#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 8 - Black Jack : A Birthday Treat

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To so many drinkers in Manchester, Black Jack are important.

For the beer? Naturally. They make excellent beers.

For the exceptional brewtaps? Absolutely. Spring, Summer or Autumn, whatever the temperature, they set the standard. Whilst many of my (Jim) friendships may have been formed elsewhere, many have also deepened and been cemented right there. In that yard, at the bottom of Irk Street.

That said, without Black Jack, this event would be an awful lot more difficult, if not impossible. What they do for us is incalculable. And invaluable. Collection, storage, delivery & distribution. Black Jack help to make this event what it was and has become.

In short, on many levels, they are integral.

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And there was one thing I wanted to do whilst this event exists. Brew with the most chilled man in Manchester. The man who couldn’t be more chilled if he was called Jack Frost. Rich. Therefore....

I’ve also tried to get other people involved in these brewdays. People who might never have done this before. And people who love the brewery concerned. Meet Sarah..... A self – confessed Black Jack fan.....

Being Rich, this was a relaxed brewday with a relaxed start time. So I had a lie in.

The plan : An American Brown Ale. My liquid catnip. My favourite beer style. And Rich was all over that!

The execution : Entering the Brewhouse via the tradesman’s entrance, Rich & Euan were already sorting the malt out, with a whole sack of brown nestling in with the Pale and smaller amounts of Black & Cara ready for the hot bath they were about to receive.

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Now then, I’ve mashed in at a few breweries over the last 4 years, but watching Rich was a revelation. A fury of blurring arm action, I was embarrassed by my puny efforts. Now I love the porridgey smell of mashed Pale malt, but once the brown and black sloshed in, the smells were astonishingly good. Bitter chocolate and biscuity porridge aromas don’t half make me drool!

Enter Sarah at this point. To chorus of Happy Birthday. And she was totally prepared for my birthday “gift”, the dig out. I didn’t expect her to be so bloody enthusiastic though!

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Transfer to the copper completed, hop time! Again, Sarah dove into breaking up the Crystal & sticky Comet with relish. Savouring the opening of the hops is a joy and that Comet was SO juicy and aromatic. I think Sarah enjoyed that bit!

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The smoothest of brewdays. Deploying an unfeasible amount of hops for a mid strength beer, the brewery smelt amazingly fruity and a quick taste of the “brewers breakfast” of the hot transferring wort had all the earthy, biscuity flavours I was expecting. This is going to be everything I want in this style once those aromatic hops and bittering Admiral do their thing.

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Max & Jeff arriving with doughnuts (accompanied by some El Dorado Sour) rounded off the brewday so well. Before I knew it, Rich was digging out a serious depth of spent hops and we were done! And over to the even MORE social side of this, to The Runaway Tap for a brewday debrief (ans a sneaky keg taste of a beer we’re getting on CASK) then finishing the day in the obvious place. The Smithfield and more beery chat with Euan, Rich & Rob.

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A day to remember for both me & Sarah. I think she enjoyed her birthday dig – she was a natural!

Thank you Rich & Euan. Not to forget Rob. And HUGE thanks to Sarah for her Herculean efforts in overcoming the effects of a rather late night and having such an obviously fun time. It always is at Black Jack.

Can’t wait for the Summer Brewtap’s return!

4 more brewdays to go. The end is in sight. Just over 3 ½ weeks until those doors open..... Few remaining tickets (Thursday evening only) available here.... See you at Hemsley House!

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#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 7 - Five Towns (The Trilogy Completed : AKA "A Sweet Thing at the Magic Shed")

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From the very first ISBF in 2014, Malcolm Bastow and his Five Towns beers have been a fixture at our little bash. I knew they were good, but little did I know they they would become so integral to the event. Voted by drinkers as “Beer of the Festival in 2014, 2015 and last year, with last year’s beer (The Belgian Rhubarb tripel “Always Crashing….” entering local legend and an entire 9 selling out in only a few hours at the Smithfield!)

It’s become a tradition to have 2 beers. But this year……Oh bugger it. Take it away Jock - today’s guest scribe!

