Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What a Success!



Looking at my blog count for January, it stands at a miserable eight. My worst ever I'm ashamed to say, but then again, I like to think I have an excuse. That bloody beer festival.

To let you into a sort of secret, when we heard that the Co-op wasn't letting out New Century House again, the future of the Winter Ales Festival in a Manchester venue was in severe doubt. The city was scoured for alternatives, with eye wateringly expensive and unsuitable alternatives being weeded out. It was getting difficult. We discovered the Sheridan Suite, firmly plonked in a pretty run down area and a mile and a bit out of town, though otherwise with a lot going for it. (Our booking took them by surprise as it is mostly used for Asian weddings.) It didn't get universal approval and caused some to spit their dummies out, but we went for it and guess what? It worked and people loved it! No-one was killed or stabbed on the way there. There was no trouble or mass invasion of scallies, just wonderfully relaxed people having a great time.

Some details. Last year's record numbers was more or less equalled in a venue that has no passing trade - you have to decide to go. The attendance was well in excess of 8000. We sold much more beer - an effective sellout - and banked more money. My abiding memory of a hugely successful Friday night was looking along Oldham Road and watching a stream of taxis queuing to deposit thirsty drinkers, while passing buses dropped off 10 or 12 each trip.

We had more seating though never enough, but happy groups sat on the floor, making their own personal space. Boak and Bailey were just such a pair. The number of young people, particularly women, who attended was gratifying and proved that "proper" beer can attract that sizeable market without gimmicks, if you create the right setting and enough choice. We had record numbers of volunteer staff from all over the country. I'm indebted to them. The venue management found it amazing that so many worked so hard for no financial reward. Me too. We signed up nearly 200 more CAMRA members, the beer was in record good nick, the food was appreciated, with the real genuine made on the premises curries going down well and though we did have the odd hiccup with the ladies toilets - surely they could cross their legs for 20 minutes while the header tanks refilled? - all was well. We even sold most of the souvenir glasses.

Will we be back? Well, we have a snagging list as long as your arm - standard for a new location - we have to look at price and any alternatives, but next year's NWAF has already been allocated to Manchester. If you weren't there, you missed a treat. Don't miss out again.

The photo shows Thwaites dray horses and handler on the Trade Session.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great venue, Great beer, Great people, an absolute credit to you Kim, Graham and all your team!

Richard said...

I went to the Saturday afternoon session and had a great time... my mate was the lucky 151st person to join CAMRA too :) Well done for all your work. I wrote a little about our visit here if you're interested (there's nothing nasty!)

Tandleman said...

Anon. Thanks. Richard. Brilliant stuff mate. Glad you all had such a good time.

Curmudgeon said...

Good to hear it was a success despite the doubts that were expressed. The higher takings per head were possibly due to the fact that it had a captive market given the lack of nearby pubs - as you said, people had to make a positive decision to go. It would be interesting to know what is the nearest currently open pub to the venue that serves cask beer.

Cooking Lager said...

Glad to hear you had a nice time. How about them tankard photo's?

phil55494 said...

It was a great venue, much better than at the co-op. If you're there again, I'll be volunteering to serve the thirsty drinkers.

Richard said...

@Curmudgeon - there was a very old-fashioned looking pub about half way down Oldham Road that we were going to stop off at on the way back, but ran out of time. I'm not convinced they'll have had any cask on though - looked like a smooth drinker's pub.

Tandleman said...

That'd be the Ace of Diamonds and while possibly cask, is allegedly the local stronghold of the BNP!

Mark said...

Good to hear it all went well. Next year I'll make the trip. I might even offer to work it...!

Paul Garrard said...

"Looking at my blog count for January, it stands at a miserable eight." I think you have a good excuse!

Glad to hear it was a success

Woolpack Dave said...

I vote you keep the same venue. Best beer festival venue ever. If I get a chance I'll post my own thoughts.

The curry was great, although it did screw up my palate, as Jeff Pickthall forecast.

Whorst said...

Glad you're back Herr'man. I think a track is in order.

Andrew said...

As evangalists for Dutch beer my wife and I would just love to say thanks to Ralph for managing to get 25 of them to savour, we got through 12 on the Saturday afternoon and even took some home, hope next year is as good.

The venue seemed to have lots of room and was nicely busy without being overcrowded.

