Posts tagged ‘Birmingham’

November 7, 2013

Counting down the hours

It’s really quite nerve-wracking. There’s less than 100 hours to go before people can pay good hard-earned cash (I am assuming it is hard earned, anyway!) for a beer of my making. There is nothing I can do to influence the end product. Short of delivering it (tomorrow I believe, if not already) there’s nothing much the guys at Blackjack can do either. And then it is in the safe hands of Chris at the Craven Arms in Birmingham until the big day on Monday.

So, for those of you don’t already know, clear your diary for Monday evening at 7pm. You’ll need to get yourself into Birmingham but fingers crossed the results will be worth it. At the very least there’ll be a host of other great Blackjack beers to enjoy and you’ll get to meet the guys too. Plus me. Still, you can’t have it all…

And if you can’t make it into Birmingham on Monday then there will be a few other opportunities to try Phoneticus. It’s coming home to Penkridge, and it will be making its way to a few as yet unspecified venues. Let me know where you see it, and what you think if you do get to try it.

July 25, 2013

T-2 – a session sells out

One more day of setup to go. I’d say tomorrow but clearly from the time of this post it is actually today. I don’t think I’ve got a single one of these posts out on the day to which they actually apply, have I?

A slightly quiet day but not without its dramas and excitements. The high being the selling out of Friday evening tickets. We have tried to allow a few to be kept back for walk-up sales but maybe we should release these as advance tickets, given the level of demand. We’ll see.

An interesting fact about tomorrow. I think it may be the first time the team of ten behind the Beer Bash have all been in the same place at the same time. Seems incredible really.

Time for bed. It’s an early start for the biggest day of setup, T-1!

July 23, 2013

T-3 the build begins

It is both exciting and scary to see the cask and keg bars coming together today. Exciting because we’re getting close, and scary because, well, we’re getting close.

Having that final access to the venue gives some opportunity for getting to grips with some of the last minute details, to make sure that how we planned things is in accordance with how things are, or at least how we can rearrange them to be. You also start to feel a sense of the space for the event, rather than having to imagine it the way you want it. It throws up some interesting alternative views on how things really need to be and makes you question lots of things that you thought were all set and decided on.

It wasn’t just about the bars today, either. The beers are all coming together nicely now, with a few extra deliveries swelling the ranks. No further changes to the beer list but for an additional unexpected offering. Who are we to say no…


July 21, 2013

T-6 and T-5 – the calm before the storm?

Well the intention of writing a post a day clearly failed.  To be fair Saturday was somewhat taken up by a barbecue for family, friends, neighbours and those of the Bash team who could make it.  Naturally conversation amongst certain of us was fairly one-tracked, but at this stage in the proceedings there’s only so much you can do by talking.  So T-6 came and went.

Today (well, once again, yesterday, as it is another late finish) has been a day of catching up on emails while I have the chance – for Monday is the start of the real setup activity.  We’re off first thing to collect a few beers and some of the bars, so it’ll be a long day on the road.  I’m sure there will be tweets from the team as we head up to Huddersfield and Manchester and back again, so watch out for news on our progress.

Great news today with the selling out of the second of our two dining sessions.  These are both full up and other than a last minute entry into the competition run with the Birmingham Mail and Post, there simply is no way anyone else can get in.  Tickets have been selling rapidly over the weekend too, and Friday evening and Saturday afternoon sessions are close to selling out.  We’ve had to reduce the number of walk-up tickets we were holding back to keep up with the demand for advance ones, so if these are the sessions that interest you then you really do need to get in there quick.

Also if you are still waiting for your e-tickets to appear in your Inbox, then please take a few moments to check your spam / junk mail folder.  We’ve had a lot of people who hadn’t had their tickets, but once prompted to check they’ve been found in the spam folder.  This isn’t always the case though and so if you still haven’t got your tickets please email us so we can get them resent.

So, not much of an update this time I’m afraid, but watch out for the reports from tomorrow when we start getting really hands on!

July 20, 2013

T-7 (and counting)

Just seven days away now, Birmingham Beer Bash is tangibly close. And because I don’t have much to do in the next week (this may be a lie!) I thought I’d see if I can manage to chronicle the final build-up on a day by day basis. 10 posts see us through to the ‘take down’ and the final party at the end that is hopefully a celebration of a great event.

So today, a week before we open the doors to the public, has also been my last day doing the “day job” for a week and a half.  The last day before going on holiday from work is a busy enough time, but throw in the final preparations for a beer festival and it becomes manic.