“So between Jim (Beers Manchester & ISBF founder) and Malcolm (Five Towns Owner & brewer), they concocted the idea that Malcolm would have 2 of his own beers and a Collab on at #ISBF5.

Well, he has earned this, seeing as his beers have won beer of the Independent Salford Beer festival 3 out of 4 previous years.

  Impy seems settled in Wakefield!

Impy seems settled in Wakefield!

We were discussing the beers a few weeks back at a Five Towns Tap take over in Harry's Bar Wakefield and when Malcolm said that one of the beers would have Melon hops and a little sweetness, an idea occurred...

Malcolm is a massive Bowie fan and as I am too (Jock) and many of his beers are Bowie theme named, I blurted out 'Sweet Thing' (at least I think it was me) then we all thought,hang on….. 3 beers? Why not call them…… ...Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing(Reprise) a trilogy of Bowie songs from the classic “Diamond Dogs” album and often performed/recorded live as one longer dark and seedy wonderful song. My Bowie favourite...

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So a plan was hatched, 3 beers, 3 brew days - All available first at ISBF5.

Jim, Malcolm and ISBF comrades had already held 2 of the brew days (already blogged by Jim), so this was the 3rd one, 

5.30am up and 7am start, myself and Jim arrived at same time and on entering the Magic Shed at the bottom of Malcolm's garden……..

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……Where I found out that the Candidate had been casked and Sweet Thing (Reprise) was sat in the fermenter making itself beautiful for the aforementioned Charity beer festival.

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The mash was prepared, with mash temp at 66.6 (a photo op NOT to be missed – Ed), Transferred to the copper then bittering hops added. Leaving those to the boil, we went for a brew of a different kind.

We had company for this from no other than the man himself - Bowie! A life size cut out in Malcolm's living room.

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Breaking up the Hops is joy, smells wonderful, then this incredible smelling Melon hops 'batch one' was added, a short time later 'batch two' of the Melon Hops was added.

Only if this was scratch and sniff could you really enjoy how good the raw hops smelt.

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Time for breakfast, another brew accompanied by that cardboard life-size Bowie and Bacon/Sausage/Egg muffins. Refreshed and ready for some physical work, Jim and I dug out the used Mash and put it in sacks ready for the local farmer to use to feed his cattle.

The luscious liquid then syphoned, pumped really, via heat exchange apparatus to the Fermenter. Jim added the final touch, the yeast.

Malcolm will 'dry hop' with Melon hop pellets later...job done..4 or 5 hours of the most enjoyable work this desk jockey has done since 'this time last year'

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Thanks to Malcolm and Jim for a good day. And this beer 'Sweet Thing' will be a pale, lovely drinkable 5.0 to 5.5%, the other 2 beers in the trilogy around 9%!

This one will be the first one I try on Thursday 29th November. Hemsley House, Salford. I have tickets, many, many others have too, not many left....

Every single penny of profit goes to Charity.

Great people. Great charity. Great venue and GREAT BEER.”

Cheers Jock!

He’s coming. Are you? The last few remaining tickets are here

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#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 6 - North Riding, Elusive, Five Towns

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An evening and a day in Scarborough. At my favourite pub. And brewing with - and I will argue the case with anyone - the best specialist cask brewery in the UK, along with one of the most respected brewers “darn sarf” and all the winners of Beer of the Festival at ISBF.

I couldn’t be objective….Well, I could, but I’m lazy. So, over to #EvilKegFilth Overlord Chris!

“Jim asked if I wanted to write this up. So I did.

‘Went to brew beer. Brewed beer. Job Done.’

Jim said that was a little succinct, so I had another bash.

He also asked me if I wanted to go to North Riding to brew some beer. Well, I haven’t been to Scarborough since I was about 25, and therefore to North Riding.... exactly never, so I jumped at this opportunity. Reason number 1. I’ve had Stuart’s beers before (most recently at an MTB at Stalybridge Buffet bar) and they’re bloody delicious. Reason number 2. Then Jim casually mentioned that the Dave Grohl of Brewing was going to be there too, doing a collab for the festival. Like everyone else, I love Andy, and his Elusive beers. So, that was reason number 3. Sorted.

