#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 12 - Blue Bee

It’s a rare thing that a brewery sneaks up on my taste buds. Where you find yourself – without actual consideration – ordering their beer where you see it. Because it’s consistently excellent.

That’s Blue Bee for me. I clearly remember the online conversation with Josh (Brewer) last year. When he offered me one of two beers. A Session Pale (which my head NEEDED) and a rich dark (which my HEART needed!). I put it to a team vote in a rare moment of weakness. The team voted for the Stout.

It ended being the fastest seeking cask at #ISBF4.

So you can see why I’m in Sheffield at 8 am yesterday (Saturday) morning.


And I got lost. But fortunately, a nice busman pointed me in the right direction!

Many months ago, Josh agreed to host us for a brewday and wanted to do a Session Pale. I was delighted. I wouldn’t say that was a forte, as I’ve never had a bad pint of Blue Bee. But his session pales are just delicious. Crisp, sharp, hoppy, dry. ALL my boxes ticked.

The fact that I was sweating over my average abv made the idea of a session Pale all the more joyous!


Located a short walk from the sprawling Kelham Island area, I walked in to Josh getting the grains ready. I looked around the brewery. Logical. Set up for ease of use, simplicity. But, but, what’s those SQUARE things??


Yorkshire Squares! Those fermenting vessels of legend! And my first sighting in the wild. Josh explained their usage and what they bring. He explained a lot of things yesterday. It was an educational day all round.

All Pale malt. Simple. The gravity fed grain mixed from above meant that mahjong (or “mashing”, depending on your predictive text!) was a joy.


Hops. Hmmm...... Bittering? Columbus. SO aromatic. In with 3/4kg. Instant aroma hit. Fruity and delicious.


Then, the waiting. Which meant all the laptop stuff I couldn’t do on the train. I caught up in time for late hop addition. A hop that I’d never previously used. Eureka! Archimedes missed out. Bloody hell these smelled beautiful!. 10kg. And the brewery erupted with tropical fruit notes. Just WOW! I hope it’s not the last time I use these!


The way the brewery is set up (to my mind) contributed to how smooth this brewday went. For me, as much as the beer – and the rapid dig out (with farmer turning up unexpectedly!) - this was about talking with a young man steeped in Sheffield. Totally immersed in the beer industry of this brilliant beer city. There seemed to be nothing - or no-one Josh didn’t know.

After the brew, we went for a walk. Via a few beers. With standouts being two Sheffield stalwarts. The Kelham Island Tavern (my VERY FIRST Pictish dark beer!) and a delicious Blue Bee 5 Hop, then Shakespeare. And an excellent North Riding.


Josh even made sure I didn’t get lost on my way to the train station too!

Truly, I’m glad all these brew days are done. I’m shattered and my body clock is completely askew (I’m a day out). But with days like this, I feel like I could go on forever. Talking and making beer with someone whose beer thoughts are almost a mirror. With whom I agreed with on SO much. It was an utter pleasure. Cheers Josh!

So, what have we got coming? With an additional 5kg of Enigma in dry hop, we’re going to get a Sessionable Pale Ale. At about 4.4% abv. Punchy and fruity. Dry with a nice bitterness. It’s precisely what we/you need. From a brewery that does this SO well.

Can’t wait. Come and join us. It’s going to be fun!

#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 11 - Pictish Brewery


What can you say about Pictish? Are they hip? No. Are they fashionable? No. So what? Why? What do Pictish actually DO?

Well, “they” (Paul) in my educated opinion, make the finest session Pale Ale this side of the Pennines. Only Mallinsons rival. And I introduced them to each other. And am in awe of what they both do.


If you speak to “people in the know”, many will sigh “Ahhhhhh.... Brewers Gold*.....”. Simply put, if you want session Pale Ale on this side of the Pennines in cask, look no further. I – for one – am a HUGE fan. If I see Pictish on a bar, then they other beers can wait. This isn’t me hyping – I’ll leave that to others – just me. I adore consistency of excellence. And That’s what I get from Paul Wesley.


It’s why I’m at Rochdale Station. At 6:50 am.