After a few days of herculean effort to finalise the programme and get it to the printers (and thanks go to @carldurose in the main
for pulling that all together) it was perhaps inevitable that today would see the last minute changes start to pop up. That’s an obvious risk when you’re publishing a beer list in your programme which has to be printed several days (or two weeks as was the target set by the printers) in advance. So we lost a couple of beers that were planned to be be on the bars. In one case the heat won when our cask decided enough was enough, and “exploded” in transit, in another the beer was found to be just not right before leaving the brewery and so, quite simply, we can’t have it.  But that is good, and fits in entirely with us only wanting to serve the best. And importantly, we’ve made changes as a result that bring in equally worthy alternatives.

The day continued with an ongoing panic as the van belonging to one of our key suppliers closed in on London to collect a range of beers from several breweries. Some of the beer wasn’t in the right place, and moreover we couldn’t get hold of the brewer to confirm where it was! In this case all ended well with an admittedly quite late final pick-up from the last brewery in the capital, and we are very grateful to @realaledirect for their part in bringing together the brilliant beer list we’ve concocted.

So, very conscious that as I write this the time has moved on to day T-6, it is time to close on a busy busy day and prepare for the next. Still much to do, but also a semblance of a normal weekend to maintain.  Monday looms close with the prospect of a Beer Bash road trip to Manchester and Huddersfield, before the start of set-up on Tuesday.  Follow the next instalments for an inside

June 26, 2013

The final countdown…

If you know where to look, as you head south out of Birmingham New Street on the train (just as I did as I wrote this) and glance out of the window at just the right moment, you can briefly follow the canal cutting its way through the back streets of Digbeth.  A building stands proud above the former industrial district currently getting its second wind as a place of business and arts, its upper stories leaning out over the narrow strip of water, a large blue banner hanging down revealing its identity.

The Icehouse, centrepiece of the group of Victorian buildings now known as The Bond Company.  A place of history where once upon a time huge quantities of ice were produced for use in the local markets, surely making it the coolest place around.

Exactly one month from now, once again this site is destined to be the coolest place going as it makes another little dent on history.  The first Birmingham Beer Bash.  July 26th and 27th.

The list of breweries sending beer, and in many cases attending in person, has continued to grow and there are still a handful left to announce. It is, quite frankly, a stunning list, the like of which Birmingham has never seen.  From established breweries that have been at the vanguard of bold and progressive brewing for some time, to some of the new upstarts only recently coming to the scene and even launching their beers at the festival, we think we’ve found some of the best the country has to offer.  We’ve also had to make hard choices about breweries that aren’t there.  It simply wasn’t possible to include everyone we wanted to, but we think we’ve made the right choices and hope you’ll love what we’ve put together.

It isn’t just about drinking great beer though.  The “fringe” programme has been gradually coming together, and a week or so ago we finally announced our headline acts.  The seminars on hops and malt are a unique opportunity to learn more about what goes into the beer in your glass and they’ll both be presented by industry experts, Paul Corbett of Farams and Dom Driscoll of Thornbridge respectively.  We’re about to add to this with the list of tutored tastings that will be taking place throughout the weekend – places will be limited so you’ll need to sign up for these when you arrive at the festival, and if you follow our announcements on Twitter (@BirminghamCubed) and Facebook (BirminghamBeerBash) in the next week or so you’ll soon see why you’d want to do that!

Finally the food.  The beer and food matching dinners, served up by two of Birmingham’s finest chefs – Brad Carter (Carters of Moseley) and Luke Tipping (Simpsons, Edgbaston) – are a gourmet masterpiece and (if it really worked like that) would possibly make us the first Michelin-starred beer festival!  Take a look at the menus on our website and book quickly to avoid missing out on a fabulous opportunity because tickets are selling fast.  There’s also a great selection of local street food from great suppliers so there should be something for everyone.

We’d love to see you there.  All of you.  But we probably can’t fit you all in.  So make sure you get your tickets in advance because there really is no guarantee of tickets being available on the door.  Come and say hi to me (@OthertonAleman) and all of the organising team – Carl (@CarlDurose), Chris (@ckdsaddlers), Dan (@mediocre_dan), David (@mrdavidj), Jen (@ilovecherryreds), Krishan (@StirchleyWines), Shaun (@19irishdragon), Stewart (@TheRealStewbert) and Tim (@PolymathTim).

