Occassionally discussions and conversations come up at such an opportune time you'd swear you prompted them.
I’m interrupting working on other posts (sorry Si) to comment on a discussion yesterday (this was written two days ago) that appeared on Twitter when TicketyBrew asked a perfectly innocent question that many breweries have at least considered:
To give a little bit of background into my intrigue in this tweet TicketyBrew was opened in 2013 in my old home town of Stalybridge by husband and wife team Duncan and Keri. Not only were they local, they happened to be setting up in an old rail arch my old company once occupied. They are also minutes away from that pesky Stalybridge Buffet Bar I talk about (and visit) too much. Growth was fairly rapid with their beer even sold rather unusually in the Manchester Harvey Nichols well under a year of opening. They soon became nationwide, even on cask where I spotted them in Edinburgh last June. Their unusual style, coming mainly by their choice of Belgian yeast strain, has brought differences of opinion by bloggers but has been refreshingly different in a world of similar tasting new breweries.
So I know how lucky we are to have a forward thinking brewery that has reached national acclaim housed in in such a traditional suburban town as Stalybridge. But still, when the question was posed to Twitter, I thought there was surely only one answer.
Of course there wasn't one answer. Before I'd read the Tweet and been able to rhetorically ask "Where else would you look but Stalybridge?" many others from the Greater Manchester region had waded in with more atypical answers to a Greater Manchester based beer question. Green Quarter. Northern Quarter. Chorlton. Ancoats. For those of you not familiar with Manchester, such suggestions are akin with Huddersfield Town asking where they should build their new Club Megastore and some Twitter genius pulling the light-bulb from above their head and tweeting "At Huddersfield Town's stadium?"
Yet TicketyBrew were listening to these location suggestions as potentials...
This is far from a dig at Ticketybrew. Born in a town with next to nothing that resembles the Craft Beer houses of the past three years I can see their dilemma and their point of view. They are running a business and business opportunities are taken with the most marketably viable option. Stalybridge, for most, will not seem viable.
But yet would I have ever thought Ashton-under-Lyne - Stalybridge's trashier, uglier and more decrepid cousin - could ever house it’s own independent specialist beer shop in Browton's? I toyed over the idea of opening my own specialist beer shop in Stalybridge 5 years ago, when such shops were rare nationally. Cheap shop space and little competition made the idea viable. Yet, my own self-disbelief that such a retailer would work in the town discouraged me. Browtons running in the less attractive town 2 miles down the road has proven that it could have.
Nor would I ever have thought three years ago that a little specialist beer bar like Prairie Schooner could have existed in the ill-thought-of Manchester suburb of Urmston. But it did. Somebody took a gamble. And it works. And, though people can call it snobbery, it has undoubtedly lifted the area's profile as a whole.
There are further successful examples I could list but there are no failures I can think of. The people/businesses that have gambled on the places not already overrun with craft, not already considered "hipster" by the media, have my upmost respect and have proven that good beer can transcend those barriers I talked about in those Darwin Links before. It is easy as a business to see an area where "craft" beer is already selling well and think 'I want a piece of that.' But good beer deserves to be enjoyed by all. And good people will seek it out. No matter what people think about Huddersfield, it's not exactly like Magic Rock Tap is in a prime location, yet people make the pilgrimage. Magic Rock looked to stay in Huddersfield, even away from the town centre, even though they would have been massively successful in any city centre in Britain.
I can't guarantee that a craft beer bar addition to Stalybridge would cure the dying town or revitalise it. I can't even guarantee the bar would be a success. But I do believe it. I also believe that it is worth the chance because good beer deserves to be accessible, available and enjoyed by all. I wish more were willing to show that.