GrubMCR – Winter Ales Festival

Oh, been tryin’ to let it go, tryin’ to keep my eyes closed
Tryin’ to keep it just like before, the times we never even thought to speak

Don’t wanna tell you what it is, oh, wee, it felt so serious
Got me thinkin’ just too much. I wanna set it off but

It’s this 1 thing that got me trippin’……”

(“1 Thing” – Amerie – Clip courtesy Goldiigaa on YouTube)

Some things just reaffirm my faith in humanity. Just, well, lift me up a bit. This tune was at the heart of that lift. You see, we said “Goodbye” to a close friend on Friday and – during the Humanist service – there were enough tears shed to float a super tanker. It was what happened in the evening that got me.

I like music and in nearly 35 years of collecting have amassed quite a library. I was truly honoured to be asked to compile a playlist for the post-service “celebration” of my friend’s life. Memories were shared, the laughter was like a dam breaking and just roared throughout the day. The someone began “tinkering” with the playlist….and the track above came on.

With a direct lift of a drum break from “Oh Calcutta” by The Meters sampled by producer Rich Harrison (“Crazy In Love” etc) this just has an energy and a vitality to it that is hard to beat. Judged on plays on my iTunes, this must be my favourite tune of the last 10 years. Who am I to argue with Steve Jobs eh? And I think that it knocks “Crazy In Love” out of the park.


(As seen on Dantzic St!)

I’m not a gambler. I’m much too much of a scaredy cat to take financial risks. But when some people do, I admire them for their bravery. So when Jules Morris and Jason Bailey decided to host a modern beer festival in the shadow of The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, I applauded. A brave move indeed.

This was – in reality – as much about the artisanal food providers as it was about the beer list (which, if I’m honest, wasn’t particularly wintry), so I was chuffed to bits for them that all sessions sold out.

I was even more pleased – in a perverse way – that the original venue fell through. It gave me another chance to snoop around Runaway Brewery!


(Angel Meadow)

The weather could barely have been better as I strode up Shudehill with a purpose and a thirst to be slaked. Bright winter sun was the order of the day. On stepping past the all dominating new Co-Operative HQ onto Dantzic Street, the signs were unequivocal. Follow the arrows. Beer awaits!

I’d heard some excellent reports from the Friday evening, with both Jeff & the Arch-Nemesis raving on social media. Could it really be as good as they said?


Turning into the series of railways arches toward Runaway, the marquee drew me in (as did the smells from within). Now I didn’t try the food at The Velodrome, I have to go on trusted reports which indicated that it really wasn’t all that……However, this was!

With a superb beer from Black Jack in hand, I tucked into a Chorizo & White Bean Stew from Comida, beautifully spiced and chunky, proper winter food.

The feel of this was – strangely, given the vastly different location and season – reminiscent of Levenshulme Beer Festival. That the beer list also had the stamp of Glassworks/BlackJack added to the familiarity, with beers from the likes of Arbor, Hopcraft, BlackJack and many other craft luminaries just added to the familiarity. This just had a really relaxed feel to it. Quite a youngish demographic too, with my lot upping the average age by about 2 years!


Some excellent tunes in the brewery with a couple of live acts whilst we were there added to the chilled (in more ways than one!) vibe.

Jeff and the Arch-Nemesis indulged their culinary sides more than I with some superb food (judging by the rapturous sounds!) with (if I remember rightly) Fu Schnickens being particularly highly rated.


On the beer front, for me all of the beers were excellent and – in the main – excellent value for central Manchester, especially the cask offering. The beer of the day for me was the #Beergasmic “Deerhunter” by BlackJack. The coffee saison. It just rocks my world. It just edged out the American Brown Ale from Runaway, predictable excellence from Mr Welsby & friends. Was nice to see Mark and fellow Runaways behind the bar too – Excellent T-Shirts too. I wasn’t jealous….much. Nor did I try to snaffle one….well, not much.


(Spot the brewmeister?)

Thoughts? Overall, a bloody good beer offering with outstanding food. Really relaxed and friendly. Do it again in June, when it’s a wee bit….warmer! If there was one minor piece of constructive criticism that I would offer, whilst the prices for the kegged beers was quite clear, that didn’t appear to be the case for the cask beers (unless I missed something). I would give the pricing equal prominence. But that really is a minor point.

This could be something close to the future for small beer festivals. A mixture of cask and keg with flavour being the main consideration. And rightly so.


Jules & Jason, I tip my glass to you. Slainte!

One more thing. These guys are trying to get a new events venue off the ground “The Keystone”. A venue that will (it is hoped) host independent artists and grass-roots food & drink providers. A worthy venture. The Kickstarter link is hereGive it a click. Go on!