I spoke with Paul about his brewing plan. And what he suggested made my heart sing. A Table Beer. That sub genre that I – for one – thought was going to take off this year. One that was sharp. And hoppy. A sweet song to my ears....

Mash in was simple. Pale malt with a bit of Cara and Oat. Pale, with body. Win. Hops? Brewers Gold and Cascade for bittering. Done. And they smelled SO GOOD. So aromatic. Almost good enough to be the late addition. But there were other ideas. I got to choose..... 😊


Transfer? Lovely and pale. But that was only the half of it. I’ve described Paul to others as like a blood cell with five different things to do. Simultaneously. He’s a blur of movement. And – like many brewers – He’s acutely tuned to the sounds of his kit. And today wasn’t simple. Today was akin to Pump Armageddon. And the skills of an artisan brewer were essential. Plumbing. Engineering. The kinds of things that you need to do when a pump fails. Other brewers will sigh with understanding. And my admiration of their skill sets increases.


From an outsider? Sensory overload. Aromas were lovely. And that was BEFORE the late hop decision. Which was mine. Yum.

How to choose? Stick your head in a bag and inhale like you’re Bill Clinton. Ahhhhhhhhhh........Citra...

Yup. I could resist. I was like a lemming on top of a cliff. And I jumped. Tropically. Oh the smells!

And then..... Transfer pitch and done. It wasn’t QUITE that simple, but things rarely are in the world of the artisan. Like I said, I am complete awe of the skills of the lone brewer. It’s far from just about grains, hops and yeast.


So. What have we got? A 2.9% table beer. I got to choose the hops. I got to choose the name.

My thought process went something like...... Pictish...... Celtic symbolism....... History nerd (me)...... Great Celtic Warrior....... Caradoc! (The Roman derivation was Caractacus). It’s a Table Beer, therefore meant to slake Thirst.... Caradoc’s Thirst! Say hello. You’re going to love this!

*What did I say about Brewers Gold?

*What did I say about Brewers Gold?

#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 10 - Pomona Island

Middle of 2017, I (Jim) started to hear rumour of a new brewery in Salford. That Brewery was Pomona Island, they were preparing to open their wings and fly, but - having chatted with one of the founders, Gaz - they weren’t quite ready for #ISBF4. I was gutted. What better than to launch an exciting new brewery at our wee Salford bash?

Fast forward a year. And Pomona have been putting out some simply astonishingly good beer. From a standing start, they have firmly established themselves amongst Manchester’s finest brewers. And that’s no easy thing to achieve. I was ultra keen to have them onboard at #ISBF5.

I was also keen - this year - to match members of the ISBF family up with friends. With people they know and respect. Jock with Malcolm at Five Towns, Sarah with Black Jack. Somehow, Jeff and Pomona just went together like cheese and crackers. Pomona being the cheese and Jeff? Well, do the math……

Accompanying Jeff - and keen to get involved - was excellent amateur brewer Paul. They may have enjoyed themselves….Take it away Jeff!

When the opportunity to go down to & brew down with POMONA came up how was I able to refuse, I had one of best nights of Manchester Beer week there when myself & a whole bunch of others went on a barge trip along the River Irwell to the brewtap. I’ve known Gaz a while & had been introduced to head brewer James when he first arrived in Mcr from Tempest Brewing.  

On the run up to brew day discussions were had over what to brew, our remit was something pale, preferably cask & not too big. At the ticket  launch for ISBF I asked a local homebrewer & fan of the festival Paul Delaney if he wanted to join in the brewday ( a shrewd move by me meaning the cleaning of mash tun could be halved). (Lazy git! Ed)


On the morning of the brew day Gaz picked us both up & we headed over to the edge of media city where the brewery is sited, not too early a nice civilised half 8. We were greeted by James who had already printed off the recipe sheet & immediately started running through it while Gaz grabbed us some wellies & brewed the coffee. First  job is mashing in & for this it was 10 bags of Maris Otter 

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All the while James is sharing his knowledge & explaining  the process to me & happy to answer Paul’s more technical questions. While the mashing in & the transfer are happening we get an invite from Gaz to taste some of the beers they have been barrel ageing, probably a good idea to watch out for these when they are released.


