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The Independent Salford Beer Festival (2018)



In October 2016 I was due at the now defunct Ticketybrew in Stalybridge to help brew a special one off beer for the third Independent Salford Beer Festival. The festival’s organiser Jim was also due. But sat in the pub the evening before I still hadn’t heard from him so got in touch to see if it was still going ahead. Jim phoned - Told me his news - said I should go to the brewday anyway.

The following morning I arrived at Ticketybrew to help with the collaboration. I was a couple of hours late as I was struggling with the idea. The brewery atmosphere was subdued with a few commenting that they weren’t sure whether they should go ahead with it. The day was brought back to life by head brewer Duncan as he said the line, “Yeah, but you’d do anything for Jim.”

It is true too and it was true before those personal events. People will do anything for Jim. They still will as he is annually pressured into making the Independent Salford Beer Festival haapen again and again, as they did in the creation of year number 5 in the last weekend of November/first weekend of December 2018.

But why is this the case?

Without true intent or purpose, under his Beers Manchester guise – and with his gang of "merry" beer folk – Jim has created a culture untapped by too many in the industry. It sits centrally, away from the two polar extremes of beer people. It is a culture that champions good beer in many guises. It has given promotion to some of the “little” people, whether they be brewers, bar owners, bloggers or just beer people, who don't receive the same commotion or praise as others but deserve it just as much. It has discussed and highlighted some of the injustices without anger and aggression. It has created a space to make beer enjoyable.

It promoted the mantra beer people are good people. It was derided by some due to the number of not-so-great people in the industry. Jim insisted it was his truth so that he would stick to it. And on a Saturday afternoon in Salford I was reminded as to why this is the case.

This post isn’t actually about Jim and I'm sure he'd be annoyed if it was. 





It was about that beer festival at Hemsley House on December 1st that came at a time when I needed reminding of the better parts of this hobby. The Infinity War riddled nonsense last week was my way of expelling the demons that had begun to plague me prior to this celebration of beer. 

It is a beer festival like many on the surface and for the casual goer there will be nothing to dig into. A beautiful venue, separate keg and cask bars, a programme to mull and tick over, whilst conversing with the beer enthusiasts around. It can be that simple.

For me, however, it is an event that is Jim personified. Beneath that surface is an event unique in its attitude to this industry, whether others acknowledge that or not.

The beers are of enormous quality but showcase the huge array of tastes available. Breweries that are pigeon holed into certain circles are encompassed as one here. The fuss, the joose, the boring browns, the trad, the crispy, the whatever-they-are-called-elsewhere are recognised here as just beer; good beer. Good beer regardless of forum reputations, membership political party awards or review site hubris. If it is brewed well and tastes good then it makes the list. Jim personified.

Though I still would have happily sat in a corner and supped pints of cask De Ranke XX Bitter all afternoon. It was a day fuelled by conversation, meet-and-greets and some of the happiest, most welcoming volunteers that money couldn’t buy. We often hear excuses for the behaviours of volunteers but that isn’t the case here, every single one seems so thrilled to be there. Jim personified. 




Even the simple but effective hot food offerings in the likes of hot pot and warm turkey sandwiches are a reminder, almost a throwback, to something simpler. A warming home cooked hot pot and chips, after not queuing, allows you to return to the more exciting parts of the festival. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the various street food vendors at other festivals, this just feels in-keeping with the feeling of ISBF: warming and wholesome. Jim personif… well I’m not sure how wholesome he is!

It is a day to find childish hilarity in holiding a brush.  




It was one of those festival afternoons that I didn’t want to end. I nearly stayed for the evening session on the ticket of somebody who couldn’t make it, but knew that could only end in a train ride to York. Still, I came away from just four and a half hours in a building by Salford Crescent with a new love for the hobby I’d walked away from just days earlier. And a reminder that, even if all beer people are not good people, some of the best ones that I know are.

I’ll never forget being close to tears whilst stood over a bucket of 50kg of kiwis, paddle mixer in hand, in a small brewery railway arch in Tameside, two years ago. It was a pain that wasn’t mine. Having the ability to use that pain as a stirrer to bring something so joyous to others is remarkable. That’s why people would do anything for Jim; the representation of everything beer should be about.

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