The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2016 – The End of an Error 


“He thought he was the King of America, where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine.
Now I try hard not to become hysterical, but I’m not sure if I am laughing or crying…..”

(“Brilliant Mistake” – Elvis Costello : clip courtesy “Carlos Augusto” on You Tube)

Which is what it was. A Brilliant Mistake. At the start anyway.

I’ve told the story before of the genesis of this beer celebration before, I won’t go there again. I’m boring enough to read, without the repetition.

For three years, our little band of brothers and sisters – and dare I say it, friends – have managed to put on a small beer festival in a little Community Centre in the heart of Salford. At times, it was “seat of the pants” kind of stuff, but we got there. Just. On each occasion.


When I was first asked to do this, my initial thoughts were to put on a celebration of the best that Northern Beer (the world within which I crawl in the undergrowth) has to offer. That swiftly evolved. It doesn’t take going to too many beer festivals to form an understanding of the things that people (myself included) don’t like. So I sought to address those things. Things like…..

  • Seating – There can never be too much. Drinking beer should never be a solitary pursuit. It is about the social. The coming together of friends, like minded people. Beer should always be the thing that fuels conversation, not the subject of it.


  • Friendly – I wanted the best, most social of volunteers. To set the tone of the events. Flexibility. Treating people like adults, including the volunteers. You simply cannot (and I’m speaking as a beer blogger now) form a judgement about the flavour of a beer based on a shot glass! I trusted the volunteers to self regulate. Only once in three years did anyone get tipsy. Trust is a wonderful thing.
  • Relaxed – This comes back to the first two things. But more than that. It’s an attitude thing. I can’t put whatever it was into words, but judging by the feedback I’ve received, we had it.


  • The Beer – To me, beer festivals are a place to try something different. So – this year – I tried to give the drinker no option. Everything was new – to the Manchester area at least. And to the drinker (and Untappd fiend) who stated that 95 people had had the Jim Beam BA version of Weird Beard’s Double Perle before? Not in Manchester they hadn’t. And that was the point.
  • The Brewers – I didn’t count those who came along, this isn’t a willy waving contest. I made a conscious decision to NOT have a “trade session”. To let the brewers come to whichever session they chose and fitted their busy schedules. And they seemed to enjoy that – as did the customers. And there were a number of chance meetings that led to collaboration talk during this last weekend. I want IN on some of THAT!

Like I said on the Beernomicon podcast, there is no rocket science about what I did here, just gathering good, friendly and generous people be they volunteers, technicians, breweries and just getting clever people to do the stuff that I can’t.

On that note, some Thanks Yous.

Andy Heggs and Darren Turpin without the graphic and web designs of these two friends, I’d have been a ship adrift on a sea of unsold beer. I owe them more than I can ever tell them.

To this years Sponsors :

Rob Hamilton and all of Team Black Jack. Without whom your beer would have been undrinkable. Without whom my logistical issues would have driven me over the edge. All the storage, the fetching, the carrying. Over 3 WHOLE YEARS. Some of the nicest people in beer (ask BeerFinderGeneral and his wife Jenny!) Cheers guys. I’ll never be able to repay you as I should. Thanks hugely to Joe for the tunes!

Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns and the lovely Bev. Again, for 3 WHOLE YEARS of consolidating the bulk of my Yorkshire beer order and bringing it to Black Jack. For the memorable brew days (all 3 of them) in that garden shed. For burning out Bev’s blender on 5 kg of cognac soaked raisins……For bodily lifting Atilla in the kitchen at the Centre (yes, I heard….) For winning “Beer of the Festival” TWICE……..

Gareth Williams, his wife Elena and the team from The Brink. For the glassware sponsorship, the support both moral and emotional. Can’t wait to try the Grapes of Rat on keg in those lovely glasses!

James & Jen Smith aka Brewsmith. For their loving support and their amazing (and much needed beermat sponsorship! Good beer people.

For this years Beer Sponsors :

Hobs Repro of ManchesterCommando Joes; Hill and RobertsJust H ArchitectsMonsun Ltd; Drumbeat (Mr Heggs again!); The Bright PartnershipDiane Axford and Axfords JoineryCresta CarsRob Godwin; Sarah & Simon Gare; Sixth Element Carbon MTB WheelsEddie McGrath Cycles, UrmstonManchester Beer WeekJames Darcey; Keepmoat Homes

Thank you for the generosity and support – both myself and Gerry appreciate that hugely.

Lee & Sam at All Flow Dispense – Bars installed, beer handled and presented and all cleared away leaving the faint aroma of a beer festival. Consummate professionals – and, for Amateurs like me, highly recommended.

Bailey & Jules (aka GRUB) – For 3 whole years of unstinting support. For the sound system. For the love. You know it.

Alex Reed, Duke and the Darlings (who’ve  also been there each of the three years – with an ad hoc jam session in year one!) and the Sweet Sweet Records artists from this weekend. Superb.

For the best volunteers that any beer festival could possibly have? Tears of gratitude. You know who you are. And whilst I hate to elevate, to Jaz, Jeff, Deeekos, David, Chris, Linda, Pete, I simply “haven’t got any words”. Have I Chris?

The festival itself will remain long in the memory. I don’t lie and I simply hate to hype, but this year’s beer selection will take some beating for a small beer festival. The fact that I felt that I had to resort to hyperbole kind of profoundly burned my soul. I hate hypocrisy. And by having to hype this to generate ticket sales I have been a hypocrite and – as a result – my psyche is damaged and will take some time to heal. Hence – possibly the main reason why – this is the final ISBF at St Sebastian’s.

Myself, Gerry and the rest of Team ISBF hope that all who attended (in whatever capacity) enjoyed yourselves. That is what we aimed for with this. I think that we succeeded.

We certainly succeeded in raising money for the Centre. Whilst we await certain invoices, It looks like we raised almost double last year. For which, we thank you all.

This blog post has a companion piece which may explain why a further sequel here may be step too far – I urge you to read it – it may be (in the main) non-beer related, but I needed to write it. Possibly the last blog post I may ever write.