What I didn’t know was how long it would take to get to Scarborough on the train. Having to go via Manchester and then the Transpennine Express to Scarborough meant a nigh on 4 hour journey. A great idea was formed. Lunch at the Marble Arch? Yup. I’m obviously up for that too. Sunday lunch, a couple of pints and then we were finally at Victoria Station. Which was rammed. Trains cancelled left right and centre made for a stand up journey for me until Leeds. The OAP took a seat.....

 Finally, we got to Scarborough and, taxis not forthcoming, walked the mile or so to the North Riding Brewpub. Greetings were exchanged, and beer was drank. Quite a bit of beer in a short space of time. Stuart announced that we would need to be up and ready for 07:15 the next morning. Great, a lie-in! So we had another beer and then we retired.

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Of course, it being Monday, I had my work alarm set. So Black Sabbath duly chimed out at 05:30. Oops, sorry Jim! Off to the brewery on time, ready for the first mash in of the day. That’s right.... the plan was to brew 2 beers today. The “official” ISBF/North Riding/Elusive collab, and the North Riding Brew Pub / Elusive collab. Which meant two locations. Obviously this was going to be fun.....

 Mash in, and therefore beer number one was at the “Factory”, which is North Riding’s brewery just outside Scarborough on a little craft industrial estate.

An India Porter, to be around 7% ABV, so that meant a bill comprising pale, brown, black and chocolate malts. Pretty soon, the brewery was smelling delicious, Jim had stirred some porridge and we got some breakfast. Oh yes, you need a good breakfast. And this was a BIG sandwich. Bacon and sausage. With the emphasis on BIG and SAUSAGE. It was tremendous. And we didn’t take a photo. How rude of us!

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Whilst the first mash was cooking, we then set off back to the Brew Pub to mash in for the second beer. Are you keeping up? This is the one that’s the collab between North Riding Brew Pub and Elusive. This would be an American Red, designed mostly by Andy, so that meant lots of hops would be used. Pale and caramalts were used here, so that we got a good red hue on the beer. We were introduced to John, who would be looking after the brew at the Brew Pub. In went all the malt, another stir by Jim, then back over to the Factory to see how brew number one was getting on.

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We won’t bore you with how the brewing process. Suffice it to say, that there were the usual fabulous smells, for this one it was chocolate, coffee and toast. Pretty much a good breakfast right there, I’d say. The wort was run off into the copper, it was a good deep black, exactly as planned. Then it was time to stand around while that came to the boil.

Except for Andy and I.

We had to get back to the Brew Pub to repeat for the collab there. Lots of fun and games, with a very different smell attached. This being a red, hoppy beer, it was like chalk and cheese to the India Porter. Run off done, Andy happy with the colour, and off we went back to the Factory, while John looked after this brew.

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At the Factory, Jim was well into the digging out the mash tun phase, which he’s particularly good at, so I left him to it :) Emptied, cleaned and tidied, the copper up to temperature, in went some hops. One whole kilogram of magnum. I know, it’s not a lot, but this is a dark beer, not a hop bomb! Time for another batch of waiting. Good time to catch up with gossip, news, and good friends.

Time for the end of boil hop addition. This time it was 5kg of centennial. This honour was Jim’s, quite rightly. In they went, another quick stir, and time to run off into the fermenting vessel, adding the yeast of course. Andy had to leave at this point, it’s a fair drive back to Berkshire, so we said our goodbyes and off he went. Jim and I having booked a stupidly late train out from Scarborough, after cleaning up the copper, off we went back to the Brew Pub for a couple of well earned points. (Or “pints” - Ed)

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A big thanks to all involved today. Stuart & Karen from North Riding / North Riding Brew Pub. John for looking after Brew 2. Graham for clambering into the copper to clean it out. Malcolm from Five Towns for fetching the breakfast sandwiches. Andy for coming a long way to make this collab happen. We are really looking forward to these beers at ISBF. You should be too......