Transfer complete & it’s time to clear the mashtun with the two of us taking turns & James doing his bit too

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Brewer Dig.jpg

It was going to be a 75 min boil which was enough time for a stroll into media city for a pint & some food. Suitably nourished we return to add the hops which for this is 3.5kg of Amarillo. Transfer to the fermenting vessel followed with then more cleaning


The mandarin juice will follow to create a pale coming in at 5.5abv & available for first taste on cask at ISBF5  

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cask fill.jpg

We hung around & had a go at filling some casks, moving casks to cold store & having a few more beers fresh from the vessels. As it was by now around 5pm we thought a good idea to head for a few beers & so made the 30min walk into Eccles for to The Northern Type.              

Massive thanks to the Pomona gang for a good day out.”

Cheers Jeff. Looks like FAR too much fun was had for my liking!

A Mandarin Pale eh? From Pomona Island? Like Jeff said……First pour at Hemsley House!

Shame there’s so few tickets left eh?

#ISBF5 Collab Brew No 9 - Neptune Brewery

Today was important. This was for me (Jim). A lot like the Bexar County brewday. Let me explain.

Over two years ago, numb with grief, I made the decision to continue with #ISBF3. I needed something to keep me moving. To stop me falling into a pit. I wrote about that here.

It was the right decision for me. But I couldn’t face all the brewdays I’d organised. And one by one, I had to make phone calls cancelling arrangements. For me, the calls were “simple”. For the recipient they were harrowing. One such was to Les O’Grady. And I remember exactly where I was when I made it. As – as I found out today – does he.

This year was about catching up. And dealing with unfinished business. With bloody good people.

Les & Julie have been with us each year. Each Saturday lunch session. It’s like tradition. And from the moment Les started brewing, I wanted his beer. And we’ve watched Neptune develop into a little Liverpudlian powerhouse, pushing out exceptional beer, punching above their weight and steadily gaining an excellent reputation for flavour and consistency. Never shouting about it, letting the beers talk. And they do.

So this year, I wasn’t going to miss this. No matter what.


Which is why I find myself at Aintree station in North Liverpool. Awaiting the loveliest taxi driver.....


Space. Shiny floor. Shiny kit. Then a hug from Les. He knew. They both knew. I just knew this was going to be one of those “good days”. A reintroduction to Gav and we were ready to roll with some lovely malt. Including one new to me, Gambrinus Honey Malt. Exciting!


I love that smell of hot porridge. I never could tire of that. The brown malt boomed out aromas of slightly burnt toast with a real sweet smell from that honey malt coming through. The brewery smelt astonishing. And I take some astonishing these days.


The brown malt had an instant colour impact. So it was fortunate that we were planning my favourite beer style. An American Brown Ale.


As anyone who’s done this before will know, a brewday is brief flurries of activity followed by...... waiting. So we’ll skip a bit eh?

Having helped Gav dig out that deceptively deep vessel, it was time for lunch and a delicious Mosaic & Citra IPA....


And the aromatic “trial” that is breaking up the 5kg of Centennial (I did say that was my catnip hop, right?).


With rich earthy smells from the transfer to the copper filing the air, it was time to sample the wort. And oh was it surprising! Earthy, deep and earthy, but really light with an initial impression of a really light dirty chocolate Crunchie! It’s really the only way I could describe it! Another is delicious. And That’s before the hops....


Speaking of which...


Following which the place was flooded with earthy fruity aromas. It was a bit like Beery Aromatherapy.

Before I knew it the day had flown – and I’d blagged a t-shirt – we’d transferred to FV & pitched the hydrated yeast (expertly whisked by YT). Home time came far too early. But I’ve got a day job. Otherwise....


This was an important day. We talked about important things. And shot the breeze about lesser stuff. And do you know what? I left with a sense of achievement. I’d finally, FINALLY, brewed with Neptune. Not only that – and having had an ACE time – I’d helped make what initial tasting tells me is going to be exceptional. And a “must try”. Even Les will enjoy THIS one at #ISBF5!

Come try “Atlantic Ridge”. You’ll LOVE it!


And if you haven’t got tickets, be quick. All gone except Thursday evening. And only 15 left of those! Click here

Only 15 tickets left.

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


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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


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!


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


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...


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……..


……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.


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.


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.


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'


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