You might also want to watch out for an article on us and our stunning new poster in the Birmingham Post this week, and if you’re listening to BBC Radio WM on Friday morning you might just hear us on the Adrian Goldberg programme.

30 days to go.  My how time flies!

April 26, 2013

Trials and tribulations

I sort of promised myself after my last post that the next one (i.e. this one) would be about something other than the Birmingham Beer Bash.  It seems I’ve failed.  In my defence, one way or another that event is the main thing that takes up my time at the moment.  The past few weeks have been full of some pretty exciting developments – the list of breweries that have recently been announced for example (not to mention the ones we can’t tell you about yet! There’s more excitement to come there, especially after the news I received just today) and of course the tickets going on sale was a big step forward for us too.  It is a real buzz to see the ticket sales going through and it gives a real sense of things coming together.  This week we’ve sent advertising copy off for our first print ad (watch out for the May issue of Brum Notes!) and we’re getting our first posters up around Birmingham now so that should generate even more interest.

There’s more in the pipeline too.  There are meetings coming up next week that should further develop the beer list, and pull together some of the “fringe” activities that will be taking place.  Then, in just over three weeks I’m due to be heading down to the Beer Geek brewery to rustle up a commercial-sized batch of a saison I originally created at home for the Midland Craft Brewers yeast comparison exercise.  All being well that will make its first appearance on the keg bar at the Beer Bash, which is a fantastic prospect for me albeit one balanced by some very wracked nerves!

But, as the title to this post suggests, it isn’t all plain sailing.  It seems that every day that goes by there is a new concern to address.  Something extra that needs to be considered, a problem that needs to be addressed.  And I don’t mind telling you (as long as you keep it between the two of us) some of them have had the capacity to cause real difficulties.  Fortunately despite the potential impacts, the reality has been that they’ve been solved quietly in the background without too much trouble.  In fact, looking back they can be quite amusing, but that certainly wasn’t the case at the time.

So, I’m relieved to say that after discovering the venue’s premises license didn’t cover one of the two rooms we were basing the whole event around, and furthermore wouldn’t permit us to sell bottles to take away, we are now all sorted out with a Temporary Events Notice that solves both these problems.  And after finding out that there was a (pretty low, in the scheme of things, and rapidly being approached) limit to how much money we could collect through Paypal, we now have our account fully enabled*.  There have also been a few cases of the electronic tickets not getting automatically sent out, but the technical boffins at Event Elephant are looking into it and we will shortly be manually resending them if necessary, so the effect is at least minimised.**

So, despite the odd hiccups, we’re all on track, but there is still plenty to do and only three months in which to do it.  Yes, exactly three months today we’ll be throwing wide the doors and letting you all judge whether we’ve delivered to expectations!  Where has all the time gone?  It doesn’t seem that long ago that this was all just a wild idea in a pub, but that was just over a year ago.  So we’ve just 91 days (yes, I am counting) to put all the final details into place, and I suspect as a result there won’t be much else on my mind for a while yet…

* So, no reason to hold back then – buy your tickets now through the website at!

** If you have booked tickets but have not received an email with PDF tickets attached, please email us at and we’ll make sure you get your tickets once the issue is corrected.

March 26, 2013

Birmingham Beer Bash – a personal view

In exactly four month’s time it will be day 1 of the Birmingham Beer Bash.  Just four months.  Eeek!

It’s fair to say that being involved in the organisation of an event like this sometimes has its perks.  Holding meetings (not just within our group but also with potential suppliers, sponsors, presenters and supporters) in pubs over a pint or two is a pleasure that I don’t get to enjoy in the day job.  Maybe that’s for the best though – if all the meetings I attended were like that then I’d really struggle.  More than that, there’s the occasional chance to visit one of the great breweries we’ll be featuring and taste a few beers with them.  To meet the people behind the beer, and other people who have a role to play in the industry whether it is brewing, marketing, reviewing, promoting or simply enjoying beer.  It reinforces just what a positive and exciting industry this is.

