#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

#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 3 - Bexar County

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Some things are simply necessary. Essential.

Today was one of those things. Going to help brew a beer. At Bexar County of Peterborough, with that playful Texan, Mr Steve Saldana. This day was originally scheduled for 28th September 2016, the day after everything changed.

I couldn’t miss this one. It was important. To me personally, but also to #ISBF5. Because Bexar County brings fun, that certain playfulness that’s sometimes missing in beer.

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I’ve loved Steve’s beers. Each one I’ve had. From the moment I tried his Pecan Coffee Mild at the Crooke Hall Inn. It was delicious. Delicate, tasty. And..... Unusual. Something that Steve makes a habit of. To say the least.

This brewday saw me up and in the road again at 4:45 am. In darkness on the M62. Witnessing driving straight out of Mad Max. When I finally got to the brewery, Steve was already there, grain ready, waiting to mash in.

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When I first saw his idea, I had to double take. And thought out loud “He meant Sorachi yeah?” But no. This is Steve Saldana. This is Bexar County. Sorachi is, well, normal. Usual. And he doesn’t do the expected.

The first indication should have been the 280 Green Tea bags entering the muslin enclosure..... The grain being mashed in, that tea went into the HLT to steep, whilst we went for (a substantial) breakfast.

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And then, the other ingredients started to reveal themselves. Did you know how good dried mango tastes?

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And that was the least of the madness about to unfold. Sparging Green Tea was merely the start.

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The smells were quite unlike anything I’ve ever smelt. Yet, melded. Sweetness, spice, fruitiness and a little acetic twist. Simply astonishing. And inspired.

This, coming from the man who brought that Kombucha Soured Milk Neapolitan Ale to #ISBF3. I almost bowed. Worshipping the sheer audacity. The blue sky thought that goes into something like this is beyond my comprehension. If that beer was “The Thin Line Between Genius & Insanity”, then this is most definitely the sequel. Oh yes.

A Mango, Green Tea and Sriracha Pale anyone? It’s the first thing I’ll be at on set up day. Its my privilege. And it will BE a privilege!

You coming? Not many tickets left at all now.

After brew, we popped along to Steve’s bar. Stoneworks. And I was glad I did, even if I could only have a (delicious) half of Thornbridge Lukas.

This place just looks - and feels - complete. Stylish without pretence. The simple things done well. With thought. And well executed.

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Yes. A shuffleboard!

Yes. A shuffleboard!

MAN is this a beautiful place! Over 20 keg lines (mostly occupied tonight with beers from the Maine Beer Box that came over from the States) housed in a converted refrigerated container, simple, effective and well thought out. As is the bar itself.

And we need to come back. As a team. If you live within reach, deny yourself the pleasure no longer

#ISBF5 Collab Brewday No 1 - Five Towns & Beer Central

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The first brewer to contact me when I agreed to do a beer festival.

Winner of Beer of the Festival 3 times out of 4.

Referred to as “your mate” by some.

That’s Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery of Wakefield. A good man. Who happens to brew exceptional beer.

And someone I consider a friend. Someone without whom this event would be more difficult. Someone who has helped me in more ways than I can begin to say.

But all that would count for nothing if his beer was ordinary. Which it certainly isn’t.

I’ve been lucky. Lucky in that I’ve gotten to brew twice at each of the last 3 festivals in that little shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s always fun. It’s always interesting. And has resulted in 2 Beer of the Festival winners in Art Decade & last year’s winner “Always Crashing In The Same Car”.

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Brewing with Malcolm is an ISBF tradition. Which is why I left home at 4:45 this morning. To be in Wakefield for 6am. Yes, there IS another 6 in the day....

Like several of the beers we’ve brewed with Malcolm, the name came first.

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We’re both Bowie fans and so is Jock (who’s coming to brew in Wakefield next weekend. Jock – I discovered at #ISBF4 – has a favourite Bowie tune which is actually a segue of 3. From the classic Diamond Dogs album. Sweet Thing, Candidate, Sweet Thing (Reprise). With 2 of the beers being collabed on with Malcolm featuring fruit, this one HAD to be Candidate.