 Chris (AKA #ISBF5 #EvilKegFilth Overlord)”

#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 5 - Five Towns x Rivington

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At last! The final collab of the 4 day #ISBF5 #CollabFrenzy. And one I’ve been looking forward to for almost 7 months.

As some of you may know, I (Jim) have a favourite beer festival. It’s East West Fest. Originally modelled on the first ISBF, it had stayed true to its original premise. Generally, that is beer from the North West & Beer from Yorkshire. In cask. And it’s like no other cask event.

I source the beers / breweries from the North West. And in April arranged a collab brew with Malcolm (Five Towns & East West Founder) and Ben at Rivington. A beer that became Citra Ra Ra. A Citra DIPA. And an utter juice bomb on cask.

We then decided upon a return match. For #ISBF5.

Then, about a month ago, Ben had an idea of something he wanted to try.....

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So. For the 3rd time in 4 days, I was on the road. Early morning. To that magical shed in Wakefield. From feeling shattered, I was energised. Because I was excited by the plan. But I soon realised I didn’t know ALL the details!

Mash tun. Crammed. Unlike Sunday, this wasn’t a double mash.

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With that full and steeping, out came the hops. Early hops (bittering)? Nah. Late hops, Lemon Drop & Amarillo. Followed by flame out aroma hops of Citra & Mosaic. Lots

Fruity too. Creamy. NOT for the lactose intolerant (sorry Jock!) VERY fruity. Mango. Peach. Passion Fruit.

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Unlike Sunday, this was a smooth brewday, with everything going like clockwork. Ben tried to guilt trip me (joking) by helping to clean up. But I was cleaned out. Elated, but knackered. What a way to finish four straight collab brewdays though. With two of my favourite brewers. Playing with ingredients like big kids.

And it hasn’t been dry-hopped yet! With unfeasible amounts of Lemon Drop, Amarillo, Mosaic & Citra…

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Being an individual who starts Trilogies at no 2, this was bound to be out of sequence. This is Beer 3 of a trilogy. The 3rd song of a sequence. Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise). The name of the collab sequence came from a conversation from #ISBF4. From Jock. His favourite Bowie song(s). Mike’s (Mr DJ) too. Both HUGE Bowie fans. As is Malcolm.

Sweet Thing (Reprise) : Imperial Fruited Milkshake IPA. Who wants some? Tickets here. There aren’t many left.

 One day later………Vivid enough for you?

One day later………Vivid enough for you?

 Ignore the abvs!

Ignore the abvs!

#ISBF Collab Brew No 4 - Thirst Class

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When Richard Conway suggested a collab beer for #ISBF5 (actually, he’s doing two!), I jumped at the offer. Because – ever so quietly – he’s established himself (as Thirst Class) as one of the “go to” breweries in Greater Manchester. With minimal fuss, he makes some of the best beer in the region, consistent, tasty with a playful eye for flavour. He’s good.

He’s also the “victim” of one of my proudest flavour achievements. He had to clean out the FV that had 18kg of blitzed raspberries chucked into a big Stout “War of the Raspberries” that we made for #ISBF3 with Stuart Neilson of North Riding. And that was one beautiful beer.

And his thoughts for this one sounded delicious too...

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Coming off the back of consecutive 4:45 starts, an 8:30 mash in sounded delightful.....

Mash in was straightforward. Blissfully so. Which meant time for a little breakfast, chat a visual overview of the brewery. Things have changed here since my last visit, with 4 fermenters bearing testament to gradual expansion built on demand for tasty beers. He’s certainly come a long way since brewing Elephant Hawk IPA on the Quantum kit!

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Whilst the mostly pale malt bill steeping, hops were weighed out for early (bittering) addition and late flavour more to enhance the addition of the “adjuncts”. Which are the purpose of this beer. Dandelion and Burdock roots. 3kg of each. With a little enhancing ginger seasoning.

Yesterday was a day to watch. And learn. And dig. And I learned loads. Richard is a very talented and knowledgeable fella and talked me through lots of process stuff, in amongst the general shooting of breeze.