It can also have its downsides of course.  To be honest, it is exhausting.  So much to think about that it becomes nearly impossible to switch off.  Dealing with the fun stuff, such as what beer we’ll have and who we can talk into coming along, is one thing.  The realities of finances, bank accounts, advertising, providing enough toilets, worrying about whether anyone will turn up, have we got enough space, who’ll sponsor this & that, what extra equipment do we need, how much security, can we get it set up in time, will we have too much beer, what if we don’t have enough beer, insurance, first aid, volunteers, ticket prices.  All of these things and more.  They are all somewhat less glamorous than selecting the beer, but without considering them all the beer part simply won’t happy.  It’s a team effort and everyone has their own part to play, their own jobs to do, but at the same time all these things are still there, swilling around in my head, needing to be sorted.  Someone’s dealing with them all.  At least I think someone is.  Are they?  See, there I go again…

So why do it? Why get involved in organising what is perhaps, at least in this country, the first ever beer event quite like this that was born so intrinsically out of social media(*), a beer festival for people who share our vision of bringing as many great beers to Birmingham as we can?  Because no-one else was, and we all wanted to bring something like this here.  Ironically we’ll probably all be so busy over that weekend at the end of July that we won’t get to enjoy it in the way I suspect we all originally envisaged.  However I do know that it is going to be so thoroughly satisfying to make a success of this that I for one am not going to get too bothered about missing out on some of the fantastic beers that have been discussed so far (and news of some of these will be starting to trickle out very soon). Or of the undoubtedly splendid beers that have yet to be finalised.  You, of course, don’t need to miss out.  You’re all cordially invited.  Ok, you’ll have to buy a ticket, but that will be possible very very soon.  I promise.  Watch this space, and perhaps more importantly, watch our twitter feed @birminghamCubed where news about all those lovely beers, and the imminent launch of our tickets, will be coming soon.

* for those who didn’t know, Birmingham Beer Bash was arguably born of Twitter.  Birmingham’s first twissup back at the start of 2012 brought together some (apparently barmy, it now seems) hugely enthusiastic sorts who weren’t going to sit back and wait for someone else to bring an event like this to the Midlands.  Oh no.  We’ll do it ourselves we said.  How hard can it be we said.  Someone’s got to do it we said.  So we did it.
January 29, 2013

Shaken, not stirred: the Birmingham Beer Bash finds a home

A significant sum of money has just changed hands. When I say significant, I mean that in a number of ways, and I don’t use it lightly. It is certainly significant in terms of the amount involved. More importantly, it is significant in what it represents. It is a deposit. A commitment.

This deposit was paid to secure the venue for the Birmingham Beer Bash, a celebration of beer and brewing which, as I’m sure you’ll already know, will take place on 26th and 27th July 2013. For those of us involved in organising this event it is a huge milestone. Finally we have a site on which to put together an event that has been on the cards for more than six months now. Without a venue nothing else could really be done. And by paying a deposit suddenly everything changes. For a start, that deposit is non-refundable, so there really is no looking back. We can no longer afford (quite literally) for this event not to actually happen. We now need to sell enough tickets to cover the costs, as well as to make a little extra for the charity we’ve chosen to support through this event, and so we need to deliver on our commitment to bring some great beer to Birmingham in order to make those tickets an attractive proposition. We’re working on that, and there are some great names being lined up already. We’ll be announcing details as and when we can over the coming weeks and months so keep following our Twitter account (@birminghamcubed), our Facebook page (BirminghamBeerBash) and watch out for the new website coming soon (

Of course you all have a part to play too – make sure you have the dates in your diary, keep watching out on Twitter for news of when the tickets will go on sale, and encourage everyone you know who loves great beer to come along.

Want to get involved? Once the website is up you’ll be able to register to become a Beer Bash volunteer. Volunteers are going to be key to the successful running of the event, all the organisers are volunteers too but there simply aren’t enough of us to do everything particularly in the final week as we set up and then operate the event. Watch out for full details on the website.

So where is it going to be then? This has been the question on our own minds for quite some time. Many sites have been considered, and rejected for various reasons. Finally, we settled on The Bond Co, a former canal warehouse on Fazeley Street in the Eastside area of Birmingham, near to Digbeth. It is well situated, probably no more than 20 minutes walk from all three of the main train stations, and only a few minutes from the coach station in Digbeth. Several bus routes are not far away, and a taxi from the city centre is not too costly either. So, it is reasonably accessible, which was a major factor in its selection. It also has some interesting spaces for us to use for the event, and the connection with the canals, such a major feature of the Birmingham landscape, seemed appropriate too. We like it. I hope you do too. See you in July?

January 3, 2013

So long, 2012

Well here we are, at the start of a new year, and for me that also (roughly) marks the start of my second year of this blog. A perfect opportunity perhaps, to take a look back on the past year, and forward to the next.

