St Sebastian's to keep on keeping on. But we have moved on.
I'm really unsure as to ancillary events. If something interesting springs to mind, I'll have a think. But this event has - for me - always been about the people. Relaxation. Comfort. And bloody fabulous beer.
I'm not saying we'll get everything right. We never do. I'm never totally happy. But it won't be for the want of trying. This could - of course - all go to rats**t at any moment. This event has teetered each and every year. Running smoothly is anathema. But I (Jim) am truly excited at the possibilities for this event. If not this year, then in future iterations. I'd LOVE Hemsley House to be our home - you'll get why when you come - as would the management of Hemsley House themselves.
What I promise is this. Almost 90 beers that you will not have drunk in the Manchester area. Many brewed exclusively for - or with - us. I stand by the statement that there should be at least 5 breweries that you won't have tried on draught. And - as I have said (and proven) on a number of occasions - I keep my promises.
This gets posted at 8pm. Exactly 4 weeks to the minute that tickets go on sale. I say this sincerely. And without any attempt at hype. If you want to come to Hemsley House between 29th November to 1st December, don't hold off. I'd hate you to miss out.
And remember, this stuff is meant to be fun
Be kind to one another.