Foraging with strangers and naked housework…
The day finally came. The first meeting of the Bury Homebrew Club took place yesterday evening at The Trackside pub in Bury.
Not without a little trepidation, I arrived at the pub a good 15 minutes early, got a lovely pint of Citra from Scarborough Brewery and sat myself down. The Citra has a lovely citrusy taste with a hint of amoxycillin (you know – the yellow medicine they used to give you as a child!) – this is not a criticism, it was quite pleasant!
Anyway, my Dad turned up, we moved to a bigger table in the corner to accommodate the huge throng we were expecting (sure, sure), made a half-arsed effort at spreading some posters and forms about the table in the hope that it might entice people to come and join us, and got to supping our pints (by this point I was on a pint of Red Beer’d, a lovely malty number from Brightside Brewing Company down the road from me in Radcliffe).
At this point, it was getting on to being 8pm and other than a table of people chatting across the pub, we were pretty much alone (everyone else was out on the platform enjoying the sunshine). Just when we thought nobody was turning up, we noticed that a gentleman at the previously mentioned table pulled out a shopping bag, suspiciously shaped like a bottle…
Ear-wigging into their conversation, I was sure I heard the odd word like “malt” and “kit” and “yeast”. Turns out the meeting had begun on a different table! Needless to say, to find that five people other than me, my Dad and a mate had turned up made my day!
The introductions began and it was great to find a different mix of homebrewing interests.
A gentleman named Chris Evans (not that one) had come along with a keen interest in cider and, it turns out, a penchant for vacuuming his house with nothing on but the radio. His good friend Steve Davies had joined him and regaled us with tales of his and Chris’ brewing exploits. It was clear that both Steve and Chris were prolific brewers and experimenters with a knack for taking standard kits found in Wilkinsons, but adding an extra bit of oomph with exotic yeasts, sugars and supermarket fruit-juice! I also discovered that Steve and I share a bit of a thing for homemade stir-plates (I must write an article on here about my Stir-o-matic 2000).
We also had a chap named Andy Bird turn up. Unfortunately he was working that evening but took the time to pop in and say hello – hopefully he will be able to make it to future meetings.
Next up, a couple of gents with a love of wine – Dave McLaughlin and Gonzalo Rodriguez (Rod to his mates). The suspiciously bottle-shaped carrier bag turned out to be a 2012 vintage Elderberry wine of Dave’s and frankly, it was incredible. It was like thick, warming, Vimtoey goodness. Had it not been a school-night, I could have happily polished the whole bottle off to myself.
I had brought a couple of beers along (my last two bottles of homebrew as it happens – I need to get brewing!) and cracked them open for people to try: a bottle of my Besses Best Bitter, and a variant of the same beer but with American hops (Willamette and Chinook) called Yookuzer Coalition Bitter that I brewed for a recent homebrew competition held by the Bootleg Brewing Co. in Chorlton. Nobody choked so that’s a start!
Before we knew it, we were happily chatting away about our brewing experiences. Steve was particularly interested in Dave’s tales of foraging for the ingredients for his creations; in his “club-activities” suggestion-section of his membership form, he listed “walks for Elderflowers with strangers”. Why not?
There were some great suggestions for future activities and topics for discussion:
- Local brewery visits (this is a great one – we are fortunate to have some cracking breweries on our doorstep in the Bury area)
- Presentations on learning experiences
- Sharing f@ck-ups/best practices
- Walks for Elderflowers with strangers (as mentioned earlier)
- Tastings (tick!)
- Competitions (a big one for me and one of the reasons why I wanted to join a homebrew club in the first place)
- “Full circle brews” i.e. we suggest a theme for a brew at a meeting, update on how each member is getting on with their brew at the next meetings, taste each-other’s efforts at the next
- Ideas for tweaking kits
- Information for beginners
- Advice on speeding up the brewing process whilst maintaining quality
- Beer and cider (a pretty good topic for discussion!)
Later on in the evening, my mate Mark Clayton – a big fan of Brewferm kits – arrived in full football regalia, walking like the tin man. I reminded him of our respective ages and that perhaps he ought to stick to the beer rather than the football. For his own health and wellbeing of course!
The cherry on the cake for me and I am sure my Dad also was the arrival of James Hobson. Not only is James the proud owner of a Grainfather complete brewing system, he is also a long-lost-cousin of my Dad’s and we were over the moon that he joined us for the meeting. It was great to meet him and I am sure that it is no coincidence that he too is a homebrewer.
I said from the start that if somebody other than me, my Dad or my mate Mark turned up, I would call it a success. If the first meeting is anything to go by then I think we should see great things from our club. Can’t wait for the next meeting!