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So. At 4:45am (yes, there IS another 4:45 on a Sunday), I was on the road.

To Wakefield. And a certain shed.

When it comes to beer, my heart is dark. And increasingly big. So when Malcolm revealed his thoughts to me and our Co – Conspirator (Sean Clarke of Sheffield’s mighty atom of a beer shop “Beer Central “) his thoughts, I was delighted.

Big. Roasty. And breakfasty.

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A double mash in, meant a 6am start. And – after a Billy Bragg gig the night before.........

First mash smelt delicious. All the inherent aromas of Roasted Barley, coffee, chocolate porridge. One of my favourite smells. And dark. As dark as Vladimir Putin’s heart. But much tastier. (Which predictive text initially had as Tsarier.....)

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That was run off to the copper, tun dug it was time for mash two. Ordinarily, with a big beer, a single mash on Malcolm’s small (2 ½ barrel) kit would only give up about 5 casks. But this brew was also to celebrate 5 years of Beer Central. And Sean wants a lot of bottles to mark that. So it needed more beer.

So. What have we made? Well. A big Breakfast Stout. Oatmeal, Coffee, Milky (lactose) and fruity with lots of pureed blueberries going in to the fermenter. It’s gonna be like a liquidised fruity black porridge. And it’s likely to come out at about 9% abv

Come get some! The few remaining tickets can be found here

Tomorrow? Another early start. Off to Peterborough. And some liquid lunacy. With Steve Saldana at Bexar County. A special day for me. Those that know, know.

"It's Beer Jim, But Not As We Know It!"

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OK. So I was listening to “Star Trekking” by The Firm. Bite me!

Well HELLO!

Tempus Fugit and all that and here at The ISBF Institute of Beery Pleasures we’re about to embark on our annual COLLAB FRENZY! You shall hear ALL about it tomorrow evening.

However, this one is special as it is the first leg of the ISBF Wakefield Trilogy (It’s like “The Berlin Trilogy” But Diamond Dogs themed. And beery.) Our Bowie themed series of beers with last year’s Beer of the Festival winner (AND 2014 & 2015!), Five Towns. I love getting up at 4:30 in the morning! But it’s for you lot. So I do it with a song in my heart!

Anyway, given the Cavalcade of Collabs that will be reported upon, this may be the last “leak post” for some time. But it’s a good un. As I now know a few more of the beers that are a comin’. And as I couldn’t hold water – never mind secrets.....

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The Final line on the North West side on cask was confirmed last week. But I kept mi gob shut. Even though I was bursting to tell you about it!

Those who came to ISBF4 may remember that we had the first keg anywhere of the Runaway / GRUB collab “Lemon Drizzle IPA”. A beer that – months later – people were tweeting ME about. Asking if was ever coming back. Or “where can I get that... “etc. It WAS bloody fabulous to be fair. But no. We’re not getting that back. It would break the “Prime Directive”. But again, Mark (Runaway) and GRUB are Collabing. This year, it’s a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. And both Mark & Bailey generously agreed to stick 40 litres (or 72 pints in pre decimal) into a cask.

Just one. And we get it. Let that sink in......I’ve got a feeling this may rival the De Ranke XXX in vanishing swiftly! Permission to drool is hereby granted.

And you could drink it in one of these…..

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The Final cask line on the Yorkshire side was confirmed this week too. Nick Briggs of Mallinsons finding some time to brew under his own imprint of Briggs Signature Ales. Expect something punchy and hoppy. And VERY sessionable!

Those lovely fellas at Twisted Barrel of Coventry confirmed their beer yesterday.... “Behold A Pale Horse” is a Dry Hopped Belgian Tripel coming in at a judicious 9% abv. And there’s only 20L of it. So please form an orderly queue!

And, you could drink it in one of these…..

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The mighty Wishbone of Keighley have pulled off a pre-Xmas cracker for us too! A rare pin of their Imperial Stout has been nestling cozily in their store. Snoozing. And, I’m informed by no less than Chris from Torrside, that it is utterly lush. If you ever needed a recommendation .......!