Well done for a wonderful festival

NAM said...

Much to say. Much better venue than New Century Hall (more spacious, didn't get as hot), catering vastly improved once freed from the Co-op death grip. Mild bugger to get to, especially from Victoria where the classier clientele arrive. I wasn't aware that hand driers had been rationed in these straitened times but clearly the case in the gents. Sad not to see any US beers for sale on the bottle bar.

Beer of festival for me - WC Drew Peacock's Double IPA. Luscious.

Finally, this was the first time I volunteered. I really can recommend it. What's not to like about serving beer to a seriously pleasant bunch of folk?

Paul Bailey said...

Glad the festival went well Tandleman. Will try and make it there next year; it's high time I paid a return visit to Manchester!

RedNev said...

It was great, and exactly as you described. Well done.

Eddie86 said...

Really enjoyed it, had never been to Manchester and found no problems and some great pubs along the way! Marathon account of my experience on my blog as well.

Cheers to all those who made it what it was!

Bailey said...

Yes, it was great. As I've said elsewhere, it kicked GBBF's arse, but I haven't quite yet worked out why exactly. Less bare concrete and a crowd not unlike that in any normal pub probably had something to do with it.

ChrisM said...

>>The venue management found it amazing that so many worked so hard for no financial reward. Me too.<<

I'm not. Speaking as one of those such people, we get all the benefits of going to a beer festival, such as drinking the odd nip of an unusual beer, and the added bonuses of learning a lot about different types of beer, talking to customers about beer, and either meeting new or meeting up with old friends. Great use of a spare week/weekend in my book!

As I've said elsewhere, it was a great festival (despite my initial fears about the lack of beer on some of the bars due to the championship bar being open!), the beer was in especially good nick for a gravity festival, the atmosphere was fantastic (apart from the FO's loud voice beating down from the rafters every 3 minutes) and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Will do my best to get back next year, exams permitting!

MicMac said...

NAM said...
"Beer of festival for me - WC Drew Peacock's Double IPA. Luscious."

From the fantastic part-time, pico-brewery W.C. Brewery, nr Chester - all of their beer-names should be up on Pumpclip Parade's Wall of Shame, but I like the guys & the beers are just fantastic, so I haven't yet had the heart to nominate them :~)

Check them out here - http://www.wcbrewery.com/
(like the beers, the website punches well above their weight too)
Cheers
MikeMcG

Tandleman said...

Curmudgeon. We counted on that happening. Also simply, people could easily get to the bars which in NCH, at times, you just couldn't.

Tyson said...

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it, but I heard very positive reports about it. So well done everyone who worked hard to make it such a success. Oh, and you as well:)

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

We scouted some local pubs as we were a bit early, they were (in the nicest way possible) reminiscent of the local in Channel 4's Shameless.

Great afternoon last Wednesday, thanks Tandleman et al.

The curry screwed my mouth for half an hour as well but nothing a JJJ 'IPA' couldn't sort. Jeff did warn us but I was starving, my emergency Greggs pasty didn't fill the hole it was meant to on the way over...

Tandleman said...

Now Mark - you must name names so I can tell you you went to all the wrong places or what a wuss you are (-;

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

We wussed out, mainly because the man in the window of the Spanking Roger (what a pub name!) was either getting very angry on wii fit or was a raving lunatic who wasn't happy to see us on his turf. And it wasn't even 2pm at that point...

Tyson said...

If you found yourself anywhere near the "Spank", then you were most definitely heading in the wrong direction.

Tandleman said...

I've never even heard of it but I am not surprised Tyson has.

Tyson said...

Not the kind of place a Camra chairman and deputy NWAF organiser is likely to find himself. Or would want to. But as someone who has been on the piss with Don Ricardo...

Matt said...

The Spanking Roger is a great name for a pub. As ever, Wikpedia - in its article on the Salford district of Kersal - provides the origin of the name:

"In the 17th century the Kersal Moor races were the great event of the year. They usually took place around Whit Week when large numbers of people turned the area into a giant fairground for several days. The moor was also used for nude male races, allowing females to study the form before choosing their mates. Indeed in the 18th century, Roger Aytoun, known as "Spanking Roger", who was later a hero of the Siege of Gibraltar acquired Hough Hall in Moston through marriage after such a race."