Fare Thee Well Captain

My dear Captain Haddock

Hello WordPress. It’s been a while…..

It takes something to wake this blog from it’s regular hibernation. And today, I saw such a thing…

Closely followed by this body blow….

Shane Swindells. Engineer. Exceptional Brewer. Man of many opinions. All passionately held and expressed. To experience Shane in full flow is one of the Wonders of The Beer World. A man with whom no conversation was brief. As I’ll relate later.

I first met Shane at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival (I think). When it was located at the Velodrome – Possibly its first year there. I was introduced by young Mr Heggs, design genius. I grabbed myself a beer and – shy character that I am – prepared to haltingly talk to someone whose beers I had admired (and blogged about) for some time.

It is no exaggeration to say, that that conversation changed my world. Changed the way that I thought about myself. And the thing that I did – shambolically – as a hobby. Blogging about beer.

He said – I clearly recall – that he thought that had great tastebuds. That my descriptions nailed his beer’s flavours and aromas. I was shaken. That this – as I then knew – bear of a man, a man who had become a bit of a hero to this fledgling Blogger, say such complementary things about me..I struggle with people saying nice things to me. Never have coped with that. As anyone who has been nice to me at numerous ISBFs can testify.

That conversation gave me confidence to carry on. To blog more. Build a following. All of which – ultimately – led to The Independent Salford Beer Festival. And making so many friends, some of whom are now really close. And rather dear to me.

Back to Captain Haddock…. Shane is one of the best technical brewers I’ve met. And I’ve met a lot. Brewing a core range of beers – exceptionally well – for his local (Cheshire) market, whilst getting jiggy with hops and getting beers into Manchester. The Lupy As A Toucan series were an absolute delight. Balanced, sessionable beers, bursting with fruity hoppy flavours. Making Bitters like Engine Vein and Best Bitters like DBA (named after his beloved Draught Burton Ale – he used to work in Burton, engineering for Coors), consistent, full flavoured beers. Whilst The Crafterati were chasing the hype train, Shane was brewing classics. His Lindow Stout was to die for too.

And then. We get to Govinda.

Just. Look. At. That. Colour.

A Heritage Beer. Before Heritage Beers seemed a thing. A big, bold English IPA. Before big, bold, English IPAs were trending on Beer Twitter. And an Absolute. Stone. Cold. Classic. So good, it was my #GoldenPints Beer of the Year in 2014. It rocked my slipper socks right off.

One seriously special beer. If you missed it, you weren’t listening to me in 2014. Nor to a certain Beer Writer of my acquaintance…. (the Sugar Pie Honeybunch that is) Melissa Cole wrote glowingly about Govinda. And demand soared! (Bloody influencers 不不不)

We could go on. Gibraltar Porter. Another classic “Heritage Beer”. Shane brewed some “Jimbo Catnip” which was his #VISBF beer (Amarillo DIPA…… Mmmmmmmmm…. Amarillo…. 中中中) Which tasted like a Paddington wet dream. All that spicy orange marmalade…… Astonishingly good.

I rocked up at the brewery in Congleton, before he created his brewery tap. And met this little fella. Jack.

He was much smaller then. A pup. And he was in the delivery van. But when I approached Shane, he went batshit! Launching himself at the window, the mini mauler tried to eat through the window. He made an impression alright. I certainly didn’t require the toilet for a while!

Like I said earlier, Shane is a man of strong opinions, passionately expressed. I particularly remember starting a phone call about packaging in can which started before I jumped the train home at Manchester Airport and finished as I got through the barrier at Bolton! It’s a given, you don’t have a “quick chat” with Shane!

Passionate. Opinionated. Generous. Kind. An absolute font of knowledge, freely shared. There’s a lot of good people in this here beer industry. And Shane is as good as any. Bizarrely, he’s been a bit of a secret. If you knew, you knew.

If he really is packing the game in, I – for one – am gonna miss him. And if you never got to try the likes of Govinda or Gibraltar Porter, you missed something special.

The beer industry will be all the poorer.

Back soon. Jx