I actually started this blog on Dec 23rd 2011 with a little pre-Christmas warm up, but blogging proper began in January first with a look at local pubs, and then I asked the question that led to my most popular post (based on number of views, anyway) of the whole year – where is the Birmingham Tap? So, almost a year later, do we have the answer? Well, things have certainly started to change. December saw the long-awaited opening of the new Brewdog bar in Birmingham, which was quite ironic timing for me – two weeks before it opened a change of job caused me to be London-based almost every day and travelling a route that avoids Birmingham, rather then being in London for just part of the week and travelling through New St to get home even on those days. Of course, one of the inspirations for that post was what is perhaps my truest “local” – the Euston Tap, so there’s still a silver lining…

But is Brewdog Birmingham the answer? Well, no, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful by that. Brewdog bars are great, and when I have the chance I’ll be a regular visitor, but they still lack for me the full breadth that places like Euston and Sheffield Taps or the Craft chain provide. So Brewdog is a start, but only that. Fortunately there is more to come! Further new bars are expected to open in the area later this year that should be the perfect compliment to the Brewdog offering and finally bring the breadth of choice that Birmingham hopefully deserves. It has even been hinted at that the operators of the Euston and Sheffield (and other) Taps have been looking for premises. Whether or not there is a “Birmingham Tap”, there should soon be a great range of beer on offer that finally puts Birmingham on a par with other cities.

As I’ve gone through this first year of writing, I’ve perhaps inevitably been trying my hand, and searching our both a style and a purpose in what I write about. Subject matter has included observations on drinking and the bar scene in Birmingham especially, my own brewing endeavours, beer festivals, and various other subjects as they came up. Naturally I hoped that I could look back at the popularity of various posts and determine what worked best for me in order to focus in the future. Well, that didn’t work. My second most popular post was of a completely different subject to the Birmingham Tap – the Saison brewday that recently took place – while in third place was a review of the inaugural Twissup in Birmingham. Three completely different posts on completely different subjects. I guess I’ll have to find other ways of deciding what to focus on in my blogging for the coming year, or just keep up the random approach I’ve had so far…

Going back to that Twissup post, this was a big event in the past year. It brought together a number of bloggers and tweeters in the region, and as a result I’ve got a number of new friends, more than just acquaintances. Saison a’Trois wouldn’t have happened without that initial meeting, and hopefully 2013 will see further developments that can be traced back to that first meeting. Since then, over the Christmas break, the second Birmingham Twissup attracted an even bigger crowd and I’m sure the next one won’t be far away. Twissup wasn’t the only event I attended in the year, and the European Beer Bloggers Convention was another great opportunity to meet more fellow bloggers, drink some great beers, and learn a bit more about this blogging lark.

The autumn saw one of the real highlights of the year drinking-wise with IndyManBeerCon somewhat redefining the beer festival. Is it too soon to be eagerly anticipating this year’s event which will no doubt be bigger and better? Something to aspire to in the Midlands perhaps? We’ll have to see what can be done…

On the home front, brewing progress has finally picked up following a slightly difficult time as new and larger equipment was put together (a task that is far from complete although now advanced enough to be reaping benefits). An exciting possibility of a commercial opportunity arose part way through the year, although all is quiet on that at the moment. It is still potentially on the cards though, and in the meantime I’m focusing on getting the beers I make right, and keeping an eye out for the right opportunities if they should come up.

So that’s the highlights for me. But what of the year to come? Well I have a few plans and ideas. Firstly on the blogging side of things I know I have to get writing more regularly. It has been tricky this year – work often eats up all the available time and the new job gives no respite from that. Although I’ve averaged about two posts every three weeks there have been some big gaps, and even if I don’t write a greater number of posts I’d like to keep more of a steady momentum. I’ve got to keep up with reading other people’s blogs too – there’s been so much good stuff lately and I know I’m missing more than I’m getting to see.

This year the brewing is going to step up a gear too. I think I’m starting to hit my stride now – I just need to get all those irritating little jobs around the place done to make each brewday go that much easier, and now I’ve made the dual steps to fully temperature-controlled fermentation and liquid yeasts I’ll be expanded the beer repertoire accordingly. I’d like to take the opportunity, if opportunities can be found, to get some hands on experience of a commercial brewday (all offers gratefully considered!), but the real challenge I’ve set myself is to get a recipe made commercially, somehow (again all offers considered!) – both of those should give some fantastic experience as well as valuable blogging material!

It’ll be tough to deliver on the challenges I’ve set myself, but it should be fun trying. Hopefully at least some of you will drop by to keep an eye on progress, and thanks for reading during this past year. Here’s to a fabulous 2013!