This year, we also have our first beer at ISBF from Vocation! Now, you KNOW the way my mind works. Especially with the “early agreed” beers. So, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that it’s BIG. And IMPERIAL. And STOUTY. And the only place you get to try this in CASK, in the Manchester area, is here. At Hemsley House. And we’re delighted.

On a slightly lighter tip, the lovely – and ever so talented – Dave at Macc Brew Co has got us sorted a delicious Yuzu & Sorachi Pale. (Cask maven Linda will be popping next door to the #EvilKegFilth room for her Sorachi fix!)

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Tickets. Amazingly, we have less than 30 TICKETS AVAILABLE for Saturday evening! Yes. That’s the MAGNIFICENT closing session with the mighty George Fell blissing you out with guitar genius! You. Have. Been. Warned.

We’ve had 4 returns for Friday lunch too. They’re available now. But won’t be there for long.

Thursday evening. The one evening that you’re GUARANTEED a chance to taste ANY of the beers. There are now less than 60 tickets for that too. #ThirstChanceThursday is a thing.

Tickets available here. Don’t hang about.

So. Back tomorrow. With the first collab report. Candidate. With Five Towns and Beer Central of Sheffield. I want a case reserving already!

More Than A Feeling - Pt 2

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Hello again.

This event, The Independent Salford Beer Festival has – over a period of years – almost subconsciously, absorbed lessons from other events (beer or otherwise). Taking the best bits as it were. Yet some things are shared values. Respect and decency being key. This event has been built on friendships, something that had been commented on previously. Repeatedly. Yes, I’m boring like that...

Something at Indy Man this week stood out. Not the beer or anything like that. It was a notice. About treating people with respect. The intention of that hit the mark.

We, by accident or design (more likely by accident), have had no incidents or issues – none that you would notice anyways. There is no written constitution. No list of “do’s”. No list of “don’ts”. I say It’s not written, because it’s never needed to be. Just play nice.

Or in the words of Ellen DeGeneres’ sign off to each show (which I’ve appropriated), “Be Kind To One Another”.

This event is about fun, talking with friends, meeting new ones. Beer is a conversational lubricant, not the end itself.

If I have one major fault. I’m intolerant of intolerance. And that’s no major fault in my eyes.

Like the lady says “Be kind to one another”.

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Collabs info #3

Our first collab is actually next week. With Mallinsons. Their first Lager. Can’t wait!

Then? 4 collabs in 4 days. FOUR. I’m obviously some elevated kind of idiot.

Sunday 21st : Wakefield. And a rather large Breakfast Stout with Five Towns and Sheffield’s mighty outlet Beer Central.

Monday 22nd : Peterborough. And the Texan Alchemist Steve Saldana at Bexar County with Michelle Shipman reawakening Offbeat. Madness awaits......

Tuesday 23rd : Stockport. And our beloved Thirst Class with a deliciously different sounding Blackcurrant & Licorice Pale. Got my juices flowing at least!

Wednesday 24th : Wakefield again. And an Imperial Fruited Milkshake IPA with Five Towns in Collab with Lancashire flavour upstarts Rivington.

I’m feeling shattered already! And you will hear about those brewdays here.

I may burn my holidays entitlement on this event. And these brewdays. But I do enjoy it. Just a little bit.

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That “special” cask..... Like I’ve said, if an opportunity arises for something “different”, I’ll always think about it at least. I’d heard of an opportunity last year and - when I’d decided to DO #ISBF5 - thought I’d give it a go. A brewery sending casks over the water. And getting backfills. I started to get excited, but - being a “glass half-full” type - didn’t think it would happen.

But it has. So, having had a “North only” policy, I decided to break it. But not for something South of Crewe. We headed East. Across the North Sea. To Belgium. And De Ranke and their XXX. In cask. I’m fairly sure it fits the criteria of “1st time in Manchester”!

And it won’t last long.

For now, that is all. Collab frenzy starts next week. This spring is coiled.

Tickets available here. For now. Snoozing is Losing.