The Salford City Reds Beer Festival. Never heard of it? No, neither had I until I was told about it by one of the volunteers working there.
‘Salford City Reds’ is a rugby team. It used to be called simply ‘Salford’, but apparently rugby teams now have to have daft American-style names invoking a fierce animal or something. Salford thought long and hard and came up with the colour of their shirts. I would have preferred to see some sort of existential protest to the imposition of silly names, ‘Salford City Greens’, maybe, or ‘Part of Manchester Giraffes’, but that’s just me. It doesn’t affect the beer festival in any way, I’m just filling up space here.
It wasn’t just you and I who hadn’t heard of the festival either. Apparently we were in the vast majority, judging by the very low attendance that I observed on the 8th June when I was there. Immediately before going to the festival, we had been visiting friends who live a mile or so from the venue (Salford City Reds’ stadium, beside the M60 Manchester ring road). They had plans for the afternoon and were unable to attend the festival, but had they known anything about it, they would have attended. They live on a quiet side street, and although they had heard nothing about the beer festival just over a mile from their door, on the lamp-post outside their house was an advert for another beer festival – this one in Mottram, nearly 25 miles away. It’s all the more shame because they have two young children, and the Salford festival deliberately set out to be child-friendly.
I think the problems started with the Salford City Reds’ web page, where the beer festival was announced. I don’t know who wrote the piece, but what impression does “There will also be a wine bar for those with more refined tastes” give?
What the hell does “more refined tastes” mean? That people who drink beer do NOT have refined taste? The wine is (obviously) better than beer? That people who drink wine are better than people who drink beer? Leaving aside the incredible crassness of believing that wine is more ‘refined’ than beer, what does this say about the attitude of the hosts towards their prospective clients? It is stupid, prejudicial and insulting. Nice start.
I noticed that the Greater Manchester Ale News website subtly changed the official line, stating that there would be “a wine bar for those looking for a break from the ale.”
The day was sunny and hot, and the festival was being held in a room that opened up onto a wide concourse, allowing drinkers to sit in the sun and enjoy the heat. If you didn’t want to sit in the sun, there was seating elsewhere inside. I didn’t go searching, but I was told that it was available.
The bar took up one long side of the festival room. There were about 60 ales available. Quite ambitious for a start-up festival. The emphasis was very heavily on light, pale-coloured ales, though there were a few dark ales available. The festival was sponsored by Robinson’s, Stockport’s major brewer. I applaud them for that, but did we really need twelve Robinson’s beers on the bar, most of which were indistinguishable from each other in their blandness?
The heat was obviously causing some problems with the beer, and one of my favourites, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, was quite vinegar, and it had only been delivered the day before.
Other beers fared better though, and there were some good ones. Here are three that I particularly enjoyed:
Burscough Sutler’s IPA, a proper-strength IPA at 5.5%, this is strong and flavoursome. It is bitter with great hints of pithy grapefruit and bags of hops.
Front Row Collapsed, another real IPA, with an ABV of 5.6%, this has quite a strong taste – smooth, hoppy and good.
Privateer Dark Revenge, a 4.5% dark mild, full-bodied with heaps of dark malty flavour.
We were approached by one of the organisers, who asked if we were CAMRA members as he really wanted the opinions of people familiar with real ale and real ale festivals. He was clearly disappointed by the poor turnout. Whilst we were there, the attendance probably didn’t top fifty people. That was on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon. I mentioned that nobody seemed to have heard of the festival, to which he replied that 500 leaflets had been delivered to nearby houses. I could hardly believe that when he said it. 500? Was he expecting every single person who got a leaflet to come along and bring one or two friends? If that happened then maybe he would have got the numbers they really needed, but the return from a leaflet drop very rarely reaches 1%. So if he was lucky, the 500 leaflets would have generated 5 customers. He was clearly keen for the festival to be repeated in the future, but with such low attendance, I can’t imagine that it made a profit. Much beer will have been wasted.
That’s a pity, because the venue is good, the volunteers were very good, the organisation was also generally good, and clearly a great deal of work had gone into the preparation of the festival. If the Salford City Reds Beer Festival is to have a future, and I genuinely hope that it is, then massive publicity will be necessary, not 500 leaflets.
Oh yes, and sack the clown who wrote the article on the website.
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