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The whole brewday was smooth as silk with everything going precisely as it should (a bloody rare thing!) and it was an absolute pleasure to help clean and dig out 305kg (dry) of wet grains. Something my shoulder now regrets!

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Feeling – ever so slightly – exhausted after 3 consecutive brewdays and distinctly flagging, it was soon time to depart. It’s always a pleasure to work with talented people (something that the self – depreciating Richard would never claim for himself) and Mr Conway is certainly one of those. And with equally talented people like Pete & Duncan working with him, I can only see more bright things on the horizon for Thirst Class.

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And I’m REALLY looking forward to this Dandelion & Burdock Pale!

Fancy one? You know where it will be first..... Few remaining tickets here (and Saturday evening nearly sold out now)

#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 2 - Torrside x Runaway

(AKA : “Beer is a fine thing”)

This first guest post was written by James (AKA “Beerfinder General”) - who, being a bit enamoured of the brewery in question, selflessly offered to “assist” the brewers along with his own arch-nemesis Lee (aka “Leggywolf”)

Over to you J…..

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Beer is a fine thing. Not just because it’s beer, or even because it occasionally allows the wash of alcohol to soak your bones and unlock parts of your brain that are normally untapped (NOT untappd), but because it should be part of social interaction and spending time with people.

Ever since ISBF2*, which for me was a watershed in terms of getting to know people who are now close friends (oh, and @leggywolf), beer and the people linked to it have been part of an ever growing sense of community and friendship. This isn’t hyperbole, or at least I don’t think it is, but just how I’ve seen my own sense of place and connection develop alongside the wider Manchester beer scene.

And an epicentre of that change has been Torrside brewery. Partly because they are local to me, partly because they have helped me discover beer styles that I’d never heard of previously, partly because they brew consistently great beer, and partly because they are, to a person (and this includes the wider team), lovely people (and Kami is ok I guess but she’s no Stanley…).**

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So taking this starting point, and adding in one of the breweries who originally got me excited about beer in Manchester, Runaway Brewery, meant an ISBF5 collaboration brew between them could not be missed. And so I didn’t.

Arriving at 9:30am, a full 45 minutes before Lee (@Leggywolf) even though he set off 2 hours before me (a worthy punishment for living in Blackburn 😊), I bumped into Mark and Jack from Runaway at New Mills Newtown station. We arrived to the impenetrable expression of Kami and the mashing in began, cups of coffee were rustled up, and stirring paddles were held aloft. Inevitably, the stars of the show, ‘the famous giant spoons of Torrside’, were presented for everyone’s appreciation although unfathomably they weren’t to be used for this brew.

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It wouldn’t be a Torrside collaboration brew day without appropriate snackware. Pork pies, Percy Pigs, pork balls (even if they have egg in the middle they are still pork balls Kate!), and the essential hummus were all present, which was just as well given that the first beer of the day (All Day Breakfast appropriately) was generously presented at 11am…. Lee even created the ultimate craft snack – a Bugle crisp filled with hummus finished with a chipstick 99!

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The rest of the brew day was as you’d expect. Bursts of activity in between waiting and chatting, and chatting and waiting. This could be boring, or at least drag in places, but really the day was about the company and that company meant the day flew by. I’m fairly sure my face now has at least 15 extra wrinkles from laughing so much, although that could just be old age - the bastard.

You might be surprised that there isn’t really talk here about the hops used (a massive 10KG each of Citra and Mosaic BTW), the process undertaken, the sparging, the re-circulation, the yeast used etc.

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But it really was about the people and spending the day just having a great time (myself and Lee did actually do some work, although it mainly involved walking up to refill our glasses with the kindly provided beers on tap 😊). And I suppose that brings us full circle back to the Independent Salford Beer Festival - people first (but good beer helps!).

Finally, a massive thanks to both Torrside and Runaway for a great day.

See you at Hemsley House!

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*I missed the first one due to poor planning to my eternal regret – I’ll now never have a full set of ISBF glasses which, I’m sure everyone would agree, is nothing less than a tragedy

**this praise is a fairly blatant attempt to usurp Lee as Torrside’s No 1 Fanboy. If it doesn’t work I know this will always remain a distant dream