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Manchester Beer Week 2016 - the Preparation and the Slog.

Manchester doing as Manchester does.
It’s over and the recovery was a slow process. The efforts were monumental and the attendances were decent. That was Manchester Beer Week – in its inaugural 2016 year.

It was a week of such beerness that even finding the time to write about it needed to be delayed. I needed a recovery period to find normality again; a sentiment shared by the conductor of this fantastic occasion when I saw him a fortnight ago - acclaimed beer writer Connor Murphy. It seems so much longer than a month ago but I am still determined to exalt the praises of one of the Manchester Beer Scene's finest hours.

There was so much packed in to the week that I did want to produce a post talking about My Manchester Beer Week – along the lines of this great post by half of my beer week soul mate at Yes! Ale (where you may also see my hand holding a Biere De Garde) -  and after attending nine straight days worth of events that post will still materialise in the next week. Yet first I wanted to talk about the build-up to the Beer Week for a little information and for the sceptics.

You see, I was once sceptical. I was one of those tweeting my scorn at London’s Beer Week (London Beer City) last year. I watched every major British city announce their own beer week and couldn’t see the point. Manchester already has so many beer events going on each week, I didn’t see why another week of them would be beneficial. Yes, I was one of them.

I was wrong, of course. Manchester Beer Week 2016 was a sensational series of events (but more of that in the later post.) It was worth it on every front. That needs discussing so any remaining sceptics realise just how much work is involved. When Connor asked if I'd like to be involved in Autumn last year, I was surprised by how many ideas for a potential beer week I began to mentally create and the possibilities seemed endless. I may have been a sceptic but I was an excited one. 

Pre-pre-Beer Week

Preparations for the beer week actually started for me back in October 2015 when I had a “meeting” with Connor about potential events. We would go on to learn that our “meetings” were generally unproductive but enjoyable pub nights. (In fact, after 4 hours drinking with him in March/April time, my announcement that I had to go get the final train was met with the phrase “But we haven’t done anything this evening.”)

Early discussions were full of voracious enthusiasm. Plenty of potential events  were discussed and I was confident more than a few would come off. I basically volunteered to take care of things Tameside way and get as many events occurring in this Mancunian sub-region. Connor, himself, seemed pleased to have an East Manchester representative happy to be involved.

I began putting out the feeder e-mails to those that I wanted to be involved, full of hope and optimism. 

It was in the following weeks that I would finally learn the valuable lessons in trying to organise happenings with beer professionals. A lot of people were unresponsive or unenthusiastic. One Tameside brewery refused to reply to my e-mail out of sheer sceptism of my legitimacy until they’d actually spoken to Stalybridge Buffet Bar to confirm I was “okay” to respond to. To this day I’m still not sure how they perceived a friendly e-mail asking them if they’d like to get involved in a Beer celebration as a potential terrorist attack. Even the Buffet Bar themselves were surprisingly stubborn even though I was determined they would be involved.

With a rather cold response and disappointing realisation that this sort of reaction wouldn’t be happening in a lot of city centre breweries and bars, my spirits were dampened. The early enthusiasm waned. Life began to take over again; a hectic work time, relationships, family bereavements and illness meant my event ideas never really came to fruition.

I tell my backstory of the Beer Week as reason we should all truly appreciate the monumental effort of Connor Murphy to produce so many events for a very successful beer week. I know from my personal experience now how difficult it is to, not only encourage people to listen to your ideas and get involved, but to find the damn time to make them a reality. 

I'd love to mention the events we managed to pack in - and I will next week - but the curtain was raised at an opening party that had a change of venue at the eleventh hour. This was due to disagreements and one bar's stance against certain beer. Whilst I can understand principles and I'm not criticising, it is a huge example of the difficulties in organising such an ambitious project. 

Pre-Beer Week

The programmes may say June 10th - June 19th but preparations and events leading up to this 10 day extravaganza began long before. 

The build-up to Manchester Beer week featured the launch night of the Beer Week’s official beer: MCR Fold – a collaboration between J.W.Lees and Cloudwater Brew Co. I know many, including myself, were excited and surprised by the prospect of such a collaboration and it didn’t disappoint on the launch night at Rain Bar. I consistently used the descriptive term creamy throughout the evening for the beer. Though it’s strong Lees yeast taste and slight fruitiness from Olicana made this nothing like Boddington’s, I felt the mouthfeel and body represented what people consider a classic Manchester beer well.

This may come as a surprise to those who tried the beer on cask during the Beer week as it would seem MCR fold disabled rapidly tasting off, even infected, before the week was through. This will be a huge disappointment to all those involved after a successful launch.

I was also lucky enough to help brew a beer at Ticketybrew for a Heritage Brew event. The recipe was stylised on an old Stalybridge brewery – Heginbotham’s – I had been doing some research on. This was one of my first ideas I put forward back in October last year, so it was great to see it come about. I’ll be writing more about the brewday, as well as a slight history of Heginbotham’s, in a later post.

Away from planned events, my Beer Week preparation began two days before as I was dragged last minute to Harvey Leonard’s in Glossop for the first time for a Meet The Brewer with Runaway Brewery. It was a busy event and a great evening. Harvey Leonard’s is a brilliant space even I was surprised by. Busy Meet the Brewer events where many in attendance are relative newbies to the beers are always much more enjoyable. It wasn't for the Beer Week itself but is worth mentioning as it was such an enjoyable evening. 

Four out of Five of the Ticketybrew Heritage Brew Team

Perhaps writing this all down a month later seems odd but there was just enough beer politics and doubtfulness from some about a celebration of Beer to make me want to take a step back from the scene for a few weeks. It is easy when you are just turning up to the odd Meet the Brewer and Beer Festival to forget to appreciate the hard work and organisation it takes - never mind the fear and anxiety that you can't pull it off. It took me long enough to see how the other side works. 

It would have been easy to put this beer week on during the time of Indy Man Beer Con when the beer scene is already focused on Manchester, but this week stood out on its own. It didn't need to ride coat tails. 

It was a beer buzz of discussion, excitement and exhaustion long before the lights came on at an opening party.  Those horrible sceptics - the likes of  Mark Johnson - were about to find out how good these types of weeks can be. And how they lift an entire city's beer scene. All who pushed to make it a reality deserve our respect and plaudits. For that one week in June everyone was invited to Manchester and Manchester delivered. 


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